Volume XII, Issue I
SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
THE NEW SEMESTER A Letter from the Editors Dear loyal readers,
e are pleased to present this semester’s first issue of JHU Politik’s Politik Press. As in the past, we will seek out the opinions of students and professors from throughout the university and across the political spectrum. Everyone on our masthead is dedicated to making all of our publications the best that they can possibly be. This semester we will grow as an organization in order to bring new voices into the mix and to work collaboratively on this ever-changing project.
A publication of
JHU POLITIK jhupolitik.org
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, Michael Bodner, Virgil Doyle, Eric Feinberg, Cary Glynn, Daniel Roettger FACULTY ADVISOR Steven R. David
VOLUME XII, ISSUE I SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
This debate is critical in part because the world around us is in constant flux. The news from yesterday will likely seem dated and insignificant by tomorrow morning.
Even those who would like to pretend that politics can be ignored in day-to-day life are impacted by it all the same. It may be that the events unfolding in the Middle East this past week, with attacks targeting American diplomats and installations in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, hold the potential to push that region even further down the road towards chaos As Editors-in-Chief we are indebted to our immedi- and destruction. In a world growing ever smaller, a ate predecessors. Will Denton and Hannah Holliday moment of unrest in Benghazi could forever alter a worked tirelessly last year to update our format and life in Baltimore. our mission to better reflect the needs of the comEven closer to home, the unease with which this munity we serve. year’s graduating class will go into the workforce, As students we live in a hyper-political world. Our despite their superb education and unique skill sets, choices reflect our viewpoints whether we real- reflects decisions and mistakes made across the naize it or not. Everything we do, from the classes we tion – from the loftiest corridors of power to town take, the clothes we wear, and the questions we ask, halls, union meetings, and executive offices. makes a claim in this silent and unending debate. On the following pages you will find the opinions of The silence of this debate comes at times out of po- your classmates laid out clearly and without shame. liteness, but at others out of fear. The goal of JHU These pieces reflect the original insights of their Politik is to bring all of this to the surface. We want authors and offer a solid foundation upon which to to present our community with a mirror and ask grow this year’s conversation. We look forward to difficult questions of ourselves, our classmates, and hearing from you. To be published in a future issue, our professors. Only through an open dialogue will please email firstname.lastname@example.org. we progress. We ask for your support and participation in this pursuit. As always, Jeremy Orloff and Matt Varvaro, Editors-in-Chief
Volume XII, Issue I
SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
STANDING UP TO THE “BULLY:” ON THE CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION STRIKE
As I begin a new phase of my education in Baltimore it is unsettling to look back and see all of these familiar schools in my hometown surrounded by turmoil. Many Hopkins students, while sufficiently versed in current events, have defaulted to the popular belief that the CTU is striking for higher pay, while, in fact, that is not the case. Ms. Lewis and the Chicago Board of Education both recognize two unresolved issues: the use of a teacher evaluation system centered on student standardized test scores, and the rehiring of fired teachers should new positions become available in the area. However, the CTU list of complaints is far longer than the mayor or the Chicago Board of Education care to adPP mit. The CTU is concerned about issues including class size, the maintenance of current teacher health benefits, and climate control in schools. The issue of a pay raise has been a matter of negotiation, but it is not the CTU’s justification for the sudden resort to picket lines. Indeed, the strike has severe implications both for unions across the United States and for the national political arena. After all, Mr. Emanuel was President Obama’s chief of staff and Mitt Romney has openly criticized the Obama administration’s relationship with organized labor. However, the strike’s impact on Chicago public school students is perhaps more controversial.
SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
MAKING YOUR VOTE MATTER THROUGH VOTER ID LAWS by Christopher P. Winer ‘14, Contributing Writer
by Rosellen Grant ‘16, Contributing Writer n the evening of Sunday, September 9th, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis officially announced what would be the first CTU strike in 25 years. Peering through thick red-rimmed glasses, she forcefully enunciated the unresolved aspects of Chicago teachers’ contracts that pushed her to declare a potential strike 10 days earlier. In the week that followed, newspaper articles reported on the deadlock between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CTU, accompanied by impressive images of teachers in red, flooding the streets with irate chants and aggressive signs.
Volume XII, Issue I
oes your vote count?
Two weeks ago, a federal court blocked a Texas law that would have required voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Although my high school is private, several teachers are members of the CTU, and it’s difficult to passively accept their mistreatment. “We’ve developed good relationships with a lot of our teachers and we don’t want to see them neglected,” said Tom Pietryla, a student at Jones College Prep. But does that neglect justify keeping students out of school? Justin Wong, a student at Whitney Young, doesn’t think so. “The strike infringes on my promised education…[and] I, along with 300,000 students, should not lose education over [these issues].”
Thirty-three states have enacted voter ID laws. This legislation limits voter-impersonation and multiple voting, and prevents illegal immigrants from voting —needed protections, especially for the tightly contested presidential election. Requiring ID for elections offers a common-sense solution to combating voter fraud and instilling confidence in the electoral system. Additionally, when legislated appropriately, it does not disenfranchise minority voters.
I find myself situated somewhere between these two sentiments. Take one of my physics teachers as an example: I would be infuriated to learn that his benefits were cut, or that he was at risk of being laid off because a class did poorly on a standardized test that would measure his teaching competence. On the other hand, his presence in school is imperative to my education, and to my performance on the Advanced Placement Exam. Not only could that exam help me competitively when applying to college, but I could also earn credit, maybe even graduate early. While this situation is somewhat hyperbolic, it’s clear that a teacher’s absence could have unintended long term effects on students. Daniella Pruitt, a junior at Jones College Prep, expresses this concern as well: “They [could] put the missed days in June but that instructional time won’t benefit my class… we will have already taken the [ACT] by then.”
In 2005, the Commission on Federal Election Reform, a bipartisan group headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, called for better data on voter fraud while advocating for voter IDs. The organization claimed that: The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters. Photo IDs are currently needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important. According to Professor Bradley Smith, who was nominated by President Clinton to fill a Republican-designated seat on the Federal Election Commission and served as its chairman in 2004, requiring voter identification “brings a sense of order and modernity to elections.” Requiring a voter ID at the polls adds seriousness to the electoral process.
In the end, teachers must fight for their rights. However, I have to believe that pressing on at the bargaining table is a better alternative to depriving students of their schooling, even if it is more frustrating and time consuming. Karen Lewis, referring to Rahm Emanuel, said at the start of the strike, “The only way to beat a bully is to stand up to a bully.” It is undoubtedly important to stand up to our adversaries, but not when students’ education - and in some sense their academic future - hang in the balance. PP
In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, a 2008 case regarding an Indiana photo ID law, the Supreme Court examined our country’s unfortunate history with voter fraud and the threat it poses for our future: “examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history … demonstrat[ing] that not only is risk of voter
fraud real, but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.” Furthermore, the Court acknowledged that Indiana’s list of registered voters included thousands of ineligible citizens, such as the deceased and felons, and supported IDs as a solution to this problem. Antiquated voter registration rolls invite illegal votes that steal or dilute the vote of a legitimate voter. Yet, opponents of voter ID often claim that electoral fraud poses a minor problem and that requiring photo identification causes more harm than good by disenfranchising poor and minority voters. One of these critics, the Brennan Center at New York University’s School of Law, wrote a report, Citizens Without Proof, criticizing voter ID as unnecessary and discriminatory. However, the organization acknowledged that “[t] he survey did not yield statistically significant results for differential rates of possession of citizenship documents by race, age, or other identified demographic factors.” To their credit, I would add that requiring voter IDs to vote means adding another bureaucratic layer between the citizen and his or her fundamental right to vote. However, requiring proof of identity at the polls more than compensates for this minor infringement on freedom by protecting elections and instilling public confidence in the electoral process. A free national ID card, paid by the federal government and distributed by the DMV, could prove a citizen’s eligibility to vote. By removing the need for voter registration, which only verifies that you are 18 and a citizen, this card could remove a bureaucratic burden to voting and increase turnout. States could reimburse their citizens for ID-related travel costs as long as they prove their place of residence with a utility bill or bank statement. According to a July 2012 Washington Post poll, almost three-quarters of all Americans support the idea that people should have to show photo identification to vote. The Supreme Court, the bipartisan Federal Commission on Federal Election Reform, and political science research affirm what most people already know: Requiring photo ID at the polls is just common sense. PP
Volume XII, Issue I
SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
Volume XII, Issue I
SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
THE CONSEQUENCES OF WESTERN AID CUTS TO RWANDA
PRISONERS HAVE A RIGHT TO SEX-CHANGE OPERATIONS
by Archibald Henry ‘13, Contributing Writer
by Peter Lee ‘14, Contributing Writer
he United States and other western powers have cut aid to Rwanda as a result of its government’s support of a militia known as the M23 – a group of rebel soldiers who mutinied from the Congolese national army in April 2012. These cuts are unjustified considering Rwanda’s actions are only a matter of preventive self-defense against a Congo-based Rwandan militia composed of bitter Hutu extremists that has only one objective: to invade Tutsi-governed Rwanda. Since April, the M23 has been wreaking havoc in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As of July, this Tutsi-Congolese militia has successfully occupied Rutshuru and Bunagana, and is on the verge of taking Kibumba as well as Goma, the capital of the province. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch condemned, again, the M23 and Rwanda for committing war crimes against civilian populations in the DRC. Since this past July, the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden have all cut their aid to Rwanda after a UN report linked Kigali, the Rwandan capital, to the rebellion. President Paul Kagame diplomatically denies all accusations despite his government’s clear support of the rebels. However, Kagame’s calculated strategy is of grave importance to Rwandan security. Rwanda must bolster the M23 in order to check the power of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), a powerful militia composed of ex-FAR and Interahamwe members, fugitives of the 1994 Rwandan genocide who have reorganized during the Congo War.
mericans in general tend to have little remorse for prisoners and inmates. With 23% of the world’s prison population and over 2 million incarcerated adults, Americans expect a certain level of severity in the criminal justice system. Thus, it was especially shocking when, earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered the state of Massachusetts to provide a sex-change operation for convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek.
Rwanda is not using the East Congo vacuum in a delinquent way. The FDLR constitutes a destabilizing force near the border, so Rwanda must assert its influence in the North Kivu to maintain balance. Rwanda’s support of the M23 militia is the only real solution in a volatile region that is deprived of Congolese regular forces (the FARDC). Western governments see this situation through the lens of the 1996-2003 Congo War. They cannot fathom the intricacies of contemporary Kivu geopolitics. The rationale is perverse – cancel aid to a country whenever its name is associated with a current conflict. Instead, the West is effectively cutting aid to a recovering nation that only seeks strategic defense.
Michelle Kosilek, previously known as Robert Kosilek, was convicted of murdering his wife in 1990, after she caught him trying on her clothes. Kosilek was sentenced in 1992 to a lifetime in prison without the possibility of parole.
The FARDC is one of the weakest, most illegitimate armies of Africa. Before renewing contracts to exploit cobalt mines in DRC’s Katanga province, Western states should mandate that revenues in Kinshasa be used strictly to develop the country’s army.
Undoubtedly, this ruling came as a great shock to many. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown called the ruling an “abuse of taxpayer dollars,” and stated that he “look[s] forward to common sense prevailing.” Additionally, 50 Massachusetts legislators, including the Senate Minority Leader, have collectively asked the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to appeal the ruling, calling it “absurd.” Much of the criticism has been focused on the taxpayer burden of the surgery: sex-change operations can easily cost $20,000 or more.
It’s alarming to hear Yamina Benguigui, the Minister for French Nationals Abroad, assert that “we are on the side of the DRC,” when the DRC has done little to promote its army, and has, in fact, consistently supported the FDLR in the past. Kinshasa saw the FDLR as the only armed group with the credible means to provide order. If Rwanda is currently supporting the M23 in the DRC, the DRC has sponsored countless rebel groups on its own soil, in a desperate move to prevent other factions from emerging.
The FDLR has operated in Eastern Congo since 2000, occupying strategic mines and recruiting local combatants in hope of one day attacking Rwanda and installing a Hutu power regime, like what was attempted in 1994. Rwanda is vicariously attacking the FDLR through the M23. Indeed, these two rebel groups fight for control of important towns, as well as coltan and cassiterite mines.
Despite facing international pressure, Rwanda has excelled at standing up for itself. Since 40% of the state budget comes from international aid, these cuts will undoubtedly hurt Rwanda. Because of this, President Kagame has organized Agaciro (“dignity” in Kinyarwanda), a massive campaign that successfully mobilizes citizen funds to fuel the government budget. Rwanda’s recovery is now sustained by increasing financial autonomy.
Rwanda has no intention of hurting the Congolese civilian population. In fact many Tutsis, the Banyamulenge, live in the Kivu provinces of the DRC and are originally Rwandans.
The aid cuts lack solid justification, but they are a chance for Rwanda to assert itself as a flagship for other African countries. Despite lingering instability to the west of Lake Kivu, the tide is turning in the African Great Lakes. PP
Given the unusual circumstances of this case and the serious nature of Kosilek’s crime, I can relate with much of the anger surrounding the ruling. Kosilek’s crime was inexcusable and it may seem rather unfair that he should receive such extensive medical care to which many do not have access. Nevertheless, I believe that a more thorough look into the case provides sufficient reasoning to support Judge Wolf’s decision. It is crucial to note that Kosilek has had a long history of gender identity disorder. While incarcerated, Kosilek attempted to commit suicide twice and even once attempted to castrate himself. Kosilek has testified in court that he would likely attempt to commit suicide again if he does not receive the surgery. Despite the clear seriousness of Kosilek’s situation, there
is also evidence that prison officials denied him proper treatment due to the fear of damaging their reputation. Judge Wolf stated that prison officials acted in patterns of “pretense, pretext, and prevarication” to deny Kosilek appropriate care. The prison even fired a doctor who had diagnosed Kosilek and recommended that he receive a sex-change operation. This case raises both an ethical and constitutional issue. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution explicitly prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” In accordance with Judge Wolf’s reasoning, I believe that Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment rights were clearly violated by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. The Department of Corrections placed more importance on preserving their public image than providing adequate medical care for an inmate under its jurisdiction. Furthermore, I believe that much of the anger surrounding the case comes from a certain level of misunderstanding about gender identity disorder. Those opposing the ruling see Kosilek’s desired surgery as a frivolous cosmetic treatment. On the contrary, sufferers of gender identity disorder often endure immense amounts of psychological stress and anxiety. It is clear that Kosilek was subjected to an inhumane level of psychological trauma over a long period of time. This ruling comes as a great victory, not only to supporters of transsexual rights, but to the nation as a whole. Our integrity in the values and liberties we uphold can only be judged by how we treat those on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Judge Wolf deserves much commendation for handling this case with the utmost thoroughness. The ruling is not a reduction of Kosilek’s punishment, nor is it a concession of the severity of his crime. It is simply an acknowledgement that we as a society are responsible for granting each other a basic level of human dignity. PP
Volume XII, Issue I
SEPTEMBER 17th, 2012
WRITE FOR thePOLITIK PRESS
Photo Courtesy: United States Library of Congressâ€™s Prints and Photographs Division
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.
If interested e-mail us at
JHUPOLITIK@gmail.com Or find us online at