Berkeley Political Review Spring 2015

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Berkeley Political Review









Berkeley’s No-Good Protests Dear Reader, Call me a bad liberal, but I lost my cool when I encountered the demonstration blocking Sather Gate April 14th. It wasn’t the subject of the protest that bothered me. I affirm that ‘Black Lives Matter.’ I abhor (and I think most of Berkeley would agree) that throughout the United States, black men and women are suffering ghoulish and unlawful oppression at the hands of law enforcement. No, I got mad that day because the protestors, as if they were playing a warped game of “Red Rover,” were blocking anyone from entering Sproul Plaza. Actually, were they blocking access to Sproul, or to the University? The symbolic and practical oversights left me light-headed. Protestors do not own spaces of demonstration. Students with disabilities need to go to class. The elderly have the right to walk through a public campus. And every other member of the campus community is busy enriching their own lives or the lives of others; that includes students of color and first-generation college students. How could social justice drive people to be so callous? I took a deep breath and a step back. There was nothing new here. It wasn’t just that By Any Means Necessary was leading another failed protest. It’s the chronic failure of protest as political strategy at Cal that has been taking its toll. After all, protests are meant to draw attention to an issue to bring positive change. So why do Berkeley’s protests seem to have so little value? • Fatigue: Sproul Plaza is too loud and too stimulating for most people to care. Endless solicitation (brought to you in part, of course, by your friends at Berkeley Political Review), religious diatribes, requests to buy bread or donate blood, and throw in a protest? I’m sympathetic to people who plug in and shut out all the noise. Each protest is a little bit harder to tolerate than the last. • The “You’re with us or you’re against us” Mentality: the goal of any protest on social issues should be to widen the circle of compassion for those impacted by social injustice. If you believe, however, that this issue is the defining battle of our time, and that it’s us vs. them, the circle of compassion begins to rapidly swivel and shrink to a point. Those who are insulted for not making up their mind shy away from the issue entirely. The drive for ideological purity excludes nuance, devil’s advocates, and well-informed objections, creating hermetically-sealed bubbles of self-congratulation. • Lack of Creativity: the protestors doing the most damage to campus climate are the ones who operate only on the intensity scale. Silent protest is one of the more captivating, and underutilized, forms of political demonstration, but implementing it successfully would require creative thought. • Absence of Discipline: Civil Rights protests in the 1960s were marked by the care and rigor of their planning - protesters were coached on non-violence and strategies to actively prevent surrounding demonstrators from inciting riots. The Ferguson protests that took place in Berkeley near finals last year were not marked by such discipline. When riots broke out, some protesters were quick to blame “white anarchists” for co-opting the protest against police brutality into an anti-Capitalist looting scheme. Setting the likelihood of this narrative aside, it is the distinct responsibility of those leading protests to organize and strategize against individuals who would use the protest as cover for violent crime. Losing control and blaming radical elements in the crowd doesn’t cut it in most people’s eyes. Of course, the careful reader will recognize that I have something in common with the some Berkeley protesters: I identify a problem, but I don’t present a clear solution. I can say this: to live a good life, you have to cut out the poison. That applies to politics. We hope this issue of Berkeley Political Review provides an antidote to some of the cynicism you may harbor about Berkeley’s political discourse. Not every form of political dialogue requires screaming. Often a few italics will do just fine. Sincerely,

Matthew Symonds Editor-in-Chief

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Matthew Symonds DEPUTY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Nikhil Kotecha BUSINESS MANAGER Nitisha Baronia CALIFORNIA EDITOR Lucy Song DEPUTY CALIFORNIA EDITOR Gabriel J. Sanchez UNITED STATES EDITOR Arshia Singh DEPUTY UNITED STATES EDITOR Gloria Cheung WORLD EDITOR Abhik Kumar Pramanik DEPUTY WORLD EDITOR Jeffrey Kuperman OPINION EDITOR Carrie Yang DEPUTY OPINION EDITOR Lindsey Lohman ONLINE EDITOR Anna Bella Korbatav DEPUTY ONLINE CO-EDITORS Meghan Babla Suleman Khan DESIGN DIRECTOR Haruko Ayabe TECHNICAL DIRECTOR Griffin Potrock EDITORS EMERITUS Elena Kempf Niku Jafarnia Hinh Tran Jeremy Pilaar STAFF Writing Staff: Adora Svitak, Anthony Carasco, Apratim Vidyarti, Austin Weinstein, Christine Huang, Dahlia Peterson, Daniel Ahrens, Gabriella Armato, Giacomo Tognini, Griffin Potrock, Gyu Choi, Hanna Haddad, Helena Green, Ismael Farooqui, Jackson Rees, Jae Ho Lee, James Yixuan Zheng, Jay Jung, Jerry Lin, JJ Kim, Jordan Ash, Julia Konstantinovsky, Kevin Yao, Kush Berry, Lani Frazer, Leah Daoud, Lilac Peterson, Manahil Shah, Merrill Weber, Michael Levin, Priyanka Mohanty, Quinn Schwab, Ruochen Huang, Sophie Kahn, Yun Ru Phua, and Yilun Cheng. Design and Business Staff: Ekkalux Nguyen, Jerilyn Wu, Kevin Lee, and Xiao Li. ASUC sponsored. The content of this publication does not reflect the view of the University of California, Berkeley or the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). Advertisements appearing in the Berkeley Political Review reflect the views of the advertisers only, and are not an expression of the editorial opinion or views of the staff.


Berkeley Political Review Volume XV, No. 1 / Spring 2015

Gyu Hyung Choi


Jackson Rees


Leah Daoud


Ruochen Huang


Julia Konstantinovsky


Austin Weinstein


Daniel Ahrens


Merrill Weber


Kevin Yao


Michael Levin


Kevin Yao


Gabriella Armato


Manahil Shah


Dahlia Peterson


Giacomo Tognini


Jay Jung


JJ Kim


Adora Svitak


Hanna Haddad


Yilun Cheng


Jordan Ash


Yixuan Zheng


CALIFORNIA More than Money at Stake Students and politicians’ response to UC Fee Hike. California’s War on Human Trafficking How the Golden State combats modern-day slavery. The Basics of Bad Bridges What you need to know about California’s failing infrastructure. Physician-Assisted Death: A Patient’s Last Plea for Autonomy Do we have the “Right to Die?” Kamala Harris: A Bid for Boxer’s Seat California Attorney General emerges as early frontrunner. UNITED STATES The Fall of John Kitzhaber The resignation of Oregon’s governor sets a dangerous precedent. An Agri-Culture of Settlement Why Mexico’s workers are turning south. Snapchat News How news corporations are using Snapchat for advertising. Community College: Undivided Over an Educational Divide No college student left behind? Walker is Walking Against Labor How the Governor of Wisconsin could exacerbate income inequality. Eric Cantor or Eric “Can’t Win?” A look at the historical Virginia primary between David Brat and Eric Cantor. WORLD Ratifying Without Resolve How the international human rights system is plagued with non-compliance. Falling Forward The ramifications of Libya’s oil crisis. Mr. Xi Jinping, Tear Down This Firewall Examining the effects of Chinese Internet censorship. A Failed State No More: Somalia’s Waning War How regional military cooperation has helped stabilize Somalia. COVER STORY: The 21st Century Refugee How climate change threatens the legal status of Pacific Islanders. OPINION Backseat Solidarity How the Asian-American should view the #BlackLivesMatter movement. To Catch a Predator The injustice of America’s untested rape kits. Revealing a Hidden Minority The importance of recognition for Southwest Asian and North African (swana) peoples. Under the Dome How the Chinese government fails to contain its environmental problems. Bringing Down the House Fraternities are a threat to society - why we can no longer just stand by. What’s Special About America? One immigrant’s perspective on the red, white, and blue. Cover design by Haruko Ayabe. Children in a flooded yard in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Source: Kyodo/AP.




A protest against the tuition hike at Berkeley. Source: Jeff Chiu/AP.

n past years, California has struggled to find ways to fund public education in the midst of the financial crisis. In 2012 voters resorted to a quick, temporary plan to fund education by passing Proposition 30, which increased the personal income tax for taxpayers with incomes exceeding $250,000 and increased sales tax by 0.25 percent over four years. As a result, both the University of California (UC) system and the 23-campus California State University system agreed to stabilize their tuition. However, only two years later, the UC’s Board of Regents approved a five-year plan to increase tuition by five percent annually in November 2014. Consequently, this tuition hike jeopardized Governor Brown’s promised four percent budget increase for UC that was contingent upon a moratorium of tuition increase. Although it has been postponed, the plan is set to eventually increase the current resident tuition from $12,804 to $16,341 and nonresident tuition from $24,024 to $30,661. UC President Janet Napolitano justified the tuition increase, pointing out that state funding for the UC system remains the same as it was in 1997 despite an increase of 75,000 students in UC’s population. “That’s the statistical equivalent of adding an additional UCLA and UC Berkeley into the mix without receiving a dime more from the state,” stated Napolitano. Critics, however, remain unconvinced. The central role of the UC system is to provide premier and affordable public education to Californian students. Critics challenge that a drastic fee hike erodes the idea of affordable public education embedded in the Master Plan for Higher Education in California. Opponents also 3 | Berkeley Political Review

contend that UC has found its ways to compensate for shortage of state funding by constantly increasing tuition. In fact, the cost of attending the UC for in-state students has more than doubled since 2004. Beyond the tuition increases, Napolitano touched another nerve when she told the California Assembly budget subcommittee that UC would increase the number of nonresident students who pay about three times as much tuition as Californian residents. “We will not be admitting students that we don’t know we actually have funding for,” Napolitano asserted. Although an in-state enrollment cap would not impact flagship campuses in Berkeley and LA where the percentage of out-of-state students is already too high, other campuses like Davis, Riverside, and Santa Cruz are expected to experience the effect. A reverse enrollment cap against in-state students elicited strong criticism from students and government officials. By saying that UC would increase the number of out-of-state students, Napolitano is essentially prioritizing nonresident students over California students for the sake of money. The Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins echoed such concern when she challenged UC for using students as “bargaining chips.” Napolitano defended her decision, arguing that out-of-state tuition allows UC to offer more classes and maintain programs benefiting all students, irrespective of resident status. According to the Regents, decreasing out-of-state enrollment would have harmful effects as it might actually reduce the number of California students UC could afford to educate. In fact, UC announced that

expanding out-of-state enrollment would create 7,500 more financial aid packages for California students. However, are increasing costs and prioritizing out-ofstate students the only ways to provide a high quality education? Certainly not. Recently, California state government officials have come up with potential solutions. The major proposal is the Senate Bill 15: A Plan for Higher Education in California, which is aimed to eliminate UC’s five percent tuition hike, repeal the scheduled eleven percent cut to Cal Grants, and encourage donations eligible for a 60 percent tax credit. State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and a group of lawmakers even proposed a constitutional amendment to get rid of some of UC’s autonomy as an attempt to prevent the UC Board of Regents from fluctuating tuition. Furthermore, pointing to abundant pay raises of executives and high-rank professors, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) has proposed limiting UC employee compensation to $500,000. Hernandez’s spokesman Primo Castro explained in an interview with the Berkeley Political Review that campus chancellors, famous coaches and award-winning doctors get paid “private-school-level” salaries that starkly depart from the idea of “public service” at UC. “Assemblyman Hernandez demands that UC disclose how it uses public funds with clear and convincing evidence,” he said. State taxpayers and students can’t be the only ones responsible for financing the system. UC also has to have the positive commitment to make changes within its system to help students pay for college. If this trend continues, Californians will question if it’s worth continuing to invest in UC. After all, why spend federal and California tax dollars for a college that prefers non-Californian students and makes it harder for average middle-class families to afford education? Admittedly, it is becoming more difficult for regents to maintain the high quality of UC education with the shortage of funding. Nonetheless, UC should find concrete ways to maximize the hundreds of millions of dollars it receives from California taxpayers without simply resorting to tuition increase. ■




uman trafficking is the world’s second most profitable criminal enterprise. It has the ability to be so profitable because humans can be exploited indefinitely and turned over to other customers in a rapid manner. It is estimated that human trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year global industry. Human trafficking is the fastest growing industry in the world; this is attributed to the low-risk and high-profit aspects of the industry. The United States Justice Department (DOJ) defines human trafficking as the “act of compelling or coercing a person’s labor, services, or commercial sex acts.” To narrow the scope to the United States, human trafficking generates $9.5 billion annually, most of this stemming from the sex trafficking side of the industry. The Bureau of Justice Assistance asserts 82% of reported human trafficking incidents in the United States involved allegations of sex trafficking. According to an investigation conducted by the DOJ, the average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the United States is 12-14 years old. Furthermore the average victim may be forced to have sex anywhere from 20-48 times a day. The DOJ has also identified the top twenty human trafficking destinations in the country. This list turns our attention to the Golden State. Los Angeles ranks third on the list of the top 20 human trafficking hubs in the United States, with San Francisco and San Diego also making the list. California is the nation’s fourth largest destination state for trafficking. This is often attributed to the international border California shares with Mexico. However, a task force created by the California Attorney General, Kamala Harris identified 72% of human trafficking victims as American. The largest reason that California has become a major trafficking destination is its large population, multitude of large cities, and concentrated areas of poverty. Being at the center of domestic human trafficking, California is taking the lead in efforts to combat the trafficking issue. The Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking advocacy group, has ranked the ten most important laws that should be enacted and enforced within a state to most effectively combat human trafficking. California currently enforces eight of the ten laws. Caitlin Meyer, a Constituent Services Officer in the office of U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein of California, attributes the fast pace with which California and the nation has attacked the issue to its bipartisan nature. There is very little ideological debate tied to fighting human trafficking which places it “front and center” and allows wide support for most legislative initiatives. Feinstein sponsored the Combat Human Trafficking Act in November 2014, which has since been absorbed into the larger Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act introduced in January 2015. The act, currently on the Senate floor, looks to bring greater legal consequences to anyone found trafficking humans as well as, for the first time, anyone soliciting services from victims of trafficking. On this subject Feinstein said, “too often, buyers of sex acts from trafficking victims escape with a slap on the wrist or aren’t prosecuted at all. To reduce the demand for trafficking, we need to strengthen laws and enforcement efforts against buyers.” This is an evolution in anti-trafficking law that Kevin Wiely, Commander of the Special Victims Section of the Oakland Police Department, believes is absolutely necessary. “We need to make the solicitation of pros-

titutes a felony,” stated Wiely in an interview with the Berkeley Political Review. “Johns [those who purchase the services of prostitutes] are only charged with a misdemeanor whenever they’re caught, making the offense a felony would allow us to take the DNA of offenders and better help victims. Hundreds of rape cases are closed because the victim was a prostitute and their attacker only commits the misdemeanor of buying sex.” Wiely states that since 2000, police departments across California have taken more “proactive” steps in fighting trafficking. “Before the switch, a child prostitute was treated just like an adult prostitute and was arrested for committing an illegal act.” He attributed the change to multiple legislative acts addressing the issue passed by the California legislature and Congress that distributed new funding and officer training to police departments across the state. “Eventually we started to connect the dots and realized that most of the child prostitutes we found weren’t just part of the small street corner operations, but were victims of a much larger network of domestic trafficking.” When asked about California’s role in the fight against trafficking he says the state, and federal representatives on the federal level, have been absolutely pivotal to the advancements made so far, though there is still a great deal to be done in order to be in control of the issue. Universal implementation of existing anti-trafficking policies in more states, and enacting new policy outlets that exist but have yet to be made law would absolutely provide more direct tools to combat trafficking. The Polaris Project suggests that California still needs to enact laws protecting minors against prosecution for crimes they were forced to do by their traffickers, and vacate convictions of confirmed traffic victims. Resolving these issues will require a concerted effort involving the full capacity of the federal government with state and local cooperation. Piecemeal legislation, like regulations against food-sharing and sit-lie laws only further dehumanize an already dehumanized popula-tion and pass the buck to another residential or commercial zone. ■

A billboard in California reporting human trafficking in all 50 states. Source: The Next Gag.

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Interstate 15, a 180 mile stretch of highway that crosses through the Mojave Desert, has been the site of 1,069 fatalities over a fifteen-year period. Source: Stan Shebs.


ithin the last few years, Americans have become increasingly aware of the failings of our national infrastructure. According to the 2013 report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), infrastructure in the United States has been given a grade of D+, meaning that the nation’s roads and bridges are in poor to fair conditions and mostly below standard, with many elements exhibiting significant deterioration. “If Congress is serious about proving to the American people it can govern and if the president wants to accomplish something that has been on his agenda for years,” says Pete Ruane, CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, “then new investments in surface transportation are an area ripe for bipartisan consensus and action.” This problem is even more glaringly obvious on a statewide level. Out of all the fifty states, California ranks 18th nationally in terms of the overall condition of the state’s bridges. Although infrastructure in California received a grade of C, there is a high concentration of deficient and even dangerous infrastructure. The report indicates that thirty-four percent of the state’s major roads are in poor to dangerous condition and the rising number of potholes and other forms of environmental weathering are only contributing to a rise in car accidents. Additionally, more than 2,700 bridges in California are structurally deficient, meaning that the condition of the bridges contain a significant defect. Moreover, more than 4,100 bridges are functionally obsolete, meaning that the design of the bridges are not suitable for their current use. Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland top the list of the twenty urban areas across the country with the highest percentage of bad roads and, to bring matters closer to home, there are over 380 structurally deficient bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area alone. This number rises in significance when considered against the rising population and traffic density in the Bay. So far, the government has abided by a policy of using federal money to build new bridges, rather than to improve or to replace the old ones. This policy is dangerous on both a social and economic level. Although there have only been a handful of high-profile bridge collapses in 5 | Berkeley Political Review

the United States, this “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” policy continues to put millions at risk, especially as demographers project that California’s population, the highest of all states, will continue to grow by 300,00 to 400,000 people annually . Infrastructure in California is clearly fatally flawed and the longer California waits to address this problem, the more likely it is that deadly collapses will become commonplace. “The whole system is cracking,” says Mark Watts, executive director of Transportation America. “Almost half of the urban areas with the worst road conditions are found in California. Despite our successes in increasing transportation infrastructure investment over the past few years, we are not even close to digging ourselves out of the hole that years of neglect created.” The task of raising money for the state’s $59 billion in needed transportation upkeep seems inaccessible, even though lawmakers have long been searching for a solution to our infrastructure crisis. Right now, road maintenance is funded by an 18 cent a gallon gas tax that has not increased since 1994. Collections fell from $2.87 billion in 2003 to $2.62 billion in 2013 and this was caused, in part, by the loss of gas tax revenue from fuel efficient and electric cars. Additionally, tough budget cycles have increased the state’s reliance on debt to finance major projects. Between 1974 and 1999, California issued $38.4 billion in bonds. That figure exploded to $103.2 billion in the past 15 years. Currently, $1 out of every $2 spent on an infrastructure project goes toward paying down the bonds’ interest rather than repairing the actual problem, according to the Department of Finance. As such, the amount of funds required to to pay down infrastructure debt will continue to plague Californians for years to come. “Infrastructure is not a sexy topic,” explains UC Berkeley Political Science Professor Darren Zook, “There’s never enough money to fix what California needs so when difficult decisions have to be made, it’s much easier to sell the idea of spending on schools over spending on roads. There’s just not enough money available to fix what California needs and, unfortunately, transportation is not a high priority target.” In a recent statement regarding his budget proposal, Governor Brown acknowledged that infrastructure funding has often been neglected. “I have

This section of the Bay Bridge collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Source: Gary Weber.


When it comes to improving its infrastructure, California currently seems to be on a bridge to nowhere. Source: John Serffius/COPLEY NEWS SERVICE.

a team working on infrastructure,” he stated, “and we’re going to start engaging the constituency groups, including Republican leaders, and we’re going to try to find out what sources of funding are available to us.” As admirable as this sounds, Brown’s actual spending proposal tells a different story. His budget allocates $478 million for maintenance on the state’s universities, parks, prisons, and hospitals, a tiny fraction of the needed billions. This hesitancy to address infrastructure head-on is only going to contribute to a cycle of mismanagement. To address the need adequately, the state must either spend more on our bridges and roads or find new sources of funding and this will require more than just a commitment to Brown’s favored project, the high speed bullet train. In light of budgetary crises around the world, it seems as if public-private partnerships are rising in both popularity and effectiveness. Public-private partnerships, or the construction and upkeep of public-sector infrastructure on

the basis of private-enterprise financing, has developed into quite the successful alternative. Projects in Canada, Europe, and Australia have shown that, compared with purely publicly run plans, projects coordinated between the public and private sectors have a better track record for being completed on time and under budget. In 2006, private companies Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte and Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, were awarded a bid to operate a 157 mile stretch of Indiana’s public roadways. The partnership of private companies paid the state a one-time fee of $3.8 billion for a 75-year agreement to operate the roadway in exchange for the revenue from the tolls. Although investors have not yet seen a return, the project is saving the state an estimated $100 million per year in operating costs and the public-private partnership has taken an enormous burden off the shoulders of local taxpayers. When it comes to improving its infrastructure, California does seem to be on a bridge to

nowhere -- but it does not have to be this way. Despite the legitimate budgetary concerns, there is much that the state government could do to improve infrastructure and the solution may come in the form of public-private relationships. While public-private partnerships are not necessarily the answer to California’s infrastructure problem, it is certainly time that they be considered. The state’s $59 billion dollar backlog urgently needs to be addressed. Without a change in both spending levels and overall priorities, California would need $323 from each driver to fix all of the structurally deficient bridges. As our bridges continue to age -- more than 60% of all bridges will be past their useful life in 2030 -- this figure will only grow. Without a renewed focus on strengthening our infrastructure, California could see a rise in bridge and road failures, the economic and social cost of which is simply too high. ■

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Physician-Assisted Death: A Patient’s Last Plea for Autonomy DO WE HAVE THE “RIGHT TO DIE?” RUOCHEN HUANG

Demonstrators at the U.S. Supreme Court fighting for the right to die. Source: Reuters.


s morbid as it is, countless people across the United States and abroad knock on Death’s door daily. With this predicament comes the question: if a patient is experiencing insurmountable suffering, is it worthwhile or even moral to prolong the patient’s life? If requested, should physicians be permitted to give a lethal prescription to a terminally ill patient? Currently, physician-assisted death in the U.S. is only legal in the states of Oregon, Vermont, Montana, New Jersey and Washington. However, more states, such as California and Connecticut, have recently begun to re-evaluate legislative actions that may overturn this ban. With the recent introduction of Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act, considerations for physician-assisted death have moved to the forefront of California’s political scene – the first time in nearly a decade. Previous variations of the bill failed to pass. The bill, modeled after Oregon’s legislation, is being spearheaded by California State Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning and would authorize doctors to administer lethal doses for the purpose of ending a patient’s suffering. The fiercest opponents of the bill cite the potential for abuses with this right, where the patient may be deceived into accepting a physician-assisted death. Yet, this bill comes with numerous protections against abuse for patients, including mandatory documentation and tracking to gauge the law’s usage, and requiring that the patient is mentally competent. Other measures include making it a felony for a physician to coerce a patient into requesting medication, and guaranteeing that a patient may opt-out or rescind the request at any time. In addition, there are safeguards for physicians, giving them civil and criminal immunity should a patient exercise this right. Using data compiled for nearly two decades in Oregon, the option “is sparingly used with fewer than 1 in 500 deaths.” Indeed, it is clear that most patients desire the liberty to end their lives, even if they choose not to exercise it. In states like Oregon and Washington where the act has been legalized, a significant amount of individuals who requested a prescription actually did not end up ingesting the medication. This legislation comes at a crucial time, as the public has become more aware of “death with dignity” cases. More and more citizens, such as Brit-

7 | Berkeley Political Review

tany Maynard, are sharing their stories with the public. Maynard was 29 when she was diagnosed with terminal illness. She decided to move from California to Oregon to utilize the Death with Dignity Law. The controversy surrounding her decision allowed the public to understand the issue more clearly. More recently, the bill intersects with a lawsuit filed with the San Francisco Superior Court by a cancer patient and five doctors regarding the “right to die.” They contend that the laws pertaining to assisted suicide should not apply to physicians, as the act is perceived as an attempt to relieve unbearable physical suffering. The lawsuit acts as a method of clarification, as physician-assisted suicide has only been loosely defined. Most arguments against physician-assisted suicide are non-starters. Many opponents assert that legalization would “medicalize suicide,” as it “transforms a private act (suicide) into a medical event.” As a result, a patient’s autonomy would be impeded. However, this medicalization is inevitable as more and more states start legalizing. Placing the justification of suicide under a medical lens is not only necessary to check against abuse, but also to ensure accountability for the practice. As such, it is physicians, not community or family members, who have the technical skill to facilitate this act, a fact that seems to give more authority to physicians than the patients. After numerous previous failed attempts by the California Senate to pass a bill of this nature, Senators Wolk and Manning believe that the time is ripe to make another attempt. A legislative aide for Wolk asserted in a conversation with the Berkeley Political Review that “stories like that of Maynard have galvanized the effort around the issue.” With a shifting public opinion as well as “almost two decades worth of data that shows that this legislation can work successfully,” both senators “are confident that legislation will be passed.” Perhaps this is an accurate forecast, as the bill has already gained the support of a diverse array of groups and politicians, such as Compassion & Choices, the American Medical Student Association, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Public awareness and opinion are also increasingly strong on this issue. In two recent polls by Gallup, 70% of Americans are in favor of allowing doctors to “end the patient’s life by some painless means,” and 51% believe that doctors “should be allowed to assist the patient to commit suicide.” It is clear that bringing the topic of physician-assisted suicide to the front lines of politics is a key progressive move that is complicit with an overall public shift towards more liberal notions of human rights. Empirical analysis on states with existing legislation prove that many of thefears that opponents claim have not materialized. Perhaps now is the time to accept that the “right to die” should be included as a basic tenet of human rights. ■

Survey for Physician-Assisted Suicide. Source: Gallup.

Kamala Harris: A Bid for Boxer’s Seat




nited States Senator Barbara Boxer announced in January that she will be retiring following the end of her term, leaving the first open California senate seat since 1992, The Year of the Woman. Boxer’s leave has nothing to do with her age, she informed viewers of that she is leaving the Senate to return full-time to California, the state that she loves. The more important concern, however, is not Boxer’s motives in retiring, but who is to replace her. The first California senate race without an incumbent since 1992 presents a sizable opportunity for many Democratic candidates and even offers a shred of hope to the GOP, especially with California’s relatively new open primary system. The state now has a runoff primary between the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation. Although California is considered a safe Democratic state, there is a possibility that two Republicans could end up in the general election. “If one and only one Republican makes this race, he or she is almost certain of a runoff slot,” wrote Thomas Elias in The Californian. “And if a slew of democrats get in against two Republicans, both Republicans could advance to November, guaranteeing the GOP an improbable senate seat for six years.” However, although the GOP may see a chance to seize the seat due to a divide in the opposition party, California Attorney General Kamala Harris has a good chance of winning Boxer’s seat because of her represented communities, relationships in Silicon Valley, and allies in California government. In a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in December 2014, 27% of surveyed Californians answered that they would vote for Kamala Harris, who announced her campaign for Boxer’s seat just days after Boxer’s announcement. This number was matched only by 28% for Republican California Representative Tom McClintock. Other candidates included in the survey were Representative Loretta Sanchez, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and environmental activist Tom Steyer, with the vote split rather evenly between the three (at around 6%). None of these candidates have confirmed their participation in the 2016 Senate race, but Garcetti has announced on Twitter that he will not be running for the Senate. For the Democratic Party, the two clear frontrunners are Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. However, with Newsom’s recent announcement that he will not be pursuing Boxer’s seat, Harris emerges the sole frontrunner. Although the GOP hopes to take advantage of the runoff primary system, Harris’ strong lead within the Democratic Party dampens Republican senate hopes in California. So far, the only prominent Republican to announce his candidacy is California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of North San Diego County. Even so, many predict Chavez’s candidacy has only a slim chance at acquiring the senate seat. Chavez has low name recognition partly due to the fact he is only a second term Assemblymember. Additionally, the Republican vote amounts to approximately 30% of all California voters, and although Chavez is hoping to rely on the Latino vote, only 17% of Latino voters classify as Republican. Finally, he has not yet received the backing of the Republican Party itself. Harris has already garnered more support and has greater name recognition, giving her a leg up in the race. The allies Harris has made within the California government, as well as with crucial connections within the tech sector during her campaign for Attorney General, have provided her with a rather large base of support. Silicon Valley views the newly vacated senate seat as a “gold rush opportunity” for a new leader with an understanding of the tech sector to push both thought and innovation in the American government. As the self-proclaimed “key economic engine” of California, Silicon Valley and its billionaire moguls are valuable assets to a political candidate. In her campaign for top prosecutor job in California, Harris received campaign contributions from Yahoo as well as political action committees within Google, Facebook, and Intel. Innovators such as TechNet President Linda Moore claim to have

a “good relationship” with Harris and trust her to be a supportive leader for this enormous aspect of California industry. Harris has shown Silicon Valley support in the past by pushing “Do Not Track” rules that inform viewers if they are able to opt out of targeted advertisements, and she has pressed companies to investigate data security practices. In addition to her connections, Harris personifies two communities that are severely underrepresented in Congress as a black woman. Harris will enlarge, though slightly, the position of highly underrepresented women of color in the senate. Although she has not openly announced her platforms regarding these communities for the race, her potential senate seat would benefit both by increasing representation in Congress. Regardless of a formerly announced platform, Harris has recalled on her website how she has been “fighting crime, fighting for consumers, and fighting for equal rights for all” as California Attorney General, and she has declared she will be “a fighter for the next generation on the critical issues facing our country.” She has thus far promised her allegiance to middle class families, indebted students, and those who lack access to a proper education. Although a California voter’s representative voice in the Senate is minimal compared to that of a resident in a smaller state with a smaller population and an equal representation, keeping a safely Democratic California could perhaps even aid a Democratic takeover of the Senate following the 2014 Republican takeover. The 2016 California Senate race will be record-breaking, with top-tier campaigns projected to cost at least $30 million. California has four of the country’s biggest, and thus most expensive, media markets. It has the largest state population, and third largest geographic territory, leaving little doubt as to the grandiose expectations for the 2016 race. Regardless, Attorney General Kamala Harris has placed herself in a clear leading position for the campaign season. ■

California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Source: Damian Dovarganes/AP.

Berkeley Political Review | 8


The Fall of John Kitzhaber


Before leaving office in disgrace, Governor Kitzhaber was a known political leader in the Pacific Northwest. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


n February 18th, amid allegations that his wife was inappropriately paid by clean energy companies, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon resigned. The entire affair was a bizarre series of events which took down Oregon’s most experienced politician. At the inaugural address of his 4th term, Kitzhaber stated “[t]his will complete the arc of my political career.” He defeated his Republican opponent Dennis Richardson by 5.6 points, and swore in the largest Democratic state house majority in Oregon’s history. He even weathered scandal–during the re-election campaign he fended off reports that his wife conducted a green-card marriage in 1995. Yet from this scandal he emerged, given a 4th term in office by the citizens of Oregon. Soon after his term began, a story revealed that his wife, Cynthia Hayes, received improper payment from an energy consulting firm while simultaneously advising the governor on energy issues. The story gained traction after the Oregonian, Oregon’s largest daily, demanded he resign. As more details emerged, his political friends left his side, and public opinion turned against him. After a perplexing period where Kitzhaber appeared at points to be steadfast against resigning, he succumbed to pressure and left office. Governor Kitzhaber’s resignation is attributable to what some call “Kitzhaber Fatigue.” The fatigue is the tiresome protraction of scandal surrounding the governor. After four months of scandal, Kitzhaber’s legislative friends left him – leaving him alone and impotent in the Governor’s mansion. It’s reasonable to believe that Kitzhaber could have survived the scandal. He was Oregon’s longest serving executive in state history. Even after his wife’s green card scandal, he won re-election in a cycle where Republicans surged nationwide. What’s jarring about the entire ordeal is that Kitzhaber’s fall existed in a dynamic that seemed to permit corruption. The governor didn’t resign due to the corrupting conflict of interest, he resigned due to the loss of allies to help fight the scandal. Two weeks before the Oregonian asked him to resign he said that his wife would no longer have a political role in his government. Kitzhaber openly admitted that his wife had a political role that was inappropriate, receiving over $100,000 in unreported income from clean energy consultants while advising the governor on energy. He acknowl9 | Berkeley Political Review

edged and admitted wrongdoing, and did not consider resignation. Nor did he consider resignation when the first report of this wrongdoing was reported in October 2014. He operated with the expectation that it would blow over given enough time. Instead, his resignation came, but only after the Oregonian protracted the scandal, keeping his name in the headlines. The Oregonian made it clear in their editorial that, “his credibility has evaporated to such a degree that he can no longer serve effectively as governor.” The argument that brought down the governor was not an attack on immorality or improper conduct, but a condemnation of the governor’s loss of allies. The court of public opinion subsumed the court of law, the superficial subsumed the substantive. In his resignation, Kitzhaber stated “it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved.” For all the allegations that were levied against the Governor, he was brought down without due process. In cases where the public creates a judgement, they run the risk of condemning an innocent man. This isn’t a cautionary tale for corrupt officials to defend blatant infractions, this is a cautionary tale for the innocent official. A third party, bent on smearing a name, could levy allegations similar to those made against Governor Kitzhaber against an innocent person. And as this example shows, they could be forced out of office without proven cause. By using peripatetic public opinion to unseat a governor, Oregon has a set a dangerous precedent. Instead of promoting ethical behavior, the media has promoted the maintenance of good political friendship. This is apparent in the case of New Jersey Sen. George Menendez, also charged with corruption this year. His friends stayed by his side, most notably his junior Senator, the popular Cory Booker. When confronted with scandal Booker supported Menendez, “I won’t waver in my commitment to stand alongside my senior Senator to serve our great state.” Without Booker and other allies, Menendez could have been another casualty of same beast that brought down Kitzhaber. The key difference lay in the fact that Menendez’s friends stayed with him, but for Kitzhaber’s allies, his final transgression was one bridge too far. ■





erious labor shortages are putting America’s conveniently low food prices at risk. Yet, Obama’s recent executive action on immigration does little to assuage the agricultural labor crisis and could possibly exacerbate the shortage. Which is challenging the agriculture industry to adapt and may lead to the establishment of a more efficient food system. According to a report by the National Council for Agricultural Employers, a group that represents the agriculture industry before Congress, farmers are losing 320 million dollars a year due to labor shortages. Two main statistics support this claim: rst, real wages are rising for agriculture workers, signifying a greater need for work. The National Agricultural Statistics Services’s Farm Labor Survey finds that real wages are on the rise at a rate of 0.8% per year. Second, the average age of the workforce is growing, suggesting fewer younger workers are entering the agricultural industry. A 2012 agricultural census from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the average age of principal farmers was 58.3, up 1.2 years from 2007, and is still on the rise. Fewer workers are entering agriculture, and America’s food supply is suffering as a result. A quick glance at the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) finds that 75% of farm laborers were born in Mexico. Yet, immigration from Mexico fell from its peak of approximately 7 million immigrants living in the United States in 2009 to 5.8 million in 2012. Many attribute the labor shortage in agriculture to the decline in immigration from Mexico. However, a recent study from UC Davis challenges that perception. Analyzing the Great Recession, they concluded that while overall immigration did in fact fall, the proportion of immigrants finding employment in farm-related work also fell in relation to non-farm related work. Presently, less immigrants are coming to America, and when they do immigrate, fewer are choosing to enter the agricultural industry. The average Mexican workforce loss in the U.S. from 2007-2010 was 22%; in comparison, the agriculture industry lost 38% of its workers. This fall can be attributed to a combination of two major factors. Mexico’s domestic labor market is increasingly competitive with U.S. markets, while U.S. immigration policy is encouraging immigrants to leave agriculture. J. Edward Taylor and Diane Charlton, the authors of the UC Davis study advocate the idea that the labor shortage is due to a shift in the fortunes of Mexicans domestically. As countries get richer, less workers tend to work in agriculture, and more tend to move into higher-paying and more stable jobs such as construction. In addition, Mexico’s own farms are consolidating, and have quadrupled their farm productivity. This has led to Mexico raising its nominal wages 14% versus just 3% in the United States. Although there is difficulty collecting data at the Mexico-Guatemala border, it is widely agreed that Mexico is coming to rely on agricultural laborers from Guatemala. Mexico’s growing economy has enabled increased competition with the U.S. for labor. Simply put, Mexico is getting richer and its workers do not want to work in agriculture. The second rationale for the labor shortage is domestic. Obama’s executive actions on immigration do not address farm labor specifically. The executive actions allow certain undocumented immigrants to defer federal action on their immigration status for up to three years. Obama’s immigration actions only affect laborers already in the U.S., and surprisingly, this exacerbates the labor shortage. The actions enable the settlement of workers, and incentivize a shift in the labor market. More agricultural laborers are settled, meaning the workers do not migrate to and from Mexico seasonally. The NAWS data shows that almost three quarters of current farmers in America are settled, where only half of the workers were settled in 2000. When workers settle, they tend to leave the uncertainty of agriculture for consistent and higher paying construction

and housekeeping jobs. Thus, as workers stay longer in the U.S., they tend to leave agriculture. With fewer people immigrating, it’s a one-two punch to the labor supply. The agricultural industry prefers a guest worker program because it ensures that the immigrants will only be able to work in the agricultural industry. The H-2A visa program, the existing migrant worker program, only allows for temporary, specific positions. There are problems with the H-2A visa program however. Oftentimes the duration of the permits are not long enough to allow for a predictable workforce. The bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security is large and creates uncertainty in the labor force. The cap on visas is too low to provide for a large enough labor force. All of these issues depress the ability of farmers to find legal, protected workers. However, the likelihood of change in these visas is almost impossible without legislation. A change to this system was proposed in the infamous 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal. It proposed a new type of visa, a W-visa, that would allow three year work permits for immigrants. The agriculture industry backed this proposal because it both ensured that immigrants would work in agriculture and created certainty about the size of the future labor force. Sadly, this proposal was shot down in Congress, and the political climate on immigration is not improving.

Mexican Migrant workers, in 1963. Source: NY Times, Bettmann/Corbis.

Faced by uncertainty in the labor market, and with the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform a distant possibility, the agricultural industry needs to adapt. Looking forward, one way to do this is to begin using better technology to increase productivity and drive up wages. One example is an automated orange harvester that shakes trees to pick oranges. These methods would decrease the reliance on immigrant workers. However, farmers are wary of making such large capital investments when the technology is untested on a large-scale. With the labor problem unlikely to resolve itself soon, the agriculture industry should begin to look into employing skilled labor for new technologies. The United States has been looking to the wrong areas to solve the labor crisis. The status quo has led to more and more migrant farmers leaving the profession, and there doesn’t appear to be a panacea. Obama’s executive actions are unlikely to attract more immigrants, and considering Mexico’s strengthening economy, it is unlikely that immigrants to the United States will even enter the agricultural sector. Despite the uncertainty over novel farming methods, labor shortages are expected to continue. America’s agricultural industry desperately needs a solution. ■ Berkeley Political Review | 10




hile one might not see applications like Facebook, Twitter, or even Snapchat as anything more than entertainment, that perception is changing as more and more of these companies creatively combine knowledge of current events alongside the entertainment options they offer. Popular applications such as Facebook and Twitter incorporate news and current events headlines into their programs to reach the casual social media browser, user, or scroller. While Facebook uses an algorithm to suggest “trending” articles to its users, anyone can follow Politico, CNN, or even an individual politician on Twitter. Snapchat has since caught on to this trend with the new “Discover” update, providing another convenient source of news for younger generations. The growing incorporation of news into social media could represent a positive shift in increasing public exposure to current events and politics. Recent polls and data have not been kind to the American voter — many demonstrate extremely low levels of political knowledge and interest. In a Washington Post article written by Jaime Fuller, the title says it all: “1 in 4 Americans Have No Idea Which Party Controls the Senate or the House.” Using facts from a June 2014 Pew Research Center study, Fuller paints a dismal picture of public knowledge: “33 percent of Americans can identify the majority party in only one chamber, and 28 percent — more than one in four people—have completely no idea.” While Fuller showcases public ignorance in even basic government trivia, the Pew Research Center (PRC) breaks down its data to show just which groups of respondents performed most atrociously. In 2013 PRC reported that in a “national survey of 1,052 randomly selected adults, Americans answered an average of 6.3 out of 13 questions correctly.” In a demographic breakdown of this data, the survey shows the particularly dismal performance of voters between the ages of 18-29, answering on average 4.4 questions correctly. Professor Laura Stoker from the Political Science Department in the University of California, Berkeley, offers the explanation that “people who acquire political information from social media are the same people who in the old days would have acquired it from traditional media;” in other words, the “65+” category of respondents. This sheds light on the older generations’ continued political engagement in stark contrast to the youth population’s lack of interest. Yet, youths are make up the demographic most active on social networking sites, offering news organizations a prime opportunity to both advertise and influence young voters by integrating their product into social media applications. 11 | Berkeley Political Review


Snapchat News. Source: Adweek.

Here comes Snapchat — an application widely used by the millennial generation and ranked the third most popular, superseded only by Instagram and Facebook. Snapchat’s latest “Discover” update offers short clips from twelve different companies utilizing the app as a platform to showcase their products. While this includes entertainment companies like Cosmopolitan, People, and ESPN, another third of these advertisements center around the distribution of news, featuring companies such as CNN, Daily Mail, Vice, and Yahoo News. Though appreciated in abbreviated conversations, the average person does not actively seek an education in news and politics on his or her own accord. When news conglomerates use applications like Snapchat, even if it is for the purpose of advertisement, the combination of news and social media still serves to integrate current affairs into a person’s daily life. If news is readily available on popular and accessible platforms such as Snapchat, users are more apt to gain exposure to aspects of political life than before. While it is accepted that the average person will not have a thorough knowledge of politics, political scientists have different views on how important it is for every voter to be completely educated on every policy. As politics is such a massive field, it is impractical to expect every individual to possess complete knowledge. People without prior understanding of ideological beliefs, the political affiliations of groups, etc., often rely on what political scientists call heuristics. This can come from following the opinions of a designated “trustee” on whom a person bases his or her own political decisions. Similarly, if an individual supports a particular organization, that group’s actions become heuristics on which the individual casts his or her vote. Thus as long as a voter is educated enough to designate a person, a party, or an interest organization as his heuristic, he should be able to make decisions that overlap with his own beliefs. With sites like Facebook,

Twitter, and now Snapchat increasing exposure to relevant factors, people should be able to employ heuristics more accurately. Seeing a two-minute video on Snapchat’s Discover once a day could have a significant impact on the level of information an individual can rely on when making political decisions such as voting; with the influx of access points to such information, choosing a reliable heuristic is easier than ever. Professor Stoker offers a more conservative conjecture on how news in social media will play out amongst the technological generation. She says that the use of news in media is “good, but it’s not transformative and it is still the case that young people today appear to be in many respects less politically engaged than young people thirty years ago.” Though social media might not automatically increase millennials’ political interest, apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat do offer a dynamic platform on which political interests can unfold. Stoker presents the optimistic idea that “political influence flows within social media and so there still is a lot of potential for political interests and political engagement to be influenced by the social media” as it provides a means by which to motivate the grassroots public. Essentially, Stoker says, “a person is more likely to participate as a function of being asked to by a friend than anything else.” News in social media may not automatically increase the level of knowledge or interest the public has in politics. However the silver lining is that social media still facilitates interaction between individuals and their friends. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat allow people to mobilize others within their sphere of influence to achieve political goals, which promotes political engagement. With so many news outlets available on television, online magazines, and now Snapchat, will the public remain as ignorant? As social media continues to target this “technological” generation with easy access to news snippets and trending events, political scientists could be looking at a shift in the political awareness of app users. Even if applications themselves do not have the capacity to spark political engagement, the users do. By incorporating political information and current events into the mediums most used by the younger generation, these conglomerates can at the very least facilitate political dialogue and assist in mobilizing the public towards political goals. Though Snapchat’s “Discover” has only been available to the public since January 27th, this application and ones like it could begin a generational shift to higher levels of democratic competence. Though it may take longer than a “Snap” and a “Tweet,” the benefits will be worth the wait. ■

Community College: Resolving an Educational Divide




n January 08, 2015, President Obama unveiled “a bold new plan” to universalize the first two years of community college. His initiative would provide free tuition to all students across the economic spectrum, but on the condition that students maintain a 2.5 GPA while attending school at least part-time. Although Obama’s proposal is only in its intial stages, it still represents a major leap forward for higher education. The President’s desire to federalize the first two years of community college stems from the lack of access to higher education for lower-class or impoverished families due to cumbersome tuition costs. Unfortunately, the lack of higher education often poses hurdles for those affected; the job market has increasingly required that employees have college degrees. As a result, families unable to afford higher education are relegated to occupations with lower pay, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In contrast, students who can afford and eventually earn a college degree find themselves enjoying a higher standard of living. In fact, “median annual earnings for full-time working college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than for those with high school diplomas only”. In addition, as past trends have shown, the value of a college degree has increased significantly. For example, in 1965, a high school graduate earned 81% of the income a college graduate earned. Today, that number has declined to just 62%. All these statistics show that over time, the chasm of economic inequality between high school and college graduates has only grown and will only continue to grow, polarizing the social stratification of society into a dual paradigm. This dichotomy has stifled social mobility and has allowed the economic inequality gap to flourish. Fortunately, Obama’s new initiative could begin the process of socioeconomic integration in higher education, providing underprivileged classes the chance to achieve social mobility. The federal government’s oversight of community colleges would allow the government to properly allocate resources, contributing to equal levels of educational quality across all community colleges. Thus far in the status quo, inconsistent state funding that provides unequal resources among different colleges has negatively affected the quality of education in many schools, to the detriment of the students attending. In fact, a study done by Mary Martinez-Wenzl and Rigoberto Marquez for the Civil Rights Project of UCLA has demonstrated the extent of the divergence in higher education between the poorest community colleges and the wealthiest ones. Looking at Student Progress and Achievement Rate (SPAR) as a measurement of success created by community college leaders,


they discovered that students in the poorest community colleges had SPAR scores nearly 8 percent less than those in the wealthiest schools. The study ultimately concluded that there is a strong correlation between poor school funding and lower educational quality. Such a report also indicated that a more balanced level of funding may be necessary in order to provide equal opportunities for underprivileged students. Although tackling the socio-economic stratification of community colleges is an ideal first step, free tuition is still not the direct gateway to social mobility: the students that attend these schools still need to finish their degrees. Obama’s new plan is simply not far-reaching enough. Providing the means to integration does not automatically equate to increases in graduation rates. The larger issue at hand is the fact that many community college students seldom graduate or complete their degrees elsewhere. In fact, the Na-

than necessary, often delaying or even preventing their graduation as a consequence. Perhaps most shocking is the fact that 79.9% of low-income students taking remedial courses not only fail to pass them, but they also fail to graduate and earn a degree. Simply put, many students drop out from boredom and frustration. These startling statistics highlight the need to enhance graduation rates. One potential remedy could begin with acquiring credits as early as high school. Fortunately, the Early High School Initiative (EHIS) could serve as the much-needed solution. The program effectively blends high school and college curriculum in a supportive manner. Furthermore, schools that have implemented the EHIS have already begun to see success. Up to one year past high school, 21 percent of Early College students earned a college degree compared to only 1 percent for comparison students not participating in the EHIS. Because they start earning college cred-

President Obama speaks at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee about his new community college proposal. Source: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

tional Center for Education Statistics discovered that only 31 percent of students who start out at a community college earn a bachelor’s degree after six years. If underprivileged students want to achieve social mobility through higher education, they need to graduate by fulfilling the required amount of credits. However, many of these students fail to accumulate enough credits. One primary reason is that remedial courses, or classes that teach developmental and basic skills, is a requirement for graduation. According to the Aspen Institute, 80% of all community colleges students must take one or more remedial courses upon entering to ensure that they are well equipped to tackle the difficulty of community college. The problem? None of these courses count for credit. As a result, students may find themselves daunted by the task of completing units. These remedial courses force them to take more classes

its in high school, students combine their work toward a high-school diploma with work toward an associate degree or two years of college-level credits, allowing them to graduate community college on time. President Obama’s plan certainly lays out a bright future for community college prospects. The affordability of these schools provides equal opportunities for lower-class students to achieve social mobility. However, simply granting these opportunities is not enough; the policy must also ensure students are able to take advantage of these resources and actually graduate. Passing Obama’s proposal in conjunction with a project such as the Early High School Initiative allows students pursuing community college to build up their course credits early, helping them complete their degrees. This blueprint, if followed correctly, guides students down the path towards social mobility with the least amount of obstacles. ■ Berkeley Political Review | 12




s they weigh the prospects of a 2016 campaign for president, politicians are looking to augment their experience in ways that will help them garner their party’s support. In a stroke that builds on his reputation for slashing collective bargaining rights from 2011, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed into law in March 2015 a right-to-work statute that will crush any strength the state’s labor groups have clung to over the past few years. This move prevents unions from forcing workers to pay dues in exchange for the union’s protection and representation, effectively making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right-to-work state. Although labor unions are unpopular among conservatives and tackling them will boost Walker’s bid for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, decreasing unions’ power may exacerbate income inequality. Historically, the Midwest has resisted anti-labor laws such as this one. In the 1960s, the Midwest enjoyed the highest levels of union membership in the country. Although those figures declined, pro-union sentiment prevailed for a long time in Midwest state politics. As states of the South, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains increasingly embraced policies that weakened unions over the last several decades, labor leaders could count on support from the Midwest. Until recently, this support stood strong. Voters in Ohio, for example, overturned a measure passed by the state legislature to limit union rights in 2011. Take Michigan as another example: as the birthplace of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), one of the nation’s most powerful labor unions, Michigan was the cradle of the labor movement during the height of American industrial dominance and a bastion of union might throughout the 20th century. The UAW helped transform assembly-line car manufacturing jobs into solid, middle-class careers with good benefits and wages. In 2012, however, Michigan succumbed to the right-to-work movement with a law similar to Walker’s 2011 ordinance that limited collective-bargaining rights. Walker’s Probable Bid for the Presidency Governor Walker’s advocacy of measures like right-to-work laws that harm labor unions are tied directly to his presidential aspirations. The New York Times lists Walker as “probably going to run,” in its forecast for the 2016 campaign, and anti-labor laws certainly attract the Republican base to which he will try to appeal. Unions have never been particularly popular amongst conservatives, as shown by the perpetually low rates of

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unionization in the Southern red states. Walker garnered substantial media attention during the process leading up to the right-to-work law, and his brand name is growing steadily. Many Democrats, including the President, have only contributed to Walker’s publicity. President Obama issued a statement blasting Walker for “claiming a victory over working Americans,” and encouraging him to move forward and “take meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave.” This kind of criticism from Obama, though, is strengthening Walker’s potential bid for the Republican nomination in exactly the way he needs. According to a March 2015 Gallup Poll, Walker is trailing other Republicans, including Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, in familiarity ratings; that is, not many Americans know enough about him to form an opinion, and the publicity gained from irking a deeply unpopular Democratic president will only benefit Walker’s efforts to enter the limelight. Crisis in Labor Union Membership The recent rise in anti-labor legislation parallels a sharp decline in union membership across the country. Although Department of Labor statistics routinely show that organized workers receive better benefits and pay than their nonunion counterparts, union membership has experienced a sharp decline over the past several decades. According to NPR’s Planet Money piece on the issue, nearly a third of Americans belonged to union 50 years ago; now, the number is closer to one in ten. Today, union membership is at its lowest level since the Great Depression. NPR provides an excellent visual representation of the steady shrinking of union membership over the last 50 years. The decline of union membership is troubling for several reasons. Fewer union members equates to less financial support, which leads to a hindered ability to negotiate for higher wages and better benefits, as well as conduct political campaigns for candidates and legislation that champion their causes. More importantly, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), union membership is inversely related with income inequality; that is, as union membership declines, the share of total income going to the top 10 % of Americans rises. The chart below illustrates the trend: just as income inequality reached a peak during the Great Depression when union membership was low, income inequality is again rising as once-robust membership declines.

The Problem With Right-to-Work Despite the apparent consequences of crippling unions, many states like Wisconsin are considering right-to-work laws. According to The New York Times, Republican-held legislatures of Missouri and New Hampshire are contemplating measures similar to Wisconsin’s, while Republicans in Kentucky are circumventing a Democratic governor and split legislature by introducing rightto-work legislation in counties. Even in deep-blue Illinois, the newly-elected Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order, unilaterally curbing the state’s unions from requiring all state employees from paying the equivalent of union dues. Union leaders call the fees “fair share” payments, and describe them as reasonable contributions from employees who benefit from a union’s collective bargaining but choose not to be members. Rauner, however, asserts that the fees violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as an “employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activities with which they disagree.” Like Governor Walker of Wisconsin, Rauner, a former private equity manager, campaigned on promises to create jobs and deregulate businesses, so his assault on labor seems to fit right in. What he may not realize, though, is that the jobs he helps to create by weakening unions are simply not as good as jobs created in states with higher rates of union membership. In fact, as Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute writes, “As compared with non-right-to-work states, wages in right-to-work states are 3.2 percent lower on average, or about $1,500 less a year [while] workers in right-to-work states were less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and pension coverage.” Compounded with the potential long-term effects that diminishing unionization can have on income inequality, lower wages and fewer benefits make it difficult to justify the arguments that many conservatives proffer in favor right-to-work laws. Will Walker’s crusade against labor be enough to propel him ahead of the frontrunners for the Republican nomination? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, unions will not be able to endure against sustained assaults like the one Walker has launched and continued. During a time when income inequality is outrageous, we should reject measures that exacerbate it; rather, we should be rallying for measures that can diminish it. This isn’t the first time a politician has pushed controversial policies prior to elections to garner support, but has the right wing taken it too far? ■

Eric Cantor or Eric “Can’t Win”?



Before diving into the political discrepancies between Brat and Cantor, it is important to look at the past trends of the GOP. As the graph below shows, the Republican Party has become increasingly more polarized over recent years. Unfortunately, this dichotomization has caused its members to weed out representatives unaligned with party beliefs. As Vanessa Cedeno, a Graduate Student Instructor at UC Berkeley, sums up, “the [GOP] has begun to hold on its to base with no more room for compromising”. The hardliners within the party are driving it “to take stances that are more on the fringes than on the middleground.” This unwillingness to compromise, primarily on the issue of immi-

Eric Cantor announces that he is resigning from the House of Representatives. Source: New York Post.


t didn’t matter that David Brat was an unknown economics professor. It wasn’t enough that Eric Cantor had spent nearly $5.4 million on his campaign. And it certainly made no difference that Cantor branded himself as a preacher of the Republican Creed. On the evening of July 10, 2014, Eric Cantor made congressional history, becoming the first House majority leader to lose in a primary. His challenger, David Brat, pulled off a stunning upset, amassing 56 percent of the votes compared to Cantor’s 44 percent. Having only raised a meager $206,000, Brat pulled off a victory that would forever leave its mark in congressional archives. Upon first glance, the odds were clearly stacked against Brat. In fact, the Americans for Campaign Reform conducted a study analyzing the correlation between “campaign spending and election outcomes for incumbent” candidates for the House of Representatives. It found that less than 1% of challengers spending $700,000 or less won election. Considering the importance of money in campaigns, it would seem that Brat pulled off quite the shocking feat. Almost any political expert will say that money is the most critical aspect of winning a campaign. Although Brat may seem like an anomaly, Gary Jacobsen, a professor at UC San Diego argues otherwise. He posits that incumbents, like Eric Cantor, suffer from diminishing marginal returns in terms of campaign expenditures. Name recognition is one of the biggest incumbency advantages, since those in office “saturate the public” with their political attitudes and beliefs. As a result, any additional campaign finances raised for reelection have relatively small payoffs. For example, during Cantor’s tenure as House Majority Leader, his more liberal attitude toward policies such as immigration was already well publicized to both parties and to the constituency. On the other hand, the opposite is true for the challenger. David Brat, an unknown public figure who was also a member of the faltering Tea Party, struggled initially to get his name out. Failing to garner support from large corporations, he resorted to local activists for campaign finances. Logically speaking, had Brat raised more money, he would have been able to overcome the imcumbency advantages Cantor possessed. However, it’s clear from the results of this Virginia primary that money played an insignificant role. The diminishing marginal returns paid few dividends for Cantor’s campaign. There must have been an underlying factor that determined the election. Instead, voters were swayed by a far different reason: ideological differences between the two candidates.

“ There is no Republican in this country who is more liberal on immigration than Eric Cantor. ” - David Brat gration, jeopardized Cantor’s relationship with the party. For months prior to the primary, Eric Cantor faced surmounting pressure from the GOP to reject any immigration proposals the Democrats put forth. However, from looking at Cantor’s track record, it’s clear that he, contrary to Republican requests, spearheaded immigration reform in the House. Instead of appealing to his own political party, Cantor pushed for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, arguing for a “pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants”. Although Cantor’s actions may have been viewed as a glimpse of compromise in a dually stratified political system and an attempt to appear more moderate in the public eye, they ended up alienating him from the GOP. As a result, David Brat leaped at the chance to push his opponent off the “political tightrope” strung between Cantor and the GOP. “Eric Cantor has been the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” Brat told a half-dozen reporters. “There is no Republican in this country who is more liberal on immigration than Eric Cantor.” Left to defend his actions, Cantor seemed to be stuck in a double bind. As Majority House Leader, supporting amnesty was a tenable means of fostering communication and compromise between the two parties, but it also proved to be disastrous for his relations with the GOP. However, rejecting amnesty would have cast a negative light on himself and his party in the public eye, establishing a Republican unwillingness to compromise. Because Cantor failed to find a way to appeal to all sides, the thin line he was walking on with the Republican Party snapped. In the end, Brat pulled off an upset that truly shocked the nation. Unfazed by the lack of campaign expenditures, his tactic of crumbling Cantor’s already faltering relationship with the GOP was the ultimate catalyst behind his victory. This effective strategy uncovered one: the Virginia Primary was Brat’s election to lose. ■

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Ratifying Without Resolve


“While China appears to be one of the biggest supporters of human rights on paper—given the numerous treaties and organizations they take part in—they commit domestic human rights violations on a grand scale”

Politicians are utilizing the human rights system to forward their political agenda rather than to protect human dignity. Source: ULC.


he 21st century has witnessed an explosion of international documents intended to protect universal human rights. Indeed, the international community is currently flooded with treaties, protocols, resolutions, mandates, and handshakes. However, there is one critical element all of these policies are missing – enforcement. Without enforcement, human rights treaties cease to ensure the dignity of individuals and become a tool to elevate the political reputation of the signatories. Many states that ratify these treaties do so simply as a way to promote their own international political agenda and mitigate outside criticism, while having little to no intention of altering their behavior. This issue of false ratification is practiced by powerful and weak states alike. Morocco jumped on the human rights bandwagon, ratifying the Convention against Torture in 1993. However, despite adopting this protocol, Moroccan student activists, protesters, left-wingers, and even Islam affiliates have been subjected to torture. Activists have reported being beaten, burned, and raped. Those who report these offenses are often arrested in turn and sentenced for filing “false reports” and committing slander. In Indonesia, local governments throughout the country have passed discriminatory regulations against women, despite the fact Indonesia ratified the Convention Eradicating Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984. These local regulations include disbarring women from straddling a motorcycle and requiring them to ride sidesaddle, prohibiting women from dancing, gradually moving women out of certain workplaces in order to inhibit them from participating in “extramarital affairs,” as well as forcing all women to wear the hijab. Additionally, there is some talk in certain regions of instituting mandatory “virginity tests” for females in secondary school. Azerbaijan represents another clear example of this hypocrisy. As Azerbaijan warms up to host the European Games this summer, many accuse the state of using the event to eclipse pervasive human rights violations throughout the country. Despite ratifying the European Convention on Human rights back in 2002, Azerbaijan has violated journalists and human rights defendants civil rights by denying their freedom of speech and imprisoning political opponents.

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In addition to the aforementioned, one of the largest transgressors within the global human rights system is China. While China appears to be one of the biggest supporters of human rights on paper—given the numerous treaties and organizations they take part in—they commit domestic human rights violations on a grand scale, including acts of repression, torture, and random seizure of citizens. In fact, of the permanent Security Council members, China has ratified the most human rights treaties. However, as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China has almost complete immunity from international action being taken against its domestic violations, as it may unilaterally veto any resolution it deems unfavorable. As a consequence, China is able to ratify a myriad of treaties without fear of any negative backlash or repercussions from the UN due to its lack of compliance. Almost comically, China was elected to the UN Human Rights Council and began its three-year term at the beginning of 2014. However, reports show that China’s stature within the human rights system is inversely correlated to its domestic practices. According to the Hubei-based Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch group, the human rights situation in China is at its lowest point in 25 years as the “domestic security regime” cracks down even more on civilians and human rights groups. Ironically, following China’s appointment to the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, there have been 2,270 documented cases of “stability maintenance” efforts, which include house arrests, forced relocation, enforced vacation leave targeted against government critics, and disappearances. Although the Chinese administration under president Xi Jinping appears to have made some minor progress in the field of human rights, such as the recent abolition of the infamous “reeducation through labor” camps (used to punish political and religious dissidents through inhumane and indefinite detention) China has failed to live up to its international résumé. While social media users and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to unveil many of these abuses, there is currently no other mechanism for accountability or enforcement. The lack of international enforcement within the human rights system and the political structure of the United Nations as a whole has yielded a paradigm in which states are incentivized to sign treaties without needing to alter their behavior. Aside from a light slap on the wrist from media shaming, states have zero negative repercussions for not abiding by the international human rights treaties which they sign. What is worse is that they benefit politically from just putting down a signature that carries no weight. Only through a dramatic restructuring of the human rights system, as well as the United Nations, can human rights treaties begin to enact meaningful change. ■




il has fueled the Libyan economy for years, but major clashes between political factions within the nation have produced disastrous consequences for the once lucrative oil industry. Oil was first discovered in Libya in 1959, and the nation became a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) shortly thereafter in 1962. Ever since, its economy has been through its share of highs and lows. Most recently, with foreign investors withdrawing resources from the country, corrupt leaders attempting to make a quick buck, and oil fields shutting down because of ensuing violence, everything seems to be going downhill. The combination of a reduction in oil production coupled with increased violence may prompt a vicious downward cycle in which Libya finds itself mired in widespread instability for the foreseeable future. In the past, the majority of government revenue has been funded by hydrocarbon sales; thus, the drop in oil production has serious consequences for the well-being of Libyan society as a whole. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that in 2012, oil and natural gas made up almost 96% of Libya’s total government revenue and 98% of export revenue. Moreover, the majority of these hydrocarbons were comprised of crude oil exports. Today, Libya has the largest known crude oil reserves in all of Africa. What’s more, its so-called crude, or low sulfur oil, is immensely popular in European markets. To better understand the situation currently unfolding in Libya, it is crucial to first take a step back and examine Libya’s troubled history. Libya was ruled by an autocratic government under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi for forty-two years until he was overthrown in 201l. The dictator was already unpopular among Libyans, but the international community also turned against him after the United States accused Libya of involvement in the 1988 bombing of a PanAm flight. Libya was on the international radar once again in 2011 when protests against Gaddafi sparked by the Arab Spring were met with violence. The United Nations Security Council was quick to approve a resolution in March 2011 allowing NATO air strikes in the region to support the people. Gaddafi’s death followed soon after in August 2011 after a group of rebels took his life. While many were relieved by the end of Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule, Libya’s economy has suffered as a consequence of the instability that ensued. Since Gaddafi’s removal, there has been growing contention over the geographic distribution of economic and political influence within the country. Hydrocarbon resources and oil are often dragged into the conflict and squandered in business deals. In spite of this, Libya’s economy performed comparatively better in 2012 and began to recover due to the revival of hydrocarbon development as well as increased trade. However, things took a turn for the worse in late 2013 due to a spike in protests held at the nation’s major oilfields. Oil production dropped to an alarmingly low rate, hundreds of thousands shy of its long term average of 1.6 million barrels per day. On top of this, Libya’s most crucial eastern oil ports—which include Ed Sidra, Ras Lanuf, Zuetina and Marsa al-Hariga—were prevented from shipping oil. The interruptions in Libya’s oil production extend beyond the economic realm as the unstable economy has consequences for the nation as a whole. Hence, a vicious cycle unfolds. As economic instability aggravates conflict around the country, foreign companies and investors faced with the threat of violence and terrorism leave Libya, precipitating a drop in oil production. The economy is negatively affected by the decline in the production of the country’s chief resource, and as a result, there is a spike in unemployment. The large numbers of jobless civilians are then more likely to find work within rebel groups, where they are rewarded handsomely for their participation. Research shows that in general, if the labor market does not entertain job-seekers, there is a higher probability that they will join rebel armies.

In Africa in general, major institutions have failed to produce enough work for the growing number of youth in pursuit of employment. Statistics show that there are approximately 200 million people in Africa between the ages of 15 and 24. In fact, the continent boasts of the youngest average workforce, a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future. However, almost 70 % of Africa’s youth, some unemployed and most underpaid, survive on less than two dollars per day (USD). Research conducted by the World Bank in 2011 found that one in two young people who participate in rebel groups blame unemployment for their involvement. Though there have been some positive developments in Libya, such as the reopening of the eastern port of Zuetina, the number of setbacks that have plagued Libya of late far outweigh any progress. Politically, the country is divided between a military-based government in Beida and an Islamist, militia government in Tripoli. This does not translate well for the oil industry. Production levels have staggered at extremely low levels with a decrease from approximately 900,000 barrels per day in October to about 325,000 barrels per day in January. In early February, many were shaken by a pipeline explosion that damaged Sarir, what used to be the nation’s top producing oil field. The rapidly deteriorating security situation of the country is only aggravated by the threat that the Islamic State poses. Most recently, the terrorist organization massacred a group of twenty one Egyptian Christians on Libyan soil. As a consequence, oil companies are rapidly fleeing the country and taking their employees along with them. Experts are wary that terror groups like the Islamic State will target Libya’s resources, specifically its valuable oil sector. Consequently, rebel groups are gaining leeway in the midst of the economic downturn and Libya’s divided government makes for an easy target. While 2011 convinced many that Libya was going to get back on its feet, the year is now 2015 and a dark cloud has been cast over Libya’s future. ■

Libyan military forces spar with rebel groups over control of oil ports near Ras Lanuf. Source: The Telegraph.

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n Beijing, signs throughout the city read: “Patriotism, Innovation, Inclusiveness, Virtue.” Like most political slogans, this particular one relies heavily on wishful thinking and an element of deception. Currently, China ranks 22 out of 50 OECD economies in innovation, a surprisingly low number given the prowess of the Chinese economy. Innovation itself is synonymous with taking risks and breaking rules to create revolutionary, practical new markets. As Berkeley Professor Ross Levine and London School of Economics Professor Yona Rubinstein put it, entrepreneurs possess the perfect combination of being “smart and illicit.” It is often necessary to experiment and push acceptable boundaries to ensure that societal progress does not remain idle. The most direct reason for the lack of Chinese innovation is the CCP’s ongoing decision to strengthen its digital barrier to the outside world, a move that inhibits creativity. This is especially important as though Beijing has demonstrated a solid commitment to economic growth, it hit a 24-year-low in 2014. A healthy amount of innovation would allow the Chinese economy to benefit in the long run by breaking into competitive, high-tech industries. China would do well to follow the example of South Korea, Japan, and Germany, countries that are pouring resources into R&D and forming private corporations with government support. However, the number one hindrance to innovation in China is censorship, a field in which Beijing undoubtedly excels. Censorship dramatically cuts off the flow of ideas both within China and the international community. When Deng Xiaoping began his systematic implementation of the “birdcage economy” in 1979, China’s closed-door policy was still in effect. This system was a Faustian deal of sorts: the party loosened economic restrictions, but did not tolerate individualist democracy. The CCP holds power through two key strategies: first by arguing that the Chinese people’s standard of living and GDP per capita have increased substantially since it came into power, and second, by relying on coercion and the widespread criminalization of dissent. The CCP’s desire to control cyberspace-based discourse began in 2000 with the creation of the “Great Firewall” of China, formally known as the Golden Shield censorship project. By 2001, investment in the project had reached $770 million and the CCP has recently made scaling the firewall even harder. Starting in 2014, all Google services were blocked in China. Beginning February 2015, microblogs such as Sina Weibo have come under close scrutiny. Social media users must take oaths in writing that they will not defy Chinese political and security interests. Moreover, users must register with their full names, not with pseudonyms like “Obama’’ and “Putin.’’ Soon, measures targeting foreigners will kick in as well, as all foreign nationals must allow their products and intellectual property to undergo rigorous security checks. Now, with 45.8% of the Chinese population on the Internet and the growing use of microblogs, it is becoming more difficult for the party to convince the Chinese people to silently internalize their political dissent. Moreover, it is much harder for the government to crack down on key figures that could hide behind a screen and an alias. In an interview with Berkeley Professor Noam Yuchtman, Yuchtman said that Chinese citizens told him the mobile app WeChat became popular largely because microblog censorship drove them to find alternatives. Now that images from Hong Kong protests are censored on WeChat, more and more Chinese understand that the websites they are granted access to, such as Baidu and Youku–China’s Google and YouTube equivalents–are not giving them a complete image of the world. They instead realize that they are increasingly becoming frogs at the bottom of a well,

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“[T]he number one hindrance to innovation in China is censorship, a field in which Beijing undoubtedly excels.” as the Chinese saying goes, and are experiencing greater global isolation as a result of the Chinese government’s growing paranoia. Censorship amongst different social classes also varies. Yuchtman points out that those in academia have constant access to VPN workarounds, and that “if you’re elite enough, then you can get around a lot of these blocks. Urban elites and academia de facto have fewer restrictions for Internet access than the common Chinese citizen.” As a result of varying censorship, entrepreneurs who are not in elite circles are shut out from access to information beyond the firewall that may help them innovate. Moreover, unbalanced censorship policies benefit those who may not even be China’s future innovators. Those in elite circles that have access beyond the firewall often seek political or economic power within the CCP instead of fresh new ideas to build upon. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that the government has economic motives for developing the firewall as well. There is a desire to develop the domestic economy by nurturing web service providers and startups. The “China Wide Web,” epitomized by giants such as Tencent, Baidu and NetEase, provides seemingly ample information and a steady Internet connection for many small enterprises in China. Nevertheless, even fast Internet speeds still have drawbacks that stunt innovation. Chinese entrepreneurs using Chinese web services may not be fully informed of the world’s most recent trends if the government deems such issues to be a threat to national interests. A Shanghai-based software engineer said that even searching terms such as “river” can have repercussions—the entire IP address is blocked out, causing delays for minutes on end—as “river” is the same character as the surname of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. If such entrepreneurs then turn to Google apps for a better solution but run up against exceedingly slow Internet speeds, their innovative ideas may never come to fruition, or they may grow too exasperated to continue searching. The same applies to foreigners interacting with those in China. They will find the social platforms upon which they heavily rely—such as Skype and Gmail—are nearly impossible to use, which may encourage them to seek collaboration elsewhere. The Chinese government should gradually come to terms with its concerns. As Yuchtman states, silencing critics “generates political tension just as much as reading the New York Times and finding out that Wen Jiabao’s family is incredibly rich resulting from his political power.” Instead, Yuchtman argues that “Chinese elite would be in a much more stable situation if everything they said about political rights, rule of law and a desire to fight corruption was matched by the institutions in media and access to information.” A more severe effect of the stringent new rules accompanying the firewall is that both foreign investors and mainlanders may grow disillusioned with harsh censorship policies and slower connections to the outside world. Investment is not always an impersonal exercise. It involves people on the ground, and in cyberspace, exchanging ideas. If the R&D segment of the populace seeks solace elsewhere, a brain drain may be inevitable. According to Yuchtman, those in Beijing who feel stifled by being constantly monitored may seek either to move to Shanghai, which has looser Internet restrictions and its own educational curriculum, or to Hong Kong. Moreover, only a third of the 3 million Chinese nationals who have gone abroad—many of whom represent the nation’s best and brightest—have returned. This further depletes China’s ability to innovate. It would be beneficial for China to take a page from the concept of “smart and illicit.” To become a great global innovator, it is crucial to push the boundaries. When breaking rules becomes impossible and rule-breakers begin to relocate elsewhere, China may lose all of its entrepreneurs. For now, Internet censorship is only buying time for the CCP. With growth slowing down, the time is ripe for the government to loosen restrictions and open the floodgates to innovation. ■





leek Boeing 737-800s operated by Turkish Airlines fly into Mogadishu’s gleaming new international airport as patients flock to the recently refurbished Erdogan hospital, the best-equipped medical center in East Africa. Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda affiliate that has terrorized Somalia for eight years, is in tatters and on the run from a legitimate federal government that is expanding its writ across the country. Welcome to Somalia in 2015, a far cry from the stereotypical failed state that the international community has known for the last 24 years. Ravaged by civil war since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorial rule in 1991, Somalia spent the 90s embroiled in a conflict between vicious warlords, a period immortalized by the hit blockbuster Black Hawk Down. The war took a turn for the worse in 2006 when previously disparate warlords united their forces and founded the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a jihadist group intent on overtaking the weak transitional government. In response, the government allied with the Raskamboni movement, a warlord militia from southern Somalia, as well as Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a (ASWJ), a Sufi militant group opposed to the ICU’s Salafist ideology, to combat the ICU’s attack. With the help of Ethiopian intervention, the ICU was defeated in 2009, as many of its warlords agreed to join the transitional government in a power-sharing deal that guaranteed the same number of seats in parliament for each of the country’s major clans. However, one splinter group, al-Shabaab, instead decided to embrace a violent fundamentalist ideology and to embark upon a wider war against the state. The militant group’s onslaught of coordinated assaults and terrorist attacks led to its conquest of almost all of southern and central Somalia by 2009. Fast forward three years to 2012 and Somalia held an indirect presidential “election” on its soil for the first time in its history. The last election,

“The years since the election have transformed Somalia from a lawless country, governed by Islamist terrorists, to an increasingly stable state close to ending a seemingly endless civil war. “ in 2009, was conducted in Djibouti; while only one candidate—dictator Mohamed Siad Barre—contested the 1986 election. However, much like in 2009, the election was decided by newly appointed, unelected members of parliament. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a prominent political activist, defeated his opponent and former leader of the ICU, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in a resounding second-round victory with 70.6% of the votes. Since his election, Mohamud has re-established a banking system that Somalia had lacked for decades, convinced the UN to end its 21-year arms embargo on the country, and armed the Somali military to effectively combat militants. He has also forged a host of bilateral agreements that have yielded tangible results, such as the Turkish-built airport and hospital in Mogadishu. The years since the election have transformed Somalia from a lawless country, governed by Islamist terrorists, to an increasingly stable state close to ending a seemingly endless civil war. Al-Shabaab, which means “The Youth” in Arabic, is at its lowest point since its inception in 2006. An American drone strike killed the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in September 2014, and Zakariya Ismail Hersi, its Chief of Intelligence, surrendered to federal police last December. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a coalition of Ugandan, Burundian, Ethiopian, Djiboutian, and Sierra Leonean armed forces, has battled al-Shabaab since 2007. In 2011, Kenya intervened unilaterally against the group, before joining AMISOM in 2012.

Despite Somalia’s recent political progress, Somaliland poses a potential threat to Mogadishu’s long-term stability. Source: Haruko Ayabe.

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UN Special Representative Augustine Mahiga with African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Mogadishu, Somalia. Source: AU-UN IST Photo/Stuart.

In 2011, Mogadishu was recaptured by government forces and Kismayo, a large port city in the south and the former headquarters of the insurgency, was liberated in 2012. That same year, the transitional federal government approved a new constitution and established a permanent government in the capital. Operation Indian Ocean, launched in August 2014 by AMISOM, seized almost all of al-Shabaab’s coastal territory and decimated its leadership, aided by U.S. drone strikes operating from neighboring Djibouti. As of February 2015, nearly all of the group’s leaders are either dead, captured, or have surrendered. AMISOM is a case of how close regional cooperation can achieve consistent military success against powerful and long-lasting insurgencies, while also building up the policing capacity of the nation that is being aided. All of Somalia’s neighbors have an interest in its stability, especially nations such as Uganda and Kenya who have suffered horrific terror attacks at the hands of al-Shabaab. AMISOM’s campaigns have had realistic and defined targets: rolling back al-Shabaab’s rule first from Mogadishu, then from major cities, followed by the coast, and finally the countryside. At a time when leaders around the world are struggling to devise strategies to defeat the brutal militants of Boko Haram in Nigera and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, Somalia’s ongoing success is a useful lesson on how to breathe life back into a failed state. Much like other war-torn countries, Somalia has consistently been divided by clans and warlords—many with competing ambitions for power. The government’s decision to bring several warlords into the fold from the ashes of the ICU helped bring swathes of warlord-controlled territory back into government hands. Specifically, the government’s alliance in 2006 with the Raskamboni movement and the ASWJ gave the government both territorial and religious legitimacy as the former’s leaders held sway in the Islamist-controlled regions and the latter provided pious Somalis an alternative to the poisonous fundamentalism of al-Shabaab. The intervention of AMISOM also gave the then-failed state a professional fighting force that pushed back the insurgency, while Kenya’s entry in 2011 dislodged the terrorists from major cities. Since the start of the civil war, Somalia has been divided into numerous autonomous entities. Today, all but one recognizes the federal govern-

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ment and has agreed to a federal structure for the country. Moreover, as the central government has regained control of the south and center of the country, so too have corresponding state authorities. For example, the state of Jubaland, formerly dominated by al-Shabaab, was established and recognized in August 2013. While this is another mark of Somalia’s recent success, the exception to the rule is Somaliland, an unrecognized de facto independent country that split in 1991 as war engulfed the rest of the nation. Somaliland has long been more stable, prosperous, and democratic than Somalia, though it is currently at war with Khatumo—a constituent state of Somalia—and continues to refuse any proposal to rejoin the Somali federation. Somaliland has even been accused of supporting al-Shabaab to undermine its rival in Mogadishu. Despite its considerable success, there are still several challenges Somalia must confront before it can cast off its turbulent history. Somaliland’s place in the new Somalia is yet to be determined, and could still lead to further war and destabilization. Militias such as the ASWJ and Raskamboni, while currently allied with the government, could split and return to war against the state once the common enemy of al-Shabaab has been defeated, as happened with militias in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi. With its recently appointed cabinet of ministers, Somalia will have to face all of these challenge, among many others, before it can return to complete stability for the first time in the 21st century. However, its trajectory in recent years gives hope that the country will finally shake off its status as the world’s quintessential failed state. President Mohamud’s ambitious Vision 2016 project calls for a constitutional referendum and free and fair elections by the end of 2016. This task is achievable, but the vote could still be disrupted by remnants of alShabaab who will seek to intimidate voters if they are still active when it is held. Next year, Somalia could hold its first democratic election in history as bloodstained buildings may give way to ink-stained fingers in a country that has for too long been trapped in a cycle of violent conflict. After fourteen years of ceaseless bloodshed, Somalia is finally emerging from the shadows of failed statehood to reclaim its place among the nations of the world. ■

The 21st Century Refugee




A flooded village in the Solomon Islands. Source: ABC News.

n a recent World Bank report entitled ‘Turn Down the Heat,’ scientists warned that without substantive action against climate change, by 2050, the world would see an average global temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius, likely leading to water level increases of up to 50 centimeters. Global warming has already devastated small island nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati, whose land masses are shrinking. Combined with rising water levels, floods, tidal surges, and coral reef destruction caused by global warming threaten large portions of land in the Pacific. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 200 million people will become climate refugees by 2050. Additionally, evidence suggests that not only have the number of droughts, storms, and floods increased threefold over the last three decades, but gradual climatic changes have made populations much more vulnerable to these events as 1.6 billion people are currently affected by droughts, compared to 718 million just thirty years ago. Those living in low-lying Pacific island countries such as the Maldives are especially vulnerable. 80% of Maldivian land mass is less than one meter above sea level, and 14 islands have already been lost to sea erosion. Similarly, the small atoll nation of Tuvalu, with an area of only 100 square miles, highest point is 5 meters above sea level. According to IPCC estimates, the entire country will be submerged within 50 years. As a result, more and more people from these small island nations seek to migrate elsewhere, but are running into legal battles associated with their refugee status. In February 2014, 37 year-old Ioane Teitiotawa, from the island chain of Kiribati, was deported from New Zealand after his appeal for refugee status was denied. The New Zealand courts ruled against him, citing that Teitiotawa’s appeal for climate refugee status was “fundamentally misconceived.” The court acknowledged the plight of thousands like Mr. Teitiotawa, but stated his situation “does not appear to be different from that of any other Kiribati national.” Six months later, in August 2014, a Tuvaluan family facing deportation was allowed to legally stay in New Zealand, a decision that was heralded as the first legal recognition of climate refugee status. However, the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal did not technically grant refugee status and instead granted the family complementary protection. Countries provide complementary protection when asylum seekers are at risk in their country of origin, but do not officially qualify as refugees, meaning that since the Tribunal did not consider the family to be refugees, it was under no obligation to protect them. These rulings could adversely affect legal classification of climate refugees. The New Zealand Tribunal’s decision, through its denial of climate refugee status, provides legal precedent to bypass constructive dialogue on changing refugee classification. This lets individual countries handle the problem on a case by case basis rather than actually reform their

refugee classification process. Thus, for the millions of people currently vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, the path to proper legal protection and true climate refugee status may become more arduous, begging the question, what needs to be done to ensure the safety and survival of those affected? Additionally, what domestic structures are in place to receive millions of displaced peoples? New Zealand’s refugee policy follows the 1951 UN Convention related to the Status of Refugees, which states that refugees must generally face a real harm or systemic breach of human rights and or have been targeted for their race, ethnicity or social class. Additionally, New Zealand only grants 750 cases of refugee status a year, with a limit of 350 from Asia and the Pacific. New Zealand’s refugee policy does not include any provision for refugees facing gradual climate change, but there are protocols and guidelines in place to accept refugees of natural disasters and war. Australia—another prime destination for groups migrating from climate change—has even stricter refugee policies. Following the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Australia has no legal obligation to grant asylum status to climate change refugees and any clause referencing natural disasters or climate change is noticeably absent. Additionally, while Australia grants thousands more cases for refugee status than its smaller neighbors, its policy of automatically detaining those who arrive without a visa and moving them to remote third world island countries such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru for processing, seems cruel and draconian. Both New Zealand and Australia expect to receive millions of displaced individuals from pacific islands such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Maldives in the coming years. With refugee protocols and bureaucratic organizations already in place, these two nations simply have to adjust their quotas and classifications of refugees. However, this is a temporary fix to an impending crisis, while the international community finds a more permanent solution to the problem of climate refugees. Currently, the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 does not recognize climate change as a valid factor for refugee status. Consequently, millions are given no legal avenues to migrate and gain protection from climate change. If the UN updated the 1951 Convention—which most countries use as a guide for refugee classification—to include climate change as a factor for refugee status, this would provide a clear road to asylum for climate refugees around the world. As millions of pacific islanders watch their homes get swept away, bureaucratic red tape and vague legal classifications block the path for climate refugees from safety in asylum, but simple steps in amending UN conventions and establishing temporary protocols of climate refugees can be taken. Hopefully, when the world finally faces the ever-growing threat of global climate change, the question of climate refugees will have already been answered. ■ Berkeley Political Review | 20


Backseat Solidarity


HOW THE ASIAN-AMERICAN SHOULD VIEW THE #BLACKLIVESMATTER MOVEMENT “…We cannot have a race-blind approach to the questions: which lives matter? Or, which lives are worth valuing? If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, “all lives matter”, then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of ‘all lives’”


- Judith Butler, “What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?”

uring the past year, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has gained significant momentum, following a series of deaths of black individuals at the hands of police officers. Huge crowds took to the streets, protesting police brutality and the institutional racism that undergirds it. When the #AllLivesMatter counter-movement arose in order to emphasize multiculturalism, it was swiftly shot down by activists on the grounds that it was a colorblind approach to the problem and distracted people from the issue at hand. But where does that put Asian-Americans? Multiple Asian-American scholars have criticized the black-white binary that seems to be everprevalent in modern race relations in the U.S. They contest the The Model Minority Myth, an idea that Asian-Americans have moved up the socioeconomic hierarchy by hard work alone, and are an example for more unruly minorities. Scholars claim that such a narrative sanitizes race relations into matters of labor while ignoring the complexity of systematic oppression that many Asian-Americans faced at the time, including (but certainly not limited to) the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, blackKorean tensions following the Rodney King case, and violence done upon Asian-American bodies, with the case of Vincent Chin being a notable example. The Model Minority Myth has been used to justify the denial of critical social assistance to blacks, with many rich whites claiming that if the Asians can achieve the “American Dream” through hard work, then the only reason that other minorities are stuck at the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy is laziness, as opposed to the institutional discrimination that pins them there. To some, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is just another attempt to gloss over the Asian-American population, sanitized once more in the simple antagonism of white-overblack while always stuck in between without a place to be; never white enough to be white, never black enough to be black. At this point, maybe it does seem right to renew the push for #AllLivesMatter, since the 21 | Berkeley Political Review


current binary makes the Asian-American population invisible in a seemingly eternal struggle for racial equality. However, while all lives definitely matter, #BlackLivesMatter is a reminder that sometimes America does not view blackness as worthy of mattering. Racism can take on many different forms, including that which puts blacks and whites at odds with the Asian-Americans, but there is another fact that is not nearly as obvious: if white-over-black privilege exists, so does Asianover-black privilege. Regardless of the racial barriers that Asian-Americans must face in the U.S., it is undeniable that they are statistically much less likely to be a victim of police brutality than their black counterparts. The stereotypes associated with Asian-Americans are certainly psychologically damaging, but they usually do not have legal implications. An Asian-American may draw suspicion from cops based on their actions, but for their black counterpart, their very existence is suspect in the eyes of the police. These differences are real, and deserve much more recognition than they are currently receiving. Asian-Americans that self-identify as activists for equality need to understand one

crucial fact that makes #BlackLivesMatter so important--it doesn’t claim that it is only black lives that should matter, but that currently black lives do not matter relative to other lives. With this realization, the answer to the above question becomes clearer. It is important for AsianAmericans to align with #BlackLivesMatter, since the recognition of black lives as valuable is essential to combat racism in America; however, it is equally important for Asian-Americans to understand the privilege that comes with simply not being black. We must open up space for black voices to speak out instead of pressing the Model Minority Myth as a justification to remind that #AllLivesMatter. Demands for the integration of specific Asian-American issues into these movements do not merely miss the point, but actively take away from the original message. Supporting #BlackLivesMatter does not undermine the Asian-American narrative like supporting #AllLivesMatter does to the black narrative. Activists, regardless of their race, should align themselves in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter because equality for some means equality for none at all. ■

Asian-Americans at UC Davis unite in solidarity to protest the events in Ferguson, MO. Source: jazzy-daze/Tumblr.


To Catch a Predator


The testing of rape kits is an easy task and well-funded, yet thousands of kits remain untested as police departments turn a blind eye on evidence that may bring justice to sexual assault perpetrators who walk free. Source: Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune.


here is a backlog of over 400,000 untested rape kits languishing in various storage rooms all around the United States. Perhaps on Law and Order, detectives send DNA evidence to a mysterious lab somewhere, and voila—the criminal is captured. But in the real world there might be serial rapists that are continuing to commit crimes because their DNA is collecting dust in a forgotten rape kit. This particularly disadvantages low-income and disenfranchised women, who are less likely to advocate for themselves, and has far-reaching implications about how we as a society treat sexual assault. This is an institutional problem that our justice system needs to address, and the most immediate step is through more rapid and routine testing of rape kits. Testing rape kits and ensuring justice for survivors is crucial because rape is already widely underreported and under-prosecuted. Only seven percent of rapes lead to an arrest, and of these seven percent only two percent lead to jail time. These dismal prospects discourage many people from reporting rapes, and it is estimated that 68% of rapes go unreported. The untested rape kits are the cherry on top, showing a complete institutional apathy towards preventing and prosecuting sexual violence. Prioritizing sexual assault cases and testing rape kits is crucial because one huge consequence of the backlog is that perpetrators of violent sexual crimes are not being found, or perpetrators who are already in prison for other crimes are walking free when they should be get-

ting additional sentencing. Statutes of limitations for bringing charges against rapists vary state by state. In California, crimes committed over 10 years ago are no longer prosecutable, so it’s especially important to consider that many rape kits have remained untested for 30 years or more. For instance, more than 11,000 rape kits (some more than 25 years old) were discovered in a Detroit Police storage building in 2009. The processing of just 1,600 of those led to identifying 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists, individuals who might never have been found otherwise. If politicians and police departments really want to truly be “tough on crime,” they should beef up budgeting for processing rape kits as a tried-and-true method of finding and locking up repeat offenders. Choosing to turn a blind eye when we have thousands of rape kits available for testing is the action of a society unconcerned about sexual assault, not one that wishes to take steps toward prevention. Additionally, testing rape kits is crucial because it may help bring justice to survivors least able to advocate for their own rights—in particular, young or low-income survivors who may not have the time, information, or financial resources to fight a long court battle or press prosecutors’ offices to take on their cases. We may not live in the world of Law and Order, but it is reasonable to expect that DNA evidence should at least play a role in addressing sexual assault. Getting a rape kit is an incredibly invasive process, after an already horrific experience. The director of the Sexual Assault

Forensic Examiner program in Detroit, Kim Hurst, described the 2-4 hour exam this way: “We’re doing pubic hair pulls or combs, we’re doing swabs of the outside of the genitalia… and then we’re doing a speculum exam [which is internal] and taking swabs that way, and if there was an anal assault we’re doing swabs there. And then we use a colposcope [a specialized medical camera] to take pictures of genital injury.” It is then a complete slap in the face for these kits to go untested, as these women have already been subject to both the rape and to the invasive test. Rape kits are no magic bullet, but the entire process from examination to a non-result represents tremendous failure on the part of the criminal justice system. Admittedly, the price of testing rape kits can be pricy (more than $1,000 on average) for under-resourced police departments. Luckily, there is a proposed $41 million allocation for testing rape kits in President Obama’s 2016 budget, which if passed would be a victory against sex crimes. But more funding will not solve the problems of detectives who don’t prioritize sexual assault cases. This is closely linked to how we all talk about sexual assault. Until wider attitudes about sexual assault change, rape cases (and testing rape kits) may not be handled adequately, as sometimes the choice not to test rape kits is not a matter of money but of priorities. Many members of law enforcement and the general public still don’t know how to respond to sexual assault appropriately. When someone says, “I was robbed,” the idea of questioning the veracity of their claim is ludicrous; when someone says, “I was raped,” skepticism is all too commonplace. And in the latter case, the most important piece of evidence, the DNA of the perpetrator, is discarded. Ultimately, budgeting enough time and money in our nation’s police departments to thoroughly test all rape kits isn’t just about justice for the individuals involved; it’s about the kind of society we want to live in. If we expect police to enforce traffic laws and go after hit-and-run perpetrators after license plates get called in, we should expect the same kind of accountability and follow-up after a crime as violent and brutal as a sexual assault. Testing rape kits is a solution that will help identify truly dangerous criminals, make the world around us safer, encourage reporting, and benefit survivors who might otherwise not be able to pursue justice on their own. Sexual assault is often discussed as a crime with no easy answers for prevention. ■ Berkeley Political Review | 22


Revealing a Hidden Minority


The U.S. Census neglects a significant population of citizens of Middle Eastern and North African descent, by simply lumping them into the “white” population. Source: U.S. Agency for International Development.

I am not white. Yet I check the box next to “white” because according to the U.S. Census, a “white” person is: “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.” This is the widely accepted definition, trickling down into even the most insignificant scientific studies. Now, imagine you’re me, a Palestinian-American who was raised in the Bay Area his entire life. What would you identify as? For the longest time, this distinction has not been a problem for me. My skin is white and so is the culture that I’ve grown up – in so much so that few people guess that I am Middle-Eastern. Yet, as I’ve aged and become more confident in my cultural, ethnic, and racial identity, this distinction has began to trouble me. Though I might pass as white, my darker North African and Middle-Eastern racial brethren often cannot. I’ve grown angry and frustrated, not only for myself but those who are forced identify as white because they hail from North Africa and the Middle-East, yet clearly lack anything that is culturally associated with being white. Where I might fall under a white classification in a colloquial sense, immigrants from Yemen who speak very little English certainly don’t. While I am different from these Yemeni immigrants, we share a common cultural and racial identity – do we not deserve to identify as something other than white, black, asian or other? We do and the answer is SWANA. For those who don’t know, SWANA stands for Southwest Asian and North African; otherwise known as the region encompassing the Arabian Peninsula and Northern Africa. For quite a while, categorizing people from these regions has been difficult. They may, for instance, share the same culture or religion, yet they vary immensely in language and race. It is this reason why the term “Arab” doesn’t quite work, as Arab refers mainly to the Arabian Peninsula, thus excluding culturally similar societies bordering the Mediterranean. The next logical word phrasing is “MiddleEastern” as it encompases the entire geographic region, more or less. However, this term is eurocentric; the Middle-East is literally the middle option between Europe and the Far East. Using this term cedes authority and 23 | Berkeley Political Review

places subordinate peoples from the region trying to be represented. Thus, the mostly politically correct and accurate term is one derived from strict geography – Southwest Asia and North Africa, better known as SWANA. Beyond just being more politically correct, creating a SWANA category in the census allows us to collect and gather data to better address our own problems. Since SWANA peoples lack our own identifier, we aren’t treated as distinct from white people. Not only is this problematic for sustaining a cultural identity, it masks our problems under the white umbrella. Census data is stratified along racial lines, and “this data is used by community and campus organizations, to evaluate acceptance, admittance, retention, and graduation rates.” And though many SWANA individuals face systemic discrimination and are often seen as a minority, we aren’t able to receive treatment as an official minority group. We lack the data and subsequently institutional strength that would empower us as a minority group. Though numbering around four million rather than 50 million, the SWANA plight for representation in the U.S. Census is not unsimilar to that of the Hispanic population in America. For many decades, Hispanic individuals lacked a category to mark themselves as distinct from white. Despite facing noticeable and considerable disadvantages, their problems were masked because of incorporation into the larger white population. Now, Hispanics have the information and institutional backing as a minority. While they are still the subjects of intense racism, they have the data and institutional framework to make their voices heard within Congress. Especially in this Islamophobic era, we need to support the creation of a Census group to represent individuals from the North African and Southwestern Asia, upholding this group classification, not as Middle-Eastern, but as SWANA. Thankfully, there are already talks of the U.S. Census establishing some sort of representative categories for SWANA people, so this conception is not far from becoming a reality. Even so, in an era of significant political correctness, the revision of these archaic classification should not only be expected, but demanded for fear of institutional racism. ■


Under the Dome

many citizens to call for immediate government action. However, China’s main focus is still economic growth, and the government does not want HOW THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT FAILS TO CONTAIN ITS to delude its energy with environmental concerns. Reluctant to actually prioritize environmental protection as a major party platform, the governENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS ment uses censorship as an alternative approach to appease public anger YILUN CHENG and subdue citizens. Officials hide behind the shield of press censorship hina’s internet censors strike again, and this time, the country’s and falsely consider an end of substantial discussion a real solution to already deteriorating environment becomes the victim of their re- social controversies. They expect people to willingly give up their freedom strictive policies. A newly released documentary, Under the Dome, of judgment and passively accept the party’s five-year plan for the nation. instantly went viral on the internet as the most thorough investigation However, this way of approaching problems underestimates the of China’s pollution problems, in its first week attracting more than 20 energy and vigor of the Chinese civil society. The ban actually reignites million viewers and becoming social media’s single favorite topic. Unfor- the discussion about the illegitimacy of China’s censorship system, and tunately, the government banned the film from all major Chinese websites people continue to watch the film through illegal websites. This reaction the following week. forces officials to recognize that in this Internet age they can only repress It is not that the Chinese government does not support environmen- talks about particular events, and are powerless when facing continuous tal activism. Rather, this incident shows that escape and avoidance have and persistent criticism. Although the Chinese governmental system is already become the government’s habitual way to cope with citizens’ com- not based on popular elections, it has no intention to declare war on its plaints and petitions. Officials are used to censoring inconvenient issues, own people. Rather, its restrictive character comes mainly from its hope but this response is becoming increasingly ineffective and unsustainable. that the country can achieve national rejuvenation and raise its internaAlthough most officials nominally support the fight against pollu- tional status without much resistance from its people. As China becomes tion, they are far more enthusiastic about boosting economic growth and increasingly connected with the international community, regulators of would readily compromise environmental preservation for a higher GDP public opinions have already realized the impossibility of monopolizing figure. At first, China’s newly appointed environmental minister, Chen Jin- information and started to grant the public far more freedom than before. ing, equated Under the Dome with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and praised Now that the government’s lax enforcement of pollution laws has already it as “a respectable effort to raise awareness about environmental protec- become common knowledge among citizens, officials more frequently tion and public health.” Yet as soon as the film’s overwhelming popularity admit their own incompetence and tend to leave related criticism uncenbecame an inconvenience for the government’s daily operation, China’s sored. Environmental protection is only one of many instances where notorious censorship system kicked in, first ordering media to downplay simply isolating the population from outside information can no longer the film and then removing it altogether. This kind of evasiveness shows work. how censorship has tainted environmental protection in China with poThis new latitude for public discussion exposes Chinese citizens to litical corruption. Censors’ indeterminate and constantly shifting attitude more diverse and international perspectives on the country’s political ortoward environmental protection is an accurate reflection of the incessant der, prompting them to reconsider their previous acquaintance to censors’ battle between government officials and the public will. actions. People’s growing anguish about the government’s restriction on Chen Jining’s initial appreciation for the film’s social value indicates individual liberty has itself turned into a potential source of social unrest. that the government did not ban the film because of the film’s content. Many senior party officials worry that a continuation of strict censorship Under the Dome became problematic only after its rising popularity caused actually acts against the party’s best interests. As a result, censorship itself has now become the object of political scrutiny. The time will soon come when the censorship system creates more friction for governmental operation than actual social disputes. To avoid a more severe blow to the government as a whole, officials have to give up extreme censoring as a handy tool to manipulate the public and escape responsibilities. Instead, they must face the complexity of social problems and make an actual attempt to resolve them. Controversy around Under the Dome may soon die out, but the ongoing conflict between Chinese censors and the public will continue to reveal itself. Adjustments within the political system are indispensable to maintain the government’s unique socialist characteristics. Only when officials fully realize the necessity for them to live in harmony with the general population can the Chinese society raises The Chinese government is infamous for its censorship on the internet, and now its censorship is extending to the pressing topic of the environment. Source: Yilun Cheng. itself to a new level of prosperity. ■


Berkeley Political Review | 24



Bringing Down the House


f the Greek fraternity system is molding the leaders of tomorrow, then tomorrow is going to look an awful lot like the past. Modern American society has been at war with backwards “isms”, including exclusivism, sexism, and racism. We fight these wrongs in the name of progress. We champion the American values of merit, equality, and tolerance. This being the case: why is the Greek fraternity system allowed to remain a pillar of American culture and society? The Greek system is as an institution responsible for the large-scale shaping of impressionable young Americans who will likely become influential members in society. It is an institution that ensures the presence and operation of backwards “isms” in America. For the sake of our society, it is an institution that must be destroyed. What I’m calling attention to is the Greek system as a whole. The fraternity system is far from the only element of American society and culture that perpetuates evil “isms.” But what makes fraternities so particularly dangerous are mechanisms of exclusivism and secrecy that preserve backwards practices and values. These cult-like institutional mechanisms facilitate the perpetuation of societal evils such as racism and sexism. Yet fraternities are allowed to remain a defining feature of every college campus across the nation, with its defenders often justifying the shameless preservation of this soci- Despite comic portrayals of fraternities, including in the iconic film Animal House, modern Greek organizations are etal poison on the grounds that the fraternity wrought with racism, sexism, and other problems perpetuated by their secretive natures and structures. system molds boys into gentlemen. “The True Source: Universal Pictures. Gentlemen” happens to be the creed of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. SAE has for hosting demeaning “…Bros vs.…Hos” parties. Even charity events, recently come under fire after its Oklahoma University chapter was re- such as the Derby Run, are inherently and overtly sexist. Girls in these corded singing outrageously racist chants. Not long after this revelation events are encouraged by the hosting fraternity to compete with each was the chance discovery of a secret pledge book belonging to an NC other and make a spectacle of themselves for the benefit of a mostly State Pi Kappa Phi chapter. The book contains graphic “jokes” written male audience. The list of examples is endless. The sexist attitudes and by members about lynching black people. These instances are just two practices that permeate the Greek system are the reasons no other instiof the most recent additions to a long list of racist fraternity practices, tution has been so closely associated with sexual assault. The consistent including the frequently reported “ghetto” or “jungle” parties where at- and persistent sexual objectification of women within the Greek fratertendees are encouraged to dress according to racist black stereotypes and nity system is having a frightening effect on its members. Studies have even don blackface. Because fraternities are able to enforce high-levels shown that fraternity members at one university are shockingly up to of secrecy it is difficult to know exactly how widespread racist beliefs three times more likely to rape than non-members, and these numbers and practices are in the system. However, the fact that these chants and are based only those cases that have been reported. Despite the clear practices are being taught to all or most members suggests a widespread prevalence of institutionalized sexism in fraternities, the Greek system’s institutionalization of racial prejudices. premium on secrecy conceals the true extent of sexist practices. Another systemic problem is the dangerous level of sexism fostered However many still protect the institution. Defenders of the system by the Greek fraternity system. The NC State pledge book that “joked” often justify its existence by pointing to the millions of dollars it raises about lynching also had “jokes” about raping inebriated women. The every year for charities. They talk about how fraternity members tend to Delta Kappa Rho chapter at Penn State was yet another fraternity that graduate at higher rates than non-members, and how graduated members found itself at the center of controversy after two private Facebook are some of the biggest donors to their respective alma maters. They dispages were discovered in which members posted and commented on pic- miss the reports of misconduct as simple cases of “boys being boys.” But tures of passed out girls. Several fraternities have also been reprimanded these “boys” grow into some of the most powerful men in our country. 25 | Berkeley Political Review

OPINION The reason for this is not because they are the most able or worthy members of society. It is largely due to a network of “fraternity brothers” who are encouraged to offer fellow “brothers’” employment opportunities. This has resulted in a shockingly large proportion of American business and political leaders who are products of the Greek system. Since 1910, 85% of Supreme Court Justices have been fraternity brothers. Since 1900, frat members have composed 63% of presidential cabinets. 76% of U.S. Senators have been fraternity members, as have 18 U.S. Presidents. Fraternity members also make up 85% of Fortune 500 Company Executives. These adults are in charge of some of the most powerful and influential institutions in the world. The dayto-day decisions they make have a direct effect on each and every one of our lives. They are being made in minds that have been significantly shaped by the college experience. The experiences, values, and beliefs formed during these leaders’ younger years in frat houses will inevitably be expressed in conscious or unconscious ways: from discriminatory hiring practices and pay-grades, to sexual harassment and even rape. I am not claiming that every single frat boy is a racist or sexist, nor am I claiming that we as a society are doomed to rampant sexism and racism. Nor do I think that merely ending fraternities will in any way be the key to fully ridding our society of these “isms.” Sexism and racism are incredibly complex social issues that have no silver bullet. What I am saying is that the Greek system is an archaic, bizarre, yet prominent institution that presents a significant obstacle to American progress. And the problems go far beyond binge drinking and hazing--the spew of recent high-profile cases involving fraternities across the nation gives us just a glimpse of a much more deeply rooted, widespread and actively concealed system. Despite the increasing frequency of sexist and racist incidents being reported, the Greek fraternities’ culture of secrecy frighteningly suggests there are many more yet to be discovered. What is especially disturbing is how strongly the fraternity system affects the development of its members. Young and impressionable boys are isolated in a house, surrounded by a new and influential “family,” and are left there to incubate for four whole years. In that house and with that “family” they are molded according to what they’ve what they’ve been taught day-in and day-out for years on end. This is no trivial matter. This means that all the problems associated with college fraternities extend far beyond the college campus. The fact that frat boys are consistently and disproportionately being given jobs at the highest levels of society (often simply because they are frat boys) is not just an offense to meritocracy, it is an outright danger to society. This hardly-veiled cronyism allows the reach and influence of the Greek system to access and permeate every level of society: from corporate boardrooms to the Oval Office. Frat boys are essentially being handed complete control of what is today an especially vulnerable United States of America. Those of us working for a better American society can no longer remain silent bystanders. We have a responsibility to speak out and intervene against the wrong being done to our country. We must destroy this backwards institution and system before the poison sets. We must bring down the frathouse, before it comes down on us. ■



hat’s so special about America? Going to school in Berkeley, it seems as though there is incessant criticism of every little policy and every little perceived injustice. What Americans born and raised in the States do not realize, I think, is how utterly confusing this is to many immigrants. Yes, America is not perfect, and discrimination is real. Many immigrants themselves are impoverished, speak a different primary language, and struggle to find their niches in American society. Yet, like me and my family, many immigrants still and always will appreciate America because to us it is a privilege to even be here. We have unique opportunities in the United States, and although success could be just within reach or years away, we came to America because we were absolutely convinced that one day we would be able to live a full life we would never have elsewhere. We came here because we believe in American Exceptionalism, and we work hard to someday achieve the American Dream. Thus, incidences like the UC Irvine’s student government banning all flags, including the star-spangled banner, from the common lobby area of student government offices to promote “cultural inclusive[ness]” is not only worrisome but very insulting to immigrants as well. These bright college students, the leaders of tomorrow, are ashamed to raise the American flag! Granted, America has many racial problems, but in what other country in the world can you have a chance to succeed as long as you work hard regardless of your color or culture? America can be a difficult place for minorities, but simply labelling everything as problematic is not helpful. Living in America itself is a privilege, and we should be thankful of the opportunities that America does offer. Incidents such as banning flags seem like complaining merely for the sake of complaining, or yet another attempt to sound sophisticated and educated. This is not constructive, as it points to American faults without providing any real solutions. I am not a U.S. citizen, though I hope to be one in the near future. The most valuable lesson I learned during my first 15 years in America was to have confidence in myself and the belief that I am among the best. It is this thought taught in classrooms, and paralleled in the U.S. government, that has allowed America to remain a global leader through wars, social controversies, and economic depressions. Confidence and faith in oneself and one’s nation is different from cockiness and arrogance. Instead, these are necessary qualities for leaders and innovators working towards progress. When one of the most influential people in the world, President Obama, refuses to even acknowledge the objective greatness of America like his predecessors did, it takes away the assuredness Americans have in his administration. His lack of confidence in the U.S. is not as constructive as he perhaps intends. American exceptionalism does not equate to American infallibility; if anything, it drives America to try to fix our many flaws and aim for improvement. My belief in American exceptionalism does not reflect that I am ashamed of or do not appreciate my own ancestral culture or citizenship nation; it simply reflects my appreciation for America. Why did my dad immigrate my family to California over a decade ago? Because he knew that America is exceptional. Why are there so many legal and illegal immigrants coming into the states from Mexico, China, and Brazil, among other nations? Because they know that America is exceptional. So to those people who cannot appreciate America in all its glory and especially to those who are ashamed of even displaying the flag, maybe they should leave this great nation and give their citizenships to those who actually want to be here. America is not perfect, but it is still a distinguished and enviable place. We can continue our progress in the 21st century by proceeding with firm confidence, while at the same time steadily fixing problems through practical actions. We must love our nation and revive the attitude of American exceptionalism to keep the United States thriving and improving, or the sun may very well set on America soon. So, “what’s special about America?” Everything. ■ Berkeley Political Review | 26

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