4A - Thursday, Novernber 1, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cam
4A - Thursday, November 1, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
JOSEPH LICHTERMAN and ADRIENNE ROBERTS ANDREW WEINER
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING 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.
System of a down
Polarized politics limit democratic process
T he 2012 election is a time of big money and small sound bites
- two parties and a single choice. Though our world is grow-
ing ever more complex, the way we think and talk in public
arena is, increasingly crass and simple. Nuance has been replaced by
talking points, subtlety by catchphrases. Our democracy is broken.
It has been broken by a system of polarizing campaigns from two
major parties satisfied w ith winning elections rather than push-
ing our nation forward.
I had to go to the wine cellar and
find a good bottle of wine and
drink it before it goes bad."
-Murry Stegelmann, founder of investment-management firm Kilimanjaro Advisors LLC,
after he lost power in Darien, Conn. due to Hurricane Sandy.
It's how good you look
Historically, candidates have had two
main routes to successfully win an election:
money and incumbency. Over the last decade,
more than 80 percent of Senate races and
more than 90 percent of House seats were
won by the candidate who spent the most
money campaigning, according to website
Opensecrets.org. Combined with the fact
that in 50 years, the re-election rate for the
House has yet to dip below 85 percent for an
election cycle and the average rate for Senate
during the same period exceeds 80 percent,
one can understand it's difficult to hear for
new voices and new ideas to be heard.
It's a self-sustaining cycle in which candi-
dates get themselves elected with expensive
initial campaigns, fueling re-elections with
incumbency and money from larger donors
interested in investing in the winningest
candidates, to advocate their interests. More
money is being spent to see the same people
do the same things over and over.
Neither of the two major parties have a
significant problem with this current situ-
ation, as it benefits each. As a result of only
addressing one another in debates, speeches
and platforms, the two parties marginalize
third parties, further increasing their own
odds of winning. From a candidate's per-
spective it's better to share 50/50 odds with
a single opponent than admit there may be
more than two choices. Dividing issues into
two answers forces the public to take one of
two sides - us against them - which only
propagates further divisions. Our parties
have become the teams we root for, rather
than the ideals to which we aspire.
There's no conspiracy forcing our system
to be this way. It's the stability of the low-
est common denominator. Candidates want
the populace to believe there are only two
It's a cycle that needs to change, because
if politicians can get us talking about only
two strict platforms, they do so at the
expense of all the other issues we face. This
explains why every major campaign is con-
tent to focus merely on the topic of the day
in a series of pivot-point discussion. Big
Bird and empty chairs shouldn't even mat-
ter in a world of endless wars and indefinite
detention, of Arab Springs and falling dicta-
tors. In a world where rights are limited by
sexual orientation and pay is discriminated
by gender, we need more than tired, duel-
ing slogans. We need a system that encour-
ages input from a greater variety of sources.
Disagreeing with both major candidates is
a legitimate position to hold and it is about
time we respected that.
t's almost the end of freshman
year, and I'm treating myself
to a complimentary coffee in
the back of the
lowing a gruel-
in my sugar, I
feel a hand on
the small of my
back - a place
I wouldn't nor- HEMA
mally expect KARUNA-
to feel one. KARAM
Startled, I turn
My glance falls to the Cartier
watch, the perfectly polished shoes,
the well-tailored suit and twin-
kling eyes, all belonging to the most
attractive guy in the class. "Good job
on your presentation," he says with
a wink, his face a little too close to
mine. All the hallmarks of a Class-A
creep, but instead of feeling uncom-
fortable, I'm elated.
All our lives we're told that
appearance shouldn'tmatter.We still
remember the singsong voices of our
elementary school teachers remind-
ing us "it's what's inside that counts."
But somehow, the more we experi-
ence "the real world," the more this
notion falls apart.
A borderline creep has been noted
as nothing more than a charm-
ing classmate in my book because
I've got a weakness for his chiseled
jawline and perfect teeth. Physical
attractiveness shouldn't, in theory,
affect our perceptions of others, but
it's a glaring fact that it does.
In fact, the effect of attractiveness
on social perception also extends
into the political arena. Opponents
of the women's suffrage movement in
the early 20th century claimed that
women, incapable of educating them-
selves on important issues, would
simply vote for the more attractive
candidate. Even today, jokes and
memes have sprung up across the
Internet commenting on the attrac-
tiveness of the 2012 Republican ticket
andthe influence itmayhave. Politics
may be dirty at times, but is there
anything wrong with unintention-
ally appealing to an inherent human
desire for physical attractiveness?
This bias isn't limited to men. A
2011 study showed that women who
wore makeup appeared more com-
petent than those who didn't. Con-
versely, attractiveness may also be
perceived as a negative trait, espe-
cially for women. As anengineer, I've
certainly heard that female students
who appear to spend more time car-
ing abouthow theylook are probably
less intelligent as a result. Whether
positive or negative, the evidence of
these instinctual judgments we all
make is everywhere. But should its
prevalence make it OK?
Furthermore, should it affect our
actions one way or another? As men-
tioned previously, the bias swings
both ways for women - making
yourself appear more attractive may
help, or it may harm. And while some
men may reap professional benefits
from an attractive face or body, the
reverse holds true for them too. After
all, aren't the most attractive guys at
any college party assumed to be the
biggest d-bags? Regardless of what
we've been taught, it's a fact in the
real world that looks do matter. But
it seems that changing how we look
for others won't always produce the
So the fear of other people's judg-
ment shouldn't make a difference in
how we present ourselves, fine. But
we learned that in kindergarten.
That can't be nearly nuanced enough
of an answer for us today.
Many of us feel our self-worth
judged by our appearance - wheth-
er positively or negatively - for the
first time while we're in college.
No kind of appeal will make people
stop judging physical appearance.
And while we may reprimand those
who speak out about the appear-
ance of others, we can't control
people's inward thoughts. To some
degree, bias associated with attrac-
tiveness is simply human instinct,
and it shouldn't be seen as some-
thing wrong. So perhaps the best
we can do is recognize that this bias
exists, and simply strive to remem-
ber that underneath everyone's skin
is a real person.
matters in the
Sure, maybe you think Rep. Paul
Ryan is more attractive than Vice
Presidential Joe Biden. And as long
as you don't forget about their poli-
cies, that's okay. Maybe a touch of
lipstick will make your interviewer
take you-more seriously - or maybe
they'll judge you more. Just remem-
ber that it could go either way, and
strike a balance.
And finally, perhaps we should
all take things a little less seriously.
To that guy in my freshmen class:
Your musky cologne may have sent
me reeling into over-analysis, won-
dering how I would have reacted
if that had been anyone else in our
class. But in all honesty, you could
have been just genuinely trying to
be nice. So for now, hey - I'll just
take the compliment.
- Hema Karunakaram can be
reached at Khema@umich.edu.
Follow her @HemaKarunakaram.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Eli Cahan, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein, Melanie Kruvelis,
Patrick Maillet, Harsha Nahata,-Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Michael Spaeth, Gus Turner
LET TER T THE EDITOR SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@MICHIGANDAILY.COM
'U'must promoteprivacy and political e-mail lists - deserved privacy.
After the new MCommunity directory made
TO THE DAILY: this problem more visible, it took the Univer-
The Michigan Daily article "Accidental sity's IT department months to acknowledge
grade leak a breach of federal law" failed to and fix the problem. When I contacted the IT
mention a little-known but key fact about department July 2011, I met a wall of intransi-
these regulations. It also provides an impor- gence, and only after significant pressure from
tant opportunity to consider the University of the faculty senate were improvements made.
Michigan's failure to establish a culture that Worse yet, these problems had been known for
values student privacy. almost a decade.
The Family Educational Rights and Pri- A second example of the University's fac-
vacy Act, which governs the privacy of edu- ile attitude to student privacy occurred when
cational records, is a largely toothless piece it released GSI evaluations under a FOIA
of legislation. If a university violates FERPA, request from the Daily in winter 2011. The
it's up to the Department of Education to university had an obligation to protect the
ensure the university modifies its behavior. privacy of its graduate student instructors,
It can do so only by threatening to remove whose teaching often forms a crucial part of
federal funding, which it can do only if the their education as future professors.
university refuses to comply. Many of these evaluations should have been
What are the chances the federal govern- protected from an FOIA request by FERPA,
ment is going to deprive a university of funding since they constituted educational records for
for biomedical research and student financial those who teach as part of their educational
aid over a privacy violation? According to the program. When I contacted the University's
Student Press Law Center, there hasn't been a legal counsel about this last year, they admitted
single case of a university losingsuch funding. that they failed to screen for this. Had FERPA
Courts have ruled that students whose privacy been stronger - if, for example, the University
rights have been violated have no right to sue would have been liable to lawsuits from GSIs
their educational institutions. This removes - or, more importantly, if the University had a
the University's strongest incentive to ensure culture that truly respected privacy, these mis-
privacy rights are protected - liability. takes might not have been made.
We already live in an educational system A slightly stronger FERPA might help mat-
too encumbered by bureaucracy and fears of ters more than it hurts, but universities like
liability. To add to this would be dangerous. Michigan should hold themselves to a higher
This isolated accidental disclosure of students' standard than the federal regulations any-
grades in a single course, while unfortunate, way. We don't need more red tape or more
shouldn't lead to hundreds of lawsuits against antagonism between the various members of
the University. But the weakness of these laws the community.
does encourage a perfunctory and often cava- Rather, we need a culture where all parts
lier attitude to privacy, as two other recent of the university work together to uphold the
incidents show. University's core values, values that must
For many years, the University's online include privacy along with academic freedom,
directory publicly revealed students' mem- education and the pursuit of knowledge.
berships in e-mail lists. While some list mem-
berships were relatively innocuous, others Rafe Kinsey
- such as memberships in LGBT, religious Ph.D. student
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BRAD FINGEROOT I VIEWPOINT
S 'no' to Prop
On Nov. 6, Michigan residents will
vote on a constitutional mandate
requiring electric utilities to provide
a quarter of our states'electric power
from renewable sources by 2025.
This seemingly progressive amend-
ment appears to be a noble pursuit,
but appeals to thoughtless pathos
and would place an insolventburden
on the backs of Michiganders.
Contrary to the arguments set
forth by special interest groups
poised to financially gain by its
passage, Proposal 3 is anything
but a rational, forward-thinking
policy. If approved, this proposal
would mandate that Michigan's
energy providers meet the 25-per-
cent standard, regardless of cost,
changes in technology or energy
needs. It would require the imple-
mentation of roughly 3,100 new
wind turbines across half a million
acres of land to meet this standard.
And that doesn't take into account
the $12-billion cost, directly hit-
ting Michigan residents and
Michigan-based businesses, nor
the steep expected increase in our
energy bills, estimated at roughly
The proponents of Proposal 3
have advanced this cause and tar-
geted our wallets, yet they don't
have a plan with which to imple-
ment their irresponsible policy.
Michigan already has a compre-
hensive energy policy, and studies
show that our air and water are the
cleanest they've been in more than
two generations. Energy providers
in our state are on target to meet
the 10-percent renewable goal by
2015. In fact, Consumer Energy
plans to spend $600 million in
harvesting renewable technology
in the next five years, while DTE
Energy will invest $1.5 billion dur-
ing this time span.
A "yes" vote on Proposal 3 not
only threatens Michigan's sus-
tainable energy outlook, but puts
the competitiveness of our state
economy in jeopardy. After Repub-
lican Gov. Rick Snyder ushered in
the replacement of the job-killing
Michigan Business Tax with a
flat, 6-percent corporate income
tax, Bloomberg Economic Evalu-
ation of States rated Michigan's
economic health growth as sec-
ond best in the nation. Our state is
moving toward once again being
the epicenter of the global econ-
omy, as we were at the height of
the auto industry's strength. Pas-
sage of Proposal 3 would stop this
forward momentum in its tracks.
According to the Mackinac Cen-
ter for Public Policy, a free market
think tank, the "25x25" mandate
will cost our state 10,540 jobs. As
of September 2012, Michigan's
unemployment"rate is 9.3 percent.
This isn't the time to dampen our
state's already fragile recovery.
On the surface, Proposal 3 may
seem like a positive step for our
statebutit's awolfinsheep's cloth-
ing. There's a reason that none of
the other 49 states set their ener-
gy policy through constitutional
mandates - it's a dangerous abuse
of constitutional law. Proposal 3
would tie our own hands behind
our backs, limiting the state's abil-
ity to pursue practical solutions
in an ever-changing technologi-
cal world. This is reckless policy
that's bad for our energy future
and bad for everyday Michigan-
ders. Tell the out-of-state special
interest groups funding this pro-
posal that our constitution is not
for sale. I strongly urge voters to
reject this proposal and vote "no"
on Proposal 3.
Brad Fingeroot is an LSA freshman.