The Fairfield Prep Political Awareness Society presents:
Spirit of the Times January 2019
The Fairfield Prep Political Awareness Society President: Adam Julio, Class of 2019 Editor: Robert Handler, Class of 2019 About the Society In a matter of years, our generation will be the status quo. We will be running the businesses and casting the votes and contributing to the culture that will serve to identify our country for decades to come. As such, it is our duty to cultivate a devotion to political curiosity and vigilance so that we can shape this future in the most well-informed manner possible. The Political Awareness Society is a part of that cultivation, providing an environment for students to discuss and debate what is going on in the world and develop their own unique perspectives that they can carry with them into the adult world. We meet every Thursday afternoon in Mr. Szablewiczâ€™s room (B407). All are welcome to attend. Noteâ€‹: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the contributors and are in no way intended to reflect those of Fairfield Prep as an institution.
Table of Contents Page 4– Is Kim Jong-Un Duping the West? by Robert Handler ‘19 Page 5– Jair Bolsonaro’s Troubling Aspirations by Adam Julio ‘19 Page 6– The U.S. Withdrawal From Syria: Was It A Good Decision? by Aryaman Sharma ‘20 Page 7– The GOP and LGBTQ Rights by Liam Woods ‘19 Page 8– The Chinese American Trade War by Sean Sullivan ‘21 Page 10– The Failure Of Sanctions On Russia by Aryaman Sharma ‘20 Page 12– Fairfield Prep Student Body Poll Results
Robert Handler ‘19 Is Kim Jong-Un Duping the West? In the 70-year reign of the Mount Paektu bloodline, known to the West as the Kim Dynasty, a staple of their rule has been their policy of isolationism and extreme poverty within their country. Anti-American sentiment has been prevalent since the end of the Korean War and subsequent division of Korea. So what brought about the sudden interest in the West, you may ask yourself? The answer is North Korea is low on capital. There is no official sources on the amount of money North Korea has; however, experts agree that through very minimal exports and mass amounts of imports, Korea will struggle to survive this year. To understand Kim Jong-Un’s strategy, you must put yourself in his family’s shoes. They have been comparable to a royal family and they are afraid of losing power. Kim Jong-Un could institute economic reform and gain money from restructuring the system of government. This would allow him to bring prosperity to his struggling country; however, it would force his grip on power to be loosened.
Money,” in the words of Donald Trump. This allows him to have enough money to live very comfortably. His current and revised plan is to allow new alliances to move his country into the 21st century.
Kim Jong Un has not changed his manipulative tactics, he has simply updated them to explore gaining more money from masquerading as a friend rather than a foe. Some members of the United States government undoubtedly see this; however, it is advantageous to all parties at the moment to improve relations. There is a high possibility that Kim Jong Un will return to his tactics of threats to get money if this current plan falls through. Trump has recently claimed, “In one case, [North
Another option is to threaten other countries and have them pay him to stop his threats. Kim Jong-un uses the threat of arms fire to force the West into paying “Extortion 4
Korea] took billions of dollars — during the Clinton regime — took billions of dollars and nothing happened.” This is mostly true, in 1994 Bill Clinton gave North Korea 4 billion dollars for buying oil and also gave him two nuclear reactors for the purpose of creating energy in exchange for Kim Jong Un agreeing to freeze and reduce North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. However, this fell apart during the Bush administration. This would lead you to think that Kim Jong Un may be repeating this cycle, but is this something the government should halt, or should they encourage it?
suggested the benefits of torture and suppression of free speech, as well. This is reminiscent of Brazil’s previous government, which stood from 1964-1985. A military dictatorship which ruled over the country with an iron fist, political dissidents were regularly tortured and killed, and freedoms of speech and the press were suppressed. Bolsonaro was active in the government during the dictatorship years and he has expressed sympathy toward former despots and praised their savage practices. However, Brazil’s time spent under the brutal rule of its dictatorship has long since receded from the minds of most Brazilians. The majority of the population cannot recall or conceive of a time worse than their current situation. The true implication of Bolsonaro’s comments are lost on them, most hopeful of the change in policy advocated by him. However, the military dictatorship was ultimately far worse for Brazilians than any ruling power since. Those living under the dictatorial regime suffered a cruel police force, crippling inflation, widespread food shortages, and a totalitarian regime. Today, these past abuses of the Brazilian population are overshadowed by current injustices and a growing support for radical change. Brazil’s current situation is indeed dire, but a regression in policy is not the solution. Brazil is in need of widespread progressive reform to eliminate crime and corruption, yet Bolsonaro’s attitude does not reflect this. He views the qualities of the dictatorship as something to strive for, not something to learn from, and this is the primary reason why Jair Bolsonaro is a bad force for the
Adam Julio ‘19
Jair Bolsonaro’s Troubling Aspirations Late last year, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil, his rise to power coming during a time of widespread distrust of the government and a population yearning for change. Brazil is currently in the midst of an enormous economic recession and widespread prevalence of violent crime. In addition, much of Brazil’s previous elected government was implicated in one of the largest corruption scandals in world history. To many Brazilians, radical changes are required for the future of their country, and the message preached by Bolsonaro resonates. Bolsonaro has pledged to weed out elements of corruption still present in the government, reduce crime, and stabilize the economy of Brazil. However, he has also advocated a radical increase in military presence and the power of police in Brazil. He has used a fear of communism to illegitimately detract from his critics and has 5
nation of Brazil. An ignorance toward the true nature of Brazil’s history and an exploitation of a suffering population is not what Brazil needs and is a dangerous step back toward the country’s troubled past.
tactic would train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves and allow for U.S. troops to gradually withdraw from Vietnam simultaneously. In the end, this strategy had mixed results. The Nixon Administration managed to gradually reduce U.S. troops in Vietnam, from a peak of 549,000 in 1969 to 69,000 in 1972. However, there were signs of flaws. The U.S. made mistakes during the process of Vietnamization by expanding the war through its bombing of Cambodia, a neutral country, in April 1970. In addition, the South Vietnamese were still very dependent on the U.S. For example, in the March 1972 Easter Offensive, the South Vietnamese army relied heavily on the U.S. Air Force to counter-attack the North Vietnamese, indicating that the South still wasn’t ready to fully defend itself against the North. Today, the U.S. is faced with a similar crisis with a prolonged war against ISIS that seems to have no end in sight.
Aryaman Sharma ‘20
The U.S. Withdrawal From Syria: Was It A Good Decision?
Last week, Trump announced that he will withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Though withdrawing troops isn’t a bad idea, withdrawing all troops at once is not wise. The U.S. should leave some troops to continue assisting Syrian forces. America should adopt a better-executed version of Vietnamization to keep ISIS at bay and prevent its caliphate from resurging.
Progress In The Middle-East
Historical Background America’s involvement in Syria is far from new, for the nation has had a history of intervention in foreign conflicts, among which was the war in Vietnam. The Second Indochina War witnessed the military strategy of Vietnamization employed by President Nixon. This plan called for a reduction in American involvement in Vietnam by transferring responsibilities to the South Vietnamese. Nixon believed this
As the map above indicates, ISIS has been pushed to the brink by the U.S. The Syrian Democratic Forces have the upper hand, having recaptured the Islamic State Capital of Raqqa last year. This success stands in 6
stark contrast to the U.S.’s uphill battle in Vietnam in which they could not overcome North Vietnamese guerilla warfare, so there is no harm in withdrawing some troops in Syria. The numbers have grown so much that it is beyond what is necessary. At first, only fifty American advisers were sent to Syria. That number grew to more than 500, according to the Pentagon, before officials acknowledged there were approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. However, U.S. troops don’t even engage in direct combat unless it is for self-defense, so there’s no point in keeping all 2,000 troops and the more than 500 advisers given the Syrians’ victories against ISIS, but Trump’s decision to withdraw all troops wasn’t wise either.
up, and they will rise back to prominence. Instead of withdrawing all troops at once, Trump should have gradually withdrawn troops to ensure that the Syrian Democratic Forces receive some form of assistance until they can finish the fight on their own. Liam Woods ‘19
The GOP and LGBTQ Rights Throughout the recent history of the United States, there has only ever been one thing standing between the LGBTQ community and full recognition of their rights for which they have fought tooth and nail for decades. That thing is the Republican Party. For years, they have been endlessly fighting to suppress the rights and civil liberties of American citizens, young and old, based on a charade of morality all intended to milk the last acceptable form of discrimination for all that it’s worth.
The DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), initially passed in 1996, recognized marriage as a union between one man and one woman, keeping homosexual couples from receiving federal benefits and recognition of their relationship. The bill was written by the Republicans. When it was passed, very few in the House and Senate, including Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Republican Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin (who was openly gay) voted against it. Years later, in 2013, provisions of the bill were declared unconstitutional under the 5th Amendment’s Due Process Clause in the case United States v. Windsor, when Edith Windsor was denied 363,000 dollars of her wife’s estate because their marriage
Bringing back all troops would give ISIS the opportunity to retake areas it has lost, and that could be potentially calamitous. As the figure above indicates, the Islamic State’s total revenue has been on a decline since 2014. These financial troubles can be explained by the loss of land. According to data provided by the Global Coalition, by November 2016, the Islamic State had lost 62 percent of its mid-2014 “peak” territory in Iraq 30 percent in Syria. This loss means fewer people and businesses to tax and less control over oil fields. Therefore, it is imperative that some troops and advisers be left in Syria to prevent ISIS from re-taking its lost land, for if the territories are re-captured, their revenue will shoot back 7
was not recognized under DOMA. Two years after that, the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that the clause in DOMA prohibiting same-sex marriage was also unconstitutional. Both cases were 5-4, with the vote being split by the party of their appointer (except swing vote Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Reagan.). The point is, even when there is a clear violation of the constitution in play, such as the failure to recognize same-sex marriage in all states under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article 1 of the Constitution, Republicans will stop at nothing to deny these people their rights. Even as recent as this summer, with the “New NAFTA” being signed by President Trump, PM Justin Trudeau, and President Pena Nieto, nearly 40 members of Congress urged Trump to fight against Trudeau’s insertion of protections for transgender people. Every single person who signed the letter sent to Trump demanding this was a Republican. Their contempt is indefensible. These are not lesser citizens who were unduly given civil rights, these are not subhuman abominations who should be punished because someone wrote it down in a book at a time when people still thought that the sun went around the earth, these are human beings, these are people who deserve the same rights and respect that heterosexual citizens are given, and most importantly, these people are our friends, our brothers and sisters, our teachers and our classmates and our coworkers. We know them, even if we do not know that they’re gay. When a person makes an offhanded homophobic or transphobic comment, they have no idea of knowing whether or not an LGBT person might be listening.
In a perfect world, people wouldn’t feel the need to hide who they are for fear that they would be the target of insults and attacks on their character. But we live in a time when, as Jamin Raskin of Maryland said, Republicans “...put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” Despite the un-american attacks on the freedoms of the LGBT community by the Republican Party, they still fight. Despite threats and warnings from advocates of hatred, they push forward. And they won’t stop until they can walk, true to themselves and free from fear. Sean Sullivan ‘21
The Chinese American Trade War It’s no secret about Trump’s ever increasing America-first policy and how unpopular his policies are around the world. From his declaration that Germany buys too much oil and Natural Gas from Russia and Saudi Arabia, to his campaign speeches about how the world is laughing at America, “ The world is laughing at us folks.” But Trump's America-first policy with China is hurting us more than it is China.
penalties of $241 million on $1.2 billion worth of Indian steel. On 8/23/2018, America tariffed $16 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated with levies on American goods worth equal amounts. Key products will be hit like semiconductors, chemicals, plastics, and motorbikes. The Chinese Tariff attacked U.S. fuel, Steel products, autos, and medical equipment. Now that we have talked about the birth of this trade war and some specific markets it will hit, let’s begin with the impact this has on American citizens. One of the biggest hits is to American agriculture, because the tariffs that the president imposed fully come into being around harvest season for farmers and the midterms. Many economists have agreed that the biggest hit will go to American agriculture. Even though we haven’t seen the full impacts, we will soon, many farmers live in the smaller states which means they have more power in the electoral college, and live in the most republican states. The hit if these tariffs continue to bankrupt farmers would be catastrophic for Trump. One example of this are cranberries, “about 1/3 of U.S. cranberry production is exported”. The countries which buy American-grown cranberries are the very ones which are being tariffed, which means they will be less inclined to buy from the U.S. which decreases American industries. The trade war is and always will be more harmful to the people instead of to your enemies.
First off I have to explain what this trade war is and how it started. The trade war with China was always a possibility but it came to the front with Trump. “Trump believes that China’s economy is more vulnerable to a trade war... Xi Jinping thinks that Trump is more vulnerable politically,” (CBS News 4/6/18). Trump has always been anti-China, he has been anti-China since he went public with his presidential campaign.
Trump's first tariffs went out in January 2018, which taxed solar panels and washing machines, and later he imposed a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum. On July 6th, China accused Trump of starting a trade war and implemented tariffs equivalent to $34 billion dollars. This war also went across to India as they have plans to make trade 9
Stability In The Russian Economy Aryaman Sharma ‘20
Russia has been hammered with sanctions; however, these measures have not made the profound impact that is necessary to force the Kremlin to cease military involvement in Ukraine. The Russian economy still has a strong foundation. The Washington Post reports that in the first quarter of 2018, unemployment fell to a post-Soviet low of 4.8%, and inflation has consistently dropped from about 17% in March, 2015 to 2.3% in June, 2018. More importantly, the country’s international reserves have grown to about $458 billion in July, 2018. This reserve fund has been filled during times of high oil prices. Therefore, in case of an economic downturn like the difficulties the Kremlin faced when oil prices fell by almost 50% from 2014 to 2015, the shortage in revenue can be covered by the reserve fund, creating a sanction-proof economy.
The Failure Of Sanctions On Russia
Martial law in Ukraine expired on Wednesday, yet there will still be concerns going forward over tensions with Russia. Last month’s incident in the Kerch Strait reflects the dire state of the escalating situation. Despite the economic sanctions that have been in place since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the desired results have not been reached. Russia still has a stable economy and will continue to have one for the foreseeable future. More importantly, though sanctions have negatively impacted the Russian economy, they are not the root cause of the Kremlin’s financial troubles. The Russian Federation’s economic downturns in recent years can be explained in large part due to the fluctuating oil prices. Therefore, the consumption of Russian oil must be reduced to restrain Russia’s oil export economy in order to coerce the Kremlin into halting its military involvement in Ukraine.
The Role Of Oil
As the figure above indicates, Russia has experienced some capital outflow due to sanctions. However, this outflow had started months before due to declining oil prices.
this natural resource since oil accounts for more than 80% of total revenues in Russia’s export mix of energy raw materials. Therefore, countries that are major consumers of Russian oil should slightly reduce their consumption of oil. Though some may argue that Russia may try to impose counter-sanctions, that would actually hurt the Kremlin. The price of oil took a hit in 2014. The value dropped from around $115 per barrel to $60 per barrel due to the surplus of oil in the market caused by the growth of shale oil production in the U.S. This trend was reinforced by tensions within OPEC (conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia), whose members, despite the declining oil values, increased their production in order to recover from their defaults in oil dependent budgets, resulting in further downfalls in oil prices.
Since August 7, 2014, there has been a ban on imports of beef, pork and poultry meat and meat products, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, milk and milk products, fruits and vegetables, malt extract, and food products to the Russian Federation. These restrictions led to a food shortage. The shortage then increased the demand for food, which in turn increased the prices, contributing to a spike in inflation. Therefore, counter-sanctions hurt Russia, so the best course of action would be for countries to reduce their consumption of oil. This step would fracture the most vital sector in the Russian economy and induce heavy pressure on the Kremlin to halt its military activity in Ukraine.
Mining and quarrying are the cornerstones of the Russian economy, so oil prices constantly affect Russia. Income from oil exports constitutes approximately half of all of Russia’s federal revenues, and they represent more than two thirds of overall exports. Therefore, oil should be the focal point of economic sanctions in order to strangle Russia’s economy.
Reducing Oil Consumption When oil prices rise, the Russian economy becomes dependent on the revenues from
Fairfield Prep Student Body Poll Results On November 6th, members of the Political Awareness Society set up a booth at both lunches where students could make their vote count on some of the day’s most relevant issues. The question posed to both lunch groups was: Who is you favorite candidate in the Connecticut Gubernatorial Election?
The publication of the Political Awareness Society, a student club at Fairfield College Preparatory School in Fairfield, CT
Published on Jan 10, 2019
The publication of the Political Awareness Society, a student club at Fairfield College Preparatory School in Fairfield, CT