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May 28, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2002-05-28

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Peskowitz is 'confused and confusing'

Tuesday, May 28, 2002 - The Michigan Daily - 5
Democratic solutions for a global problem

You hope that when someone
writes a column, especially a cri-
tique, that it is presented fairly,
and that an effort has been made
to get facts right and make sure
that opinions or issues critiqued
are represented accurately.
"Brother, can you spare a dime?"
(05/13/02) by Zac Peskowitz
belies those premises to a signifi-
cant degree.
Not only did he get many
facts wrong, the ad hominem
attack, done in a connotative
fashion throughout his article,
was unnecessary. I have never
spoken with Peskowitz, who
could have easily contacted me
and found out about the coalition
I am representing and what it
. truly hopes to accomplish,
instead of relying on second-
hand information.
I most certainly do not want
to "sanitize" Ann Arhor, or
"remove the vaguely threatening,
the foreign and the distressing,"
nor does the State Street Initia-
tive, as if it were like a Chinese
government dictate set forth to
sweep the streets of Beijing clean
of undesirables. Rather, the peti-
tioners want, inter alia, to get
panhandlers into treatment and
out of a life on the street that
puts them seriously at risk: 80 to
90 percent of them suffer from
life-threatening addictions. And
contrary to Peskowitz's view,
many of these petitioners from
the business community -
actively engaged in volunteer
community activity - recognize
the need to do more for the at-
risk street population. Indeed,
business community members
signed onto the petition because
it stressed the need for enhanced
outreach services along with a
proposed ordinance revision. The
SSI has consistently called atten-
tion to gaps in existing services
and outreach and advocated for
their remediation.
The ordinance revision pro-
posed by the SSI would ban
solicitation of money, i.e. pan-
handling, "where such money is
reasonably likely to be used
entirely by the solicitor for his or
her personal benefit." This pan-
handling subsidizes substance
abuse, making it very difficult
for substance abusers to get
counseling or treatment for their
addictions. Often addiction to
drugs or alcohol is the principal
reason someone is on the street.
The initiative does not ban
panhandlers, but rather panhan-
dling. And not "in a 1.7 mile
radius surrounding the State
Street business district," as
reported by Peskowitz, but only
on a very few streets in down-
town Ann Arbor, where much of
the enabling solicitation for
funds goes on and almost all of
the deleterious effects of panhan-
dling occur. Thousands of service

calls are made each year to
address complaints related to
panhandlers and panhandling by
the Ann Arbor Police Depart-
ment. Some of the calls are very
serious. Over 100 times last year,
ambulances had to be summoned
to rush collapsed and dangerous-
ly overdosed street persons to
hospital. Many times, people col-
lapse inside stores. Is this the
kind of "Midwestern quirkiness
and bohemianism" Peskowitz
seeks to preserve?
Ironically, Peskowitz praises
the Loose Change for Real
Change campaign emanating
from the Mayor's Task Force on
Panhandling and at the same time
derides the SSI. Had he done his
homework better, he would have
realized that the LCRC campaign
seeks to stop the flow of all com-
munity funds to all panhandlers
- aggressive or not - through-
out the entire downtown Ann
Arbor area! This is a far greater
area of impact on panhandlers
than that proposed by the SSI,
which, yielding to First Amend-
ment concerns, leaves ample
venues throughout the city still
open for panhandling. Moreover,
the LCRC project has two critical
flaws that the SSI seeks to
address. First, the donation of
funds is voluntary: Some people
may choose to continue giving
money to panhandlers, and
hecause of this, outreach funding
is effectively held hostage to the
discretion of the donors and the
consistency with which they
donate. This is very hit or miss
for such a serious need. Second,
in eight months the LCRC boxes
have collected only around
$8,000, not a small amount, but
one that falls woefully short of
what is needed to support even
one full-time outreach counselor
($40,000 per year). SSI support-
ers believe that the city, county,
the University and private entities
should join together to provide or
obtain guaranteed funding for
such outreach on an annual basis.
This is possible.
Limited by available space,
this rebuttal cannot address other
unfounded assertions alluded to
in Peskowitz's confused and con-
fusing column such as the vague
conspiratorial "plan" by local
businesses and the city for Ann
Arbor's homeless. Nor can it dis-
cuss the many other humanitarian
proposals to enhance outreach
and treatment so cynically dis-
missed by Peskowitz as "callow"
solutions to assuage guilt.
Finally, a romanticized view
of the street people in our midst
serves no one. They need help.
And businesses need relief. I
urge Peskowitz and like-minded
individuals to take a deeper look
at this grave issue affecting the
community - and mostly the
panhandlers themselves.
Marshall is a University alum.

As President
01 ,.Bush posed for
the internation-
al press while signing
the Treaty of Moscow
in St. Catherine's Hall,
the minds of his advis-
ers were far from his
cavernous surround-
ings and global nuclear
arms reduction. Bush's trip to Russia was
solely a symbolic overture to the past. As
The New York Times described the summit,
it was a "final elegy to the Cold War."
The most significant work of the presi-
dent's European visit was in Germany and
France where he attempted to smooth divi-
sions with the European Union and much of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is
clear to everyone that many of the United
States' traditional relationships are becoming
irrelevant. What now matters are far-sprung
events in Marquetalia, Columbia, the
Chechen frontier and the passes of Kashmir.
The local reactions to the perpetual threat
and acts of terrorism and political violence
will now be the laboratories that shape and
dictate future United States policy.
Over the past two months, political vio-
lence has expanded inboth its ferocity and
worldwide scope. The most shocking mark
of this expansion was the assassination of
Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn ina Hilversum
parking lot, the first political murder in the
Netherlands since the 1600s. But the trend is
seen in Columbia andVenezuela, Ireland and
obviously the Middle East. Political violence
now stands on the world stage as the intellec-

tual challenger to the continued endurance of
the liberal democratic state.
The unpredictable nature of political
violence's outbursts and the perpetual
threat they pose causes many citizens and
politicians to seek repressive solutions and
abandon civil liberties. Terrorism's focus
on institutions of daily life and its ability to
instill numbing fear in the population cre-
ates an environment where democratic
institutions can be quickly dismantled.
Leaders see democracy and civil liberties
as concepts that are irreconcilable with a
campaign against terrorism. In Columbia,
this is now happening. The burden of
numerable kidnappings, guerrilla murders
and systematic arson has so threatened the
Columbian way of life that Alvaro Uribe's
call for military expansion and the curtail-
ing of due process and military oversight
won him a true majority in Sunday's presi-
dential election.
While Uribe's proposed solution and
Fortuyn's plan to end immigration to the
Netherlands and amend the Dutch constitu-
tion to allow for discrimination have enjoyed
popularity in many nations, these are infeasi-
ble solutions. They focus on the most super-
ficial manifestations.of global terrorism and
only aim to temporarily stave off the danger.
Instead, the only method to permanently dis-
rupt andrminimize terrorism is a global com-
mitment to democratic liberties and the
opportunity and freedom they create. The
problem of terrorism is so broad that it
requires the fostering of democratic bodies
worldwide. This is the only way to prevent
systematic alienation and discontent in a

global environment. True democracy's
unmatched ability to actively involve citizens
in the rule of their states discourages the
exercise of violence to express opposition to
specific policy. The expansion of democracy
allows individuals to peacefully utilize civil
This reality makes the United States'
actions since Sept. 11 very troubling. There
is an attitude that central tenets of democrat-
ic governance - privacy rights, judicial
transparency, the rights of the accused and
the sanctity of dissent - are expendable.
The United States is losing international
authority and respect and allowing nations to
justify their repression of opponents under
the guise of combating terrorism. The stunt-
ing of the development of democratic
regimes will only lead to more resentment
and political violence.
The realities of modern technology
and interdependence mandate that
neglecting or excluding a portion of the
world from the benefits and operation of
the democratic state is a short-sighted
solution that can only create future
tragedy. There is now a global theater that
is divided between two visions of the
world. One vision is willing to use any
means to justify its goals while its neme-
sis must act within crafted restrictions and
follow the development of law. Democra-
cy must not compromise with the methods
of terrorism. It cannot accept this desire
and risk perpetual violence.
Zac Peskowitz can be reached at

Running into the wind: Affirmative action

n the late '80s, I
was a world-class
sprinter. You may
-,a not remember me, but
there are those who do.
The 100-meter dash
was my specialty. I ran
like the wind. Few men
could outrun me, and
only a handful of ani-
mals had faster jaunts over land than I did.
My speed and notoriety threatened Carl
Lewis and he challenged me to a race in my
specialty. With a smug grin, I accepted and
pulled down my shiny Adidas tracksuit,
laced up my sneakers and walked to the
starting block. Carl, Mr. Lewis to you slow-
folks, walked by me and to his starting block
ten meters ahead of mine. Osama Bin Laden
strode up and slid into position five meters
ahead of me. He was in especially good
shape with being trained by our military and
all. His beard was well trimmed. Very well
trimmed. I, a veteran of many races know
that different distances are staggered, but the
100 meters - it was always a straight shot.
Lewis kneeled into the track-starter-upper
position (technical term) and I looked up and
asked "Hey Carl, what gives? This is the
100, there are no stagger starts in the 100,
why are you starting ahead of me?"
"Because," Carl smiled, "I'm black."
And with a bang, the gun fired.
The race is being run now, and people
are losing, choking and gurgling on a system
that wraps more than a spare tire around the
waists of the majority. Everyone is losing in
some way, shape or form. Whether or not
people want to admit it, affirmative action is

a sad attempt first at a constant apology to
the minority community of the United States
and second, an admittance on the part of
those who utilize this flawed system that
they are lesser people.
Carl Lewis certainly didn't need a head-
start on that windy August morning, but
because he took his 10 meter bump to the
front of the line, he did. Is this right? This
essential handicapping of a race, a competi-
tion for the good of even-keel society? So
why do minorities need affirmative action?
I can only defend affirmative action on
the grounds that life isn't fair. Some people
are fat, some are bald, some are pretty, some
are ugly, some are rich and some are poor.
Life hasn't ever been fair, and affirmative
action serves as little more than a desperate
reach to cultivate some level of 'fairness' in
the United States. The absurdity of "every-
thing being fair and equal" is a naive con-
cept, a philosophical optimism, little more
than a pipe dream, so much in fact that to
pursue it corrodes ideologies even further.
In the creation of affirmative action in its
present state, the champions and recipients
of its benefits are minorities and women.
The white male receives no such benefit.
Most problematic is the exclusion of finan-
cial status in consideration for affirmative
action's fringe benefits of elbowing one's
way to the front of the admissions, corporate,
or whatever line.
With the exclusion of financial consider-
ation, affirmative action ineffectively segre-
gates those who receives its benefits. The
impoverished white individual hailing from
somewhere in rural middle America,
receives no such added consideration on the

assumption that whites need no extra push
into college. This is a nauseating principle.
It's even more disgustig when the side
of the coin is flipped and you see perfectly
able, educated and financially secure minori-
ties receiving special "considerations" that
they don't need. Just read that again. Thanks.
Anyone with half of a brain can see that
the system is flawed. Those championing
minority rights and handing out flyers and
making their voices heard should rationally
be able to see the inherent flaws in affirma-
tive action. In creating a system that is
designed to include minorities, it must dis-
criminate the so-called majority - this con-
cept itself is an oxymoronic one.
To those applauding the court case and
its result, smile and enjoy. It is a victory for
you and your cause. Those who chant and
scream with mouths wide open have earned
it. Do keep in mind that you champion a sys-
tem that is flawed, inherently discriminatory
and a conceptual leap of idiocy at an ideo-
logical nirvana that cannot nor should be
attained. Life is not fair, there is no reason to
try and equalize it.
The sweatlpoured from my arms, I saw
the lights on Carl's L.A. Gears shining
through the mist as I trailed behind. The
world beside me was a blur and my legs
were on fire. I saw him cross the tape and I
followed, less than a second behind. When
the mathematicians had factored the
meters/second traveling, I was faster, but that
10 meter edge was just enough.
Fair, isn't it?
Luke Smith can be reached at

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