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International: A bleak future for Japan International energy policy post-Fukushima Interview: How safe is nuclear power?

Union busting in Wisconsin Is California ready for the next big earthquake?


Being the Underdog Dear Reader, When I was a bright-eyed freshman wandering around during Calapalooza, BPR staffers handed me at least three back issues of this magazine, which I ended up reading cover to cover. I never thought that I’d end up the one writing the Editor’s Note, but a lot can change in four years. As long as I can remember, BPR has been something of an underdog. We work hard to find writers that meet our standards of quality, weather a new crisis seemingly every week, and meet advertising targets by the skin of our teeth. In spite of the challenges we’ve faced, however, things are looking up. We have a great staff of returning editors for next year, a revitalized blog ( that produces content every weekday, and a network of alumni that have gone on to find success at places such as the Los Angeles Times, Yale Law School, the Federal Reserve, and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In light of this, I think that the day will come soon when the BPR doesn’t have to be the underdog anymore. In this issue, Hinh Tran takes a close look at the issues facing Japan (page 14), my own article examines the impact of the Fukushima reactor incident on worldwide energy policy (page 11), and Daniel Tuchler brings us an interview with Berkeley professor Richard Mueller centering on the health and safety issues surrounding nuclear power (page 9). Turning our attention closer to home, Jon Goldstein talks about the state of public bargaining in America in light of the events in Wisconsin (page 8), and Tom Hughes presents an analysis on censorship and free speech in an article about the Westboro Baptist Church (page 10). In addition, Christopher Haugh takes a look at earthquake readiness in California (page 4), Michael Manset talks about the California budget crisis (page 6), and Katie McCray brings us an article about the debate surrounding PG&E’s use of smart meter technology. Meanwhile, Patrick Niemeyer discusses the state of partisanship in the US (page 16), Mario Lopez gives us a look into the inner workings of the California Redistricting Commission (page 5), Richard Audoly compares European right-wing movements to the Tea Party (page 12), and Luis Flores discusses the use of the Obama doctrine in Libya (page 13). In our back pages, Mihir Deo talks about the use of reality TV knowledge in SAT questions (page 18), Anita Shankar brings us a piece on the feminism of Tina Fey (page 19), and Alex Kravitz brings us an article on privacy in the Facebook era. In closing, I invite you to explore the many great articles we have within these pages, and check out our online content at Yours,

David Hamilton



(BERKELEY POLITICAL REVIEW) Editor-in-Chief David Hamilton California & BLOG Editor Jeremy Pilaar National Editor Andrew Postal International Editor Hinh Tran Opinion Editor Patrick Niemeyer Arts & Entertainment Editor Melanie Boysaw Managing Editor Mihir Deo DEPUTY BLOG Editor Christopher Haugh Online Editor Asa Zernik Layout Editors Niku Jafarnia Feilisha Kutilike COVER ART Anna Trejo Staff Nader Atassi, Richard Audoly, Adam Carlson, Luis Flores, Jonathan Goldstein, Christopher Haugh, Alex Kravitz, Omar Kunbargi, Tyler Liu, Mario Lopez, Michael Manset, Katie McCray, Eric Moorman, Neetu Puranikmath, Anita Shankar, Daniel Tuchler, Lynn Yu Advisors Ethan Rarick Susan Rasky The Berkeley Political Review is not an official publication of the University of California, Berkeley, or the ASUC. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the view of the University of California, Berkeley, or the ASUC. Advertisements appearing in the Berkeley Political Review reflect the views of the advertisers only. They are not an expression of editorial opinion or of the views of the staff.


Volume 10, No. 3 | April 2011

california 4 The Enemy Below How the next earthquake may shape California’s future 5 Breaking Boundaries Taking a closer look at California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission 6 Too Big, Too Irreversible California faces yet another budget crisis, and the stakes have never been higher 7 The Battle Over Smart Meters PG&E’s latest energy saving technology is met with fierce resistance

national 8 the controversial bargain The Wisconsin legislature reignites the debate over union rights 9 America’s Nuclear Future What our politicians don’t want you to know


The Hayward Fault cuts through Memorial Stadium.

Mark Zuckerberg has changed the face of social networking.



11 Nuclear renaissance or nuclear requiem A survey of global nuclear policy after the Fukushima disaster

16 partisan battles in america How the progressives can turn the tide

12 dark clouds on the horizon The rise of the far right in Europe and the United States 13 The obama anti-doctrine The President proves pragmatically flexible when it comes to foreign policy 14 Dawn or dusk? The land of the Rising Sun faces a long, dark road ahead

10 Hate is speech, too

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17 good luck, zuck The serendipity of Facebook’s founder

a&E 18 the situation goes to harvard 19 tina fey: the new face of femInism 19 celebrity meltdowns Our public fascination with famous people’s private trainwrecks



How the next earthquake may shape California’s future By Christopher Haugh


7.5 magnitude earthquake has just struck the Hayward Fault. From San Pablo to San Jose, the length of the strike-slip fault gyrates with the force of the restless tectonic crust. The shaking only lasts for a matter of seconds, but the damage is extensive. Older buildings are turned to rubble. Roads are pockmarked with collapsed culverts. Felled electrical wires snake dangerously across roads, leaving millions without power. Local law enforcement struggles to reassert its authority over panicstricken citizens. Emergency services are overwhelmed by the shear scope of the disaster: the entire Bay Area, a metropolitan area of 7.4 million, felt the shaking. UC Berkeley does not fare much better. The campus is cleaved in two by the fault, which runs insidiously below its lecture halls and classrooms. Structures straddling it are irreparably damaged. Memorial Stadium is disjointed and unstable – seemingly held upright by a thread. The earthquake of the century, long feared yet unexpected, has hit the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a post-apocalyptic scene to be sure, but in the wake of the Japanese earthquake-tsunami disaster this past March, the plausibility of a black swan event in California has been much discussed. A black swan event is a phenomenon so far out of the realm


training, and create emergency preparedness kits stocked with food and water. Unfortunately, the gap between accepted wisdom and reality is immense. In the Bay Area, only 10% of residents have a disaster plan, while fewer than half of all residents of rational possibility that its cost $231 billion dollars in prop- have adequate emergency supmere existence seems ludicrous. erty damage, displace 220,000 plies of water, food, and first aid. And yet, an earthquake of this people, destroy 90,000 homes, “There are a number of scale is far from inconceivable. and leave countless casualties. studies that show us that people While this scenario is still Such an event would be compa- are underprepared,” Scott said. hypothetical, it is becoming an rable to the destruction wrought “They are either not getting the imminent possibility. Indeed, upon the Gulf Coast follow- message or are not listening to the according to the United States ing Hurricane Katrina in 2005. message. It’s just not sinking in.” What is California doing to Geological Survey, there is a One way of combating Cali63% chance of a magnitude prepare for the coming tremor? fornia’s dearth of individual 6.7 earthquake striking one of CalEMA is working feverishly preparation is through commuthe Bay Area’s handful of faults to educate Californians about nity organization. For instance, within the next 30 years. More the dangers of the next earth- private citizens can sign up for forebodingly, the USGS predicts quake while simultaneously the Community Emergency Rea 46% chance of a devastating training emergency respond- sponse Team (CERT), which teaches local residents disaster response skills such as fire safety and rescue medical operations. Dr. Harvey Kayman, of the UCBerkeley School of Public Health, and an official in the California Department of Health Services, puts a premium on these types of community collaboration efforts. “The emergency in the village is the tiger at the gates,” Dr. Kayman said. “But generally Source: the village survives the tiger 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit- ers. Nonetheless, the govern- at the gates and it survives all ting in the same time period. ment can only do so much. the better if there is a coordiFEMA’s goal is to respond nated collaborative effort in the “History has shown that there to a disaster event community. The key here is not are fault lines runwithin 48 hours. necessarily getting all the buildning up and down What is CalEMA’s less ings and bridges right, it’s getthe state,” Jordan sanguine ap- ting the relationships right.” Scott of the CaliCalifornia doing proximation fornia EmergenAn earthquake is coming. It cy Management to prepare for the is 72 hours. In will be large and it will be destrucother words, in a Agency (CalEFor many apathetic Califorcoming tremor? disaster scenario tive. MA) said. “What nians, it is easy to remain willfully there is a long ignorant in the face of the ineviwe say around span when Cali- table. But burying one’s head in here is: ‘it’s not a question of if, it’s when is the fornians will be on their own. the sand won’t change the fact next earthquake going to strike.’” Indeed, the true onus is on in- that food, water, medical supThis theoretical earthquake dividuals to have well-developed plies, and communications will all on the Hayward Fault would plans, sign up for first responder be scarce. So, are you prepared? •


Taking a closer look at California’s By Mario Lopez


ack in 2008, California voters marginally passed Proposition 11 (50.9% vs. 49.1%), essentially divesting state legislative authority over the redistricting process and granting it instead to the citizens of California via the establishment of the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC). Initially, the CRC had oversight authority solely over Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization boundary districts. In 2010, however, Proposition 20 was passed, extending the CRC’s discretion to redrawing U.S. congressional districts as well. What exactly is redistricting? In a nutshell, it is the process by which electoral districts are redrawn the year after the decennial census occurs. First initiated in the 1960s, redistricting was meant to “equalize” district makeup so that no single voter population within a particular district would have more or less of a voice than another voter population in an adjacent district. This is otherwise known as the “one person, one vote” requirement. Both Prop 11 and Prop 20 were meant to keep elected officials accountable to the districts they wish to serve. Indeed, when legislators administered the redistricting process, they faced a conflict of interest: in light of their position of power, elected officials were free to redraw their own districts, thereby considerably improving their ability to stay in office. The initiatives hence sought to limit the gerrymandering process. One of the main arguments against the creation of the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission related to the fact that the 14-member board is


not entirely accountable to anyone, including voters. A checkand-balance system of sorts was included in the legislation to mitigate this problem, requiring at least nine “yes” votes (including at least three yes votes each from members registered with the two largest political parties, and three yes votes from the other members) before any proposed redistricting plan can be approved and eventually implemented. Approval also hedges on several specific criteria: (1) Compliance with the U.S. Constitution and the maintenance of reasonably “equal” populations, (2) compliance with the Voter Rights Act, (3) district contiguity, (4) maintenance of districts with “community interests,” (5) Drawing of districts to “encourage geographical compactness,” and lastly (6) the need for nested districts. Even these safeguards, however, did not completely do away with the troubles of coming up with a fair process. Several issues remained, such as the composition of the commission itself and whether it would be demographically representative of California’s economically, racially, and politically diverse population. Various community organizations, such as the Greenlining

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Institute, a multi-ethnic public policy research organization working to promote the interest of low-income and minority communities, strived to make sure that commission members selected were indeed demographically representative of the state. At the start of the selection process, approximately 70% of all 30,000 applicants were white, and about two-thirds of all applicants were male. Recent census data, however, reflect a different picture of California’s population. In 2010, whites accounted for approximately 42% of California’s population, whereas 37.1% were Latinos, 12.0% Asian American, and about 5.8% were black. The racial divide within the applicant pool was clear. Fortunately, the current racial composition of the commissioners is fairly diverse, given that 21% are Latinos, 29% are Asian, 14% are Black, 21% are White, and 7% are American Indian or Pacific Islander. Efforts to make the commission racially representative were therefore

largely successful, in no small part thanks to the constant advocacy efforts of groups like Greenlining. The commission itself is nonpartisan. Of the first eight randomly selected commissioners, three were Republican, three were Democrats, and two were either decline to state or registered with a third party. The initial 8 commissioners then selected the remaining six; in all, the 14-member panel is comprised of 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats, and 4 decline to state. The question is whether the it will be able to adequately redraw district lines in order to ensure that each voter is granted an equal opportunity not solely be heard, but to be valued. The task will be to create districts with the ability to elect representatives who will genuinely prioritize community interest rather than focusing on their own political careers. In a time of economic upheaval, partisan gridlock, and constant attacks on the civil rights of individuals, it is imperative that the electoral process remain as true as possible to the people. As the August 15th deadline to submit a proposed redistricting plan approaches, the commission must work diligently. The changes made will last for the next 10 years and will directly impact the economic and political dynamics of the state. We can at least rest assured that commissioners will do their best to keep the state’s diversity in mind. •

The commission itself is nonpartisan.”




By Michael Manset


ompared to polemical issues like healthcare or immigration, the budget seems like mundane administrative fare. Yet this is not the case: a budget reflects a legislative body’s values and preferences, and thus the process inherently becomes political. In good economic times, legislators and interests groups squabble over who gets the spoils of prosperity. In bad economic times, it is no longer a question of whose interests will benefit from the budget, but rather whose interests will be sacrificed. It is the latter scenario that California faces today, as Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature work to close a budget shortfall of approximately $28 billion dollars. California is hardly the only state dealing with a budget controversy; indeed, almost every state is. California’s budget crisis is, however, in some ways unique. Previous large deficits have already led to increased taxes and severe cuts to valued services. Additionally, past budgets have frequently been late, a result of California’s peculiar two-thirds supermajority requirement to raise taxes and pass a budget. Though Democrats have dominated both houses of the state legislature in recent years, they have found it difficult to peel off the necessary Republican votes. Frustrated with Sacramento dysfunction, California voters approved Proposition 25 last November, reducing the requirement to pass a budget to a simple majority, though leaving the supermajority regarding taxes in place. It is in this tempestuous context that this year’s budget debate began. Newly-elected Governor Jerry Brown presented his


budget proposal not long after taking office. Half of Brown’s proposal was made up of cuts, including taking an additional $1 billion from public higher education and completely eliminating funding for redevelopment agencies. The other half of Brown’s solution was to rely on the extension of temporary taxes set to expire at the end of the year. Rather than have the legislature directly vote to extend the taxes, the Governor attempted to fulfill a campaign pledge and have the legislature place the extensions on the ballot for a special election in June. “This is a matter that is too big, too irreversible to leave just to those whom you have elected,” said Brown in an online address to the public. Brown hoped that Californians would understand the consequences of an all-cuts budget and vote to support his tax extensions. It now appears they may never reach the ballot. Republicans were adamantly opposed to a special election, and Brown declared negotiations with the GOP dead in late March. With the prospect of Republican cooperation diminishing, Brown and Democrats in the state legislature now must decide where to go from here. The legislature has already passed most of the Governor’s cuts, leaving a shortfall of around $15.4 billion remaining. It now appears too late to call a special election for June, but Democrats may try to place the extensions on the ballot for a November special election with only a majority vote. Such a strategy would be

both politically risky and legally ambiguous, as it could violate the supermajority law regarding taxes. Variations of this plan are under consideration, but they all carry the same risk. An alternative to this strategy, and perhaps the most likely plan, would be for Brown to support an initiative to put the tax extensions up for a vote in November. While waiting until November (far beyond the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1) would heighten costs and uncertainty among state agencies and local government, the alternative of an all-cuts budget would be devastating. Such a budget would not spare K-12 education, and higher education would be hit hard yet again. At a March 16 meeting of the UC Board of Regents, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau stated “We

have no model to accommodate that $1 billion [in expected cuts]. It would devastate our staff and faculty.” Brown is fully aware of what an all cuts budget would mean to public higher education; he has estimated UC tuition could rise as high as $25,000. Democrats in the legislature have raised the specter of closing entire UC and CSU campuses. Californians hoped that the days of late budgets were behind them after passing Proposition 25. Yet it is beginning to appear that they were mistaken. Jerry Brown and Democrats in the legislature are doing all they can to solve the budget in part with revenues, even if that means the state sees a late budget once more. The alternative, $28 billion dollars in cuts, would wreak havoc on K-12 and higher education, welfare programs, public safety, and other valued services. The consequences would be, as Brown said, “too big, too i r r e ve r s ible.” •



PG&E’s latest energy saving technology is met with fierce resistance By Katie McCray PG&E has launched a massive venture that intends to place Smart Meters in every customer’s home by 2012. Smart Meters differ from standard analog meters in a number of ways: they track electric and gas usage data, periodically send this information directly to the supplier using wireless radios attached to the meter, and are able to distinguish the time of day that energy is being consumed. Smart Meters can thus enable low off-peak electricity rates, which would encourage customers to use energy much more efficiently. With universal Smart Meter presence comes the creation of a smart grid – an electricity network that uses two-way digital communication between consumers and suppliers for maximum energy efficiency. This smart system boasts many benefits for customers and for green growth. Smart Meters maximize energy efficiency through usage tracking, saving customers money and helping alleviate energy waste. By employing wireless communication to transmit usage rates, the devices eliminate the necessity for meter readers to e n t e r private property. Furthermore, smart grids are specifically designed to more effectively integrate renewable energy into the system. But despite all the good that Smart Meters can bring, PG&E’s plans for their universal installation has been met with fierce resistance. One of the main reasons for this outcry is PG&E’s lack of stakeholder engagement. Rather than informing the public of the benefits of these meters,


and allowing concerns to be aired and acknowledged before their installation, PG&E simply announced its plans for mandatory Smart Meter installation. Though unanimous consent is an unrealistic goal in so widespread a venture, working with customers is a must. Most worrisome are reports of health issues associated with Smart Meters. Accounts of migraines, insomnia, and other ailments that coincided with meter installation have spread rapidly, and grassroots organizations such as Stop Smart Meters! are loudly protesting installations throughout California. A woman in San Francisco claims a Smart Meter located seven feet beneath her bed caused her to have “less and less energy in the day time… and localized headaches” which led to severe tinnitus and dizziness, reducing her walking to staggering. Though PG&E maintains that the Radio Frequency (RF) emissions from Smart Meters meet Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Standards for radio transmitters of all types, critics argue that FCC standards are out-

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dated and that too little is known about potential repercussions of RF emissions. Despite a California Council on Science and Technology report that demonstrates Smart Meters’ minimal impact, stating “In our increasingly wireless society, smart meters account for a very small portion of RF emissions to which we are exposed,” many customers remain wary of the technology. City and County officials are increasingly being drawn into the battle: Marin County recently passed an ordinance demanding a one year moratorium on all Smart Meter installations, calling the devices a “current and immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare.” PG&E has responded to this wave of complaints by introducing an opt-out option for concerned consumers. Though customers bear the immediate costs in the form of a flat rate (for the removal and replacement of the meter) and a


monthly fee (to cover the cost of meter readers), the real price of opting out falls largely on the grid itself. Ratepayers in the smart grid may be affected if a large enough number of households opt-out, as the efficiency potential of the overall system will be diminished. Despite PG&E’s poor sales job, efforts to further integrate Smart Meters and build a smarter grid should move forward because they are key to future energy efficiency. These technologies optimize power flow, reduce electrical waste, and are able to maximize the use of lowest-cost generation resources. Lee Friedman, an economist and Professor of Public Policy and UC Berkeley who has researched climate change policies and utility regulation, puts it best: “During the day and particularly during hot summer days, the demand for electricity can get very high, straining our existing generating sources, and causing us to utilize the most expensive, often most polluting, generators of last resort. On the other hand, at night when demand is low, we have lots of unused generation capacity and can have our pick of which generators to use. There is also great wind generation capacity at night–so at very low cost, we can replace gasoline in our vehicles with much cleaner and less expensive off-peak electricity. But for this to work, households must have smart meters that know to charge them very low rates for this off-peak electricity demand.” •



The Wisconsin Legislature reignites the debate over union rights By Jon Goldstein


G&E has launched a massiFacing an estimated $3.6 billion budget deficit, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a bill on March 11 that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for all public sector unions except local police and firefighters, making it harder for unions to organize and forces union members to contribute more money into their pensions and towards their healthcare as well as capping wages. According to Gov. Walker this measure would save the state $300 million over the next two years. Riding the momentum of the Wisconsin bill, similar pieces of legislation have been introduced in other states, with one state, Ohio, having successfully passed a bill that goes beyond the Wisconsin bill, eliminating collective bargaining rights for police and firefighters and banning strikes by all public workers. Even though the bill in Ohio and similar bills in other states suggests a growing momentum for these anti-union bills, it is yet to be seen how these measures will affect the politicians who support them. In a tough economic climate where many states are struggling to fix their staggering deficits, the bill in Wisconsin has reawakened a struggle that has been playing itself out ever since the Industrial Revolution: the struggle between laborers and owners over the right to form unions and collectively bargain. Efforts to pass bills limiting such rights have been met with large demonstrations and immense


political pressure from unions and their supporters. The strong backlash to these bills demonstrates the lasting power and importance that unions have in many parts of the country. The effects of the bills in Wisconsin and Ohio on labor unions throughout the country will depend a lot on how the unions respond to these threats. If the unions can raise enough money to help elect candidates opposed to such bills, it is likely that many state legislatures will either repeal such laws or prevent them from being passed. In Wisconsin, recall efforts are being conducted

against legislative supporters of the bill and, after his first year in office, Gov. Walker will likely face a recall campaign against him as well. The success of these campaigns will be the first indication of how much popular support exists for union rights and could cause politicians to reconsider their stance on this issue. Notwithstanding the politically divisive nature of this bill, Gov. Walker claims the bill is not politically motivated, but is

rather needed to help deal with to compromise, Gov. Walker was the state’s budget deficit. While willing to stall the legislature for the governor may be correct three weeks in order to pass a bill that would only reduce about the need to the deficit by 8%. fix the state’s According to Gov. If Walker was seribudget gap, he fails, along Walker, this measure ous about reducing state deficit, it with the other would save the state the would be highly unRepublicans, $300 million over the likely that he would to explain how eliminatnext two years. spend such time to pass a bill that ing collective only makes a dent bargaining rights achieves such a goal. What in the state’s budget gap. Prof. is clear is that the bill’s projected Rothstein explains that there are savings come from the wage cap other motivations for standing so as well as the increased amount firmly behind this legislation, the workers would have to pay for most important being that that by weakening unions “you weaken an important funding source for Democrats.” It is quite clear that the Wisconsin labor bill is more of a political attack on the power of unions then a serious attempt to balance the budget. The national consequences of these anti-union bills depend on how labor unions and Republican legislators respond to the crisis. If unions can successfully mobilize to defeat similar bills and the bills’ Source: http:// supporters, politicians eager to stay in power might their healthcare and pensions: abandon efforts to restrict union concessions the public unions rights. However, if Republican have already agreed to make. The legislators can convince voters attempt to limit public unions that these measures are necescollective bargaining rights sary, similar bills may become “doesn’t seem primarily moti- law throughout the country. vated by budget [concerns],” Regardless of the outcome of says Professor Jesse Rothstein Wisconsin’s bill, which has been of the Goldman School of prevented from going into efPublic Policy Professor. In fact, fect due to a judge’s stay, the Gov. Walker’s unwillingness to tensions between public workers compromise on this part of the and governments that have been legislation shows that this bill is reawakened may end up changpolitically motivated. By refusing ing who holds political power. •


By Daniel Tuchler

ranted – I think it was President Obama’s worst decision to stop funding the project. Harry Reid and other officials have used this as a campaign issue to persuade the President and the people on false terms and has become a populist. It was a terrible thing that President Obama did. BPR: What are sensible alternatives to Yucca Mountain?

A one-on-one interview with UC Berkeley’s “Physics for Future Presidents” Professor Richard Muller on the misconceptions of American politics on nuclear energy. What are political figures saying that isn’t scientifically true? Berkeley Political Review: U.S. Senator and former nuclear advocate Joseph Lieberman wants the country to “put the brakes on” nuclear power while the fallout in Japan is examined. Could a reactor potentially “blow up like a bomb” as he and many citizens fear?

Professor Richard Muller: Politicians are quick to react based on what they see in the media without understanding the physics behind the policy they manage. Nuclear reactors can’t blow up like a bomb because a bomb depends on using fast neutrons. In a nuclear reactor, there is too much uranium-238 that absorbs fast neutrons. Therefore, a reactor cannot blow up like a nuclear bomb. A reactor could potentially explode like a dynamite bomb, but that isn’t strong enough to cause any harm to the surrounding area. BPR: President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise by zeroing out funding for Yucca Mountain in his budget last year. Is the Obama Administration’s fear of nuclear waste warranted?

RM: The fear of Yucca Mountain is completely unwar-


RM: Yucca Mountain. There should be more of them, we need to build more! Yucca Mountain is plenty safe enough. It will do the job and can actually store much more fuel than it is rated to store. There should be more of them opened. The best thing that can happen is for Yucca Mountain to be opened so everyone can see how well it functions. BPR: Policy makers are concerned that nuclear waste stored in local “pools” can become potential targets for terrorist attacks. Can an attack like that be catastrophic?

RM: It would be very bad, very bad. It is a vulnerable spot. I would say the events in Fukushima give us an indication of the harm that can be done when a waste storage area is destroyed in some way. They weren’t completely destroyed, but much of the fear from Fukushima came from the nuclear waste storage. This is something I’ll be concerned about for decades. We have to get fuel away from those places and into long-term storage solutions like Yucca Mountain. BPR: Do you think we should phase out the use of local storage pools like many U.S. officials wish to pursue?

RM: There always has to be some local storage because the fuel that comes out of the nuclear power process is highly radioactive and decays very rapidly. There always has to be some local storage but we should minimize that and make sure it’s secure

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to avoid any potential danger.

BPR: A few weeks ago, political commentator Ann Coulter wrote in a column about the Japanese nuclear crisis and claimed “at some level--much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government-radiation is good for you” and can reduce the risk of cancer. Is she right about the health effects of radiation?

RM: There have been scientific papers that suggest low levels of radioactivity could be helpful, but there have been opposing scientific studies as well. My own evaluation of these studies is that low levels are not helpful. This evaluation is not only based on scientific studies, because the numbers of radiation these studies deal with are so small that a scientist can’t really conclude their overall effect, but it is based primarily on my understanding of the mechanism of cancer induced by radioactivity. The fact is that we are already getting small levels of radioactivity daily and what we are doing is adding to the small levels, not just making small levels as a whole. I suspect that the linear hypothesis is correct: basically, as radiation exposure increases, the chance of cancer increases as well. BPR: Should Japanese or American citizens be concerned about health effects from the recent events?

RM: A nuclear cloud came over California, it was detected, but the level was so low that it took exquisite scientific instruments just to detect small numbers. The danger you suffer by crossing the street is much higher than possibly getting cancer from the events in Japan. If you stayed home because of the radiation, you’re actually safer because you didn’t cross the street. The levels that are considered dangerous in my mind are above 10 or 20 rem, the measurement of the “cloud” was in mi-

crorems, millions of times lower than any dangerous amount. BPR: Many people see nuclear energy as the solution to America’s “energy crisis” and dependency on the Middle East for oil. However, with the recent events in Japan, can the U.S. be sustainable without it?

RM: It is certainly plausible to stop using nuclear energy, but it is going to be exceedingly difficult to have sustainable energy. We can give up anything we want, but it reduces the likelihood of overall success. The rest of the world is going to go nuclear in any case. If we choose not to do it for any reason, it makes sustainability harder. BPR: How does nuclear energy compare to other alternatives like solar and wind power?

RM: Nuclear and wind power have the greatest chances of success in the United States. Solar power is going to remain pretty expensive in the U.S. because of the installation and the maintenance costs. I think we should push solar power so people find cheap solutions but in my opinion we should be pushing nuclear energy as hard as we can. An entire nation, like France, can run simply on nuclear electricity, why can’t the U.S.? Wind power is cheaper, but we need to construct too many power lines to make it work. The U.S. government should be building power lines to make this more feasible. I like all three types of power. If I had to rank them in terms of their importance in the U.S., I’d say wind power is on top, followed by nuclear energy and solar power. This is an excerpt from an in-depth interview with Prof. Richard Muller To read the full transcript, please visit our website at •



By Tom Hughes


n March 2, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the case Snyder v. Phelps. The decision received a great deal of publicity, both because the background of the case was incredibly emotionally charged and because the sympathetic litigants were arguing for a restriction on a cherished constitutional liberty. But the decision itself could hardly be described as groundbreaking or divisive: in accordance with longstanding precedent, a majority of eight out of the nine justices ruled in favor of Fred Phelps and the Constitution’s protection of freedom speech. The case had its origins in March 2006, at the funeral of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who died in a noncombat vehicle accident in Iraq. The funeral, which took place at a Catholic church in Westminster, Maryland, had some very unwelcome guests: the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. The WBC, known for its highly publicized protests that generally involve the display of hateful messages, picketed near the funeral, holding signs saying “America is doomed,” “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “You’re going to hell.” The WBC promotes the extremist view that America’s tolerance of homosexuality has made it a God-forsaken nation and garners media attention by protesting military funerals. Lance Corporal Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, sued WBC leader Fred Phelps for


damages in a case that eventually reached the Supreme Court. In an 8-1 decision consistent with decades of legal precedent, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Fred Phelps. Historically, the court has given a lot of leeway to speech regardless of its offensive content. One notable exception is the idea of “fighting words,” words so personally offensive that “by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace,” first recognized in the 1942 case Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. However, the court has been very cautious with its use of this doctrine and its scope has narrowed considerably. During the twentieth century, it held that the First Amendment protects those who advocate violence against racial minorities and the government so long as they do not incite specific acts of violence (Brandenberg v. Ohio, 1969), those who wear clothes with obscenities written on them (Cohen v. California, 1971), those who wish to hold a Nazi rally in a village with a large Jewish population (National Socialist Party v. Skokie, 1977), and those who desecrate the American flag (Texas v.

Johnson, 1989). With this tradition in mind, the majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, determined that the WBC protest was an admissible exercise of free speech. The WBC was 1000 feet away from the church where the funeral was held, on public land, and in compliance with police protocol. There was no guarantee that the attendees of the funeral would have heard the protest, and even Albert Snyder admitted he was not aware of it before seeing news coverage later that day. Their message, while hateful, was identified as being about public policy and not a personal attack. Only Justice Samuel Alito dissented and argued that the protest had been a personal assault on the Snyder family in an essentially private context. “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain” wrote the Chief Justice. Yet, he continued, “[a]s

a Nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” Freedom of speech is not an absolute right, but it comes pretty close. The court has been incredibly reluctant to restrict any speech that does not directly or explicitly lead to physical harm. Once we choose to infringe this liberty based on content, we show disrespect for individuals’ ability to rationally process information and to disregard or rebut vitriol and bigotry. Hate is speech too, but the best antidote for it is not government-backed suppression, but the legitimately exercised speech of others. The Westboro Baptist Church may believe that “America is doomed” because of its tolerance. Yet it is this very same spirit of openness and respect that allows them to spread their petulant views. The Supreme Court was forced to make a very unpopular decision in Snyder v. Phelps, but in doing so, it assured that our nation’s commitment to free speech is unwavering. And if America can be measured by our dedication to our constitutional principles, the Court proved that we certainly are not doomed.


A survey of global nuclear policy after the Fukushima disaster By David Hamilton


n the wake of what may be the most expensive earthquake of all time, the international nuclear energy industry has seen some of the largest aftershocks. When the shaking started, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in eastern Japan successfully shut down, but the tsunami that followed disconnected the plant from the electrical grid and flooded its backup diesel generator, leaving the plant’s cooling systems with no power. This caused the plant’s spent fuel reserve to overheat, leading to a partial meltdown and damage to the Fukushima containment structure by a hydrogen explosion. Workers are still taking action to contain the resulting radiation leak, though the health and environmental effects of the incident have been a topic of much debate. Within the 20km exclusion zone around the plant, the radiation levels are around .3 millisieverts per hour, and fall off sharply with distance: Tokyo, 200km away, is getting around .08 microsieverts per hour, and radiation from fallout in the United States is barely detectable. Although this is many times the normal levels of background radiation, the smallest levels linked to measurable health risks are around 100 millisieverts per year, which translates to long-term exposure to levels of 10 microsieverts per hour or higher. Although the quake and subsequent tsunami have left over 20,000 dead or missing


and half a million more homeless, the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant has dominated coverage of the Japan disaster, and will no doubt have a strong influence on nuclear energy policy in the near future. Possibly in response to the large protests have been seen in Japan over nuclear power following the events at Fukushima, a number of the country’s reactor construction projects have been delayed or cancelled by companies such as Chubu Electric and Hitachi. Naoto Kan, the Japanese Prime Minister, has drawn fire from his opponents in Japan’s liberal Democratic Party, who want him to step down due in part to his handling of the nuclear crisis. If an administration with an anti-nuclear agenda takes over in his place, there could be strong repercussions for the country’s nuclear industry. Germany, on the other hand, has already taken strong steps to move away from nuclear energy. In the wake of anti-nuclear protests in Germany, last month German chancellor Angela Merkel suspended a plan that would have extended the life of German plants and declared a moratorium on nuclear power, shutting down seven of the country’s 17 plants for at least three months. This was not enough to prevent a defeat of Merkel’s ruling party in a recent set of elections, where anti-nuclear sentiment led to a surge of support for the Green party. It is likely that Germany will make plans to decommission more of its plants in the near future, and increase its investment in solar, gas and coal powered sources of electricity.

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Most other countries seem unlikely to implement such major change, however. Although France’s energy authorities have announced a plan to audit and expand their nuclear safety procedures, there is little talk of moving away from the industry. France generates nearly 80% of its energy using nuclear power, so developing alternative sources of energy would require a considerable investment of time and capital. L a s t month, China temporarily halted its construction of new nuclear plants, but the huge scope of their nuclear expansion program makes this hiatus unlikely to last long. China, currently operating 13 nuclear reactors, has 27 plants currently under construction and plans to construct at least 50 more in the near future. Although the recent nuclear scare may cause Chinese authorities to scale back this program somewhat, China’s power consumption is projected to increase dramatically this decade, putting heavy pressure on the country to continue their plans. India, a country whose energy needs are also expected to climb in the near future, has seen some opposition to its nuclear energy policy. An open

letter signed by fifty prominent Indian figures called for a moratorium on the country’s construction of new plants, and plans to build the world’s largest nuclear plant in the port of Jaitapur have been complicated by ongoing protests. However, this has not yet led to any official action from India, and negotiations for reactor purchase are still underway between India and international companies. While it will take years to accurately assess the environmental impact of the Fukushima incident, the impact on the international nuclear industry has been rapid and decisive in some c o u n t r i e s. However, in regions where investment is heavy in nuclear energy, nuclear power is most likely here to stay. chase are still underway between India and international companies. While it will take years to accurately assess the environmental impact of the Fukushima incident, the impact on the international nuclear industry has been rapid and decisive in some countries. However, in regions where investment is heavy in nuclear energy, nuclear power is most likely here to stay. •

Within the 20km exclusion zone around the plant, the radiation levels are around .3 millisieverts per hour.”



The rise of the far right in Europe and the United States By Richard Audoly A quick glance at European and American politics and one thing is evident: the far right is back. The last midterm elections in the United States saw a strong showing for the Tea Party. It defeated Democrats in states from Wisconsin to South Carolina, and managed to push its controversial platform into the spotlight. Europe has witnessed a similar trend over the past few years.

Politicians from far-right parties in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands have secured a rising number of seats in national legislatures as well as in the European Parliament, and even key positions in government. In France, the populist National Front is back. The party, created in the 1980s by JeanMarie Le Pen with a fascistic and anti-Semitic program, grew steadily during the 1990s, culminating in the 2002 presidential election when it defeated Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin and made it to the run-off against incumbent Jacques Chirac. Its poor performance in 2007


led many political commentators to declare it “residual”. But Marine Le Pen—who took over the party after her father retired— now appears in a position to challenge the establishment parties in 2012. With her party polling between 22% and 24% during the past few months, another run-off between the National Front and the Socialist Party or the incumbent Union for Popular Movement looks very plausible. It goes without saying that the economic crisis is connected with the rise of anti-establishment rightwing parties. Lay-offs and budget cuts have deeply disillusioned voters with the ruling parties, feeding support into the far-right parties, who often blame immigrants for economic troubles. And this phenomenon has shown up on both sides of Marine Le Pen the Atlantic. Far-right parties all put forward a national identity of some sort. The parties’ names reflect a nationalistic emphasis, with explicit references to the nation—National Front, Swiss People’s Party—or, like with the Tea Party Patriots, to constitutive elements of the nation’s narrative. And, they all attack fiercely central institutions: in their rhetoric, Federal bureaucrats in Washington D.C. and Eurocrats in Brussels are turned into scapegoats responsible for anything that goes wrong. In waddition, the far right across Europe and the US reject the “other.” Migrants, especially

from Africa, the Middle East, or Mexico, are blamed for job losses and competition in the labor market. Furthermore, Islam has become the new cultural enemy. Across Europe, most far-right parties have given up their traditional neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic doctrines to focus on Islam. In 2009, the Swiss People’s Party started a referendum aiming at constitutionally prohibiting the construction of new minarets. 57.5% of the Swiss electorate approved it. And in the US, the recent debates about the “Ground Zero Mosque”, fueled by Tea-Party officials and conservative commentators, show that Islam is an equally vulnerable target for ultra-conservative politicians on this side of the Atlantic. But even if these parties share the same general ideology, they prioritize their objectives differently. While national debt reduction, a commitment to lower taxes, and some kind of monetary protectionism are themes that appear sporadically in the discourse of these parties in Europe, they are core components of the Tea Party’s platform. Electoral Successes? Across the Atlantic Ocean, anti-establishment rightwing parties are gathering momentum. By elaborating a national rhetoric based on the fear of the global world, they have secured large numbers of voters, among those afraid or victim of the globalization process. In many countries,

working class voters have switched from the left to the far right. But it remains unlikely that they would get high-level positions; for instance, a Tea Party Republican presidential candidate would likely drive independent voters away to the Democratic Party. However, as they continue to win significant parts of the electorate, they could end up influencing policy on key issues indirectly: regular right-wing parties could be tempted to incorporate their proposition for electoral reasons. In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy’s landslide victory against the left in France was, at least partly, the result of his ability to capture National Front voters, emphasizing its traditional nationalist themes. A similar trend can be observed in the US, where the Tea Party economic agenda has become a de facto plank of the Republic platform. In this context, it is high time for mainstream parties in the US and in Europe to convincingly address these issues. Only by coming up with clear counterproposals on such questions as deficits, protectionism and immigration will they succeed in curbing the rise of the far right. •

Sarah Palin


The President proves pragmatically flexible By Luis Flores Jr. Almost immediately after President Obama’s March 28 speech explaining his rationale for intervention in Libya, headlines began declaring the birth of the “Obama Doctrine”. However, an examination of the ambiguities in the speech, the actions in Libya and the president’s past writings on foreign intervention, reveal something much more fluid than a doctrine, a highly pragmatic and rather anti-doctrinal approach to foreign intervention. A doctrine, as far as foreign affairs and military strategy are concerned, consists of both a set of principles and policies and, in the words of the Lexington Columnist for The Economist, “a way of being able to predict often how [the President] will react to crises out there in the world.” The President’s speech only addresses half of what a doctrine would, and rather vaguely. In his speech at National Defense University, the President outlined only a set of general principles and the ideal means of foreign intervention. Obama left unexplained, perhaps purposefully, the set of concrete circumstances that would warrant U.S. intervention—like those clearly outlined in the Monroe and Truman doctrines. Harvard intellectual historian, James T. Kloppenberg claims Obama, in his past writings, has “addressed directly the nagging conflict between the lure of


universalism and the hard facts of particularism.” Particularism was central to the decision to intervene in Libya and not on behalf of the protestors in Bahrain and Yemen. After the successful and self-sustaining uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the same was hoped for in Libya. Gadaffi, however, brutally fought the initially peaceful protesters and went on to terrorize the city of Bengazi. “At this point,” explained the president, “the United States and the world faced a choice. Gaddaffi declared he would show ‘no mercy’ … it was not in our national interest to let that happen,” broadly expanding American interests to humanitarian causes. However, the president explains that severe repression alone cannot guarantee U.S. intervention. “America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs…. Given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always

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measure our interests against the need for action,” said Obama in his hardly doctrinaire explanation, emphasizing that “in this particular country… at this particular moment… we had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action.” It is perhaps the president’s reliance and condition of international support that sets his approach to foreign intervention apart from, most recently, the Bush Doctrine. The first official call for intervention in Libya came on February 21 from Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations Ibrahim Debbashi. Following quickly were additional calls to action from the Arab League, Britain’s Prime Minister, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Libyan rebels themselves. Then on March 10, France recognized the Libyan rebels as the legitimate government. Finally on March 19, the U.N. Security Council passed the resolution that would enforce a nofly zone over Libya, a resolution submitted by Lebanon’s Ambassador to the U.N. This change to a dependence on international support would be no surprise to readers of Obama’s The Audacity of Hope in which he foreshad-

owed his actions in Libya: “Once we get beyond matters of selfdefense, though, I’m convinced that it will almost always be in our strategic interest to act multilaterally rather than unilaterally when we use force around the world.” Finally, while previous doctrines have been concerned with the reconstruction of nations after intervention, the President warned of the difficulties that would arise from “regime change” and “nation building” missions. “The transition to a legitimate government will be a task for the international community, and –more importantly –a task for the Libyan people themselves” said the President limiting America’s role in reconstruction, “To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq.” While Obama’s speech on the Libyan intervention does not constitute a doctrine, the Economist’s Lexington columnist does concede, “while we don’t know whether the president might intervene in some particular future case… he has a pretty clear idea of how America should intervene in the future.” •

Muammar Gaddafi and Barack Obama, not friends anymore.



The Land of the Rising Sun faces a long, dark road ahead

Source: By Hinh Tran Twenty years ago, Democratic presidential contender Paul Tsongas declared, “The Cold War is over, and Japan won.” However, the Japan of today little resembles the economic powerhouse of the 80s, nicknamed Japan Inc., that many predicted would overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy. Brought to its knees by a disastrous combination of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a 125 foot tall tsunami, and an ongoing nuclear meltdown, Japan now faces the colossal task of reconstruction, estimated to cost over $300 billion, not including the nearly 30,000 people thought to have been killed and the hundreds of thousands more displaced. In addition to these direct costs, Japan now has to deal with the indirect consequences of these disasters. The Japanese government has announced that it will be three to five years before normal electricity production can be restored, as damage to various nuclear reactors has impacted 20-30% of the nation’s electrical grid (the Daiichi Fukushima nuclear plant itself is responsible for generating 2% of Japan’s power). These shortages are worsened by Japan’s bi-


sected national power grid; the West, which escaped relatively unscathed, operates its system at 60Hz and thus cannot transfer power to the East, which operates at 50Hz and is responsible for powering the Tokyo metropolis, home to a quarter of the nation’s population. Manufacturers such as Sony and Toyota have announced cutbacks in production as they attempt to conserve energy and parts necessary for their products. Unfortunately, this will only undermine market share in industries crucial to Japan’s economy recovery. A recent article in the The Economist explains how disruptions in the global supply chain, especially in industries dependent on Japanese suppliers, are leading some companies to try and diversify (Japanese expertise and ingenuity notwithstanding) towards other alternatives. But even before disaster struck, Japan had faced a litany of problems. Since the collapse of its real estate and stock market in 1991, which wiped out tens of trillions of dollars of wealth, the country has been mired in a “Lost Decade”- now twenty years long- of stagnant economic growth, persistent deflation, and a general economic malaise. The Great Recession of 2008 also dealt a harsh blow to

Japan’s export-oriented economy, with some industries, such as its famous auto companies, registering a 70% decline in exports. These economic difficulties allowed China, a historically bitter rival, to vault past Japan in February 2011 to become the world’s second largest economy, a title that had been in Japanese hands since 1968. Indeed, as a percentage of world GDP, the Japanese economy has declined from a high of 18% in 1994 to just 8% today. In addition to the above problems, Japan is also grappling with severe structural problems. A nation of 130 million people, it now has one of the world’s lowest birthrates, such that by 2050, its population will fall to less than 100 million people. The decline in fertility rates, from a replacement rate of 2.1 in 1980 to less than 1.3 children per woman today, is due in part to conflicts between raising a family and pursuing a career, leading many people to put off marriage until they are financially secure. The ensuing demographic decline will place immense pressure on its national pension systems, exacerbating an existing demographic gap between the nation’s young and elderly, who enjoy the world’s highest life ex-

pectancy rate of more than 81 years. Indeed, in 2007 the Japanese government paid out ¥90 trillion ($820 billion) in social security benefits, but that number will only balloon as the Silver Tsunami of aging baby boomers begin to retire, supported by a rapidly shrinking labor force. While policymakers in the United States have sounded the alarm about the pending insolvency of Social Security for decades, Japan will have to confront its budget realities even sooner (its workerto-retiree ratio will reach 1.4:1 by 2020, compared to 2.9:1 for the United States). Yet, Japan’s leadership is woefully ill-equipped to deal with these problems. Since 1987, only one Prime Minister has served longer than two years: crusading reformer Junichiro Koizumi (2001-2006). All of his successors have yet to survive longer than one year, most of them resigning under a cloud of scandal or blocked by parliamentary deadlock in the National Diet. Even with competent leaders at the helm, Japan’s flexibility in responding to the nation’s pressing problems is hobbled by its crippling indebtedness. Its debt-toGDP ratio is currently at continued on next page

INTERNATIONAL mediate crisis. While the amount of debt is huge in absolute terms, the Japanese government pays a near-zero interest rate on it, due to the fact that 95% of the debt is held domestically by Japanese citizens and companies who are known for their propensity to save and invest in risk-free government bonds. In addition, the government still has the ability to raise significant amounts of new revenue; Japanese tax rates are about 7 percentage points lower than the OECD average for developed economies, meaning moderate tax increases will probably not crimp Japanese competitiveness. Moreover, vast inefficiencies in government spending can easily be Still waiting on eliminated. Each year, a successful nearly $100 succesor. billion are spent on infrastructure, much of it on wasteful pork-barrel spending on Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi building use-

continued from page 14 225%, or more than $10 trillion (by comparison, the US ratio is a little less than 100%). Indeed, the Japanese government currently spends 60% of all tax revenue just to service the national debt, which will only grow as the government begins to finance reconstruction of the provinces impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. What then, can Japan do? While the price-tag on reconstruction is estimated to cost at least $300 billion, some of that will be borne by individuals and insurance companies. And even with its staggering debt levels, the Japanese government is in no im-


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less damns and roads and bridges to nowhere, in a country that already has one of the world’s most advanced infrastructures. While these patronage projects may be difficult to eliminate, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has made some progress in paring back excesses, a trademark of the former ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). However, these will do little to address the structural problems underlying Japan’s malaise. In response to Japan’s demographic decline, the government has begun to offer child allowances, extended maternity leave, and more childhood nurseries to encourage family formation. But while these measures may help, few expect it to stabilize Japan’s population. The only realistic option is to increase immigration into the country, which would shore up a shrinking labor force and inject new ideas and skills into the economy. However, Japan is a highly homogenous nation; more than 98% of the population is ethnically Japanese and society puts a high value on harmony and communitarianism.

An immigration rate of 650,000 people annually would be needed to stabilize the population, but some argue it would generate social tension and engender political opposition. Nevertheless, such measures will be necessary if Japan is to maintain its standard of living. While the problems that face Japan today are manifold, the country has shown remarkable resilience and strength in its history. Less than half a century after the arrival of the Black Ships and the end of Japan’s isolation, the country emerged as a Great Power. After 100,000 people were killed and Tokyo was levelled in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, most of the city was rebuilt within two years. And just 23 years after Japan was reduced to ashes by firebombing and nuclear warfare in World War II, the country became the world’s second largest economy. It is said that the night is darkest before the dawn; perhaps the same can be said for the Land of the Rising Sun. •



How the progressives

what. 20-30% of us would vote for a prokaryote if it had an ‘R’ next to its name. Victory, as always, will go to whoever can win the middle. That, as you may have guessed, is the point of this article. Moderates (if you’re readPunching infants in the face? ing), I’m wondering: what would That’s the only one I made up. the GOP have to do to lose No decent person can deyour support entirely? I have fend this behavior. No rational seen you contort yourselves person should try. It is time to into absurd shapes arguing that redefine open-mindedness. For they still have your best interests too long, we have thought that at heart, but I don’t think you for every believe that. The issue, there Democrats, for all must be two of their faults, grow equally valid No decent a spine when backed points of into a corner. person can view. This is The Republicans defend this ridiculous. cave. Consider the It stopped Republican Study behavior. No being relCommittee’s budget rational person proposal. The evant when Beck and Democrats, realizing should try.” Limbaugh that it would never became relget past the Senate, evant. Don’t voted “present” even pretend that anyone on the instead of “no”. House Republileft compares to them. cans, realizing that one of their Countless moderate-to-right- hard-line policies might actually leaning folks have told me that pass, voted down their own bill. I’m failing to see both sides of Is this the work of people who the issue. Do they ever realize walk the walk? that calling others narrow-mindDemocrats speak softly, but ed is itself a sign of narrowthey want to move this country mindedness? Unfortunately, I forward. Republicans would can’t just write them off. They’re move us back to the Stone Age going to decide the future of for a few more seats in Conour nation. A healthy portion of gress. It is time for those of us us will vote Democrat no matter who still believe in the American Dream to ask ourselves what John Boehner we will sacrifice to make it a reality. I sacrifice my desire to avoid hurt feelings, shooting my mouth off to jar others out of their complacency. Moderates, will you sacrifice that complacency? Republicans will sacrifice their humanity. Democrats will sacrifice all but their most key principles. I know what I think of that. What do you? •

can turn the tide By Patrick Niemeyer When I look towards the future of this country and the partisan battles that we anticipate in Washington, I am neither angry nor despairing. I am serene. I would not say that I am hopeful. But I’m not as angry as I could be. A few months ago, the news that the Senate barely prevented the House GOP from defunding Planned Parenthood would have sent me into an uncontrollable rage. Now, I just shrug. So the Republicans are terrible people. What else is new? I want to make something clear: I am not resigned to another year or two of holding back the Republican beast. I believe that that is doable. But I also believe that we—the liberals, the progressives, the people who have an ounce of sanity— are capable of much more. Whether we can swing the arc of history back towards justice in this troubled time remains to be seen. We have a lot going for us, you know. We have a president who wants to do the right thing,

even if he does it sluggishly. We have voices in the media—Maddow, Stewart, Cooper—who will not be cowed by charges that they are being unfair in calling GOP lawmakers out for the lies that they unrepentantly tell. A lie is a lie is a lie, and no amount of whining about the elitist liberal media will change the fact that sometimes one side is clearly right and the other one is wrong, end of discussion, byebye, see you later. And we have brave souls in Congress—Frank, Pelosi, Weiner—who lay to rest the idiotic myth that liberals are weak. Macho posturing doesn’t make one strong. If it did, John Boehner would be Superman, and he’s as puny a man as any I’ve seen. So, what now? I asked myself this question as I watched Joe Crowley’s recent presentation on the House floor. There are no words to express what I think of the House GOP’s first 100 days. Every time I think these putrid piles of sludge can’t go any lower, they do. Threatening to block healthcare for 9/11 first responders? Check.

Redefining rape to deny traumatized women abortions? Check.



Go on, Barack. Make this asshole cry.


By Alex Kravitz Mark Zuckerberg is very lucky. He owns and runs one of the largest modern opiates of the masses. Therefore, we have cause to analyze Zuck’s luck by asking four questions: Is Facebook a sinister force that Mark Zuckerberg designed to steal users’ personal information? Is Facebook an incredibly useful tool for social networking and interaction? Is Facebook a way of life unlike any we’ve seen before? Are these answers mutually exclusive? Firstly, let me answer the fourth question: No, these answers are not mutually exclusive. Each of the first three questions frames a different view of the same object, so the views might overlap and present different images, but they are not mutually exclusive. Much like the story of the three blind men and the elephant, each question’s answer reveals a different aspect of the gestalt. Each frame of reference is equally valid, and by viewing the whole through multiple frames, we find answers that mutually form a more complete picture.

Secondly, I will answer the first question: Yes, Facebook is a sinister that force Zuckerberg designed to steal users’ personal information. Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas wrote a piece for the 20 September 2010 New Yorker titled “The Face of Facebook” in which he examined Zuckerberg’s motivations based on all the evidence he could find. One of the most telling aspects of the article is the once-private conversation between a preFacebook Zuckerberg and a friend that the Silicon Valley Insider acquired and published last year: ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard ZUCK: just ask

Mark Zuckerberg

We found this image from the aptly named

ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns [screen names] FRIEND: what!? how’d you manage that one? ZUCK: people just submitted it ZUCK: i don’t know why ZUCK: they “trust me” ZUCK: dumb fucks Clearly, we write things we later regret on the Internet, and quite often, those who we thought we could trust wind up saving a record of what we thought would be ephemeral and we wind up with egg on our face. In Zuckerberg’s case, the egg is T-rex and it covers his whole body. After I read what Zuck wrote, I considered quitting Facebook for good and encouraging others to do the same. However, I thought about Facebook from another angle and came to answer the second question: Yes, Facebook is an incredibly useful tool for social networking and interaction. I’ve been part of extracurricular groups for a long time, and I remember how they got information out to members and non-members prior to Facebook: word-of-mouth and telephoning. Then it was emails, and then it was text messages. Then Facebook came along, and now it’s almost exclusively Facebook for most information. That’s because we don’t need to use any other form of communication. Of course, all the other



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forms of communication still exist, and if Facebook disappeared today, we’d go on living just fine. Therefore, Facebook is a tool of social networking and interaction upon which we’ve become somewhat dependent, but which we can easily live without. Considering my previous conclusion, the third question has one obvious conclusion: No, Facebook is not a way of life unlike any we’ve seen before. We all know that people were able to communicate with each other prior to Facebook. We also know that part of this communication has always involved deceit. Just as sure as humanity invented the conception of Truth with a capital ‘T’, so too did such an invention necessitate a counterpart, the lie. So deceit has always been around and businessmen and con artists have always relied upon it. I ask you to keep this in mind as you consider how Facebook is both a sinister force and a tool of interaction. The very fact that every invention throughout humanity has been used for both good and evil shows Facebook is not a new way of life. Specifically with regard to Internet fraud, Wikipedia devotes an entire article to the topic, detailing more than 26 varieties of deceit that took hold from the mid-1990s through 2005 – the year Thefacebook. com finally became Facebook. Nigerian prince, romance and money transfer scams all predated Facebook and proved people would give out all their personal information online. Facebook is part of a general trend. And it seems the information we give Zuckerberg mostly goes into targeting ads toward us that we don’t have to click. Is that so horrible? After all, we can quit any time we want. •



Is your future in their spraytanned hands?

The Situation and Snookie Source: 18


magine yourself as a high school student (for those of you that are, congratulations! Less thinking for you) in your junior or senior year. The pressure of your peers, parents, and relatives for the past three years has been really starting to get to you. You strive for academic success. In fact, you are quite the scholar, investing your time into loads of extracurricular activities and fighting with teachers if need be to make sure you get every, single point you deserve. You have to get into an elite school; you’ve got no other choice. You’ve worked yourself far too hard to accept any school other than Harvard, Yale, or Berkeley. Yet, still one thing stands in your way: the deadly SAT. The one test that has taken many-astudent’s dreams of going to a fantastic college and single-handedly ripped them to shreds. You’ve spent hundreds of dollars on preparatory courses to make sure you ace this test and fallen asleep facedown in your prep book on more than one occasion. Finally, the day arrives. You sit down to take the exam, open up your test booklet, and read the essay prompt. Suddenly you realize that your future is dependent on your knowledge of a man whose life revolves around hitting the gym, tanning, and doing laundry. That man is Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. Now you’re thinking: What the fuck?!? How in the world is your future riding on your knowledge of a reality television star? This was precisely the

reaction of the thousands of students who took the SAT last March when they saw that their SAT essay question centered around the legitimacy of reality television, and whether it was beneficial or harmful to society. According to the Washington Post, “the question is asking about reality television, and assumes that all students: have a television, watch reality television, and watch enough reality television to distinguish between them.” Among those students who don’t watch television and especially not reality television, this sparked a huge uproar. After all, who would have thought that their entrance to Harvard would be based on something like the baby mama drama on Teen Mom? But the fact that this question made it into the SAT begs an interesting question: has reality TV really become a staple of American society? Unfortunately, it seems that it has. In fact, the roots of reality television can be traced all the way back to Rome, where, during hard economic times, people gathered and socialized to watch gladiator fights. Watching these real, dangerous situations unfold helped them to escape the hardships of their own lives. The United States finds itself in a similar state today as more and more people are flocking to reality television as a relief from their own lives. Although reality television may be doubtful in its authenticity, the fact remains that Americans are being given an odd feeling of satisfaction as they watch

real people deal with problems that are, in many cases, much worse than their own. However, based on a statement released to The Daily Beast, it seems as though the College Board sees reality television shows as an important facet of American life, thus warranting the decision to put this question on the SAT: “We acknowledge that not all students spend valuable hours watching realitytelevision shows, nor are we recommending that students watch these programs. However, we have found from our pretesting that students not only grasp but are quite interested in the underlying issues covered in the prompt: the effect of television on society; the desire for fame and celebrity on the part of ‘ordinary people’; and the authenticity and value of various “realistic” representations—an issue central to the study of painting, film, drama, and literature” So, to you March SAT test takers still angry about the topic given to you on the essay, you may be entitled to be outraged. But it’s important to think hard about why this topic even came up on the SAT. It’s tough out there in the United States for the people who actually have to work for a living instead of studying. In a few years, when you have to start working, maybe you will finally understand the relief of reality television. Heck, give me a call: I’ll even sit down and watch the 8th season of Jersey Shore with you. •

-Mihir Deo


Source: By Anita Shankar Since the critical success of her show, 30 Rock, Tina Fey has been hailed both as the thinking man’s sex symbol and the educated woman’s role model – two personas often at odds. Her success has launched a new brand of feminism (Liz Lemonism) based both on her character, Liz Lemon, and her various Saturday Night Live personas. Recent criticism from fans came due to: Fey’s return to SNL, in which she bashed Jesse James’ other woman; and an episode of 30 Rock entitled “TGS Hates Women”, in which Fey’s character struggles to convince a new female employee to drop her “sexy baby” act because it degrades women. The criticism of Fey’s SNL appearance-that

By Neetu Puranikmath Celebrity meltdowns are like train wrecks: horrible and tragic, but we just can’t look away. Just look at Twitter’s trending topics this past March: Charlie Sheen, Rebecca Black, and the usual latest round of breakups. To be fair, Rebecca Black hasn’t had a meltdown yet, but if the 2,067,572+ YouTube dislikes on her infamous video Friday are any indication, there are more individuals hoping for a R. Black breakdown than there are living in Slovania. This obsession with celebrity meltdowns is not isolated to the United States. England has singer Amy Winehouse, who is known for her very public substance abuse issues, which have been front-page news since 2007 and the subject of her well-known single Rehab. It’s almost as though Winehouse is LiLo, Britney, and Paris all rolled into one. This fascination with the private affairs of famous people is one reason reality TV is such a hit. Shows such as The Real Housewives Series, Jersey Shore, and Laguna Beach would not be so popular if Americans did not enjoy having a front row seat for drama. Let’s be honest: would BERKELEY POLITICAL REVIEW

APRIL 2011

she slandered women for promiscuity instead of men for adultery-appears to contradict the lesson of Fey’s show. Liz Lemon’s attempt to change her employee’s manipulation of men backfires in an unexpected plot twist when she learns the her act is part of a ruse to elude her abusive ex-husband. Thus, Fey presents the metaphorical ‘dangers’ of judging other women’s behavior when that behavior is more often than not a manifestation of the treatment women receive from others. However, it is Fey’s new book Bossypants, an undeniable response to the misogyny she has faced in her career, which is more apt to judge Fey’s true opinions. She explains that she wrote the book because, “people have asked me ‘Is it hard for you, being the boss?’…in the same way they say, ‘Gosh, Mr. Trump, is it awkward for

you rather see Snooki volunteering at a hospital or pulling out some girl’s weave? The true Mother of all Meltdowns, however, would have to go to pop-princess Britney Spears. Spears’ 2007 head shaving incident made Christina Aguilera’s raunchy, “Dirrty” transformation in 2002 look like child’s play. Spears also found herself embroiled in an ugly custody battle with exhusband K-Fed, abusing drugs, and struggling to keep her singing career afloat. Why do we care so much when the Winehouses, LiLos, and Britneys of the world fail? Gossip blogger Mario Lavandeira, better known as Perez Hilton, says the compulsion to follow celebrities’ gossip is akin to rubbernecking during a car accident: a horrible sight we can’t help but be fascinated by.

you to be the boss of all these people?’” Fey’s feminism is most often and most competently directed at the ridiculous way in which society tends to portray women: in her case, the stigma that women are uncomfortable in positions of power. Liz Lemon is not merely a mouthpiece for Fey, but also serves well as a caricature of these stigmas. Liz Lemon is a woman who balances her moderate success in the T.V. industry by scarfing down Roadster sandwiches and brownies, losing boyfriends repeatedly due to her control issues, and stealing babies’ shoes because of her ticking biological clock. By all indications she is the quintessential example of how a woman cannot “have it all”, yet, written by a woman who has it all. •

Source: As a culture, we put celebrities on a pedestal. Most Americans view celebs as rich, famous, beautiful, and everything else they want to be. Some of us live our lives vicariously through them. When a celebrity fails, it can either personally disappoint a fan, or serve to reinforce that they aren’t superior to us. By seeing that they are just as fallible as anyone else, we feel better about ourselves. • 19

Summer 2011  

The Berkeley Political Review's Summer 2011 Issue.