Chari t September 2009
Delivering Gunn’s Culture and Politics
Is Universal Health Care Necessary?
Volume 6 Issue 1 North Korea Hina Sakazaki Page 6 California’s Budget Woes Henry Gens Pages 10-11
Is Israel Acting in Defense? Israel’s Right, but is it Right? Ben Bendor Pages 12-13 The Mask Covering Israeli Agression Arjun Bharadwaj Page 13
The Regulars Gunn Update Robert Chen Page 4
The Need for Universal Health Care Andrew Liu Pages 8-9
Obamacare, a Briefing Naor Deleanu Page 7 Universal Healthcare: The Wrong Prescription to an Ailing Economy Yoyo Tsai Page 9
The Life Aaron Guggenheim Pages 4-5 Where We’re At Andrew Liu Pages 5-6 Review: Harry Potter 6 Prya Ghose Page 14
Editors-In-Chief Robert Chen Aaron Guggenheim Senior Editors Ben Bendor Andrew Liu Associate Editors TBD Copy Editors Tommy Huang Graphics/Layout Brittany Cheng Scott Wey Circulation TBD Publicity Priya Ghose Contributing Writers Yoni Alon Arjun Bharadwaj Corey Brier Naor Deleanu Andre Garrett Heny Gens Jacob Guggenheim James Gupta Alice Li Jeff Ma Sam Neff Hina Sakazaki Vivian Shen Yoyo Tsai Ian Wilkes Stanley Yu Ethan Yung Omer Zach Foundation/Group Sponsors Palo Alto Host Lions Club Palo Alto Roller-Masonic Lodge Patrons ($100+) Robert M. Russ Jr. and Pauline A. Navarro Sponsors ($50-99) Garret and Lalitha Swart Jeff and Vivian Saper Contributors ($21-50) Marina Brodskaya and Bill Guttentag Cathy Zui and Robin Roy Special thanks to Advisor, Marc Igler
About Us Chariot is intended to create and promote political discussion at Gunn. We ask that you respect all opinions which are reflected in our publication, and write letters to the editors if you wish to voice your opinion. Visit our website, www.gunnchariot.com if you wish to view any issues from previous years or for more information about us. Any questions, comments, suggestions, or requests to join can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org Join Chariot! We are currently looking for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who are interested in political affairs and would like to write about their views. We are also searching for a student with experience using InDesign software to help with the layout. If you are interested in either position, please contact us at gunnchariot@ gmail.com If you’d like to make a donation or subscribe, please send checks to: Marc Igler Re: Gunn Chariot 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306 Checks can be made out to Gunn High School with “Chariot” on the memo. A Letter from the Editors As editors-in-chief for 2009-2010, we will be making will be some large-scale changes to Chariot. First of all, you may notice that we have changed our name. We felt that our old one, the Partisan Review, did not accurately represent the focus of the content. We are going to be shifting the focus of our publication from content solely about heavy hitting political news to more coverage of life at Gunn and society. Expect to see articles on technology, the Internet, and maybe even pirates. However, we will still be keeping true to our roots with the traditional pro/con article format and coverage of the major relevant political issues of the day. We also hope to write about issues relevant to you. This will range from including your opinions alongside our articles (letters to editors and short opinionated quotes about the issues of the day are most welcome) to conducting polls. To help make this shift, we will be introducing three regular columns. The Life follows our shift in focus by incorporating non-political topics. The Gunn Update shows you our intention of making Chariot more relevant to you. And finally, Where We’re At shows our continued commitment to the larger global issues that matter. Sincerely, Aaron Guggenheim and Robert Chen Editors-in-Chief
The World in a Blurb Ted Kennedy Dies
At the age of 77, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts passed away after suffering for 15 months with brain cancer. He had served as a senator for 46 years, rising to become a Democratic giant. He was known as a bipartisan deal maker whose compromises got legislation passed. A social progressive, he worked as an advocate for the poor, vulnerable, old, and different. His great legislative achievements include the Americans with Disabilities Act, WIC food program, and State Children’s Health Insurance Program. His goal of universal health care was stopped short by his death.
Mexico Relaxing Drug Laws
In an effort to free up time, jail space, and police forces, the Mexican government decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana (5 grams), cocaine (0.5 grams), methamphetamine (40 milligrams), LSD (0.015 milligrams), and heroin (50 milligrams). In the past few years, cartels’ clashes with the government and each other have resulted in over ten thousand deaths. By passing this law, they target the distributors of the drugs instead of the roughly 300,000 drug addicts. When caught with possession, instead of being treated as criminals, these people will be referred to free treatment programs and treated as patients. Under the same law, those found with up to 1,000 times the personal dose would be considered dealers and would be dealt with by local police. Those exceeding that amount would be considered traffickers and be subject to federal prosecution. This law puts Mexico amongst many other countries such as Great Britain and the Netherlands that are rethinking the all-out War on Drugs approach set forth by Nixon and Reagan.
Obama Reappoints Bernanke to Fed Chief
President Obama nominated Ben S. Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman on August 25, stating that “Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom, with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic free-fall.” Mr. Obama credited Mr. Bernanke’s experience as a leading scholar of the Great Depression with bringing the “economy back from the brink.” Despite a field filled with strong candidates for the position, Mr. Obama reportedly only offered the position to Mr. Bernanke. Mr. Bernanke was also a favorite among many economists and policymakers who praised his decisive action. Mr. Bernanke’s success, along with the support he has received in Washington, makes Senate confirmation and a second term almost certain.
What’s That? Cash for Clunkers
The Cash for Clunkers program was signed into law by President Obama to bolster car purchases as well as to help get less fuel-efficient cars off the road. Cash credit, ranging from $3,500 to $4,500, was given out to those who traded in their cars. The program was a wild success with over 457,000 cars turned and traded for cash credit. As a result, cleaner, less polluting cars are now on the roads and the auto industry has received a much-needed boost.
Gunn Update Scheduling Co Editor-in-Chief Robert Chen
There were several improvements over last year. Firstly, the registration was completed online. The move to electronic records is better because of its efficiency, easy access, and environmental friendliness. Secondly, there was a screening line for picking up a ticket, which helped to weed out those who just wanted better teachers and could not come up with a good excuse. However, these two changes didn’t affect the two bottlenecks in the system now: the shortage of counselors and instructional supervisors. While rescheduling, all students have to either go through a counselor, of which there are six, or the department IS, of which there is usually one per class change. For those changing several classes around, getting all the IS signatures is a pain. Having all the instructional supervisors in the same place alleviates the situation, but the long lines remain. Besides the solution of hiring temporary counselors or having teachers volunteer to do scheduling for the first week, one possibility would be for all rescheduling to be done online. This would have the benefits of eliminating lines, decreasing hassle, and saving students’, counselors’, and teachers’ time. However, one drawback is that it would make teacher shopping easier. A student’s teacher for a given class has such a small impact on the student’s grade or knowledge when compared to the inputted effort, participation, and studying. Here, +’s and –‘s don’t affect GPA, so a harsh grader should not make enough of a difference to significantly drop GPA. And if 4
he or she does, a student’s effort will have an even larger effect than simply getting another teacher. In many classes, independent learning on the part of the student is an expectation, so a poor explainer should matter less than help from peers or time spent studying. Essentially, getting a “bad” teacher is not an excuse. Another issue that would arise is that large groups of friends would all enroll in the same class, which would make teaching hard for any instructor. And I’m not talking about being in the same classes as a best friend; I’m talking about being with the same six or so core group of friends. This doesn’t occur now because completely arranging classes to match a friend’s is not worth the trouble, because many classes are already fully enrolled, and because the counselors who monitor the process prevent it. The problem of teacher shopping can be addressed by simply listing a course’s periods but not the instructors. The issue of groups of friends enrolling together can be avoided by having the administration pre-enroll classes to prevent students from completely building their schedules ground up. This way, classes would fill before groups of students could enroll together. This issue comes down to how much independence the administration is willing to give students. By opening up the system and putting it online, the process becomes smoother, faster, and more efficient. However, this would take away the administration’s ability to micromanage the distribution of students and reduce counselor input in scheduling matters.
Please Don’t Do this to Yourself Co Editor-in-Chief Aaron Guggenheim I know that you have all heard the phrase “Do not procrastinate”, but I think that very few of you have actually taken it to heart. As an incoming senior, I can attest to the rigors of junior year. Unfortunately, it is pretty stressful and a lot of work, but with good time management, you can also enjoy yourself. You can have more time to do the things that you actually want to do and less stress. In my junior year, I had to balance my commitments to cross-country, school, a social life, and the SAT. To put it bluntly, I had limited time on my hands. It soon became apparent to me that I needed to get a decent amount sleep to do well in both running and school and that I could never manage to start my homework before 6:30 at night. I decided that the only way in which I could survive with these realities was to use every available minute. During my prep period, I sat down at a desk and did homework. When I had extra time during class, I would pull out the English book that I was reading and would catch up on reading. When I got home from practice, I ate, showered and then sat down
and did my homework. During these periods, friends or the Internet did not distract me; I strictly concentrated on the work. By doing this, I always managed to get my work done well and on time. I also knew that I could never procrastinate on an essay, major project or test. To prevent this, I set timetables to do the major project or essay in and made sure that it was done 2-3 days beforehand so that I could look over it before I turned it in. I also would study up to a week before any major test. As a result of making these simple adjustments, I almost never went to bed past 10:30 because of homework. I usually had half an hour of free time every day, very little homework on the weekends and I never freaked out over a major project, test or essay because the likelihood was that I had already done it or studied for it. But, I did have a couple of slipups during junior year and they were not fun. One time, I decided not to do my unit of history notes until the night before. I honestly just did not feel like doing them. They had built up, week upon week. It was an enormous amount of reading and notes. That night, after completing my other homework I sat down to tackle the notes. They took seven hours to do. Seven straight hours of reading and taking notes because I had let them build up. It was miserable and I lost a lot of sleep trying to finish something that should have already been done. If I had spaced out the notes throughout the week, I would never have had the problem I had and I would have learned the material better. Instead, I suffered for something I shouldn’t off. The moral of my Junior is to manage your time well; the better that you manage, the more time you have to do what you want to do. Get work done on schedule or ahead of time. Use the periods where you do your homework effectively, don’t be distracted by friends or the Internet. Honestly, just better yourself; don’t procrastinate.
Where We’re At Signs Point to Fragile Revival Senior Editor Andrew Liu Despite the drastic impact of the current Great Recession, many signs now point to a revival, albeit a fragile and precarious one, of both the domestic and global economies. Home sales, often imputed as one of the biggest causes of the domestic economic downturn, had risen for three straight months as of July, a first since 2004. In the financial sector, big banks like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America announced large profits, driving up the stock market 44 percent since March. In July, the U.S. economy lost fewer jobs than in any other month since the Lehman Brothers’ collapse last fall, leading to a drop in the unemployment rate, from 9.5 (June) to 9.4 percent (July). Between September 2008 and March 2009, the national economy shrank 6 percent; since then, it has contracted only 1 percent. On August 12, the Federal Reserve announced that “economic activity is leveling out” and said that it would begin to rollback its two years’ worth of intervention. This confidence, however, was tempered by warnings that the recovery would be slow and weak and that unemployment would remain high, projected to climb to as much as 9.8 percent in 2010. Economists generally agree that jobs will be one of the last of the economy’s aspects to recover from the recession’s impact. That being said, the White House has pointed out that less than 10 percent of employment recovery from the stimulus money will occur in 2009, implying that most of the promised 5 million “preserved or created” jobs will
take place next year. Whether or not all of these positive indicators mean substantial economic recovery in the near future is up for debate. While historical precedent tells us that a deep downturn is followed by a strong recovery, a growing aggregate of skeptics contends that never before has an economic crisis been so deep, global, and transformative. Furthermore, they point out that the optimistic economists touting economic growth figures are celebrating only the technicalities of economic expansion while ignoring other crucial aspects of the economy. In particular, halts on credit flow and lack of both domestic and global consumption could prove to block or inhibit any economic recovery. In U.S. banks and credit markets, there have been few, if any, signs of anything but a dysfunctional system and restriction on credit. But credit recovery will be crucial. “Credit fuels housing. It fuels consumer durable goods. It fuels business investment. It’s in every part of the economy,” said Carmen Reinhart, an economist at the University of Maryland. “Credit makes recessions after a financial crisis longer, and all the signs are that [it] is happening this time as well.” Consumption, too, continues to decline as consumers rein in their spending. Retailers this summer predict the worst back-to-school shopping sales performance in a decade. In the U.S., the disposable income savings rate shot up from 1.2 percent in early 2008 to 5.2 percent in early 2009. Less consumption means less money flowing around in the economy, leading to a deprived credit system. Lack of credit reinforces flailing consumption by keeping money flow stagnant. This system of positive feedback has proven devastating, and could hinder successful recovery. The lack of consumption especially September 2009
becomes a problem on the international front, where for years, American spending has been a juggernaut behind growth of export-oriented countries and the entire global economy. Missing a substitute for American buying, a global recovery may fall short of substantial, according to the Washington Post. Nevertheless, a recent spate of economic expansion in foreign economies brings signs of hope for global recovery. Japan’s economy, which had shrunk 11.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, grew 3.7 percent from April to June. In China, forecasters predict growth as high as 9 percent this year. And the European Union’s economy contracted 0.3 percent from April to June 2009, much better than the 2.5 percent decline in the last three months of 2008.
Change in North Korean Politics Contributing Writer Hina Sakzaki On March 17th 2009, North Korean border guards seized two American reporters, Euna Lee and Laura Ling. The two were sentenced to 12 years in jail for hostile acts and illegal entry 6
to the North. They were released when former president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang in August. But, a question remains: why were these Americans released while many other captives of different nationalities were held indefinitely? Kidnappings have occurred in the past; North Korea abducted more than sixteen Japanese civilians from 1977 to 1983. Only five have returned and the others are still missing. South Korea has also suffered from kidnappings; an estimated 84,532 South Koreans were taken during the Korean War, with an additional 3,795 people after the war. 480 South Koreans still remain in North Korea against their will. Neighboring nations are also left in fear of the North’s military capabilities. Constant threats of nuclear testing and rocket launches threaten East Asia daily. In January 2003, North Korea broke off from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and in July 2003, claimed that they could manufacture nuclear weapons. And yet, after agreeing to take down nuclear facilities in 2007, the North rearmed with threats of missile testing. The broken promises in nuclear disarmament agreements in recent years have left North Korea to be labeled as inconsistent and dangerous. This same sort of inconsistency also exists in North Korea’s international relations. South Korea is at a constant risk of destruction at the hands of the North. The relationship of South Korea and North Korea is crucial to an overall peace, but is also known to be mercurial and volatile. But now, North Korea has agreed to an open border with South Korea, allowing for tourism and family reunions. Though these
new policies are favorable, many inquire why. All of the answers may lie in Kim Jong-Il. Although his dictatorship has caused many to hate North Korea, these new policies couldn’t have happened without him. He is the “dear leader” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; everything goes through him. It is his 15th year of reign, and his health is in jeopardy. He suffered from a stroke in August 2008 and then diabetes. He was also hospitalized in October 2008 for neurosurgery and couldn’t appear in public for the rest of the year. It is also known that he may be suffering from pancreatic cancer. With his health at risk, Kim Jong Ill has made plans for the future. He announced in June 2009 that his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un will be North Korea’s next leader. Jong-Il may be trying to improve relationship with other countries to make things easier for his successor. Now it is time for change and hope. Although Kim Jong-Un is described as the exact same as his father and enjoys a luxurious life, he questions the lives of average people. Hopefully, this will be a young leader who will change North Korea for the better.
Universal Health Care: A Step in Which Direction? Obamacare, a Breifing Contributing Writer Naor Deleanu The United States spend far more than any other country on health care, yet it is ranked thirty seventh in the last health system rankings. President Obama has made universal healthcare a legislative priority, as have top Democrats in Congress. In his presidential campaign, Obama promised to have a plan that would cover all 45 million uninsured Americans by the end of his first term. However, proposals for health reform have turned into legislative nightmares for Congress, and Obama’s approval rating has plummeted. Most Americans have expressed support for a universal health care system, but they are growing increasingly wary of Congress’s proposals. In addition, a vocal minority has protested attempts at health reform, with some disrupting Democratic town hall meetings. There has been outrage among some elderly over so-called government “death panels” even though nothing of the sort has been proposed. There are several health care bills that are going around various committees in the Senate. Three main ways to cover the uninsured have been proposed. One proposal is a completely government-run health care system, doing away with private insurers completely. This is known as a “singlepayer” system and is currently used effectively in several countries, including Canada and England. Government-run universal health care sys-
tems have been proven to be cheap and relatively high quality. Most of the top health care systems in the world are government-run. Conservatives, however, have criticized single-payer health care as an inefficient bureaucracy, with long wait times and rationing of care. A single-payer system is unlikely to come close to passing any time soon. President Obama’s current proposal is a compromise between private insurers and the government. It would allow people to continue their current health care program, but would provide a government-run “public option” for the uninsured or those dissatisfied with their current plan. The government would compete with private insurance companies, hopefully bringing cheaper, higher quality care. Conservatives and health insurance companies have bashed the public option, purporting that the government has an unfair advantage because it doesn’t need to worry about things like profits or taxes. A bill containing a public option passed with a slim majority in the House, but it seems unlikely that a similar bill will make it through the Senate. Efforts at a public option have been thwarted by the more moderate “blue dog” Democrats. Any bill in the Senate needs 60 votes to break a filibuster and bring it to a vote. No Republican has endorsed a public option.
Although many liberal Democrats remain insistent upon a public option, some have proposed further compromises with their more conservative constituents. The newest proposals involve health care co-ops. These are non-profit institutions run by their members, in contrast to shareholder based corporations. Conservative Democrats have backed proposals based on government-aided co-ops. However, there has yet to be any measurable Republican support for Democrat-endorsed bills. In addition to insuring the uninsured, health care reform will have to combat the rampant waste in American health care today. According to a recent study, more than half of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care in America annually is wasted. President Obama has proposed, among other things, paying doctors based upon quality of care instead of upon the number of procedures they perform or the number of patients they see. However, under current circumstances, any government-aided plan is going to cost an enormous amount of money and add to the $9 trillion federal deficit. It remains to be seen whether a health care bill will be passed, or if health reform will flounder as it did during Bill Clinton’s presidency. This major piece of legislation looks to be a defining moment in Obama’s young presidency and will shape our country for years to come. September 2009
The Need for Universal Health Care Senior Editor Andrew Liu For the 15 percent of Americans without health insurance, inaction on health care reform only means further suffering. The case for universal health care is growing, not only because there is a moral imperative to guarantee health insurance for all, but also because there are practical, costeffective ways to achieve this goal without afflicting the rest of Americans. The Census Bureau reports that 45.7 million Americans remained uninsured as of 2007, and that number has skyrocketed since the advent of this economic recession, with 14,000 more losing health insurance everyday. We have an obligation to help the underprivileged obtain the health care that is basic to an individual’s security and well-being. Especially in the United States, Ronald Reagan’s “last best hope of man on earth,” the inequality in health care is a travesty of our basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is shocking that among the 30 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member nations (the high-end nations of the world), only three do not provide universal health care: Mexico,
Turkey, and the United States. Mexico and Turkey have the excuses of political instability and lack of wealth. We cannot claim either of those, so what is our excuse for not providing health care for all? Some of us simply have not been moved to act. Especially in Palo Alto, where many of us are privileged enough to have quality health care. But, we must realize that any one of us could join the ranks of the uninsured with the loss of a job, sickness, or an employer’s decision that health care is too expensive to pay for. This problem is just as much ours as it is anyone else’s. Others assert that universal health care is impractical and too costly. But that claim ignores countless examples of successful, cost-effective universal health coverage. For example, in a World Health Organization ranking of health care across the world, universal health systems in Italy (ranked 2), Spain (7), Japan (10), and the United Kingdom (18) spend 9, 9, 8, and 7.5 percent of their GDPs, respectively, on health care, while the United States (ranked 37) spends 15 percent. Clearly, universal health care is not only successful in other developed countries, but it also seems to be of better quality and is less expensive. And for those who contend that we cannot compare the United States to other countries due to demographic
differences, Massachusetts’s universal health care plan shows the benefits that coverage for all could have for the United States. Three years into Massachusetts’s policy of “obtain health care or pay a tax”, the statewide rate of uninsured is 2.6 percent (the national average is 15) and the rate of unsubsidized premium increase is 5 percent (the national average is 10.3). More than 40 percent of the newly insured have bought private policies without taxpayer dollars, and all the government had to do was “require” health insurance. Of course, Massachusetts subsidizes insurance premiums for low-income residents so that the underprivileged can meet the demands of the policy, but that is the only “cost” to universal health care. That being said, skeptics warn that costs of such subsidies on a national level would be much larger. But universal coverage itself would actually bring down costs in several ways. First, universal care would incentivize all to take advantage of cheap, accessible preventive care such as checkups and mammograms, forestalling chronic disease and exorbitantly costly treatment later on. Also, the costs of emergency room care to hospitals would plummet as all patients would be insured (currently, hospitals have to provide emergency care whether they receive compensation or not). This would encourage hospitals to lower consumer
costs and bring down expensive rates. Universal health care would pave the way for more government involvement in health care and consolidate costs. This could possibly happen through a centralized database of patient records to eliminate wasteful inefficiencies such as insurance submissions, duplicate paperwork, and claim approval. Depending on the implementation of universal care, industry regulation could also bring down costs because the government would be able to buy drugs or treatment in bulk. These savings would make universal coverage much more affordable than our current system. And even if this new system needs more revenue, there are plenty of ways to raise this money. Reallocating money that is currently wasted in certain federal health programs would raise much more revenue than many give it credit for; for example, we pay $100 billion in subsidies to insurance companies under Medicaid while doing nothing to improve the quality of health care. Also, a tax on the wealthy like the one President Obama has proposed would raise $544 billion over 10 years while affecting only 1.2 percent of United States households, the same households that benefitted disproportionately from the Bush tax cuts. Health care is now at the center of national debate, and this is our chance to push for universal health coverage. There are fair, practical, and cost-effective ways to achieve universal care. If we allow the status quo, we continue a fundamental inequality in America.
Universal Healthcare: The Wrong Prescription to an Ailing Economy Contributing Writer Yoyo Tsai As of 2008, one in six Americans under the age of 65 does not have health insurance. As a result, many have begun to support a universal healthcare system sponsored by the national government. However, it is not the responsibility of the government to provide universal healthcare and it is not any more efficient than privately sponsored insurance. Though it may sound like a good idea, its name is misleading. Universal healthcare only means access to a waiting list and not always healthcare for everyone. Worldwide, there are many nations that have a large government role in medical care. However, these nations are not in a better position than the United States from a medical standpoint. Though people may say that life expectancy is greater in Canada and England, life expectancy also depends on factors unrelated to healthcare, including injuries and homicide. What really matters is not life expectancy, but the chances of surviving a major illness. The American Cancer Society reports that American patients have better survival rates for most types of cancer than those in Canada and England. Not only are survival rates lower in other nations, but after a government is involved with an industry, it never sits back. After universal healthcare is established, the government will then further decide what drugs, treatments, and procedures should be released to the market â€“ or not. For example, with-
in the years 1998 and 2002, the US market released 85 new drugs to the people, as opposed to the 48 drugs that were made available in Europe during that same period of time. Besides looking at the healthcare worldwide, we can also look at the government controlled insurance companies within the nation. Government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP pile so much paperwork upon doctors that most of their time is spent filling them out instead of seeing actual patients. The Medicare program itself is directed by 110,000 pages of rules and regulations. So while doctors are expected to see more patients, they are also required to fill out unnecessary paperwork for each patient that they see. Not only are they expected to fill out paperwork and see numerous patients, they must also learn to deal with the politics of the profession they love, which is definitely not what they intended on doing. In the end, this will only provide burned out doctors who retire early. What use is providing medical care to everyone when there are no doctors available to do so? This will only produce longer waiting lists with more side accidents as a result. Last but not least, studies show that universal healthcare results in a decrease of quality in medical care. Pressured by time, energy, and the government, doctors lack the ability to give quality care to every patient they come across. Since when has it been right for quantity to be greater than quality in a medical field? Never. Doctors are pledged to serve the best quality care to every patient, but due to government hindrance, they are no longer able to. It is true that something must be done to help those who want health care but cannot receive it due to costs. However, universal health care is not the right way. We must learn from the example of other nations and not fall into the misrepresentations and lures of a universal healthcare system.
California’s Budget Woes Contributing Writer Henry Gens Perhaps you’ve noticed the raging debate and panic of the last seven months as Californian lawmakers scrambled to resolve a gaping $60 billion state budget deficit. Even though the state budget was finally closed a little more than a month ago on July 24th, the implications for California’s system of monetary allocation still remain after its latest broken showing. The crisis began in early January when the Office of the Governor released its outline of the California 2009-10 budget, which predicted a gap of $41.6 billion for the current and next fiscal year. Following on the heels of this unsettling announcement, the legislature resumed debate on hammering out a budget that would somehow appease both the Democrats, staunch supporters of maintaining social welfare programs and services, and Republicans, who were adamant10
ly opposed to tax increases of any kind in the budget. After much heated debate in February, amongst which Senate leader Darrel Steinberg had to tell fellow lawmakers to bring their toothbrushes in anticipation of all-night marathon sessions over resolving the looming gap, the legislature was able to pass a budget that covered the $42 billion breach on the 19th. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the budget on the 21st and placed certain provisions on a May 19th ballot. The special election held on May 19th, the sixth in 36 years, only contributed yet another fiasco to the debit crisis. Of the ballot measures 1A through 1F, dealing from a “Rainy Day” budget stabilization fund (through extended temporary taxes) to borrowing against future lottery earnings, only Proposition 1F passed; it prohibits increases in salaries for top government officials and members of the legislature if the state is expected to end the year with a dearth in the General Fund. Much of the blame for the overwhelming failure of these measures can be placed on the utter confusion surrounding them,
from the lack of explanation to unintelligible wording on the ballot itself. Nevertheless, voters managed to show their widespread disapproval for the government’s handling of the deficit by passing proposition 1F with a commanding 74.3% in support. Still, even if all six ballot measures had passed, California would have faced a $15.4 billion hole, down from $21.3 billion prior to the special election vote. Either way, the government had to resume discussion on closing the state budget in late May. Legislature again started debate over a compromise on filling the gaping budget, and managed to work out an agreement on June 30th, the last day of the fiscal year (and also past the June 15th budget deadline for the 28th time in the last 32 years). Governor Schwarzenegger, however, vetoed the plan and thus California entered the fiscal year on July 1st with an enormous $26.3 billion shortage. This led the Governor to declare a state of fiscal emergency, giving lawmakers 45 days to resolve the budget crisis. With no end to the deficit in sight, state controller John Chiang had to resort to issuing IOUs (formally known as “registered warrants”) to pay back banks and investors for the second time ever in California’s history since 1992. Such action led to the further downgrading of California’s bonds, already the lowest-rated of any state, to within an inch of “junk” status—making it even more difficult for the state to raise funds. Despite the impending sense of fiscal Armageddon, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger finally signed a deal closing the last of the budget deficit on July 20th and the legislature approved of the deal, apportioning $25.3 billion four days later. The deal contained $15.6 billion in cuts with the rest made up of fund shifts, borrowing, deferrals, revenue solutions and $921 million in reserve funds. And so the budget lives to fight an-
other fiscal year. However, now more than ever is the time to take a closer look at the causes of California’s perennial plague. Firstly, deadlock over deficit is nothing new to California due to the unique organization of its government. Any proposed budget must pass both houses of legislature by a two-thirds majority vote. Furthermore, a similar two-thirds majority in both houses must be garnered for any proposed tax increase as well. California is the only state to possess both of these provisions, and combined they create regular impasse in fiscal matters, as the current Republican minorities (enough to prevent a two-thirds majority) handily demonstrated in this last budget crisis. On the issue of taxation, California is the owner of one of the most volatile systems in the country. Due to the infamous Proposition 13, which Californian voters passed in 1978, initiating the “taxpayer revolt” across the country, the taxes levied on property are capped and cannot be raised to provide a greater source of revenue for the state government. Thus the government has to rely in large part on personal and corporate income tax, which is an unsteady source of revenue, unlike property taxes. In boom years, the government, rather than setting aside money for future fluxes in the economy, spent ever more money. Now in the midst of a global recession, California is faced with a serious dearth in its main source of revenue from income taxes. The flaws in the tax system also illustrate another glaring issue in the state government: the voter initiative. This heralded form of direct democracy, introduced to the state in 1911, has been used since the late 1970s to further fuel California’s financial woes. Even though California is among 24 states that allow voter referendums, recalls, and initiatives, it is the only state that does not permit its legislature to override a successful measure. This leads to the voters making demands for spending ever more money,
money that the state government does not have and must then find. Furthermore, California’s initiatives do not have sunset clauses, provisions that let them expire. Once they’re passed, they’re here to stay and the effect is often an incomprehensible mess of overlapping jurisdictions that makes many functions of the government unnecessarily complicated. As if direct democracy in California wasn’t convoluted enough, its system of representative democracy takes the cake for unreasonableness. Through excess gerrymandering and geographical concentration of party voters, California has produced one of the most partisan states in the nation. Furthermore, Primaries are closed for each party meaning that voters can only elect politicians in the party they are registered with. This creates elections between candidates within the same party, with each vying to be the most extreme candidate and appeal to voters solely within their party. Thus a whole host of partisan politicians are sent to the Capitol; with such extremists running the government, the amount of stalemate should come as no surprise. And this representative government does a very poor job of representing voters, the majority of which are of political moderates. California urgently needs to reevaluate its system of government if it wishes to avoid continued states of fiscal emergency in the future. This last budget crisis nearly destroyed the world’s eighth-largest economy; if California does not work to avert such disaster in the future it may very well find itself facing one hole it can’t climb back out of. Such a calamity would not only have catastrophic effects on California, but on the entire global economy as well. Though, with no reform in sight, perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger spoke best for the California budget crisis when he said, “I’ll be back.”
CA Budget, 2009-2010 General Fund Expenditures (in millions) K-12 Education: $35,658, 40.0% of total
3.4% Human and Health Services: $24,953, 28.5% of total
Higher Education: $10,547, 12.0% of total
Corrections and Rehabilition: $8,210, 0.1% of total
18.0% September 2009
Is Israel Acting in Defense? Israel’s Right, but is it Right? Senior Editor Ben Bendor
When Israel launched its offensive in Gaza last December, many criticized Israel for excessive retaliation. Undoubtedly, Israel should have done more to prevent the unfortunately heavy civilian casualties that occurred, the main issue in this conflict is not whether or not Israel had the right to retaliate or was acting in defense. Even Human Rights Watch (HRW), perceived by many as having somewhat of an anti-Israel edge, did not challenge Israel’s right to retaliate, but merely criticized Israel’s methods. To be fair, HRW also blasted Hamas’ indiscriminate use of rockets against Israeli civilians (which created an environment of pervasive fear) and its tactic of hiding in the most densely populated areas in order to increase Palestinian civilian casualties. In a move late July (partly inspired by Palestinian opinion) that could have a significant impact on the conflict, Hamas stated that it would no longer use its infamous Qassam rockets against Israel, though it neglected to mention longer-ranged rockets which it currently does not possess. Seeing as rocket attacks have provoked Israeli retaliation in the past, this move could help to reduce violence and ease some of the tension. Still, the fact remains that if Hamas does attack, Israel can strike back. Given that Israel not only has the right to retaliate against attacks, but also faces significant pressure from its citizens to do so, it is essential for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to tread carefully and avoid civilian casualties as much as possible in the event of a conflict. This is important 12
obviously from a short term humanitarian point of view, as well as from a long term strategic point of view. If the IDF kills more civilians, it will only advance Hamas’s attempt to demonize the state of Israel. First of all, Israel must rule out the heavy use of artillery and air strikes. As much as a hindrance that that might be for the IDF, artillery and air strikes are bound to kill lots of civilians when Hamas hides in civilian-inhabited areas. Furthermore, any strike should be conducted only with proper intelligence beforehand as to the location and numbers of armed enemies, and sufficient warning should be given to civilians potentially in the line of fire. While such measures may hurt the IDF’s ability to easily kill militants, it will help improve the image of Israel; any peace talks will be impossible if Israel is seen as the devil incarnate. Israel must use not only the stick but also the carrot. While Hamas’s original 1988 charter calls for the destruction of Israel and refers to Hamas’s conflict with Jews in general as opposed to simply Zionists, in the 2006 elections Hamas tried to conciliatorily ignore that
provision. Indeed, in April 2008 Hamas indicated a willingness to agree to a two-state solution that would return Israel’s borders to those before the 1967 Six-Day War, given that Israel granted the “right of return” to all Palestinian refugees. Based on opinion polls, the part of this deal that Israelis find most objectionable is the right of return, not the borders. There is possibly some common ground on the basic foundation of the potential deal, but more details need to be worked out. While it would be nice for Palestinian refugees to return, such a provision could not only hurt the chances of a deal being reached, but it could lead to conflicts over land. The more prudent agreement would be to allow gradual amnesty of refugees and easy access to foreign aid for those refugees not initially given amnesty. Furthermore, details regarding the status of Jerusalem are crucial to any peace deal, and unfortunately could end up derailing what could otherwise be promising talks. Admittedly, the conflict in Gaza took place months after Hamas’ statements, but it would be foolish for Israel
to assume that Hamas has totally given up. Israel should cautiously make an overture, but make it clear that while it would like peace, any attacks will be met with forceful, measured retaliation. If Hamas fails to renounce violence (or large sections of Hamas do), then Israel should proceed to negotiate with organizations such as Fatah which are open to negotiations, albeit with preconditions. If peace is to be reached any time soon, both sides must do their best to not only restrain their trigger fingers, but also make it clear that they have definite desire for peace. For Israel this does not necessarily mean giving up the option of force if attacked first, but it does need to stop hitting first and must strike carefully when fighting. Ideally both sides will learn that any further violence is counterproductive, and as cliché as it is, peace can be reached only by reasonable and civil negotiations.
The Mask Covering Israeli Aggression Contributing Writer Arjun Bharadwaj Israel is the strongest nation, militarily and economically, in the Middle East. It is one of the few nations with nuclear weapons, and it has been successful in military campaigns against
all its neighbors. Despite this, the media has always portrayed Israel as a victim, one constantly under threat from the Arab nations surrounding it. This portrayal is the opposite of reality, given Israel’s recent aggression and human rights violations in the Gaza strip. Despite conventional wisdom, Israel has acted equivalently to a person shooting a tiger that ate his or her family and then inhumanely destroying a zoo on the suspicion that the tiger may have come from there. Israel has attacked civilian targets, including food industries and densely populated neighborhoods. While proponents of Israel argue that these attacks are necessary as Hamas, the current party controlling the Gaza strip, uses guerrilla based tactics, they fail to explain more recent strategies of the Israeli military, including the use of unarmed Gaza civilians as human shields, or the fact that Israeli soldiers gunned down civilians waving white flags during the recent Gaza offensive. Israel’s defense for this behavior boils down to a single, repeated story: that terrorists were or could have been in the crowds, and that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was trying to defend Israel. This does not justify Israel’s actions. That the IDF fired shots into a crowd waving white flags or bombed a building due to mere suspicion of terrorist activity demonstrates Israel’s use of immoral and criminal force against unarmed civilians. No, Israel’s attacks were not a justifiable defense against attack, but more of a show of dominance over its neighbors. This is not the first time Israel has attempted to control the Palestinian areas. It is easy to forget Israel’s hand in the creation of the radical group Hamas, although pro-Israel adherents will argue that Hamas was a grassroots movement in Gaza based on Islamic charity and Islamic fundamentalist groups. For Israel to consort with these forces, Israel supporters argue, would be suicide. But the main enemy
of Israel at that time was not the religious extremists but more secular groups, such as Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). According to Zeev Sternhell, head of the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and contributor to the Israeli Newspaper Haaretz, “Israel thought that it was a smart ploy to push the Islamists [Hamas] against the PLO.” The early charity movements that defenders of Israel point to as the source of Hamas were in fact encouraged by Israel to undermine Fatah, which had its hands tied with the Oslo Accords, something that Israel had wanted undone. The founder of Hamas, a paraplegic fundamentalist known as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was in fact released from a life sentence “on humanitarian grounds” by the Israeli government in order to destabilize the Fatah Government in Gaza. These “humanitarian grounds” did not stop IDF from later killing Yassin, along with his family, when he no longer “cooperated.” Despite the time that has lapsed since Hamas’s formation, Israel’s recent attacks in Gaza show that Israel’s inveterate habit of justifying aggressive tactics in the name of “security” has not gone away. As the evidence shows, Israel’s supposed defensive actions are in reality an almost imperialist push to claim dominance over the Palestinian territories.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Review Publicity Priya Ghose Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: the legendary boy wizard deals with Voldemort for the sixth time… and manages to mesmerize the audience yet again. This movie, though lacking in action in comparison to the first five, is as entertaining and as visually stunning as all the rest. The icing on the cake is that the young trio’s acting chops are finally developing and that they each hold their own throughout the movie. The plot is complicated with several subplots. For fans of the book, this is perfect because they already understand what goes on. However, for those movie-goers who have never read the books, the movie may seem confusing and the subplots may seem unnecessary. The main plot revolves around Dumbledore teaching Harry about Voldemort’s past through others’ memories. Another important story line is Harry’s quest to prove that Draco Malfoy, his arch nemesis, has become a Death Eater (follower of Voldemort). Other subplots include various romances among the trio and the antics of the new Potions master Professor Slughorn, who “collects” talented or famous students (including Harry) as if they are prizes. Another subplot, the inspiration for the name of the book and movie, is Harry’s secondhand Potions textbook, which has notes about spells (even newly invented ones) in the margins written by a past student who calls himself “the Half-Blood Prince”. The notes help Harry ace Potions, but slowly the trio begins to realize that the Half14
Blood Prince, while a Potions genius, could also be an evil fiend. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry’s loyal best friends Ron and Hermione. In previous movies the adult actors had talent but the inexperience of the three kids showed. No longer. Growing up in front of a camera has finally rubbed off on them and their acting is authentic. By far the best actors in this movie, however, are the villains. Bellatrix Lestrange, who has a bigger role in the movie than she had in the book, is truly frightening as a Death Eater who clearly enjoys others’ pain. Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Severus Snape is, as in the last five movies, so convincing that even those of us who have read the final book and may have changed the opinions we once held of Snape once again find ourselves plotting horrible things against him when he coldly kills someone (ahem) towards the end of the
movie. Though he always has a very distinct slow speaking voice and an indifferent tone, his face and prolonged gazes manage to communicate his emotions. Young Voldemort played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Frank Dillane (at different ages) is a handsome, charming young man. Somehow, both young actors are able to lend his character a subtle evil that is even scarier than the unmistakably evil Voldemort we met in the earlier movies. The screenplay is both the rise and fall of the movie. The screenwriter, Steve Kloves, took great liberty in the manuscript, adding conversations, and even scenes that are not in JK Rowling’s book. The dialogue remains lighthearted and funny throughout a very serious movie, keeping the movie from feeling too dark (as past movies have). However, the plot often strays too far from the book, inventing useless scenes while leaving out important ones. The movie opens with one such imagined scene where Harry is hitting on a pretty Muggle waitress in a restaurant, before Dumbledore shows up and drags Harry off on a trip with him. The scene adds nothing to the movie and no similar situation is ever even implied in the book. In another scene, The Burrow, home of the Weasleys, is set on fire by Bellatrix Lestrange, for no apparent reason other than to add action to the movie (never mind that the book’s primary action scene, the battle between Death Eaters and Hogwartians towards the end, is almost entirely cut from the movie). Overall this movie is definitely worth seeing for fans of the books. The sets and the acting make the events in the book seem more real to me. However, if one has not read the book, I would advise seeing the movie only with a friend who has read the book, as there are many layers to the plot.