The Bellarmine Political Review by Tanay Kothari ‘11 Liberal
ormer presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson once noted, “Man is a strange animal. He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.” For months after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released classified reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our government did nothing to respond. Now, with hundreds of thousands of diplomatic documents as leverage, Mr. Assange has finally made his mark on America’s political radar. This leaves many wondering whether the government was overly lax in its approach to this possibility, and how it should act from here. Though many can speculate on the former issue, it is the latter that must be examined in great depth, for it presents a variety of possible approaches that will encounter varying degrees of success and uniquely affect America’s global reputation. Backlash against Mr. Assange is understandable—his actions released classified information that should not have reached the ears of the global community and were largely unexplained beyond his selfproclaimed motive of promoting a free press. However, within hours of this latest leak, many prominent conservatives had advocated unreasonable solutions. In descending order from irresponsible to ignorant to undiplomatic, Mike Huckabee called for Mr. Assange’s execution, Sarah Palin equated his actions with those of the Taliban, and Bill O’Reilly accused him of treason. Palin’s allega-
Staff Editors-in-Chief/Layout Alex Noronha ‘11 Stephen Cognetta ‘11 President Tanay Kothari ‘11 Writers Nick Mai ‘11 Robby Galliani ‘11 Ian Vernon ‘11 Matt DeCoste ‘11 Naman Trivedi ‘12 Sanjeet Raman ‘12 Nimit Sohoni ‘12 Aditya Limaye ‘12 Ankit Aggarwal ‘12 Abrar Choudhary ‘12 Aditya Mukund ‘13 Madhu Vijay ‘13
tions that Mr. Assange jeopardized the lives of American citizens by leaking this information are particularly curious—and were refuted in their entirety by Stanford professor Tunku Varadarajan. Professor Varadarajan argues that this information simply makes American diplomacy tougher in the future (a charge that could
well be applied to Blackwater, Halliburton, and the United Fruit Company), and that much of the blame lies with the State Department for making its information accessible, literally, to thousands of people. Even beyond the fact that Mr. Assange, as an Australian, cannot be charged for treason against the United States, the
Letter from the Editors Dear Bellarmine Community, I am pleased to present to you our Fall Edition of the Bellarmine Political Review. As Political Review president Tanay Kothari ’11 asserts, “The purpose of the Political Review is to offer students an opportunity to express their views on important political issues and to be recognized for their writing abilities.” As our great nation faces sluggish economic recovery, two wars in the Middle East, and fervent partisanship in Washington, now is the time to embrace political discussion and debate—especially among our young generation. As the Political Review is a relatively young newspaper, we strongly encourage anyone and everyone to join us as a writer or layout designer for next semester’s publication. Happy reading, Alex Noronha ‘11 Stephen Cognetta ‘11 Editors-in-Chief
comments made by these individuals reject the variety of pragmatic solutions that do exist. The most beautiful solution is for America to do nothing at all to Mr. Assange—for now. The publisher is in an interesting position because if he stays true to his goal of promoting uncompromising, blind global transparency, he should end up upsetting more international governments than just America. If that becomes the case, Mr. Assange will eventually have enough of a struggle finding asylum that WikiLeaks will be forced to compromise. Conversely, if Mr. Assange’s activities continue to display definite anti-American sentiments, our government will have solid justification for taking him down through legal means. For now, though, the government would be wise to pass and put the ball in Mr. Assange’s court to see what he will do next. The collapse of WikiLeaks may then seem inevitable, but even that is avoidable if the organization releases a charter that specifically outlines its goals, or what it plans to do with the information it has. Supporters of WikiLeaks are correct in maintaining that the organization’s conduct can spearhead progress for a more transparent world, but such a world is only necessarily safer when the group leading the struggle for free speech stops closing its doors to global sentiment.
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by Ankit Aggarwal ‘12 Liberal
secret war exists on the fringes of American society. Every day, hundreds of nonviolent people are irreversibly entangled in a nightmarish judicial contraption, being hauled off to jail under laws tyrannical in their absurd severity. Not only are the “guilty” unjustly punished, but our war inadvertently aids the very forces we seek to combat, the ones who profit off from suffering caused by drug addiction. Indeed, ideologically disparate politicians such as Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich have united to end the socalled War on Drugs, recognizing the very fundamental threat to freedom that this deeply flawed conception of law enforcement poses. From the beginning, the effort was one doomed to failure: vast amounts of money are dedicated to housing prisoners. The war has greatly increased our incarceration rates, already the highest in the world, and has caused prison overcrowding (forcing California to release many prisoners early). In addition, the current laws encourage a “revolving door” syndrome, whereby deeply damaged people are cycled through the penal system and released onto the streets with no attempt at rehabilitation. This lack of rehabilitation compels hopeless individuals, fresh from
prison, to relapse into drug abuse. Recidivism is astonishingly prevalent among those cycled through this system, hurting entire communities. Often, federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency abuse their authority to seize property during raids, violating the 4th Amendment. A particularly insidious tool in the War of Drugs’ arsenal is the mandatory minimum sentence. Under many federal and state laws, a sentence is always imposed on drug users for possession of a certain amount of an illegal substance. This means that the sentence is not left to the judge’s discretion depending on familial situations. A hard-working individual in possession of a mere five grams of crack cocaine can expect at least five years in prison due to these inflexible laws. Furthermore, minimum sentencing underscores the racial disparities within our prison system, as African-Americans are far more likely to have stringent drug offense sentencing laws imposed upon them. For instance, the aforementioned five grams of crack cocaine, a hard drug more prevalent among AfricanAmericans, elicits the same sentence as ninety grams of cocaine, which white users are far more likely to possess. Thus, a substantial number of young African-American males are placed in jail for non-violent crimes, about 25% of the number currently attending college.
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In fact, the War on Drugs has failed to bring down drug violence and gang activity. One of the major aspects of this war is the Merida Initiative, a large grant of weapons and arms to the Mexican government from the US to combat drug cartel violence. However, there is no evidence that this effort is actually s u c c e e d i n g. The Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels, the largest and most violent drugsmuggling groups, have carved out and earned local support in their own niches in Mexico. The government’s constant attempt to suppress the drug trade actually has driven drug prices up. In fact, the War on Drugs is ironically beneficial to criminals. With the risk that smuggling entails, prices for various psychoactive drugs and stimulants rise enormously. Criminals enjoy massive profits while the “criminals” who don’t infringe on the rights of others, the drug users, languish in a system that
offers no way out of the predicament that induced them to abuse drugs in the first place. Additionally, the Taliban in Afghanistan gain enormous profits through the opium and heroin trade, as Afghan farmers produce approximately 90% of the world’s poppy crop. If free market competition was introduced to this nefarious trade, the price of heroin would drop, stripping the Taliban of a major funding source. There is no reason to perpetuate this destructive war, a litany of repressive policies that contributes nothing and worsens the problem. By deferring the problem to a prison term, the law condemns the poor especially to a hopeless life, adding to the misery of addiction. The war was lost from the moment it started, for when we started imprisoning those who did no harm to others, we began to tread a dangerous road paved with good intentions.
Dictator for the Storybooks: The Incredulous Reign of Kim Jong Il by Nick Mai ‘11 Conservative
hen someone is told to visualize the epitome of pure evil, there are a number of different possible results. Hitler and Stalin often arise in historical discussions for their actions, which are, by consensus, vile. For some today, however, this vision is fulfilled most completely by North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Il. This eclectic tyrant has held control in North Korea since 1994 when his father, Kim Il Sung, died of a heart attack. But there have been recent speculations of Kim Jong Il’s own health problems, especially when he supposedly had a stroke in autumn of 2008. So what would happen if North Korea’s glorious leader were to suddenly die? Analysts believe that in the past few months, Kim Jong Il came up with the solution. By rapidly raising his 27 year-old son to posi-
tions of supreme power, analysts believe that Kim effectively has named his successor: Kim Jong Un. But before looking towards the possible reign of Kim Jong Un, it is imperative to reexamine the very strange reign of Kim Jong Il himself. He was known to wear shoes to elevate his height and has become infamous for his iconic fashion and bad hair. He reportedly loves movies, particularly Rambo, Friday the 13th, and James Bond, although he dislikes Die Another Day because the antagonists are North Korean. He also kidnapped a group of South Korean actors in the 90s to help him create a communist version of Godzilla. The way his country is run, however, is just as strange, if not weirder. Because he forces such a large percentage of the country’s population into the military (giving North Korea the 5th largest military in the world), there is a disproportionately small population of businessmen and farmers. As a result, the country’s main sources of
income come from repackaging and selling food aid, refitting and selling Soviet missiles, and selling crystal meth around the world. Yet, even North Korea’s eccentricities are no reason simply to pass them off. North Korea has used its large military to threaten one of America’s closest allies, South Korea. In 1983, North Korean agents attacked the South Korean high command while visiting in Burma, killing four cabinet members and 13 delegates. This year North Korea sank a South Korean warship and still deny any allegations. To make matters worse, within the past year or so, North Korea has admitted to restarting its nuclear program. But will any of this change when Kim Jong Un ultimately comes to power? Many analysts already see him as an incompetent leader and a product of pure nepotism. In September, he was promoted to the rank of 4-star general by his father despite lacking any previous military experience. In fact, Kim Jong Un only got to this position of power when his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, gravely disappointed his father by trying to sneak into Tokyo Disneyland with a fake passport. (Apparently, Nam loved capitalism a bit too much.) Other problems might arise,
however, from the Old Guard of the North Korean army, who are jealous with Un’s quick rise to power. Kim Jong Il’s nepotism may have alienated many old-time generals, who suddenly found someone previously ranked below them and with no qualifications suddenly move above them in rank and power. Couple this with Un’s potentially weak future leadership, it could spell a recipe for disaster down the road. Nevertheless, there are others who argue that Un’s rise to power would cause no change at all. In the status quo, Kim Jong Il is in a triumvirate with two other high ranking officials, and the three men, together, helped to forge a complex military bureaucracy centered around them. Some believe that should Kim Jong Il die, his son may nominally take his place, but the officials and generals underneath would keep the North Korean political machine moving. Nevertheless, the truth, simply, is that nobody knows what’s going to happen. Right now, there is far too little known about Kim Jong Un or the North Korean government as a whole to truly predict what’s going to happen after Kim Jong Il kicks the bucket. Let’s just hope that they stay more ridiculous than evil.
The Middle East
Should the United States withdraw troops from Afghanistan? Why or why not? “A withdrawal will, obviously, be inevitable to in order to limit the U.S.’s economic and military overstretch around the world. However, a premature withdrawal, without ensuring the stability and credibility of the Afghan government, threatens the security of the United States and the rest of the world since a weakened Afghanistan would not be able to survive attacks by the Taliban, who would then inevitably set their eyes of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.” –Varun Gupta ‘12
“We should withdraw our troops. We must begin to wean our economy off war industry. It costs the government too much money and is a morally bankrupt way to employ millions of Americans. I do not think that terrorism is a threat valid enough to garner a war.” –Anonymous
“The United States should end counterinsurgency operations because it’s an enormous waste of money—$87 million a day. Moreover, investing in counterterrorism options, such as Predator drones, would be more than enough to allay the Taliban resurgence.” –Debnil Sur ‘13
“The United States should not withdraw troops from Afghanistan because doing so would weaken the fight against the insurgent forces there. Doing so would worsen the lives of many Afghan people.” –Anonymous
“Yes, the war in Afghanistan has gone on long enough, with different presidents having differing plans to fix the situation. It doesn’t appear like there’s a solution to the problem because there continues to be chaos throughout Afghanistan.” - Minh Phan ‘11
Private or Public Sector: You Tell Me by Naman Trivedi ‘12 Liberal
rivate military contractors, or PMCs for short, have been a vital component of the military effort in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, voiced concerns from Iraqi and Afghan citizens, as well as many US officials, draws attention to the controversial use of these private military contractors. One major concern among military officials is that the PMCs, such as Blackwater, are slowly hollowing out the US Military. As Rafael Valero, a writer for the Enrique National Journal points out, soldiers are consistently looking to the lucrative futures that they see in the private sectors as they constantly work closely in war zones with the highly paid contractors. U.S. soldiers often get envious, and many have already started gravitating towards the private security field, which in turn has decreased troop levels in the US military. Private military contractors have also taken the next step by not only drawing in U.S. military personnel, but in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, PMCs are stealing the best operatives away from the local police and military. The U.S.’s use of PMCs might actually be harming the war effort by luring away the Iraqi and Afghan forces that are expected to take over when the U.S. eventually
withdraws. The local security forces are often the only ones that speak the native language and understand the issues needing to be addressed, but when they join a contractor they are given a new set of guidelines for interaction with the community, as well as missions which many times are misguided, and end up harming and killing innocent civilians. A specific example of this is seen in Iraq, where the abuses by PMCs have undermined the mission altogether. The local defense forces are eager to join contractors, knowing they won’t have to obey the “pesky laws of war.” The debate to be had here, is two sided, however. The U.S. clearly had a reason for implementing and bargaining contracts with PMCs, largely because PMCs are cheaper to employ than normal troops.
Also, private contractors are often far more effective than their public sector counterparts in the U.S. military. An in-depth report con-
ducted by the Government Accountability Office sought to determine the costs of the Department of Defense using private security contractors for foreign security services versus federal employees, and the result came out to be $858 million for one year of the public sector, as opposed to $78
million through private contractors. The question that one has to ask his or herself at the end of the day then is… is the economic benefit of using PMCs in the interest of America, even if it leads to negative repercussions such as hollowing out the US military and taking away the best local operatives? The advocacy here should be for the removal of PMCs from Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Department of Defense could adequately and efficiently diversify its budget, the amount needed to fund the public sector could be rationalized, and deploying the US Military would be in the interest of Iraq, Afghanistan, and America. Whereas PMCs elongate battles and standoffs because they are paid by the day, the military would be more efficient in its tactics and driven by a motive of preserving and promoting a stabilized government in Iraq and Afghanistan.
by Aditya Mukund ‘13 Liberal
n a 5-4 decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld one of the most controversial uses of the 1st Amendment: political spending by corporations in candidate elections. Corporations can now spend unlimited amounts of money while campaigning for the candidate of their choice, a concept which many believe is an invitation for political corruption. With the removal of such spending restrictions, many have begun to wonder what this means for American politics and how much power corporations will truly have in the future. The court was forced to justify its controversial decision through use of the 1st Amendment, which protects the right to free speech. Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred, arguing that the 1st Amendment “prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” Advocates of limits to corporate spending often point to the McCain-Feingold Law, passed in 2002, that banned the use of telecommunications for campaigning by private corporations 30 days prior to the presidential primaries and 60 days prior to the general election. The duration coincides with the most heated and important section of the
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campaign—the last stretch. Regardless, the Supreme Court claims that it has defended the importance of the 1st Amendment and the right to free speech. President Obama deemed the decision “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” Obama’s scathing criticism here and in comments during his State of the Union address seemed to aggravate several Supreme Court Justices, including Associate
Justice Samuel Alito, who could be seen mouthing the words “not true” in opposition to the President. This newfound rift between the judicial and executive branches is a political trend that will have to be monitored over time, as its repercussions could potentially be far-reaching. M r . Obama’s justification is that free speech, although a vital component of the American constitution, cannot be allowed to open the door for abuse and corruption. Spending limits send the message that American politics must be an institution for the people—not
“a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests”
that the right to free speech is nonexistent, as Mr. Obama contends. On the other hand, unlimited corporate spending could open the door for untold quantities of money to enter election races, contending with the contributions of American citizens. From a political viewpoint, the court’s decision compromises the image Mr. Obama has attempted to set up for himself; that is, one of a president for the people and against special interests. Equally notable is the fact that the decision was 5-4. Every “conservative” justice voted in favor, while the “liberals” opposed. The court, which prides itself on being an apolitical entity, will likely be forced to justify itself in a variety of ways in the days to come. On balance, the decision to eliminate restrictions on campaign financing is still widely unpopular and could compromise the standing of the court. Mr. Obama’s offensive has attracted little dissent, and he is beginning to score political points chasing the courts. During the 2010 midterm elections, for the first time ever, corporations were able to push for the candidates of their choice like never before, whether for good or not.
Will the next Google have to be Frugal? by Robby Galliani ‘11 Liberal
ince its creation, the Internet has spawned some of the most creative technological breakthroughs in history, revolutionizing the processes of conducting business, education, and politics. Take Google, which began as a research project between two students at Stanford University. Since its inception in 1998, Google has blossomed into the search engine that generates 300 million hits per day, which has revolutionized the way we inquire about and digest information. Facebook, home to 500 million online profiles and the inspiration for the hit movie The Social Network, was the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard sophomore who was simply looking for a way to stay connected with fellow students. ` Finally, Bill Simmons, a former bartender now known simply as the Sports Guy, changed the way sports fans across the country see the games and players they love when his blog was discovered by an ESPN executive. Aside from being bookmarked on my computer, all of these services share an additional similarity: they emerged out of relative obscurity to gain public notoriety thanks to an open, non-discrimina-
tory Internet that rewarded skill and not entrenched financial interests. The Communications Act, “which regulated interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available…a rapid, efficient, nationwide and worldwide wire and radio communication at reasonable charges” was passed in 1934 to regulate the radio, a technology that, at the time, revolutionized the way people received information. Seventy-six years later, a debate brews over whether a similar strategy should be applied to the Internet, the newest and most effusive fountain of information in history. In the late 1990s, cable firms began to offer broadband Internet as apart of their communications packages. Soon thereafter, experts feared that the end-to-end nature of the Internet, in which routing is performed on a local, decentralized basis by disinterested hubs, would be replaced by a centralized system owned and operated by the cable firms, thus opening the door for these companies to alter the course of their Internet communications to maximize their own profits. In the face of this change, anti-discriminatory laws to discourage the potential for such practices were advocated for, and the term “network neutrality” was officially coined. Ac-
cording to PC Magazine, net neutrality “refers to the absence of restrictions or priorities placed on the type of content carried over the Internet by the carriers and ISPs that run the major backbones.” Without legislation that guarantees net neutrality practices, broadband operators such as Comcast and
AT&T could potentially charge content providers, such as the fledgling Google or Bill Simmons’ early blog, for the fastest and most reliable connections. In addition, many believe that a deviation from Net Neutrality is a direct threat to one’s 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. Although the Internet has operated under the “net neutrality” principle since its inception, the major carriers who now own the infrastructure have lobbied the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to end the practice. Those on the other side, most notably content providers, the American Civil Liberties Union, and President Obama, have voiced the need for legislation that ensures that this principle stays intact.
In fact, in 2009, the FCC voted unanimously to begin developing a set of regulatory rules that would ensure an open Internet. Google and Verizon, two “competing” interests, agreed on legislation that grants the FCC power to enforce neutral practices. But now, a year later, a net neutrality proposal spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Bryan Waxman [D] and based on the agreement between Google and Verizon has stalled in Congress after GOP opposition. As the first to grow up with the Internet, our generation has a unique relationship with it. Never in history has information been more readily available to large groups of people who would previously not have had access to it. One can only hope that Congress will overcome partisan bickering in order to ensure that this practice continues, for the interests of both those in business and for those on the receiving end of such services.
Domestic Policy 05
by Alex Noronha ‘11 Liberal
oday, America faces a myriad of problems—a slowly recovering economy, two wars in the Middle East, and escalating debt. Yet, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill continue to point fingers back and forth. Over the past few years, Americans have lived through bailout after stimulus after bailout, a skyrocketing unemployment rate, and a national debt so immense that the Times Square National Debt Clock has run out of digits! The Obama administration has worked tirelessly to find a plausible solution to America’s economic woes. One solution that Obama has advocated is to fix America’s public infrastructure. It may be quite a surprise, but America’s infrastructure is not as sound as most citizens perceive it to be. First, let’s look to the facts. Over 152,000 American bridges are structurally deficient and have the possibility of collapsing. A bridge has a lifespan of about fifty years, and the average American bridge is already forty-three years old. In 2007,
Minneapolis’ I-35 bridge collapsed, costing billions, killing thirteen, and injuring over a hundred. Our water infrastructure isn’t much better; every day, over seven billion gallons of drinking water are lost due to leaky pipes. And dam and levee breaches are not only pertinent to New Orleans; California actually has an ominous situation of its own. An earthquake in close proximity to the Central Valley could breach our 150 year old mud levees, putting 400,000 lives in risk, jeopardizing water supplies for 23 million Califor nians, submerging some neighborhoods in up to 17 ft of water, and crippling America’s leading agricultural region for decades. Did you know that the asphalt on roads kills more people each year than drunk drivers? That’s right, dismal road conditions are the cause of approximately 14,000 motorist fatalities yearly. To make matters worse, the Texas Traffic Institute reports that traffic congestion drains a
whopping $78 billion annually from America’s economy in the form of 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel and 4.2 billion hours of lost work productivity while we sit in traffic. Unfortunately, we have had “other priorities” over the years; infrastructure has never been a major election issue like health care, the economy, or foreign policy. While 9% of India and China’s GDP is based on infrastructure, America’s investment is a measly 2% of GDP. And the minimal funding Congress does give to infrastructure is usually wasted away on pork-barrel projects such as Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” which cost federal taxpayers $398 million. (That is like giving a check worth $40,000 to each resident the bridge served!) The Kiplinger Business Resource Center has a great analogy: “If the [US] economy was viewed as a body, and infrastructure as the heart- it would be regarded as a heart attack waiting to happen.” Obviously America has quite a problem to deal with here. Mr. Obama has recently proposed a $50 billion infrastructure package over the next six years. This would expand upon the $51.2 billion originally in the 2009 stimulus bill. However, most of this infrastructure funding was cut when Democrats had to make political concessions to swing three GOP senators across the
aisle in order to pass the stimulus. Regardless, current spending levels are a far cry from the $2.2 trillion needed to maintain the status quo. In the end, the big question still remains… “Can we really afford to do this?” And many Republicans are asking similar questions regarding fiscal responsibility. However, the Democrats think differently, citing infrastructure experts who predict that if Obama’s proposed legislation is passed, two million new jobs will be created and our economy will see an annual boost of $35 billion. Given that America is in the midst of economy recovery, fiscal responsibility is imperative. However, at the same time, there are some investments which need to be made. Infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy; now is the ripe time to spur job creation and economic growth while improving the livelihood of American citizens. In our generation and generations to come, infrastructure will make or break America’s economic prosperity. Looking to the history books, infrastructure investments empirically have been the lynchpin of economic growth, as proven by Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. We must act now to improve our deteriorating infrastructure; otherwise, America will continue driving on the Road to Ruin.
Park51 Controversy by Abrar Choudhury ‘12 Liberal
ordoba House, or the proposed prayer space to be built near Ground Zero, has faced a flurry of controversy and opposition, inciting protests across the country. However, there seems to be many misunderstandings about the issue as well. The media has continuously portrayed this building as a “mosque.” The proposed plan for Park51, as the project is now called, does contain a mosque; however, Park51 also will be a community center, similar to a YMCA. Park51 is expected to have a theater, fitness center, bookstore, basketball court, swimming pool, culinary school, food court, and even a memorial for the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Although Park51 will include an Islamic center of prayer, the building is designed for the betterment of the entire community. Another misconception is that the building is next to or on top of Ground Zero. Park51 would actually be several blocks away from Ground Zero and would not even be visible from the site. Thus, the media’s portrayal of the “Ground Zero mosque” is fundamentally flawed because the building is neither solely a mosque nor is it on top of Ground Zero.
However, the greater controversy is the fact that many people find Park51 offensive. Most of the arguments made against the mosque boil down to the fact that it is insensitive, but some have gone so far as to say that it would represent the victory of Islam over America. Some have questioned as to whether the mosque’s construction should be banned, although these arguments quickly faded away as the organizers have the Constitutional right to build a place of worship. These arguments against building the mosque unfortunately generalize and misrepresent Islam. The reason why some people see this mosque as insensitive is simply because they associate Muslims with the radical terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. Although these stereotypes are completely false, it is often a subconscious thought in many people’s minds. Al Qaeda asserted that the attack was done in the name of Islam and the media has helped propagate this idea across the country. This false connection between Muslims and terrorists has stuck in our minds, creating an irrational fear. The opposition claims that the center represents the values that the terrorists used to justify their actions. However, these people fail to realize that anything can be twisted to become something
malignant. Instead of rejecting all Islamic values, Americans should be more open and reject those who falsely connect Muslims with terrorists. Perhaps the most startling thing about this whole controversy
is its political effect. Soon after this controversy came to light, President Obama stated that he acknowledged the rights of Muslims to build at that location. Seeing that over sixty percent of the country opposes Park51, Obama’s statement was clearly un-
popular. The day after his initial statement, Obama clarified that he was not talking about the wisdom of making such a decision. However, the damage was already done. Republicans across the country pressured their Democratic opponents in the midterm elections to take a stance on the issue. With many incumbent Democrats facing tough re-election battles, this controversy became another burden they have had to face. Maybe this whole controversy could have been avoided altogether if the center had been built somewhere else. Former President Clinton says that if Park51 had been dedicated to Muslim victims of 9/11, the issue could have been avoided. However, at the same time Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, says that this controversy is absolutely necessary to show the world that despite the attacks on our soil, at the end of the day, we will never compromise our value of freedom, including that of religion.
Domestic Policy Combating a Possible Double-Dip Recession
by Nimit Sohoni ‘12 Conservative
double-dip recession will be unlikely if the government takes basic, appropriate fiscal actions. First, one must regard the current state of the stock market. Both the NASDAQ and the DOW have risen substantially in recent months, with the NASDAQ coming close to pre-recession levels. According to Joshua E. Keating’s article in Foreign Policy, four scenarios may occur: a V-shaped recession, in which the economy begins to quickly grow again, a U-shaped one, in which the economy makes a slow rebound, a W-shaped recession, in which our economy plunges once more, and an L-shaped one, in which the economy won’t return to pre-recession levels. A V-shaped recession, the most optimistic, does not seem very likely. Because America’s slow growth rate, a large boom is for now highly unlikely. An L-shaped recession is unlikely for the US; pessimistic economists “are now predicting a long and painful L-shaped trajectory for European countries, which have less control over their monetary policies and labor markets, even as they cautiously note that Asia and the United States might be turning back from the bottom.” In “What Shape is Your Recession?”, “Goldman Sachs’s economic research team…thinks that tightened lending conditions mean that the recovery will remain sluggish and we’re still tracing the bottom of the U. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has also thrown in his lot with the U crowd,
foreseeing the recovery as a ‘slow, trudging thing.’” Although both entities have vested interests in loosening lending conditions, the government must take this action, as it poses the best chance of making the economy more stable. Risky loans and investments, if continued, might actually lead the economy to another crash, a “W.” However, if not, a U-shape seems like the most likely rebound; the economy has been slowly coming back up and it seems that, if the government does not ruin its fiscal policy, America will be out of the hole by the middle of next year. A “W” recession is strongly cautioned against. Nouriel Roubini and Michael Moran say that unless the US cuts taxes on the middle class and lower class – but keeps or even raises those for the small upper class – spending will not increase sufficiently to take the US out of the crisis. In addition, according to the film Inside Job, credit rating companies must stop giving risky subprime loans “AAA” ratings because this practice has bankrupted many investors. The government must pass laws restricting the financial excesses of companies twwhat give millions away in bonuses, while not securing their funds and insuring their customers properly. The government must continue to tighten restrictions on lending. This will enable America to build a stable economy and not suffer a second economic drop. In conclusion, the likelihood of a double dip recession is small, though it could be made even smaller by some government actions.
Rise of the Tea Party by Sanjeet Raman ‘12 Liberal
hrough the advertisement of conservative commentators like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party has become an integral part of the Republican Party. Touting their belief in limited government and low taxes, the Tea Party has appealed to a great number of Americans, threatening the power of the Democrats. However, when Christine O’Donnell of Delaware gets to a point where she needs to affirm that she is “not a witch,” the Democratic cause appears hopeful. While Tea Party candidate gaffes certainly give the Democrats a lot to work with, the Tea Party has revitalized the GOP, creating a major threat to the Democratic Party. Gaffes by Tea Party-ers have definitely made things seem more difficult for Republicans. Democrats are feeling optimistic in light of all of these gaffes, and have demonstrated this sentiment by ridiculing Tea Party-ers and the entire GOP.
That seems to be why Tea Party candidates such as Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Sharron Angle of Nevada failed to win their respective senatorial elections. Convinced that the American people would see the absurdity of certain Tea Party candidates, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine says, "We have a feeling that we're going to do very, very well in closing that gap with independent voters between now and the second of November, because independents do not like what they see from this ascendant Tea Party.” However, The Tea Party is just what America wants right now. Statistics show that the economy is the number one issue for the average American voter and the priority of every Tea Party candidate, without exception, is the creation of jobs. Despite the Obama administration’s plans for economic recovery, unemployment is still at an extremely high 9.6%. The high unemployment rate has further fueled the growth of the Tea Party.
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Extending the Bush Era Tax Cuts by Aditya Limaye ‘12 Liberal
onald Reagan once summed up American tax policy with the phrase: “if it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it; if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Taxes are always a contentious issue and recently, Congress has been thrown into heated debate about possibly extending Bush-era tax cuts that would keep low tax rates on families making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000 per year. With the debate largely split down partisan lines, President Obama seeks for a compromise between the Republicans and Democrats on the issue. However, approaching the view holistically, many political analysts would agree that extending the Bush-era tax cuts for high-income families is imperative, especially in this period that demands quick economic growth. It is commonly understood that the only way to ensure sustained growth is to increase consumer spending. But this is easier said than done. In this economic climate, many are willing to hoard their money, even from tax cuts and stimulus checks. The money usually goes directly from governmental coffers to bank accounts, gathering dust and not improving the economy as a whole. While many believe this is a reason that tax cuts would fail, many analysts now predict that the current economic climate would make tax cuts a smashing success. Because the upper class, the target of these tax cuts, contributes to more than 25% of our economy, based on job creation and spending, lower taxes are required. Extending tax cuts would not only prevent massive job loss, but also re-
Additionally, it is also important to consider what the Tea Party represents. That is bringing something fresh to Washington. A recent Gallup poll asking citizens of their opinion of the way America is headed indicated that approval is at a low 21%. This indicates that the people are extremely likely to turn on the majority party: the Democrats. Therefore, the people want something new that hasn’t been seen in Washington and the Tea Party seems to be exactly that. This distance from Washington has been helping the Republicans and hurting the Democrats in several ways. The Tea Party has successfully split the Republican Party association with President Bush. One of the major problems that the Republicans had was that they were affiliated with an unpopular president. However, the Tea Party has had no involvement with George Bush, showing the American people that the Tea Party is a group of “Washington outsiders” from Middle America. These “outsiders” have certainly increased enthusiasm among Repub-
invigorate the wallets of 25% of the American economy, a policy action essential to ensuring a steady economic recovery. While an increase in consumer spending would be a boon for American economic recovery, another essential piece of the recovery is an increase in investments, especially from those in the upper class of the economy. Without extending tax cuts, the dividends tax would increase by over 160% for investors, discouraging investment in big dividend American companies such as “blue chips” or GE. Furthermore, if taxes on capital gains were increased, investment in the stock market would decrease. Even retirement accounts like the 401(k) would not be spared – meaning that Americans would move their retirement savings out of the stock market and into hard cash, triggering a larger recessionary spiral. Extending the Bush-era tax cuts would be the only way to ensure continued investment in the American stock market, since previous tax rates would remove the taxpayer’s incentive to invest and ruin any plan for economic recovery. As most political analysts agree, the answer to the economic crisis is to alleviate tax burdens on the upper class quickly. President Obama’s golden opportunity to do so is approaching fast, and the best solution to the economic crisis is to perpetuate Bush-era tax cuts, as it would spark new spending in the consumer markets and stem the tide of disgruntled American investors leaving the stock market. America’s road to recovery will be a lengthy and difficult one, but such economic change must begin with extending one of the rare jewels of the Bush administration.
lican voters. There were four million more Republicans than Democrats voting in the Midterm election primaries this year, resulting in the highest voter turnout among Republicans since 1970. Polls also show that of the over 71% of Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in 2008 and would certainly show up to vote for their candidates. That was clearly the case for Rand Paul, the newly elected senator from Kentucky, and one of the most prominent leaders of the Tea Party. In fact, the recent elections have shown that the Republican Party truly was ultimately revitalized by Tea Party members, considering that the GOP took the majority in the House of Representatives and gained many key spots in the Senate during the Midterm elections. Even though the Tea Party certainly does make the GOP look bad at times, they have ultimately been a boon for Republicans and a bane for the Democrats by focusing on the economy and reenergizing the GOP once again.
Governor Elections: Why California Ignored the Conservative Wave by Madhu Vijay ‘13 Liberal
n his “Devil’s Dictionary,” American writer Ambrose Bierce defined “politics” as “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” Interestingly, in the California gubernatorial election, the opposite seemed to have occurred: Meg Whitman dumped her private life savings into her campaign in order to ensure her victory, as she has spent more personal money on her campaign than any political candidate in history. Whitman’s strategy clearly didn’t pay off as her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown won the election by a margin of over 10%. Ultimately, Brown pulled off a victory over Whitman because of her failed political outsider strategy, her excessive campaign spending, and a general public distrust of Whitman. First, although Whitman sought to portray herself as a political outsider, her strategy backfired. In order to harness the public’s hatred of “politics as usual,” Whitman
tried to paint a picture of herself as a businesswoman who would avoid normal political problems like partisan squabbling. Unfortunately, such a strategy hurt Meg Whitman more than actually helped her. Rather than seeing new ideas in Whitman, people saw the same problems they have faced under Schwarzenegger. Similarly, although the job of a CEO and that of a governor are vastly different, many voters thought that Whitman might try to conduct her job as governor as if she were a CEO. This fear made many voters believe that a businesswoman wouldn’t do the job as well as a politician. Since Brown was governor of California in the past, voters trusted his experience over Whitman’s status as an outsider. Finally, many voters didn’t even see Whitman as a political “outsider”— she waged a negative campaign against Brown (for instance, she blamed Brown for running a smear campaign after he accused her of knowingly hiring an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper). For these reasons, Whitman’s strategy of being a “political outsider” served to alienate, not attract, most California voters. Furthermore, Whitman’s excessive campaign spending yielded minute short-term benefits, but ul-
timately hurt her campaign overall. Whitman spent $119 million out of her own pocket on her campaign, and her campaign on the whole spent $140 million. Jerry Brown’s entire campaign, on the other hand, spent much less. Brown tried to lay low for most of his campaign, and he only started airing ads to attract more voters right before the election. H owe v er, while Brown’s strategy may not have been perfect, Whitman’s strategy failed. Of course, the massive amount of money Whitman spent did provide her with some slight benefits. For instance, she was able to buy information about people’s magazine subscriptions, car ownership, and political party registration in order to tailor her advertisements to certain population demographics. However, such steps yielded only marginal benefits. In fact, Whitman’s exorbitant campaign spending actually alienated many voters, who perceived the huge amounts of spending as a contradiction to her promise of fiscal responsibility. The final reason why Brown won the November election is be-
cause of a general distrust of Whitman. For instance, sources revealed that she hadn’t voted in an election for the last 28 years, and even she called her own voting record “atrocious.” Though this may seem like a small issue, it tainted the public opinion of Whitman, as the public saw her as someone who hadn’t take an interest in politics before this election. Another splotch on Whitman’s resume was a recent controversy in which Whitman was accused of consciously hiring an undocumented immigrant as her housekeeper. While Whitman denied the accusation, the situation still increased voters’ suspicion of Whitman– she lost many points in polls directly following the incident. Controversies like these brought Whitman down and the public distrust of her propelled Brown to victory in the election. For these reasons, Jerry Brown was able to maintain a slight edge over Whitman in the November gubernatorial race. Although the rest of the nation might be shifting further and further to the right as evidenced by the large Republican victories in the Midterm Elections, the Democrats were still able to obtain the governorship of California.
Did California make the right choice to elect Jerry Brown as governor? Why or why not? “Yes, Brown’s past experience will greatly help him. Based on interviews and debates, he has a much more planned out idea for how he is going to run California. In interviews, he answered all the questions directly, never beating around the bush. Conversely, Meg Whitman didn’t have the same clarity of thought or ideas.” –Andrew Marks ‘13
“I believe he was the better choice, but was he the best California could muster? I don’t know, because the elections seem more about who can get funding versus who will better serve the state.” –Matt Delateur ‘12
“Jerry Brown has already served as Governor of California, and I am not sure of what he can bring to the table now. Of course, with the alternative being Meg Whitman, a candidate with zero political experience, one is left with making a decision between the lesser of two evils. In that case, I believe California made the right decision by electing the candidate with more experience. In a time of instability, experience is key.” -Anonymous
“Yes, because no matter who is elected, they will struggle to fix California’s economic problems. So if Jerry Brown takes the fall for it, then Republicans are more likely to get elected to the State legislature, where they can actually get stuff done.” –David Byrd ‘11
“No, Jerry Brown is not the right choice because he lacks a cohesive economic plan, has failed as governor in the past, and will take California in a negative direction. On the other hand, Meg Whitman has experience with the economy, something California needs right now. She also has comprehensive plans to cut spending and fix education, both extremely important issues that Jerry Brown has failed to address properly.” –Stephen Cognetta ‘11
by Ian Vernon ‘11 Liberal
espite its failure in November, California’s Proposition 19 succeeded in bringing to national attention a hotly debated issue: the legal sale and use of marijuana for personal consumption. In analyzing the past, the economics, and the constitutionality of the matter, it is clear that marijuana should, without a doubt, be legal. An analysis of the past reveals the failures of prohibiting substances that are noticeably already in use. In early 1920, alcohol was made illegal under the Eighteenth Amendment to our Constitution. As soon as it was made illegal, crime gangs sprung up to take advantage of people’s desire to drink alcohol, reducing the quality of life for many, and making the bootlegged alcohol that people did buy very dangerous. The amendment was later revoked as the government realized that Prohibition was an ineffective policy. The same logic can be applied to the modern war on marijuana. Failing to legalize a substance provides the means for crime gangs to obtain money and wreak havoc. The ban on marijuana use has resulted in the inevitable problem of
enforcement, which ultimately boils down to economics. California’s “three strikes” law, which applies to marijuana smokers, is both draconian in nature and economically unsound. According to a Department of Justice report from 2006, at least one in eight drug prisoners in America are in prison for marijuana-related offenses. Taxpayers pay billions of dollars to keep these prisoners incarcerated. This money is allocated from the California state budget, which is already out of control and needs to be balanced before California spirals further into economic disaster. The state budget reveals that Californians spend five times more money maintaining prisons than on education. Legalizing marijuana is a key step to ensuring a balanced budget, as money will not be needed for prisons or law enforcement to raid growers and catch offenders, and more money
The Bellarmine Political Review
can be allocated towards other, more pressing issues. The legalization of marijuana will not only decrease budget allocations to our prisons but can also result in revenue for the state. Taxation of marijuana could help bring in billions of dollars from the $14 billion made annually on illicit sales of the drug. That revenue could go a long way in solving California’s fiscal problems. From a purely economic standpoint, legalizing marijuana makes logical sense. Another concern rests with the moral and societal aspects of legalization. From a moral standpoint, legalizing marijuana goes in line with the founding values of the United States of individual liberty and the meaning behind the quotation from Ben Franklin saying “anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.”
Those who maintain marijuana’s illegality on the grounds that it is harmful should be willing to do the same for alcohol and cigarettes. A simple look at Prohibition-era America reveals why this is laughably impossible. As such, marijuana use should be a personal choice. Marijuana is proven to have less of an effect on the body than alcohol and other legal substances in the United States. As such, keeping alcohol legal while failing to do the same for marijuana ignores the possible economic and social benefits that legalization can provide. In conclusion, it is clear that marijuana legalization makes sense. It fosters a new sector of the economy, brings money to the government, cuts out a major source of money for criminal gangs, and lines up with the principles that America was built on. Proposition 19 may not have passed in 2010, but there is clear evidence that the legalization movement is picking up the pace, and it is likely only a matter of time before the drug itself is legalized.
California: No Longer Golden by Matt DeCoste ‘11 Liberal
o, ‘tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a churchdoor; but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man” (Romeo and Juliet). California, once the role model for America, the home of the “Master Plan,” and the spark of the modern conservative movement, is now a decrepit governing body plummeting towards absolute insolvency. This is the current-day reality, with few saving graces yet visible on the horizon. Even as new governor Jerry Brown rushed to claim that his skills and political experience will finally stop the bleeding, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. California’s modern-day
budget crisis was not caused by recent phenomena, nor will it be fixed by a new face in Sacramento. This cancer of financial instability has twice before struck, in 1991 and 2003, after weakened economies put California
public vote. This means that California must implement these programs no matter what it costs or what it does. And, there are only two ways to bypass this requirement, have the Supreme Court label it unconstitutional, or have the public overturn its past vote. Unfortunately, the drastic lack of regulations in this vital system of direct democracy has led to utter disaster. Since each proposition has into a death spiral. But the current the power of a constitutional amenddrop is steeper than either one, so ment, California has acquired 500 what went wrong, and how do we fix constitutional amendments in just it? 100 years, making our constitution The problem is multi-faceted, one of the longest and most convocomplex, and unlikely to be solved luted in the world. In addition, the by a single action, but a great place deluge of propositions has created to start would be with a revision of over 7,000 overlapping jurisdictions, our system of direct democracy. Di- creating a bureaucratic black hole. rect democracy, a system where vot- So how does Caliers can decide public policy with a fornia fix this continuing popular vote, gained favor during the problem? By restricting the Progressive age of the early 1900s, power of public initiatives but its use today has become nearly to the same levels found unjustifiable. to work in other states, we In fact, California’s imple- can reduce the amount of mentation is far less restricted than dangerous propositions the system of any other state using making it through our sysdirect democracy. In fact, the propo- tem. Some quick examples sition system in California does not include Prop 13, which cut allow our state to override or even state revenues by $7.5 bilmodify any proposition that passes a
“...no single prescription can revive the ailing giant that is California.”
lion annually and led to the collapse of the California public education system, a 1960s proposition that temporarily banned cable TV, or even the 2009 proposition that will spend over $20 billion to build a single highspeed rail line between southern and northern California. To be sure, no single prescription can revive the ailing giant that is California, but another certainty is that inaction is inexcusable. California doesn’t have to hang on with life-support measures like accounting gimmicks, dramatic cuts to vital state programs, or increased employee furloughs. It is time for a fundamental change that could start California down the path to reform.