FALL 2013/ VOLUME II ISSUE 3
Hoping for Providence by Maggie Livingstone
Interviews with: Tucker Carlson, Michael Oren & James Forman
Whatâ€™s the Point of International Law? by Lehm Maguire
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SYRIA AND THE LAW Daniel Duhaime
WHY CHELSEA MANNING MATTERS Mintaka Angell THE OTHER 9/11 Francis Torres
JOEY DOESN’T QUIT Meg Sullivan
8 The Magazine In Numbers National
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THE YELLEN ERA Thomas Nath TWEETING THE TRUTH Ben Wofford RIGHT TO RAISE Floripa Olguin A RULE AS THIN AS GLASS Ezra Kagan BLOOD MONEY Ariadne Ellsworth
FEATURED COLUMNISTS CLARA BEYER, DANIEL DUHAIME, GRAHAM SHERIDAN, MEG SULLIVAN, FRANCIS TORRES & CARLY WEST
WHAT WE OWE IRAQ Alexandra Garcia
A PROBLEM LIKE KOREA Stella Kim COINING THE WEB’S CURRENCY Nikhil Kalyanpur PIPE DREAM Jace Canty
REMAKING THE MODEL Edle Astrup Tschudi
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HOPING FOR PROVIDENCE Maggie Livingstone
MEDIA DIRECTOR EMILY KASSIE ASSISTANT DIRECTORS CAROLINE FENN & BEN SADKOWSKI CONTENT CREATORS HANNAH PULLEN-BLASNIK, EUGENIA LULO, NINA ROESNER, SHOSHANA SALZBERG, MARIA PAZ ALMENARA & ALIF IBRAHIM ONLINE DIRECTOR MATTHEW MCCABE ASSOCIATE ONLINE DIRECTOR NEIL SINGH WEBMASTER TANAY PADHI COLUMN MANAGERS MINTAKA ANGELL, LENA BARSKY, CARTER JOHNSON & BEN WOLKON
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EDITORS-IN-CHIEF ALEXANDROS DIPLAS & BEN WOFFORD CHIEF-OF-STAFF SOFIA FERNANDEZ GOLD ASSOCIATE CHIEF-OF-STAFF MEGHAN HOLLOWAY SENIOR MANAGING EDITOR CAROL KIM INTERVIEWS DIRECTOR ANNIKA LICHTENBAUM MEDIA DIRECTOR EMILY KASSIE ONLINE DIRECTOR MATTHEW MCCABE BUSINESS & MARKETING DIRECTOR ELENA SALTZMAN LAYOUT & ART DIRECTOR KATRINA MACHADO
THE SMOKE FILLED ROOM Ben Resnik
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MICHAEL OREN DANIELLE PLETKA CHRIS MURPHY AARON REGUNBERG JAMES FORMAN TUCKER CARLSON
WHAT’S THE POINT OF INTERNATIONAL LAW? Lehm Maguire
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Syria and the Law
On September 10, President Barack Obama gave a national address from the East Room on the international crisis in Syria — taking, in the words of Jon Stewart, that long stroll down “I Killed Bin Laden Lane.” Though the address was originally scheduled to secure congressional and public support for military action, the president instead turned his focus to the promise of a nascent diplomatic solution. The day before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov endorsed an offhand proposal by Secretary of State and suit connoisseur John Kerry, who suggested that Syria could avoid an attack by “turn[ing] over every single bit” of its long-unacknowledged chemical weapons stocks to the international community. Seemingly born of accident, this was but one of many reversals since the August 21 chemical attacks in which legal constraints informed the calculus of strategic actors. Indeed, the prospect of retaliatory strikes against Syria raised profound legal questions on both the domestic and international levels. The Constitution, of course, contemplates two kinds of military conflicts: those initiated by Congress through a formal declaration of war and their functional equivalents and those commenced by the president pursuant to his Article II powers. The latter are by no means a novelty, but the situation presented in Syria — where the action in question did not affect American property, personnel, or security interests in any imminent way — tested current boundaries. In Grenada, for example, President Ronald Reagan justified strikes on the basis of risk to American lives and property; similarly, the strikes President Bill Clinton ordered on al-Qaida in the wake of the African Embassy and U.S.S. Cole bombings clearly constituted self-de-
so would still be “justified and legitimate under international law.” The conceptual stretching implicated by these assertions is obvious and is a far cry from legalistic formalism. These claims evidence the comparatively illegitimate and undesirable legal options which would motivate any president — particularly one with a professed commitment to international law and an aversion to American unilateralism — to reconsider while standing on the precipice of a solitary action bearing uncertain consequences. After the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s divided endorsement and Lavrov’s proposal, the president used his speech to request a delay in Congress’ consideration of the force authorization. While the proximate cause for such a reversal was Secretary Kerry’s remark, he did not conceive the idea of turning Syria’s chemical weapons over to the international community. In fact, the administration had previously considered such a possibility, only to be deterred by an evident lack of Russian political will. Proponents of executive war powers often cite the branch’s functional and institutional advantages over legislatures; since the executive acts with a single voice, the argument goes, he is capable of acting more swiftly, decisively and secretly in the face of changing threats. The Syrian case would seem to provide some evidence for this conclusion: Congress quickly grew divided over the scope of the authorization, and President Bashar al-Assad used the intervening time to bolster his position in Syria by moving potential targets into areas concentrated with civilians. Assad also sowed uncertainty among the American public by finally agreeing, with propagandistic motives, to an interview with Charlie Rose. However, Congressional slowness turned out to be a virtue in this case. President Vladimir Putin proved far more receptive to the idea of ceding Syria’s chemical weapons after an overt threat of force, engaging with Obama on the issue during the G-20 Summit. This context informed, if not precipitated, Kerry’s remark
Why Chelsea Manning Matters Mintaka Angell In the midst of a monumental trial fixed in the public eye, Bradley Manning’s recent transition to Chelsea Manning blew through the U.S. media with exactly the amount of grace and sensitivity toward a disenfranchised minority that one might expect. From the overtly ignorant and bigoted responses, from transgender people being labeled a nonexistent yet somehow still unnatural “legend,” to subtler misunderstanding of transgender identity when many media sources consistently misgendered her during the initial media coverage of her announcement, to a frankly ugly Twitter debate over how mentally ill she must be, Manning’s trial placed the issue of
transgender rights in a national spotlight that has strenuously avoided the issue until now. Given these responses, it seems that some serious national conversation is in order about how identity is constructed along social as well as biological axes. Transgender people — individuals who identify as having a nonalignment of conventional gender identity and physical sex — face constant discrimination at home, in the workplace, in academia and on the street. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey reveals sobering statistics about transgender individuals, including a higher rate of suicide, extreme poverty, double the rate of unemployment as cisgender people, higher rates of homelessness, discrimination in public settings, limited access to receiving updated ID documents, harassment by police, abuse in prison and denial of medical care at extremely high rates. Overall, 63 percent of transgender individuals have experienced discrimination that had a serious impact on their life because of their gender identity. For transgender people of color the numbers are even higher, as structural racism and transphobia often intersect. Transphobia — the discrimination, stigmatization or oppression of anyone who does not fit within the conventional gender binary — is rampant at almost every institutional and social level in the United States. The following statistics from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless paint a sobering picture of this reality: up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, many of whom having been rejected by their families. 78 percent of transgender youth report harassment at school and 90 percent of transgender adults report harassment at work. Also consider the fact that “gender identity disorder,” a term that made a set of identities into a pathology, was only declassified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013; it is now “gender dysphoria.” Despite the pervasive nature of institutionalized transphobia, Manning’s situation has brought a considerable amount of attention to two systems not big on transgender rights: the military and the prison-industrial complexes. In these systems in particular, the blatant abuse of the individual right to self-expression can be seen at work. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell did not include transgender individuals under its umbrella, and being transgender is currently classified as an “unallowable
medical condition.” The consequences of identifying as such are immediate discharge. While civil courts have often ruled that not providing transgender individuals with resources for transitioning — such as hormone therapy and sex-reassignment therapy — while they are in prison constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, the military does not follow the same line of thinking. The military’s stance on this issue persists despite research by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force showing that transgender individuals are twice as likely to join the military. Manning, who has requested hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery while serving her sentence, is not the only convicted prisoner to do so. Earlier in 2013 a transgender inmate at a Virginia prison filed a federal lawsuit, asserting that the state, which had refused to grant her sex reassignment surgery, had failed to provide adequate medical care. In 2012 a federal judge ordered Massachusetts to pay for a sex reassignment surgery for an inmate who was convicted of murder. Despite these instances, transgender individuals face extreme danger when in the prison system. One-fifth of transgender individuals reported harassment by police (the number is higher for trans individuals of color), while 16 percent of those who have been to jail reported physical assault and 15 percent reported sexual assault. According to the 2011 Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, hormone treatment is often denied, even if prescribed before prison, and individuals are often placed with inmates of their biological sex, prompting further abuse. This issue has also seen greater visibility recently in Netflix’s hit show “Orange is the New Black,” featuring a black transgender woman — even better, played by transgender actress Laverne Cox — as one of the inmates and most prominent characters. Cox’s character must deal with having her estrogen supplements scaled back arbitrarily by prison staff and with discrimination from prison officers and sometimes other inmates. This storyline reflects the real-life experience of Manning, whose request for medical intervention was denied, perhaps unsurprisingly given the Army’s recalcitrance toward gay rights. The way that the Army reacts to Manning’s transition will set a public precedent, good or bad, for the way that transgender individuals are treated by an institution ostensibly meant to protect the freedom of
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fense. Thus, to be on precedential ground in the case of Syria would require some augmentation from international law. Here, too, there was no help to be found. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” excepting those cases in which a state acts in lawful self defense (pursuant to Article 51) or Security Council action (made pursuant to Chapter VII). Since the beginning of Syria’s Civil War, Russia and China have thwarted UN Security Council action by means of their veto power. Consequently, some have suggested that American involvement in NATO’s bombing campaign of Kosovo, which occurred without congressional authorization or Chapter VII resolution, could provide a rationale for strikes against Syria. However, a closer examination of this campaign renders the analogy inapt. First, the involvement of NATO made the United States’ actions at least arguably consistent with Article 51, since it was aiding the lawful self-defense of Turkey, another NATO member. Second, although political constraints in the case of Kosovo similarly hampered Security Council action, it is clear that even Russia saw the imposition of force by international actors as fait accompli. Other options exhausted, the president was left with a novel and somewhat haphazard construction of domestic and international legal arguments to justify intervention without authorization. As relayed by White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, unilateral strikes would be permissible under domestic law because of the “important national interests” of limiting regional instability and enforcing the international norm against the use of chemical weapons. It’s worth noting that an international norm is invoked here as a domestic law justification, since Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and therefore did not violate binding international law. Furthermore, Ruemmler maintained that while striking Syria “may not fit under a traditionally recognized legal basis,” doing
and Lavrov’s subsequent overture, resulting in an agreeable solution by means of a credible but slightly-less-than-imminent threat of force. While the United States and Russia have come to an agreement in principle on the transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons and its accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the means of accomplishing these goals are still unclear. Russia and Syria have objected strongly to a French proposal to execute the agreement pursuant to the aforementioned Chapter VII, which would permit the use of force in the event of noncompliance. As a result, Congress is considering another Syria resolution, one that would still authorize force in the absence of Security Council action. The president, similarly, has kept military assets in place to maintain a credible threat of force. In the event Syria does accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention, however, this means that it would possess a reasonable argument that its accession was void. As Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith notes, Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties voids a treaty “if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force.” Syria is a party to this treaty, and although the United States is not, it considers many of its provisions to constitute customary international law. Thus, if the Security Council cannot reach a meaningful resolution, the United States may ironically be flouting one norm of customary international law in order to preserve another. u
Americans. This freedom should extend to the realm of gender identity. Gender identification should not define someone’s worth, unless we want to argue that gender is indicative of an innate set of personality traits that make a person somehow “better” than others — the type of idea that the nation has moved away from, or so we assume, post-Civil Rights Movement. The issue of whether Manning is guilty or not is irrelevant here: she is still afforded the rights of an inmate under the U.S. Constitution, and being denied appropriate medical care is a violation of those rights. Given the intense amount of prejudice and discrimination that transgender individuals face on a day-to-day basis, the struggle that Manning will face in order to access appropriate care for her transition will undoubtedly be long and difficult. But her unique position of being a transitioning transgender person in the midst of such a public storm can serve as a starting point to mobilize support for a minority that suffers the very real effects of heterosexism in our society. u
The Other 9/11
The events of September 11 hold a massive and merited weight in the world’s collective consciousness. It was a date on which great violence was perpetrated against peaceful victims, and the hatred of a few individuals altered the fate of a whole nation. Many had predicted the impending danger of radical events, yet most were not prepared for what happened. The short moments of chaos that transpired that day shaped the political future of several countries, and led to an extended campaign of violence with repercussions that can still be felt today — four decades later. On the morning of September 11, 1973, Chilean Armed Forces led by General Augusto Pinochet staged a coup against the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende. The coup resulted in Allende’s suicide and a military takeover of government, a ban on political parties and the imposition of a ruthless right-wing dictatorship that lasted 17 years. In this way, the first democratically elected Marxist government in the Americas was violently replaced by one of the many caudillo-led autocracies that were flourishing across the continent under U.S. auspices. As a key Cold War ally to the Americans, Pinochet
liberal economists raved about during the 1980’s has indeed produced a strong and open economy, but is also to blame for one of the worst inequality ratings in the developed world — and the worst of any OECD country. Those that trumpeted the successes of economic liberalization often forgot the human and social price that was paid: any opposition to entrenched economic interests was trampled and people under the poverty line were prohibited from demanding better living conditions. The costly private university system created under Pinochet has also been a source of protest, especially in the last three years, and only fuels the educational and monetary divide between the upper and lower classes. While the Chilean right wing may have won the battle in 1973, it is now obvious that Allende’s ideals were never truly defeated. The late president has been posthumously vindicated as a protector of democracy and a hero of the Latin American left — something that might not have occurred had he lived through the coup. Admittedly, his government has been idealized to a certain extent, considering he oversaw a sizable economic crisis, significant discontent over his administration’s policy of taking over private industries, and considerable polarization between the socialist executive branch and the more conservative legislature. Now, however, young Chileans that grew up after Allende and Pinochet are calling for a more socially inclusive democracy, and see the late leftist president as a symbol for their new struggle. Sen. Isabel Allende, the late president’s daughter and cousin to the bestselling author, also named Isabel Allende, said that “Forty years after, [Allende] is mentioned more than ever by the young people who flood the streets asking for free, quality education.” She added that “Allende’s profile keeps on growing while Pinochet is discredited.” “This new generation is remembering that there are things that are far more important than the economy,” adds Patricio Fernandez, editor of Chilean magazine The Clinic. “It’s a return to the energy lived during Allende’s time.” This energy may be instrumental in Chilean politics in the next couple of months. Opinion polls indicate that most Chileans are unhappy with the current conservative government and will back former president Michelle Bachelet in
this year’s presidential elections. Bachelet, a Socialist Party candidate whose military father was tortured and killed for his loyalty to Allende, has campaigned for wider public recognition of the dictatorship’s atrocities and plans to overhaul the Pinochet-era constitution. In light of these current developments, President Allende’s last words before his suicide ring truer than ever: “I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this gray and bitter moment.” It may have taken 40 years, but it seems that Chile has learned to value Allende’s lessons on equality and social inclusion — lessons that no one, not even Pinochet, could ever truly erase. u
Joey Doesn’t Quit Meg Sullivan Joey DeFrancesco became a shortlived Internet celebrity in 2011 after the then 24-year-old posted a video of himself quitting his job at Providence’s Renaissance Hotel. “Joey Quits” is an incredibly satisfying three-minute clip which features DeFrancesco stating, “They treat us like shit here,” dropping a letter of resignation at the feet of his clearly disgruntled manager and making an exit backed up by his marching band, What Cheer? Brigade. DeFrancesco’s stunt struck a chord with viewers. The video accumulated more than three million views on YouTube and CNN named Joey a “recession hero.” His video empowered a public energized by the Occupy Wall Street movement; people were weary of abuse by middle management and ready to use social media to fight back. DeFrancesco’s 15 minutes have passed, but unlike most viral videos the Internet churns out, “Joey Quits” remains relevant — at least to those concerned with the work conditions and unionization of Rhode Island service workers. In December 2012 — around a year after DeFrancesco made his exit from the Renaissance — the hotel was sold to the Procaccianti Group, a national hotel management company, although upper management remained the same. After this transaction, employees claimed that working conditions went from bad to worse. Renaissance workers are not represented by a union and earn less and receive fewer benefits than unionized hotel workers do
at institutions like the Omni, according to Unite Here Local 217, a Rhode Island and Connecticut organization for non-unionized hotel and restaurant workers. The workers that have spoken up describe abysmal treatment by middle managers, lack of respect and failure to receive adequate training. One housekeeper stated that employees were concerned about their longterm health after new cleaning chemicals allegedly caused rashes and made breathing difficult. A blog post by a former Renaissance housekeeping supervisor (who worked in the period before the sale to the Procaccianti Group) states that injuries at the Renaissance were common, in part due to inadequate equipment and training. The former employee also described regular harassment of workers, including pressure not to pursue medical leave, and stated that the Renaissance “regarded them as animals.” The employees took their complaints to the street in the spring of this year. In March, the workers brought a petition to management demanding permission to join Unite Here Local 217. The petition was signed by more than 75 percent of service employees. Management refused the petition, and groups of protesters composed of hotel workers and city council members have picketed outside the Renaissance every Wednesday since. More recently, demonstrators gathered outside the Renaissance in a separate demonstration, protesting a multimillion-dollar tax break that the hotel is scheduled to receive from the city of Providence. In a press release from a lead organizer of Unite Here Local 217, Andrew Tillet-Saks wrote, “The Providence City Council introduced an ordinance to review the Renaissance Hotel’s tax break in the month of July. A tense standoff has ensued between The Procaccianti Group…and many Providence residents who feel the exemption is unfair and bad for the city.” The press release stated that the tax break would amount to approximately $9 million. Mayor Angel Taveras opposes continuing the tax break, citing rising taxes for working people and the necessity for city services revenue. In the press release, Tillet-Saks also quoted one Renaissance employee as saying, “Why is my employer, a multimillion dollar hotel company who’s paying lower taxes than a Providence small business, paying me such low wages?” As Unite Here Local 217 and other Re-
naissance worker supporters continue putting pressure on the city to discontinue the hotel’s tax break, it’s worth noting that support and attention for their efforts is limited. Press for the protests is strictly local, and even at the state level media coverage is not remotely extensive. While “Joey Quits” racked up a million hits across the globe in less than a week, the general Providence populace has not — at least not yet — been galvanized for the cause of the Renaissance employees. Of the rallies that took place in the past months, attendees have numbered in the “dozens” or less, according to several reports, and protesters are generally either hotel workers or members of labor rights organizations. The economy is on the upswing and the Occupy Wall Street public is settling down, so frustration with subpar working conditions and low paying jobs is not as widespread as it was several years ago. But despite the slowly improving economy, a portion of the population still doesn’t have the freedom or opportunity to declare their resignation to the fanfare of a marching band. This group tends to be immigrants. In an email, organizer Tillet-Saks writes, “Most of the workers are Latino immigrants, a particularly exploited group in the United States…They truly need all progressives in the Providence area’s support, so that they and justice prevail, and so that workers all over get the message that with unity a more equitable city is possible.” Workers’ rights abuses did not cease to exist after the Occupy movement subsided. Just because they are no longer magnified by a social movement and brought to national attention, does not mean that they don’t deserve a community’s attention. Maybe a more important point to make in the post-Occupy world is that the group who is now fighting to improve its work conditions will not be numerous, well organized college graduates armed with iPhones and a sense of being wronged by the system. They will be immigrants — both documented and undocumented — and non-union workers, groups that are more frequently marginalized by society. The legacy of “Joey Quits” is surviving, in part with a blog that shares the clip’s name. Joey Quits, the blog, shares the stories of hotel and restaurant workers and its stated mission is “to educate consumers and workers about the labor abuses happening everyday in the hotel and restaurant industries.” The blog posts the majority of its content in both English and Spanish. u
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made a point to brutally quash any leftist sympathies within Chile and proved essential in doing the same across Latin America. His control over the state continued until he acquiesced to a majority vote in a 1989 plebiscite favoring a return to democracy. Now, 40 years after the coup, Chile and the world look back on this tragic span of Latin American history, in particular Pinochet’s dark history of human rights abuses and political repression. The coup, while initially supported by wealthy Chileans and many others who were fed up with the hyperinflation and chronic shortages that marked the first three years of socialism, made short work of the government’s system of checks and balances and destroyed what some considered South America’s strongest democracy. The dictator justified his harsh style by insisting that he had saved Chile from becoming a communist state, but most Chileans do not believe this is true. A poll by the Competitive Edge Research & Communication firm (CERC) in September found that only 18 percent of Chileans believe the coup stopped the imposition of Marxist totalitarianism. 63 percent of those polled believe the coup destroyed democracy instead. Democracy was not the only thing Pinochet destroyed. According to a Chilean commission investigating human rights abuses, the list of people killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons during his regime totaled 40,018. Government estimates place the number of executions at around 3,000. Of these 1,200 are desaparecidos, victims whose bodies have never been found. Apart from the terrors he instigated in his own country, Pinochet and his intelligence agency (DINA, in its Spanish initials) were central players in Operation Condor, a transnational, U.S.-backed plan to hunt down, weaken and destroy leftist groups and leaders in Latin American countries. Pinochet’s coup also helped open the floodgates for right-wing takeovers across the Southern Cone, with Argentinean, Paraguayan and Uruguayan military juntas cooperating with Chile’s new government and learning from its example. While conservative groups may try to make the apparent success of Pinochet’s neoliberal agenda the focus of his legacy, much of the rhetoric underpinning his economic “advances” has been brought into doubt. The “Chilean miracle” that
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5% CANTY p.32
OF AMERICANS GIVE BLOOD OUT OF THOSE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE TO DO SO. 70% OF THESE ARE REPEAT DONORS.
CHILD FATALITIES ATTRIBUTED TO AMERICAN SANCTIONS ENFORCED AGAINST IRAQ DURING THE 1990S
75-YEAR MONOPOLY OVER CRUDE OIL HELD BY STATE-OWNED PETROLEUM COMPANY PETRÓLEOS MEXICANOS
THE APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF REFUGEES THAT HAVE RESETTLED IN PROVIDENCE
STORY BY THOMAS NATH / ART BY GOYO KWON
THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE VOLCKER RULE WAS 300 PAGES. REGULATORS NOW EXPECT THE FINAL DRAFT TO REACH UPWARDS OF 900 PAGES.
he Brown community’s excitement for Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to be the next head of the Federal Reserve, echoes throughout financial circles. Liberal economists and Wall Street financiers alike have supported Yellen — the current vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve and the 1967 Brown alumna — who may soon become the first female chairperson of the institution. Her past experience at the Federal Reserve, where she employed a tough yet diplomatic approach, and her proven track record as a macroeconomist makes her the ideal candidate to guide the United States through its economic straits. Yellen’s economic views center on her determination to reduce unemployment. As a researcher, Yellen’s publications on labor economics have often reflected her belief that in cases of high unemployment, raising inflation is necessary to stimulate job growth. Her interest in economics began at Brown, where her professors praised her as an excellent student. Much of her economic beliefs are predicated on her intellectual coming-of-age as a doctorate student at Yale in the infamous stagflation period of the 1970s. Her adviser was James Tobin, future Nobel laureate and staunch proponent of Keynesian economics. Fed chairs tend to stick around — they almost always serve through multiple presidents. Not only is Yellen’s stance appropriate for the country’s current fiscal situation, but it will also define the next era in fiscal
policy. While inflation rates are not alarmingly high, unemployment continues to hover at around 7.5 percent. The benefits of her stance are twofold. First, it has the potential to finally break the high unemployment rates that have persisted since 2008. Second, it would restore some power to labor unions. Anti-union legislation in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan has drastically reduced unions’ bargaining abilities, especially in Midwestern states whose economies depend on blue-collar labor. By garnering union support and acting in workers’ best interests, the Fed has the power to balance the scales of labor bargaining more equitably than in recent years. Outside of the labor market, Yellen’s experience, though not without blemish, demonstrates keen insight into the intricacies of global and national macroeconomics. During the Clinton years, Yellen was one of many who called for the deregulation of Wall Street, including the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a piece of legislation which, if it had remained active, could potentially have prevented the 2008 housing crisis by separating commercial and investment banks. However, Yellen was one of the few at the Federal Reserve to accurately predict the credit and housing crash as well as the subsequent recession, at a time when many others were still operating under high hopes for the economy. She also served as the head of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999 and as the head of the San Francisco Fed-
THOMAS NATH ‘16 IS A POLITICAL SCIENCE, APPLIED MATH-ECONOMICS AND LITERARY ARTS CONCENTRATOR.
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THE NUMBER OF DIGITAL CURRENCIES CURRENTLY IN CIRCULATION
Obama’s nominee will bring a new focus to the Fed
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THE YELLEN ERA
eral Reserve from 2004 to 2010. In the latter position, Yellen kept the region’s unemployment rate far below California state averages and kept the Bay Area economy from falling despite California’s economic woes. Yellen would be unique in yet another fashion: though her experience at Brown was far different from that of a current student — the economics department was no more than eight people strong back in the 1960s — Yellen would bring the thoughtful perspective she developed at Brown to the position of Federal Reserve chair. Accounts from peers and teachers paint a picture of a wildly intelligent and passionate individual who loved the study of economics. A college newspaper from 1966 offers more concrete evidence as to her character by quoting her as the leader of a protest group fighting for women’s rights on campus. Furthermore, Yellen has the potential to counteract the public distaste for the Fed, a definite boon given the mixed reviews that current chairperson Ben Bernanke has received. She is always deliberate about her words, often reading off meticulously curated scripts, even during meetings. As the Fed chairperson, she would be thoughtful, dedicated and precise. As the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve, Yellen would be a female icon in the traditionally male-dominated field of economics — indeed, her nomination alone is a progressive step. She might also have the power to bring a personable, hands-on style of management. Yellen bridges a divide by commanding respect from liberals and Wall Street conservatives alike. By making the “dismal science” of economics friendlier to the masses, Yellen could make her own job of setting monetary policy less contentious. Janet Yellen has a wealth of positive credentials to bring to the Federal Reserve. Her focus on unemployment is particularly prescient to the current economic climate, her experience in policy and academia is exhaustive, and her careful deliberation of the issues has garnered her much respect. While her general outlook is in the same regulatory vein as Bernanke’s, she would most likely employ a different, more proactive approach, opting to focus far more on unemployment and lower interest rates. Ultimately, only time can tell whether Janet Yellen will bring foresight and careful planning to the U.S. economy — but for now, the money’s on her. u
TWEETING THE TRUTH Sunil Tripathi was falsely accused. Will one online rumor define the new norms of journalism? STORY BY BEN WOFFORD
BuzzFeed, Dylan Byers of POLITICO, Luke Russert of NBC, Brian Ries of Newsweek and others spread the news. “Wow Reddit was right about the missing Brown student per the police scanner. Suspect identified as Sunil Tripathi,” tweeted Kaczynski. “HOLY SHIT. Suspect 2, white hat, was the missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi!!!!” tweeted Ries. Kang estimates over 6 million Twitter users saw similar tweets. At 5:16 a.m., NBC’s Pete Williams confirmed Sunil wasn’t a suspect. Phone inquiries to the Tripathis quickly turned into apologies, the tweets promptly deleted. Within hours, journalists began asking questions about the Tripathi case and the anatomy of a twenty-first century smear. “The key moment is clearly at 2:43 AM,” wrote Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, when Hughes’ tweet went out. But the scanner audio, now public, reveals no suspects were identified then — nor is the name “Tripathi” ever heard. Where Hughes got the information, or if he simply made it up, remains unknown. Hughes dismantled his Twitter account and “all but disappeared,” said Kang. Three days later Tripathi’s body was found, deemed to have taken his own life, a heartbreaking end to the manhunt. Dozens of news outlets have since published ruminations on what Tripathi symbolizes for their industry, and many assume that some consensus has formed to prevent the scandal from happening again, even if it’s unclear how. “No one gets off easy here,” wrote Madrigal. “All kinds of people participated in last night’s mistake.” But the real scandal is that no such consensus exists. Five months after an innocent student was labeled a murderer, some leading personas in journalism quietly believe that what happened is a fait accompli — a regrettable, but natural, byproduct of a newly democratized mass journalism. Then again, some reporters are less eager to fully embrace Twitter with open arms. “We may have a burning lust to get the scoop,” Wes Lowrey told me. Lowrey,
a reporter for the Boston Globe, was one of the first on the scene in Watertown. “But it hurts us all,” said Lowrey. “When even just one journalist makes this mistake, it hurts us all.”
hile Danny was driving at gunpoint, the all-nighter crowd was moving into the Brown Sciences Library, and I dug in for a history midterm in the mezzanine computer lab. Students kept their sunken eyes on textbooks and term papers as the first reports spread about the shootout in Watertown. If there was shock, we were too exhausted to register it. Surreal pictures and videos of gunfire and explosions instantly went viral. So did speculation about the perpetrators. When the photos appeared comparing Dzhokhar and Sunil, the first reactions were disbelief. “No way,” said one student, shaking his head. One hour later, we began to see tweets about the police scanner. The stragglers formed an impromptu circle, and like 12 Angry Men the SciLi mezzanine began debating the merits. Few could deny that the story came in official wrapping. The Atlantic Wire, the breaking-news subsidiary for Atlantic Media, had picked up the story that Tripathi’s name was heard on the scanner. Tweets from Kaczynski and Russert suggested the same. I looked up and found Sunil’s ‘MISSING’ flyer on the doorway. “Can you send me those photos?” I asked a student next to me, my curiosity growing. What triggered my actions next, maybe bolstered by the Wire story or caffeinated frenzy, I can’t say. But I made a mistake I will always regret. I logged into my account on the BPR website, where I was a columnist. “If initial reports are true,” I wrote, “Tripathi has been connected to the Boston Bombing.” “We pray for Tripathi’s family,” I added, “and our family at Brown.” The post, which embedded retweets, images and The Atlantic Wire story, was titled, “What We Know About Sunil Tripathi.” Almost immediately my phone buzzed.
magine you’re a news editor in the heat of a breaking story. Two reporters burst into your office. The first heard a report from CNN; the second heard another from NBC that directly contradicts the first. Whose version do you run with? Dylan Byers, a POLITICO media reporter in his mid-twenties, chose both, tweeting everything he came across and broadcasting the mistake about the police scanner. Except in Byers’ view, it wasn’t a mistake, but a philosophy. “For me, Twitter is a running conversation, and it’s wrong, it’s right and it’s everything at the same time,” Byers told me. “It’s a global newsroom of journalists talking to each other.” In the hypothetical with the two reporters, Twitter represents that conversation. “You couldn’t get mad at that first reporter just for citing bad information,” Byers said, because he was just relaying what others were saying. “For me, Twitter is this collective mind that self-corrects in real time.” For some, Byers’ idea captures the web’s most redeeming quality: the democratic ideal that many choose to see in Twitter’s monolithic, self-correcting blob of connectivity. I asked Byers if he expected the Tripathi family to see that as an acceptable explanation for what happened. “I don’t think there need to be Tripathi situations,” Byers answered, “but I do think there will be for some time.” He pointed
to the proliferation of journalists’ efforts to create an individual brand (“one of the defining changes of journalism in the last twenty years”) as an eventual saving grace for the industry. “Breaking [the story] first is a commodity, and getting it right is also a commodity,” he said. “And at a certain point, it’s in the natural interest of reporters to not get it wrong.” Byers likened this to exactly what it sounds like — a free market solution, where getting the story wrong incurs damage directly to your brand. Absent from this ideology of self-correction is a role for news institutions — NBC won’t be punishing Russert for bad tweets any time soon. That vacuum explains why Twitter is the perfect petri dish for Byers’ larger market-based theory. But are brands really so powerful that their only
LOWREY, A REPORTER FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE, WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ON THE SCENE IN WATERTOWN. “WHEN EVEN JUST ONE JOURNALIST MAKES THIS MISTAKE,” HE SAID, “IT HURTS US ALL.” ethical safeguard is a “marketplace” of news consumers, punishing inaccuracy by buying a better “commodity” somewhere else? “I don’t buy that,” Globe reporter Wes Lowrey told me. A market value for journalistic accountability, he says, isn’t enough. “Look, NBC misidentified the Navy Yard shooter,” he pointed out. “Chuck Todd didn’t lose a single follower, and NBC didn’t lose an ounce of credibility.” The 24-year-old staff reporter was covering the shooting at MIT when officers heard a radio dispatch and darted to their cruisers. Lowrey chased the troopers to Watertown, where he joined about four reporters at the scene inside the police line, one block from Tamerlan’s body. Recounting his night, Lowrey made an impassioned case for a journalistic ideal, railing against an industry badly in need of reform. Journalists may hold themselves in high regard, Lowrey said, “but the public that we’re meant to serve has this incredible disdain for the industry.” “Journalists need to do a better job policing each other,” he added, recalling a moment in Watertown when a bystander was mistakenly handcuffed. “I thought, I can take a picture and Tweet this right now.
Then I realized, there’s nothing I can do that won’t simply hurt this man. The first rule needs to be: Do no harm.” Lowrey’s Hippocratic oath is a far cry from Byers’ running conversation, and it’s telling that these ideas relate to distinct traditions — the emergency room, where harm is not an option, and the courtroom proceeding, where both sides are right until a subjective jury decides the truth. It underscores why the divide over Tripathi is more than just “new ” versus “old” media. Instead, Byers and Lowrey represent competing factions within the next generation of elite reporters trying to define the role of social media in their profession and, ultimately, the public identity of journalism. The same debate explains the hazy blame game following the Tripathi incident. Kaczynski deleted his tweets; Kang failed to mention a Times colleague who also retweeted. Who, if either, is guilty? Even Madrigal failed to mention the Atlantic Wire’s broadcasting of the scanner. Everyone seems to agree on one thing, though: in this diffuse new Twittersphere, the search for a clear antagonist is futile. No one has been able to find Hughes. But even if we could, he only reminds us that on the web, it’s easier than ever to escape accountability — not because he’s actually disappeared, but because in journalism’s ongoing and chaotic argument with itself, accountability has yet to be defined. Meanwhile, the damage left behind is permanent, as should be the evidence, says Byers. Unlike Kaczynski or Hughes, Byers has left his tweets up for all to see. “I don’t believe in taking away an old tweet any more than you can recall the print editions of a paper,” he told me. “I think the best thing to do in a situation like this is basically to own up to it.” I thought of Byers as I searched for words, writing the correction BPR should have printed six months ago: On April 19, brownpoliticalreview.org falsely identified missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi as Boston Bombing “Suspect #2,” later confirmed as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The claims were sourced to a series of tweets and media reports unverified by our staff. Tripathi, in fact, had passed away, and was later identified by authorities. BPR has apologized to the Tripathi family and has taken steps to ensure that such misreporting won’t happen again. We regret the error. u BEN WOFFORD ‘14 IS A HISTORY CONCENTRATOR AND AN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AT BPR.
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t was April 18 at 11:00 p.m. when Danny first imagined he was going to die. The Chinese graduate student had stopped his Mercedes just outside of Boston when a stranger rapped on his window. “Don’t be stupid,” said the hooded face, producing a handgun. Danny, who gave only his first name to the Boston Globe, was soon driving alleged terrorists Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at gunpoint. Later at a gas station, Danny seized a ripe moment, unbuckled his seatbelt and sprinted for his life. When Danny’s ordeal ended, the Tripathi family’s began. The events in Watertown, Mass. during the morning of April 19 briefly collided with a 22-year-old missing Brown student named Sunil Tripathi, widely misidentified by the media as bombing “Suspect #2” — actually Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In a popular lust to identify the suspects, online spectators condemned Sunil to the realm of Internet justice, and the Tripathis to a new media nightmare from hell. Since the first explosions in Boston, speculation about Tripathi was percolating through social media website Reddit. Shortly after 5:00 p.m. on April 18, side-byside photographs comparing Sunil to “Suspect #2,” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, circulated on the site. An Internet mob dedicated to spreading the rumor gathered strength, moving across the web and leaving harassing comments on the “Help Us Find Sunil” Facebook page. The Tripathis took the page down at 11:00 p.m. At 2:42 a.m., one tweet lit the match that consumed the media. “[Boston Police] scanner has identified the names. Suspect 1 Mike Mulugeta Suspect 2 Sunil Tripathi,” tweeted @ghughesca, a bystander named Greg Hughes. In a single moment Hughes’ tweet transformed Reddit’s theories into a breaking news story. “Right around 3 a.m., it caught on fire,” New York Times Magazine reporter Jay Caspian Kang told NPR, as a stampede of journalists rushed to broadcast the story. In the next two hours Andrew Kaczynski of
“Where are your sources?” my editor demanded, awake and following the news. For a moment, I was taken aback. Wasn’t the post just keeping people informed about what others were saying? “If this stays published,” he said, “then I quit.” With those words, gravity set in. Six minutes after publishing, the post was permanently removed. By 5:00 a.m., it was clear Sunil was not a suspect, and I sat numbly staring at the computer, stupefied by the good fortune of being stopped by someone who knew better. My phone buzzed again. “Meet at Louie’s?” read the text, from another friend. Alone, I walked through cold morning fog down Brook Street, heading south, taking the path where Sunil was last seen alive. We found a table in the empty restaurant. “I had a friend who knew him,” he eventually mentioned, offhand. “He was just the nicest person.” Pushing eggs around on a plate, I thought for the first time about what it means to ruin a name.
RIGHT TO RAISE Baby Veronica lost her parents. Then she lost her Native heritage. STORY BY FLORIPA OLGUIN / ART BY DYLAN C. PLATT
ilies and placed into non-Native public or private systems such as foster care or the adoption process. Forced removals were common occurrences during the “Boarding School” era, which spanned from the late 1800s to the early 1920s. The era is remembered for Richard Henry Pratt and the Carlisle Indian School he established in Pennsylvania, whose infamous motto read, “Kill the Indian, save the man.” Many
THE COURT’S OPINION IN ADOPTIVE COUPLE NOT ONLY UNDERMINED THE CHEROKEE NATION’S RIGHT TO RAISE VERONICA, BUT ALSO, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, VERONICA’S RIGHT TO GROW UP IMMERSED IN HER NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE. Native American children were wrongfully taken from their homes and sent to boarding schools to assimilate into American society. In the current debate over Veronica, and in the face of continued assimilation of Native children, the purpose of the ICWA has never been more relevant. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Veronica was returned to her adoptive parents in September. In many ways, the verdict reflects the Court’s failure to adhere to
its “trust responsibility” — a special term describing the time-honored precedent within U.S.-Indian policy. This precedent defines tribes as “domestic dependent Nations” that retain their sovereignty. Instead, the verdict placed more importance on the implications of custody rights at the time of adoption, rather than the greater picture of sovereignty. The Court’s opinion in Adoptive Couple not only undermined the Cherokee Nation’s right to raise Veronica, but also, and more importantly, Veronica’s right to grow up immersed in her Native American heritage. The federal government is legally obligated to uphold the trust responsibility, and that means adhering to its own treaties and policies pertaining to Native Nations. Anything less is politically inexcusable and unjust. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito outlined the Court’s rationale: the ICWA holds that “involuntary termination of parental rights” is permissible so long as “efforts have been made to prevent the ‘breakup of the Indian family.’” Alito argued that “the parent abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child.” The justification for the removal of Veronica, in other words, centers on the “break of the Indian family.” Because Brown was not present during Veronica’s birth, the Court reasoned, he should automatically lose parental rights — without the father present, there was no family to “break up.” But the decision overlooks the
fact that Dustin Brown was serving in the military at the time of adoption, complicating his ability to exercise parental rights. It also wrongly implies that the ending of a relationship between two people automatically denotes paternal abandonment for the child. Even if Brown did not have custody, Veronica still has 1.2% Indian blood, which under Cherokee law makes her a member of the Nation. Justice Alito’s argument fails to consider that the act of placing Veronica in a non-Native home breaks up a Native American family. In her passionate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged this. “Baby Girl has now resided with her father for 18 months,” wrote Justice Sotomayor. It would be “devastating now if, at the age of 3½, she is again removed from her home and sent to live halfway across the country.” The amount of time that Veronica had spent with her Cherokee family before the case was argued seems evidence enough that a Native American family was broken. “In Oklahoma, [Veronica] was surrounded by her large extended family,” explains Indian Country Today journalist
Suzette Brewer. The family included “her grandparents, her father and stepmother, her sister [and] half a dozen cousins.” Veronica likely possesses distinct memories of her Cherokee family, compounding the trauma of losing her father and the rest of her family in Oklahoma. Now residing in South Carolina with the Capobiancos, Veronica will have little opportunity to engage her heritage or her Native identity — a tragically familiar story for many Native American families. In principle, this removal is forced assimilation. Christy Maldonado, Veronica’s biological mother, has publically supported the Capobiancos’ adoption. In an op-ed to the Washington Post, Maldonado wrote, “I fought all the way to the Supreme Court for Veronica’s right to be treated like a human being — not property owned by a Native American tribe.” But the purpose of tribal membership is to prevent exactly this kind of dehumanization by protecting a collective identity. Maldonado’s heartfelt appeal also fails to address the larger significance of the ICWA for her daughter, and the dangerous precedent that it creates.
The repercussions of Adoptive Couple continue to resonate throughout Indian Country. While the Cherokee Nation mourned their loss with vigils, the Court’s decision has left others fearful that the protections afforded to their families under the ICWA have been compromised. The fates of other Native American children have been put at risk, endangering Native cultures across the country and angering tribal leaders. Their sovereignty has been violated yet again. The fault, however, does not lie solely with the Supreme Court. The federal government, and U.S. citizens for that matter, hold a civic duty to understand foundational treaties and policies between Native Americans and the country. Americans may still possess an alarming ignorance of Native American culture. For Indian Country, however, this narrative is all too familiar. In an effort to reassign parental custody, the Supreme Court has reassigned Veronica’s heritage and whitewashed history. u FLORIPA OLGUIN ‘16 IS A PUBLIC POLICY CONCENTRATOR.
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n the past four years, Indian Country has felt the turmoil of shifting policies regarding Native American children, most recently with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in 2013. “Baby Girl” refers to a fouryear-old named Veronica, whose father, Dustin Brown, is of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. When Veronica was four months old, her non-Native biological mother, Christy Maldonado, placed Veronica up for adoption without properly notifying her father or the Cherokee Nation. As a member by birth of the Cherokee Nation, Veronica would normally be protected from improper adoption by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which prevents Native children from being placed in non-Native homes. Nevertheless, Veronica was eventually adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobiancos of South Carolina. To reclaim his infant daughter, Dustin Brown took the couple to court. In 2012, Veronica’s case reached the Supreme Court of South Carolina, which ruled that, under the ICWA, Veronica belonged to her Native father. The Capobiancos appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled last June that the ICWA couldn’t prevent Veronica’s adoption because of issues surrounding custody at the time of her adoption. Congress enacted the ICWA in 1978 to ensure that children of tribal nations weren’t forcibly removed from their fam-
HOPING FOR PROVIDENCE
l l i W l l i B e t a n e S g n i p e e d w r S a A y k c a How B s ’ n w o r B Affect
met Ruth Chhuani and Vaiphei Thanga on a Sunday afternoon at their home in South Providence. The couple from Myanmar live in a townhouse rental across from Unique Hair Salon and Providence Pawnbrokers in the Washington Park neighborhood and had just returned home from church with their two young children. Washington Park is an ethnically and racially diverse area of Providence — about one-third Hispanic, one-third white and one-fifth black. Over one third of its population are immigrants. Close to multiple employment opportunities and a few beautiful parks, Washington Park seemed to be the perfect place for Ruth and Vaiphei to raise their kids. As I stood at their door, the pair ush-
or many U.S. immigrants, the process of obtaining long-term legal status often takes decades, if it happens at all. Undocumented or temporary residents routinely live in constant fear of separation from their families or deportation back to oppressive and poverty-stricken home countries. The Senate has appeared perennially deaf to pleas for reform. Desperate, failed measures, like Reagan’s blanket amnesty for 3 million illegal residents in 1986, have seemed to be the only response Washington can muster. In typical D.C. fashion, change has come in fits and spurts, if at all, and even then only once crisis has already arisen. At least that was the pattern until the 113th Congress convened in 2013. In June 2013, the U.S. Senate approved the cumbersomely named Border Security,
before Congress. But the bill did not even make it to the House. Before this past June, the most recent passage of immigration reform legislation had been Reagan’s amnesty bill in 1986 — making the current legislation a significant leap forward in an outdated system. How was it that the polarized Senate was able to unify and pass an immigration bill for the first time in nearly 30 years? The answer largely came at the hands of lobbying forces said Julia Preston, the national immigration correspondent for the New York Times. In 2007, a fragmented mish-mosh of groups had their hats in the immigration reform debate. “The coalition of forces supporting immigration abroad is exceptionally wide,” Preston said. Pro-Latin American groups, Asian advocates, farming agencies and the technology industry: these groups had similar goals — easier pathways to American citizenship — but could not work as a cohesive unit. But the six years following that first push for reform have done wonders for these pro-reform groups, allowing them to stabilize, fundraise and create more realistic goals for change. Some sort of reform, they surmised, was better than keeping the convoluted and unapologetically roundabout system currently in place. As such, these forces were able to unite and pressure the Senate to pass the bill. But what has been approved in the Democrat-controlled Senate will not necessarily stand in the Tea Party-filled House, Preston added. Republican representatives have refused to put the bill up to a vote and have already picked the bill apart, focusing their efforts on enacting reform in smaller steps. The House Judiciary Committee passed four smaller bills in July. Drafted primarily by conservative advocates, these bills attack immigration issues step-by-step. While one bill contains a seemingly liberal provision allowing agricultural firms to hire more foreign “guest workers,” other bills from the group would create heightened legal screening policies for hiring workers and would give state and local police forces the power to arrest undocumented workers in order to turn them over to federal agencies for processing and deportation. Though these smaller House bills address the U.S. immigration system in some ways, on the whole they are more antagonistic than accommodating to immigrants. The Senate bill’s opponents do have
some legitimate qualms. There are issues with privacy that arise in provisions relating to the so-called E-Verify system proposed in the bill. Companies currently use E-Verify on a voluntary basis to check the legal status of their employees, but the proposed bill would increase and mandate its use. Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has been an outspoken critic of the EVerify system, considered instrumental by some in guaranteeing that American jobs don’t go to undocumented workers. Citing its possibility for abuse, Sen. Paul drew a connection to an Orwellian-sounding “National ID’” that in his words, makes “every business owner a policeman.” But most opposition comes in the form of anti-amnesty rhetoric. Many opponents mistakenly characterize the meticulous approach proposed in the bill as a free give-
Sometimes it takes nearly 13 years to acquire a green card, during which time immigrants’ spouses are often barred from working.
away to undeserving undocumented workers — a “non-starter” for Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who view complete border security as a necessary precursor to any talk of increasing citizenship. The travails of Providence’s thousands of hardworking refugees and the bill’s own provisions belie this assertion that immigrant advocates want to dole out citizenship like Halloween candy. The truth is more that the House, unlike the Senate, seems unwilling to give millions of immigrants in the United States a path to a formalized stay anytime soon. Scarier yet is the prospect of this debate occurring during an election year. If representatives in the House don’t take up the issue soon, it could be debated in the midst of congressional elections in 2014, where chances of reform are even slimmer.
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ered me into their home in a kind, excited manner and immediately served me an assortment of pastries and tea. Their energy seemed boundless as they answered questions about their history and struggles as immigrants in Rhode Island. Vaiphei left the room partway through for his weekly English lessons, and the couple’s four-yearold daughter, Rebecca, climbed onto Ruth’s lap, begging to be held and played with. Providence is home to many immigrants like Ruth and Vaiphei. The city has been a major center for refugee resettlement since the 1970s, with a refugee population hovering around 10,000 according to modern estimates. Most have fled oppressive governments and sought asylum and opportunity in the land of the free. Ruth and Vaiphei are no exception. Their story begins with heartbreak and continues indefinitely and tenuously in the Ocean State — why they left their home country, how they adjusted to life in America, and when their impending path to U.S. citizenship
will end. For Ruth, Vaiphei and millions like them, the dream has seemed impossible for years. But recent legislative developments promise incredible change.
Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Passing by a vote of 68 to 32 — a refreshing and sweeping bipartisan gesture — the bill planned for an overhaul of the current immigration system. If passed by the House of Representatives, the bill would provide a more definitive 13-year path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million immigrants living in the United States without legal status. The legislation would also create an even shorter path for those with only temporary legal status. Like most seemingly good political stories, there’s a catch: the vote in the viscerally partisan House has been postponed indefinitely because of more pressing concerns, such as Syria and the budget crisis. The Senate bill was written by what has been referred to as the “Gang of Eight,” a group equal parts Democrat and Republican, composed of senators who represent states ranging from New York to Arizona to Colorado to South Carolina. The bill is broken into five sections: border security, immigration visas, interior enforcement, non-immigrant visa programs and jobs for youth. The bill removes quotas and installs a merit-based point system for immigrants – prioritizing those with family members in the country, marketable skills and work history in United States. It increases the number of visas available to entrepreneurs and to those in the STEM fields, while providing extra provisions for native-born children of immigrants, agricultural workers and low-skilled temporary laborers. Though the bill would also introduce more conservative measures — like dedicating nearly $30 billion to increased border security — its most promising measure for the immigrants in the United States is the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program. The RPI program would allow immigrants who have maintained U.S. residency since December 31, 2011, passed background checks and fulfilled several other requirements to become legal in the United States for an average of six years. After further review, this decision could be renewed for another six-year term. RPIs would then be able to apply for a green card after ten years in the program. For the millions living in fear and uncertainty, the RPI program’s clear citizenship guidelines would be a stabilizing force in their tumultuous lives. The Senate’s passage of the reform bill was the first major step in challenging the current immigration system since 2007, the last time any discourse like this was brought
BY THE NUMBERS IN RHODE ISLAND, in 2013, foreign-born residents made up
13% of the population, with an estimated undocumented. 28%
of the population is foreign born – of whom–
are citizens – although –
change in foreign-born population, 2000-2010
of children of immigrant families are citizens
If Congress seems polarized now, election years are notorious for pushing lawmakers to adopt an even more partisan and combative tenor. The odds of another significant bipartisan feat like the Senate bill occurring in the House during 2014 would not be favorable for pro-immigrant advocates.
hile all of this was going on in Washington, Ruth Chhuani brought another mug of steaming green tea. Ruth fled Myanmar to nearby
Malaysia with her husband and two-yearold son Robin in 2007. In Myanmar, her family was at the mercy of a corrupt military dictatorship and under the ever-present threat of random arrest, but their new Malaysian home was not easy living either. She and Vaiphei had been educated and were decently well off in their home country — Ruth had a degree in zoology, and Vaiphei had one in geography. Yet in Malaysia, they were struggling to provide for themselves and their son. The two secured a few funds, and still
plagued with thoughts of the terror they had only recently left behind in Myanmar, Ruth and Vaiphei applied for temporary asylum in the United States through the UN. The fact that she was pregnant at the time with her second child, Rebecca, made the process more halting, Ruth said, because many women fake pregnancies to increase their odds of receiving some sort of asylum abroad. After Rebecca’s birth, and with the burden of repaying $1,000 in hospital fees, $500 in registration and $2,700 in airfare
to the United States, the Chhuanis finally landed in Rhode Island. Nearly 13.5 percent of Rhode Island’s population is foreign-born, and of that only 50 percent have secured citizenship, according to data from the 2011 Rhode Island state census. Mostly from Latin American or Southeast Asian nations, the city’s immigrant communities, like those in Washington Park, are remarkably strong. This is in large part due to the generous resources available to refugees in the Ocean State. After landing in Providence, Ruth
uth and Vaiphei are not without hope. They are stable, hardworking, determined people that – immigration bill or not – will likely make it through the next decade by strictly adhering to an unforgiving system. Though the citizenship process will slow them down, other immigrants have more to worry about, including finances, marital troubles and unemployment. Ruth, on the other hand, told me that they “were lucky.” Other immigrants were not. Tech industry workers that come from countries like China and India often “have a very long and unreasonable wait” to receive any sort of permanent legal status in the United States, according to Preston. Sometimes it takes nearly 13 years to acquire a green card, during which immigrants’ spouses are often barred from working. For millions of immigrants in the U.S., the prospect of permanent legal status lies in the hands of the House of Representatives. If they become citizens, Ruth said, she and Vaiphei could revisit family in their homeland. Myanmar, after the democratization of the corrupt military dictatorship, is now a much safer environment. The couple would also be able to work in the United States without restrictions. Often, it’s the benefits we take for granted that most inspire refugees seeking citizenship. Ruth really wants to vote — she has never done so in her lifetime. For her, one of the greatest appeals of the idea of the United States has been the power of political suffrage, a prospect that seemed unfathomable in her lifetime had she stayed in Myanmar. After years of living under monarchies, dictatorships and a tenuous legal status in America, the realization of her dream is now on the horizon. “My age, at 34, I really want to vote,” she told me. “I say to my husband, if we are citizens, then we can have a vote,” she concluded. Ruth and Vaiphei’s fate hangs in the balance of the House, as do the fates of 11 million other immigrants. If the House decides to take up the Senate’s bill, at least some reform, rather than the untenable status quo, seems possible in 2013. u MAGGIE LIVINGSTONE ‘16 IS AN URBAN STUDIES CONCENTRATOR.
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Sources: Rikidscount.org and Brookings.edu
and Vaiphei were directed to the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island by their contacts from the UN. For Ruth and Vaiphei, the Institute’s help was life changing: getting them employment, finding them a community and helping them with resettlement. The impact of possible immigration legislation will have “widespread effects” on thousands of people like Ruth and Vaiphei in Rhode Island, said Michelle DePlante, director of Community Relations and Welcoming at the Dorcas Institute. The bill could potentially overhaul much of what the institute does, said DePlante: reform would help individuals reunite with their families, enable work authorization, encourage more undocumented immigrants to seek assistance and help with the reallocation of visas. One of the primary goals of the institute, she explained, is to ensure that immigrants become “selfsustaining” in a reasonable time frame. When I spoke to DePlante, she had just returned home from Washington, D.C., where she had been working with Rhode Island’s four congressional delegates, whom she described as “really supportive of our immigrant and refugee community.” One of her largest responsibilities at the Dorcas Institute is communicating with elected officials at local, state and even federal levels to work in the best interests of the immigrant community. But DePlante, like the migrants she works with, is in limbo: “We were happy to see that the Senate passed the bill. And we’re waiting to see how the House takes it up.” With the institute’s help, Vaiphei was hired at a cleaning supplies store, while Ruth works some Saturdays at the Providence Granola Project, a granola-manufacturing company founded specifically to hire refugees. The family founded and has become leaders in a welcoming, churchgoing Myanmarese community in Providence. They are diligent about learning English, and though they still speak in slightly broken accents, the couple is, after four years, largely accustomed to life in Rhode Island. On my way back to College Hill, I couldn’t help but think that Ruth and Vaiphei are the kind of people who deserve the benefits of citizenship.
A RULE AS THIN AS GLASS The centerpiece of Dodd-Frank remains unfinished.
cession to continue unfettered today. For the American economy, the implications of this could be disastrous. The current debacle surrounding the Volcker Rule puts the federal government’s inefficient regulatory mechanisms on full display. The first draft of the bill was already a hefty 300 pages. After much debate regulators expect the final draft to reach upwards of 900 pages. Both liberals and conservatives still criticize the Volcker Rule for its lack of clearly defined guidelines. The Volcker Rule — named after one of its primary advocates, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker — was designed to be a contemporary replacement for the Glass-Steagall Act, passed during the Great Depression. Glass-Steagall is considered one of the most significant legislative achievements of the twentieth century, as it finally put a wall between commercial and investment banking. In doing so, it stabilized the banking sector for approximately 60 years. But over time, and with particular speed during the Reagan era, both Federal Reserve policy and increasingly complex banking maneuvers rendered the law largely useless. It was ultimately repealed in 1999 under the Clinton Administration. Following the repeal, commercial banks began to engage in previously illegal trades at an alarming pace. Several investment banks merged with commercial banks, and banks openly gambled large portions of their own reserves with federal complicity. This high-risk trading eventu-
ally had a devastating effect on commercial banks and the national economy during the sub-prime mortgage bust. According to the Volcker Rule’s authors, Senators Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) and Carl Levin (D-MI), commercial banks lost around $230 billion dollars from proprietary trades in under a year. While the primary causes of the Great Recession are still under debate, there is no doubt that these losses helped make the TARP bailouts necessary. The consensus in Washington was that it was time to implement a modern Glass-Steagall. To do this, lawmakers attempted to mitigate some of the original problems with the legislation. But their efforts went unnoticed. Banks dodged regulators and worked around stipulations without punishment. The goal of the Volcker Rule was to craft a law that bankers would find agreeable. But to placate the banking industry, legislators have watered down the Volcker Rule, perhaps excessively. The convoluted nature of the Volcker Rule tops its list of deficiencies. Unlike Glass-Steagall, which defined what types of banking institutions can exist, the Volcker Rule would only regulate the types of trade commercial banks could engage in — a less comprehensive way of regulating that leaves open many potential loopholes. Instead of creating a wall between commercial and investment banking, like Glass-Steagall, the Volcker Rule would create something more like a hurdle. The law would place a heavy burden on regulators
IN A VIRTUALLY IGNORED GOVERNMENT SCANDAL, REGULATORS HAVE FAILED TO HAMMER OUT AND IMPLEMENT ONE OF DODD-FRANK’S MOST IMPORTANT AND CONTENTIOUS PROVISIONS: THE VOLCKER RULE. ance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Having five agencies revise the text dilutes the cogency of the law and is also markedly inefficient, as the multi-year delay demonstrates. Meanwhile, banks and congressmen have reacted to the law with a mix of outrage and confusion. An initial draft of the Volcker Rule received over 18,000 letters of complaint. Bank lobbyists hounded regulators in attempts to sway them to loosen up the Volcker Rule even further. Specific criticisms were plentiful and well published. Liberal Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) notably sent a letter to the five agencies responsible for implementing the Volcker Rule voicing their apprehensions that investment regulations “will inevitably result in significant competitive disadvantages for U.S. firms operating globally.” Despite growing concerns, banks continue to make risky investments. In preparation for the new regulations, many banks, such as Bank of America and Barclays, quickly began to put an end to their investment banking portfolios. However, some banking giants, such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, continued to make proprietary trades amidst the confusion. Goldman has kept approximately $9 billion in investment banking commitments that Glass-Steagall would have prevented. Goldman plans to divest if and when the Volcker Rule comes into effect. JP Morgan, on the other hand, was recently fined $928 million for discreetly ignoring the new regulations in what came to be known as the “London Whale” incident. The fiasco involved making proprietary trades under what the U.S. Senate called “the guise of ordinary hedging.” JP Morgan — a company that was bailed out by the government just four years ago — lost approximately $6 billion dollars. Right now, the American banking industry is stuck in a regulatory environment defined only by chaos. As JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have shown, banks that successfully subvert the rules can gain a competitive advantage over their domestic competitors so long as they don’t get caught. And while the recent JP Morgan fines show that the government does at least have some mechanism to punish banks that frivolously flout the law, top officials who knew of the trading escaped com-
pletely unscathed. If the unclear nature of the current Volcker Rule allows the culture of avoidance to remain largely intact, more scandals are sure to come. The frustration with the Volcker Rule is also manifesting itself in other, more public ways. A coalition of Senators led by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) has recently introduced a bill to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act. In an obvious dig at the Volcker Rule’s efficacy, their bill would demand an even clearer separation between commercial and investment banking. And, at least for now, this bill comes in at just about 30 pages. Regrettably, the chances of Congress passing such a bill are slim to none. And even if Congress did pass Warren and McCain’s version of a modern Glass-Steagall Act, the complete failure of the Volcker Rule would loom large over regulators’ new task. Bank lobbyists would again flood Washington with complaints. Perhaps this bill would eventually become littered with loopholes, too. While stronger regulation may be a possibility further down the line, current Congressional gridlock makes the Volcker Rule the regulators’ best tool for ensuring the safety of the American banking system. However, a complete failure to draft a stronger, final version of the Volcker Rule would equally endanger the American economy, and would further call into question the capabilities of America’s regulatory agencies. The Volcker Rule remains, for lack of a better term, in bureaucratic purgatory. If no significant progress is made soon, that just might mean economic hell for the rest of us. u EZRA KAGAN ‘17 IS A POTENTIAL ECONOMICS OR POLITICAL SCIENCE CONCENTRATOR.
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n the five years since the Great Recession, the American outlook on the banking industry has changed considerably. After the stock market plunged in 2007, risky trading practices became the story on every major news network and anti-banking vitriol spread. Rhetoric against “the 1 percent” permeated almost every medium, from onsite protests like Occupy Wall Street, to social media campaigning. Congress responded by passing DoddFrank, the most substantial banking regulation in decades. The bill called for greater accountability and transparency in the banking industry and for a range of new consumer protections. For a fleeting moment, it seemed like massive institutional failure might become a thing of the past. The fleeting moment has long since passed, and the Dodd-Frank reforms have had less impact than was earlier imagined. In a virtually ignored governmental scandal, regulators have failed to hammer out the language of one of Dodd-Frank’s most important and contentious provisions: the Volcker Rule. The Volcker Rule is a law designed to prohibit commercial banks from making risky investments with their own money. These illicit transactions are formally known as proprietary trades, and during immense economic downturn can wreak havoc on a bank’s reserves. Because the Volcker Rule is incomplete, it has yet to take effect, allowing some of the very same banking practices that caused the Great Re-
STORY BY EZRA KAGAN / ART BY SHEILA SITARAM
while simultaneously providing enough leeway for banks to continue risky trading. Some analysts predict that as a result of the loopholes, banks will be able to engage in just as many proprietary trades as before the crisis. Such concessions might be acceptable, or even beneficial, if federal regulators were implementing the Volcker Rule effectively. Yet more than three years after Dodd-Frank, progress continues at a sluggish pace. Part of the problem stems from the fact that five separate regulatory agencies have to approve the Volcker Rule: the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insur-
BLOOD MONEY When blood becomes a big business, free donations carry a high price. STORY BY ARIADNE ELLSWORTH / ART BY EMILY REIF
That’s when we forgot that the blood business had ever been just that — a business. Today, blood banks turn quite a profit from the high prices of blood donations, even after staffing, testing, packaging and distribution costs, but this is not where the industry derives the lion’s share of profit. Here is where the situation becomes complicated. Hospitals often buy more blood from blood banks across the country than needed, and then resell it to blood banks elsewhere at a profit. For example, a Brown student might hear that there is a blood drive on campus being conducted by the Red Cross, and donate a pint of blood. That blood is put on ice, tested and either sold to a local institution — like a hospital in Providence — or sometimes directly to a city that can pay a high price for it. If the blood stays in Providence, it would likely be resold by the Providence hospital to a blood bank outof-state, say in Massachusetts, at a markedup price. The blood bank in Massachusetts would treat the blood to separate it into its component parts, which it could then sell to other hospitals throughout the United States at an even larger markup. The cycle might repeat itself until the blood reaches a final destination that never has enough blood, like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Philadelphia. But by the time that one unit of blood has reached its final destination, it has been shipped around the country, divided, treated and — most importantly — increased in price multiple times. As long as donors don’t feel cheated by the fact that their blood was sold at a profit,
or that blood banking is a multi-billion dollar industry, then, from an economic standpoint, free trade is probably the best and most efficient way to allocate this life-saving commodity. If the blood banking industry tried to keep blood prices low, this approach would create a more equal distribution of blood but guarantee shortages in the cities that need it the most. But the free market system still has some disturbing moral implications that are much harder to dismiss. First, patients who need blood in the United States are charged around $300 dollars per pint required during treatment. A car accident victim could be charged up to $30,000 or more for the 100 or more units of blood they might require during treatment. Without proper health insurance, patients or their bereaved families could very well face bankruptcy simply from having to pay for blood that was originally donated. It seems hard to defend the fact that the forprofit blood industry can charge patients tens of thousands of dollars for blood, potentially sinking them deep into debt, when blood donors are unpaid volunteers. While hospitals are allowed to charge patients hundreds of dollars per pint, blood donation centers are explicitly forbidden by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to compensate donors with anything that has a cumulative value exceeding $25. In other words, one side of the business is allowed to secretly exploit the altruism of the other. But the exploitation can also take the form of deliberate deceit. Journalist Gilbert Gaul’s pivotal series
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ithin a few weeks of your generous donation, your blood could be sold for an average of $229 per unit and shipped from city to city in the United States via FedEx. More than 9 million people give blood annually in the United States, and every year their blood is distributed and sold to hospitals for anything ranging from $57.91 to $535.17 per unit. Yet few donors are aware that their pint of blood is part of a $4.5 billion-dollar-a-year industry that hides much more than just high revenues under the veil of charity. When we line up outside our local Red Cross, volunteering to get poked and prodded and drained of a pint of blood, we tend to assume that the nurses doing the poking are volunteers and the free cookies are really free. But everything in the blood business costs money: shipping the blood to hospitals, employing nurses, paying rent, testing blood for disease and yes, buying cookies. Nevertheless, the assumption remains that all this is actually pro bono. Up until the mid-twentieth century, people had the choice to get paid for their blood. Beginning with World War II, blood centers in the United States would pay Americans up to $40 a pint. But this model ultimately proved unsuccessful, because openly for-profit blood centers mainly attracted individuals who were in need of a quick buck, resulting in lower quality blood donations. So by the 1960s and 1970s, the United States began calling for an altruistic blood supply in the hopes that blood would instead come from healthier individuals.
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tinues to battle. However, the fact that the United States currently faces a grievous blood shortage means that the ban is also poor policy. The exclusion of millions of potential donors could become a matter of life or death for thousands of hospital patients throughout the nation. The United States faced a major blood shortage just this summer, which caused the cancellation of elective surgeries in hospitals in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta. While the Red Cross estimates that it needs 80,000 units of blood per day, it presently only has 36,000 available, prompting Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy to tell NBC in September that this was “one of the worst [blood shortages] the Red Cross has ever seen.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) calls human blood shortages “a perennial problem because of
IT SEEMS HARD TO DEFEND THE FACT THAT THE FOR-PROFIT BLOOD INDUSTRY CAN CHARGE PATIENTS TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR BLOOD, POTENTIALLY SINKING THEM DEEP INTO DEBT, WHEN BLOOD DONORS ARE UNPAID VOLUNTEERS. the relatively short life span (21 days) of stored blood and the traditional shortage periods during summer vacation months and other vacation periods.” One reason the United States has seen an increase in life-threatening blood shortages is the problem of participation. While only about 5 percent of eligible Americans donate, roughly 70 percent of them are repeat donors, with a large contingent of them becoming too old to give blood. World War II and Korean War era generations have for years made up a significant segment of the individuals donating blood, and are aging out of the ability to do so. No one is stepping in to replace them. Allowing MSM to donate blood would add the roughly 4 million openly gay and bisexual men in the U.S. population, as well as any other man who would truthfully answer that he has ever had sexual intercourse with another man. The gay community in the United States has expressed an active interest in donating blood, organizing events such as the U.S. National Gay Blood Drive on July 12, in which gay men across the nation attempted to give blood. Lifting
the ban would add an entirely new segment of the population to the U.S. blood donor pool. In 2006, the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee (BPAC) reviewed the MSM donor lifetime ban. Three major American blood banks — the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers — suggested that instead, MSM be held to the same standards as others, including other groups that are also at elevated risk for HIV (such as African American women and Latinos, among others). The proposed regulations would defer donors for 12 months if the donor reported participating in high-risk sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex in the past few months or sex with an HIV positive partner. BPAC nevertheless failed to pass new guidelines for MSM donors, despite the fact that AABB, ABC and the Red Cross “strongly support the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donors who engage in similar risk activities” instead of the ban. The recent blood shortages endanger the blood supply more than the bans protect it. The failure to overturn the lifetime ban not only endangers the blood supply by making shortages more likely, but also invites potential donors to be dishonest on their blood donor questionnaires. In recent years, MSM have reported lying on blood donation sheets about their sexual status. Not only will lifting the ban on blood donations from gay men be an important step in eliminating the stereotypes the LGBTQ community continues to face, but it will be crucial in ensuring adequate blood supply in the future. These failures endanger more than just the blood supply — they call into question the ability to create a system as moral as our intentions. Realistically, there is no way the blood industry could function on a solely nonprofit basis. But drawing attention to industry shortcomings will hopefully incite changes. It will require speaking out against blatant discrimination in the blood industry, holding blood banks accountable for false advertising in order to turn a profit, and holding hospitals and blood banks accountable for their high prices on blood. Maybe this will make the blood industry as benevolent as the donor. u ARIADNE ELLSWORTH ‘17 IS A POTENTIAL INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS CONCENTRATOR.
WHAT WE OWE IRAQ Nearly 20,000 visas for our Iraqi allies are without owners. STORY BY ALEXANDRA GARCIA / ART BY EMILY REIF
n 2009 President Barack Obama stated that the United States would have tremendous responsibilities after the end of the Iraq War, remarking, “America has a strategic interest and a moral responsibility to act.” The obligations outlined by the Obama Administration included supporting a new and accountable Iraqi government, cultivating ties of trade and commerce for Iraq and aiding Iraqi refugees that had been displaced. As of 2013, the United States has failed keep its promise. Although President George W. Bush’s War in Iraq officially ended two years ago, Iraq remains a region in constant turmoil. Between 3.5 million and 5 million Iraqis have been displaced over the last decade. Many Iraqi families have fled to neighboring countries like Syria and Jordan, where if they manage to gain entrance, they’ll face a life of low wages, poor healthcare and discrimination. Attaining a U.S. visa through refugee status is notoriously difficult. But the case for Iraqis is unique and poses a perplexing question for Americans: What do we owe to the civilians of a country that we invade? Consider the damage we’ve left behind. If Iraqis manage to gain entrance to other countries, they are often discriminated against, are denied health benefits and find it difficult to attain stable employment (the region is already plagued by high unemployment rates). Furthermore, the increase in the Iraqi population has lead to wage decreases for locals because the refugees are willing to work for far less. Any assistance refugees receive usually comes from non– governmental organizations, not their host governments. As the turmoil in Syria continues, Iraqi refugees are faced with a very difficult decision. They must either live in the midst of the Syrian civil war, or return to the violence of their native land. These aren’t just displaced civilians. The United States has neglected the many translators, interpreters and workers who put their lives in danger for the American cause. Eklhas Zaky is one such Iraqi. The Mujahedin, a radical Islamic organization that led insurgency efforts following the
2003 invasion, threatened Eklhas’s family, who assisted the United States during the war. Worried for her family members’ lives, Eklhas requested resettlement through the United Nations. Because of limited access to resources and bureaucratic difficulties in the resettlement process, Eklhas and her family were denied relocation. Many Iraqis simply receive auto-replied emails from the State Department when applying for resettlement in the United States. Eklhas’s story is not uncommon. In the absence of U.S. efforts to assist Iraqis,
nonprofit organizations such as Refugees International, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP), and the List Project have stepped in. The IRAP offers Iraqi refugees legal counsel in order to increase their chances of acquiring visas. The IRAP was able to assist Eklhas’s family, who now lives in Portland, Oregon. Many families, however, are not so lucky. The American public might find this crisis puzzling, if they even know it exists. In 2008, Congress passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act to provide assistance to Iraqis who directly put their lives in danger to help the United States in the war effort. Many Iraqis who cooperated with the United States have been forced to leave their homes and country due to targeted attacks and persecution. Others, like Eklhas’s husband, receive death threats from insurgent groups. The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act created the Special Immigrant Visa to ensure the
safety of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis. The act issued visas to threatened Iraqis who have worked for the American government or for contractors. From 2008 to 2012, 25,000 immigrant visas were allotted for Iraqis, but only 23 percent have been used over the last five years. The act expired in September, and with it, over 18,000 unused visas were terminated. The growing role of U.S. NGOs is another key indictment of the government’s failure to act. Kirk Johnson, founder of the List Project and former USAID employee in Iraq, is a strong advocate for improving the system by which the United States helps threatened Iraqis. His organization, like IRAP, provides legal assistance to many Iraqis attempting to acquire immigrant visas. Johnson’s devotion indicates that the issue ought to stir Americans, even if not their government. Johnson recently discussed the inadequacy of the Special Immigration Visas program on NPR’s “This American Life.” He recounts the story of Omar, an Iraqi who worked for the United States Army. After being the subject of multiple death threats, he applied for an immigrant visa. Omar provided all the necessary documentation and references for his visa, including recommendations from previous U.S. employers and local police officers. The State Department, however, continued to ask for unnecessary and redundant information, forcing him to wait roughly a year for the result of his status. Unfortunately, Omar was killed while taking a phone call outside of his home. Shortly after his funeral, Omar’s wife and brother received death threats. Johnson’s List Project is attempting to bring Omar’s family to the United States, but it takes, on average, about two years for the U.S. Embassy to schedule an interview with those requesting visas. By closing our borders to Iraqis who aided the United States, we have condemned Omar’s family and other allies of freedom into refugee status. u ALEXANDRA GARCIA ‘16 IS AN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND ECONOMICS CONCENTRATOR.
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of articles published in 1989 helped expose how local blood banks made false pleas to donors’ emotions to increase blood donations. In one of Gaul’s case studies, the head of a blood bank in Appleton, Wis. made a desperate call in the local newspaper for blood because, as he put it, “we’ve never had it quite this tough.” The appeal worked and “15,000 pints of blood were donated by Appleton residents to help save the lives of their friends and neighbors.” What Appleton’s donors didn’t know is that more than half of that blood was sold and shipped elsewhere in the country, and that Appleton was not in the middle of a desperate blood shortage. But its blood bank saw an opportunity to exploit the feelings of a tight knit community in order to turn a profit. In small towns like Appleton where neighbors feel a greater sense of community, and thus are more likely to donate blood than in big cities, local blood banks may have more than twice as much blood as is actually needed. But because the blood is sold to other blood banks and hospitals, it rarely benefits the community it came from. Instead, the donor community itself might suffer shortages, because small local blood banks may not be able to find local hospitals willing to meet the high prices that the blood is being sold at in bigger cities. Profit-in-disguise is not the only thing the blood industry hides in the name of charity. Since 1983, the FDA has prevented some people from donating blood, specifically gay men, or in industry terms, “MSM men” (men who have had sex with men). This is because MSM are considered to pose a more significant risk to society than, say, an individual who has undergone treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea within the past year, or a straight man who had sex with prostitutes over twelve months ago. Despite the fact that tremendous scientific advances have reduced the risk of receiving HIV-tainted blood to 1 per 1.5 million units in the United States, and that as the Red Cross notes, “the vast majority of donors with prevalent infections will be positive by both antibody tests and nucleic acid amplification testing, [which] remains true even with increased numbers of HIV-infected MSM,” MSM are still banned from giving blood in the United States. Were the U.S. blood supply more stable, the ban on MSM would be nothing but bigoted and indicative of the stereotypes that the LGBTQ community con-
WHAT’STHE POINTOF INTERNATIONAL LAW?
SYRIA IS JUST THE MOST RECENT CASE WHERE INTERNATIONAL LAW HAS FAILED. OUR CURRENT CRISIS MAY LEAD TO A SOLUTION.
Syrian President Bashar al–Assad has left many activists scrambling for a reason to intervene. Assad’s use of chemical weapons was supposedly a “red line,” according to President Barack Obama, but the international community has yet to see a U.S. military strike. The September 27 Security Council resolution requiring Syria to forfeit its chemical weapons does not threaten to use force if Syria does not comply. Russian leaders have argued that the resolution should not fall under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, meaning it does not authorize coercive measures. The international community is blindly trusting Assad to comply instead of threatening him with force.
The improbability of global governance, as in the case of Syria, often renders us immobile in the face of grave injustice. Even with the law on its side, the UN failed to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide. And when dictators (and democracies) act with disregard to international law, they further weaken the effectiveness of global governance. The current system offers nearly countless conventions, treaties, charters and protocols, but with this abundance of purely nominal efforts comes the sense that each is replicating its predecessor’s failures and shortcomings. International law is plagued by illegitimacy, a problem only exacerbated by nations that pursue loop-
holes and technicalities, such as “preemptive self-defense.” These legally ambiguous maneuvers allow countries to act in ways that threaten international stability. The UN’s frequent gridlock seems to make its decline as a moral force inevitable, and with it the world’s main arm of international governance. The international community must reverse this trend. Without a central global authority, there are no legal borders between countries, only frontiers. Although Americans are most familiar with the laws that govern conflict resolution, international law encompasses much more. The degree of international trade regulation, for instance, is a highly conten-
international community has made only incremental progress since Woodrow Wilson was president. It is easy to draw connections to the present. Several case studies illuminate the failures of international law. First, the Geneva Protocol of 1925 was an effort to amend earlier conventions prohibiting chemical weapons. The protocol went further and expanded the prohibition on the use of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases” to include biological weapons as well. But the protocol had many faults, and it didn’t prevent states from producing, acquiring and stockpiling chemical weapons, nor did it proscribe the testing of chemical weapons or the manufacturing of equipment made to disperse them. Germany, a signatory, was ruthless in its use of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The holes in the protocol provided a simple way to inconspicuously develop chemical weapons. This is not to say that, had the protocol been more restrictive, Hitler would not have stockpiled the chemical agents. But there may have been an early, heightened sense of suspicion that could have resulted in a more serious European anti-war policy. The eventual collapse of Nazi Germany and the rise of the Soviet Union provided new reasons to be wary of chemical warfare. The shortcomings of the protocol and the proxy wars of Southeast Asia opened new avenues for the use of chemical weapons. The U.S.S.R. supplied Lao and Vietnamese forces with lethal chemical agents used to quell rebel groups during the 1970s and early 1980s, and U.S. forces infamously used Agent Orange on Vietnamese farmland during the Vietnam War. In an effort by the UN to correct the failures of the Geneva Protocol and prevent future wartime atrocities similar to those in Vietnam, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) expanded on the protocol and prohibited the stockpiling, development and use of chemical weapons. But there remained the question of enforcement: the treaty was futile without potential military strength behind it. Although Syria has reluctantly acceded to the CWC, there was no justification of force in the text of the treaty should Syria fail to comply. If the international community, particularly the United States, wishes to take military action to protect civilians from both conventional and chemical weapons, it will have to invoke the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiative of 2005.
Recently, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned “in the strongest possible terms, the use of chemical weapons” and called the act a war crime. On September 16, a UN report was released, concluding that the Assad government had in fact used chemical weapons on its people. Under R2P norms, any war crime justifies military intervention. It would be a matter of getting the necessary votes in the Security Council, but so far, the Obama administration’s strategy has been one of deterrence: a removal of Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities is being used as a cautionary example to other rogue states, not for the removal of Assad himself. The result is a global community unwilling to participate in full-scale intervention, and an international law regime that prevents the forcible removal of Syria’s chemical weapons absent a resolution. These circumstances necessitate broader discussion of the broader purpose of international law: Should international law adapt to a given situation, or should it act as an immovable pillar? In the case of Israel and the Gaza Strip, the UN has ruled Israel’s blockades on certain imports and exports as legal, even though they effectively block common goods, such as building materials, from reaching Palestinians. Since 2007, when the blockade was established, goods have been smuggled through underground tunnels from Egypt just to support the remnants of the Gaza economy. And since there is no force to control the smuggling of illegal goods, weapons too have crossed the border. While militants in Gaza do pose a legitimate threat to Israeli security with rocket attacks, Palestinians are nevertheless suffering. The inefficiency of international law has drastic consequences. Attacks in the name of self-defense can be alarmingly disproportionate to the provoking strike, yet they are often technically justified under the UN charter, if only by omission. The right to self-defense is then stretched to include preemptive self-defense: that is, attacking a target before it has the opportunity to attack you. The preemptive American invasion of Iraq, for example, was defended on the basis that the intervention in 2003 would prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction against U.S. forces and citizens. The United States ultimately bypassed the Security Council when it formed the “coalition of the willing,” but it used the UN as a platform to advocate its case for intervention. And while the Bush
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tious issue in U.S. politics — consider the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was met with mass protests across the country. International law also regulates environmental affairs, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sets greenhouse gas emission targets. Kyoto was repudiated by some key countries, such as the United States and Canada — the dominant exporter of crude oil to the United States. In addition to conflict resolution, trade and the environment, international law supervises maritime, aviation and human rights norms. The rationale for regulating these areas of international relations is roughly the same used to justify the existence of local police forces and judicial courts within states themselves. International norms are, in a sense, efforts to rise above a global “state of nature,” as interpreted by philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes observed that the natural inequalities between nations — such as natural resource endowment and population size — are more decisive than those between humans, but the structure of the argument remains intact: “The notions of right and wrong,” Hobbes wrote, “justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice…Justice and propriety begin with the constitution of a commonwealth.” The same applies to nations, said Hobbes. But while it is in the mutual interest of all nations to come together to form this central authority, there is a paradox: it’s also in every nation’s private, self-serving interest to ignore the central authority. Philosopher Immanuel Kant described this enigma in his essay “Perpetual Peace.” Rational individuals function best when they agree on universal rules of engagement, says Kant, but each person “is secretly inclined to exempt himself from them.” The objective, he wrote, is to “establish a constitution in such a way that, although their private intentions conflict, they check each other, with the result that their public conduct is the same as if they had no such intentions.” Hobbes’ commonwealth can guide Kant’s constitution, allowing for private intentions to be checked and laws to be adhered to. Idealists like U.S. President Woodrow Wilson were advocates of constitutions, but were less prepared to enforce them. There must be a military force behind moral force, and neither Wilson’s League of Nations nor the United Nations has it. The
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administration did not use coercion to convince countries to join the coalition, it certainly did more than just persuade. In the final remarks of his February 2003 speech to the United Nations, Colin Powell argued using an unproven assumption: “Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11 world.” Under the UN Charter, the United States was in the “nebulous area of action,” as described by political scientist Quincy Wright. Wright asserts that the Bush administration used “more than influence or persuasion and less than coercion or compulsion, imperfectly defined by international law.” If the Security Council wasn’t going to give the United States the mandate to invade Iraq, the law was going to be ignored. The inability of global governance to enforce a norm is the chief reason for its futility. In contrast, national governments can efficiently police laws on the local level. The distinction between global and national governments can explain much about the character of international law. The principal difference between a state government and an interstate government is obvious: in any particular nation, citizens identify with their country. The model of global governance, on the other hand, is singular, a central power that does not identify with any particular culture or set of values. But this tepid allegiance can’t justify the creation of an alternative model
— a second UN, for instance — once the foundations of the global government are in place. International law is meaningless without this unity. Consider Myanmar, Iran, North Korea and now Syria, states that chose not to participate in a singular global community. Barring these rogue exceptions, countries for the most part will find it in their mutual interest to cooperate. Another difference is that only states, not a global governing body, monopolize violence. The UN can’t order violence of its own accord, nor can it compel a state into violence for an international cause. This reality partially explains why international military intervention often invokes principles such as “self-determination” and “human dignity,” all of which have unclear definitions and legal statuses. But states may not agree to those definitions. Unwilling to intervene simply because such action is not in their national interest, states will capitalize on a law’s vague phrasing to evade responsibility. Similarly, the appropriate time to invoke “Responsibility to Protect” is uncertain, and as a result, it is often employed opportunistically. International courts have been created to give meaning and purpose to otherwise imprecise laws, but courts still remain trivial forces in international relations. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague is not recognized by the United States, China, Russia, India or Israel. There are surely flaws within the ICC, but the major powers are not interested in
addressing its weaknesses. For these powers, it’s easier to lay blame than it is to reform, for instance, nuclear proliferation treaties and their enforcement. As the United States begins talks with Iran, there will need to be a consequence for the development of nuclear weapons while reserving Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy. And while a nuclear armed India and Pakistan have maintained peace through deterrence, it’s a precarious situation that may not last. But the international community has little power to influence events — the Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is ignored by unpredictable states like North Korea. And enforcement is absent, providing no incentive for other nuclear states to halt their programs. In his “History of the International Atom Energy Association,” David Fischer observes that the UN Security Council “has been reluctant to fulfill the commitment implicit in its 31 January 1992 declaration… that its members will take appropriate measures in the case of any violations notified to them by the Agency.” A properly enforced NPT could make the world a much safer place. One effective method of achieving this goal has been the extensive use of sanctions. The sanctions on Iraq from the early 1990s until the 2003 U.S. invasion were remarkably successful in containing Saddam Hussein’s regime, despite the rhetoric of the Bush Administration leading up to the war. A weak Baghdad complied with the UN inspection and disarmament process, and
only a fraction of total oil revenue reached Sadaam’s Baathist government. Iraq was effectively crippled, with military spending and arms imports far below the pre–1990 levels. The argument for sanctions rests on the belief that, as Madeline Albright has said, “the price is worth it.” The price, in this case, was roughly 227,000 deaths of Iraqi children under the age of five. The human cost of the sanctions was used, ironically, as a justification for military intervention in 2003. The notion of a dichotomy limited to either sanctions or war underscores the absence of any robust tradition of international law. There must be an alternative to war that can hold criminal leaders accountable without the costs of war itself, destroying countries’ infrastructures and reducing citizens to collateral damage. Reform could arise from concessions from the major powers, namely China, Russia and the United States. Military spending, for instance, could be capped at a certain proportion of gross domestic product as part of an international agreement. This might discourage China from spending more money on its military than on its people and encourage countries to focus on economic growth. It will take a commitment from the great powers to relinquish the unofficial veto they have had since the League of Nations was formed. But diplomacy, now more than ever, should be less about balancing power and maintaining spheres of influence, and more about securing attainable mutual objectives.
In the context of the Cold War, Stanley Hoffman, professor of government at Harvard University, wrote that nations will assess their short–term goals with their long–term interests regardless of international law. Hoffman noted that international law has a role to play in diplomatic solutions, but the realm of force should be left to the consideration of individual states. Hoffman argued that only when “there will be more ‘poles’ of power” will we “be able to turn the ad hoc management of conflicts…into a legalized restraint of force arising out of basic social and political forces of moderation.” The ideological divide between communism and the West is no longer a cause for strife, and the world has transitioned from a bipolar system to a model of “the West and the rest.” Only rogue states and non–state actors remain a threat to global stability. We might finally be at the moment Hoffman described. A central authority, as daunting as that seems to many conservatives, is necessary for global order. It would begin by streamlining our charters, conventions, treaties and conferences into a central body. The United Nations is the most obvious choice, assuming we could achieve democratic and equitable reforms to the Security Council, or a “one–state, one–vote” system with a minimum population required to constitute a “state.” Smaller states could ally until they reach the voting population threshold. We need the ICC and the International Court
of Justice to address the reasonable concerns of the international community, and their jurisdiction would need to be universally recognized. In such a system, national courts would have jurisdiction over all but the most extreme cases. International courts could only intervene with matters relating to crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The transition to democratic global governance would perhaps be most counterintuitive for the United States, which has asserted its power through other means and developed a sense of authority in global affairs. And yet the United States has the most to gain. A global core of stability could provide a structure analogous to the judicial systems of democracies that the United States purports to spread and support. Terrorists may still wreak havoc and states may still “go rogue,” but this time the international community would be prepared to enforce the law, and more importantly, that law would be legitimate. Only by establishing an international set of norms can we create a bona fide unity. Centralized global governance is our only path to guarantee Kant’s perpetual peace, which is “nothing less than that great artist, nature. In her mechanical course we see that her aim is to produce harmony among men, against their will and indeed through their discord.” u LEHM MAGUIRE ‘17 IS AN INTENDED APPLIED MATH-ECONOMICS CONCENTRATOR.
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A CENTRAL AUTHORITY, AS DAUNTING AS THAT SEEMS TO MANY CONSERVATIVES, IS NECESSARY FOR GLOBAL ORDER. IT WOULD BEGIN BY STREAMLINING OUR CHARACTERS, CONVENTIONS, TREATIES AND CONFERENCES INTO A CENTRAL BODY.
A PROBLEM LIKE KOREA There are growing tensions on the peninsula. Can South Korea justify a surveillance state? STORY BY STELLA KIM / ART BY ELIZABETH BERMAN
students and other dissidents in the name of South Korean security against the communist North. But the NIS is now a changed agency, as it serves the goals of a different administration — that of Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye. The NIS upholds the 1948 National Security Act, created as a defensive measure against the North, which prohibits all gatherings of a treasonous nature, any pro-communist or pro-North expressions as well as organizations that support overthrowing the South’s government. While the South Korean government still has the power to restrict certain civil liberties, the
THE REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION CASE MARKS THE FIRST TIME IN SOUTH KOREAN HISTORY THAT INCUMBENT POLITICIANS HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF PLOTTING A PRO-NORTH COUP. SOUTH KOREA IS IN A PERPETUAL STATE OF CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. NIS can no longer use the National Security Act to indict individuals who do not pose a direct security threat. The National Security Act’s scope is limited in comparison to that of the U.S. PATRIOT Act of 2001, which curtails citizen’s rights for the sake of a danger that is less than “clear and present,” to borrow from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Backed by the National Security Act and South Korea’s Supreme Court, the NIS’s investigation of the RO and its recent arrests of implicated politicians were indisputably legal. The RO case marks the first time in South Korean history that incumbent politicians have been accused of plotting a pro-North coup. Although the UPP is a fringe party that holds less than 1 percent of the total number of assembly seats, the scandal has put the party in the spotlight.
South Koreans have understandably become concerned about the UPP’s blatantly pro-North sympathies. In addition to its frequent use of North Korean expressions, the UPP remains highly critical of South Korea’s close ties to the United States. Despite the fact that the U.S. military presence in the South ensures immediate support in case the North strikes, the UPP advocates for the removal of U.S. forces and blames the United States for worsening SouthNorth relations. In the aftermath of the attempted coup’s exposure, South Koreans are reevaluating their notions of freedom. Freedom may be a natural human right, but it is not absolute. In the “social contract” between a government and its people, freedom rests on the precondition that a state is secure. While respect for basic rights is an important concern, South Korea’s circumstances are exceptional: South Korea shares a border with the world’s only communist dynasty, a rogue state that has demonstrated it has no qualms about making decisions that could threaten the safety of Northeast Asia. The NIS’s close monitoring of domestic activity is thus crucial to ensuring that the South has the upper hand. The NIS’s power to monitor the activities of its citizens is extensive and potentially alarming. The National Security Act grants the NIS the right to monitor the Internet for North Korean military jargon and state propaganda. The previous South Korean administration used the act to implement a crackdown in a few controversial, high-profile cases. In 2011, government prosecutors interrogated South Korean resident Kim Seung-kyu for glorifying North Korea on his blog and in 2012, social media activist Park Jung-geun was indicted for reposting propaganda directly from a North Korean government website. Both Kim and Park insisted they were being satirical. Many continue to criticize the Na-
tional Security Act as intrusive and undemocratic. South Korean liberals have rallied to abolish the act, claiming it would also help thaw South-North relations. But lessons from over half a century of policymaking have shown that appeasement is the last approach the South ought to take. The South’s Sunshine Policy — which hinged on goodwill toward the North in the form of food aid and fertilizer with minimal concessions from the other party — cost South Korea $4.5 billion over 10 years and proved that a warmer approach is ineffective on issues such as nuclear weapons and regime change. International condemnation emanates mostly from human rights organizations. UN investigator Margaret Sekaggya said the act “leads to self-censorship by human
rights defenders.” Amnesty International has urged South Korea to reform the act, criticizing the government for “arbitrarily” persecuting perceived enemies of the state. Certain media outlets have branded the crackdown as “McCarthyism,” referring to American Senator Joseph McCarthy’s propagation of the Red Scare in the U.S. in the 1950s. Yet the negative connotations of “McCarthyism” lead to distorted perceptions of the RO case, and criticisms of the act and the NIS are grounded in deep misunderstandings of the state of South Korea’s national security. South Korea is in a perpetual state of clear and present danger. Its proximity to North Korea and the immediacy of potential aggression from the North justify its defensive measures. The South has made a
long-term commitment to bringing the two Koreas back together by establishing the Unification Ministry, but progress remains strictly contingent upon the denuclearization of the North. The first step is to establish permanent stability on the peninsula by eradicating the threat that North Korea poses. The NIS is instrumental in countering this threat. The executive branch of the South Korean government relies on the NIS not only to monitor the activities of the North’s secretive regime for antiterrorism purposes, but also to keep a check on domestic threats. Espionage remains a real concern for South Korea, as the South has detected spies from the North within their borders. The presence of pro-North sympathizers in the South helps facilitate the North’s intelligence activity and undermines NIS operations. The NIS has also revealed that members of the RO have visited North Korea. The RO scandal has reinforced the NIS’s claim to being central to the effort to protect the South from the North. By the provisions of the National Security Act, Lee, as leader of the RO, could receive a life sentence. 60 years after the armistice, North Korea threatens to reignite conflict on the peninsula. A South Korea with a weaker intelligence agency and no National Security Act would allow far-left parties like the UPP to publicly support the North and disseminate their views among the general populace. A North Korean spying apparatus would be able to launch cyber-terrorist attacks with ease and call pro-North sympathizers to arms, helping North Korea gather vital information. Today, the NIS and the National Security Act are South Korea’s strongest line of defense against an immediate, hostile force whose words and actions have grown only more bellicose. u STELLA KIM ‘16 IS A POLITICAL SCIENCE CONCENTRATOR AND A STAFF WRITER AT BPR.
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n 2010, a routine line of investigation by the Republic of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) took a turn when the NIS discovered the Revolutionary Organization (RO) — a pro-North Korea political group. The NIS, South Korea’s head intelligence agency, reported that members of the far-left United Progressive Party (UPP) were planning an armed coup of the South Korean government. At the center of the RO scandal was Lee Seok-ki, a lawmaker of the UPP who reportedly led meetings of more than 100 co-conspirators to plan the coup. The transcripts of these meetings are disturbing. Lee’s rhetoric was loaded with anachronistic platitudes of the North Korean regime, such as “comrades,” “American imperialists” and “reunified fatherland.” Lee’s followers suggested that they destroy the South’s oil and communications facilities. In September, the South Korean National Assembly voted to allow Lee’s arrest. The Korean War — termed the first “hot war” of the Cold War era — concluded with the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953 between the South and the North. In March 2013, North Korea nullified the armistice agreement, effectively ending a 60-year truce between the two countries and capping off a series of hostile proclamations from the Kim Jong-un regime. In the face of such an explicit challenge to peace, security has been of grave concern to Seoul, South Korea’s capital — particularly when combating a threat from within. After the North nullified their 1953 armistice agreement last March, Lee told his UPP followers they should “prepare for war.” South Korea’s NIS has been plagued by bad press for its alleged infringements on human rights in the name of security. Officially established in 1961 under the military dictatorship of President Park Chung-hee, the agency frequently detained and tortured opposing politicians,
COINING THE WEB’S CURRENCY The Bitcoin revolution is not that revolutionary. STORY BY NIKHIL KALYANPUR / ART BY JULIA LADICS
A BRIEF BITCOIN HISTORY
More than 25 digital currencies are currently in circulation online, but Bitcoin has stood out. Due to its online popularity, Bitcoin has sparked media fervor and invited close scrutiny for the new and widely misunderstood digital currency phenomenon. Bitcoin and its counterpart currencies are extremely complex creations. However, as Wall Street has learned, computing wizardry can’t replace fundamental economic concepts. The proliferation of digital currencies like Bitcoin raises interesting questions about the nature and purpose of money. With most countries at a loss for how to prevent illicit activities online, governments will also face questions about their proper role in a world with digital currencies. Against these questions, the unlikely rise of Bitcoin is a story of anonymous characters, dumbfounded critics and forgotten ideas. Bitcoin emerged in 2008 when Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity is still unconfirmed, published a paper explaining the mechanics of creating a decentralized “cryptocurrency.” Five years later, Bitcoin’s worth has increased drastically, and the value of a single Bitcoin grew by a factor of 10 in 2013. Bitcoin has earned the distinction of being the sole currency accepted by
numerous online casinos. Over 1,500 online retailers also accept it. A decentralized currency with no single authority controlling its supply, Bitcoin is “crypto”: each “block” of Bitcoins, which Bitcoin releases, is stored across dispersed peer-to-peer sharing networks. In order to unlock a block, a user must decipher its code. The process of releasing coins is known as “mining,” while the code, which is a string of letters and numbers, is known as a “hash.” Due to Bitcoin’s programming, mining more blocks becomes a progressively harder task, and it can take a computer days to decrypt the correct hash. Mining isn’t the only real-life analogue that exists in the rules of digital currency; Bitcoin’s approach to money supply also recalls Friedman’s philosophy. The total number of Bitcoins has been preset at 21 million, the last block of which will be released in 2140. And every four years, the number of coins released in each block will reduce by half. To track Bitcoin transfers and newly mined coins, programmers use a “blockchain” — an archive similar to the Facebook newsfeed — that is updated and verified by users every ten minutes. But Bitcoin users aren’t required to register any personal details to initially start mining.
network transfers value — essentially IOUs — that a user can cash out. Ripple automatically looks for the cheapest transfer rates between two currencies and, in some cases, the Ripple-specific XRP currency is used as a means to reduce transaction costs as well as traffic on the network. Like Bitcoin, the amount of XRP in circulation on the network is pre-set, negating any central au-
thority or monetary policy. It’s hard not to see the appeal in an idea like Ripple. Unlike a regular bank, the exchanges on Ripple don’t come attached with processing fees, and customer data stays with the individual only. Ripple fittingly brands itself as a payment network, even accepting other currencies like Bitcoin. Beyond parallels to banking and mining, how can we make sense of unprecedented phenomena such as Bitcoin and Ripple? The first approach is through economic theory. In his General Theory, John Maynard Keynes exclaimed that we are all “the slaves of some defunct economists.”
Sources: Wired.com and NYTimes.com December 2010: Bitcoiners started to call for Wikileaks to accept bitcoin donations.
Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies.
April 2013: Bitcoin’s exchange rate drops drastically.
1990 2008 Nakamoto’s paper came out in 2008
Keynes meant that ideas are more powerful than we perceive, and we often operate under their economic precepts without realizing it. The maxim particularly holds true with digital currencies. The beneficiaries of Bitcoin and Ripple hope that their currencies will continue to gain value. Their logic assumes that supply will create its own demand, essentially a restatement of Say’s Law, which underpinned the theories of early classical economics. Believing that markets were completely efficient and wages and prices adjusted perfectly, political economists such as David Ricardo and Adam Smith theorized under the optimistic assumption that people would be willing to buy whatever was produced. The beneficiaries of digital currencies should keep this insight in mind. A currency is a social illusion that derives its worth from whether people impart value onto a new technology. In some ways, regular national currencies are contingent upon the same social illusion — with a few exceptions. The U.S. Federal Reserve, for instance, can print money and stabilize prices and exchange rates. The legitimacy afforded to national currencies through the recognition and backing of governments means that people are more likely to trust a currency’s conceived value. Mainstream economic theory contends that a free market with rational investors will settle into equilibrium. But the chaos of the web calls to mind the famous distinction between complexity and uncertainty that Keynes and economist Frank Knight made in the 1920s. In complex situations one can assess the probability of various outcomes and act accordingly, while in uncertain situations one can only speculate, lacking the tools to calculate probabilities at
2011 September 2011: Beyond the most hardcore users, skepticism has only increased. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that the currency’s tendency to fluctuate has encouraged hoarding.
2013 October 2013: FBI shuts down Silk Road, seizing $3.6 million in Bitcoins.
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early every developed economy has provided its central bank with independence in the last few decades. Chairmen and staff remain operationally free from the “political business cycle” — the notion that meddling and self-interested politicians will make myopic choices to artificially boost the economy in the short term to ensure re-election. In theory, independence allows central bankers to employ their expertise and pursue what’s best for the economy in the long term, boosting investor confidence. This line of thinking stretches back to Milton Friedman, who imagined the abolition of the Federal Reserve (the Fed), replaced by an automatic release of money at a pre-determined rate. Friedman’s system ensured all the benefits of the Fed but with the added advantage that no banker would become susceptible to persuasion. Although the Fed is still around, we might be experiencing Friedman’s dream come to life in the form of decentralized digital currencies. Digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin promise users complete anonymity, low transaction costs and no central banker who might print excessive money. Instead of placing their faith in bankers, users have placed it in algorithms.
This anonymity is one of the major reasons for the currency’s surge in popularity. (Bitcoin was integral to the success of Silk Road, the international online black market that was recently shut down by U.S. federal authorities.) Fundamental to any currency is an exchange rate, and Bitcoin is no different. A number of exchange markets, controlled by companies like Mt. Gox and BitStamp, have been created to convert Bitcoins into national currencies. In true free market fashion, the initial exchange rate was determined through debate on prominent Bitcoin user forums — a kind of currency initial public offering — and is now allowed to fluctuate with market demand. This floating mechanism determines the rate of most major currencies today. The Bitcoin supply has a total value exceeding $1.4 billion, by far the largest digital currency market. This valuation doesn’t include the millions of dollars that venture capitals have put into Bitcoin offshoot firms in areas such as Bitcoin gambling or Bitcoin ATM deposit services. Whatever Bitcoin’s prospects, its example has already attracted major investor attention in the development of digital currencies. Some of the firms behind these currencies have now begun to receive funding from the biggest names in tech: Google, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins. One such firm, OpenCoin, has created a transaction and money transfer network, Ripple, with its own digital currency, XRP. Ripple has created a set of Internet protocols that safely allow cash transfers between anyone on the Internet in seconds. While users’ personal details remain private, their transaction histories are open to the public. After the transaction is made, the Ripple
speculators and traders who are engaged in such illicit activities to flourish. Even in the best case scenario, digital currencies may very well become the victim of their own success. The currencies are of little use in closed networks, and would only become effective as more goods and services become available through their use as a payment method. As more users adopt the currencies and their value increases, the currencies have a built-in deflation system: the amount of digital currency in circulation is pre-set and limited in supply. Therefore, as the number of goods and services that can be purchased through digital currencies increases, deflation would set in. The same amount of currency is available for a greater number of goods and the prices of those goods would inevitably drop as a result. In the real world, this is where a central bank would intervene. But digital currencies’ lack of a central authority — their biggest allure — would likely lead to their downfall. Imagining the Bitcoin apocalypse invites a question: should countries adopt a comprehensive policy for digital currencies? When it comes to governments, there is often a time lag between the rate of technological change and the rate of policy implementation. But several governments have acted relatively quickly in response to digital currencies. Thailand swiftly banned digital currencies while Germany passed a law classifying them as “private money,” subject to taxation. Rather than express frustration at governments for meddling with their crypto-world, many users instead view government action as a legitimating factor. Recently, however, the Financial
Crimes Enforcing Network (FinCEN), a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department, declared that exchanges would now be classified as Money Services Businesses, meaning any business or exchange accepting Bitcoin in the United States must register their users’ personal details. This move was made to counter the anonymity Bitcoin provides users and to prevent the potential for money laundering with digital currencies. Nonetheless, if a user wanted to keep his or her activities hidden, there are plenty of alternative currencies and foreign exchanges to choose from. These legal asymmetries may make FinCEN’s regulation ineffective. Aiming to work with U.S. policy makers, the representatives from Ripple and the Bitcoin Foundation formed a new committee, called the Digital Asset Transfer Authority (DATA). Leaders in DATA fear that the financial industry’s lobby may attempt to shut down virtual currencies. But a number of derivative markets and traders have emerged who are committed to the interests of digital currencies. The rise of DATA suggests that the inventors of a chaotic online system have found a need for centralized leadership after all. While it is hard to predict the fate of digital currencies, it seems clear that these emerging forms of digital payment are gaining traction worldwide. Digital currencies are predicated on faulty economic logic that neglects some of the most important lessons from economic theory and history. But Bitcoin is nebulous and new. We won’t know for some time if the currency is just a passing craze or instead the dawn of a new, crypto-economic era. u NIKHIL KALYANPUR ‘13.5 IS A PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS & ECONOMICS CONCENTRATOR.
PIPE DREAM Shale gas could be the machine that drives Mexico to economics bliss.
ith over 555 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale-gas reserves, Mexico could potentially experience an economic boom unlike any in its history. The U.S. Energy Information Agency approximates that shale reserves in Mexico dwarf Texas’ Eagle Ford shale formation 32 times over. A competitive tax system that encourages development of this rock-based fossil fuel could generate a trillion dollars in additional government revenue — an extraordinary opportunity for a nation that relied on a federal budget of about $267 billion last year. In August, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a plan to reform Mexico’s protectionist energy policy to allow for profit-sharing contracts. The government-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) is relinquishing part of its control to allow foreign corporations to drill in places where Pemex cannot. This is a bold and not-so-subtly ironic move. Bold, considering Mexico’s resource nationalization dates back to its 1917 Constitution, viewed as a prized victory of the Mexican Revolution. Ironic, because incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) — the same party that carried out the 1938 Oil Expropriation and went on to govern Mexico for the next six decades, claiming to promote the social justice ideals of the Revolution. A fraction of patriotic Mexicans — namely those backing the left-ofcenter Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) — is hardly receiving Peña Nieto’s energy reforms with open arms. Neither are foreign fuel investors, but for a different reason. Yet, the profit-sharing contracts and other limited reforms outlined by Peña Nieto will do little to change the current trajectory of natural gas development. Prior to 2011, Pemex drilled only six shale gas wells in the northern states of Nuevo León and Coahuila. In contrast, U.S. companies issued 2,828 permits for the Eagle Ford alone. The triumph of shale development in the United States rests primarily on the country’s robust private mineral rights. The U.S. independent companies that drill in the Bakken-Three Forks formation in
STORY BY JACE CANTY / ART BY GOYO KWON North Dakota or the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford formations in Texas operate within an intensive, guerilla-style competitive market. The U.S. energy industry refers to this practice of micro-scale maneuvering as “drilling intensity,” and for good reason. No other country in the world has been able to replicate the process of specialization. Large corporations like Pemex ought to continue to focus their efforts where they operate efficiently and let shale experts drill in Mexico. If President Peña Nieto is serious about creating job opportunities and raising a more substantial revenue base, he ought to liberalize the country’s natural gas mar-
it’s not new.” Mexican policies must focus on a way to minimize fraud, bribery and tax evasion, while safeguarding the ideals of sovereignty and national pride that the Revolucionarios fought so hard to instate. The environmental impact of shale gas extraction is another controversy entirely, encompassing concerns that range from water pollution to methane evaporation that contributes to global warming. As if that is not enough to cause alarm, hydraulic fracking requires up to 75,000 barrels of water per well. One final challenge to shale development is that Mexico must expand its natural gas pipeline network in order to increase transmission capacity and cover-
ket and adopt a Texas-style tax and royalty interest structure. Current estimates project that such a measure could realistically generate tens of thousands of jobs, achieve growth in other sectors of the Mexican economy and raise an estimated one trillion dollars in government revenue. On the Texas side of the Río Grande, similar development has allowed for construction of brand new schools, community centers, roads and businesses in some of the state’s poorest counties. Working with the Texas government, Mexican states could adopt similar structures and revitalize their economies. Nevertheless, some stark challenges stand in Mexico’s way if it hopes to fully develop the region. Forbes magazine described Pemex as the “Niagara Falls of corruption: it flows from everywhere and
age throughout the country. How Mexico proceeds in implementing any sort of reform is of direct interest to the United States, considering the current debate over immigration reform. In the shale-gas industry, a viable solution to developing Mexico’s economy has emerged. Mexico has already requested and will likely receive up to $205.5 million in foreign aid from the United States for Fiscal Year 2014; any future immigration bill should allocate some of this money toward pipeline and water resources. The Obama administration ought to encourage Mexico to further open its energy market in order to promote economic self-sufficiency, stable jobs and improved public services. u JACE CANTY ‘16 IS A POLITICAL SCIENCE AND ECONOMICS CONCENTRATOR.
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all. In these situations, people tend to rely on their gut or look to their neighboring investor to determine a course of action. Keynes called this behavior the effects of “animal spirits” that govern micro-behavior. With their strict anonymity, complex mechanics and speculative environment, it’s easy to see why digital currencies are plagued by uncertainty, requiring investors to rely on ideologies or instinct. Instability remains one of the digital currency systems’ greatest flaws, demonstrated by their high susceptibility to “bank runs.” Last April, Bitcoin’s value shot up to over $200, down to $50 and back to $123.40 in a single day. When the market starts to dip, people try to find some safe ground, and the best bet is often cashing out. But cashing out of some digital currencies can take up to 5 days and a bank run would only alienate investors further. If exchanges that typically operate on an IOU basis don’t have sufficient reserves, they could easily find themselves bankrupt. With no central authority to restore confidence, a serious bank run could permanently damage the digital currency system. The system is also vulnerable to market manipulation. With such a low market size at $1.5 billion, a wealthy investor could easily manipulate the digital currency market. For instance, if Investor A decided to bet against the value of Bitcoin and then asked his friend, Investor B, to dump a significant number of Bitcoins, the value would take a hit, leaving Investor A with a sizable profit. In the real world, such an activity is illegal, but it is a tactic that has been used with great success by a number of banks in the past. With the added layers of anonymity and legal asymmetries, there is potential for
REMAKING THE MODEL A new shift in the pieces that put together Nordic society. STORY BY EDLE ASTRUP TSCHUDI / ART BY OLIVIA WATSON
of a slow process of gradual improvement. Most Scandinavian governments formed in the last 20 years have been multi-party coalitions. Though both the right and the left side of the political spectrum will probably argue that they “invented” the Nordic Model, the Model is the result of more than 50 years of trying, failing and amending a myriad of political solutions. Contrast this to the American tradition, where the majority of the welfare state represents one fleeting victory in 1965. After its public sector ran amok during the 1970s and 1980s, Sweden later ushered in a period of deregulation and spending cuts, cutting the top marginal tax rate by 27 percentage points since 1983, to 57 percent, and lowering taxes on property, gifts, wealth and inheritance. This year, the corporate tax rate will fall from 26.3 percent
PUBLIC FRUSTRATION WITH HOW LEFTIST PARTIES HAVE HANDLED CORE ISSUES HAS PROMPTED A SHIFT TO THE RIGHT IN NORDIC PUBLIC OPINION. to 22 percent. This historic back and forth has created the successful synthesis that we call the Nordic model. Scandinavia’s democratic base may be relatively unchanged, even over the course of decades, but the welfare state is not similarly static. Foreign claims of a right wing renaissance misapprehend the political spectrum in the Nordic countries, which differs from the U.S. spectrum. For example, the party furthest to the right in Norwegian politics, the Progress Party, would probably still lie to the left of the Republican Party on most key issues. The Right Party’s election slogan, “Possibilities For Everyone,” is testament to the right wing’s fundamentally egalitarian politics. Furthermore, the only religiously affiliated party, the Christian Democratic
Party, received only 5.6 percent of the votes and is located at the center of Norwegian politics. The Norwegian political right is not religiously affiliated, nor fundamentally anti-government. Their counterparts on the left, meanwhile, are generally more liberal than U.S. Democrats. Policies in the U.S. that are tarred as “socialist,” are taken for granted in the Nordic countries, public health care being a key example. But while socialists and Social Democrats in the Nordic countries tend to favor the public sector, they are simultaneously pro-free market. Most aspects of the welfare state, such as the right to universal healthcare and public education, aren’t political hot topics. This hardly resembles a right wing resurgence. Foreign spectators not only misinterpret party divides when discussing Scandinavia, but also overlook the nuances in each nation’s approach to implementing their own iteration of the model. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bilt described the Nordic Model as an amalgam of “Sweden’s management of big companies,” “Finland’s education,” “Denmark’s labor market” and “Norway’s oil.” Within the region, the Norwegians are considered risk-takers, the Swedes methodological and thorough, the Danes entrepreneurial and commercially minded, and the Finns cautious. The Swedes, sometimes called the “Germans of the North,” are often cited as the primary example of the model’s success. Sweden is also by far the largest of the four main Nordic countries. The Nordic model has therefore often been named “a model with four exceptions.” To call any subtle policy change a betrayal of the Nordic Model ignores the fluidity of the concept. The Nordic countries often share similar policy challenges, a possible reason for the similar outcomes in their elections. Such problems include entrepreneurs moving abroad to escape high tax rates, too many
people living off benefits, murky (and probably high) unemployment numbers because of lenient sick leave laws, bloated bureaucracies and a failure to integrate a growing population of immigrants into a largely homogenous population. Public frustration with how leftist parties have handled core issues has prompted a shift to the right in Nordic public opinion. Despite numerous efforts by Norway’s center-left Red-Green coalition to reduce excessive waiting times for public health care, 42,000 people were added to the national treatment waitlist when Red-Green was in power. At the same time, per capita spending on health care rose markedly. The coalition also failed to address immigration at a national level, with immigrant entry rates doubling since 2005. Environmental policy was another embarrassing defeat for the Red-Greens, after an ambitious carbon capture program at the Mongstad oil refinery failed to materialize. Alongside this record of failed and costly policies, the Nordic right is viewed as a pragmatic alternative, not an ideological one; in recent elections, the primary issue
was not curtailing government spending, but instead spending it wisely. As Nordic government expenses become increasingly unsustainable, the right-wing focus of keeping state budgets in check has been seen as the best way to maintain the Nordic quality of life. The goal of the right wing is not to eradicate strong public institutions, but to maximize their quality and efficiency. Denmark and Sweden are good examples of this mentality. Denmark’s “flexicurity” model for hiring and firing employees makes their labor market more competitive. Sweden and Denmark also have voucher systems for private schools and healthcare. The Danes have lower wages and consumer prices than their neighboring countries due to fewer trade restrictions. Sweden has led the region in pension reform, let Saab go bankrupt, and allowed the Chinese Geely to own their national treasure, Volvo. Meanwhile, Norway offers a good countervailing example — far from the competitive Danish labor market, the Norwegian three-party system for employees,
employers and the government in pay negotiations has resulted in higher wages than its neighbors. The country has also yet to adopt any kind of voucher or pension reform. One possible explanation is the country’s oil wealth, which makes change far less urgent. Beneficiaries of a country blessed with petroleum profits, Norwegian employees are paid 40 percent more than their Nordic counterparts and 70 percent more than their European colleagues. Although Norwegians joined their Nordic counterparts in voting to change the nation’s ruling coalition, Norway is still willing to spend government money where it can. Clearly Scandinavia is still ripe for reform, embracing slow steps towards a freer market. On the other hand, Nordic nations have no intention of adopting an economic model similar to that of the U.S. — while American union privileges have never been more marginalized, the Scandinavian Airlines System almost went bankrupt last year when Danish airline workers unionized, forcing a bailout by the Scandinavian governments. Göran Persson, a former Swedish prime minister, once compared Sweden’s economy to a bumblebee — “with its overly heavy body and little wings, supposedly it should not be able to fly — but it does.” Perhaps, but it has only kept flying through constant willingness to change. Few were questioning the success of the Nordic Model 25 years ago. It is only as a result of reforms during the last 15 years that the conversation has shifted. A will and ability to adapt has been the key to success in Scandinavia. The Nordic countries’ recent shift to the right is a natural continuation of a policy of economic pragmatism — the need to keep their political and economic bumblebee flying. u EDLE ASTRUP TSCHUDI ‘15 IS A SLAVIC STUDIES CONCENTRATOR AND A STAFF WRITER AT BPR.
GLOBAL BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW
BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW GLOBAL
oreign commentators often refer to the “Nordic model” as a magical synthesis of a strong welfare state and capitalism — so it’s no surprise that recent elections results across Scandinavia have left foreign observers baffled. In September 2013, Norway became the third of the four main Nordic states — Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway — to vote in conservative leadership. Sweden has had conservative-center rule since 2006, and Finland has had conservative leadership since 2011. Though Denmark is currently ruled by the Social Democrats and is not due for another election before 2015, the incumbent prime minister and coalition partners continue to perform poorly in polls. And yet with strong regional economic growth, why would voters reject this “utopian” Nordic model? In the year that Norway’s prime minister lost at the polls, economic growth was at 2.6 percent in the most recent quarter, and unemployment at 3.4 percent, according to the Economist. To understand why voters rejected left for right, observers must appreciate what left and right share in common in Scandinavian politics. Regardless of political shifts, Scandinavian nations still adhere to a strong democratic tradition (all among the 10 strongest in the world, according to The Economist’s 2012 “Democracy Index”), consensus-driven political institutions, a strong welfare state and small, open economies. What foreign commentators have failed to recognize is that this Nordic essence is hardly limited to one side of the political spectrum. A vote for the right or left is not a vote for or against the principles of the Nordic model, which is neither partisan, static nor uniform. An egalitarian ethos is found across party lines. The Nordic model is based on pragmatism and compromise rather than polarity and disagreement and is the result
THE SMOKE FILLED ROOM BROWN COAL (?) A campusDIVEST update on divestment, from Brown Political Forum. hey copy editors just ignore this and title STORYfake BY BEN subtitle RESNIK
MICHAEL OREN Michael Oren was appointed as the Israeli Ambassador to the United States in 2009. He stepped down from his post in September 2013, a week before our interview. INTERVIEW BY SAMUEL RUBINSTEIN
Inside Sayles Hall, Jim Rogers was Former CEO of Duke Energy, Jim fending off attacks. Rogers, was fending off attacks. Speaking On a raised platform in the old buildto his audience in Sayles Hall, Rogers dising, Rogers, former CEO of Duke Energy, missed accusations that Duke Energy, one of one of the largest electricity providers in the largest electricity providers in the United the country, was combating claims from States, had done little to mitigate the harmful the audience that his company had done effects of burning fossil fuels. The condemnvery little to mitigate the harmful effects of ing charges came from the vocal members of burning fossil fuels. Many of the accusers Brown Divest Coal. were members of Brown University Divest Over the last year, Brown Divest Coal Coal, and were out to make a point: coal is has waged a highly visible campaign to dangerous and destructive, and its effects convince the Brown Corporation to rid itself cannot remain invisible to the Brown Corof stocks from the 15 dirtiest U.S. coal comporation. panies. The public event in Sayles, run by the Over the last year, Brown Divest Coal, Janus Forum, was a last opportunity for the part of a national movement, has waged a student body to debate the issue before the highly visible and intense campaign to conCorporation is expected to vote on whether vince Brown’s administration to rid itself of to divest. Panelists at the event included Bill stocks from the 15 dirtiest U.S. coal comMcKibben, founder of the global grassroots panies. Soon the Corporation, which works movement 350.org, Christian Parenti, jourwith President Christina Paxson on imnalist and author, and Jim Rogers. portant matters of university policy, will fiBrown Divest Coal members had stunally take a vote. The public event in Sayles, dent support — their statements often run by the Janus Forum, was a last opporsparked applause in the crowded room. But tunity for the student body and the local Rogers, with practiced languor, evaded their community to debate the issue. The event’s every point. Duke Energy has done as much panelists included Bill McKibben, founder to support sustainable energy as any other of the national divestment movement at energy company, Rogers asserted. Whether 350.org, journalist and author Christian or not Duke Energy was perfect, people reParenti, and Rogers. quire affordable power, which the company Onstage in Sayles, Divest Coal stucan provide. At the end of the conversation dents had the facts and the passion — their both Rogers and his detractors remained unstatements often sparked applause in the moved. crowded room — but Rogers, with pracThe stakes in the divestment debate are ticed languor, was dodging the heat on evhigh, as both sides would have you believe. ery point. Duke had done as much to supProponents of divestment argue that Brown port sustainable energy as any other energy shouldn’t profit from the fortunes of fossil company, Rogers asserted, and ultimately fuel companies, whose cheap, dirty energy people require affordable power. Eventually improves their bottom line but poisons the the retorts turned personal. At the end of planet. They contend that divesting from the conversation both Rogers and his decoal, like divesting from interests in aparttractors remained unmoved. heid-era South Africa, will send a message The stakes in the divestment debate are strong enough to make the dirtiest energy high, as both sides would have you believe. companies change their policies. Divestment Proponents of divestment argue that Brown detractors argue the opposite: the divestment shouldn’t profit from the fortunes of fossil crusade could rob people around the world fuel companies, whose cheap, dirty energy of cheap, reliable power, causing far more improves their bottom line but poisons the planet. They contend that divesting from coal, like divesting from interests in apartheid-era South Africa, will send a message
Percent decrease in Brown’s carbon footprint since fiscal year 2007
Brown’s national ranking for its efficiency program
Amount Brown has directly invested in coal
The coal companies Brown has invested in
BROWN’S COAL PROBLEM
strong enough to make the dirtiest energy damage than burning fossil fuels. Others companies change their tune. Their detracassert that the divestment movement is not tors argue the opposite - the divestment the way to bring about real change and that crusade could rob people around the world its members’ efforts would be better spent of cheap, reliable power, causing far more lobbying government or waging informaeconomic and human damage. Still, others tion campaigns that could have a significant asserted that the divestment movement was effect on these companies. not the way to bring about real change, and An up-or-down vote or a debate like that its members’ efforts would be better the one in Sayles tends to discourage nuspent lobbying government or waging inance. The speakers were passionate in their formation campaigns that could have a sigopinions and articulate in their explananificant effect on these companies. tions, but when it became apparent that no An up-or-down vote, or a debate like side was entirely right, not one of them was the one in Sayles, tends to discourages nuwilling to give ground. With divestment the ance. The speakers were passionate in their question isn’t just yes or no — it’s why, and opinions and articulate in their explanawhat if, and to whom the decision makers tions, but when it became apparent that no are responsible. We should not make up side was entirely right, not one of them was our minds without understanding the full willing to give ground. With divestment the range of arguments, justifications and bequestion isn’t just yes or no — it’s why, and liefs. what if, and to whom are the decision makThere was a noticeable change in tone ers responsible. Divestment is too importduring the event’s post-debate luncheon, ant to conclude on without understanding held at President Paxson’s house and modthe full range of arguments, justifications, erated by Brown Political Forum. Unlike and beliefs. during the debate, few of the speakers or But there was a noticeable change in students in attendance tried to score polititone during the event’s post-debate luncal points — the discussions were too comcheon, held with the speakers and students plex to grandstand on. Instead of just debatat the President’s house. Unlike the debate, ing whether to divest, Divest members and few tried to score political points — the discoal advocates pondered what divestment cussions were too complex to grandstand would actually mean, what its good and on. Instead of just debating whether to dibad aspects would be and whether a univest, Divest members and coal advocates versity has a duty to the world and not just pondered what divestment would actually to its students. Opinions were expressed in mean, what the good and bad aspects of the spirit of problem solving, not ideology. it would be, and whether a university has Granted, there was still no hand-holda duty to the world as well as its students. ing reconciliation. People left with their Opinions were expressed in the spirit of opinions largely intact and the members of problem solving, not ideology. the Brown Corporation who were present Granted, there was no hand-holding will still be asked to make a black and white reconciliation. People left with their opindecision on a very gray topic. But people ions largely intact, and the members of the discussed, disagreed and then walked out Corporation who were present will still be together. That, like the Brown Corporaasked to make a black and white decision tion’s imminent decision, ought to send a on a very grey topic. But people discussed, statement. u disagreed, and then walked out together. BEN RESNIK ‘15the IS Brown THE PRESIDENT OF And that, like Corporation’s deBROWN POLITICAL FORUM. cision, ought to send a statement. BEN RESNIK ‘ ???? TEXTY TEXT TEXT
Have sanctions had enough of an impact on the Iranian economy as to render the Ayatollah open to a settlement, or are President Rouhani’s overtures a stall tactic?
I think it is a stall tactic, but they are not mutually exclusive. However, sanctions have dealt a serious blow to the Iranian economy that does not translate into a willingness to dismantle their nuclear program, which is what would be acceptable to Israel. Rouhani came to New York to lift the sanctions, not to stop the nuclear program. For Israel, what would constitute a good deal regarding Iran? Is the window for Israel to act alone closing?
The window for Israel’s action is not unlimited — it is short and growing shorter. The acceptable outcome from Israel’s perspective is the dismantling of the program entirely. If Iran is left with thousands of centrifuges, and a stockpile of even 3.5 percent enriched uranium, then they have the wherewithal and the knowledge to quickly enrich that stockpile to weapons-grade uranium, and can do it in between inspections. All it takes is a room about the size of your average Brown lecture hall, hidden underground in a country about half the size of Europe. Do you believe that Palestinians have the incentive and desire to reach a negotiated agreement with Israel?
I hope they do. I don’t think there is an alternative path to a viable and stable statehood for the Palestinians other than through negotiations. You have a model of what a Palestinian entity looks like that doesn’t negotiate with Israel for statehood, and doesn’t have peaceful coexistence and recognition — that model is in Gaza. It’s hard to call Gaza anything other than a failed state. They can choose the Gaza model, or they can choose a model of a state that has close diplomatic and economic cooperation with Israel, even defense cooperation. We are faced by common enemies. They can make that choice. What is the justification for the continued construction of settlements?
Almost all the construction is going on in East Jerusalem and the settlement blocks — neighborhoods and areas that everyone knows will be part of Israel in any negotiated settlement. The final status of the West Bank will be determined through negotiations, and there should be no preconditions. We have a lot of things we want the Palestinians to do upfront, but they’re not going to do it. They’re not going to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, but that has to be the outcome of negotiations. Freezing settlement construction upfront is not actually good for the Palestinians. We had a 10 month moratorium, and it did not bring Palestinians to the table — it pushed them farther away. Why? Because in the world of Middle East diplomacy, if you are conceding things upfront then the public is going to say: “Why should you make concessions at the negotiation table?”
Regardless, doesn’t the political cost of settlement construction outweigh the benefits for Israel?
It is certainly a legitimate question. We are a democracy, and the Israeli public has come down pretty strongly on that issue through successive elections, even during the height of the Oslo process under the Rabin government. There was far more settlement construction back then than there is today. There was something — I wouldn’t call it a consensus — but there was a strong majority in favor of continued construction. Before 1967 our border was eight miles wide, which wasn’t secure. Part of the reason the settlement block was built was to thicken out our borders. There exists a strong Israeli consensus for not going back to the ’67 borders. However, the decision does carry a political price with it. Certainly in international relations it carries a price, but also a majority of the Israeli public sees the logic and justification to it. Israelis will continue to support it until there is a negotiated solution. And we understand we will have to pay a price for it, maybe even a painful price, in terms of territory. You recently stepped down from your post as ambassador. What is your proudest accomplishment?
Missile defense was huge. Last November, Israel was struck by hundreds and hundreds of rockets, and 1 million Israelis under fire from those rockets watched as we shot them down. That was made possible as a direct result of support we received from the Obama Administration and Congress, which all occurred during my watch. Another success was the outreach to various communities. I spent a long time building ties with the Hispanic community, African American community and LGBT community. I instituted the first Israeli Iftar, and we’ve now had three Iftars. Generally, I would say that Israeli-U.S. relations are deeper and more multifaceted now than they were at any time in the past.
What do you mean by deeper and more multifaceted?
I mean the Israeli-U.S. commercial and scientific relationship. At a time when companies are outsourcing to Asia, Israeli companies are outsourcing to the U.S. There are tens of thousands of Americans who are employed, directly or indirectly, by Israeli industries. Apple never had an overseas R&D center, but it’s going to open its first in Israel. That is a rapidly expanding part of the Israeli-U.S. relationship. How has the chemical weapons deal with Syria and Russia been received by the rest of the international community?
I hate clichés, but the proof is in the pudding. If the combination of diplomacy with a credible military threat produces the desired result — which is the removal of weapons of mass destruction from the hands of a radical regime — then it will be viewed as extremely successful.
INTERVIEWS BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW
BROWN POLITICAL BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW REVIEW ?????????CAMPUS POLITICS
STORY BY BEN RESNIK?? / ART BY GOYO KWON
DANIELLE PLETKA Danielle Pletka is the Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. She is in favor of increased U.S. involvement in Syria and has advocated targeted airstrikes against the Assad regime.
CHRIS MURPHY Sen. Chris Murphy (D - CT) is the junior U.S. Senator from Connecticut. He recently voted against the UN resolution on Syria, representing a departure from his party and the President’s proposed foreign policy.
INTERVIEW BY ANNIKA LICHTENBAUM Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have shown mixed support for U.S. intervention in Syria. Have you noticed any strictly partisan divides in other areas of U.S. policy regarding Syria?
I think there’s a genuine lack of confidence in the President. Let’s pick a great example. The President said, “I need to strike Syria, I’ve made a decision to do it.” Who came out in support? The Speaker of the House — John Boehner, a Republican, did. Majority Leader of the House — Eric Cantor, a Republican, did. What did the President do? He left them out there on that limb, sawed it off right behind them. Sure, there were a bunch of non-interventionist Democrats as well, but at the end of the day they were just carrying water for their political leader. What about the Republicans who supported their Commander-in-Chief? He just screwed them over with nary a thought to what political price they might pay. That’s Washington, and that’s Barack Obama.
So you’re not in support of the diplomatic resolution?
Well, a lot of people don’t understand what a draft UN resolution is. You can do a draft UN resolution under Chapter VII, which mandates the implied use of force. You can do a draft resolution under Chapter VI, which is the Security Council resolution without the use of force. And you can do a resolution under Chapter V, which is basically a nothing burger, which is what this resolution is. Chapter V has no enforcement mechanism, and of course, there’s also no referral to the International Criminal Court, which was built exactly for these sorts of crimes against humanity. It’s a lie to the American people. It’s a lie to the people of the Middle East. And more importantly, perhaps, it’s a lie to the people of Syria — that the resolution is going to, in any way, change the situation on the ground. But of course, we all should have known full well that the President of the United States doesn’t give a damn about the people of Syria.
Or is it that President Obama is finding it difficult to determine a course of action that works?
Maybe there are people who believe that the office of the President of the United States is irrelevant. I’m not one of them. I believe that the President of the United States has enormous power and influence. I think that if the President of the United States wanted to do something, he could.
Isn’t it hard to find a viable way forward that pleases some percentage of the American people while also doing something for the Syrian people?
What kind of democracy do we run? Is it the kind of democracy that requires the vote of the American people every time we go forward? I didn’t realize we ran that sort of a democracy. Is it the President’s job to please the American people?
You’ve said that the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party is misleading people, saying we can’t go into a country where we have no national interests. Do you think there’s potential for that public support to increase for intervention in Syria in the future?
I think the President always needs to consult the American people. But I think the President is a leader, not the head of a mob. The American people are the most compassionate, the most decent, the most willing to lay down not just treasure, but also blood, for the liberty of others. But when the American people aren’t given a reason to do that — when the American people are told that we’re done in the Middle East, that the War on Terror is winding down, that Iraq is at an end — I think the American people rightly ask: “If you don’t care about this, Mr. President, why should we?” Have I criticized the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party? Absolutely I have, because I think they’re in the same immoral place Barack Obama is, which is a place in which they think about themselves — they think about selfish needs rather than the global interests of the United States and the principles for which our country stands. Could you ever see “boots on the ground” in Syria as being necessary?
No, I don’t ever see a need for boots on the ground, should we follow the scenario we just laid out, U.S. airstrikes on Syrian regime targets. If we do nothing, I suspect that one day, not too far off, we’ll have to see boots on the ground.
Israel has hardly taken an active approach in Syria. Do you believe this is the right policy for Israel, or should they be pursuing other options, perhaps military?
The underpinning of that question — of an America that supports the state of Israel because of everything that it stands for — assumes that somehow because we support Israel, we’ve got to be supporting the policies of the state of Israel. I think the Israelis are wrong, but I also support their right to defend their own interests the way they see them. But that doesn’t mean they get to dictate ours any more than I can dictate theirs.
Do you think Israel should be moving forward with more aggressive policies?
No, I care about American interests. That’s what’s first and foremost in my mind. I care about our interests. I care about our national security. I care about our principles. I care about what America stands for in the world. What we stand for is freedom for the state of Israel and everybody’s right to live in peace and security. That goes for the Syrians as well. That doesn’t mean that the Israelis need to embrace the same policy. And if they choose not to, the Israeli people are allowed to vote in and out of office people who will have different policies. That distinguishes them from pretty much everybody in the Middle East.
Why have you said your decision to vote against the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Syria resolution was a close call?
Earlier in the year, I was at a refugee camp in Turkey, and I saw with my own eyes the brutality of Bashar al-Assad. I looked into the eyes of a little girl with scars all over her face, the victim of a rocket attack from the leader of her own country. I understand why the president wanted to protect Syrian civilians from chemical weapons attacks, and I understand why he believes that there’s a national security interest in standing up for the international norm against the use of these types of weapons of mass destruction. My concern in Syria is that while I agree that there is a reason to intervene, I think a strike would have just added to the chaos on the ground in Syria. Ultimately, I think a strike would have committed the U.S. to a very long engagement in that country that likely would have confused, not advanced, our national security interests. I think we need to learn the lessons of the last decade. While there are no common parallels between Syria and Iraq, what we learned in Iraq, and what we also learned through our misadventures in Afghanistan, is that when the U.S. uses the blunt instrument of military power to change the political realities on the ground in the Middle East — and when we try to do so unilaterally — we reinforce an image of the United States as a bully.
It’s not often that Chris Murphy and Tom Udall (D-NM) align in a coalition with Rand Paul. Are there rifts within each coalition concerning motives for intervention or restraint?
I can’t speak to other members’ motives, but matters of war and peace compel a unique vote in Congress. Often it doesn’t fall along party lines. I was uncomfortable voting against the policy of my president. I generally think the president has done an absolutely masterful job of negotiating the American role in this Arab transition over the past several years. I’ve supported him on virtually everything that he’s brought to Congress over the past several years. This resolution, to me, was a bridge too far. I came to Washington as an anti-war candidate in 2007, and I continue today to feel that we need to practice restraint with our military use around the globe. It was curious to me that the Republican Party, which in normal times would probably deliver large numbers for a military authorization, was so heartily lined up against the president. I think there is an element of the Republican Party’s opposition to this that was really about handing a blow to the president.
Given your opposition to military intervention, what do you make of the diplomatic solution brokered by Russia for Syria to voluntarily surrender its stockpiles of chemical weapons?
If you want to do anything meaningful in Syria, you have to go
through Russia. All along the president was very clear that, while he desired a military strike as a deterrent for the future use of chemical weapons, there was no real resolution of the Syrian crisis that wasn’t political and diplomatic. And if you want a political and diplomatic solution in Syria, the Russians have to be front and center at the table. Ultimately, if we’re successful in removing chemical weapons from Syria, it’s a much better resolution than what would have occurred after a military strike. I think the Russians are sincere about following through on this agreement. I think there are doubts as to whether Assad is sincere, but with the Russians pushing him to the table, I’m confident today that we can get this deal brought to the finish line.
President Obama famously referred to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime as a “red line.” Does stripping Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles aptly enforce that red line and deter future chemical warfare?
We’re living in a world of the possible, not the ideal. I would love to do more than just remove the weapons from Syria. I would love to try Bashar al-Assad in international criminal courts, punish him and his regime. But America is on the other side of the world from Syria. We’ve made it very clear that there are going to be consequences for using chemical weapons. Now there’s a larger question about the humanitarian crisis on the ground in Syria, and we’re going to have to continue to provide humanitarian relief for the people of Syria. That really should be the bulk of our focus.
How should the U.S. provide relief?
I think we have to be much more active players with respect to funneling aid to Syrians and the refugee efforts outside of Syria. There’s no sign that the civil war is going to wrap up any time soon. Our focus should be on humanitarian relief and on political support for the opposition to try to help them achieve a negotiated settlement in Geneva that can remove Assad from power.
What would that kind of political support for the opposition look like?
We had been offering political support prior to the president’s decision to begin arming the rebels. I don’t see anything wrong with reaching out to the opposition groups to try to help them start the foundations of a governance structure. We should not provide arms for the rebels, in part because the most able fighting element of the opposition forces is Jabhat al-Nusra, a wing of al-Qaida.
Suppose the diplomatic solution falls apart. Would you still oppose other means of intervention?
I have a general reluctance to involve the United States in the Syrian civil war, but clearly, if conditions change, I’m always willing to reevaluate my position.
INTERVIEWS BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW
BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW INTERVIEWS
Do you view a diplomatic resolution as an easy way out?
INTERVIEW BY HENRY KNIGHT
AARON REGUNBERG Aaron Regunberg ‘12 is a community organizer in Providence. He is the Executive Director of Hope United, a student-led organization at Hope High School aimed at organizing social programs to foster educational achievement.
James Forman ‘88 is a Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Forman teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law, constitutional law, juvenile justice and education law. INTERVIEW BY ANNETTE LOPEZ
INTERVIEW BY OMAR BEN HALIM How successful has student organizing been for you so far?
Students have been successful on two fronts. One side of the work that we do is leadership development: helping students learn how the political system works, having students experience the political process first-hand — testifying on hearings, lobbying their representatives, organizing protests, working with coalitions. Students get to see that change can happen if they stay committed. If we’re successful, our students will continue leading their communities and fighting for social and economic justice. The other prong of our work is trying to make real, concrete changes that students want to see in their schools: getting healthier school lunches in cafeterias, holding school building contractors accountable to make sure they fix bathrooms, researching and designing a pilot student jury to have a student voice in school discipline issues, and incorporating restorative practices into a very punitive system. Our big campaign for the past year has been at the state level, working on the issue of highstakes testing. We think we’ve had a lot of success putting it on the agenda and making it one of the hot political issues in statelevel debate.
The use of the NECAP assessment as a high-stakes, make-orbreak graduation requirement has been one of the Providence Student Union’s (PSU) main focuses for a while now, and students have several areas of concern. First, the impact it’s having on students is harmful. The NECAP places accountability for the system on individual students, so it punishes the students that the system has been serving least effectively. Low-income students, students of color, special needs students and English language learners are the groups who are currently at a disproportionate risk of not graduating, and the long-term effects are catastrophic for a student’s life trajectory. In the short term, students are dealing with incredible stress and uncertainty. There are 4,000 students across Rhode Island at risk of not graduating. Some of the students have a family support structure, and for those students, maybe it’s just automatic that you go to college because your parents did; maybe that uncertainty and stress isn’t going to reach them. But for students who don’t have that support network, for whom going to college is a big and risky step to begin with, the test can keep students from taking the next step. Add to that what they’re seeing every day in the classroom — the quality and creativity of their curriculum being impacted because of high-stakes testing. Teaching to the test narrows the curriculum to math and reading, the only two subjects that are tested — so you see that other subjects are excluded in classrooms.
Our students did a lot of research on different metrics around the country, some of which were successful and others of which failed. What our student leaders found, and what they have been advocating for, is a system of performance-based assessments. In New York, there is a group of 28 schools called the New York Performance Standards Consortium. At each school, students complete a long-term, rigorous, standards-aligned, performance-based project in each of the core classes. Students are expected to prove competency and proficiency, but they also have some creative license and control; they can choose what they’re working on instead of having this long assessment where they’re just sitting there taking a test. And those schools in New York City, with identical demographics to the rest of the city, have had higher graduation rates, higher college acceptance rates and more importantly, higher college completion rates. So students have been saying, “We know there are alternatives that actually work better and don’t have any of these unintended consequences of high-stakes testing — why aren’t we giving them a try?”
Have student unions had a meaningful role in improving education?
I think that students coming together and standing up for what they believe in has a big role to play in improving every aspect of our educational system. The movement to reform schools is led by CEOs, nonprofits, politicians, and bureaucrats. There are lots of different folks who have lots of ideas about what students need. But the group that hasn’t had a voice is the collective of students most impacted by policy, whose educations and futures are on the line. Having students not only at the table but also leading the conversation is vital. Students know what works in their schools. They have a clear idea, though maybe not a 100 percent clear picture, of what is effective and what is not effective in the classroom. The fact that we’re not listening is a big problem. I think it’s a reason why so many of our schools are underperforming. Students have found that generally they don’t get a seat at the table simply by asking nicely. Students have to organize and come together to get a seat. This organization of students is very important. We’re seeing that here in Providence and across the U.S. Fortunately, there are a number of youth groups working to bring student voices into the conversation about their future.
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How did your time at Brown influence your decision to study law?
I became very interested in social change, in institutions of power, and how the government and the legal system impacted the lives of people. At Brown I did things like study the history of the Civil Rights Movement or compare race relations and civil rights movements around the world. One of the things that became clear was that the law was a very powerful force in American society for good or for ill, and that courts could play a prominent role. Brown introduced me to those concepts. A lot of legal scholarship focuses on abstract ideas and theories, but your work focuses on real problems. Why did you take that particular approach to scholarship?
In this post-Civil Rights Movement era, I’m interested in the parts of the African American community or minority communities that haven’t benefited from the amazing doors that have opened. I was able to benefit from that: I went to Brown, I went to Yale, I clerked for Justice O’Connor at the Supreme Court. My father grew up poor. He actually ate dirt during the Depression in Mississippi because that was all he had to fill his belly. There’s a generation of black people who fought incredibly hard so that their children and their grandchildren wouldn’t have to live lives like that. For those of us that now are able to live lives that were unimaginable to our parents and grandparents, the question is: What are we going to do? I look at poverty and at a criminal justice system that’s completely overinvolved and too big. I look at that world and I think: What am I going to do to try and make it more just? Those are the issues that took me to the Public Defenders Office; those are the issues that make me want to start an alternative school for kids in the juvenile justice system. I cannot imagine writing about anything else.
What’s your take on Judge Scheindlin’s decision in Floyd v. City of New York that ruled New York City’s stop-and-frisk policies unconstitutional?
Here are a few things that we need to think about when we think about the practice. The NYPD has prided itself on helping reduce crime in New York City, and one question is to what extent stopand-frisk has contributed to the reduction of crime. Crime had begun to decline more than a decade before they began to implement this policy, and over the last year and a half there’s been a dramatic decrease in the use of stop-and-frisk. Crime has continued to decline, even as the policy has been curtailed, although they’re still doing too much of it. The other thing to know is that cities that don’t use this policy have still seen crime decline. So it’s hard to make the case that the aggressive use of stop-and-frisk, in the way that New York is practicing it, is essential to driving down crime. The second point is the cost of this policy. Police Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg have said black men commit a disproportionate amount of crime in New York, and therefore
it makes sense for us to stop them at disproportionate rates. The real question isn’t the percentage of overall crime blacks commit. The real question is this: On any given day, if you look at a particular African American man, is that person more likely than not involved in criminal behavior? Of course, the overwhelming majority of black men walking around New York City on any given day are not breaking the law. Yet they’re being stopped in disproportionate numbers. It’s a tax black men pay because other people who are also black men commit crimes. And we can define groups otherwise. Men commit an overwhelming amount of crime in New York. Kelly and Bloomberg could say that we are going to stop all men because all men commit crimes disproportionately. But of course the NYPD doesn’t do that because of the way in which crime has become so racialized in our consciousness. What do you think are the most important issues our criminal justice system is facing right now?
The biggest issue we’re facing is that we have too many people in prison. Too many people are under criminal justice supervision. The notion that the most powerful country in the world has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners tells you that something is wrong. I think there are three big picture criminal justice reform issues that we have to think about. One is considering new approaches to our enforcement of drug laws. The other thing is that we can’t only talk about the drug laws. There’s that myth that’s been perpetuated by opponents of mass incarceration that if we just fix the war on drugs this whole problem will be taken care of, but the numbers just don’t support that. One of the areas we really have to focus on is violence. This is for two reasons. First, it’s a real driver of this enormous prison system, and second, it is doing incredible damage to the same communities being harmed by mass incarceration. If you talk about mass incarceration and you’re not going to really get down and dirty on dealing with issues of violence, then I think you’re not an authentic representative. We need to have a progressive anti-violence agenda; our whole agenda cannot only be about root causes. We need to talk about racism and poverty, and about having better health care. But that can’t be the whole agenda either; we also have to have a criminal justice law enforcement agenda infused with progressive values.
What’s your take on the Department of Justice’s mandate to eradicate mandatory minimum sentences for some drug-related crimes?
Attorney General Holder talked about over-incarceration and racial disparities, but when you actually look at the details, they were relatively small reforms. He was talking about low-level reforms. Only a relatively small number of people will be affected. It’s a good first step, but I’d want it to go further.
INTERVIEWS BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW
BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW INTERVIEWS
What do you think of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP)?
Is there a need for an objective metric for both student and teacher performance?
TUCKER CARLSON Tucker Carlson is a conservative commentator for Fox News. He is cofounder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller and formerly co-hosted CNN’s Crossfire and MSNBC’s Tucker.
PARENTS, FACULTY AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS:
INTERVIEW BY ANNIKA LICHTENBAUM
Partisanship and political polarization seem to define Washington at the moment. How do you think we got here?
Congress is dysfunctional. Part of that, though, is the byproduct of increased efficiency in American life. The same force that drives income inequality drives partisanship, and the system just does a better job of sorting people according to belief. 50 years ago there were a ton of conservative Democrats, and there were also quite a few liberals in the Republican party. Now, virtually all conservatives in politics are Republicans and virtually all liberals in politics are Democrats. So the parties are just more efficiently apportioned than they’ve ever been in the past. And that has a lot of consequences. One of them is that there’s no overlap between the two parties. They just sincerely disagree on a lot of things. The automatic budget cuts of the sequester were supposed to spur compromise, but it’s become an excuse for not negotiating. Do you think the sequester was a poor policy?
Oh, I don’t know. Is it ugly? Of course. Is it like watching your parents argue? Yeah. I don’t like watching it. What would Washington be like without it? Would we be reaching deeper compromises that were better for America? I’m not sure. Again, the sequester was a tool that hasn’t turned out to be very effective. But I don’t think it’s the root problem. The root problem is just that there’s a divide.
BROWN POLITICAL REVIEW INTERVIEWS
Would you say that Republicans and Democrats in Congress are more concerned with standing their ground than they are about the negative effects of doing so?
Well, maybe sometimes. It’s a symptom of dysfunction. Whenever you cut the budget mindlessly across the board, you’re basically conceding that you’re incapable of using your fine motor skills. It’s kind of embarrassing, but that’s not the root problem with America.
It’s been argued that the only two ways to completely balance the budget are through cuts on entitlements or by increasing taxes. Do we need to have a conversation about these options?
I don’t really think there’s any disagreement that the current entitlement system can’t continue. Neither party wants to admit that, because it doesn’t want to face voters. People love free stuff — that’s a bipartisan phenomenon. Republicans as well as Democrats want to keep Medicare and Social Security. But we can’t, because the math doesn’t work. It’s much easier to raise taxes than it is to cut social welfare spending. And that’s one of the reasons we have never cut entitlements at all, and we’ve raised taxes a lot. But at some point somebody brave is going to have to stand up and say, “We’ve promised you this money. We can’t make good on that promise. I’m sorry, let’s negotiate.”
Why is there a split in the Republican party on Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)?
The Republican electorate, the people who actually vote for Republicans, don’t trust the Republican leadership at all to do the right thing and to represent their views. They think they’re accommodating, they think they’re weak, they think they’re insincere. And of course, they’re completely right. Two weeks ago, you watched the president come out and say, “We need to bomb Syria.” This is something that nobody in America supports; except, the first people who came out and endorsed it were John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy. So if you’re a rankand-file Republican, you’re thinking: “These people are totally untrustworthy. They don’t represent me at all. There is no way I believe they’re going to try and do their best to get rid of Obamacare.” So in jumps Ted Cruz, who’s only been in the Senate for eight-and-a-half months, and he stands up and he says: “You know what? I am completely sincere. I really do represent your views.” And everyone knows he can’t actually do anything to defund Obamacare, but your average Republican appreciates his sincerity. That’s what it’s about.
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There’s talk recently of Congress extracting concessions from President Obama. Do you think that Congress would be willing to reduce sanctions against Iran in exchange for a concession from the president?
No, I don’t, actually. I really don’t. Because in the end, where’s the constituency for pulling back on sanctions? There just isn’t one. There’s no constituency for that. It may be the smartest thing to do, because it would give us leverage in the negotiations. But if you’re a member of Congress, you’re not thinking strategically, you’re thinking about the next election. And do you really want to be the guy who voted to go easy on Iran? It’s just too easy to demagogue on that question. What’s the number one lesson the GOP should learn from 2012?
Don’t nominate lame candidates. I think the candidate matters. What can you actually change? Well, you can make sure that you don’t nominate people who are insincere or inarticulate or completely out of step with the country or unwilling to explain themselves. How hard is it? To nominate someone who can speak fluently? I think we should start there.
Is there someone you’d like to see nominated in 2016?
I will say that Chris Christie is the most talented communicator I’ve ever seen. Chris Christie gives a better speech than Ronald Reagan; Chris Christie is the single best political speaker I’m aware of, ever. He’ll be a great candidate. I think there are some drawbacks, and his politics do not reflect mine — I disagree with him on a lot of things. But just as a communicator, I’ve never seen anyone who comes close to Chris Christie.
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The fifth edition of the Brown Political Review, Brown's student-written and student-run, nonpartisan political magazine.