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June 21, 2004 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-06-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 21, 2004

Ule Lidugan latt

SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of@
the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

In a tragic manipulation of democra-
cy, the State Senate and State House,
for the fourth time, approved a ban
on ansabortion procedure referred to by
critics as partial-birth abortion. The
ban, unless struck down by a court
order, will become effective in March of
2005 and cannot be vetoed by Governor
Jennifer Granholm. The piece of legisla-
tion is able to forego the Governor's sig-
nature because it was put to the
Michigan legislature through a well
intentioned, but often misused, loophole
in Michigan legislative system: direct
The decision was celebrated by a
coalition of religious and anti-abortion
organizations, which collected over
400,000 signatures to initiate the legis-
lation. Governor Granholm torpedoed
an identical ban last year and similar
bans were signed twice by former
Governor John Engler but were struck
down each time by a court order.
Regardless of the fact that this most

Grass(roots) gone wild!
Abuse of direct democracy subverts women's rights

recent legislation can meet the same end
as the three other attempts, it exposes a
weakness in the Michigan legislative
system that has the potential to be seri-
ously taken advantage of. This new
abortion ban reveals the devious manner
in which a few select members of the
population can successfully enact legis-
lation that affects the entire state.
The direct democracy clause,
although intended to increase the legiti-
macy of our state government, is far
from a vehicle for popular remonstra-
tion. The process of collecting the
required amount of necessary signatures
is a large and arduous task, one that
really can only be successfully under-
taken by organizations with an exces-
sively large bankroll. The result is that

only causes backed by the funds of pow-
erful elites can be put to the legislature.
What ostensibly appears to be a tool
designed to protect the common citizen
is in fact another circuitous means of
removing him from the democratic
This true nature of direct democracy,
a measure meant to increase govern-
mental validity, in fact, can lessen it.
The circumventing of Granholm's
authority is an unnecessary step that
makes a mockery of the democratic
process that elected her. When a few
elite members of society can subvert the
authority of a democratically elected
official, it is in effect an example of the
larger population being disenfranchised.
This abortion ban is particularly oli-

garchical because it is a law that only
directly affects women and an individ-
ual woman's body.
Previous examples of direct democra-
cy initiatives have exposed these poten-
tial dangers also. An organization known
as Citizens for the Protection of
Marriage used the same measures to cir-
culate a ballot initiative to ban constitu-
tional gay marriage and Ward Connerly's
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative exploit-
ed direct democracy in an attempt to end
race-based admissions preferences.
The problem of this direct democracy
clause is not one rooted in its founding
principle, but rests in the reality of its exe-
cution and the logistical resources it
requires. The procedures and provisions
regulating the direct democracy clause
clearly need to be revised. It is an undeni-
able truth that political representation
more readily comes to those with higher
social standing, but hopefully a measure
intended to empower the common man can
be eventually crafted to actually do so.

Declassified operations
CIA should admit faults, disclose Senate report

Tuned out
RIAA taking advantage of dubious laws to prosecute cases


Recently, the Senate Intelligence
Committee finished its 400-page
report criticizing the Central
Intelligence Agency's pre-war intelli-
gence mistakes regarding Iraq and its
weapons programs. The CIA is
attempting to prevent large portions of
the report from being published
because it claims that some of the
material is too sensitive to be made
public. Thirty to 40 percent of the
report has been deleted by the CIA, and
the Republican and Democratic leaders
of the committee are pressuring the
agency to allow the release of the full
report. Though it claims that the report
is being censored because it contains
sensitive information, the CIA does not
deserve the benefit of the doubt. Until
it can be proven otherwise, it should be
assumed that the CIA is altering the
report in order to avoid criticism and
prevent backlash. The failings of the
CIA need to be revealed in order to pre-
vent future mistakes from being made,
and the agency should not keep the
material classified for the sake of self-
While it is allowed by law to decide
what constitutes sensitive material, the
CIA should not be able to halt the
release of a report that is highly critical
of it. While it is possible that there is
some justifiably classified material in
the report, there is no way to know for
sure if it will ever be released. Giving
the CIA the final say in what is and is
not included in a, report that is highly
critical of it runs contrary to the spirit
of the report and of the Senate
Intelligence Committee. There is no
point in criticizing the CIA if the CIA

can delete any amount of the report
with no oversight.
The Senate Intelligence Committee
has the option to appeal the White
House, but it is highly unlikely that the
Bush Administration will favor the
report's release. This is the same
administration that has relied heavily
on intelligence gathered by the CIA in
its drive for war. Revealing the CIA's
failures will only put the White House
in an uncomfortable position, as it will
force the administration to accept the
fact that is has made serious decisions
based on information obtained by a
faulty source. The improbability of the
White House to put pressure on the CIA
will make the release of the full report
more difficult.
Even though the information in the
report will more than likely hurt the
credibility of the CIA, its release will
only improve it in the long run.
Bringing the agency's mistakes into the
spotlight will force the agency to
change for the better and prevent future
failures. Democratic governments rely
on public scrutiny to keep them func-
tioning, and there can be no improve-
ment that comes with scrutiny if the
government can censor criticism
towards it. Organizations as secretive
and as influential as the CIA need pub-
lic oversight in order to ensure that
serious mistakes are not made. Given
the energy put into preventing the
report's release as well as the recent
resignations of the top two CIA offi-
cials, some serious mistakes have been
made that need to come to light. The
intelligence community should be kept
exempt from scrutiny.

The University, after months of pres-
sure under a federal subpoena from
the Recording Industry Association
of America, finally had no choice but to
release the names of eight students and
one staff member who have been accused
of sharing music illegally. The University
spent the greater part of two months
reviewing the subpoenas and unfortunate-
ly, in the words of the University's
Assistant General Counsel Jack Bernard,
found them to be "substantively valid."
While it may be argued that the University
could have fought more vigorously against
the subpoena, the real blame and animosi-
ty should rest with the RIAA. The RIAA is
subverting intellectual property legislation
and exploiting it beyond its original intent
under the guise of the 1998 Digital
Millennium Copyright Act.
Copyrights were originally granted
useful and even noble purpose of protect-
ing the work of academics and artists. The
RIAA is using the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act to exercise copyright law
where it was never intended. The act aims
not only to outlaw electronic piracy, but
also any programs which facilitate elec-
tronic piracy. Corporations and organiza-
tions like the RIAA are exercising their
new powers to aggressively act in what
they claim is. the interest of artists: the
elimination of electronic file sharing.
Attacking the RIAA on its enforcement
of copyrights is not the most effective, or
legally tenable, strategy. While the RIAA
does not fully control what users do with
its music, it still does, unfortunately, con-
trol the intellectual property rights. Hence,
the distribution of these materials without
compensation to their owner - the RIAA
in this case - is still technically illegal.

Thus, the RIAA is entitled to protect its
property, even though it is merely in the
name of making money. While this may
not seem just, it is unfortunately the way
copyright law is designed.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act,
however, fundamentally violates the pub-
lic's right to privacy in an effort to give cor- 0
porations more power. Under the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act, companies
have the right to subpoena Internet service
providers, and force ISPs to reveal users'
personal information if they feel users are
illegally sharing files. This information is
often not something which users want to
make public, and the RIAA should not
have the legal right to simply request (and
receive) it as part of a routine investigation.
Furthermore, the provisions of the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
which outlaw the creation of technology
that can facilitate digital piracy are bla-
tant limitations on personal freedom.
While it is illegal to shoot a person with
a rifle, the rifle can still be manufac-
tured. Similarly, while it may be illegal
to rip DVDs and CDs into DivX and
.mp3 files, the technology to do so
should not be. By preemptively banning
the creation of technology, the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act fundamen-
tally abrogates individual freedom.
While the RIAA will continue to pur-
sue individuals who they claim are grossly
in violation of copyright statutes, it should
not receive the extra help provided by the
provisions of the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act. This act, which threatens
individual rights to privacy and creativity,
is an unfortunate piece of legislation that
substantially diminishes the liberty of

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