4A - Monday, October 4, 2010 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
After unbecoming conduct, Cox must fire asst. AG Politics isn't business as usual
The University is a diverse place of many opinions and
backgrounds. But on one issue, we are united. Support for
Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong
following attacks on Armstrong by Andrew Shirvell, a University
alum and Michigan assistant attorney general, has been inspiring.
Shirvell, who took a voluntary leave of absence on Thursday, is now
facing a personal protection order from Armstrong and is subject to
a disciplinary hearing from his boss, Attorney General Mike Cox.
Also on Thursday, Cox admitted to The Detroit News that he "made
a mistake" by supporting Shirvell. But overdue apologies aren't
enough. Cox shouldn't have hesitated to dismiss an employee who
clearly doesn't represent the people of Michigan. Cox should remove
Shirvell from his post in the attorney general's office.
Shirvell started his blog to comment
about Armstrong in late April. His initial
post criticized Armstrong and what Shirvell
called his "radical homosexual agenda."
Subsequent posts went on to rage against
Armstrong with unsubstantiated claims and
labels. On Thursday, the blog was limited to
invited readers only. According to an Oct. 1
Daily article, the University's Department
of Public Safety issued Shirvell a trespass
warning on Sept. 14, which bans Shirvell
from campus. Armstrong filed for a personal
protection order against Shirvell on Sept. 13.
The hearing will be held today.
In mid-September, The Michigan Daily
first reported on Shirvell's blog, noting
its offensive language and unsubstanti-
ated claims. This was shortly followed by
a report on WXYZ, Detroit's ABC affiliate.
The story gained national attention when it
was picked up by CNN's Anderson Cooper
last week and was then picked up by news
outlets across the nation. The resulting
public outrage was overwhelming.
As the Daily predicted in its Sept. 16 edi-
torial condemning Shirvell's hatred, the
campus community has seen Shirvell's blog
for what it is: the rants of a bigot. But no one
could have predicted the strength of the
support that the campus community has
shown. The Spectrum Center has created
shirts sporting the phrase, "Elected by us;
Respected by us." And on today's page 3A,
you'll see a advertisement supporting Arm-
strong signed by dozens of campus organi-
zations. Addtionally, the Facebook group
"We Support Chris Armstrong" has more
than 14,000 members as of Sunday - and
it's only one of several groups backing Arm-
strong and condemning Shirvell.
At their Sept. 16 meeting, the University
Board of Regents announced its support of
Armstrong, stating that "When one mem-
ber of our community is targeted, we are all
targeted." And last week, several Univer-
sity officials, including University President
Mary Sue Coleman, voiced their support
for Armstrong. The unity that campus has
shown is inspiring. Our community has been
strengthened with a shared value of respect.
Armstrong deserves praise for the dig-
nity with which he's handled the affair. At
the Sept. 27 MSA meeting, Armstrong stat-
ed that he "will not back down" from these
types of attacks, according to a Sept.28 Daily
article. The strength of character that Arm-
strong has displayed is admirable.
Attorney General Mike Cox's char-
acter has not been so commendable.
Despite public outrage, Cox has failed to
properly respond to Shirvell's actions.
Cox has argued that Shirvell's words are
protected by the First Amendment and
the state's civil service laws and that he
therefore can't dismiss him. But Cox does
have the authority to dismiss Shirvell on
the grounds that his behavior qualifies as
"conduct unbecoming a state employee."
There is no doubt that Shirvell's behavior
is unbecoming - as Cox admitted when
he appeared on "Anderson Cooper 360"
on Wednesday. Though the blog is run on
Shirvell's free time, as a member of the
attorney general's office, he represents
the people of Michigan even when he's not
on duty. And his actions have made many
people doubt the integrity of the attorney
During Cox's interview with Cooper,
Cox said that he would consider sending
Shirvell to an "employee assistance pro-
gram" in the event that Armstrong filed
for a personal protection order and it
was granted. But the kind of hatred that
Shirvell harbors for members of the LGBT
community can't be countered by an assis-
tance program. Regardless of the outcome
of today's hearing, Cox must take action.
The attorney general has been indecisive
for too long. His comments to The Detroit
News don't make up for his delay in remov-
ing Shirvell from his post. When Shirvell
returns from his leave of absence, Cox
should not hesitate to dismiss him.
Every time I go out for a run, I
can't help but see all those
goofy yard signs that say we
should "hire" Rick
Snyder to be our -
Frankly, I don't'
want to "hire" any
one for governor
- I want to elect
someone. So can
we please stop this
that running a suc- PATRICK
gives you special O'MAHEN
insights into how
to govern that non-
During his run for governor, Snyder
has been touting his business experi-
ence at Gateway as a key qualification
for his ability to be governor. In doing
so, Snyder joins a long line of entrepre-
neurs that have run for elected office
on the basis of their business lead-
ership. In this election cycle alone,
former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly
Fiorina is the Republican nominee for
the U.S. Senate seat in California while
ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman is vying
for the governor's mansion there. For-
mer CEOs have made similar bids in
Florida with Democrat Jeff Greene
unsuccessfully challenging for the
open Senate seat and while for CEO
Republican Rick Scott winning his
party's nomination for governor.
The flip side to touting your candi-
date's CEOexperience isthe demoniza-
tion of your opponent asa professional
politician. For example, last week the
Republican Governor's Association
aired an advertisement denouncing
Democratic candidate Virgil Bernero
as a career politician. And the implica-
tion of the advertisement was simple:
Businessmen are out in the real world
creating jobs and making the economy
work and have the ability to clean up
the wasteful government that the
incompetent "politicians" created in
pursuit of an ego trip.
The first problem is that some of
these business people running for
office aren't all that competent at
business, let alone at government.
Take Fiorina for example. She's
famous for her rocky tenure as the
head of Hewlett-Packard, during
which she forced through a disas-
trous merger with Compaq Comput-
er, presided over a 50-percent drop in
HP's share price and left the company
with a $42 million severance package.
Based on that record alone, I'd have
seriously considered voting for her
primary opponent Tom Campbell or
incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer
- both career politicians.
Scott's business expertise con-
sisted of founding and running
Columbia/HCA, the nation's largest
for-profit hospital chain. The com-
pany grew quite profitable, in part
because it engaged in rampant fraud.
HCA overbilled Medicare - a taxpay-
er-funded program - so egregiously
that the company agreed to pay a
$1.7 billion fine to the government
in 2001, a dubious record that still
stands today. Scott's primary oppo-
nent, Florida Attorney General Bill
McCollum, might have been a career
politician, but at least he sent crimi-
nals to jail instead of installing them
in the executive boardroom.
But I don't merely wish to keep
incompetent business people out of
political office (nor to hint that Sny-
der is incompetent - all indications
are that he's quite the opposite), but
rather to question the idea that busi-
ness experience somehow provides
brilliant insight into running a gov-
ernment that the rest of us mere mor-
tals don't have.
Atits core, the goal ofbusiness is to
make profits. The goal of democratic
government is to provide for the com-
mon good with the consent and input
of the governed. There's a difference
Often the profit incentive does
line up with the common good. A
background as a business executive
can help efficiently manage public
resources. But a business background
is neither necessary nor sufficient to
be a good financial manager.
Nor is efficiency the only crite-
rion of good democratic government.
Academics often get derided for not
living in the real world. But they gen-
erally have a superior grasp of broad
policy problems from taxation and
health care to infrastructure and ecol-
ogy. Though many entrepreneurs have
experience in these issues, it's often
only in the narrow context of running
their business. Yet you never hear a
groundswell of support to get more
professors into elected offices.
Being a CEO
someone for office.
The point is that business people do
bring some relevant skills and knowl-
edge that are useful to governing and
some might be quite capable in office
- but so do people inother professions
like teaching, social work, medicine,
law, economics and the arts.
That brings me to my final point
that power can corrupt anyone - and
CEO's are just as vulnerable as the
rest of us. Whitman by most accounts
did an exemplary job running eBay,
but numerous allegations of shady
stock dealings involving Goldman-
Sachs and abuse of employees dog her
record. Similar problems followed
Greene into his unsuccessful race.
That's a sobering point for Snyder
to think about as he contemplates his
likely victory in November. He cer-
tainly has plenty of skills as a busi-
nessman that might translate into a
successful governorship. But he can
drastically increase his effectiveness
if he remembers that he doesn't know
everything and incorporates the skill
sets of people from outside of the
business world as well.
- Patrick O'Mahen can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AIDA ALIl I
When Florida pastor Terry Jones announced
his plans to burn the Quran on the ninth anni-
versary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, he sparked
worldwide protests and indignation. All that
this threat of burning the Quran made me real-
ize was that the world still had much growing
up to do.
Let's start at the root of the problem - Osama
Bin Laden. Bin Laden today represents someone
who is pure evil, is in possession of unknown
power, has been able to avoid capture for 9
years and is a Muslim. He was responsible for
the hijacked planes that crashed into the World
Trade Center and Pentagon. He killed thousands
and claimed he did it in the name of religion.
But that isn't true. Islam doesn't preach vio-
lence. Since the beginning of the war on terror,
Islamic practices have been misunderstood. The
original teachings are blurred because of the
impression that these militants give and the per-
ception of the people affected by this violence.
It isn't the teachings of their religion that
lead these men to war. It's simply the unsound-
ness of their minds that make them this way.
There are always extremists in every religion
and in every aspect of the society. The general
public doesn't agree with these extremists, but
there are some who do. And the more you tell
any extremist that he is wrong, the more deter-
mined he will become to prove his relevance.
Take some poverty-ridden, uneducated civil-
ians with religion as their only crutch, throw
in a bunch of malicious, heartless men who are
thirsty for power and you get a team of brain-
washed militants who fight for a cause only they
understand and believe in. If only we had stayed
united and not discriminated against each other
on the basis of religious differences at a time
when the world was blaming Islam, things might
have been better in the present. But now that so
many years have passed, can we really still not
understand the core of the problem? Are we still
pointing fingers and raising guns against each
other because of the Gods we believe in?
The threat to burn the Quran didn't so much
hurt me as disgust me. To think that burning
a holy book could solve any problems is fool-
ish. Even though the Quran burning didn't take
place, there were several copycat incidents.
One such incident was in East Lansing, where
the remains of a burnt Quran were found in
front of the Islamic Center near Michigan
State University. This incident sparked inter-
national outrage and resulted in an attack on a
church in India. Does anyone else see a pattern
here? This is just a ridiculous cycle of events in
which nobody is right and nobody wins.
This religious war has been going on for a
while, but it's time we realize that religion is
only a front. We are educated, smart people who
understand the capabilities of the human mind
and the human thirst for power. With the current
situation, it's like when the bad guy forces people
who could collectively defeat him into fighting
against each other instead.
Park51, the proposed mosque and Islamic
Center a few blocks from ground zero, might
do good in bringing the community together.
It will perhaps create acceptance and respect
amongst the common American toward the
Muslim faith. And there is definitely no reason
for it to be offending anyone.
The final thing that I have to mention is ste-
reotyping. How many people reading this view-
point have really known a Muslim person in
their everyday life? The chances are pretty good
with Michigan being one of the largest Muslim-
populated states in the U.S. But for many others,
the only Muslims they know are the ones they
see on TV holding guns and creating war. That
is simply awful. There are over1 billion Muslims
in the world. A mere fraction of them are set-
ting the image for the rest.
The bottom line is that it's not the religion
that is to be condemned. Let this be the end of
the 'International Burn a Koran Day' idea -
which was absolutely absurd to begin with. Let
us understand the reasons behind terror and
resolve existing issues instead of creating new
Aida Ali is an LSA sophomore.
This Thursday morning - at
the U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services office
in Detroit - I will
take the Natu-
ralization Test in
order to become
an American citi-
zen. And, barring
down, I expect to
pass. After all, the TOMMASO
during the test are PAVONE
along the lines of
"Who is our cur-
And so by the late morning on
Thursday, there is a 99-percent prob-
ability that I will be an American cit-
izen. That is, in addition to being an
Italian citizen. Oh, and also a citizen
of the European Union.
In essence, I will technically be a
tri-citizen - a citizen of two nations
and of a supranational polity. That
should make me a very confused indi-
vidual and some might ask where my
This raises a fairly existential ques-
tion: Is citizenship simply a loyalty
pledge or does it represent something
greater and more meaningful? My
experience seems to suggest the latter;
that citizenship is representative of my
individual and cultural identity.
As an Italian citizen, I know full
well that citizenship isn't about blind
loyalty - I find myself criticizing
Italy just as often as I praise it and
I don't consider this being disloyal.
After all, when I criticize the Italian
party system, Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi or the Italian judicial sys-
tem, I'm doing so because I feel that
constructive criticism engenders
progress. In this light, loyalty and
criticism often operate in harmony.
When I reflect back on my Italian
citizenship, I think about my child-
hood, my family and my culture. I
think back to our chaotic Christmas
family reunions where dozens of fam-
ily members would squeeze into a little
bourgeois apartment in Rome, greeted
by copious amounts of food and des-
serts, laughing and gesticulating wild-
ly while discussing politics and family
issues. often, the red glow from the
burning tips of a few cigarettes would
dance around the apartment like fire-
flies, diffusing a light haze that made
the experience feel even more dream-
like. And there I was, a child of no
more than four or five, watching this
play-like drama unfolding before me,
soaking up its vitality as I ate some of
the best food of my life.
When I move to consider my Euro-
pean Union citizenship, I think back
to my time in Brussels, Belgium,
which is the de-facto capital of the EU.
I remember my experience attending
a private British elementary school.
For the first time, I was in the minor-
ity. I was no longer surrounded by
native Italian Catholic students.
Rather, my peers came from all over
the world - they looked different,
spoke different languages and held
different social and cultural identi-
ties. The whole experience reminds
me of the ideals encompassed in the
EU motto, "United in Diversity." We
often didn't appreciate the opportu-
nities inherent in our differences -
rather, we frequently argued, made
fun of each other and formed cliques.
Europe is more diverse now than
ever and, just as with my elementary
school experience, Europeans have
yet to fully understand, accept and
celebrate this diversification.
So I'm left to wonder what my
American citizenship will end up
representing. Just as it has taken me
time to understand what being "Ital-
ian" and being "European" means to
me, I'm sure that it will take me years
to begin to recognize the significance
of being "American."
mutually exclusive. 0
One thing I've learned, however, is
that the identities symbolized in citi-
zenship status aren't mutually exclu-
sive. By this I mean that my identity
as a European is largely influenced by
my Italian cultural perspective. And,
just as I process my experience living
in the United States through the lens
of being a European immigrant, liv-
ing abroad has allowed me to better
understand what it means to be a citi-
zen of Italy and of Europe.
I consider becoming a tri-citizen to
be another step forward in this jour-
ney. It's a geographic journey that has
allowed me to live in three separate
countries and five different cities. It's
a legal and political journey that has
granted me the rights and privileges
that accompany citizenship status.
And it's also been a personal jour-
ney, one that has forced me to better
define myself as an individual and as
Thinking about it this way, I couldn't
be more grateful for what I've experi-
enced. And it's not over - on Thursday,
everything will change again.
- Tommaso Pavone can be
reached at email@example.com.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Jordan Birnholtz, Adrianna Bojrab, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis,
Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Will Grundler, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata
Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Tommaso Pavone, Leah Potkin, Asa Smith, Laura Veith