HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW
OUT OF THE CUCKOO’S NEST
TOM MENINO’S LEGACY AND BOSTON’S FUTURE
INTERVIEW: SEN. EVAN BAYH
VOLUME XL NO. 4, WINTER 2013 HARVARDPOLITICS.COM
THE POLITICS OF HEALTH
THE SHORT LIST Your one-stop source to the most scintillating and dynamic political content.
THE POLITICS OF HEALTH
National Health, National Security Audrey Zhang
12 Healthcare, Mobilized Jenny Choi
22 The Silicon Valley Police Department Tom Silver
14 Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest: Mental Illness in the Movies Matthew Disler
State of Health by the Numbers
24 The Future of Iran Layla Stahr
Saving Harvard Square Gram Slattery
28 Beyond the Heavenly Palace: China’s Future in Space Jay Alver
Harvard Undergraduates are Teaching Each Other and Harvard Doesn’t Want to Talk About It Sam Finegold
UNITED STATES 26 Why the Pirates Are(n’t) at Bay Andrew Ma
16 Janet Yellen and the Future of the Federal Reserve Arjun Kapur 18 Tom Menino’s Legacy and Boston’s Future
20 Distasteful Elections John Pulice
ENDPAPER 30 The Rise of Banksy Emily Wang
44 One Harvard Arjun Mody
BOOKS & ARTS 32 Too Much Information Nancy Ko 34 The Spies of New York Olivia Campbell 36 Art on Demand Olivia Zhu 38 Reuse, Recycle, Rinse and Repeat Anita Lo
INTERVIEWS 40 Peter Hamby Gavin Sullivan 41 Randi Weingarten Daniel Abarca 42 Sen. Evan Bayh Richard He
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. ISSN 0090-1032. Copyright 2013 Harvard Political Review. All rights reserved. Image credits: Flickr: 4- Josh Vernon; 6- Renzo Dionigi; 30- Dominic Robinson. Photographer: 8- Paul Lisker; 37- Shitty_Watercolour. Wikimedia Commons: 28- NASA; 44- Harvard Business School. U.S. Federal Government: 42- U.S. Senate.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 1
FROM THE EDITOR
HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW A Nonpartisan Journal of Politics Established 1969—Vol. XL, No. 4
EDITORIAL BOARD EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Andrew Seo PUBLISHER: Olivia Zhu MANAGING EDITOR: Beatrice Walton ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR: Arjun Mody ONLINE EDITOR: Frank Mace COVERS EDITOR: Matt Shuham CAMPUS SENIOR EDITOR: Sam Finegold CAMPUS ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Taonga Leslie INTERVIEWS EDITOR: Colin Diersing U.S. SENIOR EDITOR: Ross Svenson U.S. ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Daniel Backman U.S. ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Daniel Lynch WORLD SENIOR EDITOR: Gram Slattery WORLD ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Priyanka Menon B&A SENIOR EDITOR: Holly Flynn B&A ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Rachel Wong HUMOR EDITOR: Ben Shryock STAFF DIRECTOR: Tom Gaudett BUSINESS MANAGER: Naji Filali CIRCULATION MANAGER: Matthew Disler DESIGN EDITOR: Ashley Chen GRAPHICS EDITOR: Paul Lisker MULTIMEDIA EDITOR: Jenny Choi WEBMASTER: Peter Cha WEBMASTER: Tom Silver
SENIOR WRITERS Alpkaan Celik, Caroline Cox, Zeenia Framroze, Medha Gargeya, Krister Koskelo, Eli Kozminsky, Joshua Lipson, Raul Quintana, Sarah Siskind, Simon Thompson
STAFF Jay Alver, Francesca Annichiaricco, Humza Syed Bokhari, Alex Boota, Florence Chen, Samuel Coffin, Cansu Colakoglu, Corinne Curcie, Tyler Cusick, Neha Dalal, Jacob Drucker, Mikhaila Fogel, David Freed, Caleb Galoozis, Harleen Gambhir, Jenny Gao, Nicky Guerreiro, Barbara Halla, Rachael Hanna, Eric Hendey, Harry Hild, Kaiyang Huang, Jonathan Jeffrey, Elsa Kania, Brooke Kantor, Arjun Kapur, Gina Kim, John Kocsis, Ian Kohnle, Sandra Korn, Ha Le, Johanna Lee, Tom Lemberg, Ethan Loewi, Zak Lutz, Ken Mai, Jacob Morello, Mai Nguyen, Andrea Ortiz, Caitlin Pendleton, Sylvia Percovich, Valentina Perez, Heather Pickerell, Anthony Pietra, Cory Pletan, Pooja Podugu, Ivel Posada, John Prince, Gabriel Rosen, William Scopa, Alexander Smith, Martin Steinbauer, Alastair Su, Danielle Suh, Rajiv Tarigopula, Alec Villalpando, Joy Wang, Selina Wang, Matthew Weinstein, Danny Wilson, Teresa Yan, Benjamin Zhouv
ADVISORY BOARD Jonathan Alter Richard L. Berke Carl Cannon E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Walter Isaacson Whitney Patton Maralee Schwartz
2 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
Golden Age Dear Readers, A few weeks ago, New York Times oped columnist and former executive editor Bill Keller proclaimed in the headline of one of his pieces that this is the “Golden Age of News.” He described the plethora of news outlets available at this time, using his morning routine of reading the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, BBC, The Guardian, AP, Al Jazeera English, as a prime example. He also mentioned getting analysis from The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy and news directly from publications in the countries that are of interest to him—not to forget Twitter, as well. If you take a step back from all the contempt and criticism we have for the 24 hour news cycle, you really do gain a fonder appreciation for the current state of news. Think about it. From Chris Hughes’ purchase of the New Republic to Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Prime checkout of the Washington Post, exciting developments are constantly cropping up. More recently, Politico is entering the magazine business, the New York Times is launching a data journalism initiative, and Capital New York is reinventing itself as the Politico of the Empire State. And in the new year, Nate Silver is relaunching FiveThirtyEight with the help of ESPN. But this isn’t to say there aren’t faults with our news today. As Keller warns, “[t]he profusion of unfiltered information can overwhelm without informing.” And it is the informing part that is the crucial key to this puzzle. In another recent Keller column—I promise I read more than just one journalist—he publishes a correspondence with Glenn Greenwald, famous for reporting on the NSA mass surveillance scandal from over the summer with the Guardian. Greenwald, who is one of the founding members of a new journalism venture called Omidyar, and Keller sparred through email over the future of their field. The two fundamentally disagreed over
the question of objective news and what it means for reporting. Keller spoke highly of impartiality and objectivism. Greenwald countered by saying that such “reporting is reduced to ‘X says Y’ rather than ‘X says Y and that’s false.’” I mention this particular exchange because it made me reconsider our own publication in the Harvard Political Review. As the magazine looks to celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2014, we are constantly reevaluating and reinventing. We are truly excited to be a part of this golden age and to lead as one of the country’s premier college publications. In our capacity as students and millennials, we feel uniquely positioned to cover issues that no other publication in the country can. From the Economics 10 walkout to affirmative action in college admissions, the HPR has covered a wide range of politically salient issues and led in the debate and discussion over the past few years. In discussions with the newly elected Masthead of this publication, I am optimistic for what they will bring to the table. From analyzing survey data of millennials to publishing profiles of Harvard administrators, the HPR staff has exciting new plans for the future. We are moving away from our old simple news analysis, in which we interviewed political figures to literally report, as Greenwald criticized, “X says Y.” We are now writing 2,500 word opinion pieces on Syria, reporting from the ground in Turkey, producing multimedia content for local elections, and weighing in on the importance of the humanities. It’s an exciting time to be a journalist, and we’re thrilled to be in this position.
Andrew Seo Editor-in-Chief
Healthcare costs as a percentage of GDP in the US in 2012.
People signed up for ACA on its first day.
10% Adults in the world with diabetes.
141,500,000 Doses of flu vaccine projected to be produced this season.
70.8, 75.2, 78.5 Average life expectancies in the US in 1970, 1990, and 2010. Healthcare expenditures in the US in 2011.
$2,700,000,000,000 STATE OF HEALTH BY THE NUMBERS
Deaths in children under five caused by malnutrition.
$490,850,000 Lobbying expenditures on Health in the US in 2012.
HIGHEST HEALTHCARE SPENDING PER CAPITA BY COUNTRY: United States - $8,508 Norway - $5,669 Switzerland - $5,643 Netherlands - $5,099 Luxembourg - $4,755
Adults in the US with obesity in 2010.
Children in the US with obesity in 2010.
35.7% 16.9% WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 3
Saving Harvard Square Gram Slattery
4 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
o often—in the midst of dorm parties, papers, study breaks and midterms—we forget to appreciate the wonders of Harvard Square. By sophomore year, the whole area between Mount Auburn and Mass Ave becomes a pale rank of brick buildings between class and lunch, nothing more. Too many of us leave Cambridge without having pawed through the slender volumes of poetry at Grolier’s, or the radical literature of Bob Avakian’s Marxist bookstore on Harvard Street. Too few have enjoyed a Café Arabica and a plump chocolate biscotti on the mezzanine of Café Algiers, or a stout beer on the frosty portico of Shay’s. Though many have made the pilgrimage to Alewife to watch a blockbuster with roommates, far fewer have taken in an indie film at the diminutive Brattle Theatre. Fewer still have spent an evening at The Sinclair or the jazzinfused depths of Club Passim. Every day, we take these bohemian enclaves for granted as if we’ll always live at a central node of the intellectual universe with few responsibilities and a lax schedule. Though we’re living like kings, we don’t even know it. To be sure, we’re not the first generation to underappreciate our surroundings and the uniqueness of our situation. For decades, consumers in the Harvard community have chosen the commercial and corporate over the bohemian, and as a result, the Square is a husk of its former self—far cooler than most of the places we come from—but a husk nevertheless. Next to the main T station, we can still buy artisanal sweets at Cardullo’s, or grab a copy of Ploughshares at Out of Town News. But we can also grab some snack food from CVS, a coffee drink from Starbucks, and frozen yogurt from Pinkberry. Walking down Mass Ave toward the Barker Center, we’ll often duck into TD Bank or Citizen’s to withdraw some cash—then proceed to Au Bon Pain or Panera, as if Crema and Algiers didn’t even exist. Our experience reflects and abets the modern composition of local commerce—a bunch of funky, independent, if touristy stores, being slowly suffocated by national chains. I say we stop this bleeding now, so that when our children go here, Harvard Square is still somewhat unique, rather than another outpost of Anywhere, USA. *** This battle against conformity has two fronts, and on one of them, we, the students, are the unwitting infantrymen. To a great extent, the composition of Cambridge’s businesses reflects consumer choice, and we consumers keep choosing the lamest businesses. I remember a year ago, several of my friends celebrating the opening of Panera; that would be where they spent their time during reading period, quaffing down elaborate coffee drinks and munching on pastries. No Café Arabicas for them! When it comes time for ice cream, we sometimes venture to J.P. Licks, but we also end up at the tacky Ben & Jerry’s or the candycolored Baskin Robbins on the corner of Arrow Street. Even the Classics department—whose stereotype dictates that its members frequent an obscure, boutique patisserie—held their weekly luncheons at Bertucci’s before it closed, never sampling the other, more eccentric options that come and go in the area. I get it. The chains are consistent, convenient, and often cheaper. But frequenting them too often will leave the Square soulless—indistinguishable from so many other banal, lustered
American downtowns. Of course, the fight can’t come only from us transients who arrive and leave in punctual four-year cycles. On the second front of this battle are the city’s leaders, most of whom have been less than active in the promotion of independent business. Whereas some cities have decreed outright bans on chain stores in certain districts, the zoning laws for the Square are relatively lax. And though a brief scan of the city’s byzantine, multicolored commercial use map reveals layer upon layer of technocratic zoning regulations, very few of these—in some areas, none of them—are designed to preserve a sense of communal authenticity. Part of the problem is the famously complex structure of Cambridge city government, which affords almost no power over licensing rules to the Council. In the run-up to the November 5 municipal elections, only a few candidates—most notably Marc McGovern, Nadeem Mazen, and Janneke House—expressed an urgent need to repress “formula,” or chain stores, while bolstering mom-and-pop establishments. But without dramatic reform in the city’s governing structure proposed by any of the candidates, these calls for change, The Crimson points out, have no teeth, and remain nothing more than verbal platitudes. *** Let’s examine the counterexample of San Francisco. This year marks the 10th anniversary of a popular law in which all neighborhoods are allowed to set their own regulations regarding the arrival of chain stores. By 2006, hundreds of city blocks required that the planning board approve of all corporate arrivals in a special meeting, and businesses with 11 or more branches nationwide were banned altogether in dozens of areas. Now, the future of San Fran’s historical streetfronts is looking as funky, heterogeneous, and pleasantly chaotic as ever. Many argue that these policy instruments take the decisions out of the hands of consumers, which, to a great extent, is true. But they also help level the inherently tilted playing field between commercial Goliaths and independent Davids in highrent locales. As Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Self-Reliance pointed out to Salon, the chains have massive start-up capital and landlords prefer them for their steady credit. So all else equal, gentrification leads to homogenization. In terms of the economic effects of chains—their externalities as an Ec major would say—a study by the group, Civic Economics, has showed that for every $100 spent at a chain, only $13 recirculates locally. Among independent stores, this figure jumps to $45. Most importantly, however, a community of chains isn’t a community at all. As social beings, this troubles us, at least subconsciously, and we try desperately to artificialize genuine community where it no longer exists. The portraits of the meatgrinders at b.good, the little agricultural maps in the dining halls showing the ‘local’ source of our food, and our constant need to buy fair trade and biodynamic are at least partially functions of this need. I propose we stop settling for these artificialities—all of us, both students and councilmen—so that we might preserve the genuineness of our urban surroundings for years to come. Harvard Square is still peppered with outposts of funkiness, and we know where they are. It’s time, for everyone’s sake, that we start enjoying them.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 5
Harvard Undergraduates are Teaching Each Other and Harvard Doesn’t Want to Talk About It Sam Finegold
he practice of hiring undergraduates to help in the teaching of other undergraduates is an ingrained practice at Harvard, and also a well-kept secret. For over 40 years, these “course assistants” have led sections, graded assignments, and held office hours. With the rapid increase in the number of students studying quantitative fields such as computer science, applied mathematics, and statistics, the number of such course assistants has grown significantly in recent years. Many departments embrace undergraduate course assistants as effective teachers, but Harvard as a whole has lagged behind in recognizing their pivotal role in helping quantitative undergraduate programs function. This is most likely because adequate recognition of the role of undergraduates in teaching could damage Harvard’s already tarnished image as a teaching university. The public conflates depth of knowledge with proficiency of teaching, and thus expects all teaching at places like Harvard to be done by professors or graduate students. The reality is that driven, talented undergraduates selected to be course assistants are as good as, if not better than, graduate students at teaching elements of most courses. With the kickoff of Harvard’s largest-ever fundraising effort, now is an excellent time to expand resources devoted to preparing and supporting undergraduate teachers at Harvard, and to recognize that the use of course assistants is not something to be bashful of—but rather something to celebrate. Harvard has long been a trendsetter in higher education. By publicly acknowledging and developing its undergraduate teachers, Harvard can
6 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
again set a standard for learning that has the potential to lower costs and raise quality.
ON CRITICISM AND CAPPING CONCENTRATIONS The use of undergraduate teachers at Harvard leaves the institution vulnerable to multiple, worrisome attacks. Harvard is known as a research university and is often criticized for devoting too much of its human capital to research rather than to teaching. Critics argue that Harvard’s use of undergraduates is further evidence that its professors and graduate students have too little time or incentive to teach. In addition, critics attack the use of undergraduates in teaching as a policy that opens the possibility of widespread cheating, a concern particularly important in the wake of Harvard’s unprecedented scandal. Having an undergraduate course assistant grade assignments and exams seems like an opportunity ripe for exploitation due to conflicts of interest. But the use of undergraduates is necessary to avoid a much worse outcome: capping concentrations. When the number of concentrators spikes in quantitative fields (as has been the case in recent years), Harvard statistics professor Joe Blitzstein says that the university simply cannot hire faculty at a fast enough rate. Rather than capping the number of, say, computer science concentrators, expanding the number of restricted enrollment
courses, or requiring students to specify what they will concentrate in upon entry, Harvard bolsters its teaching staff by hiring undergraduate course assistants. However, critics would be hard pressed to find cases of academic integrity issues resulting from undergraduate teaching, given that Harvard manages issues of academic integrity through course design. Blitzstein explained that, even though he is not worried about any of his course assistants helping students cheat, his assistants never actually see the exams he writes before test time. And in Harvard’s computer science courses, professors use software to detect identical code in problem sets. Indeed, only one interviewee for this article reported a single case of abuse by an undergraduate course assistant. Despite the positives of using course assistants, the practice at Harvard is still, in Blitzstein’s opinion, “somewhat unusual,” because of how pervasive it is and also because of how young some of the course assistants are. The statistics department hired 32 undergraduates and 32 graduate students to help teach courses this past semester. And some, especially in the larger courses such as Statistics 110, Computer Science 50, 51, and 61, are only sophomores. It’s easy to see why Harvard might want to remain mute on the subject. Indeed, Harvard’s own admissions website does not mention the use of undergraduates in teaching, and stresses instead that for undergraduates the primary pedagogical experience will be driven by relationships with professors. In an interview with the HPR, director of admissions Marlyn McGrath said that the role of undergraduates in teaching is the “kind of question that comes up in conversation, or group sessions,” but not one that the Admissions Office proactively discusses. Concerningly, even though students and professors refer to course assistants as “teaching fellows” or “TFs”—the title officially designated for graduate students involved in teaching—the university refuses to pay graduate and undergraduate students equally or to create a different title for undergraduate students. Rob Bowden, a former course assistant and current preceptor of Computer Science 50, recounted in an interview with the HPR the tension that arose when Greg Morrissett, a professor of computer science, appointed an undergraduate as a “head teaching fellow” for Computer Science 51. The mistake was ultimately rectified by appointing a graduate student to help run the course, even though the undergraduate assistants still did most of the work. Rather than shying away from its pervasive use of undergraduate course assistants, Harvard should embrace the benefits of undergraduate teachers, who help widen access to in-demand concentrations, and can often be driven, compelling, and effective teachers.
UNDERGRADUATE CA’S: ACCESSIBLE, EXCITED, AND EXCELLENT Professor of computer science Harry Lewis, maintains a list
of all the students who have ever served as assistants in courses that he has taught on his blog. The post is more like a hall of fame than anything else, sporting names of current faculty at universities such as Stanford and senior engineers at firms like Google. Lewis celebrates his undergraduate course assistants for a reason. In an interview with Harvard Magazine, Lewis said, “My TFs have always been better teachers than I am.” Indeed, a common theme in responses among those interviewed for this article is that undergraduate course assistants, besides being excited to teach, are often more accessible than traditional instructors. Graduate students, for instance, work in their own labs in different buildings and usually go home at seven o’clock, right when undergraduates typically finish dinner and start working. Morrisett pointed out in his interview with the HPR that course assistants live in the same spaces as undergraduates and operate on the same timeframes, meaning that undergraduates have good access to dedicated teachers. For instance, Bowden was a course assistant for nine courses in six semesters, which means he helped teach multiple courses a semester. For Bowden, his teaching has deep meaning and purpose. “When I was a student in CS50 and CS51,” Bowden explained in an interview with the HPR, “I wanted to be like one of those people that everyone wants to go to [to ask for help].” Statistics 110 is another course which makes heavy use of undergraduate course assistants to teach non-mandatory sections and supplementary lectures. William Chen, a senior who will graduate with a master’s in statistics through Harvard’s Advanced Standing program, has 40 to 50 students regularly attend his section. Chen noted that at times his section is larger than many courses offered at Harvard. That so many students choose to attend Chen’s section over those offered by graduate students teaching the course evidences the respect undergraduates have for their peers who choose to teach. According to Eric Mazur, a professor of applied physics, undergraduates can be superior teachers to graduate students. “We professors have gone over the concepts in our heads so many times, we forget what it is like to learn the material for the first time. Undergraduate TFs have learned the material recently and remember the things that they didn’t understand.” Mazur believes in this philosophy to the point that he has actively restructured his introductory physics course to maximize interactions among his course assistants and his students. His course, Applied Physics 50, employs a flipped-classroom model that allows course assistants to circulate around tables of students working on problems and projects to discuss concepts. This model is spreading across the quantitative disciplines. Lewis also pointed out that while Harvard does not “admit graduates on the basis of their verbal [GRE] scores,” much emphasis is placed on ensuring that undergraduates can read, write, and communicate clearly. In addition, undergraduates are often able to better relate to other undergraduates and know the structure of courses well because of their recent experiences in them. Given that Harvard is not going to have enough faculty to
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 7
William Chen ‘14 teaches his widely-attended Statistics 110 section, which often attracts 50 students.
teach students in introductory quantitative courses in small ratios any time soon, Harvard should invest more in strengthening the talented body of students who elect and are selected to teach their fellow undergraduates, rather than scrambling to hire from merely the graduate student pool.
CAPITALIZING ON UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING One goal of the university’s capital campaign is to raise $150 million to enhance teaching and learning at Harvard. Rather than focusing most of this money on technology initiatives such as edX, Harvard could use some of this money to strengthen undergraduate teaching at Harvard. To do this, the university must first recognize the important role undergraduates play in learning, and then celebrate this role to attract top students. Even more, Harvard should devote resources to prepare and retain talented teachers. Teaching undergraduates builds communication skills and solidifies knowledge. Bowden explained that being a course assistant “undeniably reinforced [his] learning.” Even just answering questions and having to explain material in different ways, he said, helped him understand his field of study better. Harvard should advertise this opportunity to prospective undergraduates, pointing out that if they do exceptionally well in their courses, they may have the opportunity to serve as course assistants—an excellent way to build relationships with professors and solidify knowledge prior to graduate school and advanced careers. The ability to assist with courses should therefore be a selling point of the Harvard education, not something that “comes up in conversation.”
8 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
In addition to upgrading the attention paid to course assistants, Harvard should invest more in improving undergraduate teachers. In an interview with the HPR, Sebastian Chiu, a course assistant for Statistics 110, said that one thing that would have helped when he first began teaching is “more preparation.” Right now, preparation both for undergraduate and graduate students varies in rigor by department. Though the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning has programs to help students develop as teachers, more could be done to institutionalize training for teaching undergraduates. For instance, David Malan, who teaches Harvard’s introductory computer science course, recently began using cameras placed in classrooms to allow course assistants to privately view their lessons to help understand the effectiveness of their presentations. To incentivize top students to teach and to help retain talent, Harvard could use part of the $150 million raised to sponsor master’s programs across quantitative disciplines to encourage top undergraduates to stay on at Harvard and teach. Such a program could be made attractive through a prestigious and competitive application for reduced graduate school tuition. Many students would love to remain at Harvard in a Bowdenlike capacity, yet the capacity to do so on a widespread scale does not exist. These days, there are more articles discussing how HarvardX is improving learning in remote corners of the world than how Harvard is improving learning here in Cambridge. Course assistants are more than employees, they are a core component of Harvard’s teaching force. It’s time we treated them as such.
POLITICS OF HEALTH
NATIONAL HEALTH, NATIONAL SECURITY WHAT THE SHUTDOWN REVEALED ABOUT OUR PUBLIC HEALTH PRIORITIES Audrey Zhang
ctober’s government shutdown revealed some troubling truths about the federal government’s ability to maintain operating capacity in essential public health functions. Particularly important to public health are the programs provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees everything from the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) to preventing and mitigating public health emergencies through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For 16 days, 48 percent of HHS employees were furloughed, critically impacting the national health infrastructure, and leaving America’s public health open to threats.
IMPACTS OF THE SHUTDOWN The detrimental impact of the shutdown on public health was predictable—and even predicted by the contingency plan developed by HHS. Some programs were discontinued entirely, including the CDC’s annual seasonal flu shot program, its technical assistance programs to state and local governments, and the FDA's import inspections and notification programs. Others were granted only “minimal support,” which meant they experienced a "significantly reduced capacity” to respond to outbreaks and public health emergencies.
In a recent interview with Wired magazine during the shutdown, CDC director Thomas Frieden described the effect of the furloughs, saying, “We’re used to juggling things at CDC, but this is like juggling chain saws.” It was only a matter of time before problems surfaced: a multi-state, multi-drug-resistant salmonella outbreak occurred, requiring the recall of numerous employees from furlough to handle a threat that became serious enough to override the original contingency plan. The effects of the shutdown extended to the state and local level, where health officials often rely on support from federal experts for their work in surveillance of public health threats, and funding for local health programs. Among these included health department screenings for infectious disease among individuals entering the country, and the protection of day-today food security for over 9 million low-income women, infants, and children through the WIC program. As Laura Hanen, the director of government relations for the National Association of City and County Health Officials, told the HPR, “WIC was running out of money … the recipients of that program had to go to smaller grocery stores and had their WIC card rejected.” The discontinuation of these programs reveals an uncomfortable truth about the priorities of the federal government when it comes to government programming: too often, risks to public
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 9
POLITICS OF HEALTH
A salmonella outbreak caused by Foster Farms poultry required the recall of numerous furloughed employees.
health are underestimated until they come to a head and cannot be ignored. Opportunities to take a stand on preserving public health funding during government budget cuts have come before, particularly during sequestration when the CDC lost $580 million. But the deleterious impacts of just 16 days of reduced public health capacity suggest that it might be time to prioritize national health in budget debates. After all, public health is not just a matter of consumer protection, but indeed one of national security.
PUBLIC HEALTH AS CIVIL DEFENSE The idea of framing public health as a matter of national security is not new. In 2002, Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a practicing physician, published a 14-page analysis of the role of federal support in strengthening public health, acknowledging that in the age of bioterrorism, “a strong public health infrastructure is important not only for the public’s health but also for the nation's security.” As he argued, the extent to which public health can be seen as contributing to national security is directly related to the degree of funding support for its programs at both the federal and state levels. Frist’s argument frames public health as national security primarily through applications of civil defense, such as emergency preparedness and the potential of bioterrorism. This argument has led to the fragmentation of federal public health programs across various agencies—especially those involved
10 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
with civil defense—each with their own priorities and goals. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security maintains its own public health programs separate from HHS, focused largely on emergency preparedness. While fragmentation can allow for a diversity of approaches to solve problems, lack of inter-agency collaboration can lead to inefficiency and replication, as well as unfair prioritization of certain projects depending on branch funding. Confining public health to terms of civil defense, however, comes with its own set of dangers, including sending a message that improving public health is of limited value without an ulterior motive of preventing terror. But this is founded on a narrow and misguided interpretation of national security as protection only of the state. Instead, it should be recognized that national security extends to protection of citizens and the body politic, and that security is not only a matter of civil defense, but also of stability. In this sense, it should be understood that what is needed is not the securitization of public health, but a commitment to investment in public health as it is broadly construed.
PUBLIC HEALTH AS NATIONAL SECURITY More than civil defense alone, public health promotes the economic productivity and stability of our country. A salmonella outbreak or an aggressive flu season may at first seem less threatening than the prospects of a terrorist attack. But as the panic over the outbreak during the shutdown suggested,
POLITICS OF HEALTH
Confining public health to terms of civil defense, however, comes with its own set of dangers, including sending a message that improving public health is of limited value without an ulterior motive of preventing terror.
the greater probability of an outbreak's occurrence, its greater geographical reach, and its unpredictable spread all make the relative risk and impact of such infectious disease threats worthy of the government’s attention. While the estimates of the costs of the salmonella outbreak have not yet been calculated, recent studies suggest that the aggregated costs of foodborne illness in the United States come to $77.7 billion per year. Other seasonal illnesses, such as influenza, cost a similar $71 to 167 billion per year in the form of healthcare costs and lost economic productivity. Predictably, the system is at a substantial disadvantage to respond to such large crises when clinics are understaffed, drugs are in short supply, and hospital beds are unavailable—as happens when investments in public health are diminished. In response, Andrew Price-Smith, a professor at Colorado College, suggested in an interview with the HPR, “what you actually have to do is invest not in a militarized public health system, but in things like resilience within our medical infrastructure.” Such investments in health infrastructure would allow for greater capacity to respond to generalized public health threats, whether they come in the form of natural disaster, bioterror, or contagion. An additional place federal investments in public health can occur is in structures of governance, such as the NIH, the CDC, and the FDA, which function simultaneously as scientific research and consumer protection agencies. In the absence of strong leadership from a deeply divided House and Senate, these regulatory agencies are likely to play a growing role in driving
initiatives in public health—assuming they receive adequate funding and support to enforce their rulings. Indeed, the lack of enforcement on one particular front at the FDA may have contributed to the multi-drug-resistant salmonella outbreak during the shutdown. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist in Congress, lamented that scientists have known for years that the quantity of antibiotics fed to livestock was driving up rates of antibiotic resistant infections in humans. Yet the FDA has lacked the teeth to control industry use of antibiotics, even as the outbreak demonstrated its potential harms. “I’ve been carrying a bill called PAMTA [Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act] since 1999,” Rep. Slaughter told the HPR in an interview, “and the situation’s much more acute now. We don’t have a chance in the world of getting any bill of ours on the floor of the House that would in any way aggravate any of the agribusiness. So our federal regulatory agencies have to step up to the plate.” In the wake of such negative consequences that have ensued the government shutdown, one valuable lesson should be learned, at least in the sphere of public health: a reexamination of the role of federal agencies in protecting public health, and a broader definition of what constitutes public “security,” is urgently needed.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 11
POLITICS OF HEALTH
HEALTHCARE, MOBILIZED Jenny Choi
he healthcare industry boasts some of the highest prices in the service sector. Technology, however, is an inexpensive method of cutting costs, and the healthcare marketplace has taken note. Today, the healthcare mobile apps market is a booming field populated by start-ups and late M.D.-to-entrepreneur converts, with more than 10,000 apps currently available through outlets such as Apple App Store and Google Play. But will this momentum actually lead to a substantial improvement in the efficiency of healthcare delivery? Right now, it seems the answer is no. There are two factors preventing healthcare apps from reaching their full potential: first, the public is not yet comfortable with the fact that technology will make sharing patient data much easier for healthcare companies. Second, without major players bringing organization to the market, individual healthcare apps will not build up a pool of data large enough to make an impact on the market as a whole.
BIG POTENTIAL… BUT FOR WHAT? The Affordable Care Act has provided the fuel for a switch between two models of healthcare: systems based on the volume of care provided, and systems based on the value of care provided (as assessed through individual treatment results). As payment systems based on effectiveness gain traction, the potential for technology to play a role in shaping the future of healthcare is dramatically increasing. The drive to lower costs has also contributed to a movement
12 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
towards preventative, as opposed to reactive, treatment. According to David Voran, a physician at Heartland Health and associate professor at the Truman Medical Center, this shift in thinking has accentuated the importance of healthcare tracking so that patients can avoid unnecessary hospital visits that drive up costs. In an interview with the HPR, he noted that “apps and mobile devices are playing an increasingly important role” in preventative care efforts. Recent innovations in the app market deserve credit for standardizing physician-patient relationships. In an interview with the HPR, Ilifan Husain, editor of iMedicalApps.com, said that apps serve different purposes for physicians and patients, but can prove useful to both: “From the patient’s perspective, apps are great for helping to keep track of diet and their fitness schedules, and checking blood pressure and blood sugar levels. From a physician’s side, apps are great for looking up content to, for example, finding the right antibiotic for a patient.” Meanwhile, usage is not a problem. According to a 2011 report by physician staffing firm Jackson & Coker, eight in 10 physicians now employ mobile apps through their phones or tablets during their customary practices. But if the aim of these mobile apps is to reduce overall healthcare costs and the number of ineffective treatments performed each year, the market has a long way to go. Currently, patient data collected by apps are not contributed to bigger data sets that might prove useful for future healthcare research or broader-scale cost planning. At present, we are essentially still in a buffer period between
POLITICS OF HEALTH
Recent innovations in the healthcare mobile apps market deserve credit for introducing the possibility of regularized and sustained physician-patient relationships.
the introduction of this new technology and public acceptance of its consequences. Even Husain, who runs a website dedicated to medical apps, has expressed reservation about the privacyrelated aspects of healthcare apps. Voran is also concerned that the current, mainstream interpretation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 “overly stresses privacy rather than portability, leading to discomfort with patient data being transmitted through consumer-type products.” Although the Food and Drug Administration has been slow to catch up to rapid developments in this area, its progress should not be ignored. On September 25 of this year, the FDA released a memo entitled, “Mobile Medical Applications: Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff,” which discussed how it was taking a “tailored, risk-based approach” to regulating the app market. However, while the FDA has made significant progress on this issue, it still treads stormy waters in the business of mobile health apps. .
INFRASTRUCTURAL PROBLEMS While app users are hesitant about the privacy implications of this new technology, a lack of infrastructure has also slowed the spread of medical app data. The app marketplace is currently dominated by start-ups, and an effort to standardize and organize apps to create change in the healthcare world has not yet emerged. As it stands, groups that pay for care on others’ behalf, like insurance companies or the government, own the most comprehensive patient datasets. And according to Rob Cosinuke, the president of a physician-oriented medical app called Epocratesca, making a positive connection with a network of payers is crucial for developers. Apps in the market are beneficial for each patient’s tracking of his or her lifestyle and medical activity, but “they don’t really … [coordinate with] how healthcare is provided and being paid for today,” he said in an interview with the
HPR. While companies like Continua Health Alliance have notably been working on guidelines for the medical community to collect and share information from mobile apps, the government will ultimately need to play a significant role in regulating the industry. Bruce Darrow, the chief information officer of Mount Sinai Hospital, told the HPR that “regulation is below the radar because people don’t see computers or apps as medical devices [able to be regulated by the FDA].” He added that he believes that it will not be until there is some “mishap blamed on an app or a computer system” that the issue will “elevate the consciousness of this industry.” But is this the only way that the mobile app industry will start organizing and standardizing? In an in environment in which, as Husain points out, “more than 200 million people will have instant access to an application once it is put on the market,” the consequences of such a mishap could be severe. While the entrance of big players would introduce more structure and top-down influence to the market, that might not happen for a while. And although companies like Qualcomm have started getting involved, according to Brandon Workman, a journalist for Business Insider Intelligence, “Bigger players will get involved mostly through acquisition.” Meanwhile, many such “big players, ”like Google Health, who have already tried to enter the healthcare market have failed. Right now, mobile apps and their data have been contributing to healthcare in a static sense: helping consumers keep track of their personal patient history. But if our aspirations truly lie in progressive healthcare—in a dynamic industry geared towards prevention and broad-based public health initiatives—mobile apps cannot be left out of the equation. Although there are many factors that are currently keeping these mobile apps from building up to anything truly “progressive,” we are getting there, slowly, in the buffer zone between introduction and integration.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 13
POLITICS OF HEALTH
OUT OF THE CUCKOO’S NEST MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE MOVIES Matthew Disler
n the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the protagonist, R.P. McMurphy, enters a state asylum although his mind may be perfectly healthy. His first interaction with his supervising doctor reveals the complicated attitude the film takes towards mental illness: “Now they’re telling me I’m crazy over here ‘cause I don’t sit there like a goddamn vegetable. It don’t make a bit of sense to me. If that’s what crazy is, then I’m senseless: out of it, gone down the road, wacko.” Throughout the rest of the film, the state of McMurphy’s mind is in question, as he gradually escalates his war against the hospital authorities. What is never in question is the health of the other patients, who alternate between dumb passivity and violent outbursts, regardless of their actual disease. In this way, psychiatric illness is the real protagonist of the movie. Mental illness has figured as a prominent motif in film since the beginning of the medium, but filmmakers also frequently misrepresent it. Usually, these portrayals promote stigmas that haunt sufferers as they attempt to function in society; more accurate portrayals that emphasize a person’s battles with psychiatric illness and hindered social interactions do a much better job of relaying that stigma. As UCLA law professor Elyn Saks explained in a recent TED talk, we should be aiming to portray people with mental illness “sympathetically and … in all the richness and depth of their experience as people, and not as diagnoses.” Unfortunately, films often confine people to their diagnoses, which are often medically inaccurate.
THE NORMAN BATES STIGMA In many ways, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest challenged the notions of mental illness. McMurphy denies that his fellow patients’ ailments should be debilitating: “What do you think you are, for Christ’s sake? Crazy or something? Well you’re not!”
14 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
At the same time, the film simultaneously propagated several stigmas—a 1983 study showed that university students who had viewed the film subsequently perceived psychiatric illness in a more negative light. The stereotype that the mentally ill are violent—epitomized in films like Psycho (1960), where Norman Bates develops dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities) and, adopting his mother’s persona, becomes a serial killer—constantly reasserts itself through the news media. “From childhood onward, the portrayal of the twisted or nutty character is either evil or funny, but it’s a negative stereotype,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in an interview with the HPR. He points out news portrayals of school shootings: psychiatric issues are nearly always mentioned as a cause of violent action. “When the media doesn’t report mental illness in other ways, but continually links it to violence, it brings the association that mental illness and violence are linked.” But, as the Secret Service’s Safe School Initiative showed, “There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence.” In other words, there are so many people who suffer from mental illness who do not engage in violence that it is impossible to predict that a person will be violent due to psychiatric problems. The “funny” stereotype is also harmful, because it mischaracterizes mental illness. Furthermore, for comic characters, their problem becomes a defining trait. The psychiatric problem provides the comic drive, and as a result the film trivializes a serious illness. For example, in Me, Myself, and Irene (2000), Jim Carrey portrays a man who, despite references to schizophrenia, in fact undergoes dissociative identity disorder, and, like Norman Bates, becomes a violent killer. In reaction, the former executive director National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that the film “reinforced a total misunderstanding” of schizophrenia and contributed to stigmatization. Older films like King of Hearts
POLITICS OF HEALTH
The 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was one of the earliest to challenge notions of mental illness.
(1966) and Harvey (1950) depict people with mental illness as quirky and funny, but rarely as normal people suffering from a disease. Even television shows like Monk (2002-2009), in which Tony Shalhoub portrays a detective with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, may support a certain stigma: OCD exclusively defines Adrian Monk, and without it, none of the episodes would function. The psychiatric illness is the center of the plot, and it is permanent and untreatable, despite Monk’s continuous visits to his psychiatrist.
THE BEAUTIFUL MIND IN THE MOVIES At the same time, Monk’s OCD is a valuable asset—in some ways, it resembles a superpower that allows him to solve crimes. Certain portrayals, then, seem to work in the opposite direction: some mental illnesses may simply be amplifications of desired traits. New York University anthropology professor Emily Martin explored this phenomenon in the context of bipolar disorder in her book Bipolar Expeditions. In an interview with the HPR, she described one Los Angeles doctor who reported famous actors entering the clinic with their agents, who would ask the doctor to undertreat the actors in order to maintain their manic, and profitable, edge. “The myth or cultural narrative has arisen that you’d be lucky if you have the set of characteristics that fall under the heading of bipolar disorder,” she explains. With the advent of treatment for bipolar disorder in the second half of the 20th century, it became less of a “violent” mental illness and transferred over to the realm of “quirkiness.” As Martin points out, though, the revelation that many successful figures—from CEOs like Steve Jobs to entertainers like Robin Williams—had the illness led to the perception that it was something to be valued. Mania was immensely productive in society, and depression, while unproductive, could be helped with drugs.
However, Hollywood can also help reverse the stigma. Advocacy groups have recently promulgated a “growing awareness of the power of the media to perpetuate but also challenge stigmatizing stereotypes”, according to Angela Woods, a researcher at the University of Durham’s School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health. Media can also be used as a tool to help raise awareness about mental health issues, as successful public service campaigns in both England and New Zealand demonstrate. And since the 1980s, filmmakers have devoted increased attention towards depicting psychiatric problems in a more sensitive light. While many movies continue to portray negative stereotypes, others attempt to paint a portrait of a person beyond their illness. As Good as It Gets (1997) is an excellent, detailed, and complex portrayal of OCD; 2001’s A Beautiful Mind completely overturned the public’s perception of schizophrenia; and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook artfully depicts the difficulties faced by people with bipolar disorder and depression. And, although it may seem strange that so many movies center around mental illness, it is completely understandable why: psychiatric problems provide good stories. “Psychiatric illness by definition is about the self, and about when the self is not doing well,” explains Dr. Steven Schlozman, associate director of the Clay Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “We see ourselves in these illnesses. You go into those movies and you identify—you even identify with Hannibal Lecter.” Mental illness, he points out, occurs on a spectrum, and even though the minds of healthy people may not prevent normal social function, everyone still lives in a unique psychological landscape that films can help illuminate. R.P. McMurphy is, first and foremost, an enigma—whether or not the doctor decides that he’s crazy—and, just as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest teaches us what makes him tick, so does it provide a window into ourselves.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 15
JANET YELLEN AND THE FUTURE OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE Arjun Kapur
n October 9, 2013, President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board. In the likely scenario she is confirmed by the Senate, Yellen will be the first female Fed Chair and first Democratic Fed Chair since 1987. Yellen has served as vice chair under Chairman Ben Bernanke since 2010. She has also served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton. Yellen faces a long list of policy challenges as the Fed nears the tapering of its quantitative easing program and seeks to balance its dual mandate of bolstering employment and keeping inflation in check. Given her past emphasis on employment, along with a degree of bipartisan support, Yellen is well positioned to provide sound monetary policy for the recovering yet
16 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
still vulnerable American economy.
TECHNOCRATIC LEADERSHIP VERSUS PARTY POLITICS Even though Yellen will be the first Democrat to chair the Fed since 1987, recent history suggests that the party affiliation of the chair matters little. One might expect Republicans to run a tight monetary policy and Democrats an easy one, given prevailing party positions. But consider that Democrat Paul Volcker, who was appointed by President Carter, ran a Fed dedicated to fighting the high inflation of the late 1970s, leading President Reagan to reappoint him. On the other hand Ben Bernanke, a Bush appointee, pursued an expansionary monetary policy that
led Obama to reappoint him. Indeed, the Fed chair is a largely depoliticized position. Benjamin Friedman, professor of political economy at Harvard, told the HPR that “especially with recent appointments, the Fed has become highly professionalized as opposed to politicized, and neither Ben Bernanke nor Janet Yellen is visibly or actively identified by political party.” However, the parties still have conflicting views on monetary policy and can exert pressure on the Fed. For example, Harvard’s Niall Ferguson explained, “the reality is that Fed policy is now so dominant in macro terms that if Janet Yellen’s optimal control theory implies rate hikes in 2016,” which would slow economic growth to prevent inflation, “somebody’s going to give her a phone call, because that’s the election year.” Political pressures, it seems, are alive and well. Democrats have largely been uniform in their support of the Fed as an institution. Republicans, on the other hand, have serious reservations regarding the Fed’s role in the economy. James Pethokoukis, a columnist at the American Enterprise Institute, told the HPR, “there are very few people on the right who at this point think that the Fed’s policies are correct. The vast majority of Republicans think the Fed is making a huge mistake right now and that it’s risking higher inflation.” For example, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), then the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, voted against Yellen’s confirmation to be vice chair of the Fed in 2010, saying Yellen had a “Keynesian bias toward inflation.” More explicitly, Tea Party leaders and libertarians have called for measures such as auditing or even disbanding the Fed. These critics contend that the Fed’s expansionary monetary policies, including quantitative easing, have been grossly nontransparent and would lead to rampant inflation and more bubbles. Ferguson describes these critics as “distinctly cranky thinkers, gold standard nuts, and people who don’t really understand what causes inflation” but he still believes that “there is a pragmatic core in the Republican Party that knows that monetary policy is the only game in town
and that if you tighten prematurely you do a Europe to yourself.” Although those such as Pethokoukis and Ferguson disagree on the overall Republican sentiment towards monetary policy at this time, Yellen will likely receive at least some GOP support for her confirmation.
THE POLICY DIVIDE AND YELLEN’S SIGNIFICANCE Curbing unemployment versus taming inflation is a divide that has largely set up the two camps of the monetary policy debate today: hawks and doves. Hawks are concerned about inflation rising too high and worry about expansionary monetary policies leading to new bubbles in housing and other sectors. Doves believe that policies including a near-zero federal funds rate, the main short-term interest rate the Fed targets, and quantitative easing to lower long-term rates are needed at this time to reduce unemployment. Yellen has been perceived as a dove. Her academic work and tenure in the Fed have contributed to the view that she is more concerned with unemployment than inflation. Ever since the stagflation of the 1970s, inflation has been the chief priority of the Fed. Fed Chair Paul Volcker finally curbed the rampant inflation of the 1970s during his tenure from 19791987, and set an example for future chairs. Senator Shelby and others predict Yellen will stray away from Volcker’s example. But in fact it is not at all clear that Yellen would drift from the standard Fed priority of keeping inflation in check. Pethokoukis thinks that “having a chair who wants to put at least a thumb on the employment part of the scale is perfectly appropriate,” since “inflation is closer to one percent than the Fed’s target of two percent and unemployment is nowhere near its natural rate.” With inflation in check, the Fed has room to maneuver to fight unemployment. Richard Wong, senior vice president and senior quantitative analyst at the Hartford Investment Management Company, thinks labeling Yellen as a dove is not entirely accurate, saying that Yellen “is a very even keel and sensible economist. She understands the dual mandate perfectly well.”
WHAT’S NEXT The top issue on the minds of economists and investors is when and how the taper of the Fed’s quantitative easing program will play out. Yellen and Bernanke are credited with being the chief architects of the Fed’s quantitative easing program. The program runs by the Fed buying massive amounts of capital assets to keep interest rates extremely low and to increase market liquidity. Over the summer Bernanke announced that the Fed would possibly reduce the Fed’s purchases, or “taper” the program, later in the year, which caused a stir in the market and increased the interest rates on government bonds. Ferguson explains that “you can’t move it or even taper [quantitative easing] without markets overreacting. We are only postponing the evil hour, the day of reckoning. But when it comes, my prediction is that the adjustment will be sharp, and the market response will be quite dramatic.” Despite the inevitable market reaction, Yellen is perhaps uniquely prepared to manage the taper, since she helped devise and implement the policy as vice chair under Bernanke. A shift in economic circumstances and a new Fed chair will change the Fed’s grand strategy. Wong claims, “Ben Bernanke is a depression-era economist, but now that the days of the financial crisis have passed, the Fed chairmanship is a nice baton to hand over to Janet Yellen,” whose experience as a labor economist makes her “a healer of sorts.” As the American economy continues its recovery, jobs will be the center of attention. Yellen’s focus on employment along with her record for technocratic, non-partisan governance will prove valuable. Increasing employment and managing the taper of quantitative easing will be extremely demanding. Nevertheless, Yellen brings continuity to the process after being the Fed’s vice chair and understands the complexity and scale of monetary policy today. On these counts, her nomination is the right pick for the right time.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 17
Tom Menino’s Legacy and Boston’s Future Matthew Weinstein
hen Tom Menino completes his fifth and final term as mayor of Boston in January, he can rightfully take pride in the resurgence and promising future of Massachusetts’ City Upon a Hill. As the longest-serving mayor in Boston’s 383-year history, Menino has led Boston’s successful effort to reinvent itself during his 20-year tenure with passionate focus across a wide range of issues. As the detail-oriented “Urban Mechanic,” Menino’s most laudable accomplishments include efforts to reduce crime, repair infrastructure, foster diversity, and promote economic growth.
A CITY ON THE BRINK In the 1980s, Boston was nearly indistinguishable from other declining Northeast and Midwest manufacturing cities. Menino assumed office in 1993, the year Boston suffered its worst annual violent crime rate. Four decades of suburban migration had reduced the population to pre-1900 levels and urban blight was rampant in many Boston neighborhoods. These factors conspired to depress the tax base and limit business growth. Significant racial tensions from the court-mandated busing crisis still permeated the city. Finally, Boston faced economic uncertainty as it struggled to replace lost manufacturing jobs. Against this dire backdrop, Menino, then president of the Boston City Council, became Boston’s acting mayor in July 1993. Boston politicians respected Menino’s work on the City Council. However, as former Boston City councilman Larry DiCara told the HPR, “A lot of people were wondering whether he was up for the [mayoral] job. Most people [had] low expectations.” Political insiders were skeptical that Menino would succeed because Boston had never elected a councilman to serve as fulltime mayor. Beyond Boston’s political community, few
18 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
Bostonians outside Menino’s home neighborhood of Hyde Park knew Menino well. Defying these low expectations, Menino worked hard to gain enough support to be elected to a full mayoral term four months later. Once elected, DiCara noted, “He never looked back.” Reelected four times, Menino has never received less than 57 percent of the vote.
REINVENTING BOSTON One of Boston’s most pressing needs when Menino took office was crime reduction. Reverend Ray Hammond, chairman of the Ten Point Coalition—an organization dedicated to assisting troubled and at-risk Boston youth—explained to the HPR, “There was a lot of concern back then that the level of homicide was high and the ages of those involved were low.” Menino embraced the innovative strategy of community policing, bringing together police and neighborhood leaders to proactively deter crime. “When private civic sector and public sector work together, that’s a kind of wrap-around message that’s very powerful,” Hammond added. The pinnacle of these efforts was Operation Homefront, a 1998 program that encouraged police officers, teachers, and clergy to work with high-risk youth to encourage strong family ties and discourage criminal activity. Menino’s community policing strategies have helped reduce Boston’s violent crime rate by 50 percent since he took office. Beyond making neighborhoods safer, Menino helped revitalize Boston neighborhoods by redeveloping local infrastructure such as parks, community centers, and important thoroughfares. As Hammond described, “The infrastructure was crumbling and not being well cared for. It wasn’t clear where things were going in terms of bringing new life to the neighborhoods.” In response, Menino brought the Main Street Program to Boston in 1995, which helped Boston neighborhoods to rebuild their infrastructure while retaining their traditional charm and character. As Paul Grogan, president and CEO of The Boston Foundation, Boston’s largest community foundation, described to the HPR, “There’s now almost no physical blight [in Boston.] You almost have to hunt for physical blight in the city.” The program rehabilitated 10 neighborhoods in six years and has created over 1,100 new businesses. While working to rebuild the physical aspects of Boston’s neighborhoods, Menino also improved race relations and diversity in Boston. Praising Menino’s commitment to promote a multi-cultural city, Grogan explained to the HPR, “It’s just a different city now. The Mayor has been strongly in favor of diversity and openness.” Beyond racial and ethnic diversity, DiCara noted that “Menino has been way out in front on gay rights.” For example, after the president of Chick-fil-A publicly opposed same-sex marriage in 2012, Menino penned an open letter to the company’s president, urging him not to expand into Boston because the city is “full of pride for [its] support of same-sex marriage and [its] work to expand freedom to all people.” Finally, Menino’s policies have repositioned Boston’s economy. The economic recessions of the 1970s, racial violence, a national decline in manufacturing industries, and a ballot
measure that limited Boston’s ability to increase property taxes all contributed to Boston’s economic malaise in the 1970s and 1980s. However, starting in the late 1980s and continuing under Menino’s guidance, Boston successfully replaced its reliance on manufacturing with high-paying jobs in the burgeoning financial services, technology, and healthcare industries. DiCara, also a prominent Boston real estate lawyer, noted that Menino “has a very good working relationship with the business community.” In 2010, Menino created Boston’s Innovation District for hightech and scientific-oriented companies. Despite a weak national economy, the Innovation District has created over 5,000 new jobs.
BIG SHOES TO FILL When Menino departs City Hall in January, he will leave Boston in much better shape than when he took office. But while Menino has put Boston on a successful path, his successor, Marty Walsh, has the opportunity to build upon that progress. As Hammond noted, “There’s a sense that Boston has definitely made progress, but that the rate of progress has to be greater.” Walsh must maintain Boston’s fiscal stability by making prudent decisions regarding municipal expenses, including upcoming contract negotiations with public sector unions. As Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, explained to the HPR, “Menino will hand off a city in a relatively good financial position, but it wouldn’t take more than a couple of decisions in the next mayor’s term to turn that around.” Walsh must also continue Menino’s commitment to community revitalization, which has promoted job growth, leading to greater tax revenues. Further policies that promote racial and ethnic diversity will help raise tax revenues by creating a climate that encourages a broader range of people to move to Boston. Beyond fiscal stability, Walsh will need to sustain economic growth, but manage the new challenges such growth brings. As Boston’s economy continues to mature into a high-skill, innovation-based economy, the city must provide adequate education and training to ensure equal opportunities to all Bostonians. Boston’s economic reinvention has brought great wealth to the city, but has increased income inequality. The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality based on income disparities, is 24 percent higher in Suffolk County, where Boston is located, than the average for New England and 40 percent higher than the national average. Citing such inequality, Grogan explained, “The next mayor really has to worry about creating upward mobility and building a middle class that will stay in the city.” If residents believe they lack access to the Boston’s robust opportunities, they may leave the city. Without a doubt, Boston still has room to grow and improve. Nevertheless, as Mayor Menino completes his final term, Bostonians should not lose sight of the substantial progress he has led over the last two decades. Menino leaves the city in a position few would have imagined 20 years ago. Boston reinvented itself under Menino and his legacy will permeate Boston’s culture for decades to come.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 19
DISTASTEFUL ELECTIONS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN VOTERS DISAPPROVE OF BOTH CANDIDATES? John Pulice
he Virginia gubernatorial election is traditionally the first electoral check on a president’s term—it falls on the odd-numbered year following a presidential election. Since 1977, Virginia has elected a governor opposite the party of the sitting president in every election. The 2013 race broke this pattern. Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli began the campaign with a lead, but fell behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the later months of the campaign, ultimately losing on Election Day. In this campaign, both candidates had underwater approval ratings, resulting in a “distasteful election.” However, the Virginia gubernatorial election is not unique, even with its specific set of circumstances. Distasteful elections where voters dislike both candidates are on the rise in modern politics as a result of increasing political polarization, and the negativity of these campaigns only exacerbates its effects. Voters disengage from elections, and only the most negative messages from the candidates break through that apathy.
DISAPPROVAL ON ALL FRONTS The 2013 Virginia race is an outlier in recent Virginia politics. The past three governors—Bob McDonnell, Tim Kaine, and Mark Warner—all enjoyed high approval ratings upon their election. Yet in July 2013, approval/disapproval ratings for the gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe were at 32/47 and 34/36, respectively. This shift in Virginia politics raises questions over the broader implications of this distasteful election: are elections with two unpopular candidates on the rise? Disapproval ratings in American politics have reached record highs. An October Gallup poll found that both parties are at or near historic records: the favorable/unfavorable ratings for the Democratic Party and Republican Party were 43/49 and 28/62,
20 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
respectively. The same poll found that a mere 11 percent of Americans approve of Congress’ job. In the history of the Gallup poll surveying congressional approval rating, only once between the beginning of the poll in 1974 and 2007 did congressional approval fall below 20 percent: March 1992, at the tail-end of the early 1990s economic recession. Plummeting approval ratings cannot be attributed to a general decline in the public’s view of elected officials. Instead, Marc Hetherington, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, told the HPR, “Republicans and Democrats have basically a constant view of their own party, or maybe just a little bit less positive recently. But, what has really happened is they have a incredibly negative view of the other party.” The recent rise of distasteful elections has not been a consequence of disillusionment in politics, but rather a symptom of it. Political polarization has been the engine driving the high disapproval ratings. With the increasing polarization of the electorate, voters are less likely than ever to cross party lines and vote for an opposing party’s candidate. When voters dislike their own party’s candidate while enduring a barrage of negative ads about both candidates, they’re likely to disengage. John Brehm, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, told the HPR, “Voters would shut down. They’d be less interested in the campaign, less likely to be paying attention to the campaign.” As campaigns become more negative, voters disconnect from the electoral process and become numb to the campaign happening around them. Political polarization has become its own catalyst in modern electoral politics. As voters view the other party with more antipathy, disengagement with the political process grows when they dislike their own party’s candidate—they see no options. With this disengagement, voters are “less influenced by any positive signals, and much more likely to pick up negative in-
The 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race was yet another example of a modern day distasteful election.
formation,” said Brehm. The negative qualities of the campaign make voters solely receptive to negative messages, and what are already highly negative sentiments grow further, resulting in a discontented electorate.
THE DIFFICULT CHOICE: MOVING DOWN THE BALLOT A unique case of distasteful elections is the distasteful downticket election. The most obvious of these cases are senatorial and gubernatorial elections that fall in presidential election years. Because of the highly publicized nature of presidential elections, these races rarely overshadow the presidential election, and voters ultimately turn out. In effect, the presence of the presidential race forces voters to make a choice in the downballot election. How do these voters then behave? Voters react in a unique manner to down-ballot unpopularity. Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at University of Virginia told the HPR, “This is a polarized era, and by and large, voters stick with the party they identify with or lean to from top to bottom of the ballot.” This modern polarization means that voters are unlikely to cross their party affiliations, so downballot elections with unpopular options can experience voter fatigue. This phenomenon occurs when “a certain percentage of voters will vote for the top office and then skip some or all lower ballot offices,” explained Sabato. The 2012 election provides several clear cases of such voter fatigue. In Indiana in 2012, 2,624,534 votes were cast for president, but only 2,560,102 votes were cast for senator, a difference of 64,432, or nearly 2.5 percent of voters. Similarly, the Missouri 2012 elections had a difference of 43,700 between ballots cast for president and senator, or 1.6 percent of voters. It is difficult to attribute motive to voter fatigue, as similar
results can also occur in uncontested races, where taking the time to check the box could seem unnecessary. In Minnesota in 2012, 3.3 percent of people voting for president declined to cast a vote for senator. In this case, however, Sen. Amy Klobuchar was a heavy favorite and elected by a 35 percent margin. For comparison, the 2012 Massachusetts Senate election only had a difference of 11,214 out of 3,167,767 votes cast for president, or a mere 0.35 percent voter fatigue. Through these elections, we can discern the effect of disapproval on voter fatigue. Massachusetts provides a good example of a highly competitive Senate election where both candidates had high approval ratings, and voter fatigue was consequently low. In comparison, the Missouri and Indiana elections indicate a high level of distaste in the electorate. The elections were both highly contested and highly public in nature, so voter ambivalence as in the Minnesota case cannot explain the relatively high voter fatigue. Instead, the results point to a situation where voters declined to vote in down-ballot elections because of distasteful choices. Some voters chose to leave the ballot blank instead of voting for either their party’s unpopular choice or the opposition party’s candidate. The 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election is not unique in modern American politics. The distasteful nature of the election is not a special result of the two candidates; rather, the candidates’ qualities are indicative of modern political polarization. Polarization has caused voter disengagement with the political process; disengagement subsequently renders any positive political messages inaudible to voters, and the received negative messages reinforce said polarization. Action must be taken to reverse polarization or the political gridlock of the past few years will prove much more than a transient phase in our shared political history.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 21
THE SILICON VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT THE PROMISE AND PITFALLS OF COLLABORATION BETWEEN TECH STARTUPS AND POLICE Tom Silver
cott Crouch stands in front of the audience and describes his time with law enforcement task forces. He recalls his work in the field with police officers, doing ride-alongs and observing criminal activity, and with a rousing call to action, he vows to put an end to the crimes that he witnessed first-hand. But Crouch is not a police officer, detective, or law enforcement official of any kind; he is instead a 22 year-old entrepreneur who studied electrical engineering at Harvard. The people in his audience are not crime analysts, but rather aspiring entrepreneurs at the Harvard President’s Challenge Kickoff. Changing attitudes among tech entrepreneurs and law enforcers coupled with deep advances in technology are ushering in a new generation of crime-fighting startups, placing these engineers at the intersection of two previously disjoint fields.
22 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
CODERS TURNED COPS Crouch began researching law enforcement software in his junior year of college, after finding a dearth of startups addressing public safety issues. He tells the HPR that he found “software built off of old architectures, old service models, and old business models.” Further, he noticed that “no one [was] really doing much to advance law enforcement software from the entrepreneurial side of things.” Thus Crouch founded Mark43, a startup that develops software to help police officers track criminals. Mark43 recently secured $1.95 million from private investors, a sign of Silicon Valley’s optimism about these new companies. Crouch is one of only a handful of young entrepreneurs
working alongside public safety officials, but interest in the field is growing. On November 2, 2013, Harvard hosted a “public safety hackathon” sponsored by Evidence.com, a startup that helps police store and share criminal evidence within their departments. Tony Huang, one of their business development managers who graduated from Harvard in 2012, organized the hackathon to excite students about the growing applications of technology to law enforcement. He tells the HPR that his job allows him to “use technology to make the world a safer and better place.” To explain the recent emergence of these law enforcement startups, some cite increasing public frustration with crime response and prevention. Many identify gun violence—especially in the tragic cases of the Navy Yard, Sandy Hook, and Aurora shootings—as the impetus for their innovations. For example, after the Newton shooting, angel investors Ron Conway and Paul Graham were inspired to fund the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative, which financially incentivizes entrepreneurs to propose tech-based methods of preventing gun violence.
ENFORCERS TURNED ENTREPRENEURS The bridge between law enforcement and Silicon Valley is crossed in both directions. Some law enforcement officials are using their experience to create startups and inform innovation. Stacy Stephens began his career as a police officer near Dallas, Texas. He tells the HPR that he began his first foray into the world of entrepreneurship 10 years ago after “identifying areas in law enforcement [in] which technology could be utilized.” Stephens is now co-founder and VP of Marketing and Sales at Knightscope, a young startup seeking to use autonomous robots and big data analytics to improve surveillance. In developing new surveillance technology, Stephens’ training as a police officer gives him insights that traditionally trained engineers might lack. He told the HPR, “one of the very first things that they teach you [in a police academy] is about the use of force continuum. If you take an empty police car and put it on the side of the road, it immediately changes everyone’s behavior.” Stephens is designing surveillance robots built around this very principle. Launching a public safety startup without an experienced law enforcement official on board can prove challenging. Through his recent entrepreneurial endeavors, Crouch realized that “it’s not easy to break into law enforcement [when] you don’t have the experience of police officers out in the field.” Fortunately for entrepreneurs, public safety officials seem increasingly open to partnerships with technologists. Crouch describes law enforcement’s reception to Mark43 as “tremendous,” while Huang notes that Evidence.com has received similarly encouraging responses from the law enforcement community.
THE INSPECTOR’S GADGETS Though Mark43, Evidence.com, and Knightscope can all be characterized as law enforcement startups, these companies actually represent three main categories of tech-based approaches to law enforcement: predictive algorithms, streamlining software, and surveillance hardware. Effective predictive
algorithms, such as those developed by Mark43, rely on large amounts of accurate data. Before such data can be analyzed, however, it must be cataloged, organized, and stored. These tasks may sound straightforward, but aggregating data from hundreds of police officers who abide by a variety of protocols poses serious technical challenges, which companies like Evidence.com attempt to solve. Finally, startups like Knightscope are developing robotics-based digital surveillance options beyond traditional security cameras.
SPEED BUMPS AND ETHICAL BLOCKADES Despite the enthusiasm of students, entrepreneurs, and law enforcement officials, the road ahead is not without obstacles. The technical nightmares of the HealthCare.gov rollout and the public outcry over NSA Internet surveillance have left many civic-focused innovators bruised and skeptical. Huang also sees “a very high barrier to entering the technology space in government.” The sheer infancy of the field provides little direction to those hoping to start their own company. Moreover, many law enforcement startups are plagued by deeper practical and ethical challenges. Cloud-based software storing evidence and sensitive information can inspire security concerns. Police department databases have been targets of hacking in the past. The Honolulu Police Department in May 2013, the Boston Police Department in February 2012, and a host of others have all been victims of known successful attacks. In each instance, personal data was stolen, including credit card numbers, citizen complaints, and criminal information. A centralized database of evidence and personal information from a number of police departments would be an obvious target for hackers with similar motivations. Additionally, predictive crime algorithms have an array of associated concerns. First, the factors used to develop the algorithms could be ethically problematic. Possible inputs to the algorithm, such as race, age, or income, could inspire the same variety of controversies as New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” and Arizona’s SB 1070. Neighborhoods that statistically experience more crime would be deemed “hotspots” for criminal activity, potentially resulting in a disproportionate number of arrests. Finally, robots and other surveillance technology raise questions of privacy and ethics. A national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News in July 2013 found that 74 percent of Americans felt the NSA had violated their right to privacy. As the controversies surrounding the NSA continue, public sensitivity to governmental surveillance remains on the rise. In light of these concerns, entrepreneurs developing surveillance technology may find fundraising challenging and public support scarce. The ethical and practical concerns surrounding law enforcement startups are daunting, but they should be seen as a speed limit rather than a stop sign. The energy and enthusiasm expressed by entrepreneurs, investors, and law enforcement officials are sufficient to propel the field forward. Huang believes that “everything is really coming together” and hopes that events like the Harvard public safety hackathon will catalyze the process. If these trends continue, more students like Huang and Crouch will soon be spending time in the Silicon Valley Police Department.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 23
The Future of Iran What does President Rouhani’s election mean for diplomacy? Layla Stahr
n recent months, international attention on Iran has shifted from the usual fear and disapproval of its policies to an attitude of hopeful intrigue. In the months between President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June and the much-publicized phone call between Rouhani and President Obama on September 27, concerns over Iran seemed to subside. Iran has leapt into the spotlight once again now, and a lively debate has emerged over the possibility of a new Iran under Rouhani’s leadership. Ultimately, the change in Iran’s leadership does not necessarily indicate drastic changes in Iranian public opinion, but rather a diplomatic window of opportunity.
UNDERSTANDING ROUHANI Rouhani’s election June 14 was hailed as a victory for moderates and seemed to signal a move away from the global opposition of the previous era. Nicknamed the “diplomat sheik,” Rouhani won an election that suggested a major change in Iran’s foreign policy, which he affirmed through continual references to diplomacy in early August. At the United Nations, Rouhani addressed what he believed the Iranian people wanted in their new leader, stating, “The recent election in Iran represents a clear, living example of the wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation by the great people of Iran.” Rouhani possesses a diverse background of scholarly, religious, and political experience. In addition to his role as a cleric, he holds degrees from the University of Tehran and the Glasgow Caledonian University and served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from 1989 to 2005. He also participated in the Assembly of Experts, the Supreme Defense Council, Iran’s Armed Forces, the Center for Strategic Research, and the Expediency Council. Perhaps his most
24 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
The election of President Rouhani represents a diplomatic window of opportunity. discussed role, however, is that of chief nuclear negotiator for Iran from 2003 to 2005. According to Behnam Ben Taleblu, an expert on Iran, Rouhani is sometimes mislabeled as a reformist due to his past. “It is important not to conflate who Rouhani is with who we may want him to be,” Taleblu said. “When I look at President Rouhani, the traditional school I would equate him with is not the reformism of Khatami, but rather the classical conservative-pragmatism of the Rafsanjani era.” However, Taleblu emphasizes that “debates about Rouhani’s ‘moderation’ or ‘cunning’ might be missing the point— Rouhani is a well-educated bureaucrat who is acquainted with process and deliberations, as exhibited by his strong security-oriented resume.” Indeed, it seems that Rouhani’s ability to compromise, his experiences, and his scholarly background were emphasized during the election, as reflected by his campaign slogan of “moderation and wisdom.”
BETWEEN THE ELECTION AND THE CALL One of Rouhani’s first goals was to lessen international hostility aimed at Iran and enhance its global image. He articulated certain guidelines for such a discussion in an address to the Iranian Parliament in early August: “The only way for interaction with Iran is dialogue on an equal footing, confidence-building, and mutual respect as well as reducing antagonism and aggression.” Rouhani’s statement indicated hope of reconciliation with the U.S. and other Western nations to repair the relationship damaged by his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In an interview with the Washington Post, Rouhani stated that he hopes a compromise on nuclear issues will be reached within months rather than years. However, there seemed to be a standstill rather than a jump to action following Rouhani’s election. Obama and Rouhani did exchange letters, but the
stark contrast between Rouhani’s moderate policies and his predecessor’s aggression suggested that the reconciliation between the U.S. and Iran would be jumpstarted as soon as he assumed power. Though the progress may appear slow, the actions that have been taken have been major milestones. Dr. Payam Mohseni, a visiting professor at Harvard, explained, “The progress is already very fast. When Iran says it wants to solve this issue in six months to a year—that’s fast.” This progress is particularly drastic considering the long history of tension between the United States and Iran dating back as far as the coup of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953. The phone call between Obama and Rouhani marked the first time a U.S. President had spoken directly to an Iranian leader since 1979. Similarly, the meeting of Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was the first time in 30 years that Iranian and American dignitaries met in person. These moves seem to suggest that the reconciliation is meant to go beyond the rifts of the past eight years to repair decades of disagreement. In fact, Rouhani referenced U.S.-Iran relations in a news conference as “an old wound that needs to be … healed.”
PUTTING ACTIONS TO WORDS While the phone call was unquestionably a progressive move by both nations, this interaction only hinted at the major underlying sources of recent tension: Iran’s nuclear program and economic sanctions. American officials have asked for greater transparency to ensure the absence of nuclear weapons while Iranian leaders desire the removal of sanctions to bolster the economy. In fact, Iran seems open to the desired transparency, with Rouhani stating in his first news conference, “We are ready to show greater transparency and make clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s actions are totally within international frameworks.” However, a debate over the extent of Rouhani’s abilities to follow through with his statements has emerged. Mohseni suggested that the Ayatollah Khamenei has given Rouhani greater freedom so that he can test the origins of U.S.-Iran tension: “For many of the Iranian elite, particularly the Supreme Leader, the nuclear issue is not at the heart of the matter. The main issue is the Islamic Republic and the existence of the Islamic Republic— that the West is bent on regime change and it’s using the nuclear program as a means to impose pressure on Iran.” Mohseni suggests that failure to resolve tension and the nuclear issue may indicate deeper issues between the nations. Others, such as Taleblu, also agree that Rouhani has the power to make significant changes but believe that economic relief rather than an affirmation of beliefs is the key factor. Taleblu stated, “In short, Khamenei and the establishment also are coming to the table for sanctions relief.” In a recent address by Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Supreme Leader touted a concept called ‘heroic flexibility’ and likened Iranian diplomacy to wrestling—budging here and there, but “keeping your eyes on the prize.” Whether the prize in mind is economic relief or evidence of deeper issues, it seems that Rouhani has received approval to work towards a nuclear agreement. Approval of nuclear talks and reconciliation has not only
come from the rulers: the public has also supported Rouhani in his pursuit of diplomacy. Following his conversation with Obama, Rouhani set up an Internet poll to help quantify support for his actions. According to Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, director of the Roshan Center for Persian Studies, the poll showed immense support for Rouhani’s actions: “When [Rouhani] went back to Iran, he conducted an online poll, and close to 90 percent of Iranians responded overwhelming by saying that they wanted to normalize relations with the U.S.” Thus, it seems that Rouhani has the support of both the necessary leaders and the Iranian people to negotiate and cooperate with the United States on the nuclear issue.
A DELICATE FUTURE Iranians chose a new president with goals more in line with a greater proportion of the people, and now the process of reconciliation has begun. And while Iranian politics may seem fundamentally different, it is important to realize that the current situation is the result of the evolution of the Iranian government and the desires of the people rather than a sudden change. “It’s an evolving dynamic of where the regime is today, so it’s not suddenly a ‘new Iran,’” Mohseni added. “There is this new opportunity to reach out because of the way the forces are now aligned in Iran, but it is nothing new in the sense that this is a completely different system or country or population.” Mohseni stressed that we are dealing with “the same issues and questions” that existed before the revolution. But Rouhani’s goals and background seem to reveal a new opportunity for diplomacy. Rouhani will no doubt have pressure to deliver some indication of progress within the timeline he has created, says Taleblu. “At some point in his first year, if not in the coming months, the Rouhani administration will make a concerted push to work out a revised framework for nuclear negotiations and guide the talks in an active way that we have not seen since Rouhani was in charge of the nuclear file in the Supreme National Security Council,” Taleblu stated. But the changes under Rouhani cannot end with a nuclear agreement. Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, suggests that Rouhani needs to improve domestic conditions as well to enhance Iran’s global image. “More than anything, the Rouhani government needs to improve the human rights situation inside of Iran,” he told the HPR. Keshavarz hopes that the future will also bring a greater appreciation of Iranian culture and “humanize Iranian society.” Specifically, she cited the approximately 99 percent literacy rate of males and females between the ages of 15 and 25, the high university attendance rates of women, and the prevalence of bloggers in Iran. She believes that better understanding of the culture will enhance possibilities at reconciliation. The steps towards normalized U.S.-Iranian relations thus far have been momentous, and many hope that Rouhani’s policies will go beyond the nuclear talks to a lasting and effective nuclear agreement, an effort to eliminate domestic problems, and ultimately lead to a better understanding of the Iranian culture. While it is difficult to determine how much further the reconciliation process will go, there is no doubt that the current window of opportunity can lead to immense changes in Iran’s image and relationships with other nations.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 25
WHY THE PIRATES ARE(N’T) AT BAY Andrew Ma
ven as the Somalian pirate movie Captain Phillips receives rave reviews, airwaves that had been rife with Somali pirate stories are now strangely silent. At first glance, piracy in the once perilous Gulf of Eden seems to have gone AWOL as camera lenses refocus on land conflict between the Somali government and Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab. Tom Hanks’ intense portrayal of a heroic naval captain in the midst of the MV Maersk Alabama’s takedown seems to exemplify the U.S. mantra: we saw, we came, we sent troops. But, having bided their time during Somalia’s inclement monsoon season, the once-quiet seas are now seeing a rebirth of piracy, with two attacks on commercial ships this October alone. A closer look at the issue reveals that the multinational military suppression of pirates—so praised by the international community and idolized by Hollywood—fails to solve the true quandary at hand: state building within Somalia. Piracy, which at times seems like a peripheral issue, is in fact a telling indicator of the enormous challenges the region faces.
BEYOND PIRACY Somalia’s ongoing civil war, now in its 22nd year, has severely taxed the government’s ability to create accountable institutions. The situation is not an independent conflict of its own, but rather a symptom of political breakdown. Having started in the
26 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
early 1990s, piracy emerged from a combination of strong clan associations and a weak rule of law; in fact, piracy thrives mainly as a form of indirect political control—stable enough to provide a steady flow of illegal income, but weak enough to provide multiple options for legal evasion. Yet the rise of piracy is much more than a function of state structure. With rampant overfishing by other countries in the Gulf and a crowding out of employment on land, Somali fishermen and other unemployed youth began to see piracy as an increasingly legitimate alternative. Dr. Peter Lehr of the University of St. Andrews told the HPR of disturbing, quasi-imperialist elements of this narrative. “Piracy started as a self-defense system for fishermen against foreign trawlers that looked to capitalize and infringe on Somalia’s maritime advantages such as Bluefin tuna and lobster fishing,” he said. As a result, fishermen began learning to arm small boats and “defend themselves against these illegal trawlers.” One might argue that the countries that engaged in this predatory fishing in the first place—including the U.S., much of western Europe, and even some Asian powers—have some responsibility towards solving the issue. These nations must ultimately recognize that the task at hand requires a more nuanced solution than simply sending naval forces into the area. Unlike the developments of other business opportunities, the main problem with piracy’s reoccurrence is its co-optation of Somali
Societal beliefs in wealth redistribution as well as the fluidity between loosely associated clans have allowed piracy to maintain public support.
culture. Societal beliefs in wealth redistribution as well as the fluidity between loosely associated clans have allowed piracy to maintain public support. Pirates, returning with valuable goods and splitting them among a town, are often rendered not as criminals, but heroes. To be sure, the current economic incentives toward piracy are enormous. “There are many factors in Somali culture that make piracy a very legitimate choice,” said Dr. Anja Shortland of King’s College in London. “You can make a lot of profit, there’s an elastic labor market from which you can cheaply hire people to get into the boats and get very reasonable ransoms.” Shortland, who published a research paper on the use of satellite imaging to track the developmental benefits of piracy last January, posited that the entrenched nature of piracy had extended beyond Somali shores. “It’s not just about the guy in the boat. It’s about the hordes of unemployed people in Somalia, in the horn of Africa, that are looking to piracy as a way to make a living.” The core problem then, isn’t that pirates are heading out to sea. The problem is the lack of alternative choices that forces young men to drift in and out of illegal economies to put food on the table. A situation that puts these people in such a position and then calls for multinational efforts to resolve this problem not to the benefit of the Somalian people but rather to that of foreign naval shippers has proven grossly ineffective and perhaps demonizes pirates beyond a fair level.
THE UNSATISFACTORY INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE Ironically, the response to piracy has long been hailed as an unprecedented move of multi-lateral unity. But many fail to recognize why such unity exists. Countries that are not traditionally allies are only willing to agree on policies that economically benefit both sides: in this case, increasing anti-piracy patrolling operations. The lynchpin of these agreements does not turn on mutual interest for Somali security, but rather a selfish economic protection that fails to establish a long-term solution. Military experts such as Donna Hopkins, coordinator of Counter Piracy and Maritime Security under the U.S. Department of State, argue that the military aspects of the solution are strikingly uncomprehensive. “The military operations employed by the U.S. and other countries only comprise about 20 percent of the solution. The other 80 percent includes the capacitybuilding of Somalia and the construction of a legal system that establishes a real sense of justice in the country,” Hopkins told the HPR. She added that there are “strategic reasons” for why
we might coordinate with Somalia in the Indian Ocean that revolve around state-building as well. Diving deeper into the issue, we see that the very imperial powers that have weakened Somalia are only interested in its sovereignty insofar as it provides a safe artery for their own commercial cargo. This highly problematic paradigm is exactly what has delegitimized foreign intervention around the world as a front for ulterior motives. Due to these efforts, the number of pirate attacks has dropped from 151 in 2009 to just 11 this year. But the facts and figures tell a Disney movie-like story. Pirate attacks have dropped sharply with the implementation of Task Force 151 and Operation Atalanta, two of the primary naval efforts at stopping the problem dead in the water. Whether this ending is favorable or not depends on where you end the story. Many fail to recognize the staggering ratio we spend to the amount we save: almost $18 billion in private military contractors and naval efforts versus the $50-100 million in ransom monies that pirates bring in every year. And even with billions of dollars being poured into the Gulf of Aden, the internal affairs of the Somali state have not received nearly as much support. The willingness to curb the results of a problem, rather than to reform the problematic government that gives it life, is troublesome to say the least. Increasing engagement with societal reform within the Somalian presidency may yield hope for Somalia’s future. In a conversation with His Excellency Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and spokesperson Abdirahman Omar Osman, the president of Somalia told the HPR of tightening efforts against piracy and other internal problems. “My government believes that the best way to deal with piracy is to address the root causes of piracy, which are poverty, lawlessness, lack of opportunities for our young people, and lack of functioning institutions,” he said. “There are traces of success, but it’s limited. This is an enormous task that our government currently does not have the resources to deal with,” Mohamoud said, attaching an ominous condition to what otherwise seemed optimistic. And in dealing with these issues, multinational unity in naval patrolling does decidedly little. It does not alleviate the core problems of the government, it does not build sustainable economic opportunities for Somalis, and it certainly does not dispel widespread antagonism and mistrust of foreign “aid.” So whether the United States decides to shift focus from firepower to human capital is a question that remains to be answered, both eagerly and desperately awaited by people who have been disappointed for decades.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 27
BEYOND THE HEAVENLY PALACE
CHINA’S FUTURE IN SPACE
ne of the more interesting, if underreported, elements of China’s recent rise is its development of a sophisticated domestic space program. While China’s history in space goes back to the 1970 launch of their first satellite Dong Fang Hong I (“The East is Red I”), the most politically significant phase of the program began in 2003 when the Shenzou 5 (“Divine Vessel 5”) spacecraft carried Yang Liwei into Earth’s orbit, making China only the third nation to accomplish such a feat. Chinese space successes continued throughout the next 10 years, as China demonstrated capabilities such as spacewalks, orbital rendezvous and docking with the basic space station Tiangong-1 (“Heavenly Palace-1”), and unmanned Chang’e probes (named for a goddess of the moon) to lunar orbit and an asteroid. At the time of this magazine’s publication, China will likely have launched the Chang’e 3 probe, which aims to be the first lunar lander since the USSR’s Luna 24 in 1976. In the medium term, China has publicly announced its focus on building a modular space station (an incomplete version of which is visited by Sandra Bullock in Gravity) at some point before 2024.
28 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
Chinese officials have further speculated that a manned lunar landing could take place a few years after the station is complete, but delays with the Long March 5 rocket intended to ferry the parts needed for the station and landing missions—as well as the secrecy surrounding space and military projects in the People’s Republic—have made precise projections for the future difficult for foreign observers. The trajectory of Chinese space exploration is certainly impressive, but the question as to the CCP’s ultimate goal from all of this investment still remains.
THE ASIAN SPACE RACE Perhaps part of the reason is economic. Dr. Gregory Kulacki of the Union of Concerned Scientists believes that the highprofile missions described above are just a small part of China’s drive towards a “comprehensive” space program; satellite systems for communication, navigation, and observation are a crucial part of the modern economy, and China sees a strategic value in having the domestic capacity to provide these things for
itself and to offer launch services to trading partners. Space tech is also famously “dual-use”: advances in rocketry needed to put a probe in orbit around the moon can be put to use in crafting more effective ICBMs, while the skills used to control probes in deep space can be used to improve systems for monitoring infrastructure and for developing more precise weapons systems. The role of space exploration in advancing economic development and in creating proprietary military technology is clear, but the value in starting a manned space program from scratch is less so. As Dr. Dwight Perkins, professor emeritus and former director of the Harvard University Asia Center points out, much of the technology necessary for a Gemini-level program has already been developed and is readily available for use on Earth; the value of the “spin-offs” that China could receive from basic manned spaceflight would be largely in marginal improvements to existing ideas. It seems that working with Russia on more advanced future spacecraft, as Canada, Japan, and Europe currently do with the U.S. and Russia on the International Space Station, would be both more cost-effective and more likely to produce major advancements than going it alone, but China seems determined to continue on its current path. This suggests that the rationale for China goes further than basic economic considerations. The last time a manned space program was launched was at the height of the Cold War in 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and astronaut Alan Shepard briefly escaped the surly bonds of Earth. For both the United States and the Soviet Union, international prestige was on the line; is it possible a similar dynamic is at play today? If it is, Dr. Perkins argues, the competitor is not an existing space power like the United States. The U.S. and Russia achieved all the milestones China has achieved decades ago, and both have the technical capacity, if not the budget or will, to make it to the moon before the Chinese can. Instead, Perkins believes, the target is the developing world: countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America over which China seeks to exert influence. Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on space security and a professor at both the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard, told the HPR that some of the most profound impacts of China’s investment in space have been in the developing world. India, which had long argued that space exploration was a hobby for rich nations, has turned its sights upwards as well after watching China’s success. India’s first lunar orbiter ended its mission in 2009, and on November 5 of this year, India launched a probe to Mars. Finally, the nation is currently in the planning stages for a manned orbital mission. With North Korea
launching its first satellite last year, followed this year by South Korea’s launch of a rocket co-developed with Russia, and Japan increasing its own already substantial domestic space efforts, Johnson-Freese sees the makings of an “Asian Space Race”
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK Despite this apparent emphasis on influencing the developing world, Marvin Kalb, professor emeritus at the Harvard Kennedy School and former CBS Moscow bureau chief, argues that China’s message to Russia and the United States should not be ignored. By entering a club that had previously been reserved for superpowers, China is declaring its international “big boy” status. Johnson-Freese makes note of this as well: the 2008 Olympics were China’s “coming out party” as a world power, and a moon landing could be the “capstone” that might grant them superpower status. If even a small part of China’s goal in space is to send a message to the United States, it is important to examine how America is responding to that message. The general consensus is: not particularly well. Beginning in 1989 with the post-Tiananmen sanctions, the United States has had limited cooperation with China in space. Championed by longtime Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), legal restrictions on NASA-China interactions have been primarily motivated by concerns over human rights violations and secondarily by fears of China adapting NASA technology for military use. While both Drs. Kulacki and Johnson-Freese agree that issues regarding technology transfers should be considered, the overall effect of the restrictions is, in the words of Johnson-Freese, to “shoot ourselves in the foot”. Dr. Kulacki argues that the space sanctions effectively punish the wrong people. According to him, the Chinese Communist Party—which often justifies the ire of Congressman Wolf—gains limited domestic propaganda value from space because the high political costs of failure dissuade it from making space central to its legitimacy. The complete shut-out of China from U.S. space efforts instead punishes Chinese space scientists who might otherwise work in tandem with scientists in the United States. By blocking them out, we are “risking the opportunity to gain new friends” within China. A healthy sense of both competition and cooperation in space with China over the next few decades will no doubt revitalize the United States’ space policy, but the last thing America needs is a generation of Chinese rocket scientists with a bone to pick.
The role of space exploration in advancing economic development and in creating proprietary military technology is clear, but the value in starting a manned space program from scratch is less so.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 29
THE RISE OF BANKSY THE RENAISSANCE OF POLITICAL STREET ART Emily Wang
ET BANKSY!” the front page of the New York Post declared, announcing that the New York Police Department had commenced a hunt for the “vandal.” Though the reports of the manhunt for the famed graffiti artist were debunked by Mayor Bloomberg, the headline offers a telling portrait of the tension between street art’s status as an act of vandalism and as a democratic art form. A champion of the “broken windows” theory, Bloomberg criticized Banksy’s presence in New York, saying in a news conference that graffiti is
30 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
“not my definition of art” and, more abstractly, is “a sign of decay and lost control.” In spite of Bloomberg’s remarks on the artistry of graffiti— or lack thereof—the general public seems to disagree: Banksy enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful contemporary street artists. The unparalleled accessibility of the medium has driven the rising democratization of art: artists ranging from Bansky to Mark Jenkins are eschewing museums in favor of the streets.
BOOKS & ARTS
Indeed, at its heart, street art challenges the notion of control and authority. As a medium, the genre deconstructs the confines of “high art,” choosing instead to occupy a space that creates a physical division between the art itself and the institutions it critiques. And from the contrarian underpinnings of the art style emerges a genre rife with sociopolitical commentary.
THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF DISCOURSE Banksy’s recent residency in New York, titled “Better Out than In,” typifies street art’s growing appeal to the general population, an appeal that has emerged as a consequence of the genre’s commitment to increasing the visibility of art. On his website, Banksy cheekily appropriates Cézanne’s statement that “[a]ll pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside.” For street artists, “outside” is more than a physical realm: “outside” is the realm of accessibility, a space where the topics broached by street art can be freely discussed. Maurice Magaña, a visiting scholar at the Institute of American Cultures who studied political street art in Mexico, noted that the genre has facilitated greater participation in political discourse. “You don’t have to be a political or social elite to produce street art. You don’t have the same type of gatekeeping that you have with other types of art,” Magaña explained to the HPR. And the democratization of discourse extends beyond the production of art. “The scope of the people who are going to encounter [the work] is exponentially greater when it’s done in a public space,” Magaña added. By spatially incorporating the politicized content of street art into the everyday lives of viewers, the medium transforms all viewers into active participants. The genre’s popular appeal resides in its unique ability to deliver social and political criticism. With its urban grit, the medium’s inherently subversive quality empowers artists like Bansky to embed activist messages within their work. In 2010, Gabriel Specter, a New York-based artist, created a series of billboards addressing the gentrification of Brooklyn. “A Nightmare on the Atlantic!” advertised one of Specter’s pieces. “Starring Eminent Domain.” These billboards, placed within Brooklyn, shared wall space with other graffiti, the supposed signs of “decay and lost control.” Yet the subject of Specter’s criticism was not the neighboring graffiti but the socioeconomic forces driving the gentrification of Brooklyn. For street art, the setting is inseparable from the content itself. By physically integrating itself into the community, street art also enters into the community discourse, creating a sense of direct relevance unparalleled by art hung on museum walls. The democratizing effect of street art extends beyond its physical accessibility: historically, the genre has also served as a venue for marginalized voices. Street art traces its historical roots to urban graffiti and hip-hop counterculture. In a conversation with the HPR, Laurence Ralph, professor of African American studies and anthropology at Harvard, explained that the street art of today is an extension of graffiti art. Its heavily politicized content is a direct consequence of graffiti’s status as “a product from people in marginalized positions who have tried to express themselves and find a voice,” Ralph claimed. “Like rap music, street art retains its political context … graffiti is not
necessarily political, but it will always have the potential to be.”
THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF STREET ART Paradoxically, the popular, accessible appeal that characterizes the genre has ushered street art into precisely the same consumerist culture it attempts to critique. Banksy’s installations, including a smashed cinderblock reinterpretation of the Egyptian Sphinx, have been hauled off to be sold on lucrative art markets. His piece “Keep it Spotless” was auctioned off at Sotheby’s for upwards of $1.8 million. The wall paintings that have remained in their original locations have become tourist destinations for fans of the artist. More damningly, major corporations like Nike are increasingly turning to artists like Eric Haze (also known as SE3) to produce branding and marketing campaigns. And Shepard Fairey, famed creator of Obama’s “HOPE” poster, founded the commercially successful clothing line OBEY based off of his art. In a bizarre twist of fate, these artists have financially capitalized on their artwork, pairing with corporations despite the genre’s traditionally anti-corporate stance. The increasing commercial viability of street art suggests a disruption of the fine balance between the genre’s role as a popular voice and its contrarian identity. Fundamentally, street art is art for the people; arguably, commercial success broadens the reach of the genre and amplifies the sociopolitical commentary it provides. Yet the increasingly ubiquitous appeal of contemporary street art—and the recent bids to capitalize on this appeal—threatens to compromise the integrity of street art’s message. “I think that as this art is co-opted by the capitalist system—this does soften the edges,” Magaña hypothesized. “The more that people are used to seeing these images being used to sell products … the more this detracts from the impact that the art would have otherwise. But at the same time, it’s also exposing more people to legitimize the art form itself.” Perhaps the rising popularity of street art suggests its induction into the popular canon. Even if the current iteration of high-profile graffiti loses its subversive edge, the medium itself and the criticism it offers will likely remain relevant for decades to come. “There will still be art that people will use to express themselves politically,” Ralph stated. “The graffiti of the ’80s looks nothing like Banksy.” Stylistically, the genre has evolved and will continue to evolve as an art form, but its cultural significance as a medium for marginalized voices and its unique ability to interact with the general public will likely remain constant. Though currently, the street art scene is dominated by Banksy and his contemporaries, change is forthcoming. In part, this is inevitable—as a medium, graffiti art is inherently dynamic and highly responsive to the physical and political contexts it emerges from. Moreover, the rising popularity of Banksy’s brand of street art foreshadows yet another stage in the evolution of the medium. “A generation from now, there will be something different,” Ralph claimed, predicting that “the graffiti of our generation will become high-class art, just like Basquiat has ascended to the realm of high art.” The commercial success of contemporary street artists suggests that as Banksy moves from the streets to Sotheby’s, new artists, new styles, and new voices of dissent will emerge to populate the space.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 31
BOOKS & ARTS
TOO MUCH INFORMATION SELF-MARKETING AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF DATA Nancy Ko
orey Ann had had enough. In a recent Huffington Post diatribe, the Ohio-based wedding photographer pointed out his experiences with wedding guests whose camera flashes disrupted his own professional photography. Such frustrations, presumably shared by many such photographers, led Ann to call for “unplugged weddings.” But these guest photographers’ over-eagerness bears evidence of a deeper frustration about photography and social broadcasting today. The obsession with recording, editing, and broadcasting every worthy moment of the modern life has created a troublesome dual reality: the physical world in which we exist, and the digital world in which we live.
THE APPEAL OF SOCIAL MEDIA In literary icon Susan Sontag’s well-known critique On Photography, she observed that while “Mallarmé said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book … today everything exists to end in a photograph.” What Sontag writes about photography can just as well be applied to social media; both activities record events, though social media has the added power of broadcasting such events. Indeed, both the proliferation of the printing press in early modern Europe and the advent of social media and public rating systems today has left the world unsure of how it should cope with unprecedented levels of information and accessibility. We have, for lack of a better option, increasingly integrated our lives with technology. But what exactly is the appeal of photography—and, today, of social media—that allows us to so readily supplement our realities with records of our realities? Sontag writes that the “photographic enterprise” gives us the illusion that we can “hold
32 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
the whole world in our heads—as an anthology of images.” It is important to note here that Sontag speaks not of photography in its highest form but of photography insofar as it acts as a mass art, accessible to all. The allure of photography lies in the feeling that photography is control. This sense of control is reflected also in social media. A May 2013 Pew Research Center study found that of teens who use social media, 59 percent deleted something they had previously posted, 53 percent deleted comments others made to their profile page, and 45 percent untagged photos of themselves. The study stated that teens take significant steps to “shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know.” With the illusion of control social media affords us, we can create perfect images of ourselves and then posit that these images are reality. Facebook profiles suggest just that: the walls of your friends are complete profiles of who they are. Yet creating statuses, posting certain photos and not others, and generating “likes” all contribute to the fabrication of an identity that is inherently an incomplete, if more desirable, representation of the self.
ARE WE ALL POLE DANCING ON THE INTERNET? Fashion photographer Richard Avedon said, “I often feel that people come to be photographed as they would go to a doctor or fortune teller: to find out how they are.” Social media can pervert this desire into an obsession of editing who we are perceived to be. Yet the act of broadcasting reveals another source of appeal: that of public approval. Sontag writes that the photo is itself a judgment, that to take a photo is to ask others to judge its con-
BOOKS & ARTS
tent. Social media, via Facebook “likes” or shares or page views, has gone further by collecting these judgments en masse, both creating and feeding a collective social anxiety towards public approval. To this end, participants in the May 2013 Pew study reported that “Facebook is a challenging space because so many others are there and watching and judging.” As a result, “looking good— physically and reputationally [sic]—is a big deal.” The impetus behind controlling and broadcasting a pseudo-reality of the self is the pressure to create an appealing self-portrait that others will applaud. The emergence of the “selfie” as the ultimate form of social photography is more evidence for this need to appeal to others. In a recent New York Times piece entitled “My Selfie, Myself,” Jenna Wortham described the selfie as “the perfect preoccupation for our Internet-saturated time, a ready-made platform to record and post our lives where others can see and experience them.” Because selfies give the photographer control over the creation and broadcasting of his own portrayal, they are really just the latest, and perhaps most democratic, form of advertising. Sasha Weiss’s New Yorker article, “We Are All Pole Dancing on the Internet,” shows how this trend has shaped the very public online presence of Edward Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. In puzzling contrast to Snowden’s withdrawn temperament, Mills posted several photos meant to portray a certain Lindsay Mills. In one photo she poses in her underwear, one hiking boot, and one high heeled shoe, with the caption “wild + refined #selfportrait.” That we should be so paranoid about private surveillance and yet so willing to broadcast ourselves says something more complex than just that we value privacy. We struggle to at once protect our identities and promote our self-portraits.
SUPER SAD TRUTH? The illusion that social media projects reality, and the fact that it does not, is even more troublesome given that interactions via social media tend to be superficial. The Pew study found that while 89 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls share photos of themselves via social media, only 26 percent of boys and 14
percent of girls share phone numbers on social media. The desire to project ourselves and participate in digital voyeurism, and our simultaneous unwillingness to connect with those who applaud us is a troubling testament to the superficiality of social media. Here, we see the timelessness of Sontag’s criticism; “Photography, which has so many narcissistic uses, is a powerful instrument for depersonalizing our relation to the world … It offers, in one easy, habit-forming activity, both participation and alienation in our own lives and those of others.” In his novel Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart illustrates a near-future world in which people define themselves by their “hotness” quotient and qualities such as physical attractiveness are quantified and prioritized. Such a world is becoming too easy to imagine. Channels of social media that aggrandize social hierarchy and superficiality reflect the anxiety of the times: we are too attuned to what others think of us. And yet, social media is here to stay. The question now is in what direction we will take it. Sontag wrote, “To collect photographs is to collect the world.” It is now our choice to determine whether the world we collect and share will be a meaningful one. Professor Dennis Tenen, a leader in the study of digital humanities at Columbia University, is optimistic about where social media can take us. “The problem with social media is that there is a critical mass concentrated in very few places: Facebook, Twitter … When this is the case, the user becomes the used.” If there are more efforts to inform users about the technology, and more diverse channels of social media, people will be more proactive about the means of social participation. “Through advocacy,” Tenen says, “people can become active and informed users of social media.” Despite the prominence of digital self-fashioning, social networks have the ability to democratize connections, the potential to share earnest nuggets of truth, the power to spread revolutionary ideas. Wortham suggests that even selfies can be an opportunity to share meaningful experiences as “a kind of visual diary, a way to mark our short existence … as proof that we were here.” We are, after all, human. We record and we reflect. But in between recording and editing our experiences, we must remember to live.
The desire to project ourselves and participate in digital voyeurism, and our simultaneous unwillingness to connect with those who applaud us is a troubling testament to the superficiality of social media.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 33
BOOKS & ARTS
THE SPIES OF NEW YORK Olivia Campbell Olivia Campbell
n the wake of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and the NSA surveillance scandal, it is clear that the front lines of the War on Terror are as domestic as they are foreign. Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America, an exposé by Pulitzer Prizewinning journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, lays bare the complexities of counterterrorism in modern America, the lengths to which the government will go to “get their man,” and the price we pay for our relative security. Interweaving the story of Najibullah Zazi, a home grown would-be terrorist, with a larger narrative on counterterrorism efforts in post-9/11 New York, Apuzzo and Goldman reveal the not-so-coordinated interagency efforts, questionable legal tactics, and the massive network of surveillance on Muslim New Yorkers that they argue the NYPD has been using for the last decade. Apuzzo and Goldman make their argument deftly, using a combination of witty prose and personal accounts that poignantly address the tradeoff between security and civil liberties facing America.
A BRAVE NEW INTELLIGENCE WORLD In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the worst attack since Pearl Harbor, the American security apparatus changed
34 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
philosophy; it was no longer enough to deal with threats as they appear—the best defense henceforth would need to be strong offense. Out of this mentality, the authors tell us, the NYPD Intelligence Unit, known as “Intel,” was born. Headed by former CIA analyst David Cohen and backed entirely by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Intel launched a broadbased intelligence operation, paying for informants (“rakers”) to report on mosques, Muslim-owned businesses, and Islamic student groups. “It is difficult to overstate the revolutionary nature of what Cohen … had created,” Apuzzo and Goldman write. “In a few short years, the NYPD—a force twice the size of the FBI—had gotten into the business of secretly assessing the religious and political views of US citizens, believed it was not constrained by jurisdictional boundaries, and viewed activities protected by the First Amendment as precursors to terrorism.” Intel, they argue, operated without federal or local oversight, adhered to loose legal guidelines, and, with a staff largely inexperienced in intelligence work, was drowning in subjective reports and thousands of files. The authors fault Intel with more than just potential First and Fourth Amendment violations, questioning its ineffectiveness altogether. The book’s witty and sometimes sarcastic prose describes a unit chronically incapable of acting appropriately on information or sharing leads with other agencies. Add to that a tense relationship with the New York branch of the FBI and the Joint Terrorist Task Force, and
BOOKS & ARTS
Intel, they argue, operated without federal or local oversight, adhered to loose legal guidelines, and ... was drowning in subjective reports and thousands of files. Intel’s effectiveness seems severely limited. The pursuit of Najibullah Zazi compounded the already dysfunctional relationship. Zazi was a Pakistani immigrant whose beliefs turned violent after the negative backlash against the Muslim community post-9/11. He and his co-conspirators trained under one of Osama bin Laden’s closest deputies and returned to the U.S. with the intent of orchestrating another attack on New York. After being alerted to the plot, the FBI and Intel butted heads, which allowed Zazi to enter the city with a bomb. Eventually paranoia led Zazi and his friends to abort their mission to blow up the subway system, flushing the contents of their bomb down the toilet instead. When a mishandled Intel informant warned Zazi that the police were after him, he fled back to his family in Denver, and broke down during an FBI interview, confessing everything. That was the only reason he was arrested for anything other than lying to the police. The case proves a central theme for Apuzzo and Goldman: more information and fewer rights, they argue, do not necessarily breed results. Intel’s network did not stop Zazi or wring a confession. And when put to the test a second time by the Times Square car bomber, it was a technical malfunction, not the NYPD, that prevented an explosion, and a concerned Muslim street vendor, not Intel, who noticed the smoking car.
THE TIDE OF SKEPTICISM Still, there are those who take Apuzzo and Goldman’s conclusions with a heavy grain of salt. In a Wall Street Journal review of the book, Gabriel Schoenfeld writes, “in the age of mass terrorism, even one successful attack is far too many” and for that reason “police work is measurable, in part, by the absence of the wrongdoing it aims to prevent.” On this metric, he believes, “the NYPD is clearly doing something right.” Michael Sheehan, the former deputy commissioner of counter terrorism for the NYPD and author of Crush the Cell, agrees and uses his own experience and interpretations of the War on Terror to extol Intel’s practices. This perspective is not a surprising one. In post-9/11 America, our default response to new counterterrorism methods is to applaud them. The sacrifices made by New York police and firefighters in our defense makes harsh criticism of their new efforts seem unfair, or as Schoenfield writes, “an injustice to New York’s Finest.” It is true that Apuzzo and Goldman’s conclusions could be seen as dismissive of the security that New York has benefitted from since 9/11. Their depiction of the NYPD, especially Intel, as bumbling wannabe spies is hardly in line with the fearless, patri-
otic images we typically associate with our police force. However, Apuzzo and Goldman correctly reject the post hoc ergo proctor hoc argument that a lack of successful attacks means the NYPD’s practices are both effective and acceptable. There is any number of reasons that a particular terrorist plot did not come to fruition, and while this should not belittle the tireless work done by law enforcement nationwide, neither is it accurate to blindly attribute to them all the success of our safety, especially in the face of such controversial tactics.
DRAWING THE LINE Still others find fault with Apuzzo and Goldman’s alarmist view of the unit. “In this account, at least [Intel], seem[s] clownish but relatively harmless,” writes New York Times reviewer Tara McKelvey. “One might conclude that if the police were better at recordkeeping and stayed away from pastry shops, the squad would be O.K. That hardly seems to be the point of the book, given its concern with civil liberties.” While McKelvey’s criticism, that Intel’s depiction as confused and uncoordinated renders them unthreatening, is a little unfair, it is true that at times Apuzzo and Goldman’s criticisms seem more personal or theatrical than practical. Almost an entire chapter is spent berating David Cohen’s career in the CIA, and the upstanding FBI agent that Apuzzo and Goldman champion seems dashingly attractive, with “a strong jaw and a full head of dark hair.” But the authors’ descriptive license should not be confused with the core of their argument. Their message, after all, is both clear and substantive: the investigation of mosques, student groups, businesses, and communities on the basis of their owners’ or members’ religious beliefs is not only morally questionable, but also potentially unconstitutional. Profiling people who speak Arabic or Pashto, who dress as observant Muslims, or who have ties to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, criticize the government, or in one notable case, praise the government—all activities protected by our First Amendment rights—raises real questions about the legitimacy of NYPD actions. That these tactics, the authors claim, do not even yield the results intended makes the offenses that much worse. More than ten years after 9/11, the day is coming when we must emerge from the murky gray zone in which we are currently operating, and draw a definitive line between the rights we are willing to give up for our safety, and those that are too precious to lose. Until that day arrives, however, the least we can ask is to be informed of the liberties our government is taking on our behalf. For most of us, reading Enemies Within is an excellent start to that.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 35
BOOKS & ARTS
art on demand the micro-publishers of reddit Olivia Zhu
ne of StoryTellerBob’s best works is a short story entitled “Ten Years.” In 7,000 words, the author grapples with the problem of what it might be like to relive a decade of one’s life, and the twist at the end is akin to what one might see in a Borges or Poe tale. Yet StoryTellerBob is no published author, and it is unlikely that any of his writing has made it into a bound book. In fact, nobody who reads “Ten Years” even knows StoryTellerBob’s real name. He is one of many novelty account holders on Reddit, a social news website known for how actively its users submit content and comment. Along with StoryTellerBob, users such as Poem_for_your_ sprog, Etch_A_Sketcher, illustratingReddit, and StoryAboutThisPost have proliferated and risen to prominence, their popularity driven in part by their humorous and talented responses to other users’ comments. However, the phenomenon of individuals earning fame and fortune on sites lacking attributions to realworld names or profiles contradicts what society would expect from artists and authors in search of recognition, especially considering that Reddit emphasizes anonymity and the protection of contributors’ privacy. These novelty account holders often appear to write, draw, sketch, and create for their own pleasure, sometimes to great acclaim and sometimes for no recognition at all. In an Internet forum rife with crude jokes, memes, and trolls, these individuals give the Reddit community a breath of literary air. So appreciative are Reddit users that these artists and writers are often “summoned” to a thread for the purpose of illustrating a point or adding artistic nuance. How interesting that the masses, surrounded by more easily digestible entertainment, would prefer to call out for art that is more poignant than the rest of the content on the site. A key question, then, arises: why do these artists produce unique and touching art for Reddit in the first place?
KARMA, GOLD, PAYPAL, AND THE MARKET The first motivation for artists depends on the fact that the
36 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
increased attention on these micro-publishers has brought with it increased social status and real-world profits. Reddit users show their appreciation for their peers’ comments by “upvoting” statements; each upvote accords the original commenter Reddit “karma,” a form of social currency that is valued highly by the site’s multifarious users. Artist Kevin Kuramura, who goes by the Reddit username Etch_A_Sketcher and produces work in his eponymous medium, told the HPR that “the thing about Reddit karma is that it’s a rough way of indicating how much you’ve made people happy or made them laugh,” a metric that is not necessarily accessed by artists who hang their work in galleries. The best novelty accounts, including StoryTellerBob and Shitty_ Watercolour, are also some of the top karma aggregators, and it appears that the account holders take pride in both their work and their karma points. Karma contributes far more than just pride, however. Reddit’s official virtual currency, Reddit gold, is purchased by users for one another in monthly units and affords individuals special access and benefits on the site. Users like AWildSketchAppeared have years worth of this currency, staying flush and gaining access to certain site privileges on others’ contributions. It appears that these artists and writers are the curbside caricaturists of the Internet, happy to exchange their artwork for virtual pay. Reddit certainly benefits, too, as these purchases are allowing them to cover their own costs. Other users have become savvier. Long before Reddit gold was introduced, StoryTellerBob had set up a PayPal account by which he could receive donations from other Redditors. To circumvent Reddit’s anti-solicitation rules, he privately-messages the PayPal links to fans, a clever way to be paid for the work he initially puts out for free. Additionally, Kuramura and other Redditors have their own storefronts on Redditgifts, a type of online marketplace; however, he notes that it’s “something that has been very low key,” and he only has sold about twenty preserved Etch-a-Sketch pieces. Reddit has nevertheless allowed Kuramura to access a client base for a “very specialized art form,” and he is looking forward to “expanding it a little more.”
BOOKS & ARTS
THE ARTISTS’ INCUBATOR In a way, Reddit serves as an ideal incubator for budding artists. User Shitty_Watercolour’s paintings were, at first, aptly described by his online moniker. Though British university student’s first few hundred paintings did not receive much notice, but his work eventually attracted a loyal following. “They got better and people liked them,” he told the HPR. “So that definitely inspired me to keep going.” Over the past year of the account’s existence, Shitty_Watercolour has had his artwork featured in various media publications—he is now a painter for the BBC. Most notably, his portrait of Barack Obama, painted during the president’s AskMeAnything thread in June, was hung in the campaign headquarters. Reddit was key to his success: “I would have stopped a long time ago if the paintings that I did weren’t well received on Reddit,” Shitty_Watercolour admits. StoryTellerBob has also used Reddit as a practice space for his work. “One of the reasons I’m writing short stories is that I'm just not a very experienced writer and there’s a lot of areas I'm not quite comfortable with,” he says. Given that he has been able to receive donations from the site’s users, Reddit also appears to be a useful space for StoryTellerBob to partially support himself through writing as he matures as a writer. Reddit serves as a particularly ideal space for these artists and writers, in part because spaces such as deviantART and LiveJournal are already saturated with creative individuals, some of who are highly skilled. Kuramura notes that a “motivating factor for producing work on Reddit is to improve oneself,” and “there have been a few accounts that have said they did this to keep doing more work,” an effective strategy for the budding artist. Moreover, he suggests that few professionals populate Reddit because established artists and writers “run the risk of devaluing [their] actual work” by placing pieces on the Internet for free.
It appears the novelty account holders are testing the waters here first before leaping into real publishing, and that new users may look to real-world successes like Shitty_Watercolour as role models. When asked if he plans to live off his paintings, he said, “I’m going to take them as far as they’ll go.” He is now thinking about illustrating books. Not only has Reddit allowed artists and writers to grow, but it has also served as a launch pad for budding creative professionals.
THE ACCESSIBILITY OF ART Reddit has allowed users to become patrons of art, supporting their favorite writers, painters, and sketchers via not only monetary donations, but also encouraging comments and upvotes. In a way, the platform has democratized creation: it has lowered the barriers for individuals exploring new techniques while allowing the masses to support them in smaller increments than what you might find on the Met’s donation circles. Users like StoryTellerBob, Etch_A_Sketcher, and others are, perhaps, most compelled to create by the community around them. As a result, they also attempt to return the generosity, not only in the form of their works, but also through philanthropy. Inspired by Shitty_Watercolour, who raised over six thousand dollars for charity by selling his paintings, Kuramura has also allowed donations to local charities in lieu of payment for his preserved Etch-a-Sketch pieces. It seems that the Reddit art community mirrors that of the real world in many ways, while cultivating and educating of a new crop of semi-professional creators. As a platform, it has served as a hotspot for talented amateur artists looking to grow— and has served several very well. Perhaps the StoryTellerBobs and Shitty_Watercolours of Reddit will soon become the David Foster Wallaces and Quentin Blakes of this generation, just crowdfunded by karma instead of patrons.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 37
BOOKS & ARTS
REUSE, RECYCLE, RINSE AND REPEAT
THE POWER OF GIFS AS AN ARTISTIC MEDIUM Anita Lo
don’t know why I never realized that my feelings of “when my friends try to get me to go out after I eat a big meal” could be so perfectly summarized by a repeated moving image of Ash, Misty, and Brock trying to roll Snorlax out of the road. I laugh, watch a few more loops, and scroll to the next post. I do not stop to wonder why this Pokemon scene, with its few choice words, elicited more emotion from me than when I watched the actual show. The June 15, 1987, specification by CompuServe Inc. says that the GIF “allows high-quality, high-resolution graphics to be displayed on a variety of graphics hardware” and refers to the GIF as “87a.” But given how quickly the Internet develops, it is a wonder that GIFs have not yet fallen into obsolescence. Unlike a video, it cannot support sound, and its color palette pales in comparison to JPG’s. The format’s spec was last updated in 1990. Things that were also last updated in 1990 include the original proposal for the World Wide Web and the Clean Air Act. And yet, the plethora of GIF-filled “What Should We Call Me” Tumblrs and otherwise banal BuzzFeed articles attests to the GIF’s incredible longevity.
AN INTERNET LINGUA FRANCA It seems that the GIF, as a medium, owes its success partly
38 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
to its accessibility. Websites like gifmaker.me and makeagif.com allow users to compose animated GIFs for free; an app called GifGrabber allows you to capture online video to convert into a GIF; for those with Photoshop, there are multitudes of how-to articles that generally consist of six or fewer steps. Unsurprisingly, animated GIF-makers range from serious artists to kids experimenting on a new computer. Their products are then usually uploaded and if they are lucky, shared. Online, the most common use of the GIF is as a vehicle for emotion, taking a scene where David Tennant of Doctor Who stares pitifully up at something in the pouring rain underneath a caption like, “When your friends hang out without you.” The GIF’s loop serves as its own emphasis, reiterating the emotion to the point of absurdity. We watch, absorb, empathize, and inexplicably laugh. In essence, the GIF survives not only because everyone can make one, but also because everyone can partake: it has the ability to draw us into some strangely eternal moment. Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg are the creators of Cinemagraphs, GIFs that are almost completely stationary save for a small detail—a fluttering hair, fabric waving in the wind, gleaming sequins. “Whatever that one thing is that is alive is what your eye is going to go to,” Beck explains. “You look, and you feel like you should look away, but then you can watch it, and you can watch it some more.”
BOOKS & ARTS
Unlike photos, she suggests, the realistically animated GIF suggests life in a picture that isn’t just pixelated flatness. The added repetition then further indulges our instinct to stare, almost like infants at a dangling mobile.
THE ART OF PARAPHRASING The ability of GIFs to provoke both laughter and voyeurism indicates another powerful feature: exaggeration. The short, unceasing loop can repeat “Oh my God Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white” until it calls to our minds not only the words in the scene, but also the bizarre effect of using this movie scene out of context, and more importantly, the unexpected appropriateness of this out-of-context appearance. An appropriated GIF is not only repetitive in its animation, but also serves as an amusing or thought-provoking echo of a previous work. So we find that many popular GIFs are indeed appropriations. Is it possible for GIFs to ascend to the level of “art” if GIFmakers simply borrow and tinker—if the “art” of GIF-making turns out to simply be the art of paraphrasing? Of course, GIFs are not simply stolen movie scenes. They take a certain amount of technical skill to create, and even after that, many take advantage of the additional flexibility to superimpose meme-like captions. From subtitling Doctor Who and Mean Girls GIF-sets to imposing the ever-edgy “In that moment, I swear we were infinite” over a flashing nebula, text on GIFs has added new levels of expression to the medium. (Even more amusing is the imposition of Nietzsche quotes over GIFs of Honey Boo-Boo.) GIF artists have gone as far as to jazz up classic works of art. Particularly notable are GIF modifications of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and M.C. Escher’s Relativity. The latter is more of a satire, showing a man tripping down an escalator imposed on one of the lithograph’s three staircases. There are multiple GIF edits of Starry Night, though, including ones that make the sky’s swirls come to life or cause the water to gently ripple. The final piece is no Van Gogh—but then, it really is. There remains an uneasy conclusion that as long as the editor contributes or re-contextualizes something, they may have created “real art.” Perhaps the Internet users who put scenes of badly-made infomercials together with text descriptions of awkward social situations exercise the same sort of artistic license as Duchamp did with his Fountain, a porcelain urinal inscribed with “R. Mutt,” which one critic described as having “created a new thought for that object.”
TOWARD ORIGINALITY Joseph Koerner, a professor of history of art and architecture at Harvard, explains that following Duchamp’s readymades, “the idea of being true to a medium was becoming more and more important.” “A painting is really just paint and a canvas,” he continues. “Artists traditionally would paint a bowl of fruit, which doesn’t
make obvious the medium; that’s when we have Jackson Pollock, whose paintings are simply paint and a canvas.” This progression from appropriation to reduction pushes for a more critical look at what exactly a medium as a medium, instead of a vehicle for content, is capable of. For GIFs, this suggests that the future of the medium lies somewhere outside mini re-creations of SpongeBob scenes. A more recent development is the growing popularity of a new GIF genre: ones that are purely GIFs, that only ever existed as GIFs. From Paolo Ceric’s hypnotic, writhing shapes to Skip Hursh’s bold and bright animations, GIF artists have also ventured into the territory of using a GIF’s repetitive movement for its own sake. This is a new take on an old medium, and forces the artist to use a loop but without drawing on the already existing power of other art pieces. Colin Raff, a Berlin-based artist and writer, runs a Tumblr on which he posts original GIFs that have been described as surreal, grotesque, and violent. He decided to use GIFs as an intermediate step between static art and short films, and discovered in it a medium that could combine the elements of an illustrated story, an animated short, and an exhibit. One of his particularly popular GIFs depicts a well-dressed man thrusting a wheel-like object into his face as a goat peeps in through the window. In the process, his eyes fall out. The entire black-and-white scene is, mildly put, disturbing. But as evidenced by the 12,000 notes and my own prolonged stare, it is bizarrely entrancing. As Beck suggested, perhaps we are drawn to the seemingly living movement in a picture. Perhaps in combination with something that so clearly should not be living, we find it difficult not to stare at its repeated movement. Indeed, Raff attributes the success of GIFs partly to the idea of perpetual motion. “Arguably, many don’t need to move,” Raff admits, “but so what? The possibility is available to the artist much like the arbitrary decision to add gouache to an ink drawing.” It is precisely this possibility that makes GIFs the source of so much creativity. The choice to enhance visual appeal with a movement that catches the eye and implies life is not an unforeseen one, especially if GIFs can extend this movement into perpetuity. It is this balance between a movement that is true to life, and the repetition that, in all its variations, reminds us that this moment is unnaturally suspended. Our inability to tear ourselves away from GIFs, then, is more than a product of procrastination; its very form rewards our continued attention. A GIF is at once lifelike and not; it suspends a movement in time but allows us to consume time by watching it over and over. Whether as an advanced emoticon or a particularly artful animation, the GIF stops time to replay a scene, drawing viewers from all recesses of the Internet. Its content is rarely never-before-seen, so its power depends mainly on its form’s ability to evoke a tension between repetition and the freezing of time. But unlike other types of media that strive to make you look again, GIFs make sure that you never stop looking.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 39
INTERVIEW: PETER HAMBY with Gavin Sullivan
Peter Hamby currently serves as a national political reporter for CNN Digital. Hamby was the network’s reporter-at-large during the 2012 election cycle.
There’s a common perception that Fox News is on the right, MSNBC on the left, and CNN somewhere in the middle. Have you seen the network responding to those attitudes? I think our response has been the natural, obvious one, which is, in a time of increasing polarization politically in the media, we are a news organization that has financial resources, and we are going to continue telling straight stories. We cover everyone all the time. We have people all over the world. I spent the last five years covering the Republican party in great detail, traveling all over the country. I’ve been at dozens of events around the country where I’m not just the only TV reporter but the only reporter there, covering a GOP event. And people ask, “Where’s Fox News? We watch Fox.” And I say, “Fox isn’t here, but we’re here. We’re covering you.” And I’m glad I work at a place that has that kind of financial muscle to cover the entire world. The only rational, logical answer to MSNBC and Fox News is to serve the market of people who want unfiltered, unbiased news, and I think we do that.
Is there anything you wish you could change about the current cable news landscape? It’s a challenge to be a 24-hour news channel because you just have to fill so much time. Again, we have the resources to do it. It’s not just cable, it’s the whole news cycle that is just so accelerated today. You could work for the Washington
40 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
Post, you could work for CNN, you could work for BuzzFeed. Because of Twitter, frankly, we sort of move at a much faster clip than we used to. So I could criticize cable news and say, “I wish we spent more time on stories and issues, doing a 10-minute piece instead of a two minute piece.” But the entire media is sort of moving in that direction. Again, this goes back to CNN’s resources. We’re a huge company. We’re profitable and we have lots of reporters. We have people covering the day-to-day, minute-to-minute news cycle, but we also have lots of reporters doing investigative stuff, step-back stuff. For instance, my beat is only political campaigns. That’s kind of a cool, narrow beat. A lot of people at news organizations who cover campaigns also have to cover Capitol Hill and the White House. Those are great things, but we have enough people that we can narrow down specifics. We have a really good technology, social media reporter. We also have really amazing Capitol Hill reporters. So I think we’re reacting appropriately to the changes in the news cycle.
How has your worked changed as online media platforms become much more prevalent? I wrote this paper last semester here about how Twitter is changing the political news system. And Ben Smith, who’s the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, made a really smart point. He was talking about the notion of a “day story,” like “Here’s what happened today on the campaign.” It’s a 1,200 word piece that was built for the front page of a newspaper. But people who are consuming their news on their iPhone, for instance, are reading it in a completely different format and processing information differently and, frankly, just looking for time to kill sometimes. If they’re waiting in line at Starbucks, do they have time, or the patience—I wish they did, but they don’t sometimes—to read a 1,500 word article about the alternative minimum tax? But they do have the patience for, perhaps, a “listicle” or “Five Takeaways from Hillary Clinton’s Speech Today”—that sort of easier way to process information on your phone. That doesn’t mean that stuff has to be dumb; it can be smart. I wrote a piece about Wendy Davis, who’s running for governor in Texas, a few weeks ago, and it was technically a listicle, like “Six Reasons Wendy Davis Can Win as a Democrat in Texas,” which is a little bit provocative because it’s a Republican state. That was a listicle, but it was full of research and interviews, and I got good feedback on it. I think the form of news has changed based on the device. This interview has been edited and condensed.
INTERVIEW: RANDI WEINGARTEN with Daniel Abarca I think if you increase equity within the system, you increase student achievement. When you start focusing on equity and try to create supportive environments for the kids who have the least, quality follows equity. Professionalism and collaboration are key ingredients in ensuring high quality. Teaching is pretty complicated; you need to focus on quality, equity, and fairness. We also want to make sure someone is supported when teaching. Instead of blaming teachers and focusing on testing, let’s provide them with the support they need.
If you were designing a teacher preparation and selection program, what would it look like? Randi Weingarten is President of the American Federation of Teachers.
What school districts do you see as models for improving American schools? We just created a prize called “Solution-Driven Unionism,” which is about not just recognizing good work, but encouraging risk-taking to try to do new things that we think are best practices for other schools. Thirty-nine public high schools have received this prize in New York. What we’ve seen in these schools is that they have an 80 to 90 percent graduation rate of African-American and Hispanic students, and 85 percent attend good colleges and stay in good colleges. Another example is the New Haven School system, which has been focused on improving public education for everyone in the neighborhood. The system focuses on turning schools around, preparing and supporting teachers, and giving them what they need, which all contributes to a safe environment. Our school system is not a failing system. We are not broken, but instead are in need of continuous improvement. I could go on and on about the school systems that are driving our country, but to drive improvement we need to include not just the Common Core, but also art and music, and address kids’ other social and emotional needs, while engaging parents in a collaborative way.
You recently gave an address on ‘reclaiming the promise of public education.’ Would your vision of a reclaimed public education system increase U.S. student achievement or equity within the system?
You need to do three things for teacher preparation. First, you need to have teachers who are immersed in and really know their content. You also need teachers with critical experience. Finally, you need on-the-job training. We have suggested that there be a law-like or medical-like process so that teachers across the country would actually have an assessment process they have before they enter the classroom so that they and school system would know that they have mastered their skills that they need to be competent and confident in teaching.
Sec. Duncan recently announced the NAEP scores, which overall had a slight uptick. You’ve been critical of the District of Columbia’s and Tennessee’s education policy, yet they were two of only three jurisdictions to have shown gains in both subjects and grade levels over the past two years. To what do you attribute those gains? Every time there is an increase, that’s good news. You need to remember where Tennessee and DC started—far below the others. It’s great they’ve had that kind of uptick. Their success is due to the resources they’ve put into the program. There are so many districts that are making real changes in what kids like to study and where they want to go to school. I’m critical because there has been a fixation on testing the point where kids don’t want to go to school and teachers can’t teach creativity. I’m thinking about problem-solving and critical thinking. Our job is how to help students not just to have a new body of knowledge, but to have real relationships with each other and how they become problem-solvers and critical thinkers. This interview has been edited and condensed.
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 41
INTERVIEW: SEN. EVAN BAYH with Richard He
Evan Bayh served as Governor of Indiana from 1986 to 1989 and Senator from Indiana from 1999 to 2011. He currently serves as co-chair of No Labels, an organization seeking to promote bipartisan cooperation and problem solving.
After the government shutdown, many people were pessimistic about the chances for bipartisanship in Washington. Could you explain how No Labels might be different from the conventional way people talk about this issue? Let me give you my thirty thousand foot take before I talk about No Labels. I will sort of describe myself as an anterior skeptic but I’m also optimistic. We’ve got ideological divisions in our society, but the divisions aren’t so deep that they can’t be reconciled. The problem is that several systemic things in our political process are dramatically exacerbating philosophical differences of opinion. In the House, it’s kind of obvious that the gerrymander has really affected the makeup of the chamber. For example,
42 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
last year around 1.2 to 1.4 million more Americans voted for Democratic candidates in the House of Representatives, but the Republicans have a 32-seat majority. And if the Democrats had their way, they’d do the same thing. In turn, Senators are looking at cases where mainstream Republicans lose to further-right candidates and they think to themselves, “Okay, if I compromise at all, I’ll get a primary challenge, or get challenged at my nominating convention.” Thus Republican senators much more reluctant to compromise. This is all made exponentially worse by the role of big money, following the Citizens United case. Take my home state of Indiana, for instance. Last year a six-term incumbent Republican Senator, Richard Lugar, was challenged in my state’s primary by a fellow named Richard Murdoch, who had only been a county official. And Murdoch beat him. That would have never happened before Citizens United, because Richard Murdoch wouldn’t have been able to raise any money. Instead, five to six million dollars flood into the state in negative ads against Dick Lugar by the Club for Growth, Freedom Works, and Heritage Action. So now we can turn to No Labels. On a micro level, we try to get the members of Congress to work together more, to get to know one another more. These people don’t spend any time together anymore outside of trying to defeat one another in elections. No Labels is actually trying to get them to focus on building working relationships, starting in areas where there may be some common ground so that they can get to know one another. On a macro level, No Labels is trying to motivate more moderates and more independents from both parties to participate in the political process—to take the political process back from the extremes. And so if you had more voters participating in primaries and in general elections, the kind of extreme behavior that we’re seeing right now that’s led to gridlock would be a lot less.
Could you expand on, at least at the micro level, some of those issues that you think maybe politicians on both sides might be able to agree on? Well they’ve got one thing passed already, which is the No Budget No Pay Act. For several years, Congress hadn’t even attempted to pass a budget. Most families have a budget; state and local governments have a budget, and when I was governor, I always introduced a budget every year. Congress even stopped trying. This initiative basically said if Congress doesn’t at least pass a budget, they’re not going to get paid. And so for the first
time in a long time, the House passed a budget right away. The Senate, which had stopped for the last three years, actually passed a budget. As it turns out, it took the threat of actually taking their compensation away to get them to do it, but it worked. It might have turned out that the No Budget No Pay legislation didn’t go far enough because it didn’t say that Congress actually had to pass a budget that the president signed. And so the house passed their budget and the senate passed their budget, and there haven’t even been even been committees to work the budget out. So, they did enough to make sure they got paid and then they stopped. Ultimately, the bipartisan muscle has atrophied. It’s got to be retrained, and that’s exactly what No Labels is attempting to do. You wouldn’t believe how infrequently the members of the Senate (and the House might be even worse) get together anymore. I was in the Senate for 12 years, and I can only think of three times other than purely ceremonial occasions when all 100 senators got together to debate something and actually listen to each other. It just does not happen. Literally, years go by without that happening. And it’s intentional. The leadership does not want the members to talk to one another because they’re afraid of losing control of them.
more affluent. Anybody making over $400,000 dollars as an individual and more than $450,000 as a couple is going to pay higher taxes, raised capital gains taxes, and a number of other taxes. But, we didn’t address at all, not even in any way, the growing cost of entitlements. And it’s the part of the budget that will really break the bank over the next 30 to 40 years. There’s one big asterisk I would give you and that is for last two or three years, the inflation rate for healthcare has been substantially lower. Regardless of the cause, this is going to be very important for Washington because if this is sustained over a longer period rather than a one-off temporary downturn, that could have profound implications for the long-term budget situation in the country. This interview has been edited and condensed.
You’ve publically voiced concerns about our growing debt problem and your state enjoyed its highest ever budget surplus under you governorship. Do you have any suggestions for fixing our national debt problem? Well, if it were easy, it would have been done. I think there are deep ideological differences about that. The path of least resistance, which I think would be very damaging to the country, would be to just keep borrowing money until the credit markets won’t let you do that anymore. Interest rates will go up and the value of your currency will decline rapidly, which would be deeply damaging to our nation. Just in broad terms, the most important thing you can do to get the country’s fiscal house in order is to grow the economy. It’s amazing how much more money comes into the federal treasury for even modest increases of economic growth. When businesses spend, they hire, and in turn consumers spend too. So there is more revenue from income taxes, sales taxes, et cetera… Secondly, just considering the budget and our fiscal situation from a static perspective, long-term entitlement reform is going to be vitally important. The irony of all this is that we’ve enacted the sequester, which is really just cutting discretionary spending, and we raised taxes in January on the
WINTER 2013 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW 43
ONE HARVARD Arjun Mody
The Harvard Campaign publicly launched a little less than two months ago, when the university announced that it would seek to raise $6.5 billion in what is primed to be the largest single fundraising effort in higher education to date. In addition to initiatives focused on financial aid, house renewal, and Harvard’s global impact, the campaign will see the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) relocate across the Charles River to Allston, allowing for a dramatic expansion. At the launch event in September, the university invited Bill Gates back to speak about his life since leaving Harvard. He was a fitting choice as the speaker for a capital campaign that is billed as Harvard’s bridge to the 21st century. By any account, Gates has been one of the most—if not the most—accomplished and influential engineers and entrepreneurs of our time, and perhaps of all time. Even more remarkable is the possibility that his technological legacy may still be dwarfed by the philanthropic work that has defined the last 15 years of his life. As a computer science concentrator, I’m supposed to be thrilled with what is truly an ambitious plan for the expansion of SEAS across the river. Harvard is finally taking the discipline of engineering seriously! It’s saying to schools like Stanford, MIT, and Carnegie Melon that Harvard will no longer be considered second to them in the engineering sciences, and that Harvard is as much a university of the 21st century as the four preceding it. One thing I can’t help wonder, however, is how moving SEAS to Allston furthers the cause of “One Harvard,” a concept often emphasized by Drew Faust. As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in our lives, the stakes around its use and pervasiveness grow exponentially. This past summer, I worked on privacy issues at a large technol-
44 HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW WINTER 2013
ogy company, and my work was informed as much by a sociology class I had taken about the intersection of law and science as my algorithms class. Schools like UC Berkeley even have a requirement specifically for computer science majors in which they must take a class that investigates the ethical or social implications of new technologies. Harvard has no equivalent (unless you count the Ethical Reasoning Gen Ed), though it is positioned exceptionally well to offer such courses. Given the challenges that the spatial separation of SEAS from the rest of campus will raise, Harvard must be ever mindful in emphasizing interdisciplinary academic work, especially between the engineering sciences and the humanities and social sciences. Students of SEAS must understand not just how their code compiles, but how their ideas are changing our social fabric. In the past decade, the Internet alone has altered the ways we discover information, participate in commercial transactions, and even socialize among own friends. Engaging critically with new technological possibilities is not simply a luxury of the academy; it is a necessary skill if the programmers shipping off to Silicon Valley are to impact our world in a positive way. Indeed, I am excited for the next generation of engineers who will study at Harvard in the new Allston facilities. At the same time, it is my sincere hope that Harvard renews and even strengthens its commitment to “One Harvard.” The move will surely require effort on the part of students, faculty, and administrators so that we don’t feel pigeonholed within our concentrations. After all, many of us came to Harvard in the first place because it offered unparalleled opportunities not just in the field of our own academic interests, but in most others as well.
Goi ngt oWi nt e rFor ma l s ? $ 2 3 9
$ 5 0
Amemor i alt oPr es i dentKennedy , t heI ns t i t ut eofPol i t i cshasasi t smi s s i ont o i ns pi r es t udent si nt oal i f eofpol i t i cs , publ i cs er vi ceandl eader s hi p.
TheI ns t i t ut eofPol i t i csatHar var dUni ver s i t y 79J FKSt r et|Cambr i dge, MA02138|( 617)4951360 F orevenmor ewayst obeapar toft heI OP , checkout :www. i op. har var d. edu