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May 05, 2009 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-05-05

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

15

CHRIS KOSLOWSKI | T T ST E
E-MAIL CHRIS AT CSKOSLOW@UMICH.EDU
why ar you wearing that This ply is cerawlig wit
surgical cask pigs, man.
Ad this is why you never
Swne u duh get invited to parties
* 0
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Losing Je wish appea

Investing green

p ennsylvania Sen. Arlen
Specter made headlines
last week when he formally
changed parties
and gave Demo-
crats a possible
filibuster-proof
majority. The
increase of the
number of Sen-
ate Democrats
to the magic -
60 (assuming MATTHEW
Al Franken of
Minnesota wins GREEN
the legal battle-
over his senate
seat) is no small thing. It will mean
a great deal for President Barack
Obama, Congressional Democrats
and indeed the rest of the country.
But of all the commentary on Sena-
tor Specter's political shift, I was
most affected by Avi Zenilman in
The New Yorker. Zenilman ended
his opinion piece (Three Quick
Thoughts on Specter's Defection,
04/28/2009) by pointing out that,
with Specter gone from the GOP,
"Eric Cantor -is the last Jewish
Republican in Congress."
The remark served more as a
light-hearted conclusion to Zenil-
man's piece than any real talking
point. But upon further consid-
eration, I realized the true sig-
nificance of that detail. First, it
highlights the fact that a large
majority of American Jews vote
Democrat. If Congressman Cantor
of Florida is the last Republican
out of the 45 Jews in Congress, 98
percent are Democrats or liberal
Independents. In addition, over 75
percent of Jews voted for Barack
Obama in 2008.
Seeing those inordinate num-
bers makes me wonder exactly
why this trend is so prevalent.

Some scholars point to the empha-
sis on peace and human rights
within Jewish thought, while oth-
ers offer an analysis of immigrant
history and urban proximity. Still
others look at Jewish involvement
in the labor movement. All of the
above are contributing reasons, to
be sure.
Yet, while each of the aforemen-
tioned points is relevant, the most
timely reason why Jews don't tend
to vote Republican is simply that
the GOP has become the myopic
party of rural America and the
Christian religious right. Having
spent one or two millennia on the
periphery of Christian society,
it's unsurprising that American
Jews generally feel uncomfort-
able voting for a party that defies
the mainstream and considers the
United States a Christian nation.
But Jewish distaste for the GOP
is only one example of for the over-
all nearsightedness of the party.
Apart from repelling religious
minorities, the Republicans have
similarly pushed away virtually
all racial minority groups, gays,
women and independents. Repub-
lican leaders have been preoccu-
pied for too long with pandering
to evangelists and so-called "real
Americans," promotingimpossible
standards for what it means to be
an American that they've failed
to reach. It shouldn't surprise the
GOP that they're losing elections,
considering how vastly they have
diminshed their own supportbase.
If Republicans want to regain
power, they'll have to become
more moderate and accepting of
all sorts of groups.
If Obama is successful in the
next few years, Democrats will
stay in power and push a center-
left agenda that will keep America

socially competitive with the rest
of the world during the ensuing
political era. But if the Democrats
fail to impress and the Republi-
cans have an opportunity for a
comeback, they'll have to return as
a hugely different party than they
were even four years ago. Perhaps
they'll be less xenophobic, perhaps
they'll be in favor of granting full
reproductive rights to women, or
perhaps they'll even see homosex-
nals as normal human beings.
To survive, the
GOP must be
more inclusive.
But in 2010, if Republicans do
not clean up their act, it is probable
that they will suffer even more
losses. Things are so bad for the
Grand Old Party that they lost a
historical member even during a
non-election year. Talk about neg-
ative momentum. But in a way, this
survival of the fittest is the sort of
capitalistic idea Republicans are
supposed to like. Democrats are
making more profits, so to speak,
because there's more of a demand
for what they have to offer. So now
it's the Republicans' chance to
change their business model and
steal some of the Democrats' busi-
ness. If they can't, then they will
have to quietly exit the market,
saying goodbye to their comeback.
But they'd probably ask for a
bailout before that happened.
- Matthew Green can be
reached at greenmat rumich.edu.
THE EDITORIAL BOARD
The Daily is looking for a diverse
group of informed, hard-working
writers to join its Editorial Board.
For more information, e-mail
Rachel Van Gilder at
rachelvg drumich.edu.

n a series entitled "Our
energy future" that ran from
Apr. 13 to Apr. 17, the Daily
covered a
variety of
emerging and
established
green energy
technologies
that will help
reduce harm-
ful emissions -
from power BEN
plants. WhileC
many of the CALECA
technologies
that harness
natural forces such as solar and
wind power have long histories of
extensive research in our coun-
try, such technologies are not
a panacea for all energy crises.
This is because of their depen-
dence on climate conditions and
high maintenance costs. The real
key is not only in expanding cur-
rent green energy sources, but
also investing in new avenues of
research for viable, universally
applicable clean energy.
Two months ago, the U.S.
Department of Energy announced
certification of the primary laser
at the National Ignition Facility,
located at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory in Califor-
nia. The project sounds like some-
thing taken out of science fiction.
Using the world's largest laser, a
powerful beam of light is split into
192 separate beams and then refo-
cused onto a pea-sized amount of
hydrogen fuel. The hope is that
they can fuse these hydrogen
atoms into helium, and in turn
release massive amounts of clean
energy. But the real trick is mak-
ing such a system self-sustainable
so that it can produce continuous
energy for consumers to use.
Fusion reactors like the one
at NIF are a safe alternative to
reactors using radioactive fuel.
Fueling them would require only
hydrogen and its isotopes, which
can be readily extracted from
seawater. The reactors are not
limited by safety concerns like
nuclear plants, nor are they lim-
ited by the amount of sunlight or
wind a region gets at certain times,
counteringthe drawbacks of other
green energy sources. Even more
productive would be the use of
Helium-3, an isotope rarely found
on Earth but abundant in rocks on
the Moon. It could make the trip
to space economically viable.
As it stands right now, prac-
tical use of the process is a long
way off. First tests with the NIF
began two months ago. Full "igni-
tion" of the fusion reactor's fuel is
planned for sometime next year.
A project called the Interna-
tional Thermonuclear Experi-
mental Reactor, another type of
fusion reactor, uses magnets to
confine a fusion reaction. But this

type of reactor is still in develop-
ment. While it builds offof a long
historyof experimental data from
earlier magnetically confined
fusion experiments, this project
is a long way from starting its pri-
mary research goals.
If tests prove successful at
the NIF or the ITER, further
research would be required to
turn such a system into a viable
commercial system capable of
running efficiently. Economic
conditions make funding such
research nearly impossible in
the private sector because of the
billions of dollars required to lay
the groundwork for the science
behind a potential commercial
undertaking.
Fusion is the
future of enviro-
friendly energy.
Inevitably, such research
lies in the hands of government
agencies with an eye toward the
future. The federal stimulus plan
passed a few months ago included
significant governmental invest-
ments in solar, wind, and other
renewable energy technologies.
And here in Michigan, Governor
Jennifer Granholm has made the
green energy industry the cor-
nerstone of her plan to revamp
the failing economy. But research
on new technology with incred-
ible potential to power large
areas cheaply and cleanly - like
the NIF fusion reactor is a type
of energy investment the fed-
eral government has yet to make.
Investments like this would be
valuable to ensure the energy
security of the United States and
the rest of the world.
The increasing prominence
and funding of current renew-
able energy sources such as solar,
wind and nuclear power plants in
the quest for clean, oil-indepen-
dent power in the United States
and abroad is a positive sign of
change. But our country is miss-
ing the opportunity to expand
its energy portfolio in a way that
can keep pace with its exponen-
tially expanding energy demand.
The solutions to a greener future
do not lie in simply perfecting
established ideas. Instead, the
future of energy is in pioneering
new creations such as the NIF. To
make this future a reality, gov-
ernment and industry must invest
in researchers and inventors who
are dreaming of solutions most
people can hardly fathom.
- Ben Caleca can be reached
at calecab@umich.edu.

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