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May 18, 2009 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-05-18

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

Monday, May 18, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5

JASON MAHAKIAN

E-MAIL JASON AT MAHAKIAJ@UMICH.EDU

Drunken policy

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Government blackmail

During last year's presi-
dential election, I wasn't
really interested in who
wouldwin. Both
of the major
candidates K
simply didn't j
offer me many>
opinions that
I agreed with.
But despite my
apathy, I have to PATRICK
admit that I felt ZABAWA
a little secure
when Barack
Obama won the
election. Sure I disagreed with
him on almost everything, but he
at least seemed to be an honest
candidate concerned for the aver-
age American's plight.
Though I went into it hoping for
the best, Obama's presidency thus
far has made me trust government
evenless --andmy trustwasn'tvery
high to begin with. What killed the
small amount of trust I had was
something his administration did
within the first couple months of
his presidency. It supposedly used
blackmail to ensure its success in
negotiations with Chrysler's lend-
ers, reminding me that government
is something to fear, not to trust.
It has been alleged that the
Obama administration used
threats to protect the interests
of the automaker Chrysler LLC,
which - along with General
Motors - is now government-sup-
ported. With the horrible state of
their finances, the Obama admin-
istration made it clear that many
of those associated with the com-
panies - stockholders, employees,
lenders, etc. - would have to make
sacrifices. But when the outcome
of negotiations between Chrysler
and its lenders wasn't looking good
for Chrysler, the administration
supposedly blackmailed a lender,
Perella Weinberg Partners, to give
in to Chysler's offer. According to
Perella Weinberg's lawyer Tom

Lauria, who spoke on the Frank
Beckmann Radio Show, the White
House told Perella Weinberg to
agree to the offer or "the full force
of the White House press corps
would destroy its reputation."
The different parties suppos-
edly involved in this blackmail all
refute Lauria's claim. The Obama
administration denies it outright.
Strangely enough, Perella Wein-
berg Partners also denies the
claim. But Lauria hasn't backed
down from his statement despite
all the claims to the contrary. If the
Obama administration is indeed
the guilty party, it has threatened
a private firm in a very scary man-
ner. But it also wouldn't have been
the first administration to do so. In
fact, the Bush administration used
blackmail and admitted to it.
In December, Bank of America's
chief financial officer told chief
executive officer Kenneth Lewis
that Merrill Lynch, the firm the
bank was going to purchase on
Jan. 1, had suffered severe and
not-yet-disclosed losses. Lewis
became wary of the purchase, but
Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry
Paulson was so concerned that
canceling the purchase would
further escalate the financial cri-
sis that he blackmailed Lewis
into completing it. Should Bank
of America have backed out of the
purchase, Paulson told Lewis, his
job and those of his company's
board would have been at risk. At
the same time, he told Lewis not
to tell stockholders of the loss, an
order that went against federal
law. Both Lewis and Paulson cor-
roborated this story to New York
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo,
who urged federal authorities to
investigate the pressure Paulson
put on Lewis and his board to com-
mit this possibly-illegal action.
Authorities have not yet acted on
Cuomo's recommendation.
Paulson was, of course, inter-
ested in protecting the financial

markets by blackmailing Lewis
and Bank of America's board. But
what's scary to me is that this
blackmail encouraged Lewis to
break federal laws that the gov-
ernment is responsible for enforc-
ing. The Obama administration's
blackmail of Perella Weinberg,
if it happened, is the same situ-
ation - an administration ceas-
ing to defend a business contract
between Chrylser and Perella
Weinberg that it has the responsi-
bility to protect.
The government
should protect,
not oppress.
What the government is doing
in these situations is acting like a
private company - albeit one that
doesn't even have to follow its own
regulations. Itis actinginthe inter-
est of the corporations it supports
(Bank of America and Chrysler)
and threatening those who get in
the way of their expansion. Usu-
ally those who have business con-
tracts with corporations, such as
their lenders and stockholders,
have governmental agencies that
protect them from any breach
of contract the corporation may
attempt. But when the governmen-
tal agencies assigned to protect
these stockholders and lenders
have instead turned against them,
as in these two cases, government
becomes worse than any malicious
corporation - it becomes an unpo-
liced oppressor free to bring about
whatever havoc it wants. If the
government ceases to enforce its
own laws and becomes the source
of the harm itself, what is the pur-
pose of government?
- Patrick Zabawa can be
reached at pzabawa@umich.edu.

Having grown up in East
Lansing, I am relatively
familiar with the infa-
mous "MIP."
But it wasn't
until I came to
the University
that I actually
saw it in action.
That's not to say
that every time -
I go out at night, MATTHEW
I see cops writ-GREEN
ing tickets to
hapless under-
graduates. The
vast majority ofUniversitystudents
who choose to drink manage to do
so without legal repercussions.
But there is a palpable presence of
students at the University unlucky
enough to have been charged with
the unlawful possession of alcohol.
When I googled "minor in pos-
session," a link to the University
Housing website was the fourth
result on the list. Of all the col-
leges and universities that must
deal with similar alcohol-related
issues, it's curious that our uni-
versity apparently has the most to
say on the matter. That may sim-
ply be a condition of its location
in Michigan, though. On just the
first page of returns for the same
search, three links pertain to the
MIP policies in Michigan alone.
In addition, "Minor in Possession
Michigan" is one of the related
searches suggested at the bottom
of the page, while there is no such
suggestion for any other state.
At first, I thought that these
must only be the returns for people
physically in Michigan, and that
Google, in all its omniscience, must
have been tuning the search more
finely to my needs. So I called a
friend in New York to run the same
search. Our results were identical.
Why all this interest in the way
our lowly state punishes minors
who drink? It turns out that
Michigan is known for having the
strictest minor in possession laws
in the nation. Since 2004, blood
alcohol content has been used in
Michigan in defining "posses-
sion," in addition to physically
holding or storing alcohol. More-
over, the law enables the court to
issue jail time to a minor caught
twice in possession of alcohol.
All that seems a pretty excessive
punishment for actions that aren't
inherently amoral. Most Ameri-
cans are in favor of the current
drinking age, according to a recent
survey by the Gallup Organization.
But only a select few would argue
that there's anything truly uncon-

scionable about having a drink. It's
strange that the punishment for
drinking is so harsh.
A better alternative would be
something similar to Missouri's
policies. Missouri law allows par-
ents to distribute alcohol to their
children within reason. More
importantly, Missouri is one of 20
states that restrict only the sale
of alcohol to minors, not the con-
sumption. And while the MIP mis-
demeanor can be expunged after
a few years in Michigan, Missouri
law allows the charge to be entirely
erased if individuals have no other
charges against them.
The possibility ofexpungingthe
MIP charge at allshows that Mich-
igan is at least somewhat pragmat-
ic about this issue. The practice of
giving first offenders somewhat of
a break is reasonable. But the cur-
rent system in Michigan is flawed.
If a freshman gets carried away
Michigan's
strict MIP laws
are flawed.
during Welcome Week and winds
up with alcohol poisoning, his
friends are faced with a disincen-
tive to take him to the hospital.
If they were to dial 911, it would
mean getting their friend (and pos-
sibly themselves) into trouble. In
the unfortunate but quite possible
instance that such an individual
were not to have good - or even
decent - friends, the MIP law
would actually hurt the minor. In
fact, there was a recent initiative in
Michigan to protect minors in this
position, but the state legislature
failed to understand its importance
and did notpass it.
Whether or not drinking laws
are sensible or if it's ethical to let
an 18-year-old die in Afghanistan
without the right even to drink a
beer is an issue for another col-
umn. The fact is there is currently
a law prohibiting those younger
than 21 years of age from con-
suming alcohol and as such there
must be some sort of punishment
for violating that law. Otherwise,
the law may as well not exist. This
may be true, but the current poli-
cies take it too far, and in doing
so, they hurt the very people they
are trying to protect.
-Matthew Green can be
reached at greenmat@umich.edu.

Editorial Board Members: Emad Ansari, Ben Caleca, Erika Mayer, Asa Smith, Patrick Zabawa

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