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EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Jeremy Orloff, Matt Varvaro MANAGING EDITOR Alex Clearfield ASSISTANT EDITORS Julia Allen Colette Andrei Ari Schaffer LAYOUT EDITOR Victoria Scordato
HEAD WRITER Rachel Cohen STAFF WRITERS Megan Augustine, Akshai Bhatnagar, Michael Bodner, Henry Chen, Virgil Doyle, Chris Dunnett, Cary Glynn, Peter Lee, Daniel Roettger, Chris Winer FACULTY ADVISOR Steven R. David Cover Art by Will Denton (‘12) and Victoria Scordato
The views expressed within this publication reflect the personal opinions of each article’s author and are not necessarily endorsed by JHU Politik or the Johns Hopkins University.
VOLUME XII, ISSUE IV OCTOBER 8th, 2012
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
WEEK IN REVIEW by Christopher P. Winer ‘14, Staff Writer MacArthur Foundation Adds New “Geniuses” During the last few weeks, the MacArthur Foundation has named 23 new “geniuses.” The MacArthur Fellowship awards $500,000 annually, no questions asked, in “Genius Grants” for each recipient to pursue ambitious projects. The foundation chooses its prizewinners by inviting an anonymous group of people to share their suggestions; a selection committee picks from those recommendations, and the foundation’s board of directors has the final say. This year’s winners include experts in fields such as pediatric surgery, plate tectonics, and analysis of property ownership among African Americans before and after emancipation. Six current faculty members at Johns Hopkins have received MacArthur grants: Professors Adam Riess, Peter Pronovost, Lisa Cooper, Kay Redfield Jamison, Geraldine Seydoux, and Allen Grossman. Hopkins’s finest join the nearly 900 people, including novelist David Foster Wallace and medical anthropologist Paul Farmer, who have received the grant since 1981.
Supreme Court Term Begins With Oil, Human Rights, and Corporate Liability On Monday, the October 2012 Supreme Court term began with arguments over whether the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 1789 law allowing noncitizens to sue in U.S. court over violations of international law, applies to modern wrongs committed overseas. The case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, was filed by Nigerian refugees claiming the Anglo-Dutch company aided and abetted the Nigerian government in carrying out human rights abuses. The Supreme Court initially took the case in February to discuss whether the alien tort law applies to corporations as well as individuals but ordered additional arguments to deliberate whether the law applies to overseas activities. Several justices warn that allowing for such liability might flood American courts with claims for acts unrelated to the U.S. and encourage foreign courts to judge U.S. corporations for actions outside their state. The decision is expected before July.
India Unleashes Foreign Investment India’s government further opened its economy by approving a plan to allow for more overseas investments in insurance and letting foreign investors into the pension sector. On Thursday, the cabinet raised the limit on foreign ownership of local insurance companies to 49% from 26%. The government also allowed overseas investors to own up to a 49% stake in domestic pensionfund managers for the first time. This free-market push follows India’s actions to allow for foreign participation in the retail, airline, and broadcasting industries. These actions give further credence to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s pledge to attract foreign capital after holding it at arm’s length for years. According to Rajeev Malik, an India-based economist with brokerage CLSA, these initiatives would have a positive effect on growth over the long-term but significant benefits will take time. PP
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
U.S. NEEDS A MORE REALISTIC JAPANESE DEFENSE POLICY by Christopher Dunnett ‘13, Staff Writer
irgil Doyle’s recent article, “Sino-Japanese Relations: A Call for U.S. Restraint,” succinctly explains the underlying domestic politics in China and Japan that have contributed to the troubling diplomatic row over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Doyle correctly points out that armed conflict over the sovereignty of the disputed islands is unlikely, and calls for restraint from American policymakers. However, the dispute is also reflective of broader power dynamics in the region, and is symptomatic of upcoming challenges to American interests and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s assertiveness over the islands is fueled in part by a shift in the general perception of their role in East Asia and around the globe. As the world’s second-largest economy, many believe that China’s military power is not yet commensurate with its economic strength. China’s potential military capabilities are threatening to some of its neighbors, especially Japan, which is a U.S. ally and has been suffering from economic stagnation for nearly 20 years. Japanese policymakers are constrained in their response to China’s regional rise. Japan’s post-WWII constitution is unique, with Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibiting the country from engaging in war. Written by Americans during their post-WWII occupation of Japan, the Japanese Constitution was constructed with the intention of checking the militaristic nationalism that many have cited as the cause of Japan’s entrance into WWII. Japan now maintains a security force called the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF), designed solely for defensive purposes. Article 9 remains widely popular in Japan, and the Japanese nationalists who triggered the current SinoJapanese conflict remain a vocal minority. However, North Korea’s recent provocations and engagement in the region have altered security perceptions among the Japanese political elite. As a result, the operational function of the SDF has expanded greatly in recent years, and Japanese security forces have participated in peacekeeping operations and provided logistical support for the Iraq mission. Open debate about constitutional revision and expanded responsibilities for the SDF was once considered highly taboo, but is now increasingly common among Japanese politicians. Conservative politicians have
also increasingly supported nationalistic sentiments and more overt remilitarization. The Japanese people—most political elites included—still remain faithful to the basic tenets of Article 9 in renouncing offense, even as they are willing to assume a more assertive defense posture. However, the current conflict over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is likely to invigorate the debate over the SDF and augment support for a more proactive regional defense policy. The United States should gently encourage Japanese policymakers to undertake greater security responsibilities in the region, even while respecting Article 9. The North Korean nuclear threat coupled with the uncertainty surrounding China’s increasing capabilities necessitates a more realistic defense posture from Japan. The SDF budget currently accounts for only 1% of Japan’s GDP. In the absence of Japanese support, the United States is left alone to singlehandedly provide regional stability and to reassure China’s neighbors during an uncertain time. For its part, China has maintained a pragmatic foreign policy and has aimed to alleviate fears of military aggression through bilateral and multilateral engagements. Unfortunately, as China’s economic growth has slowed down recently, the Chinese Communist Party has increasingly stirred up nationalistic feelings to bolster domestic legitimacy. This trend will undoubtedly add to the existing tensions in the region. Greater SDF multilateral security involvement is good for the region as a whole. It will provide stability and reconcile regional powers with the present balance of power. A more proactive Japan would save America time, money, and a political headache over any potential decision on how to engage in this pivotal region. This is true especially at a time when many Americans are worried about the budget deficit at home and overextended U.S. commitments abroad. It needs to be made clear through bilateral and multilateral institutions that increased Japanese military responsibilities are not intended to contain China, but rather to diminish uncertainty and enhance collective security in the region. The controversy over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands serves to highlight these imperatives. PP
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
THE COSTS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT by Rachel Cohen ‘14, Head Writer
olitary confinement is a form of imprisonment that goes by many names, ranging from “administrative segregation” to “disciplinary confinement” to “security housing.” All of these titles describe the practice of subjecting a prisoner to approximately 22-24 hours per day of isolated lockdown in a tiny cell. I am not going to focus on the moral implications of solitary confinement. Instead, I argue that we need to eliminate or greatly reduce the use of solitary confinement simply because it is far too expensive for our nation to afford, and because of its clear connection to an increased rate of recidivism when individuals are released back into society.
amounts of money, often without much oversight, to appear “tough” on security. One study, conducted by Jeffrey Ian Ross, a Research Fellow of the Center for International and Comparative Law, estimated that the average per-cell cost of housing an inmate in a supermax prison is $75,000, as opposed to $25,000 for an inmate in the general prison population. This is, in part, due to the higher staffing costs needed to monitor those in solitary confinement. Additionally, constructing supermax prisons is a very expensive endeavor; the construction costs, according to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, are two to three times more expensive than a maximum-security prison.
Contrary to popular belief, the practice of solitary confinement in the United States is not simply used for the most dangerous and threatening prisoners. It is estimated that over 80,000 prisoners are currently held in some form of solitary confinement, the majority of them having some sort of mental illness or cognitive disability. As of today, prisoners can be placed in indefinite isolation for months or years not only for violent acts, but also for ignoring orders, possessing contraband, testing positive for drug use, or even for using profanity. Many are children that are kept in solitary for “protection.” Many are gay or transgender, Muslim, or senior citizens. Many have reported rape by prison officials, and many are sentenced for questionable political or religious beliefs. In Virginia, for example, a group of Rastafarian men were placed in solitary confinement because they refused to cut their hair on religious grounds.
As state budget cuts are being applied across the country to education, healthcare, social programs, housing subsidies and more, we simply cannot afford to be spending such ridiculous sums of taxpayer money on solitary confinement units. This is especially true when research, like the study conducted in 2006 by the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, shows that solitary confinement has been found to cause serious psychological damage to inmates. Consequently, this psychological damage has been contributing to an increase in recidivism when individuals are released directly back into the general population.
If the use of solitary confinement were limited solely to the most treacherous and predatory of prisoners, then most supermax prisons—facilities designed solely to provide long-term, solitary confinement for inmates classified as the greatest threats to national and international security—would be relatively empty because there simply are not that many individuals in this extreme category. It is estimated, however, that at least 25,000 inmates are currently in supermax facilities. Because the federal government wants to avoid appearing “soft on crime,” we have been spending exorbitant
Some states are already leading the way to reform this expensive and unhelpful system. Recently, Mississippi has reduced the number of prisoners it holds in solitary from 1,000 to about 150, and it has closed down its supermax unit. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the reforms are saving Mississippi’s taxpayers an estimated $8 million per year. The financial costs attached to solitary confinement are clear and untenable. Even disregarding the shockingly high rates of suicide for prisoners in solitary confinement, and the fact that prisons have become the largest inpatient psychiatric centers over the past thirty years, we should work immediately to reduce the number of individuals in solitary confinement simply for the sheer economic savings it would bring—savings that we as a country greatly need. PP
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF CHINA’S TRADE POLICIES by Cameron Davis ‘16, Contributing Writer
hina’s trade practices have increasingly become one of this campaign season’s hottest topics for debate, and rightfully so; China’s trade practices significantly affect the American economy. Rather than allowing its currency to be set by supply and demand, China devalues the Yuan relative to the US dollar to make its exports more competitive among international markets. While offshoring of low-skill manufacturing jobs to China is not threatening to the United States economy, currency devaluation has a distorting effect that takes away economic opportunities in certain markets from the United States. The United States should take multilateral action to curb China’s unfair trade practices. Over the last few decades, China has become a bastion of low-skilled manufacturing. As this has happened, the United States has made a great transition: low-skilled manufacturing now composes a much smaller part of the economy, while more advanced manufacturing and services now make up most of it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Globalization and increased trade have improved standards of living significantly by allowing countries to specialize in what they produce at the lowest opportunity costs. China is very efficient at producing textiles and toys, for example. If China cut off from all trade and had to produce its own aircraft rather than buy it from the United States, it would have to divert many of its resources—land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship—from the production of toys and textiles. This would hurt the Chinese economy, which is less efficient at producing aircraft. Similarly, if the United States produced all of its toys and textiles, it would have to divert many of its resources from the production of aircraft, which would be incredibly wasteful as the U.S. could simply rely on China for those goods and stick to making what it’s best at. Trade is mutually beneficial because different countries have characteristics that make them better at producing different things. For China, that characteristic is a
lack of economic development relative to the United States, which allows for lower labor costs. For the United States, the characteristics that allow for efficient airplane production are an abundance of professionals highly educated in aeronautics and close proximity to steel production. Capitalizing on these characteristics creates greater economic growth. Consequently, it really is better to let some factory jobs go to China. In the short-run, it means people are out of jobs. However, with the right education, skills, and encouragement, those people can create new businesses and new jobs, utilizing their intellectual capacity and human capital to help America expand further into markets in which it has the comparative advantage. This would mean more efficient production, greater economic growth, and thus cheaper goods for Americans. While globalization and specialization induce economic growth, China’s devaluation of the Yuan has a distorting effect. Devaluation allows China to sell goods at relatively lower prices, and to appear more efficient at producing goods than it truly is. This takes away opportunities for the United States to create jobs and encourage economic growth in certain markets. There are both prudent and potentially harmful ways to address this issue. One idea is to impose countervailing trade restrictions, something that will discourage mutually beneficial trade. However, a better idea is to take a multilateral approach by asking the World Trade Organization (WTO) to take action. While America shouldn’t worry about certain jobs going to China, as this only points out differences in economic characteristics and strengths, one important issue it needs to address is that of China’s devaluation of the Yuan. This unfair practice distorts the otherwisepositive effects of globalization. Devaluation is allowing China’s production of goods to seem more efficient than it is in reality, and is consequently harming America’s economy. PP
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
U.S. MUST LOWER VOTING HURDLES by Charlie Aidinoff ‘13, Contributing Writer
he United States is facing an election of great importance in which a great number of its citizens will not participate. No more than 64% of the voting age population of the United States has voted in any election since 1960. These numbers are even lower when taking off-year and local elections into account.
seen clear apathy throughout portions of the electorate and a lack of faith in leaders because people do not feel connected to the process. There has not been enough of a downward trend to say that since 1960 these problems have become worse, but they remain important problems that threaten the strength of the country’s democratic make-up. In addition, this campaign season has seen attempts to create new It is easy to throw out numbers and act outraged, but obstructions to voting. Given the fact that there is a there is a very real problem here. We must ask our- major problem in this country, these laws are nothing selves what it means to live in a country in which but counterproductive. nearly half of all eligible voters do not take part in the electoral process in the most fundamental of Aside from opposing the new hurdles to voting, what ways. Further, we must ask ourselves if there are can be done? In this situation, it is best to look at othany solutions or whether this is a problem that is so er countries to find a better model. The vast majoringrained in American society that there is nothing ity of western countries would seriously question any that can be done. election with turnout below seventy percent. Fewer than 60% of all eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election; this apathy weakens American democracy. The problem is threefold. First, the very legitimacy of those elected is placed in question when less than a quarter of the eligible voters vote for the winning candidate. This is especially true in mid-term and local elections. Secondly, by implicitly demonstrating the lack of belief in the institutions of government, low turnout weakens these institutions. Finally, low voter turnout results in a weakening of the links between the general public and those who are supposed to represent them.
There is one key area in which a simple tweak would have the ability to change the way Americans vote. The first step is to do away with voter registration. More precisely, all Americans should be automatically registered to vote on their eighteenth birthday and a social security number should be the only thing required at the polls. I am not proposing a national ID card or anything that is anathema to most Americans. Rather, I am suggesting that we take a piece of identity that is common to all Americans and make it the means by which we open up the democratic process. Registering requires foresight and planning. There should be no more requirements or preconditions when deciding to vote than when deciding for whom to vote. Just as it is wrong to require someone to decide in advance who to vote for, so too, voters should not be required to decide in advance whether they will vote at all.
These three flaws are all intricately linked because a democratic institution that lacks legitimacy will be weakened, causing people to lose their faith in the “faceless” institutions of government. Institutions and leaders remain able to act regardless of how much of the electorate votes for them. It is their link and base of popular support that comes into question when citizens do not vote. There are other ways to get a greater voter turnout, but the fact remains that all Americans need to be able The questions of legitimacy and the perception of to vote and every effort should be made to streamline institutions lie at the heart of the problem. We have that process. PP
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: THE POLITICS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION by Geordan Edward Williams â€˜14, Contributing Writer
n June 15th, President Barack Obama passed an executive order that halts the deportation of young undocumented immigrants and allows these same immigrants, some 800,000 of whom are eligible, to apply for temporary work permits. On Monday, October 1st, Mitt Romney announced that if he enters the White House, he will end President Barack Obamaâ€™s executive order but will not reverse the work permits for the 82,000 who have already applied thus far. It is no coincidence that this order surfaced several months prior to the election, as both political animals, elephant and donkey, attempt to garner votes from the most rapidly growing demographic in the U.S: Latinos. It is also not new. In 2001, President Bush discussed granting amnesty to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and setting up a guest worker program demonstrating that immigration policy has been used as a political pawn for at least the last decade. Unfortunately, as political parties collide, those whom these policies affect - undocumented immigrants - are caught in the middle, since conflicting laws make the choice of leaving or staying incredibly ambiguous. June 15th, 2012 is the 30th anniversary of a crucial court decision in the history of undocumented immigrants: Plyler vs. Doe. This decision allows all undocumented students to receive a free primary and secondary education in the U.S. However, this does not extend to post-secondary education and, with the 1996 passage of both the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, undocumented students are denied in-state tuition or scholarships. Though these students may still legally attend a university, these dual laws effectively bar them from doing so. Since that time, weak resolve in the federal government means that most immigration policy is left to the states to decide. Hence, via legal loopholes, ten states such as Texas and Utah allow
undocumented students to receive in-state tuition, whereas Arizona and others explicitly deny such tuition grants. This is only an example of the larger ambiguities that have come to plague immigration policy. Favorable legislation towards undocumented immigrants - such as the IRCA that passed in 1986 and gave amnesty to three million immigrants - conflict with hostile legislation like the laws, infamously known as S.B. 1070 in Arizona or HB 56 in Alabama, that required law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of criminal suspects. These conflicting laws create an environment that is at once both hostile and friendly towards undocumented immigrants and leaves them in limbo. Yet, as long as there are no clear political victors, undocumented immigrants will always be the losers. As Washington continues to prioritize issues like the economy or medical care over immigration, agony echoes throughout the country. Every year, 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school but are unable to find work or attend a post-secondary institution. Many others never graduate since without hope of a career, there is little incentive to do so. In 2011, there were 397,000 deportations, of which 22% were parents of U.S. citizens. Some of these children leave with their parents while some 5,100 have ended up in foster care, unaware of when they will see their parents again. These are just some of the costs of ambiguity. We can no longer treat immigration policy as we do our dirty laundry and continue to make it a lower priority because we believe there is more important work to be done. Immigration policy reform can no longer wait, but must take a central role in this upcoming election and legislative year. PP
Volume XII, Issue IV
OCTOBER 8th, 2012
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The Politik Press, originally founded in 2008 as JHU Politik, is a weekly publication of political opinion pieces. We believe that progress comes from conversation and that every voice deserves to be heard. Our staff is made up of students with majors that range from political science to bio-molecular engineering. We seek out the best political writers on campus and regularly interview professors and graduate students. In many ways, the Homewood campus is a microcosm of the American political landscape. We find ourselves at a crossroads defined by students from across the country, professors with disparate political theories, and a city constantly confronting racial violence, political corruption and systemic economic problems. While we publish the Politik Press weekly, we work simultaneously on our special issues. These magazines confront a single topic from multiple angles. In 2011, with the Arab Spring fully underway, we interviewed five Hopkins professors whose expertise ranged from Archeology to US-Israeli relations, in order to provide some clarity on an immensely complex and constantly shifting situation. In 2012 we focused on the political issues of Baltimore, conducting interviews with professors and local politicians in order to shed light on the complexities of our schoolâ€™s relationship to our city. Possible topics for our next special issue include the politics of financial aid and student debt.
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