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July 31, 2000 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-07-31

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 31, 2000
students at the 4 4 Editor in Chief JOSH WICKERHAM
University of Michigan Cit e Editorial Page Editors
Unless otherwise noted.munsignededitor as reect the opin on
420 Maynard Street majoritf the Daily i editorial board. All other articles, letters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 cartoonsd not necessariliVreflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily
N apster's days were numbered from the to attack. As it would be suicidal for recorn
very beginning, so last week's short- companies to sue individual users, this
lived injunction and supposed victory for the * h Y St ** approach seems fairly safe from the talons o
Recording Industry Association of America court-savvy record companies.
comes as little surprise. bNa ster's fall strengthens free music movement At stake with the continuing Napster tria
The injunction issued by a federal judge, I pL IS11tf~ IUYI~wI is not the future of online music swap
who called the program "a monster," was but the authority, profit and reputation o
meant to stop the flow of copyrighted music favor with record companies< It has little rel- fixing. Five major record companies, con- recording industry. By attempting to destro
via the networked masses on Napster's sys- evance to Napster's court case and will prob- trolling 85% of the market, settled with the the music swapping software of choice, th
tem until a trial could be held later this year. ably make little headway in convincing FTC in May; this price fixing cost con- RIAA has succeeded only in enraging fre
Nine hours before Napster's site would have record companies that Napster is safe for sumers $480 million. MP3 swapping gives music advocates, alienating buyers of copy
gone down, an appeals court allowed their business. This plan seems oddly con- consumers the power to fight back. And righted music and effectively bolsterin
Napster to stay online, provided none of the trived and probably has more to do with Napster's death knell last week will not stop users of online MP3 swapping software
songs being downloaded are copyrighted by Napster's newly appointed CEO and profit this new tidal wave. They have created a martyr of Napster.
the 18 record companies involved in the suit potential than concern for the free music MP3's can be swapped with a host of Users should continue to downloa
against the company. Users have been franti- movement. Napster alternatives already proliferating on MP3's and let new artists find their way int
cally downloading music ever since. But this If record companies understood the fun- the Net. Clones like Gnutela, iMesh, the mainstream. Record company endorse
court case will not stop the flow of digital damental shifts in the music market, they Gigabeat and Scour are very similar to ments, the proper distribution channelsi
music proliferating on the net. would work with established players. Napster Napster but have so far not been affected by bloated marketing budgets do not necess- I
Napster's response to this has been a call could offer subscription-based payment plans court rulings. Other music exchange pro- ly create bands worth listening to, nor dl
to arms. They are encouraging users to "buy- or micropayments instead of furthering the grams sidestep the machinery of current law they guarantee consumers great music; thes
cott" and purchase CD's of artists who open- RIAA's massive hysteria. entirely by providing no central computer old approaches to the music business simpl
ly support MP3 downloading. This approach But consumers should feel no pity for system (as did Napster), but open individual retain profits for record companies.
is an almost panicked response on Napster's bloated record companies. The recording computers to music swapping, thus avoiding And profit - not the future of MP3s
part and seems more an attempt to curry industry came under attack recently for price the creation of a central target for the RIAA is what Napster's trial was all about.

Voucher proposal bad for public schools

A shadowy affair
Alternative conventions address ignored issues

This Fall, Michigan voters will be con-
fronted with a ballot measure - known
as Proposal 1 - which will institute a limit-
ed school voucher program in the state. The
measure, being pushed by a group called
KidsFirstYes!, would mean that students in
poorly performing school districts would be
given "opportunity scholarships" of about
$3300, which could be used to pay for pri-
vate or parochial school tuition.
While this proposal may seem helpful to
students stuck in under-performing schools,
it poses a serious risk to the entire public
education system of Michigan because it
strips the State Constitution of its provision
banning the use of public money at private
schools. While only about 30 of the state's
582 public school districts would immedi-
ately be affected by Proposal 1, the end of
the ban on state funding for private schools
means the state legislature can expand the
program or even take it statewide at will. The
proposal also allows local school boards to
institute the use of vouchers in their districts.
Proposal 1 backers usually only mention
its effects on poorly performing schools, but
the measure poses the serious threat of wide-
spread and even statewide use of vouchers.
Voucher programs, often dubbed "school
choice," are dangerous to education because
they rob public schools of funds and send
public money to schools with no public
accountability. Frequently touted as a way of
improving failing schools, vouchers actually
harm those schools by taking their resources.
The theory behind school vouchers is
that if parents can choose which schools
their children attend while always receiving
a set amount of money from the govern-
ment, schools would have to compete for
students like businesses and thus be con-
stantly striving to improve. But like trickle-
down economics, vouchers help only the

rich at the expense of everyone else.
School choice is a sham because there is
no real choice for parents or students. Unlike
public schools, private institutions can
accept or reject anybody they want. A parent
cannot just choose to send their kid to private
school, they can only choose to apply.
The big winners if vouchers are institut-
ed will not be kids in bad schools, but par-
ents of kids already in private schools. They
can already afford private schools, but will
receive money that was originally earmarked
for often under-funded public school sys-
tems. About 11% of students in Michigan
are already in private or parochial schools
and if vouchers are instituted statewide - a
very real possibility under Proposal 1 -
state and local education budgets will have
to be stretched to cover those students.
Because of limited capacities, most stu-
dents will not have the chance to attend pri-
vate or parochial schools, but will have to
stay in the public school system even as
money is being funneled out of it.
Studies using standardized tests on exist-
ing voucher programs in other states have
also shown that there is virtually no differ-
ence between the quality of education
received by children who left the public
school system with vouchers and those who
stayed in. The use of vouchers in parochial
schools, which is allowed under Proposal 1,
also violates the Constitutional separation of
church and state, as was proven by a recent
court ruling that shut down Cleveland's
voucher program.
School vouchers are clearly not the
answer to the problems faced by many pub-
lic school districts. Critics of public schools
need to start looking at ways to actually
improving them, including increasing their
funding, rather than holding out the false
promise of vouchers

Two hundred years ago, America consist-
ed of only sixteen sparsely populated
States with a fairly homogenous demograph-
ic, both socially and politically.
Communication was slow or impossible;
newspapers were usually local in scope and
mass media loomed a century or more in the
future. The decision to hold national conven-
tions for political parties was, at that point, a
brilliant democratic theory. They provided a
fair chance for citizens to run for office, and
to create a forum for the public to meet the
candidates and debate current issues.
Today's conventions have strayed far
from the theoretical beginnings the
Founding Fathers had in mind. They have
become million-dollar parties, elitist in the
sense of the word most detrimental to
democracy: the political sense. Candidates
concern themselves more with self-celebra-
tory speeches than discussion of party plat-
forms, leaving the public in the dark about
candidates' positions on current issues.
Beginning this year with the Republican
National Convention in Philadelphia,
Shadow Conventions will also be held to
serve the electorate by bringing light to new
issues. The Shadow Conventions will be
held at the same time as the national con-
ventions and in the same cities. They will be
loosely affiliated with the party of the corre-
sponding convention, but will not select can-
didates. The purpose of the Shadow
Conventions is twofold: to provide an arena
for debate over political issues and to make
this discussion open to the entire American
public. Admission will be free. As the orga-
nizers of the conventions assert on their web-
site, "it's time to put the poor on the political
agenda," to "give voices to millions of
Americans who are currently shut out of the
national debate."
Although the National Conventions have

already been guaranteed almost constar
coverage by the corporate media, responsi
ble American voters should focus their atten
tion on the Shadow Conventions. For one o
the first times in Campaign 2000, politica
issues like the gap between the rich and th
poor, the failed war on drugs and camp
finance reform will be up for public scru"
commentary, analysis, and debate.
Most of the candidates have already beet
unofficially chosen. With this in mind, it i
now time not to congratulate the winners
but to start thinking seriously about th
issues that will decide the outcome of th
final elections. The responsible voter wil
resist following the stick-and-carrot routin
directly to the corporate, media-prep c
ballot box. This is a time to turn to inde
dent media options like the Shados
Conventions for less biased informatio
about what the candidates stand for, what th
issues are, and what the public can do to sup
port the causes they believe in.
Organizers of the Shadow Convention
claim they are "engaged in the politics o
ideas, not the politics of electioneering.
While the National Conventions write th
official list of candidates that caps this cam
paign's 'political engineering,' the Shadoy
Conventions and other independent medi
sources will be leading actual discussion o
political issues - discussion mainstrean
parties avoid lest they lose the ever-impos
tant 'swing vote' just before the elections
Take a stand for campaign finance reforn
and against soft money and irresponsibl
political spending by following the Shadox
Conventions in favor of the Nationg


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