I couldn’t think of one single issue
to write about this week. So I won’t. I’ll spare you
the column about what the Muppets can teach us about international
relations, as well as the one about Judith Steinberg Dean and
gender relations in America. Instead, here’s a few things to
think about over Spring Break:

Laura Wong

1. Budget cuts and dental care

A Tuesday Detroit News story said it all: “On Oct. 1, the
state stopped paying for dental, chiropractic and foot care for
every Medicaid recipient in the state over age 21.

“From now on, Medicaid will only pay for emergency
procedures — which means people … who can’t
afford their own checkups will have to go without routine
cleanings, fillings and gum care until their teeth are
rotting.”

How many poor people will have to get their teeth pulled because
the state couldn’t afford checkups for them? Hasn’t the
budget cutting gone far enough? Good God, if there ever was a
problem that needed to be fixed it’s health care, and nothing
is being done.

2. The death penalty

After two Detroit police officers were shot and killed, one
state legislator renewed his call to reinstate the death penalty in
Michigan. Rep. Larry Julian (R-Lennon) wants the Legislature to
place before the voters the opportunity to, by referendum, remove
the state constitution’s ban on capital punishment. After
that happens, the Legislature could write laws prescribing the
circumstances under which juries could apply the death penalty.

Julian, a retired state trooper serving his last term in the
House, said in a release that the death penalty should only be
applied in the most “heinous” crimes where a
“smoking gun” removes any doubt as to the guilt of the
accused.

While Julian’s motives are surely pure — after all,
it’s hard to say that killing a cop-killer is unfair —
the problem with our criminal justice system, as is inevitably the
case with all, is that it’s not 100-percent perfect:
there’s no perfect conviction. Some defendant will end up
with a lousy lawyer, the evidence will be fabricated, the trial
won’t be fair … whatever the case, the wrong person
will eventually fry for someone else’s crime, and the death
of one innocent person is too high a price. The inherent genius of
a life sentence is that if the accused is later exonerated, he
still has his life.

3. Student government elections

Are you ready? I mean, ARE YOU READY? It’s time for the
most inconsequential event of the school year, when political
wannabes spend the next month hustling around campus hoping to win
a popularity (or, should I say, name-recognition) contest. They
enlighten all of us with brilliant political rhetoric like
“Vote Students First” or “Vote U Party.”
All this to pad their resumés and act as a rubber stamp for
the University administration. Keep up the good work, guys.

4. What an idiot!

University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman placed her
school’s football coach, Gary Barnett, on paid leave
following outrageous remarks he made after hearing that one of his
former players, female place-kicker Katie Hnidaas, has accused some
former teammates of rape.

As printed in The New York Times, Barnett told reporters on
Tuesday: “It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was
awful. You know what guys do? They respect your ability. You can be
90 years old, but if you can go out and play, they’ll respect
you. Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There’s
no other way to say it.”

OK, Coach, so what you’re saying is that if the new
teammate is good players should respect her, and then it’s
not OK to rape her? Or did I misunderstand — you’re
saying that because she was a lousy football player she must be
lying?

Don’t get me wrong, I truly respect Gary Barnett’s
rights to free speech, but I must admit the speech I’d
respect even more would begin and end with the words, “Coach,
you’re fired.”

5. Super Tuesday

Well, it looks like this election might end up being a little
more interesting than all the pundits, even the most enlightened of
us (me!), expected. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina now has the
chance to go mano a mano with just one candidate, Sen. John Kerry
of Massachusetts.

It should be noted that both of these campaigns were left for
dead until the last couple days before the Iowa caucuses, so if
there’s one thing that we can learn from this whole process,
it is: Elections matter. The candidate who began with the most
money and the most endorsements, Howard Dean, is now out of the
race.

So let’s see which message resonates more: George W. Bush
lied to you, I served in Vietnam and I know all about national
security (Kerry’s); or, I spent my life fighting the big bad
guys, I’ll keep fighting in the White House and let’s
bring people together (Edwards’s).

Meizlish can be reached at
“mailto:meizlish@umich.edu”>meizlish@umich.edu.

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