DPR Inaugural Edition DPRMag.org
Californiaâ€™s HighSpeed Economics DOMA and Prop. 8 go to Washington
THE DRONE WARS BY ALEX SCOTT BY ALEX SCOTT
DPR KEEP CALM AND BLOG ON* *Pajamas not required
Davis Political Review Vol. 1, No. 1 · APRIL 2013
ON THE COVER »
ATTACK OF THE DRONES p.33 CA’s High Speed Potential p.22 THE CAUSEWAY & STATE » Supermajorityland 8 UC SHIP 10 Calif. GOP 14 Higher Ed 17 Guns and ammo 20
THE NATION » Student Debt 26 Immigration 28 Two Party System 31
PROP. 8 With Supreme Court rulings on two major gay marriage cases expected in June, DPR’s Jeremy Lowenthal and Daniel Goldstein dig into the issues surrounding the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 presented to the Justices.
« THE GLOBE 37 Sudan 40 Mali 44 Pakistan, India & Afghanistan 47 Arab Spring 50 Syria
« TALKER 63 State Sen. Lois Wolk
EDITORIAL BOARD ALEX E. TAVLIAN Editor-in-Chief KYLIE MENDONCA Managing Editor DUSTIN CALL Capitol and State Editor
BECKY MORRIS National Editor
CHRIS TELFER Interviews Editor
KEANE CHUKWUNETA International Editor
JOANNA HOANG Web Editor
EXECUTIVE BOARD TALIA MOYAL Director of Marketing Operations
MOLLY SCHMIDT Chief Financial Officer
OMAR ORNELAS Chief of Staff
EDITORIAL STAFF Alex Scott Natasha Kang Werdah Kaiser David Quach Haley Robinson Keane Chukwuneta Alex E. Tavlian Tim Harrison Joe Steptoe
Nick Smith Greg Justice Jeremy Lowenthal Daniel Goldstein Ahmad Raza Omar Ornelas Chris Telfer Dustin Call Hayden Lollis
ÂŠ Davis Political Review 2013 Davis Political Review 1 Shields Avenue, 457 Memorial Union Center for Student Invovlement Box #489 Davis, California 95616
A new tradition Welcome to Davis Political Review Today, a group of bright and hardworking students are proud to introduce a new tradition at UC Davis – voicing their opinions on issues that matter. After arriving at this great university, I realized that Aggies were missing a valuable tool to discuss issues that affect them beyond the classroom and across the Causeway. Enter “Davis Political Review.” The people listed in the masthead, on page four, and in the bylines of the following articles have the guts to talk about the issues deliberated in Sacramento, along with those facing the state of California, the nation and the world. Our hope is that many more Aggies will speak their minds in this forum. DPR is a political commentary magazine separated into four main sections: The Causeway, State, Nation and Globe. Each focuses on a specific political arena – the state Capitol, California, the United States and the rest of the world, respetively. Each article is published under the name of the author and the views expressed in review articles are those of the writer and not of the publication as a whole. DPR issues no editorials, and our editorial board will never take an organization-wide position on political issues or
endorse candidates. More than ever, Americans are witnessing the latest change in American warfare through the use of the drone. As the global war on terror enters its second decade, images and videos of drone strikes replace those of American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. DPR staff writer Alex Scott examines the impact of drone warfare enemy territories and success of the mission of the global war on terror. Alongside Scott, writers Jeremy Lowenthal and Daniel Goldstein write side-by-side about the status of the challenges against Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 at the U.S. Supreme Court. This publication, and future editions, will continue to be filled with insightful discussions of issues much like the ones introduced in this edition. I hereby dedicate this publication to the students of the University of California, Davis in the hopes that they will continue to express themselves in whatever medium they choose. Vox populi vox dei. ALEX E. TAVLIAN Editor-in-Chief, Davis Political Review
THANK YOU Kabir Kapur Becky Morris Omar Ornelas Molly Schmidt Chris Telfer Keane Chukwuneta Dustin Call Talia Moyal Joanna Hoang Jeremy Lowenthal Nick Smith Natasha Kang Alex Scott Tim Harrison Greg Justice Werdah Kaiser Daniel Goldstein Haley Robinson Hayden Lollis Joe Steptoe David Quach Ahmad Raza for supporting, joining or contributing to this magazineâ€™s first issue. Without you, DPR would not have been printed.
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Supermajorityland by NATASHA KANG
Following a crushing victory in state legislative races in November, California Democrats accomplished a feat not realized since 1883 – a supermajority in both houses of the State Capitol, and control of Governor’s mansion.
or the first time in more than a decade, Democrats are able to pass budgets, taxes and fee increases without any support from Republicans. Newly-elected California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte said the Democrats’ new position is a good news-bad news scenario. The good news: they have all of the power in the state government. The bad news: they get all of the blame. At this point, the only thing Democrats have to fear is themselves. If they can resist infighting, including vetoes from there own governor, and the possibility of overriding those vetoes, they have the power to make big changes. Or they could crack. Despite the endangered species status of Assembly and Senate Republicans, the Democratic Party has been foiled multiple times in its plans to roll back spending cuts, amend the tax code, and rebuild the water system. The increase in population among Democrats in the Capitol
spells a new relationship for the GOP: sit back and watch. From the sidelines, Republicans are worried that the tight Democratic control of the statehouse will lead to death by a thousand new taxes. This fear, however, is not apparent at all. Only a few Democrats seem to be pushing for new taxes. One of them, Sen. Mark Leno (DSan Francisco), introduced a proposal in December to roll back part of Proposition 13, letting voters pass property taxes more easily in order to fund their local schools. Other Democratic legislators such as Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) wanted to go further and add a tax to oil extraction to fund state parks. California is currently the only state that doesn’t tax resources extracted from public lands. Still, it’s unclear if these legislators will be backed by their fellow Democrats in their proposals. Many of these tax proposals could be blocked by a growing bloc of moderate Democrats in both chambers. Moreover,
Brown has pledged to seek voter approval of any tax increases, and expressed a willingness to veto new taxes. Another issue dividing Democrats is the implementation of the Federal health care reform. The proposed answer is to expand the MediCal program, which is receiving no support from the Brown administration. The Brown administration is dead against the full expansion of MediCal, as the California Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Cooley, announced at a symposium on healthcare reform. Despite assurances that the Federal government would foot the bill for the first three years of the MediCal expansion, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Cooley said that the next decade would leave California with a $6 billion burden to pay over the next decade. The alternative plan, which aims to offer less coverage to the new pool of health insurance recipients, is drawing ire from legislative Democrats. Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), chair of the Senate Health Committee, swung for the fences during a Health Access symposium in December, saying “I have every intention to make sure that every single person has the fullest amount of benefits available and draw down as many federal dollars as we possibly can.” To make this happen, Hernandez proposed California should raise the rates
paid to providers for treating MediCal patients. He claimed that California’s rates are among the lowest in the nation and deter physicians from participating. Another area causing a fracas among Democrats is a reform to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which was used to protect environmental interests around the State. Spearheaded by the recently resigned Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield), Democrats hoped to modernize the act to help builders expedite the environmental review process. Reform efforts, currently stalled by Rubio’s abrupt resignation a month ago, were initially panned by a number of Democratic lawmakers last Summer when Silicon Valley interests proposed a reform that significantly rolled back the law. Months later, and a more moderate reform proposal, Democrats still face stiff opposition from various environmental groups keen on upholding the Reagan-era law. Competitive districts and the toptwo primary paved the way for the Democratic supermajority to come forth and also the expansion of the moderate bloc, with many pundits expecting the party to hold control for the remainder of the decade. A new day for the California Democratic Party is dawning in the State Capitol. Only time tell if they can avoid tripping over each other and keep such vast control over the Golden State.
UC Student Health Care Plan
A sinking SHIP by ALEX E. TAVLIAN
Perhaps the only
addressed to University of California students. thing that the University They should have just of California Office of the addressed it to “Suckers.” President got right for its In 2011, SHIP was in-house, inexpensive health billed as the cureall for the insurance plan for students UC’s health insurance manwas its name – SHIP. date, and the largest student Almost three years health insurance plan in the since it was launched, the nation. With competitive largest student-contributor premiums, quite a few UC health insurance plan billed students signed up for the to “keep costs low” for stuplan instead of either staydents has turned into a sink- ing on their parent’s health ing ship. insurance plan or finding In February, the UC private insurance. Office of the President an While there are plenty nounced that, due to egreof mistakes made in creating gious oversight, the univer- UC SHIP, the first and most sity system is on the hook persistent is this: the Univerfor $57 million worth of sity of California, a public medical costs associated education system, entered with its UC Student Health the health insurance busiInsurance Plan (UC SHIP). ness. And, like anything With a green-light, the that has to do with the Uni- UC Office of the President versity of California system, contracted Aon Hewitt, an this multi-million dollar actuarial consulting firm Christmas present was deliv- tasked with setting preered a few months late and
miums for the 2011-2012 school year. In a report released in February, Aon Hewitt made a mistake of its own: rather than setting premiums higher than normal to account for unforeseen costs or irregularities in services used by SHIP users, it stuck with a very conservative premium price to reduce the burden on students. While their intention was great, it didn’t pay off in the least. With premiums set for 2011-2012, it was time to let the students use their plan for the year. That’s when the Aon Hewitt’s errors start adding up: along with low-cost premiums that don’t provide for any margin of error, Aon Hewitt, which was contracted to regularly set premiums, failed to analyze data of services used by students (which would assist in esti-
million deficit created by UC SHIP after one school year.
fee increase for UC Davis SHIP users in 2013-2014.
to the pool of premiums – because neither mating the cost of care and premiums to UC SHIP management nor UC Office of the charge). President demanded it – allowing insurance Aon Hewitt isn’t the only organization to receive blame for this lack of over- claims to exceed the projected premiums causing the deficit. sight, the management team of UC SHIP In an email to Daily Californian writer also never requested this data to compare Mitchell Handler, UCOP the cost of services to the contributions made by stu“The UC Office of the spokeswoman Brooke Condents through premiums, President’s canning of verse said “Self-funded programs sometimes operwhich may have eliminated Aon Hewitt can only ate in a deficit for an initial the accrual of a $57 million be described as a deperiod after inception... As deficit. the 2011-12 plan year pro Not until August 2012 layed freakout.” gressed, it became apparent did the UC SHIP managethat the amount of claims ment fire Aon Hewitt with a new consulting firm – Alliant Insurance would exceed the projected premiums set by the actuaries.” Services. There are two large problems with this The UC Office of the President’s can- ning of Aon Hewitt can only be described logic. UCOP’s “deficit defense” is bar-none as a delayed freakout. the worst PR strategy to pursue. This is es After an audit released in February, Alliant delivered the bad news: Aon Hewitt pecially true when taking into account that failed to do its due diligence by not analyz- Alliant’s audit of UC SHIP found that Aon Hewitt and UC Office of the President could ing services rendered on a monthly basis and comparing the costs of those services have avoided a ballooning deficit by setting a
higher initial premium instead of opting for the lowest possible projected premium. And the greater question: Who is steering this SHIP? Not until August, one full year after the Aon Hewitt-devised premium projections went into effect, did the UC SHIP management team dump Aon Hewitt for Alliant Insurance Services. YOU’RE THE PROUD OWNER OF A $57 MILLION DEFICIT, NOW WHAT? In order to duck responsibility for initiating such a calamitous program, the UC Office of the President drew up some interesting proposals that are sure to make Mark Yudof the darling of the California college student: Increase premiums. Cut benefits. Or do both. Alongside those lovely options, his office has another goody: increase coinsurance from 10 percent to 20 percent. Translation: if UC SHIP students undergo
surgery or have an in-patient stay at a hospital, they have to contribute 20 percent of the cost rather than the current 10 percent. Apparently, being the “nation’s largest student health insurance plan” is a surefire way to earn the title of the nation’s most expensive student health insurance plan, considering that the point in creating a student health insurance plan would be to make it less expensive than private market insurance. In a memo, UC Santa Barbara’s Student Health Service projected a 5-year premium increase of 26 percent for 2013-2014 (somewhere in the area of , followed by increases 11.3 percent, 8.5 percent, 6.8 percent, and 4.9 percent over the next four years. UC Davis owns just under 20% of the deficit: $10 million, the Davis Beat reported. To quell the large campus deficit, UC Davis SHIP users are expecting a $444 fee increase for health insurance. Sadly, the shockwave
of premium increases that UC students can expect in 2013-2014 aren’t unprecedented when evaluating the private insurance market. In May 2010, Anthem Blue Cross of California increased rates 39% on individual policyholders. However, the cause of Anthem’s increase and the UC SHIP increase are very different. THE ICEBERG If, by random chance, you thought that the UC Office of the President’s oversight failures were the only problem facing SHIP, you’d be dead wrong. Given the proposals to cut benefits and/or increase premiums are fulfilled, the University of California is essentially grabbing a shovel and digging a six-feet hole to bury itself. Here’s the dilemma that many students will face: your health insurance premium for UC SHIP is as high or higher than many of the private market insurers, your coinsurance rate is higher and the services cov-
ered are roughly the same or slimmer. What’s a UC student to do? Dump UC SHIP, pay for a private insurance plan and apply for a waiver. If this dump-and-run reasoning is followed by enough UC SHIP users, UC Office of the President would face a nightmare scenario (or, in Titanic terms – an iceberg). With the pool of premium contributors shrinking, premium prices will continue to soar to cover the cost of health insurance services provided and pay off the $57 million deficit accrued. Who are the remaining users that would pay a steep price for health insurance rather than moving to a private insurer? Students whose insurance premiums with private insurance companies would be considerably more expensive. That’s when UC SHIP stops helping students and starts hurting them. FOOD FOR THOUGHT The UC SHIP was, by and large, the worst idea ever embarked upon by the University of California. Until the UC Office of the President finds a solution to pay off the UC SHIP debt, students are saddled with a broken version of a dream health insurance plan. Rather than creating an inexpensive solution for students who are mandated to have health insurance but were uninsurable in the private market, the current SHIP premium increases are SHIP IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 36
DEMOCRACY, from page 44 bulent tenure, especially in its relationship to a proactive judiciary, as well as with the powerful military establishment, it is about to complete a feat no other democratically elected government has been able to do in Pakistan’s history – finish its term and handover power in a peaceful manner. A freer media, as well as more active civil society, are also to credit for this accomplishment. The military itself has admitted that it no longer has the capability to overthrow the government (although it surely can exert its influence) due to the support democracy now generally has among Pakistanis. This is a sign of hope of things to come for Pakistan, as it looks to move forward from one of its darker periods in its short history. Afghanistan is the newcomer in the list of democratic countries in the region. While corruption is one of the biggest problems its government faces, which in turn leads to distrust of the government among the Afghan population, there are hopes the democracy can succeed there as well. Despite the various conflicts and problems that exists both within and between the countries, the chances for a lasting peace in the region is dependent to how committed these countries are to democracy, as well as working to build trust and better relations between the countries, especially the two nuclear armed states.
California Republican Party
Moving from the brink by DUSTIN CALL
e have been constantly hearing – in the months following the Republican Party’s latest national and statewide electoral rejection – the GOP may be on the brink of irrelevance (especially in California) unless some major changes are made. The party’s absence from all of the statewide elected offices, helplessness in the face of opposing super majorities in both houses of the California legislature, sub-thirty percent statewide registration, and projected half-million dollar debt are only the beginning. Despite the gloom and doom, the California Republican Party’s Spring 2013 Convention in downtown Sacramento possessed an energy that many veterans haven’t seen in quite some time. The party even made some wise choices in electing new state leadership in former Senator Jim Brulte as Chairman, and San Francisco lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, a Sikh, as the new Vice Chairman. I believe the new leadership will initiate the changes needed within the organization of the CRP to, once again, make the state party a force in California. However, there is a lot more that the Republican
Party needs to do in California and nationally in order to not only survive in today’s electorate, but to restore itself to prominence. Most Republicans will say that the party has three options moving forward: 1) Don’t change a thing. 2) Change our policies by virtue of changing our principles, and message differently to the public. 3) Stick to our principles and policies, but message them better to the public. Each of these ideas has its supporters and opponents, some being more popular than others. The favored idea among the party’s base is the third option. I propose a fourth option; a combination of the latter two options. Yes, modernize the way we message to the electorate, especially to youth and minorities. Yes, stick to the principles that are the foundation of our party: personal freedom, personal responsibility, equality of opportunity, and limited government. And – perhaps surprisingly – Yes, offer up policies that are fresh, innovative, and distinct from many of those we have thus offered up. What too many conservatives do not realize is that our principles are not limited to translating only into the policies that
have become permanent fixtures of the Republican playbook. Our sound principles can be translated into countless new policy positions that do not compromise what we believe in. We only need to allow for them to be brought to the table. What this means is the Republican Party needs a new breed; a coalition of individuals willing to shine light on new paths for the party. And rather than this festering into increased tension within the party, the GOP needs to broaden its tent to allow for fresh ideas and new approaches. These Republicans will realize that the electorate of California and the United States has changed since Reagan-Bush, and that it may never be the same again. Whether this is good or bad, I have no comment. I merely argue that these changes require us to acclimate and evolve. California is more culturally, ethnically, and regionally diverse than any other state in the union. This, in combination with California’s youthful demographic and history of innovative and forward thinking, provides the perfect laboratory for the rebirth of the Republican Party. If we can figure out how to succeed here, we can succeed anywhere. California also provides us with the perfect forum to improve on issues that we have struggled with nationally, in addition to locally: education, the environment, and immigration. Our state’s public education system
has steadily dropped to being among the worst in the nation. We have hundreds of miles of fragile coastline that are suffering from pollution, on top of many other natural resources due to our vast environmental diversity. And we are home to millions of illegal immigrants due to our major ports of entry and our international border. With these three issues Republicans have an opportunity to become focused on educating more young people, preserving a healthy natural living environment for future generations, reforming our inefficient and sluggish immigration system, and trying to find ways to allow more families to stay together rather than splitting them up. Some may argue that altering our stances on these issues would compromise other positions the party holds dear, such as limiting government regulation of our lives and proper observance of the laws of our land along with justice for violating them. Even if this were to be the case, the party really needs to decide where its priorities lie and be willing to adopt a certain level of pragmatism in order to regain power. Most conservatives revere Ronald Reagan in a way similar to the Left’s idolization of President Obama. This makes it all the more frustrating to observe the frequent disregard of, what I feel is, one of Reagan’s most important pieces of advice. While he was still serving as governor of our great state, Reagan reportedly told his
chief of staff “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally - not a 20 percent traitor.” Rather than taking this to heart, far too many conservatives reject any Republican who is not “ideologically pure” or who suggests policy positions outside the conservative dogma, labeling them as a “Republican in name only” or a liberal. Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was labeled as such during the 2012 Republican Primaries. While sticking true to most of the Republican Party’s principles Huntsman offered up ideas and policies that were indeed different and innovative. Instead of being embraced, or at least recognized as a legitimate Republican candidate, he was labeled a RINO. While I am not endorsing Huntsman, in terms of his campaign, I am using his campaign’s strategy as an example. Even Ronald Reagan himself was not what many Conservatives make him out to be. His signing of the 1986 amnesty bill would insight cries of impeachment among many of today’s Right-Wingers. While ‘restoring the Republican Party to the party of Reagan’ is a commonly-used- rhetorical-vagueness I generally identify and agree with, I prefer to prescribe to the idea of returning the Republican Party to being more like the party of Lincoln; a party that was largely built on a then-progressive interpretation of “liberty and justice for all” - abolition of slavery.
At the time, the idea of abolition was new and viewed as a betrayal of the principle of states’ rights, something the GOP holds dear today. However, there was a more important principle at the foundation of the policy that the new party chose to favor – personal liberty. Today’s Republican Party would be wise to consider what principles its own policies are currently compromising in favor of others. When approached correctly, change and compromise can be virtues instead of vices. The Republican Party in California, and throughout the nation, needs to stick to its basic principles but learn how to translate those principles into new and effective policies that will attract and engage citizens in our cause. Only then we will be able to change the tone of our message to attract new voters. Principles can’t truly be called principles if they are abandoned in times of trial, which is why we must stick by and not abandon them. But if the party can’t win elections and thus can’t govern, our principles will be of little use to California or the United States. Both our state and our nation need the GOP. For proof of this, we need look no further than to Abraham Lincoln himself. But rather than needing the Grand Old Party, we need the Grand New Party. And California is the perfect place to make this happen.
Higher Education in the Golden State
Charting the right path by TIM HARRISON
s an international exchange student, I have an outsider’s perspective on California’s education system. As an outsider, the thing that baffles me the most about getting an education in California is the staggering cost it incurs on students. According to the California Education Round Table, a state-sponsored commission, an average student will pay well over $50,000 in tuition for a four-year degree at a University of California campus. This figure does not include non-tuition costs such as living expenses. I compare this to the system in place in my home country, Australia, where, thanks to government grants and subsidies, a bachelor’s degree will cost me less than $30 000. The Australian government also provides an interest-free loan covering up-front tuition costs of higher education to all students and families who require this assistance. This loan is then paid back through the taxation system once the recipient is deemed by the government to be in a financial position to do so. A very similar system is in place in the United Kingdom. This ensures that every student who qualifies for university admission is financially able to gain a higher education and
is not put under the same monetary pressures as many Californian students seem to be. This is clearly not the case in California as services such as the ASUCD’s food bank, The Pantry, have become necessary to support financially struggling students. This is not a situation that is conducive to a productive education for students. As with any investment in public services, supporting higher education students obviously has costs for the state, and, therefore, the taxpayer. To create and maintain a highly educated labor force is, however, something that should be important to society. While natural resources and mass production are still integral parts of the contemporary global economy, the resource of a highly educated, highly skilled workforce is where potential for growth and innovation lies. This can be seen in countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, where high-tech industries relying on highly skilled workers have created rapid economic growth in the last two decades. Closer to home, innovations in information technology in Silicon Valley, audiovisual production in Hollywood and agricultural science at UC Davis are all examples of the contributions of highly-
skilled labor forces in California’s economy Pérez’s Democrats now have a twoand community. thirds supermajority in both chambers of In non-technical disciplines, too, the legislature, enabling them to act decithere is inherent value. Understanding how sively on education investments that could how society works and the creation of art be opposed by Republican legislators. are central aspects of human knowledge. The position of Gov. Jerry Brown as This value should be recognised through an education advocate and major proposocietal investment in the higher education nent of Proposition 30 also helps the cause of citizens. of student support. In addition to the fact that California So, how exactly can California supshould invest more in the financial support those who wish to attain a higher port of college students, the current politieducation? While changing to the Austracal climate provides an lian system may be opportunity to do so. a long-shot, there Despite the fact that Prop. 30 As shown by the apare some substanraised taxes, a majority of proval of Proposition tive proposals to al30 in November, there low for further state Californians supported the is clearly support for support to higher investment in education asincreased state funding education in Calisociated with Prop. 30 of higher within California. fornia. The first of these Despite the fact was discussed in that Prop. 30 raised taxes, a majority of the previous term of the California State Californians supported the investment in Legislature. The Middle Class Scholarship education associated with Prop. 30. Act, lobbied for by UC Davis students and In the state Capitol, present condioriginally introduced by Pérez, is a protions are conducive to the passage of legisposal that would have repealed tax breaks lation to allow for a more affordable college for out-of-state corporations. This revenue education in California. would have been used to provide a two Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D thirds reduction in tuition fees for Califor– Los Angeles), promoted the interests of nian students in state-run higher education students in the California higher education whose family earn a total of less than $150 system during his first term as Speaker and 000 per year. is now able to do this more effectively after This proposal, much like the system the recent election. of subsidies in Australia, aims to support
a large proportion of students and would substantially lessen the cost of a public higher education in California for up to 42,000 students currently in the University of California and California State University systems. The bill passed the State Assembly in August of last year and failed to pass the Senate. Despite this setback, the Middle Class Scholarship Act was a solid proposal to support Californians seeking a higher education and is one that should be considered further by the state Legislature. A second proposal doing the rounds in the state Capitol comes from the other side of the aisle. Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue’s plan, The Affordable College Act of 2013, is another attempt to curb the cost of a California college education. Under this plan, tuition costs for bachelor’s programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics would be capped at $10 000 at California State University and $20 000 at the University of California. This cost-cutting would be achieved by increased reliance on less expensive online education options as well as greater access to degree credit in Advanced Placement high school classes. This proposal provides a greater level of support for students by making degrees substantially more affordable than the Middle Class Scholarship Act but it is also much more restricted in its scope. While the Middle Class Scholarship
Act aims to support all higher education students below a certain income level, the Logue plan would only cover high performing students in high-skill areas such as engineering, information science and math disciplines. In this way, Logue’s Affordable College Act targets education support to areas of the sector that are believed to provide the best payoff for California’s economy. Despite this difference in focus from the Middle Class Scholarship Act, both are concrete examples of ways the current California State Legislature could act to support students seeking to contribute to Californian society through a higher education. To have a highly educated population is not a luxury. It is something that provides concrete benefits to a society. To have a system where the pursuit of such an education is often prohibitively expensive does not make sense. In order to alleviate some of this cost, a higher degree of state support is needed for higher education students. Not only is this support needed, but the political climate in the public, Capitol and Governor’s mansion is currently conducive to the provision of such measures. Education advocates must take advantage of this political climate. California must now provide extra support for students struggling to attain a higher education in this state.
State of Bare Arms by WERDAH KAISER
uns kill people. That’s all you and I have been hearing for the past couple of months; and rightfully so, considering the horrific massacres that have happened. The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the Aurora theatre shootout, and we can’t forget the amount of daily warfare that happens in the streets, be it Vallejo, Oakland or the close to home killings in Sacramento. In this state of chaos and uncertainty, it is easy to blame everything and anything on guns. Democrats in California are doing just that. Dennis Herrera, the city attorney of San Francisco, has “requested that the San Francisco Employees Retirement System divest of all assets from fire-arms related interests.” State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) is taking the fight to another level, introducing state-wide legislation that would completely take away California resident’s rights to possessing semi-automatic weapons. Yee introduced two pieces of legislation, SB 47 and 108, relating to gun ownership. Under SB 47, the use of bullet buttons would be prohibited and featured weapons
would be allowed only low capacity ammunition magazines that could not be changed without dissembling the weapon. SB 108 will require that gun owners keep their functional firearms in a locked container when they are not home. Additionally, gun owners can be imprisoned if they leave an unlocked firearm in their homes when they are absent. The legislation also mandates that someone may not loan a handgun unless they are listed as the registered owner in the California Department of Justice database. Yee isn’t alone. State Sen. Kevin De León’s (D-Los Angeles) SB 53 would require permits for the purchase of ammunition and that all ammunition sales occur face-to-face. The bill further prohibits “ammunition vendors from selling, transferring ownership of, offering for sale, offering to transfer ownership of, displaying for sale, or displaying for transfer of ownership” any ammunition that would be accessible to a purchaser without the assistance of a seller. You don’t have to be a gun nut or an NRA member to see that these bills are an infringement on personal liberty and a threat to our freedom. The issue here is not
about Let’s take this gun regulation issue supporting guns, but about supporting to a global comparison. It seems entirely American citizens’ rights to have one. incongruous that the Obama administra Yee’s SB 47 leaves the option of selftion asks us to forego our Second amenddefense as a last resort. In times of absolute ment rights, while at the same time signing vulnerability, even seconds matter. Having a $663 billion defense budget into law. to completely disassemble your weapon to So the government’s use of firearms reload it yields guns useless and Califorand guns is considered a form of protecnians defenseless. This crippling legislation tion for its citizens but those same exact will hamper any and all personal defense. citizens’s personal use of guns is regulated After gleaning SB 108, it may seem high treason? This American citizen calls that Yee’s logic makes sense, but it is quickfoul. It doesn’t make sense. ly realized that the bill’s regulations would When the government regulates its adversely affect a gun use of guns, maybe owner’s accessibility to then we can legitiHaving to completely dishis or her weapon. In mately ask American assemble your weapon to the event of a dangercitizens to accept gun ous situation, paying regulation. reload it yields guns useless the lock box a visit Until then, gun and Californians defenseless. would prove to be a ownership should be life-threatening enallowed, with reguladeavor. tions that make sense What we find is and are understood regulation where regulation need not be. by gun-owners. After all, if they themselves Similarly, De León’s SB 53 would find the bills laughable, they sure as heck make face-to-face gun sales mandatory. won’t follow them. The question must be raised: how will this It was Benjamin Franklin who said: affect illegal gun sales? It is difficult ra“They that can give up essential liberty to tionalizing laws on anything tangibly in obtain a little temporary safety deserve demand by the public and not wonder if a neither liberty nor safety”. chain reaction is imminent. Californians need to heed Franklin’s Would the black market for guns warning and keep the Second Amendment sky-rocket? How would gangs be affected? alive. How would they in turn affect police presence in high-crime neighborhoods?
GREG JUSTICE on
BULLET TRAIN ECONOMICS O
FTEN maligned as science fiction in the United States, high-speed rail (HSR) is a fact of life and a viable form of transportation in much of the developed and even developing worlds. It is the most environmentallyfriendly form of mass transportation in the world; it uses the least amount of energy while transporting more people. Further, HSR is also the safest form of transportation in the world. Only four accidents – including the recent no-injury derailment in Japan – and 164 fatalities have occurred worldwide since 1964. And not even one fatality occurred on any HSR train in Japan during the 9.0 earthquake in March 2011. Contrast that to the 32,367 highwayrelated deaths that occurred in 2011—in the US alone. Twenty-one nations have HSR systems in regular revenue operations, with another twenty-one nations now in the planning planning stages. The closest thing to HSR in United States is the “Acela” system serving Boston to D.C., and adminis-
tered by Amtrak. It runs between 125-150 MPH; the generally accepted speed of HSR is a 155 MPH or more. With the passage of Proposition 1A in 2008, voters chose to make HSR in the nation’s most populated state a reality, and perhaps unwittingly renewed the debate over the merits and impact of this transportation. With every G20 country except Canada and the U.S. planning for a national HSR system, I argue the train is needed for California to remain economically viable and globally competitive, as well as focused on sustainability. HSR is not a new issue. In 1993, the California State Legislature established the California High-Speed Rail Commission to study the potential for a Northern California Southern California connector. By 1996, studies by the Commission concluded that a HSR system in California was feasible. And necessary. That same year, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1420 to make permanent the entity, now named the California High-
$25bil 2000 CHSRA projection
$33bil 2008 CHSRA business plan
$100bil 2011 CHSRA business plan
$68.4bil 2012 CHSRA business plan
Speed Rail Authority, as well as to initiate a system-wide business plan. In 2000, the Authority released their first plan, a 703-mile system serving all major metropolitan areas, at an estimated cost of $25 billion. Because the plan called for an initial sale of almost $10 billion in General Obligation bonds by the State Treasurer, voter approval was needed. On November 4, 2008, voters approved Proposition 1A with 53% of the vote. A few days later – November 7, the Authority released an updated business plan reflecting a larger system, 800 miles, and a bigger price tag—$33 billion. The following year, amidst controversy over the true cost of the system and administrative mismanagement, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 783 mandating an updated business plan by the end of fiscal year 2012-13, and updates every two years thereafter. In April 2011, the Authority released another draft business plan putting the costs of a full system – LA-SF via the Central Valley, with extensions to Sacramento and San Diego – at nearly $100 billion. The Authority then significantly revised its plans, and a year later, released an updated business plan. The Authority’s new priority is the 520-mile LA-SF segment at a reduced cost of $68.4 billion. Because of higher costs and the reduced likelihood of further federal funding, Governor Brown announced in January of last
year that funds collected from the State’s Cap-and-Trade auction would support the HSR system. Two aspects of the system that have been hotly debated are the promised environmental benefits and whether the system will actually attract the ridership necessary to sustain operations without government subsidies. There are significant environmental effects associated with the first construction phase. The full-system, however, which will be run on renewably-generated electricity will dramatically curtail – and later eliminate – emissions for the system, making it the cleanest HSR system in the world. Revised ridership scenarios and models by the Authority’s independent Ridership and Review Panel, UC Berkeley, and Cambridge Systematics project an operating surplus even amidst conservative ridership figures. However, none of these arguments have been as dominant as that of the overall costs of the system. At just over $68 billion for the initial LASF segment, conservative legislators have called the system a “boondoggle,” and believe California cannot afford this at the time of record multi-billion dollar deficits. This view is incredibly shortsighted and goes against the history
annual economic activity increase by 2030 with HSR and spirit of our state’s civil planners and engineers, and fails to address the what California stands to lose if we do not build a HSR system. Without a statewide high-speed rail system, many regions throughout the state will see a major loss of economic activity, and forfeit employment that would have occurred under HSR. Individually, California’s seven largest regions are expected to bring in around $29 billion annually by 2030 – in 2008 dollars – as a result of HSR. Taken aggregately in consideration of the multiplier effect, the statewide estimated total for economic activity increases to $38 billion a year by 2030. In 2010 terms, that amount is 2% of California’s gross domestic product. Additionally, without the system in place by 2030, the state will miss out on an estimated 1,246,000 “jobyears” in employment created both directly through construction activity, as well as indirectly through multi-
plied economic activity. Not only does California stand to lose billions in estimated revenue related to the construction and operation of HSR, opponents also underestimate the overall change to California’s quality of life if the system is not built. According to USC and Department of Finance projections, California is expected to reach between 41.4 and 50 million in population by 2030 – two years after the LA-SF segment is expected to be complete. With this population growth, planners forecast an increase of 100 billion vehicle miles travelled on the state’s roadways – 380 billion in 2010 to 480 billion miles travelled in 2030. California will need 4,300 new highway lane miles, 115 new airport gates, and four new airport runways – all at an estimated cost of $158 billion. The Caltrans also estimates the 50year operations and maintenance costs of these new roadways to be an additional $132.8 billion. Building the HSR will accommodate the increased transportation demands and negate aforementioned construction. The debate over the HSR system continues, despite the fact that Californians approved the system under Proposition 1A (2008). With the LA-SF phase projected to cost $68.4 billion, the overall cost to Cali-
fornia and our citizens is much greater economically and environmentally if the system is not built. These costs do not even include a monetization of health effects resulting from an estimated 100 billion additional vehicle miles travelled by motorists, 12.7 billion additional gallons of oil consumed by vehicles and 12 billion more tons of carbon dioxide emitted from increased automobile travel. Like all major infrastructure projects in California’s history – the State Water Project and Bay Area bridges — the HSR system should not be seen as a major expense, but rather a wise investment addressing our present and future mobility, infrastructure and citizens’ needs. With more young adults turning to environmentally-friendly forms of transportation and abandoning single passenger vehicles altogether, the demand for the system is not only present in current modeling, but likely to increase around the time the system is scheduled to be open in 2028. The California high-speed train is in all aspects a train to the future; to heightened economic activity and employment, to the modernization of our State’s infrastructure and transportation network, and most importantly, to the increased environmental protection of our citizenry and our abundant natural resources.
Death and Taxes redux
Diploma and Debts by CHRIS TELFER
long with the cap and gown, diploma, and the bliss of finally graduating, there’s something else that recent college graduates might be taking home upon graduating: more than $26,000 in student loan debt. According to a new report released by the Project on Student Debt, two-thirds of students who graduated in 2011 did so with an average of $26,600 in student loan debt – a 5% increase from the previous year. Credit bureau TransUnion reported that in the past 5 years, average debt that students carry has risen more than 30%. In 2010, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever, totaling $826 billion. Now, that total stands at more than $1 trillion. Debt has always been an issue that students have faced, but with college tuition rates perpetually increasing and a job market that shows little promise of improving – especially for young people looking to start their careers – student debt has turned into the
elephant in the room in the minds of minds of students and now the general populace. A piece published in 2012 by the Associated Press provided some insight into the poor labor market for recent college graduates. This report showed that in 2012, 53% of bachelor degree-holding college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed or underemployed. Being unemployed obviously presents some obstacles to paying off your loans, but many of these graduates are working in parttime jobs and are unable to find fulltime work. The implications of this growing debt bubble are far-reaching. Fair, Isaac and Company released a report in January that showed that there are many implications to this student debt bubble that seems to be growing. This study showed that more recent student loans are riskier than earlier vintages and the default rates for student loans have been increasing as of late. This can cause some serious problems in the future. The report highlighted the similarities between
the student loan bubble, $17,447, respectively. Stu- prospects of paying off my and the mortgage bubble dents in New Hampshire loans. It’s stressful.” This that burst in 2008, caustotal the highest student is a common sentiment ing the subsequent “Great average with more than among current students. Recession.” $32,000; Pennsylvania and Sixty-five percent Another caveat of Minnesota round out the of high-debt student loan this debt issues is that, top 3. borrowers claim to have unlike many other been surprised or sources of debt, it is completely misun“Graduation is still two nearly impossible to derstood the terms years away, but I’m aldischarge a student of their student loan loan in bankruptcy. or the loan process ready beginning to worry With 80% of these upon graduation. about the prospects of loans being made by This could be very paying off my loans. It’s the federal governtelling of the underlyment, there is a poing cause of this debt stressful.” tential for tax refunds issue. Reading that to be withheld, and pesky fine-print is Jerry Lopez, even the garnishment key to avoiding this UC Berkeley student. of your paychecks. confusion when you The severity of reach that time to the problem varies in actually begin paying different regions and dif- While this debt down your loans. ferent states. Fortunately crunch is greatly affecting Students must ensure for students in California, students who have already that they are fully aware of our state has the 3rd lowest graduated, they’re not the the dangers of relying on average debt per student only ones. UC Berkeley student loans to completely upon graduation, with a student Jerry Lopez says fund their college educalittle under $19,000. that, “Graduation is still tion. Federal and state Only Utah and roughly two years away, grants, as well as private Hawai’i have lower averbut I’m already beginscholarships are other opages with $17, 227 and ning to worry about the tions that should be conDEBT continued on page 43
A DREAM they dreamed by HALEY ROBINSON
ach February, Americans celebrate Black History Month, given that the theme of having a dream for greater civil rights is hardly unfamiliar. But the actuality of having a DREAM never was realized for many American residents. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act haunted the dreams of legislators for more than a decade. Meanwhile, California was dreaming it’s own DREAM. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, in 2010 there were an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants residing in California. Trailing California is the Lone Star State – Texas – with 1.7 million out of the nation’s projected total of nearly 11 million illegal immigrants. California is the most undeniably affected state by immigration policy, which is why one might expect the fact that California legislators approved the DREAM Act in 2011. Federally, however, attempts to pass almost exactly the same bill came to a standstill and failed after multiple revisions and trials. This legislation allowed illegal immigrants to receive financial aid benefits if they arrived in the US before the age of 16 and had good standing. The difference
with the federal act is that the California DREAM Act does not grant legal status to these students. The federal DREAM Act was first proposed in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (RUtah), and reintroduced by multiple other Republicans later in time. In fact, President Bush vocalized a want for increased border security, temporary guest-worker program, and requirements for businesses to e-verify their employees which sounds very similar to the plan President Obama is backing currently. Additionally, Obama has an extremely strict record on immigration enforcement, deporting more immigrants than any other administration in United States history. Seeing that the bipartisan effort taking place now is precedented, perhaps immigration goes past a partisan issue, and racial acceptance is the main factor at work. Like the plight of pre-civil rights movement African Americans, the Latino population in America has been dehumanized with draconian measures, such as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, the controversial Arizona law that requires immigrants to carry specific immigration documents, which police could request upon reasonable sus-
picion a person was an illegal immigrant. assumed that the progressive approach of Often reasonable suspicion means having California would provide an example the brown skin. federal government to mimic. After all, This proposal of racially-profiled after California passed its DREAM Act, 11 immigration enforcement is the result of other states followed suit with their own a long accretion of failing immigration versions. But even in California, backwards reform laws, which were either ineffectual propositions were passes, equally as disor excessively disputed between parties. criminatory as the Arizona law. Along with the aforementioned failure of In 1994, a ballot initiative was passed the national Dream that prohibited ilAct, the 2005 Secure legal immigrants â€œ...the November elections America and Orderly from having health Immigration Act care, public educahave made it very clear failed, which incortion, and other sothat Americans want imporated legalization, cial services after a migration reform and want guest worker prostatewide citizenship grams, and border screening system was immigration reform now.â€? enforcement compoestablished. Opponents, along with the nents called the bill -- Kevin Johnson, Comprehensive Enxenophobic and the forcement and Immiday after the law was Dean of Academic Affairs gration Reform Act of approved, multiple UC Davis Law School 2005 and the Comprelawsuits were filed hensive Immigration leading to the law Reform Act of 2006, being invalidated as which both had simiunconstitutional. lar aims. If California is not accepting of im When a blatantly racist bill is enmigrants, the rest of the nation falls signifiacted in Arizona and bills to aid with guest cantly behind as well. Proving this, similar worker programs cannot even be passed initiatives since passed in Arizona, Colorafederally, the issue of immigration takes on do, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New a whole new color. And that is the color of Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. brown skin. If the stagnated development on im Returning to Californiaâ€™s weight on migration reform is because of an inherent immigration within the nation, it might be racism, then why the sudden surge of in-
terest in immigration reform? Kevin Johnson, Dean of Academic Affairs at UC Davis School of Law, and Professor of Immigration, Refugee, and Civil Rights Law, spoke about this new immigration push in an interview with Beth Ruyak on the program ‘Insight’ of Capitol Public Radio. When questioned about the timing of this push for immigration reform, Professor Johnson responded, “I think ‘why now’ is that the November elections have made it very clear that Americans want immigration reform and want immigration reform now…I think at this point in time, Republicans who want to be relevant and remain relevant are thinking hard and carefully about immigration reform, which is very important, not just to Latinos, but to Americans as a whole and are willing to make compromises to get immigration reform to pass.” Though the possibility of federal immigration reform is promising, the timing suggests that incentives are purely political and the question of the content of the bill looms. Specifically, the process with which immigrants will be legal citizens is a matter in contention. Johnson said, “The pathway to citizenship is the rub in the proposal, the President proposes that they earn citizenship, but the senate proposal would take longer because it would require a declaration of sorts that the borders are secure
because undocumented immigrants are put at the end of the line. When does the process begin?” What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” that the Statue of Liberty promises all immigrants? According to the California Farm Bureau, two-thirds of crop workers in California are undocumented. These undocumented workers are the backbone to our economy. Giovanni Peri, a professor of Economics at UC Davis and immigration expert, concluded that undocumented workers do not compete with skilled laborers, but complement them, and in states with more undocumented immigrants, skilled workers make more money as well as worked more hours, making the economy grow. Legal worker’s pay increased by 10% in complementary jobs to undocumented workers between 1990 and 2007. With promised reform on the horizon, is America any more progressive in its view of immigration? Amnesty has become a dirty word in today’s political climate. When California passed its own version of the Dream Act, this ‘amnesty’ wasn’t considered negative, but an investment in youth’s future and in the future of our state. Unfortunately, as of now legislation to comprehensively reform immigration is still a dream.
Inside Political Science
Beyond the Two Parties by HAYDEN LOLLIS
As it pertains to our American democracy, nothing is more important than the right to vote. Our founding fathers fought for the right of suffrage and representation and through America’s history, minority groups such as African-Americans and women have had to fight in order to gain the right of suffrage and to be represented fairly. This right of suffrage, a cornerstone to our democracy, has not seen its full potential, as the voting population only hasn’t had a turnout of over sixty-two percent in the past seven election cycles, and it’s even worse for midterm elections, where not even a majority of the electorate who turn out to vote. This problem stems from voter apathy, which a direct result of our two party political system. This system discourages alternative ideas and solutions, something that this country desperately needs. The discouragement of these alternative ideas creates a cycle in which those who cannot solve problems, whether they are Republican or Democrat, continue to stay in power. For those who are unaware of what exactly a two party political system is, it is a system of government in which there are two main parties struggling for domi-
nance. Often these two parties become so powerful that they are able to exclude any other party from being able to enter the sphere of debate, making them the only two choices available. Naturally, there are benefits to only having two parties in power. One such benefit is the simplicity of the system, when provided with only two options (in the case of America, Democrats or Republicans) it is easy for voters to make their decision. While the simplicity of this system may be appealing to many, this method of having only two broad choices means that if any voters fall outside of one of the two general groups then they are left with no choice for whom to vote. According to Dr. Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project at George Mason University, in every election (including midterm elections) since 2000 less the sixty-two percent of the overall voting population has turned out to vote. The highest turnout rate was the 2008 Presidential election where sixty-one percent of the voting eligible population turned out to vote; the lowest was the 2002 Midterm elections, where thirty-nine percent of the population turned out to vote. What the statistics show is that a
significant portion of the electorate, sometimes a majority, does not vote in elections. For a society centered on the idea of democracy, this is a very dangerous occurrence. Another benefit of the ideal two party system is that it promotes centrism, meaning that it encourages the coming together of both parties in compromises that avoid extremes and promote moderate legislation within government. The current polarization and gridlock that has swept our Congress and left it stagnant proves that our current two party system isn’t becoming any more centered or moderate, rather we find the exact opposite. The past two elections have served as perfect examples of the current polarization that has dug its way into our government, with both parties looking specifically to appeal to those of the electorate who feel most “conservative” or most “liberal” because it is they (along with some in the middle who get attracted to the huff and puff of politics) who turn out to vote. With such a large portion of the electorate left out of politics, the general public is left with politicians and policies that they didn’t vote for or want to begin with, yet those same politicians continually stay in power, so the apathetic section of the electorate stay out of politics because they see it as an unchanging system. I think that this apathy ought to
make us rethink our system, as it is one of the most prevailing threats to our democracy. The two party political system as it has been instituted in the United States has succeeded in giving our society a functioning government thus far, but it is important for us to stay progressive as a society and when a problem arises we must rise to the occasion and solve it. What is the alternative? Simply put, we need to involve non-traditional parties in our elections. Through various election laws and hundreds of millions of campaign dollars, the Democratic and Republican parties have kept third parties and their candidates out of politics for years, limiting the participants in order to keep themselves the only two options. By widening the scope of political views in the form of parties, we can involve more people in the political process and thereby have a government that not only accurately represents its people, but also one that can get things done. Involving more parties means that one party will not control an entirety of the government, but will be forced to compromise and form coalitions just to get into a place of power. How can this be accomplished? To begin with: vote. Then encourage those around you to vote as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be the dreaded talk of politics, merely that we should do what we can to have the most people vote in every election. PARTIES IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 49
ALEX SCOTT on the
RAGE AGAINST THE DRONE
NMANNED Aerial Combat Vehicles, also known as drones, have quickly become the weapon of choice for the Obama administration in its fight against terrorism. The Bush administration carried out a total of 52 drone strikes in Pakistan during the eight years it was in office. In comparison, the Obama administration has carried over 300 such strikes in Pakistan to date, while also expanding the drone war into Somalia and Yemen. It is possible that it will further expand into Mali. It is obvious why the U.S. has come to rely on so heavily on these attacks. Not only are drones a cheaper alternative to conventional fighter jets, but they can also monitor targets for much longer than such aircraft, and go places too dangerous for American troops to operate. Above all, they insulate U.S. troops from danger by being piloted remotely, cloistering pilots and operators in bases in the U.S., miles away from any battlefield. Last October, the Washington Post revealed that the Obama administration had plans to expand and add more names to its kill list, now referred to as the “disposition matrix,” and that there is a consensus among senior Obama administration officials that such attacks would continue for “at least another decade.” The implications are clear: the war on terror, and with it the U.S. reliance on drone strikes, are here to stay. There is an immense shroud of secrecy over the drone program, and a startling lack of government oversight. Even though drone strikes have drawn much public scrutiny, there is still much about the program that the administration refuges to divulge. It is still unclear how exactly targets are chosen, and the administration has yet to give detailed descriptions of the results of such strikes. The administration has also refused to release the Justice Department
memos authorizing the attacks, although administration officials have given us some idea of what the justification is. Further, the Obama administration has failed to acknowlege the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, despite it being the region most heavily targeted by such strikes. The lack of oversight and transparency over the way the U.S. carries out drone strikes has allowed the U.S. to act without impunity. It is impossible to get a consensus over the number of civilians killed, due to widely conflicting reports. Furthermore, the Obama administrationâ€™s deceitful practice of labeling all fighting aged males in a strike zone as militants also contributes to this confusion, because it downplays the number of civilians killed. This means that many civilian casualties could have wrongly been listed as militants, throwing all official casualty estimates released by the U.S.
Photo: Northrup Grumman
government into doubt. But what we do know about the drone war shows that the administration has adopted several heinous practices that show a callous disregard for civilian casualties. The Obama administration and other proponents of the drone war have long claimed that drone strikes are carried out with the utmost care towards minimizing civilian casualties. But, an article published by The Bureau for Investiga-
tive Journalism last February revealed that the U.S. has repeatedly targeted mourners at funerals for victims of previous drone strikes, despite the fact that such practices lead to a high number of civilian casualties. The U.S. uses the initial drone strike as a lure for more important targets, who will presumably be drawn out of hiding to attend the funeral. For example, the Bureau for Investigative Journalism article cites an example where, in June of
2009, the CIA bombed the funeral of a A 2007 report by the U.S. Departmid-level Taliban commander in Pakistan. ment of Homeland Security said that the He had been killed in a previous double tap is “a favorite tactic of Hamas”. drone strike earlier in the day, and nearly The Bureau for Investigative Journalism ar5,000 people attended his funeral, includticle claimed that “at least 50 civilians were ing Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the killed in follow-up strikes when they had Pakistan Taliban at the time. The drone gone to help victims.” strike killed up to 83 people, as many as 45 That the U.S. is now regularly emof whom were civilians. Mehsud escaped ploying such tactics in its drone war is imfrom the attack unharmed, only to be moral, and flies against any assertion that killed in another drone the U.S. is working to attack six months later. limit civilian casual The U.S. has ties. It is also highly also started to employ likely that such aca tactic known as the tions would be con“double tap”, in which sidered war crimes. a target is bombed Much like in the multiple times within a debates over the use short period of time. of torture during the The reason beBush administration, hind such attacks is to there will be many kill any Taliban or Al people that claim that Source: Pew Research Qaeda members who such measures are may arrive at the scene necessary to win war of the bombing to retrieve the bodies of the against Al Qaeda and other terrorist their comrades. This kind of attack leads organizations. to many indiscriminate civilian deaths, But drone strikes enrage the popubecause the second explosion kills many lace of targeted countries, driving people civilians who are also attempting to rescue towards terrorism. Polls show that Obama those wounded and retrieve the remains of is highly unpopular in Muslim countries, the dead. with an approval rating of just 7% in Paki “Double Tap” bombings have often stan. Protests over drone strikes are exbeen used by terrorist organizations betremely common in the Muslim world, escause of how effective they are at killing cipecially in regions where U.S. drone strikes vilians, and the amount of panic and terror occur. they create. Terrorist organizations thrive on
Pakistani approval of Barack Obama
exactly the sort of anti-American hostility that these drone strikes create. Ibrahim Mothana, a Yemeni activist and writer, penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times last June entitled “How Drones Help Al Qaeda,” saying that Yemenis join Al Qaeda “not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.” Retired general Stanley McChrystal, former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that drone strikes are “hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.” In 2010, a drone strike built on faulty intelligence killed Jaber al-Shabwani, the deputy governor of the Maarib province in Yemen. According to Al-Jazeera, he was reportedly travelling to meet with local members of Al Qaeda, to try and convince them to turn themselves over to local authorities. In retaliation for his killing, his tribe attacked an important oil pipeline. Every civilian we kill undermines our efforts to stop the spread of terrorism. Last year, Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, warned that drone strikes could turn Yemen into an “Arabian equivalent of Waziristan,” referring to a region of Pakistan that has long been a safe-haven for Al Qaeda. Mothana’s Op-Ed piece seems to back up Grenier’s claim, as it claims that A.Q.A.P, an offshoot of Al Qaeda situated in the Arabian Peninsula, has increased in strength in recent years, going from “only a few hundred
members and [controlling] no territory in 2009 to “at least 1,000 members and … substantial amounts of territory“ today. We cannot defeat Al Qaeda through bombs alone; we need the populace of the countries where Al Qaeda has taken hold to reject extremism and terrorism. We lose the fight against terror when drone strikes kill civilians indiscriminately, and when they kill people who are trying to oppose terrorists. We lose when people are so terrorized and enraged by our actions that they take up arms against the U.S. Above all, we lose when we allow our need to combat threats overwhelm our need to respect the lives of innocent people. Drone strikes are immoral, illegal, and above they create conditions that allow terrorist organizations to flourish.
SHIP, from page 13 likely to cause spike and penalize those users. The worst part in this boondoggle is that it is another “passing the buck” opportunity for the University. Rather than taking responsibility for having absolutely no clue how to run a health insurance plan, they pass the their mistakes off to students. With all of the life rafts taken by Yudof and UC bureaucrats, it seems that students will be clinging for dear life on the SHIP that sank in a sea of debt.
Isolated and ignored by JOE STEPTOE
“Such an evil must never be allowed to happen again.” T
and slaughter of his own citizens. Whilst hose now infamous and all the atrocities that have taken place in too familiar words proclaimed by then- Darfur since 2003 are widely acknowlSecretary General Kofi Annan to the UN edged as genocide, the deterioration general assembly in 2005 will hauntingly over the last two years of the situation reverberate through the realms of history in the mountainous Nuba region along with the same impotence that has become the South Sudan border is worryingly symptomatic of our global political elite. indicative of a humanitarian crisis on the Time and time again, we find the same scale. Frequent air strikes, ordered international community confronted with by al-Bashir and facilitated by Russianinstances of flagrant human rights abuse made Antonov aircraft, force people to and crimes against humanity, all posing seek cover in holes in the ground as he opportunities to make amends for the carries out methods reminiscent of the non-intervention of the past. tactics employed in the 1990s to drive Yet the response of those in whom the Nuba out of Sudan. we place enormous faith in determining In 2011, al-Bashir declared he our own futures is persistently, and woe- would force the Nuba “back into the fully, inadequate. mountains and prevent them from hav The people of Sudan are no stranger ing food just as we did before”. It’s a deto the abuse of human rights and the per- pressing indictment of the world indeed ilous consequences of an autocrat, presi- when these words carry more promise of dent Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who even being realized than Annan’s of 2005. today carries out the systematic bombing The genocide in Darfur has its ori-
gins rooted in famine and drought, the severity of which in 1987 compelled Arab tribes from the north to move into the Fur-populated regions in the south, often resolving land disputes through armed conflict. The Sudanese government refused to offer support to the Fur populations, who were being forced from their homes at the hands of the government-supported Arabs. Realizing the Sudanese government would not answer their calls for protection, two rebel groups – the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – formed a coordinated and military resistance to the occupation of Fur land. The conflict escalated in 2003, when government began to arm Arab militia – which came to be known as Janjawid – in order to drive the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa peoples out of Darfur. They utilised brutal tactics, and the conflict has so far claimed over 200,000 lives as well as bringing about the displacement of more than 2 million Sudanese. To date, the response of the international community has been, put simply, unsatisfactory. The Sudanese population’s hopes of a decisive, concerted and definitive response to bring peace and stability to
What the apathy toward Sudan more aptly illustrates is the hypocrisy that permeates foreign policy across the international community. the region remain unfulfilled. Despite the alarming toll on human life, the conflict rages on and al-Bashir still resides atop a government consisting of numerous individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court, the aforementioned included. This response, or more accurately the lack thereof, is not consistent with other instances throughout history, as intervention, to varying degrees of success, has been justified elsewhere. What the apathy toward Sudan more than aptly illustrates is the hypocrisy that permeates foreign policy across the international community. So how is this disparity best explained? The lack of geopolitical interests in the region implies that most governments are simply not willing to take the risk of involvement in Sudan. In 2005, the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) emerged out of an ideological shift toward sovereignty as re-
THE CONFLICT IN NUMBERS
200k estimated Sudanese killed during Sudanese conflict.
sponsibility, which justifies, in theory, foreign intervention when a state is failing to protect its citizens. In practice, however, the Westphalian notion of sovereignty as respecting impermeable state borders â€“ as first laid out in 1648 â€“ is still very much alive. The UN Security Council still refuses to ratify a precedent for the intervention of an armed UN Peacekeeping force, owing largely to Russian weaponstrade interests and Chinaâ€™s reluctance to undermine state sovereignty given that a move in that direction may provoke further investigation of the legitimacy of its claims to Tibet and Xinjiang. Such an intervention would, at any rate, be deemed illegitimate without the consent of the Sudanese government, and so the pressure has to piled on to al-Bashir to make this a viable prospect. This will only be achieved with a single, concerted and unanimous international voice.
citizens displaced due to Sudanese conflict.
The events in Sudan, furthermore, are taking place in a media vacuum. The world has lost interest, and media coverage has diminished accordingly. The failure of the global media to rile public opinion means that governments are not pressured enough to take meaningful action. We should never underestimate the role mass media can play in setting the political agenda, and I believe that a sustained media presence in Sudan would evoke tremendous public outrage that would hold our leaders to account. The discourse on the paralysis of the international community when faced with humanitarian crises is certainly a well-trodden path, yet one that continues to leave an imprint little more profound than footprints in the sand. It appears that the faith we place in our leaders is hopelessly misplaced, and we must look to non-governmental actors instead to bring about change.
Oh, Mali! by KEANE CHUKWUNETA
merican involvement in Mali, once seen as a key part of counterterrorism efforts in Africa, backfired spectacularly over the course of 2012. The United States entered Mali nearly a decade ago as part of an effort to counter extremist Islamic groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Africa. What was initially seen as a promising first step in fighting the war on terror in Africa has devolved into a quagmire resulting in a French invasion of Mali in January of 2013 and the possible long term deployment of a UN peacekeeping force. Counterterrorism training in Mali was supposed to leave the United States with an ally in Africa that was could counter groups like AQIM. However the overemphasis on military training and the ignorance of investment in meaningful infrastructure left the United States with a well-equipped but weak, corrupt, and unstable ally in its war on terror. Set in West Africa, Mali is one of the 25 poorest nations in the world, full of competing ethnic groups and fraught with corruption. In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, professor and
former education minister Issa Ndiaye said of Malian stability, “Our democracy was a façade, the state was already collapsed before the rebellion and the coup.” Mali’s precarious balance was rocked first by a Tuareg rebellion in the North in January 2012. The rebellion began with an influx of fighters from a secular nationalist Tuareg group, the Movement National de Liberation de L’Azawad (MNLA), returning from fighting in Libya for Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Any remaining political stability was shattered by a March 21, 2012 coup by disgruntled military officers who disagreed with the government over how best to deal with the MNLA rebellion. To add insult to injury, the officer who led the coup, Captain Amadou Sanogo, was trained in Quantico, Virginia by the US Marine Corps. To hear it told by Western media outlets, Captain Sanogo was another man in the line of power hungry African officers who styled himself as a dictator. While this is true to some degree, there is much that isn’t being said about the state of the Malian military, and its integrity.
The Malian government was corrupt, and sickeningly so. In an interview with Le Monde Diplomatique, a French Specialist on Mali said of the Malian military and government, “The higher ranks had a collection of cars that the entire military budget couldn’t have bought… The Malian regime was one of the most corrupt in West Africa.” During the disarray of the coup, the MNLA and their Islamic allies Ansar Dine took the initiative and attacked confused government troops. They pushed south and by April 6, 2012 the MNLA and Ansar Dine controlled the northern 60% of Mali. The key cities of the arid north Gao, Kidal, and Timbuktu were under the control of the MNLA or Ansar Dine. These cities and their sites of cultural importance – including texts dating back to the 13th century as well as tombs of Sufi Muslim saints – were destroyed by Ansar Dine fighters who
claimed that these items were idolatrous. Control of Northern Mali also gave Ansar Dine and MOJWA control of very lucrative smuggling routes in Northern Mali. Selling for as little as $2,500 a kilogram in Latin America and as much as $75,000 a kilogram in Europe, Latin American cocaine and other illegal goods make their way through drug routes in Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Mali. The longer groups like Ansar Dine control these routes, the richer they become, allowing them to fund new adventures in other nations. Between April and June last year, divisions between the MNLA and Ansar Dine began to surface, divisions which ultimately turned this conflict on its head. On the nature of the relationship between Ansar Dine and the MNLA French news outlet France24 stated that “the Tuareg separatist group MNLA has been on-again,
off-again with the Islamist Ansar Dine, forging and breaking alliances, with all the impetuousness of a Hollywood couple.” This shaky alliance was thrown to the fire when on June 6th, protests against Ansar Dine’s strict implementation of sharia law and in support of the secular MNLA broke out in Kidal, prompting a violent response from Ansar Dine. By June 8th, the MNLA and Ansar Dine were in open conflict with one another. Ansar Dine received support in the fighting from a Gao based extremist Islamic group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA). The MNLA was chased out of Northern Mali by mid-November. At this point, only the remaining Malian forces stood between Ansar Dine and MOJWA and the other 40% of Mali. Both the Malian government, now led by interim President Dioncounda Traoré, and the Economic Com-
munity of West African States (ECOWAS) requested Western intervention to prevent the complete loss of the entire nation to extremist Islamic terrorists. On January 11, 2013, with the aid of American and English transport planes, French troops landed in Mali and began a campaign titled Opération Serval that has effectively pushed Ansar Dine, and MOJWA back to the northernmost regions of Mali. The French took back the cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and with the help of the Chadian military, Kidal. With nearly all of Mali back in the hands of the French and Malian government, some may have reason to let out a sigh of relief. However just one month later, a Malian teenager blew himself up at a checkpoint in Gao killing one Malian soldier. This leaves plenty of reason to believe that some Ansar Dine and MOJWA fighters may have melted into the general population. This suggests that the French and African Union troops may be in for an insurgent campaign not unlike those in Iraq and Afghanistan. At this point, it’s hard to look at US involvement in Mali and think of any positives that could come of this conflict. After a decade of training, Malian troops routed within the first months of the conflict due to government incompetency, choosing either to join the factions partitioning the nation, or melt into the
civilian population. Those that didn’t flee took part in a coup that further destabilized the nation and set off a chain of events that culminated in the northern 60% of Mali being controlled by the very forces the United States spent a decade trying to combat. In short, American involvement appears to have made the job easier, not harder for the very groups being fought. As Operation Serval draws to a close, the future for Mali appears much brighter than it did in November, when it appeared that for the first time groups sponsored by Al Qaeda could seize control of an entire nation. Still, the current situation which involves the possible deployment of a 10,000 strong UN peacekeeping force is a far cry from the self-sufficient Mali that could defend itself from Islamic factions dreamed up a decade ago by American officials. With the conflict entering a new phase of French occupation, it is unlikely that Ansar Dine and MOJWA will attempt to retake the north as they simply lack the numbers needed to overcome such strength. Still, the suicide bombing indicates that Mali may go down a road of insurgent violence á la Iraq. It is worth noting that this is unlikely as Mali is considerably more moderate than other Muslim nations and the groups Ansar Dine and MOJWA enjoy very little to no popularity with most Malians.
It is hard not to feel sorry for Malian citizens who are caught up in this conflict. Generally speaking, the interests of the US and France aren’t alligned with theirs as far as terrorism is concerned. Neither do the interests of AQIM, Ansar Dine, or MOJWA reflect the wants and needs of average Malians. Accounts in western media described the elation of Malian citizens at having been liberated from the rule of Ansar Dine. Yet still Malians in the north did endure one year of one-and-off fighting, as well as seven months of life under Ansar Dine, MOJWA and their particularly strict and cruel interpretation of sharia law. If over the last decade, the U.S. simply refused to offer credibility and military aid to a paper tiger, and worked instead at developing a Marshall Plan to build Mali’s infrastructure to combat extremist Islam this entire crisis could have been avoided. The Tuareg nationalists of the MNLA would have been content to be Malians, and Ansar Dine, AQIM, and MOJWA would have been unable to enter a heavily fortified, U.S.-supported Mali . As long as the US continues its policy of pumping dollars and equipment into armies controlled by weak, corrupt and ineffective governments, we’ll sadly never get to find out.
DEBT, from page 27
State Assemblyman Dan Logue recently proposed an innovative approach to this problem in California. His two bills, collectively titled the “Affordable College Act of 2013,” aim to cut the cost of UC and CSU bachelor’s degrees. If approved, the the total cost of a degree would be capped at $20,000 for a UC degree, and $10,000 from any CSU. The tuition caps would be implemented through an integrated high school-community college-university program. While Logue’s proposal is still undergoing review, it proves that this issue extends to lawmakers in Sacramento and across the nation. The prospect of graduating with a load of debt seems very daunting; however, other options don’t seem any more palatable. One can choose against obtaining a college degree, but the prospects of finding a good job are not very good, at best. The unemployment rate for young people without a college degree is nearly 20%. It is drastically lower for people with a college degree. Deciding to attain an education past high school is a decision with great implications. The prospective debt load upon graduating is only one thing among many to consider when making this decision.
Postwar South Asia
Democracy rising by AHMAD RAZA
hile the Middle East may get most of the media attention when it comes to foreign affairs, South Asia is the region that has the focus of various policy makers. With the US war in Afghanistan, along with the two nuclear-armed rivals in India and Pakistan, there is a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to the future of this region. Given the nature of politics, especially in a region as unpredictable as this one, there are no obvious conclusions regarding the three nations. Nevertheless, there are grounds for cautious optimism that a better future could exist for these three complex and complicated states. As the 2014 deadline for ending combat operations in Afghanistan ap-
proaches, there are many questions regarding its future. One concern is that if the U.S. pulls out completely, and does not provide further assistance to the current government, it will collapse. This concern mirrors what happened following the collapse of the Soviet Union. While the USSR pulled its troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, it still supported the Afghan regime financially until 1991. However, when the Soviet Union itself collapsed, the funds to the Afghan government stopped leading to the regime’s demise in 1992 and sparking a a civil war and creating an environment for groups such as the Taliban to step in and take power. Despite these concerns, it is still too early to tell what the U.S. presence will be in Afghanistan.
While the White House did mention for the first time that there was the possibility of a “zero option” with no US troops staying after 2014, this is not a very likely scenario. This statement occurred during President Hamid Karzai’s last visit to Washington, D.C. in January and may well have been a negotiating tactic by the U.S. to allow for more flexibility in where and how many troops they deploy, as well as having greater leverage with Karzai when discussing the final details in the transition period following the withdrawal and beyond. The concern that there is a lack of political will on the part of the United States to stay involved in Afghanistan has been a concern for the India and Pakistan. There is an indicator that this perception may be changing, especially among
the major players in the region. Pakistan’s recent decision to release various Taliban prisoners and encourage them to go to the negotiating table may serve as an indication that they believe that the United States’ long term commitments to the region are real. After years of tip-toeing a fine line of both supporting the US while not completely cutting itself from the Taliban, it seems that Pakistan has had a change of heart regarding its role in Afghanistan’s future. This change of policy on Pakistan’s part has not gone unnoticed. Afghanistan has recently reciprocated Pakistan’s gesture by indicating that it would finally consider Pakistan’s longstanding offer to train the Afghan army. Afghanistan also has become more open to Pakistani involvement in future peace talks with the Taliban. A recent peace agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom seems to indicate a change of course. Additionally, Pakistan has been included in the process, which it has endorsed, of opening a political office for the Taliban in Qatar. Unlike a previous attempt to do something similar, which ended without much success due to a lack of Pakistani support, Afghanistan has become more inclusive of its southerly neighbor in the peace process.
While problems still exist between these two neighbors, and relations can sour at any given moment, this level of cooperation should serve as an indicator that peace in the region is something all parties are capable of committing to. Pakistan’s Afghan policy has long been driven by a suspicion and fear of Indian dominance on both sides of the border. The Pakistani-backed Taliban government’s main rival, the Northern Alliance, had ties to India. During the rise of the Taliban, India supplied the Northern Alliance with military equipment through a massive embassy it established in neighboring Tajikistan. Pakistan has long pursued a strategy it calls “strategic depth,” in Afghanistan, which requires a government in Afghanistan that is friendly to Pakistan. This proxy-war between India and Pakistan was a major point of contention between the two countries. There are, however, other, far greater conflicts between them that exist today. The historical point of contention has been that of Kashmir. A province claimed by both states, it has been divided since the Indo-Pak war of 1947. It is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world. The recent Indian-Pakistani peace talks have mainly focused on other issues, as this one seems to be the most complex and entrenched.
Recent acts on both sides of the border, which included a supposed infiltration from the Pakistani side as well as deaths on both sides caused by clashes, led to increased tensions between the two countries. However, there was also an effort on both sides, despite the heavy rhetoric, to ease the tensions and to return to the kind of stalemate which is considered to be normal. The other main points of contention between the two sides are Pakistan’s involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 and the lack of actions against the people India suspects were behind it. India claims that terrorists planned logistics and received training from the Pakistani-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba. It had demanded Pakistan hand over the perpetrators (The U.S. had also put a $10 million bounty on Pakistani national Hafiz Saeed, claiming he is the leader of the group), although Pakistan for its part claims that
there is a lack of evidence on and covert action against India’s part, in addition to one another. the two nations not having All three countries an extradition treaty. have experience with de India’s supposed mocracy, with Afghanistan involvement in a Balochbeing the latest addition to separatist insurgency in the this list. India has generally conflict-ridden Pakistani been considered a stable deprovince of Balochistan is mocracy, despite some hicalso a reason for the overall cups along the way. lack of trust between the two Recent protests against sides. the sexual violence in the Balochistan is Pakicountry show that the civil stan’s largest and most society is still present and sparsely populated province. continuing the fight for a It suffers from sectarian vio- transparent governance. lence, terrorist attacks from While corruption is a the Taliban and a separatproblem in India’s governist insurgency from Baloch ment, as it is for the other nationalists who claim that two nations, democracy they are not given a fair seems to be ingrained in share of Balochistan’s vast India’s form of government, resources. Pakistan accuses although there is always an India of supporting this in- effort to improve the demosurgency. cratic process. While there are con Pakistan has had a hisfidence-building measures tory of military coups and taken by both sides, such as dictatorships, with the most releasing prisoners or havrecent one ending in 2008 ing cricket matches between with the exile of General the two, there is still clearly a Musharraf. The current govtrust deficit between the two ernment was elected in 2008 which is a result of having and its term is set to expire fought three wars, as well this year. as history of strong rhetoric While it has had a turDEMOCRACY IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 13
Revisiting the Arab Spring
Keeping the Rabble in Line by NICK SMITH
or decades, the U.S. has provided much support to the Middle East’s dictator’s--both material and non-material. This legacy has been challenged recently by the Arab Spring. President Obama’s July 2009 speech at Cairo University recognized the “tension between the United States and Muslims around the world.” The administration announced Obama’s purpose in Cairo was to “reset” U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. It should be expected for leaders to speak of their unwavering “principles of justice and progress,” as Obama did in Cairo. However, anyone that remotely pays any attention to politics understands there is a difference between rhetoric and action. The U.S. response to the populist movements in Egypt and Bahrain are instructive in this respect: a contempt for any meaningful democratic development. Not long after Obama’s speech in Cairo, the weapons continued to flow into the region. Before summer was over, Obama signaled to Congress for a sale to take place of much needed equipment, including Chinook transport helicopters that
are valued at approximately $308 million. Pentagon documents revealed another sale to Egypt at the end of the year worth $3.2 billion for Cold War-era jets complete with spare parts. By January 2011--the peak of the Egyptian revolution-- it was well understood by government officials in Washington that Hosni Mubarak, a key ally and business partner, would be ousted soon. The U.S. continued to provide much needed equipment to a desperate Mubarak government, as well as ideological support. As Al-Jazeera reported, it was not uncommon for protesters in both Egypt and Bahrain to pick up gas canisters with a “Made in the USA” label on the bottom. At the end of January 2011, diplomat-turned-lobbyist Frank Wisner travelled to Cairo. Wisner’s purpose in Cairo was to ensure Mubarak and his associates received logistical and ideological support for their regime. It was initially reported that Wisner was to “prod” Mubarak into resigning. But a week after his visit, as reported by Foreign Policy, Wisner remarked at the Munich Security Conference, “I believe that President Mubarak’s contin-
ued leadership is critical” because it would arms to Mubarak’s forces, so too was Bah“maintain stability and responsible governrain strengthening its might. King Hamad’s ment.” military and police forces received $131 This signaled the Obama adminismillion in equipment from the United tration’s cynical attitude toward the plight States. of the Egyptian people. A restless popula Hosni Mubarak’s regime met its detion would not get in the way of business. mise on February 11 2011. Fortunately for U.S. support for Mubarak would continue Hamad, he learned his lesson early on for right up to the end until it became virtuwhat could happen if you let the “rabble” ally impossible to supget out of line. port him, or at least Protests exponentially Fortunately for Hamad, he politically distasteful. intensified by March. learned his lesson early on On March 7th, a crowd The story is similar in Bahrain. congregated outside the for what could happen if Protests erupted American embassy deyou let the “rabble” get out in Bahrain not long manding they end supof line. after those in Egypt port to the Arab dictatorsometime in early ships. An embassy official 2011. Bahrainis of all emerged several hours walks of life gathered in Manama’s Pearl later with not an olive branch, but a box of Square on Valentine’s Day. The reasons for doughnuts, as reported by The Guardian. the protests are familiar: an autocratic gov The Bahraini government’s reacernment, high unemployment (especially tion was not quite as charming. Its forces among youth), callous discrimination alone could not handle the uprising suffiagainst a Shia minority, and widespread ciently enough. Bahrain’s allies (and, coincorruption. The US response to Bahrain is cidentally, friends of the U.S. too) needed familiar as well – the ancient pillars had to to be called upon for support. Thus, by be kept in place. mid-March, 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops There are two reasons why Bahrain is imand 500 police officers from the United portant for U.S. interests: it allows the U.S. Arab Emirates were deployed to quell what Fifth Fleet – a large component of the Navy could have been the Bahraini Revolution. – to port at a strategic location in the Per As mentioned, Saudi Arabia and the sian Gulf; the nation is also a reliable client United Arab Emirates are crucial allies for the purchase of arms. in the region. Both provide a consistent Around the same time Obama gave source for oil, and like Bahrain, are clients his speech in Cairo and sold millions in for U.S. arms. Witness Saudi Arabia’s pur-
chase of an astounding $60 billion of military equipment in September 2010--the largest in U.S. history. When Bahrain-- along with some help from a few friends-- was able to smash any and all dissent, there were the expected speeches of empathy from U.S. leaders. Obama was “deeply concerned” with the force used against protesters; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged “restraint”-not to immediately stop--the violence applied to Bahraini citizens. Perhaps most egregious is the U.S.’ tacit acceptance for Bahrain’s crackdown. The Fifth Fleet, which provides an elite security buffer in the region, stayed put. No sanctions or military actions were undertaken as they had been in Libya and Syria. There was no condemnation of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ employment as henchmen. The United States did not make any effort to mitigate the repression felt in Bahrain. Also significantly, there was not a peep about such hypocrisy from our “liberal media.” Plus ça change. The United States is notorious in its support for the most legendary ruthless thugs. From the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua, to Suharto’s Indonesia, and other members of the rogues gallery; Egypt and Bahrain, unfortunately, are part of this special club. Although these events happened in the not-so-distant past, they still remain relevant. Egyptian protesters continue to
gather in Tahrir Square, still demanding the rights and democracy that have been repressed for so long. King Hamad still has not gone the way of Mubarak. The war on human rights and democracy in Bahrain is remains with us. Still, the U.S. refuses to make any meaningful gesture that would even slightly match its sanguine rhetoric of justice and self-determination. When concluding his speech at Cairo University, Obama said, “There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion-that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples--a belief that isn’t new.” While the principle of universality may, in words, appear ubiquitous to the U.S., its actions speak of a different morality.
PARTIES, from page 32 Secondly, we need to be more informed as a public, especially on local issues. Local politics is an area where the voting in of a third party or completely independent candidate can bring in change that voters will be able to see first-hand. The introduction of non-traditional parties and independent politicians at the local and state level will give more people a voice and encourage previously apathetic voters into the political arena, the result of which will be better representation and a more democratic system for all.
Politics and Security
A Syrian Future by DAVID QUACH
After two years of fighting, neither the Free Syrian Army nor the government of Bashar al-Assad has made meaningful gains in the Syrian conflict. Considering that even the most creative efforts by skilled diplomats like Kofi Annan have failed, Syria’s unknown future is unlikely to make itself clear any time soon. However a few limited options exist for the country’s future, though they do not differ substantially. In order to understand what paths the country is likely to slide toward, we must understand the needs of all the actors involved. Although rebels’ goals may be no clearer, very few Syrian experts including academics, journalists, and analysts have identified the underlying intentions of the Syrian government beyond the straightforward “hold-on-to-power” mindset portrayed by the State Department. If we review the last two years of the State Department’s rhetoric, we consistently see that Washington has portrayed Bashar al-Assad as an illegitimate ruler, detested by much of his country, and retaining widespread control through force. Iranian and Russian outlets have suggested Assad still holds support of the populace and faces a relatively unchallenged claim to governance. Though Washington accuses Assad of governing illegitimately and abu-
sively, it has been prudent not to reveal its assessment of his underlying plan. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? Western news reports have consistently portrayed Assad as the granddecision maker of the government, as if he alone commands the war effort against the rebels throughout Syria. However, certain journalists and analysts outside of Western circles have suggested that though Bashar is officially the head of state, his effective control over the military and key state institutions is far more dilute than most would imagine. Even a simple profile of his background would support this conclusion. Assuming his regime is the dictatorship the West has projected, it is unlikely that the hardened administrators who ruled with Bashar’s father, Hafez, would trust a largely inexperienced leader of civilian origins to hold firm control over their governance. Without the level of public training of even the lowest level diplomat in any foreign service, it is unlikely that Assad himself possesses the skills to make key decisions about how to confront political opposition and where to move the country. Most important, his background is entirely inconsistent with the style of lead-
ership the West has associated with his regime. There is no way that someone, who was training to become an ophthalmologist just six years before his coronation as President, could have the stomach, let alone the determination, to spearhead a perfected system of civilian intimidation and oppression. If we assume he holds a figurehead role within the administration so that more experienced officials can act without restraint, how can the country seriously change its path if Bashar al-Assad is removed from power? This makes the intentions of opposition members suspicious. I am doubtful that a superior government could coagulate in Damascus from mere replacement of a few top officials and leaving the Alawite administration throughout the country intact. The question is then: What kind of agreement could the Alawis and the opposition forces come to? Again, understanding likely outcomes requires an understanding of each party’s intent. BASHAR AL-ASSAD’S PLAN Assad’s main strategy has been bluffing and maintaining a hard line on his position. In reality, regardless of what occurs in the war, his own future is going to be rather provided he isn’t killed in a manner similar to Muammar Gadhafi. Although he is something of a pariah now, Bashar al-Assad has powerful allies in Russia and Iran. Deft use of the leverage that can be gained through these allies could see al-Assad spend the rest of his life
in prison – much better end than the end of Col. Muammar Gadhafi. The remaining bastions of power held by the Assad government are its very own insurance card. As long as these institutions remain loyal to al-Assad, no body has the means of forcing him from power and trying him at home. As long as Russia continues to arm the Syria government, Assad has no incentive to draw down his war efforts. Only when Russia finds its own diplomatic position dangerous will it mandate a change of strategy on the Syrian front. A peace in Syria will completely depend on Russia’s ability to meet its needs out of the peace deal. Russia’s needs are primarily one of status – as long as the Syrian regime remains its ally, Russia can count on Syria to carry out its allied military-political objectives. Until it can receive the same level of support from a Syrian replacement, it would rather not risk a change in Damascus. If Russia is a primary negotiator in the peace process, it will attempt to maintain influence within the new Syrian government while obtaining asylum for prior Syrian officials. What will result is likely a visible removal of all top officials from power under a protected status and a swift change in administration. Until the identity of the future governors of Damascus can be identified, Russia, and even the United States, can take no such step.
BREAKING DOMA BY JEREMY LOWENTHAL
“Equality is the public recognition, effectively expressed in institutions and manners, of the principle that an equal degree of attention is due to the needs of all human beings” -- SIMON WEIL
IN 1996, Congress enacted, and
President Bill Clinton signed into law an act which violated this definition of equality to its very core. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) absolves states from recognizing same-sex marriages formed in other states and prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage in any federal program or law. Not only has the Defense of Marriage Act reinforced American homophobia and fostered a culture of social stigmas, it has, moreover, established a system in which the federal government politically and economically discriminates against LGBT individuals and their families. The 1996 House of Representatives Report on DOMA—a report written and published alongside the act—offers the DOMA IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 54
House proponent arguments. The report postulates four broad points in favor of the act including the following: “Defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage…defending traditional notions of morality…preserving scarce government resources.” Ironically, the report itself—a supplement that seldom accompanies congressional legislation—evidences the constitutional contentiousness of the act. However, the constitutionality of DOMA is not the subject of this article. Instead, the following focuses on the blatant fallacies, erroneous conclusions of the Report, which the 1996 House provided to justify the social, political and economic degradation of LGBT individuals.
ENDING THE PROP. 8 ERA BY DANIEL GOLDSTEIN California has the chance to restore the rights of millions of its citizens with the help of the Supreme Court.
S a people, we have progressed through the ages towards a more perfect society, one in which there is increasing equality and opportunity for all. At times, this progress has at times come in slow, lurching steps. Other periods, this has occurred in rapid spurts. Ultimately, as we progress, certain decisions and actions come to rest on the right side of history. The Supreme Court should stand on that right side of history and acknowledge a right to same-sex marriage, but they likely will fall short of that. The Supreme Court played a large role in civil rights progress by overturning state laws that prohibited interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia (1967) and asserting that â€œseparate but equalâ€? is inher-
ently unequal in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The Supreme Court has made great leaps forward for our society by striking down the laws of hate and oppression and upholding what is right and just. Soon they will make a decision about same-sex marriage. The constitutionality of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage passed by California voters in 2008, will be decided with the case Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013). This case could have wide-ranging ramifications, potentially leading to marriage equality for the entire nation. Following oral arguments on March 26, the Court is expected to deliver its ruling sometime in June, at the end of its calendar. PROP. 8 IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 55
DOMA, from page 52 THE COST OF BEING GAY BEST CASE SCENARIO FOR UNMARRIED GAY COUPLES
WORST CASE SCENARIO FOR UNMARRIED GAY COUPLES
ADDITIONAL LIFETIME COSTS*
ADDITIONAL LIFETIME COSTS*
Source: New York Times The senseless detriment that this act inflicts demonstrates the illegitimacy of the federal ban on marriage and, above all else, stresses the need for immediate change. Before addressing the first argument of the House Report, it is necessary to note the economic and social importance of marriage in the United Stated. For centuries, policy-makers have afforded married couples significant advantages including tax benefits, citizenship priority, spousal survivor benefits and a vast number of other entitle-
simple statistics demonstrate ments. In total, the United that marriage in the United States General Accounting States is not merely a soOffice has identified over cial arrangement, but also a one thousand federal benfinancial one. efits, rights, and privileges Granted, policywhich are contingent on makers have established marital status. these marital advantages in As a result of this order to advance a compelextensive array of advantages, couples are economi- ling government interest. As cally incentivized to marry. economist, Nancy Folbre, observes in her book, The InAccording to a 2009 study visible Heart: Economics and by The New York Times, an unmarried partnership with Family Values, American laws have always privileged two children in New York will pay, at best, $41,196 married partners because over the course of their lives policy-makers recognize the if they lack access to marâ€œnecessity of reproduction riage. At worst, this couple and the value of the social will pay $467,562. These and economic labor used to DOMA IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 56
PROP. 8, from page 53 The plaintiffs are Kris- constitutional and legalize path either finding that Holtin Perry and Sandra Stier same-sex marriage in Calilingsworth has no standing, who were denied a marriage fornia or a broader approach meaning that he is unable to license after Proposition 8 and find a right to same-sex litigate in this case or decide went into effect. Perry and marriage in the Constituthat once a right is granted, Stier married each other in tion. as the California Supreme 2004 when San Francisco Ultimately, the SuCourt did when it granted started issuing same-sex preme Court must and the right to same-sex marmarriage licenses but later should rule Proposition 8 riage in the state in 2008, it had their marriage cannot be taken away. annulled, along with Prop. 8 has twice been “The freedom to marry has many others, by the ruled unconstitutional California Supreme in federal appeals long been recognized as one Court because it viocourts. The constiof the vital personal rights lated state law. tutional argument essential to the orderly pur The pair have against Prop. 8 relies suit of happiness by free four children and on the Due Process have been together for and Equal Protection men.” over 13 years. They clauses of the 14th were frustrated after Amendment, which – Chief Justice Earl the passage of Prop. 8 states that “nor shall Warren, Loving v. Virginia in 2008 and became any State deprive any energized by their disperson of life, liberty, satisfaction with the or property, without status quo. due process of law; nor The defendant is deny to any person Dennis Hollingsworth, the unconstitutional and eswithin its jurisdiction the head of a group that suptablish a universal right to equal protection of the laws.” ports the Proposition, besame-sex marriage, which The law deprives peocause the State of California would place itself on the ple of their due process and refused to defend the law in right side of history. equal protection rights and court. And while that path violates the rights of same The Supreme Court is available to the nine Jussex couples. The Supreme has many options before it, tices, the Court does have Court has set a precedent of including find Prop. 8 unoptions to go a procedural using the equal protection PROP. 8 IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 57
DOMA, from page 54 raise children.” Folbre explains that these procreation and child-rearing.” Arguments policies recognize the benefit of children as and decisions at the judicial level from the “public goods” in the sense that they repre1990s echo this argument. For example, sent the “future workforce, future parents, in Singer v. Hara, one of the earliest cases and future voters.” arising from same-sex marriage laws, a In accordance with this line of thinkWashington Appellate Court ruled in faing, the House Report on the Defense of vor of a law which defined marriage as a Marriage Act asserts the following: “Simunion between a man and a woman. Acply put, government cording to the decihas an interest in sion of the court, marriage because “the fact remains “The opposition to marriage it has an interest in that marriage exists of same-sex couples, on the children…If we chip as a protected legal ground is that it fails to conaway at the instituinstitution primarily tion which binds because of societal sider the needs or rights of these parents and the values associated with children, does not consider family together, the the propagation of the the most relevant body of institution of marhuman race.” Likepsychological research into riage; you begin to wise, in Judge Walter chip away at the fuHeen’s dissent to the this topic or draws inaccuture success of that Supreme Court of rate conclusions from it.” child.” Hawaii’s 1993 deci The House assion that marriage Canadian Psychological sertion that the pubis a form of sex dislic has a compelling crimination, Judge Association interest in the instiHeen stated his belief tution of marriage is that the purpose of a thus in accordance restrictive same-sex with the precedent which past lawmakers marriage law is “to promote and protect have set. propagation.” These decisions represent the In accordance with this line of thinkprevalence of this procreation assumption ing, the House Report claims, “Civil soat both the legislative and judicial level. ciety has an interest in maintaining and This argument, however, relies upon the protecting the institution of heterosexual erroneous assumption that same-sex parmarriage because it has a deep and abidenting jeopardizes the upbringing of chiling interest in encouraging responsible DOMA IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 58
Prop. 8, from page 55 HOLLINGSWORTH, predicted STRIKE DOWN PROP. 8 GINSBURG
UPHOLD PROP. 8
SOTOMAYOR KAGAN KENNEDY
clause in finding anti-gay laws discriminatory and unconstitutional, like in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The Supreme Court should offer sexual orientation the strictest constitutional protections possible and view laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation with the utmost skepticism. The Equal Protection clause has helped immensely in combating racism and sexism in law and the same security should be extended to sexual orientation. This would act to reduce discrimination and ensure that there are constitutional safeguards for all sexual orientations. The need for strong constitutional protections is because most, if not all, laws discriminating on sexual orientation are based on animus, or hostility or hatred. In today’s society, there is no logical reason to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The arguments against allowing people of PROP. 8 IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 59
ROBERTS THOMAS ALITO
the same sex to marry are either antiquated or trying to prevent marriage equality out of contempt. In Loving, Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority, said “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Though that case focused on race, the freedom to marry should be extended to samesex couples because the institution of marriage is one manifestation of the pursuit of happiness. Many people want to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and that any redefinition dilutes the institution. Marriage is the recognition of love and all that it signifies. It signifies commitment, partnership, and so much more. Loving represents the idea that two people should be allowed to love, regardless of what the state deems moral or ap-
DOMA, from page 56 dren and thus our investment in future generations. There is absolutely no credible evidence to suggest that the Defense of Marriage Act actually benefits children in any way. According to the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), “the opposition to marriage of same-sex couples, on the ground is that it fails to consider the needs or rights of children, does not consider the most relevant body of psychological research into this topic or draws inaccurate conclusions from it.” The research that the CPA cites disproves the House assertion that samesex couples are less effective parents than heterosexual couples. This research also demonstrates that the children of same-sex parents are just as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as those of heterosexual parents. In 2010 for example, the American Psychological Association, the American
Psychiatric Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and the California Psychological Association together concluded the following: “Relatively few studies have directly examined gay fathers, but those that exist find that gay men are similarly fit and able parents, as compared to heterosexual men. Available empirical data do not provide a basis for assuming gay men are unsuited for parenthood. If gay parents were inherently unfit, even small studies with convenience samples would readily detect it. This has not been the case... Homosexuality does not constitute a pathology or deficit, and there is no theoretical reason to expect gay fathers to cause harm to their children.” The courts have consistently recognized and validated this scientific consensus. In 2010 for instance, the District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida examined same-sex parent-
ing and determined that same-sex parents are equally capable of raising children. The court explained that “the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise.” In addition to recognition by the mental health community, the judiciary has thus also grown to recognize that same-sex parents are just as capable as heterosexual parents. This consensus demonstrates the fallacy of the House assumption that the Defense of Marriage Act promotes successful child-rearing. In fact, mental health experts assert that DOMA actually undermines the development of millions of children because it denies them a stable family structure with married parents. William Meezan, the Director of Policy and Research at Children’s Rights, observes that the children of non-married couples are denied three types of benefits which hinder their wellbeing: “First, marriage may
DOMA IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 60
Prop. 8, from page 57 propriate. Love is one of the rawest and is right and ensure the right to same-sex most fundamental human emotions and marriage, both as a constitutional issue and to limit it as state governments and the as a moral issue, and there is good reason federal government have done by limiting to believe they will. same-sex marriage is wrong and unjust. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ste There is nothphen Breyer, Sonia ing sickening about Sotomayor, and “We, the people, declare tosame-sex marriage; Elena Kagan, the it is those that stand liberal wing, will day that the most evident of in its way that are likely find a right to truths –- that all of us are sickening. Loving v. same-sex marriage created equal –is the star Virginia was essenin the Constitution. that guides us still; just as it tially about equalChief Justice John G. izing an institution Roberts and Justices guided our forebears through that permits people to Antonin Scalia, ClarSeneca Falls, and Selma, and achieve happiness. ence Thomas, and Stonewall; just as it guided The pursuit Samuel A. Alito, the of happiness is not all those men and women, conservative wing, reserved for heterowill likely find no sung and unsung…to hear a sexual couples or such right to sameKing proclaim that our indiwhite couples or any sex marriage in the vidual freedom is inextricaother select group. Constitution. It is a quest that is The swing vote will bly bound to the freedom of enshrined in the most likely be the every soul on Earth.” founding document generally conservaof our country and tive Justice Anthony – Barack Obama, Second something that we all Kennedy. He has should collectively been the deciding Inaugural Address strive for. Marriage vote in the imporequality allows for the tant pro-gay rights fulfillment of hapcases of Romer v. piness for the hundreds of thousands of Evans (1996) and Lawrence. It is expected couples who are currently locked out and he will side with the liberal wing of the those in the future who want to achieve it. Supreme Court in finding Proposition 8 The Court should stand up for what unconstitutional. PROP. 8 IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 61
DOMA, from page 58 increase children’s material well-being capable parents and their children are difthrough such benefits as family leave from ferentiated and disadvantaged solely on the work and spousal health insurance eligibilbasis of sexual orientation. ity. It may also help ensure financial conti The House insists that this system nuity, should a spouse die or be disabled. upholds traditional morals by securing the Second, same-sex marriage may benefit institution of marriage as a union between children by increasing the durability and one man and one woman. In the twentystability of their parents’ relationship. Fifirst century however, this sense of moralnally, marriage may bring increased social ity is archaic and fails to reflect the social acceptance of and changes of the last support for same-sex twenty years. I’ve just concluded that for families, although Studies and surme personally it is important those benefits might veys have consistently not materialize in shown that a majority for me to go ahead and afcommunities that of Americans are profirm that I think same-sex meet same- sex marponents of same-sex couples should be able to get riage with rejection marriage. married or hostility.” For example, in In agreement 2012, the Gallup poll with Meezan’s asrecorded that 53% of -- President Barack Obama, sessment, the Masrespondents felt that May 9, 2012 sachusetts Appellate same-sex marriage Court in the case should be “recognized of Goodridge v. Deby the law as valid, partment of Public Health, recognized with the same rights as traditional marthat DOMA hinders the development of riages.” Therefore, the House notion of children because it “prevent[s] children of morality is outdated according to the very same-sex couples from enjoying the imconstituents they are obligated to repremeasurable advantages that flow from the sent. assurance of a stable family structure.” With these inaccurate and, frankly, The House assumption that a ban prejudice myths dispelled, the House Reon same-sex marriage will protect chilport now hinges on the equally disturbing dren from ineffective parenting is a fiction. assertion that legalizing same-sex marriage The Defense of Marriage Act establishes will strain scarce government resources. a discriminatory system in which equally According to the Report, legalization DOMA IS CONTINUED ON PAGE 62
Prop. 8, from page 59 However, he is likely to have a narrower view of the case than the other Justices of the liberal wing. Thus the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, will find Proposition 8 unconstitutional and allow for California to have same-sex marriage because a right was taken away that had previously been conferred. I predict that in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Supreme Court will unfortunately not go as far as it should in finding a right to same-sex marriage and extending it to all of the United States. Marriage equality will happen; it is only a matter of when. With its inevitability comes the question of who will support it as it becomes a reality, and who will cling to the vestiges of antiquity and oppose marriage equality, joining the bigots of days past and present. Hollingsworth v. Perry is one of a number of cases relating to same-sex marriage. They represent the culmination of over 40 years of struggle and the
2008: PROP. 8 APPROVED
of Americans support same-sex marriage. Source: Gallup
2013: PROP. 8 OVERTURNED?
of Americans support same-sex marriage. Source: Gallup
perseverance that the LGBT community has faced and continues to face. It is a fight that has sadly taken far longer than it should have, just like the struggles for civil rights with race and sex. In his second Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung…to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” It is time that we extend rights that are conferred to all of humankind and progress towards a more perfect society. It is time that the Supreme Court makes the right decision so that we might once again find ourselves on the right side of history.
DOMA, from page 60 would cost states and the federal government because it requires the extension of every government program and law to same-sex partners. This argument is the pinnacle of hypocrisy in the Report. As previously noted, the same-sex family structure offers the same benefits for children as the heterosexual family structure. The cost of legalizing same-sex marriage would thus promote the same compelling government interest that Congress has recognized and invested in for centuries. There is no rational excuse for the differentiation of same-sex partners and heterosexual partners. The Defense of Marriage Act is thus a blatant violation of the equal protection principle. Fortunately, the executive and judicial branches have increasingly exerted pressure on Congress to reverse the Defense of Marriage Act. On May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama stated, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Furthermore, President Obama has prohibited the Justice Department from defending the act in court. Moreover, appeals from California and elsewhere are currently pending on the U.S. Supreme Court docket where the court is expected to rule the Defense of
Marriage Act in violation of the equal protection principle. With growing pressure from the executive and judicial branches, Congress should act immediately to reverse this institutionalized discrimination. In 2009 and 2011 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the Respect for Marriage Act which would reverse DOMA by forcing states and the federal government to legally recognize same-sex marriages across state borders. Despite this opportunity to reverse DOMA, Congress has failed repeatedly to pass the legislation necessary to end the senseless discrimination against LGBT individuals and their families. Let us remember that the Respect for Marriage Act is not just about marriage. Freedom, acceptance and equality are contingent upon unmistakable and indisputable civil equality. The legacy of Simon Weil reminds us that equality is about public recognition— and the establishment of such recognition—that all human being are entitled to equal respect and protection. The legalization of same-sex marriage is about liberty and justice and freedom for all; it’s about these principles which underpin America; these principles which binds us all inextricably together. Change is coming, one way or another; but, the opportunity for Congress to join this fight is fleeting quickly.
TALKER State Sen. Louis Wolk
by Chris Telfer and Omar Ornelas DPR: With the student debt load now more than $1 trillion – more than credit card debt – this issue is being been compared as a potential follow up housing market collapse of 2007. What are California legislators doing to prevent something like that from happening? LW: As a parent of two UC graduates, I’m no stranger to the issue of student debt. My sons will be paying off their college debt for quite some time. It’s an incredibly difficult situation for many students, as well as the UC and CSU systems, which continue to struggle to maintain standards despite reduced state funding. Hopefully, our more stable budget situation will provide for more stable tuition levels, which would benefit everyone. DPR: What are your thoughts on California’s Prop 8 being heard in the Supreme Court? LW: Every California citizen should be able to marry the person he or she loves, and should be afforded the same legal rights, protections, and benefits as samesex couples. DPR: Senate Democrats recently have introduced a package of gun control
legislation that is aimed at reducing the amount of gun crime in our state. DO you support any of the measures or what is your stance on it? LW: I am very supportive of legislative efforts to prevent gun violence in California. I’m actually carrying two measures on this issue, including a bill (SB 755) focused on keeping firearms out of hands of criminals. It adds a number of misdemeanors to the current list of convicted criminals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition in California for a 10-year period. I’m also carrying a measure (SJR 1) urging Congress and President Barack Obama to enact comprehensive gun violence prevention policy that includes prohibiting the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and strengthening criminal background check requirements. SJR 1 has 20 other Senate coauthors, and was recently approved by the State Senate.
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