CHRONICLE

Vol. XXII, Issue 1 October 2, 2012

THE VASSAR

Alex evAns’ Introductory PrImer to the senkAku IslAnd conflIct P. 12

Sakuramochi-JP

Vassar the legAcy of vAssAr’s Betsy mccAughey NatioNal Why romney WIll lose In novemBer

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Why MajoritarianisM is Worse than Polarization

NatioNal affairs page 7

the vAssAr chronIcle

table oF coNteNts
Staff Editorial Vassar & Local National Affairs Foreign Affairs Debate & Discourse Humour The Last Page 2 3 7 12 16 19 20

editor-in-Chief senior editor
Zack Struver
HBO

Will Serio

Take your rightful place upon the throne. Winter is coming.

staFF eDitorial

Natl. & ForeigN aFFairs Debate & Discourse copy & style copy & style asst. proDuctioN & DesigN proD. & DesigN asst.

Michael Greene Nathan Tauger Arushi Raina Stephen Loder Jenna Amlani Christa Guild Alina Rosenfeld Joshua Sherman Flore Di Scullo Madeleine Morris

A Reflection on Proper Political Etiquette

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oo often political debates are fraught with unwavering dogma in the face of facts and aggressive ad-hominem attacks on the political candidates of both major parties. And those parties aren’t the only ones guilty of either action; we, as voters, are responsible for both allowing and perpetuating this sort of political landscape. We watch the attack ads that both parties publish, live off of political aphorisms and superficial one-liners, and attack one another with assertion after assertion. So, we’ve prepared a short guide to political etiquette: be informed, talk to your friends, professors, and family, and be involved. First and foremost, when you talk with people about your political views, be civil. All too often, good friends and esteemed colleagues have difficulty overcoming political differences, and understandably so. In many cases, it’s hard to agree to disagree. We feel the overwhelming urge to correct what we perceive as incorrect political views, and we often become angry when other people don’t capitulate to our flawless and brilliant arguments. Just remember that your views are subjective, your own. Since that’s the case, you should also remember to read thoughtful publications–especially the Chronicle–because only through knowledge can you gain the requisite grasp of the political issues and players at stake in any election year. Secondly, remember that there are two types of elections coming on Novermber 6: national and local. In our era of 24-

hour news media, in which the relative merits, demerits, virtues, and vices of our illustrious presidential candidates are extolled or excoriated by the talking heads of the left and the right ad nauseum, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of local elections and ballot initiatives. Indeed, while most voters are quick to level blame against the federal government for their woes, be they economic or social, on an average day he or she is far more likely to be directly affected by the policies of local lawmakers than those of a faraway Congress or Senate. One need look no further than the legislative battles around gay marriage that have been fought in state legislatures around the country. This is readily apparent here in New York, where gay marriage passed by a slim margin of 33-29 in the State Senate. Furthermore, many of the policies that a majority of Americans find objectionable when pursued by the federal government, such as health insurance mandates, have long been staples of policy on the state level. Romneycare in Massachusetts, anyone? So why does this disparity exist? The tremendous gap in both funding and media coverage between national and local elections is partly to blame, but a lack of engagement among voters with local issues must be cited as well. How many eager young, first-time, voters rushed to the polls in 2008 to cast their vote for Barack Obama, but left blank ballot initiatives on local school budgets? Our political culture partially explains

this disdain for all things local, for it’s quite common to hear prospective voters, particularly in states such as California, deriding silly ballot initiatives like banning tornadoes or votes to “not deny the initiative to not give funding to the local library.” The socially conscious voter knows that just as apathy doesn’t work on the national level, it equally goes against all rules of etiquette locally. Consider things from the perspective of the red state/ blue state dichotomy. Too frequently will you hear a hip, apathetic non-voter utter a line like, “If I’m just thinking about voting in terms of utility, then staying at home on election day and baking cookies, sleeping in, or wood carving is always going to be a better use of my time than voting.” Such ignorance gives too much importance to the Electoral College, for it neglects the fact that your vote more greatly affects the composition of local legislative bodies. While you might not be able to flip your entire state, your vote may well flip a key district and make your state a little less red or blue. It’s good etiquette to remember where you came from when voting. Don’t leave your locale out in the cold. Ultimately, on election day, try to remember this one piece of advice: To abstain is to abdicate the throne of politics, the voting booth. The levers are your scepters. Seize them in your decisive fist. —The Staff Editorial is agreed upon by at least a 70 percent majority of the Editorial Board.

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Letters Policy: The Vassar Chronicle encourages its readers to voice their opinions by writing Letters to the Editor, several of which will be selected for publication in each issue without regard to the author’s race, religion, sex, gender, sexual identity, or ideology. Please address correspondence to VassarChronicle@gmail.com.

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Nota bene: The opinions published in The Vassar Chronicle do not necessarily represent those of the editors, except for the Staff Editorial, which is supported by at least 70 percent of the Editorial Board.

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ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

Distinguished Alumna Nearly Ruins Health Reform Twice
Nathan Tauger National & Foreign Affairs Editor

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n September 12th, 2012, an article entitled “ObamaCare’s cuts to hospitals will cost seniors their lives” went to print on FoxNews. com. A partisan hyperbolic headline on Fox News should only mildly bother an average Vassar student; such a claim is not novel territory for the media outlet. Yet the article that claims that because of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare spending reduction, “[i]t’s reasonable to conclude that tens of thousands of seniors will die needlessly each year” has special relevance to Vassar because of its content, and surprisingly, its author. Betsy McCaughey is the author of the book Obama Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It, the aforementioned article, and also a senior thesis on Karl Marx and Alexis de Tocqueville for the History Department of Vassar College. After graduating in 1970 (cum laude) she made the trip from Poughkeepsie to New York City to complete her PhD from Columbia University in Constitutional History. Then, in the 1990’s, she ended up at a conservative think-tank, The Manhattan Institute. Simultaneously, in Washington, Bill Clinton was using his Presidential honeymoon to plan health care reform in the United States, which held (and still holds) the embarrassing distinctions of highest medical costs per capita in addition to the most uninsured in national population among wealthy democracies. President Clinton’s plan, written by Hillary and Ira Magaziner, came out to over 1,000 pages and presented a strategy to increase coverage through a managed competition scheme (meaning those without employer-based insurance would congregate for group rates). The plan also contained reforms resurgent in “Obamacare,” like preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. Clinton’s plan never passed, and it was not without flaws. For instance, managed

competition and health alliances both might have had negative consequences in some regions. But a substantive policy dispute was not at the heart of the Clinton plan’s failure. Rather, ubiquitous distrust of government and muddled discourse surrounding the plan and counterproposals brought health care reform in the 1990’s to its doom. Deceitful claims, particularly from McCaughey, muddled said discourse. At the Manhattan Institute McCaughey became a keystone critic of Clinton’s health care reform. From the perspective of a “neutral academic” who had read the whole bill, she wrote “No Exit,” a five page slam of Clinton’s plan, complete with citations, in The New Republic. Her article made waves and won The New Republic the National Magazine Award. She was published at least twice more (once by The Wall Street Journal and once again by TNR) in the next year. Unfortunately, many of her claims were wildly exaggerated or patently false. Masquerading as a disinterested scholar and being published in TNR gave her credibility, and gave Clinton’s opposition ammunition. Almost immediately after she published her article, conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh rebroadcast her phony arguments. She said “ [w]hat most of us call fee-for-service (choose-your-own-doctor) insurance will be difficult to buy,” and “[t]he doctor can be paid only by the plan, not by you,” while Clinton’s policy required a fee-for-service option be available from employers, and explicitly protected a patient’s right to pay for medical services out of their own pocket to any physician they chose. Numerous health policy experts and commentators made public their opinion of Mccaughey’s article. Economics columnist Michael Weinstein from The New York Times called it “careless, misleading and wrong” and wrote that, “Her litany of criticisms-by-page number gives the article an aura of scholarship.” James Fallows of The Atlantic dubbed her the “most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person” in the ‘90’s. By 1995 Mickey Kaus in TNR said that “she got a lot wrong.”

Following the demise of Clinton’s health reform, McCaughey won the seat of Lt. Governor of New York and led a turbulent political career that eventually landed her back in a conservative think tank. Not too late to hijack discourse over another comprehensive health overhaul. In a Bloomberg column from February 9th, 2009, she warned that Obama’s first “stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy.” She based this warning on two false premises: that a new bureaucratic position would ration care, and that reforming how medical records are stored would prevent doctors from adequately treating patients. First, the position that she panicked about was created under George W. Bush and already existed, and her second claim was false. This did not stop Limbaugh and other conservative media syndicators from spreading this rumor. The stimulus still passed, but McCaughey still made a considerable impact. But her most notable recent analysis accomplished much more. In a radio interview with ex-Senator & Law and Order star Fred Thompson, McCaughey claimed that the Affordable Care Act “would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.” These counseling sessions, which earned the catchy moniker “death panels,” instantly caught fire with outspoken conservatives like Sarah Palin. The claim itself, which earned a “Pants on Fire” rating from Politifact, “nearly derailed health care reform, as town halls were flooded with angry voters who got their information online” according to White House reporter Michael Scherer in Time. McCaughey seemed unperturbed. In an interview with The Daily Beast McCaughey said “I stand by ‘No Exit.’ It won a National Magazine Award, which is a good measure of its quality. I put the page numbers of the legislation next to each paragraph and my opponents didn’t.” On her website, defendyourhealthcare.us, her profile explains that she “has dissected each major health bill and reported the contents to the nation, dispelling false

claims such as ‘you can keep your health plan if you like it,’ or ‘there will be no cuts to hurt seniors.’ She backs up her findings with page references to the bills, her critics respond only with generalities.” A significant portion of the population still follows her reasoning, and still consents to her authority by page number. Which brings us to her most recent article; the one that justified believing “tens of thousands of seniors will die needlessly each year” because of a reduction in Medicare advantage spending and hospital reimbursement in the Affordable Care Act. First, Paul Ryan’s budget makes the exact same cut. Second, Medicare advantage costs more in Medicare for complementary fee for service plans than buying a private fee for service plan would. This change just lowers the cost Medicare will pay to private insurers. And right now, Medicare advantage enrollment is increasing, so insurance providers are not losing money or cutting coverage. Also, lower hospital reimbursement will be mitigated by reduced costs of treating uninsured patients (since there will be less). Aside from health policy, McCaughey’s example is disturbing. Though she was able to excel at Vassar, gain admittance to a prestigious PhD program, and achieve prominent positions in government, her example should not be followed. Using blatant misrepresentations for personal gain is a nasty habit. Sometimes, in a competitive college atmosphere, these urges can be great, and in the professional world they seem even more magnified (particularly in politics). Avoid them. Another lesson Vassar students can take from McCaughey’s story is that great success in one field, like Constitutional History, does not necessarily carry over to a completely separate topic, like modern healthcare legislation. Being proud of your own ability in one discipline is fine, just do not let it make you presumptuous. At Vassar, a concerted effort is made by students and faculty alike to “complicate” definitions and topics discussed in the classroom. A word of warning from the annals of Betsy McCaughey: there are very bad ways to do this.

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ChroniCle, octoBer 2012 PAge 3

QCVC Co-President on Gloria Steinem, Campus Discourse
Zack Struver Senior Editor

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hile some may have reason to criticize Gloria Steinem, one cannot deny that Steinem rallied the student body around the flag of feminist activism and sparked an important, if not controversial, campus discourse. If Steinem sparked campus discourse, then the Vassar Feminist Alliance (FemAlliance) was holding the match. A loosely organized coalition of students, spearheaded by the FemAlliance, pushed Steinem on past and recent comments regarding such things as trans rights, intersectionality, and sexual reassignment surgery. We sat down with Genesis Hernandez ‘15, Co-President of QCVC, to discuss the Q&A with Steinem, campus discourse and activism, and how Vassar can positively respond to Gloria Steinem’s lecture. The Vassar Chronicle: So, how would you define contemporary feminism and queer activism, or LGBTQ activism? Genesis Hernandez ‘15: You can’t define the movements as one thing because different aspects of them don’t apply to everyone – like the feminist movement. You know, there are types of feminism that are catered towards white middle class women and there are types of feminism that are catered more towards the types of problems that minority women face. Same thing with the LGBTQ movement; even though we’re all allies, there’s a split right now between people fighting for gay marriage, people who think that marriage is a terrible institution, and people who think that trans rights are a bigger issue right now - or that it needs to be a bigger issue.

Samuel Glaser-Nolan

Genesis Hernandez ‘15 is co-president of QCVC. Hernandez thinks Steinem’s lecture provides a good starting point for future campus discourse between LGBTQ activist orgs.

Chronicle: Do you think that these movements should be working together? Hernandez: I think that if there’s space for them to work together then they should, but they also shouldn’t feel like they have to just because they fall under the umbrella of, you know, being a minority. Chronicle: And where would that space be? Hernandez: You tell me, I don’t know.

Chronicle: Steinem identifies with the feminist movement. Should she be accounting for these other movements? Do you think that she’s still important in contemporary feminism? Hernandez: I think that even though some of her ideas may be outdated, we wouldn’t be where we are now without her. She was a big part of including lesbians in the feminist movement, and the radical feminists–they started from where she left off. So without her, that leap to where we are now wouldn’t have been possible. I do, however, think that if she’s a person who really believes in the idea of unlearning, she should apply that to her own way of living, and as of late it doesn’t seem like she’s really grasped the fact that some of her ideas are outdated, and that she should be pushing to better herself the same way she wants us to push ourselves to better the world. Chronicle: So these are things she said quite a few years ago. Has she done or said anything recently, prior to coming to Vassar, to your knowledge, that reflects those statements? Hernandez: Yeah, the book that was written thirty years ago, it’s still been published recently and other writers often write a preface where they say, “I wrote these things thirty years ago, and I don’t share these views anymore” and then explain their current views. And there’s also the fact that she wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times where she says that gender is still the most restrictive force in American life, and she doesn’t address the fact that it’s not just gender–there’s gender, there’s race, there’s sexuality, there’s class, and there are a lot of other “-isms” that come into play when you talk about oppression and she’s only focusing on one. It’s like she’s playing the oppression Olympics and gender won all the gold medals. Chronicle: So, this takes us to “intersectionality,” the idea that we don’t just account for one specific thing as a cause of oppression; that we have to account for race, for class, for gender, etc. So, while intersectionality is a very important issue in a lot of feminist and gender theory, do you think that it could be applied to any sort of public activism? And how do you think Steinem could apply it to public activism? Hernandez: I mean I think it could be applied. There’s a big push for addressing it at this school but I don’t know how successful it is. Chronicle: Sure, there’s a push at this school, but what about the larger public? Hernandez: Well, personally I don’t see how sexism - if it were to ever end - I don’t see how it can end if you don’t work at fighting ableism, if you don’t work at fighting racism. All of these “-isms” go hand in hand. You’re not oppressed just because you’re a woman, you’re oppressed because you’re Latina, or black, or gay, or trans; there are all these other things that come into play. If you focus just on one identity you’re immediately ignoring the rest of you. Chronicle: That brings us back to the idea that there are all these separate movements that are not really having any dialogue with each other- that aren’t really working together. How do you think they can work together? Hernandez: I think one of the biggest

Edward Pieratt—The Christian Monitor

Gloria Steinem has been hugely influential in feminist movements since the 1960s.

things that I’ve learned this year as copresident for QCVC – there are other queer orgs on campus but there hasn’t been much collaboration thus far simply because we feel like, “oh they’re doing something else,” or “that’s the political activism group,” or “that’s the trans group,” and “this is the queer group,” and so we’re doing different things even though we’re under the same umbrella. And so one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that in spite of the fact that we may have different ideals, and we may seem to be fighting for different things, we can still have a dialogue and we can have discussions where we educate each other and say, “These are the issues that you’re ignoring, and if you don’t personally stand up and fight for them, you should still advocate for others to be able to fight for them” and that can be done through things like having a collaborative meeting where we have more than one org sit down and have the general bodies kind of meet one another because, let’s face it, not everyone has the time to go to six or seven different meetings a week. You invest your time in what interests you, but that still doesn’t mean that you should remain ignorant to the other issues in the world or on campus.

“Without [Steinem], that leap to where we are now wouldn’t have been possible. I do, however, think that if she’s a person who really believes in the idea of unlearning, she should apply that to her own way of living, and as of late it doesn’t seem like she’s really grasped the fact that some of her ideas are outdated.”
Chronicle: Now, you got together with the Feminist Alliance to ask these sorts of questions about Trans rights, and intersectionality, and other issues that Gloria Steinem has been criticized for in the past. Do you think this is a step in the right direction, how these orgs could all

work together? Hernandez: I think it’s one way we could all work with one another and I think it’s a good thing that the FemAlliance is addressing issues of intersectionality and trans issues because there isn’t much dialogue going on about the trans community on this campus–it’s not something that we talk about. And even in classes, it’s just something that we skim over so I think that’s one way of kind of working together, yeah. Chronicle: The FemAlliance sponsored the event financially, but they asked Gloria Steinem, sort of accusingly, how she spends her money. Do you think that line of questioning is justified for a speaker that you’re supporting financially? Hernandez: When we were meeting with the FemAlliance, it was a big deal for the members to be able to ask the questions that they thought were pertinent to them, as a personal question. It wasn’t a question that was meant to represent the org because not everyone who asked questions was a member of FemAlliance, so it was the sort of thing where you asked the question you wanted. We were there to help phrase them better so we wouldn’t come off as being judgmental or too critical of someone who is an icon for feminism, so it came down to the person, not the org. Chronicle: There are some people who were sort of surprised at the rhetoric that was used and thought that it was pretty critical towards Steinem. What would you have to say to those people? Hernandez: I don’t think it’s wrong to question someone; that’s what we’re taught to do here. We’re taught to read articles that were written years ago and to recognize problematic areas in those articles, and that’s what they did. They read articles and books that Steinem has written and they decided, “Hey there’s some weird language being used here, what do you mean by that?” I think it’s easy for it to come off as an attack when you have one side of the room saying “I think you’re wonderful,” and then you have a whole line of people asking her to clarify certain issues that they have problems with. So I see how it could come off as an attack on Steinem, but that was definitely not the intention. Were there ways that some of the questions could have Continued on Page 5

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Steinem Lecture Prompts Discussion Between Campus Orgs.
been worded better? Sure. But it was also the kind of thing that happened at the last minute. And there were answers that she gave beforehand that caused tempers to stir. It really wasn’t meant to be a whole line of, “What do you mean by this?” There were more thoughtful questions at hand but because of answers she gave to other questions, or because she evaded answering certain questions, it upset them and that’s understandable. Chronicle: Steinem has evaded answering questions in the past, from what I’ve seen in articles about her. Why do you think Steinem is evading these issues, and isn’t so willing to change her views of feminism and how it interacts with all these other “-isms”? Hernandez: I think part of it could be that she’s trying really hard to find a balance between the icon that she was during the second-wave and the icon that she is now. And so she’s trying to show all those people that idolized her when she was at her prime; she’s trying to show them that she’s still their icon while still remaining relevant to our current state of mind. So I think that’s why she’s evasive but I also don’t think that makes it okay. I can understand that she’s in a weird position where she’s stuck between the past and the present but, you know, we’re supposed to move forward and she should be moving forward too- or at least addressing the fact that she hasn’t. Chronicle: That would imply that feminism in the past hasn’t really worked with other groups, that it hasn’t really— Hernandez: It hasn’t. Lesbians were barred from the first movement because it wasn’t “our time” yet. You know, we wanted to get women’s right to vote and including lesbian issues in the discourse was too much, it was too radical. And you see that in a lot of other groups, though. Chronicle: Such as? Hernandez: Look at the gay rights movement. We’re pushing for marriage and we pushed for “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to be repealed, and yet, even though we stand as allies with the Trans community, there isn’t much dialogue going on about the fact that they can still be fired for their gender identity, or their gender expression, or the fact that it’s illegal for them to go into a public restroom that isn’t of their assigned sex. We don’t talk about these things and most people don’t even know that. people may have got a little off track when they started actively criticizing Gloria as a person, rather than some of her views? Hernandez: I think that when they went in to ask those questions they weren’t criticizing her as a being, they were criticizing some of her language, and questioning whether or not that language has changed for her. Does she still see sexual reassignment surgery as mutilation? Does she still see Trans people as beings that are perpetuating gender rules? That was the kind of the information that they wanted, but it wasn’t necessarily what they got. But that just comes down to the fact it was a pretty rushed Q&A. However, the debriefing, because there were professors there that provided background, helped all of us get things into perspective and get the greater scheme of things, and we moved into discussion onto what we can do on campus, as Gloria left, and she’s not here at Vassar—but now, so what? These are the issues we see on campus, such as trans issues, and how can we make them more visible. How can we make issues of intersectionality more visible? Chronicle: How would you recommend the school and organizations on campus go around doing that sort of thing–bringing intersectionality to the forefront, bringing these issues into campus dialog? Hernandez: One of things we talked about–like the QA requirement–is making sociology or intro to women’s studies a requirement, which is problematic in many ways, such as that, culturally, everyone is not ready to have these sorts of discussions, and people are not from the same place. Chronicle: What sort of roles do you think campus organizations play in this sort of education? Hernandez: I think organizations provide a great way to learn. It has to be something you’re actively interested in learning about and willing to join or create an organization regarding it. Students have a lot power to change things on campus. I think it’s ridiculous you hear some students complaining about the ALANA center, and how they feel uncomfortable there because they are not a minority; well tough luck! We feel uncomfortable in the rest of the world. I’m sorry we don’t have a building on this campus that doesn’t cater to your existence. Let’s face it; I have no problem that Steinem came. I think that it would have been better if there was more dialogue about her problematic ideas… Chronicle: Before they hired her to come? Hernandez: Not even that. It’s fine they hired her–she’s an icon and people are now talking about feminism. But if you don’t offer a place to hear people’s feelings on it, you will get Q&As like the ones we had.

“I think it’s ridiculous you hear some students complaining about the ALANA center, and how they feel uncomfortable there because they are not a minority; well tough luck! We feel uncomfortable in the rest of the world. I’m sorry we don’t have a building on this campus that doesn’t cater to your existence.”
Chronicle: Steinem has talked about these things in the past as “bodily mutilation.” For example, she mentioned bodily mutilation in terms of pornography in her lecture. Do you think she’s showed a change from that point of view? Hernandez: Yeah, but she also equated sexual reassignment surgery to a facelift, which was offensive to many people in that audience—especially since there were trans members of that audience who don’t go about their lives thinking about their gender identity with the same sort of vanity that’s associated with a facelift. Chronicle: You also attended the Women’s Center debrief of the Gloria Steinem Lecture. How do you think the discussion went? Hernandez: I think the discussion provided some perspective. It made some of the people rethink their views on Steinem, and kind of grasp the fact that she still is very much still someone that did admirable work, even if some of her views are not perfect–but then again, what human is perfect? Chronicle: So do you think some

Rachel Garbade ‘15

Gloria Steinem’s lecture on September 19 confronted important issues in contemporary feminism, but sparked controversy over what some saw as evading questions regarding past statements.

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ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

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Paul Greenberg: The Logical Conservationist
Joshua Sherman Production & Design Asst. Editor

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n Sept. 20, Paul Greenberg— the author of this year’s required reading book for freshmen, Four Fish: The Future of The Last Wild Food—lecture ind the Villard Room to a modest audience of students, members of the faculty, and administrators. In the lecture, Greenberg discussed the four species of fish examined in his book— salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna—and where they now stand in our global food chain. The discussion covered everything from the broad methods in which humans created (and now manipulate) our fishy food chain to the specifics of why we farm and genetically modify certain fish. In short, the lecture was not only a fascinating look into the vague and unknown world of aquaculture, but also a door into the mind of a logical conservationist who is truly passionate about fish and the sea. In his book, Greenberg emphasized a lifelong passion for fishing and discussed his experiences moving from home to home in Connecticut while growing

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up. During his inconsistent childhood, his time spent fishing in ponds, rivers, and off the Atlantic coast served as a source of stability and enjoyment for him. He even recalled buying his “thirdhand boat,” on which kept the nuts and bolts in place with his feet as he fished off the Long Island Sound. It is fair to say that Greenberg has been a life-long fisher, which has contributed to his advocating for “sound fishing,” a practice he has written about multiple times for The New York Times Magazine in the past few years. As of late, in the wake of events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and what many are calling the “end of wild fish,” his book has come at a time like none other. People are now looking for guidance as to what the problems and solutions are to our ways of fishing and how we can find balance in a world with a love for fish and seven billion mouths to feed. Greenberg’s lecture touched broadly on these issues, focusing strongly on a “you decide” philosophy to approaching the problems in our world related to fishing. He heavily cited a range of facts and historical figures, starting with the diverse menus of early twentieth century seafood restaurants and how today, this

has dwindled to a sheer handful of options, often many of which come from aquaculture farms. He talked about how we have dammed the rivers that salmon used to use to spawn their young, how ideal salmon are for the aquaculture environment, how we have found ways to make less adaptable fish, like bass, farm-friendly, and how we have depleted millions of tons of fish from our oceans. Greenberg was quick to offer his perspective on how we have impacted our oceans by changing our once-wild expanse of sea—one that has been filled to the brim with fish—into a realm where fish extinction is quickly becoming a reality.

“ ‘We need to have a bond with [fish],’ he added...”
In stark contrast to his morbid facts, Greenberg stressed that he has always eaten, and will continue to eat, a variety of fish. “I do think we should continue to eat fish… I’ll probably be eating tuna tonight,” he joked, after giving a voracious excerpt from his book about his attempt to catch a tuna, complete with impersonations of all of the people on the boat and how the experience had caused him

to think hard about how wild and powerful the creature was. “We need to have a bond with [fish],” he added, describing a need for a balance between farmed fish, genetically-enhanced fish, and wild fish alike. Greenberg is no illogical conservationist, demanding we stop our ways as fish-eaters and repent. Rather, he pushes for more logical thinking when we buy fish; he wants us to consider the sources of our fish to ensure we do our part to be consciously conservative. Greenberg deserves a lot of credit for saying this, as it’s perhaps one of the most intellectual things he said to his audience: explaining the importance of having a mutual relationship with our food. This alone is evidence of not only his knowledge on the subject, but how realistic he tries to be with his advocacy. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love Greenberg’s book—a statement I even had the composure to say to him after the lecture—but then again, I’m not a fan of fish either, let alone as passionate for them as he is. I shook his hand, we laughed it off, and I left that lecture knowing two things: Paul Greenberg could very likely get a second job as a voice impersonator, and the movement to advocate for sustainable fishing practices is in good hands.

Elmer Season 2012: The Hunt for the Senate
Liana Teixeira Contributor, University of New Haven

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he 2012 federal elections are upon us, and the country definitely has some major decisions to make when November rolls around. Not only are we electing (or re-electing) a president, but there are some important Senate seats that also need filling. This brings us to the ultimate battle between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP currently holds the majority in the House, so the fight for the Senate has become highly competitive. I’ve probably seen more Senate ads than presidential ads, and that’s saying something. It’s no stretch to say that most states already know which candidate will win in their districts, but there are about nine toss-up states mixed in for good measure. It is there that we have indeed found the most controversial political platforms, as well as deeply negative media. I’m from good ol’ Connecticut, one of this year’s toss up states, and boy do I enjoy listening to Linda McMahon and Chris Murphy duke it out during every commercial break (sarcasm intended). I can’t even drive the five minutes to school without hearing a Senate ad on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning campaign ads. On the contrary, campaign ads (both negative and positive) are necessary for a healthy election. It’s when the candidates’ messages become so convoluted and cluttered in pessimism that I mentally tune out. As voters, how can we expect to make an informed decision when most of the ads seem to verbally at-

tack candidates instead of highlight their accomplishments? I know it’s not making my decision any clearer, but it’s naïve to think a truce between candidates will be happening any time soon. The main point is that voters should feel confident in the candidates they choose for Senate, not walk up to the voting booth on Election Day still wondering whether they are making the right choice. The voter has undoubtedly become the Elmer Fudd of this election year. Everyone remembers those Elmer Fudd cartoons, right? The ones where he would point that ominous, double-barreled shotgun at Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, not quite sure whether it was rabbit season or duck season? I always felt sorry for Elmer; he was so uncertain about his decisions, never knowing which animal to trust or hunt down. Republicans and Democrats are the ducks and rabbits in this Elmer Fudd metaphor. They are openly aiming that fictional shotgun at each other, through the press and other media sources, leaving voters with the responsibility of shooting straight. This situation is nothing new for the average voter, but the victors of the 2012 Senate elections will ultimately influence the political atmosphere of the U.S. legislative body once the president is elected, putting high pressure on the voting community. And it looks like the swing states (and, by extension, the “leaning” states) could be the determining factor. These races are extremely tight, with voter support differing by a mere average of three points in most swing states. Even more

competitive states include Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada and Indiana, which average a difference of two points or less between candidates. Not to mention, the main topics up for debate this election season are job creation and healthcare, two highly contentious issues that strike at the heart of the voter population. While it is difficult to say which direction each swing state will sway, it’s no secret that both parties have received monumental blows to their campaigns from all sides of the political spectrum. Republicans continue getting a significant disapproval rating, despite the seemingly strong support being gathered for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Incidents including Todd Akin’s controversial rape comments are not making the current situation any better. Meanwhile, more than half of the toss-up states for Senate are historically Democratic states, bringing into question the current stability of the party in maintaining the Senate majority it’s held since the previous election, a critical goal considering that Republicans currently hold a majority in the House. I’m sure half the voters in the country are still unsure who they are voting for; I know I am. A few weeks ago, I received the rare opportunity to actually speak with one of Connecticut’s candidates for Senate, Linda McMahon. Hearing firsthand what she was planning for the state gave me an overall better understanding of her platform. While I am no closer to formulating my vote, the fact that I was not being addressed

Connecticut’s candidates for Senate are Linda McMahon (pictured above) and Chris Murphy.

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by a negative campaign ad (or any ad for that matter) put me at ease. For many high school seniors and college students, this is the first time they are old enough to vote, making their decision even more monumental, not only for the political parties, but for themselves. This will be the election they always remember, because it was their first. Being that it is such a significant election season, however, we voters are left with a cloud of mixed messages and media confusion, an inevitable but cumbersome fact: we are the Elmer Fudds— unsure and untrusting, unaware of who to spare. And if we don’t vote at all, we are surely shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s all, folks.

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Englishman’s
Christopher Steele Contributor, Oxford University

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Above the fray, however, there’s an almost universal acknowledgement that “the system isn’t fair”. In the U.S. this can be heard mostly in relation to the Senate rules that allow the minority party to block almost all legislation, or the requirement that bills pass both houses, though of course this complaint is only heard from the majority party of the moment. Some have considered getting rid of the Senate filibuster, but if I may pontificate, and I shall, I’d advise against it, using my experience of what such a scene would look like.

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ack in the autumn of 2009 I took a module in US politics at secondary school; primarily because of West Wing. For our first assignment we were told to trawl the American newspapers, so we could gain an understanding of the enemy, presumably. I somewhat naively assumed that, by and large, it would be the same sort of general picture as in the UK. Unfortunately, due to the then-on-going fight over ‘Obamacare’, I was immediately assaulted with descriptions of our beloved NHS (National Health Service) being described as an evil, socialist, granny-killing scheme filled with death panels, which was a culture shock given that it’s the closest thing we have to a national religion here in the UK—apart from the actual national religion, which no one follows. Luckily I persevered through the heretical nonsense and continued to follow US and world affairs afterwards, though mainly when the British press is being too happy-clappy towards the monarchy, the Olympics, and sundry other topics that feel too much like group hugs. Despite the initial surprise, I quickly realised that under the bonnet many things were indeed the same. There were the politicians arguing that without the ability to invade every “bad” country simultaneously the armed forces would be helpless; our ambitions are slightly scaled down, admittedly. There were the conspiracy theorists overestimating the intelligence of the government and in the corner you had some guy calling everyone else a fascist, socialist, or socialist-fascist for not agreeing with him. Even on a deeper level with issues such as the economy or global warming, there is wide agreement on the solution of kicking the can down the road. We both have incompetent politicians, and believe me it could get worse for the U.S.— your last government only nearly bankrupted the entire country while ours actually managed to build aircraft carriers without any accompanying aircraft, creating the world’s most expensive battering ram. We even both have clowns with ridiculous blonde hair who say even more ridiculous things; just look up Boris Johnson.

Madeleine Morris

In the British system there was never a single moment when we designed a constitution; we essentially evolved over time into a democracy of sorts. Unfortunately, it evolved from a theocratic dictatorship after it was overthrown militarily by the Christian equivalent of the Taliban, resulting in a situation where all power (including, technically, the word of God) is concentrated into the hands of whosoever holds a majority in the Commons (our lower chamber). Whilst this power is limited in practise by elections, treaties, and tradition, it does mean that party politics is completely focussed on winning a certain number of seats every election, and so gets

organised on tribal battle lines, where within individual parties leaders are dictators who maintain discipline—to the point where representatives usually lose their seat (and the accompanying job) if they vote against the party line. As the representatives’ only real power involves bringing down the government through unlikely mass rebellion, they have no media coverage and so there are essentially three points of view represented to the publicthose of the three main parties, negotiated in back rooms in conferences to appeal to as many voters as possible, without sounding schizophrenic. What this means is that if you have positions all outside the norm, you have no effective recourse, and even though their views are largely the same, the parties still never cooperate, as they view each other as mortal enemies to be crushed utterly. Back in the U.S., it is possible to see some signs of this already, in the centralised presidential campaigns and as the Republicans and Democrats swear fealty largely to nationwide platforms such as the taxpayer protection pledge, or pro-life/pro-choice positions. Whilst the primary process gives individual politicians some protection from party bosses, any candidate that espouses views too contrary to the party on a hot issue is likely to lose endorsements and funding from the big backers who bankroll the large political groups. For example, a prochoice Republican candidate is a misnomer, just as is a Democrat who wants any voucher system for anything. Moving further towards a system where all that matters is a simple majority in both houses, or even one, is a sure-fire way to get constant organised political warfare all about tactical one-upmanship instead of solutions, as opposed to the slightly shambolic yet representative warfare you have right now—which is also fun to watch due to all the characters. So how should you reduce gridlock and ensure that laws can be passed? To be honest, I think it’s a necessary part of politics, whether it happens behind closed doors or out in the open with lots of exciting shouting. Perhaps one way to approach the problem is from the other end: reduce partisanship. And for that I have one suggestion—get rid of gerrymandering. Over here we figured that one out eons ago, guys. Alright, only sixty years ago, but still!

Politics

New Hampshire Student Recounts Charity Work in Haiti
Larry Tilson Contributor, Keene State

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ast summer, I visited Haiti for a week to do relief work for the organization Movin’ with the Spirit, Inc.: Mission Haiti. My relief group and I flew into Portau-Prince and arrived at around three o’clock in the afternoon, where we met two employees of the Mission who were to drive us to our destination: the Kay Mari orphanage. We got into the caged truck and set off, first stopping at a store to buy water and supplies for the villagers who live near the orphanage. Some of them were riding with us. I was also able to exchange some U.S. dollars for Haitian goud, or gourdes here. While doing so, I noticed the owner of the shop was a Syrian, one of many who had come to Haiti to open businesses and likely use the Haitians as cheap labor. It took approximately two hours to get through Port-au-Prince. There are little to no traffic laws in Haiti, which made the traffic difficult to get through. No one uses turn signals; instead, people honk their horns to let other drivers know that they need to pass. While we sat in traffic congested by tap-taps—colorful buses used as public transportation—we witnessed many scenes of poverty. A teenage boy

walked up to our truck and pointed to his mouth, signaling that he wanted food. Another man was digging through a heap of trash right alongside goats and pigs. The poverty was astounding; I had never seen it on such a large-scale before. Once we left the city, we had about another four hours to drive into the peninsula to reach Kay Mari. We drove into the countryside where the smell of charcoal dominated the air for miles; many people in the countryside make charcoal to sell. Once outside the ranges of cities like Port-au-Prince and Léogâne, the roads were no longer paved or taken care of at all, resembling dried riverbeds. At about 10 o’clock, we reached the orphanage and were greeted by the children as well as the girls who care for them. The orphanage was very small and housed only eighteen children, but it aided many of the villagers in the area by providing jobs and services to many of the community members. Our first job was to go to the groundskeeper’s house and collect rocks for the roads. Vehicles damage the roads by leaving potholes, so we fill these craters with rocks, which sink into the road when it rains. While collecting rocks with my group, as well as with the groundskeeper’s wife and children, I bent down to grab a rock and heard a hissing

noise coming from underneath. When the wife and I investigated under the rock, we could not find anything. The next day, while doing the same work in a field, we found five tarantulas, which we realized had been hissing at me the previous day. When we weren’t collecting rocks, we went with the caretaker girls to visit with elderly

Larry Tilson

Haiti suffers from extreme poverty and a lack of resources.

Haitians. We did two house visits, visiting two women who were in their eighties. The first woman we visited had a skin condition with which we were unfamiliar, but we gave her some medication in hopes that it would get better. The second women lived on top of a large hill, so we had to walk half a mile uphill in order to reach her house. She was so frail that she had not left her house in

weeks, so we spoke with her for about an hour, giving her some company as well as some food. While staying at the orphanage, we also played with the children a lot. With the boys, we played soccer and baseball; I let the girls comb and braid my hair. We had brought a five pound bag of candy with us from the States, which led to the children begging and pleading for some at every turn. The children also love cameras: having their picture taken as well as taking pictures. Most of the children also love to be carried and held; one boy could not go five minutes without climbing on me or asking to be picked up and tossed in the air. Overall, the children seemed happy. They had many privileges that normal Haitian children do not, such as a television on which to watch movies. The villagers were also very kind; we became friends with one boy who was about our age and invited us to his home to meet his mother. While we visited, he gave us mangoes and coconuts and introduced us to various members of his family. I loved my brief time in Haiti. The people I met were kind and hospitable and the landscape was incredibly beautiful. It is sad, however, to think of the situation the country is in and the various happenings of poverty that the Haitians experience daily.

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

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When War Comes Home: Battling Veteran Suicide
Aleya Romero Contributor

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he fight for survival continues long after a soldier leaves the military. While the media often focuses on the honorable women and men who die while defending American interests at home and abroad, veterans’ deaths seem to be overlooked. With eighteen veterans committing suicide a day according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, combating suicide rates among veterans has been properly coined “the war at home.” It is a war that is raging in American homes, and it needs to be resolved. Today, less than one percent of the American population is a service member. With no current conscription, the regular military has been exposed to combat more than any other American troops. Instead of serving for one tour of duty, soldiers are expected to go to on as many as four tours. Every time a soldier commits to a tour of duty, he or she is in jeopardy of having their life taken away. A tour of duty is more than physical pressure; it is a journey full of mental and emotional stress, full of times wondering if you are ever going to see your friends or family again while having an RPG7 blow up your comrade beside you. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is very real, and the chance of developing PTSD increases dramatically with every tour of duty.

As a soldier goes through emotional stress during a tour, so does his or her family. Kristy Kaufmann, executive director of the Code of Support Foundation, points out, “I do know this: service members come with families. If you have a broken family, chances are you’re going to have a broken soldier — and vice versa. In fact, the Pentagon and Army suicide prevention reports released last year both identified relationship problems as a leading causal factor among service member suicides. War comes home. No soldier comes back the same, which means no family is ever the same.” Military service is an experience forever part of a soldier, and by extension, takes part in familiar life. Military families struggle, and the struggle can end in service member suicide. Service members’ mental strain does not end in the combat zone or home. The military as a whole is subject to judgment by the media, public, and government. There are people who refer to soldiers as murderers. In a war where the enemy is not well defined, a soldier is already under pressure to be hesitant about whom he or she kills. When the fear of criticism is added to the situation, it can cost soldiers their lives. This is exemplified well in a book called Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, a U.S. Navy SEAL who was the only survivor of Operation Redwing. Luttrell and three other SEALS were put in the situation of either killing sheepherders or letting them

return to the village and possibly giving information to al Qaeda. Ultimately, because of the fear of media and public criticism for killing Afghan peasants, the SEALS let them go despite gut instincts. The people they released turned out to be Taliban informants, and their error in judgment led to the largest loss of life in U.S. Navy SEAL history. The American government tells the military who the enemy is, but then it puts the soldiers in the difficult position of defining and deciding whom the enemy is. Are the enemy only al Qaeda leaders? What about Taliban informants who are barely sixteen years old? Who are the victims? These are emotionally challenging questions that soldiers have to face daily. Since 2010, President Obama, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been working together to address veterans’ mental health needs. Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs began the process of hiring 1,600 additional psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and clinicians to help prevent veteran suicide. Furthermore, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education will be developing a plan to organize research for better diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of PTSD and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI). With

September marked as Suicide Prevention Month, the Department of Veterans Affairs has created two public awareness campaigns, Mind the Connection and the Veterans Crisis Line, in hopes of reaching out to veterans, their families, and the community. Public awareness is especially essential, because there are many veterans who do not know that help is available. Research, mental health professionals, and public awareness are only part of the solution for preventing veteran suicide. There must also be active support from the government, media, families, and communities. It was not until Suicide Prevention Month was recently established that the government showed a vigorous role in preventing veteran suicide and helping those with PTSD and mTBI. The media often ignores what happens to service members once they return home, and families and communities are usually unfamiliar with the reality of veteran suicide and how they can help. Soldiers are the pillars of strength in a nation when military duty calls, and America should be able to reciprocate by giving them strength when they need it the most. No service member should ever feel unappreciated. All Americans should do their best to raise awareness of veteran suicide and support American troops, for, as Calvin Coolidge famously said, “the country that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”

Republican Party Platform Hypocritical, Illogical
Victoria Weiss Contributor

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n their 2012 party platform, the Republicans frame the upcoming election as a choice between personal liberties and the restoration of the Constitution against the Democratic Party that wishes to expand government at the expense of the people. The reading of the Constitution in a way that lessens the role of the federal government, which leads to lower taxes, is a classic GOP platform that is enforced election after election. For the Republican Party, the pursuit of personal freedoms and restoring the Constitution go together in very predictable ways: the GOP is against gun control becuase it limits personal freedom and the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. The GOP has also pushed for various programs to be controlled by state governments, such as welfare and Medicaid, because the Tenth Amendment states that powers not explicitly given to the federal government are under the jurisdiction of the states. The search for more personal freedom is also applied to non-traditional mediums such as taxes. According to the GOP platform, “taxes, by their very nature, reduce a citizen’s freedom.” Although many would not frame taxes that way, without a doubt taxes reduce the amount of money a person can spend, and in this country financial freedom and personal freedom are nearly the same. When looking at the basic tenants of the GOP platform, I would expect some logical extrapolations when it comes to domestic policy. If I were fighting to protect personal

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Mitt and Ann Romney onstage at the Republican National Convention after his keynote speech on August 30, 2012.

freedoms, I would want freedom of choice: the ability to choose how large I want my soda, who I want to be president, and what medical treatments I can receive. I would expect that the party that advocates personal freedom would be accepting of my personal choice not to follow religious laws. I would expect the same party to allow me to choose if and when I want to have children. I would expect the same party to advocate the use of birth control so I can make choices with minimum consequences. I would also expect the same party to let me choose whether or not to have an abortion, especially as having one could extend my personal liberty. Strangely, this is not the platform of the

“Great Opportunity Party.” I find it illogical that the party that advocates personal freedoms and the weakening of government is not “pro-choice.” I find it illogical that the party that advocates personal freedom is against me having a medication that would greatly enhance my personal freedoms. While I would expect the party to be against the government funding of my choices, I would expect the GOP to allow me to make the choice. I find it especially illogical that the party that advocates personal freedoms and the restoration of the Constitution does this in the name of religion, when the First Amendment clearly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment

of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If the First Amendment prohibits legislating in the name of religion, why is it continuously done? Based on the Republican tenants of basic freedom and a focus on the Constitution, I also find the party’s platform on gay marriage illogical. On a basic level, isn’t telling me who I can or cannot marry an infringement of my personal rights? On a more constitutional level, it also seems illogical. The Republican Party supports the Defense of Marriage Act, and the legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. The Defense of Marriage Act legislates that states do not have to accept the validity of gay marriages from other states. This directly contradicts Article 4 Section 1 of the Constitution: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” It also goes against the Ninth Amendment, which says that the Constitution does not list all the rights of the people, and that the government cannot violate unstated rights. It is the basis of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) that outlined the right to privacy. I would think that the right to choose a spouse would be a basic right, even if it were not stated in the Constitution. The Republican Party platform claims to be based on individual freedoms and protecting the Constitution, but it is not, at least not fully. If it were, the Republican Party would follow through in all parts of domestic policy. If the platform were actually based on these tenants, I would vote Republican. Every time. However, I will not because I wish to preserve my personal liberties that the GOP wishes to deny me.

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Accusation Versus Reality on the Campaign Trail
Steve Keller Alumnus, Class of 2011

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it – that that’s an entitlement... And my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” – Mitt Romney

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ore damaging words have probably not been spoken by a Presidential candidate. Years from now, when Mitt Romney is doing commercials for reverse mortgages, it’s likely this video will be up there with the Dean Scream as far as campaign-ending moments. In the immediate aftermath of this video, to distract from this utter catastrophe of a bombshell, the Right knew it needed something appearing equally unhinged to muddy the campaign waters— or at least to waste reporters’ time so they couldn’t spend all their segments playing the footage from Boca Raton. Fortunately, the Romney campaign happens to have incredibly lucky sleuths, because the very day after the Mother Jones’ video release came a release on Drudge— complete with siren—and lo and behold, it was the proof that the right had been seeking all along that President Obama was actually a card-carrying communist. The smoking gun: President Obama saying, in 1998—on camera—“I actually believe in redistribution.” Holy Hayek! That’s not just Marxist and Leninist. That’s Stalinist! And maybe Maoist. (Does Trotsky still count?) The Republican Party’s decline back into infantility has been frustrating but entertaining at the same time. On its slide down that rightward slope, it sometimes lobs softball attacks that most liberals don’t even know how to hit. We’ve been trained to hit the pitches coming up at 70, 80, 90 miles-per-hour, so it’s mystifying when the Right just kind of rolls the ball off the mound and think it’s about to pull a nohitter. Taxes are theft? Global warming is in dispute? The New Deal caused the Depression? How do you even respond to those basic notions you haven’t challenged since you were five years old? Let’s start with what the video actually said. The video in question was filmed at a 1998 university conference when Obama was just a wee Illinois State Senator. “I actually believe in redistribution,” Obama says, before saying “at least at a certain level, to make sure that everyone’s got a shot.” The initial clip, passed around by the Romney camp, ends there. To me, that’s a strange place to clip a video you pass around and call gaffe-worthy—but in Republican fantasy-land, making sure

New York Times

Then-candidate Obama speaking with Sam Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber,” on the campaign trail in 2008.

everyone’s got a shot is apparently some sort of taboo. And then, there’s the unedited tape, found by NBC News a few days after the initial revelation. In it literally the sentence after Drudge’s cut, Obama says: “How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities?” He goes on to speak about the free market, competition, and innovation, as Marx frequently did. Essentially, State Senator Obama is much like he’s been in his Presidency—a technocrat interested in providing a ladder for people to climb themselves, and working with the other side to provide a safety net so they’re willing and able to make the climb. When he does venture into the school of thought that says a strong middle class is just plain good economics, he does it in a way that bespeaks his very non-ideological pragmatism. We know this though. And we remember this isn’t the first time the Right fell off its rocker, supposedly catching Obama redhanded. Four years ago, when then-U.S. Senator Obama campaigned in Ohio in the waning days of the 2008 election, he happened to have the serendipity to meet future-Congressman Joe the Plumber, known then as Sam Wurzelbacher the plumber’s assistant. He said then, “My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off ... if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” Republicans thought that was an admission of five-year plans and a desire to see government shuffling money around willy-nilly. Instead, the Obama record shows something much more boring: investments in public education,

infrastructure, a progressive tax rate and the like. You can claim this statement was a gaffe, but in doing so, you’re essentially admitting you prefer anarchy. The obvious Republican response here will be: “But wait, he wants to redistribute your money to other people! That’s not spending!” The contention isn’t about government, it’s about using people’s hardearned money to pick and choose who gets distributed to. That’s wrong, and unAmerican! So let’s think about what this means for a moment. This actually used to be pretty basic conservatism. We kind of all agreed back in the day that living in total anarchy was a bad call, and so we needed to pool our resources to some central authority—large, small, whatever the case may be—because alone we were all worse off. Common needs require common solutions; for instance, national defense is best handled under the auspices of a government. Then some people got it into their crazy heads that, beyond just defense, something needed to be done about the “masses of unwashed poor.” And something needed to be done about the old who got sick and died when they didn’t need to. As we looked around, we realized that when the government guaranteed education to children all across the land, we discovered we had a lot more geniuses than we thought before. And they, in turn, used the public roads and bridges to crisscross the country—defended all the while by the most powerful armed forces in the world—and built up our country over each successive generation. When we figured out that we could do something about these problems by working together, it just made sense that we would. You don’t need a Hobbesian Leviathan to make changes; you just need government and business working together. And, perhaps most importantly, you need to agree on the basic idea of taxing and spending—in other words: redistribution. And a group of people had to make the choice to make that redistribution occur. In

some cases, the private sector redistributes best. But evidently, it doesn’t do everything best. So, government (read: society) has to step in. The question—for conservatives, too, once we reached the modern era—was always how, and how much government should do this. Even the smallest program, say a shell of our current armed forces, requires some redistribution of money into guns and uniforms. Republicans nowadays, of course, look at the taxing and spending they want and don’t see redistribution. Redistribution, in the vocabulary of the right, isn’t about investing in the future; rather, it’s about the Marxist philosophy of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him. Think welfare checks, government subsidies, handouts, and the like. It’s the idea of men in illfitting olive-colored suits coming up with five-year plans, and the vast masses of lazy folk getting free cash because they deem it “fair.” This is, of course, nonsense. But for critics of Obama saying he believes in redistribution this nonsense, is still the most generous interpretation of their politics. Otherwise, the assumption must be that these critics are not a fan of taxing and spending in any form. If that’s true, then we’ve got to assume that when they hear about budget bills of any sort, taking money from any place, and spending it on anything, they believe it’s wrong. If that were you, you would be an anarchist—which, though quite fantastic, is still politically consistent. But Mitt Romney wouldn’t be your guy, and—aside from an appeal to people who thought Red Dawn was a real thing—it’s another disingenuous attack on President Obama. It’s also one that veers, quite un-conservatively, towards deconstructing the principles of civilization we’ve had for well over five thousand years. A more nuanced campaign would have made a more nuanced argument for the right kind of government in the right places, but by taking this specific route, there exists no video with which Romney can shame President Obama.

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

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Obama Campaign Demonstrates Power of Negative Politics
Will Serio Editor-in-Chief

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ime has not been kind to Mitt Romney. Over the past few months, the heirapparent GOP nominee for president has watched his chances of entering the Oval Office in January slowly fade as his campaign has failed to do anything but play defense. This stands in stark contrast to the general consensus during and immediately following the GOP primaries, when most of the political class thought that this election would be extraordinarily close given the U.S.’s persistent economic malaise. Sure, things were slowly improving, but the pace was so slow as to make progress appear non-existent. Things just didn’t seem to be working out, so perhaps a change in leadership was necessary. The Republican nominee for president would enter (stage left, for all you Drama majors) and make the case to the American people that his alternative policies would bring prosperity back. Simple right? It would have been a neat, storybook narrative if one issue had never arisen: trust. Herein lies the problem the Romney campaign has tried over and over again to overcome, but to no avail. Throughout this election cycle, the Obama campaign systemically destroyed any trace of humanity people may have seen in Mitt Romney. First, they skillfully questioned his ability to relate to the average American. The message was concise and clear: this guy doesn’t understand you, your lifestyle, or your pain. Here’s a guy whose net worth is somewhere in the nine-figures, while most people are struggling to find a decent job and support their families. If we’ve learned anything from the past, thinking back to the 1992 presidential election in particular, it’s that empathy matters a great deal. The people who can’t relate (i.e. George H.W. Bush) get replaced with ones that can (i.e. Bill Clinton). What was Romney’s answer to these attacks? Silence. Next, they went into detail about how he amassed all that wealth. Romney made his money in private equity, which Texas Governor Rick Perry cleverly titled “vulture capitalism” during the GOP primaries. While companies like Bain Capital play a vital role in our capitalist system, their business model doesn’t make for the best political message. So, the Obama campaign exploited this as well by stating that Mitt Romney was a job killer and using personal narratives of those who lost their jobs due to Romney in their ads. What was Romney’s rebuttal? I created jobs, actually. The he-said-she-said that ensued made this issue fairly nebulous, but the original Obama message had been reinforced and supplemented: Romney can’t relate to you and he represents a greedy, immoral sector of American capitalism. Third, they attacked how he perpetuated his wealth, through preferable tax treatment and tax shelters. As a self-admitted political and policy junkie, this is my favorite part. To start off with, this attack dovetailed well with the policy debate over ending the Bush tax cuts and tax reform in general. As such, this kept the Obama campaign on message even while they attacked Romney. Even better than this though, the Obama team

created an instant classic with the “Firms” ad, in which a pitchy Mitt Romney sings America the Beautiful while the graphics on screen lay out all of his character flaws: outsourcing jobs to China, Mexico, and India; tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda; Swiss bank accounts. The ad ended with the words “Mitt Romney’s Not The Solution, He’s The Problem.” That’s exactly the type of message that resonates with voters and sticks with them long after that thirty-second ad is over. I don’t doubt for one second that this moved the needle in the Midwest as far as overall polling and Mitt’s favorability ratings are concerned. As a brief aside, the overall Obama campaign strategy and tactics used to implement it should give us pause. The part of this election that we should feel most uneasy about may not even be the attacks themselves, but the how they were conducted. These were done in a palpably shrewd, cold, calculated manner, and carried out with military precision. The gears of that Chicago machine never moved so smoothly. The juxtaposition of Obama’s proclaimed beliefs in a civil, nondisagreeable politics and the way in which his team destroyed Romney’s public image is troubling. It was character assassination, plain and simple. And, as far as we can tell, it worked. Despite these malicious attacks, I really don’t think Mitt Romney is a bad person. Yes, he’s privileged, wealthy, fairly elitist, backwards on many issues, and worked in a part of the business world that puts the “destruction” in “creative destruction,” but he also seems to be a deeply moral and pragmatic person. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that he certainly isn’t in politics for the money. Additionally, he and Obama are much closer on most issues than they let on. In fact, if it weren’t for the race-to-the-right GOP primary, Romney may have shown off his true moderate tendencies, as seen through his record as Governor of Massachusetts. Yet this exemplifies both the brilliance of the Obama campaign and the failures of the Romney campaign. The Mitt Romney I just went on about is not the Mitt Romney presented to the American people by either side. The Mitt Romney we got to know through the Obama campaign and Super PACS, such as Priorities USA Action, is awkward, out of touch, and perhaps even an evil plutocrat. In political jargon, the combination of these ads and Romney’s lack of a good, quick response caused his unfavorability ratings to skyrocket even higher than they already were post-primary. People’s mortgages aren’t the only thing underwater these days. On Romney’s side, we only just got to know his background and some of his good deeds during the Republican National Convention (RNC), which was 1) far too late in the cycle to bring back those voters who now feel so towards him and 2) overshadowed by Clint Eastwood’s awful speech. Moreover, every opportunity Romney has had to make the race tighter has turned into a mistake that allowed Obama to pull away a little bit more. The list is endless, so I’ll just go through four of his biggest mistakes. First, there was issue of releasing only two years of tax returns, which was recently re-

ignited when Romney shared his fiscal year 2011 returns. Romney never got ahead of this issue, and even when it looked to finally be out of the press, his campaign team brought it back up. The involved parties on his campaign who thought this was a good course of action should probably be fired and exiled from campaign politics. Second, there was the awkward Clint Eastwood speech at the RNC, where he stole the show in primetime from Romney. I can think of countless other people that were

On top of all of Romney’s gaffes that have eaten up now-precious news cycle time, he has yet to go on the offense with a clear, specific, positive campaign message that resonates with the public. His five-point economic plan isn’t cutting it. He needs to be more specific about how he expects to deliver strong economic growth and reduce the debt. Since Bill Clinton destroyed all of Romney’s effective lines of attack in his characteristically outstanding speech at the Democratic National Convention, this plan

Associated Press

Romney sports his now-trademark awkward smirk as he drops out of the 2008 presidential race.

actually on that stage in the hours and days before Eastwood’s terrible ramblings that would have served the Romney campaign far better. Those twelve minutes were so difficult to watch that you’d think someone from the Obama team handed him that chair backstage before he went on. Third, there was Romney’s initial response to the Libyan embassy killings, which showcased his terrible political instincts. By criticizing the White House’s response so quickly, he made this tragic event far too political too early on in the process. While there may be a substantive argument to be made against Obama on foreign policy issues, the right time to make that case is certainly not hours after American diplomats are killed overseas. Finally, and perhaps most inelegantly, was his joke at a fundraiser right after news broke that the plane Ann Romney was on made an emergency landing after filling up with smoke. While this wasn’t a grand opportunity to take the lead in the polls, his off-the-cuff remarks about having roll-down windows on airplanes was, at best, made in poor taste. This is his wife! Even though he was just joking, he turned a situation in which people were worried about the possible next first lady into a terrible oneliner that made him appear even more awkward than before.

is more important that ever for Romney to have a chance at winning. As I always say whenever I comment on this election, there remains a chance that some unforeseen event will shake up the race, making this analysis meaningless. Perhaps we will see that with the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential debates. Maybe tensions between Israel and Iran will bubble to the surface. We simply don’t know what will happen in the future. What we do know is that the Obama campaign has been wildly successful at destroying Romney’s character, and the Romney campaign didn’t respond early or often enough to change that image. Furthermore, Romney constantly contributed to this negative image by continually making gaffes and never presenting his own fully developed, positive policy plan on how to fix the economy. The modern Republican Party, with Mitt in charge, simply doesn’t have the base to win solely on a referendum of Obama’s last four years—they have to convince some people that Romney will be better than the incumbent in order to win on November 6. Romney needs a game-changer, and he needs it now. The clock is ticking, and every passing second should ring more loudly than the last in the ears of the Romney campaign staff.

PAge 10

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

Debating DOMA: How the Law Might Be Challenged
Matthew Brock Alumnus, Class of 2011

nAtIonAl AffAIrs

L

ast year, the Obama administration announced that it would not defend against constitutional challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This act, enacted in 1996, contains two particularly contested provisions. First, it holds that no state is forced to recognize a same-sex union granted by another state. Second, it defines marriage—for the purposes of the federal government—as a union between one man and one woman, thus denying federal spousal programs to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Since the Obama administration’s announcement last year, civil rights activists began preparing to challenge DOMA in federal courts. Right now, there are two main claims that may be brought against the statute. First, challengers can argue that it violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Second, they may also argue that it violates the principles of federalism embodied in the structure of the constitution and codified in the 10th Amendment. While the equal protection clause is a more popular argument among advocates for same-sex marriage, it is by far the weaker of the two. The success of equal protection in repealing DOMA will depend, in part, on the standard of review which the courts choose to apply. There are three standards of review. The general standard of review is a rational basis, where the government merely has to show that the law is somehow related to a legitimate government objective—essentially the government has to show that the decision is not arbitrary. The second standard of review is heightened scrutiny, which is generally applied to discrimination against women and as such would probably not be applied to DOMA, and requires the government to show that there is an important government interest at stake and the policy in question is substantially related to that interest. Last is strict scrutiny, under which the government must show that there is a compelling state interest and that there are no lessdiscriminatory means of achieving that interest. DOMA would likely fail a strict scrutiny test. The Supreme Court would likely state that discriminating against homosexuals is not a compelling state interest, so the federal government would have to come up with another justification. It would likely argue that refusing to recognize same-sex unions saves taxpayers money as it does not have to provide benefits to the same-sex spouses of government workers. However, there are many less-discriminatory means of saving money, such as lowering the amount of benefits given to all workers regardless of orientation, so this argument will likely not hold water. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court will probably apply a rational basis test, under which success is far-less certain. Some legal scholars speculate that the Court set the standard of review for discrimination against homosexuals at strict scrutiny in Lawrence v. Texas, where the Supreme Court invalidated Texas’s sodomy ban. However, the language there is inconclusive—Justice Anthony

Kennedy indicates that strict scrutiny might apply, but does not use it as he holds that the sodomy ban cannot even pass a rational basis test. Given the ambiguous language in Lawrence, the Court can go either way in choosing whether to apply rational basis or strict scrutiny. However, as the current majority in the Supreme Court is quite conservative, especially on the issue of samesex marriage (which even Justice Kennedy seems to oppose), it will likely choose to apply rational basis in order to uphold DOMA. However, if the court chooses rational basis, there is a chance the law still may be struck down. The Iowa Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage using a weaker test than traditional strict scrutiny in Varnum v. Brien. There, the state’s main justifications for the law were 1) maintaining tradition, 2) protecting children, 3) promoting procreation, 4) increasing the stability of marriage for heterosexual couples, and 5) saving resources by denying marriage benefits to same-sex couples. In Varnum, the Court struck down all five points as irrational. Maintaining tradition, it held, is never a legitimate goal when doing

inclusive or over-inclusive. For instance, it is okay for the government to mandate seatbelts for private cars but not for public busses. The car companies cannot argue that it is an equal protection violation that they have to install seatbelts and the bus manufacturers do not. If every policy passed by congress had to be so expansive as to include every possible application of such a policy, nothing would get done. Legislatures need the wiggle-room left by creating under-inclusive programs in order to negotiate. Thus, the Iowa Supreme Court seems to ignore the generally-accepted legal norms in rejecting the state’s argument. The U.S. Supreme Court, as it stands, is considerably more conservative than the Iowa Court was under Varnum. They will likely be all too happy to point out that government programs, such as marriage and its benefits, are not necessarily in violation of the Constitution merely because they are under-inclusive. Moreover, certain members of the Supreme Court have publically admitted that preventing the immoral act of same-sex marriage is indeed a legitimate state interest—most notably Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent in Lawrence. Of course, the majority opinion in

Google

The Supreme Court will weigh in on the Defense of Marriage Act with their decision next year.

so results in discrimination. Further, the state was unable to provide any evidence that banning same-sex marriage would protect children, promote procreation, or benefit heterosexual matters–if the state cannot prove these justifications, the court must discard them. Lastly, the court held that saving resources is not rationally related to banning same-sex marriage because a rational legislature, if it wanted to conserve resources, would be better off banning opposite-sex marriages as well. The Varnum court makes a very strong equal protection case, but unfortunately political factors tend to interfere in decisions of this magnitude. The court’s final argument—that banning opposite-sex marriages would save more money—does not hold water and gives the impression that the court was inserting its own values into the law. It is accepted law that government programs can be found constitutional under the rational basis test even if they are under-

Lawrence written by Justice Kennedy held that preventing sexual immorality is not a legitimate state interest, meaning the government cannot justify policies based on some moral opposition to homosexuality. That said (and as previously stated) it is by no means clear that Justice Kennedy would support same-sex marriage, and he may very well draw a distinction between preventing the government from enacting legislation that harms homosexuals and preventing it from passing legislation that denies them a benefit. While DOMA’s defeat under the equal protection clause is far from assured, the bill may be struck down, in part, under other grounds. Unfortunately, if DOMA is not an equal protection violation, the court will be unable to force the government to provide benefits to the same-sex spouses of government employees—while the government can tax and spend to its heart’s content and the court cannot tell it what to do with that power. However, the provision

in DOMA under which the states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages granted by other states can still be invalidated under grounds of federalism. Marriage is an area of the law that has traditionally been under the control of the states. The 10th amendment grants the states all of the powers of government not granted to the federal government by the constitution, and marriage is one of these powers. Congress passed this portion of DOMA using its power under the commerce clause—its power to regulate interstate commerce. Travel between states is considered commerce so the federal government claims the right to regulate people’s marriages as they engage in that sort of interstate commerce. Unfortunately for the conservative justices on the Supreme Court, the Court held in United States v. Lopez that Congress cannot regulate areas of law that do not directly constitute economic activity and have traditionally fallen within the sphere of state power. There, the conservative wing of the court invalidated a federal statute banning guns from school zones. While marriage may, on its face, seem like an economic activity—after all, it is an economic union between two people—the Supreme Court conservatives may have trouble making that argument. In Lopez, the conservative majority used a slippery slope argument in which it stated that the one area of the law in which congress most certainly cannot meddle is family law—the law that regulates families and their rights & benefits. The Lopez court invalidated the gun statute in large part because they feared that it would lead to federal regulation of family law. If the conservative wing of the Supreme Court wants to invalidate DOMA, it would have to turn back on its Lopez decision, which may well lead to an explosion of federal power under the commerce clause, so they may very well find against DOMA. Of course, one must never underestimate the mental gymnastics that an ideologicallydriven justice bent on achieving a more conservative (or liberal) America is capable of. As such, even with the Lopez decision, it is possible that DOMA may be upheld in full. Ultimately, the federalism question provides a conflict between two of conservatives’ base instincts. They want to maintain power in the states and prevent the federal government from interfering in said power, but they also want to shape the country according to their moral views which, as a rule, includes no same-sex marriage. Right now, the final resolution to this conflict is unclear. Liberals and conservatives both think that they know the answer to the conflict—one way or the other—but in the end, the fate of DOMA rests on the opinions of the nine individuals on the Supreme Court and—especially in cases of first impression such as this—those opinions may be hard to assess in advance. However, both liberals who support equal protection and conservatives who support states rights have strong arguments which they will bring before the Court. These arguments for the future DOMA case will make even the most conservative justices think hard before voting to uphold DOMA. —Matthew Brock ’11 is a student at Columbia Law School and a staff writer for the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems.

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

PAge 11

Seeing

An Introductory Primer to the Senkaku Island Conflict
Alex Evans Contributor

Red

foreIgn AffAIrs
in the East

China

Seas

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chain of uninhabited islands is causing waves in the East China Seas. Known alternatively as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaouyo in China, the five islets have been a point of contention since the final days of World War II and are marked by a torrid history of arrests, diplomatic freezes, and—until Apple intervened—even a series of violent iPad games. A favorite with nationalist groups in both countries, the islands have never strayed far from the debate over SinoJapanese relations as governments in Beijing and Tokyo, now entering the 40th anniversary of normalization, struggle to maintain economic cooperation. As oceanic resources grow scarce, diplomatic ties have frayed. In 2010, an intrepid Chinese fishing trawler repeatedly rammed a Japanese Coast Guard vessel after being requested to vacate the waters, inciting a flurry of threats, ambassador recalls and public protests. Though deescalated amidst international pleas for calm, tensions continued to simmer under the surface as public sentiment soured. The tipping point came in April 2012. Despite the debate’s nationalist bent, the islands were until recently only available by lease. Though claimed as Japanese territorial waters, three of the five Senkaku islets are privately held by the Kurihara family who, concerned with the growing political liability, announced they would sell the chain, “as early as we can.” Though the Japanese government’s lease stands until March 2014, the family invited interested parties to submit offers before its expiration amidst vocal protest from Beijing. Tokyo’s inflammatory governor Shintaro Ishihara entered the bidding war barely three days later, riding nationalist fervor to raise nearly 1.5 billion yen in public donations. In response, Chinese vessels on “official duty” sailed into the disputed waters, warning Japanese Coast Guard vessels to “not interfere” and “leave China’s territorial waters.” Infuriated by the assertion of sovereignty, Japan filed two formal complaints before officially withdrawing its ambassador from Beijing on July 16, 2012. The timing was auspicious. The aggression came barely a week after ASEAN, the 10-member association of Asiatic states, failed to reach agreement on a long-awaited “code of conduct” for the settlement of territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Plagued by similar disputes with the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi doubled down on the Senkaku dispute, issuing a statement reaffirming “China’s principled position” and warning his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba that the islets were “territory since ancient times, over which China has indisputable sovereignty.” Mocking U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s calls for collaborative diplomatic resolution as “inappropriate and ill-intentioned,” China retreated from the conference in a state of blunt and unilateral denial. In a misguided effort to deescalate the crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda entered the fray, submitting a bid that would

officially nationalize the islands and establish legal precedent for his country’s territorial claim. Unsurprisingly, the plan failed to placate Beijing, who warned: “The Diaoyu Islands and affiliated islands have been part of China’s inherent territory since ancient times, over which the country’s sovereignty has

must exterminate the Japanese.” Cool heads may yet prevail. In an unexpected move after the country’s belligerence at the July ASEAN conference, Chinese leaders have turned to the United Nations. The announcement that Japanese Coast Guard would administer the islands incited China’s

Madeleine Morris

indisputable historical and legal grounds. No one will ever be allowed to buy and sell China’s sacred territory.” Undeterred, the Kurihara family went forward with the sale and the $26 million nationalization deal was finalized on Sept. 11, 2012. Calling the sale an assurance of “peaceful and stable maintenance of the islands,” Foreign Minister Gemba urged: “We cannot damage the stable development of the Japan-China relationship because of that issue. Both nations need to act calmly and from a broad perspective.” The words rang hollow. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately denied the sale’s legality, warning the purchase “cannot alter the fact the Japanese side stole the islands from China.” Chinese news stations report that a defense plan has been drafted, and “surveillance fleets” formally deployed in the South China Sea conflicts that kept them busy deep into this summer have been redirected to the Eastern waters, establishing a firm—yet so far quiet—perimeter. The public has shown less restraint. After editorials in the state-run Xinhua news service denounced Japanese “tricks” as a reflection of “lack of basic credit as a country,” protests spread throughout China’s major cities. Despite the Foreign Ministry’s public reminder that Japanese residents are protected by national law, rumors of nationalistviolence continue to swirl. Fearful Japanese companies have suspended production lines in Shenzhen, Suzhou, and Qingdao, further fueling resentment amongst discontented labor groups. Though the reports of direct violence are unconfirmed, the vehemence of public protests reveals a widespread thirst for blood: as one public banner proclaimed, “we

State Oceanic Administration (SOA) to release the islet’s geographic coordinates in a public exertion of administrative control. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Li Baodong filed the Chinese government’s baseline announcements with UN SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon, fulfilling obligations for territorial dispute resolution stipulated in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The decision does not, however, guarantee that China and Japan will move forward within the treaty’s formal framework for dispute resolution; as the race for international recognition heats up, the release may be simply a unilateral demonstration of Chinese ownership. Beijing’s uncharacteristic embrace of international law may be aimed at Washington. Despite massive military, economic, and environmental support, the United States remains conspicuously absent from UNCLOS’s list of signatories. Angered by Clinton’s intervention at ASEAN and increasingly suspicious of U.S. diplomacy in the Asian sphere, China may have finally found a way to edge American diplomats off the table: having failed to ratify the treaty, the U.S. enjoys only limited say in the party state’s territorial mediation. Yet as Joshua Keating points out in Foreign Policy, “it’s going to get a lot more complicated. And whether we like it or not, Washington is involved.” Japan’s circuitous claim to the island stems from the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which established U.S. control over the territorial water surrounding and islands near the Senkaku chain. Following this logic, the United State’s 1971 relinquishment of territory established international recognition for the

chain of possession and secured Japanese ownership. The Chinese, meanwhile, highlight FDR and Churchill’s 1943 Cairo statement in which Chiang Kai-Shek was awarded “all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese.” While Japan argues the islands were uninhabited, the Chinese have forwarded a historic claim of imperial control. More worryingly, Article 5 of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan stipulates that each nation “declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.” Bound by a mutual defense agreement, the U.S. may be forced to decide between two uncomfortable paths: recognize the islands as Japanese territory and intervene, or remain mute of and passively cede ownership to China. Against its wishes, the United States remains the unwilling fulcrum. Things will only get messier. As the Obama Administration pivots U.S. strategic forces to Asia, the conflict reveals a broader trend of reemerging nationalism. Japan is not the first to butt heads with China. In recent months, Beijing has extended increasingly forceful claims to territories claimed by the Philippines, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Unrestrained by Beijing, belligerent fisherman have entered, fished, and even attacked in disputed waters, sparking a chain of diplomatic crises that stretch across the Yellow, South and East China Seas. Following a string of naval provocations directed at Japan, China’s growing aggression cannot be denied. Tokyo, however, is no swooning maiden. Chinese claim of “wanton provocation by [Japanese] right-wing forces” illuminate a resurgent nationalism in a nation constitutionally denied standing forces. Article 9’s declaration that “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized” has been circumvented by Japan’s maintenance of an extensive Self Defense Forces with maritime, aerial, and land units. Trained through joint exercises with U.S. Naval and Air forces, Japan’s forces retain the potential for conversion to offensive strikes. Nationalist politicians like Tokyo’s Shintaro Ishihara are gaining clout among younger generations calling for a greater global presence. Japanese officials have taunted neighboring Russia and South Korea by hosting separatist groups, failing to concede to claims of war crimes and, in a once-unheard of gesture, visiting seats of imperial power. “Many Japanese are beginning to realize we’ve been too complacent,” said one opposition politician. “Just look at all the claims made on our territories from China, South Korea and Russia. We’ve never been made to look so foolish.” The Senkaku Islands are just the tip of the iceberg. As China roars forwards, Japan’s biting back, threatening to upset an already fragile balance of power. Each incident increases the risk of conflagration, threatening to embroil the regional and international powers tied through a complicated web of security and economic alliances. Yet channels for cooperative and peaceful resolution remain open if both parties are willing to return to the table. The question for the next few months is simple: will they?

PAge 12

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

foreIgn AffAIrs
Conflict Over Senkaku Indicates Regional, Global Tensions
Arushi Raina, Debate and Discourse Editor Peter Yu, Contributor

Arushi Raina: Can you place this Diaoyu— Senkaku Islands crisis in context for us? Peter Yu: An island, previously owned privately by a Japanese family, was sold to the Japanese Government. The Japanese have declared that the islands will be nationalized. Previously, this island had always been a kind of “undisputed territory” that also had claims from Taiwan. Raina: I understand that the Taiwanese have united with China to the extent that they have also protested Japan’s actions. How characteristic is this? Yu: Yes, it’s quite interesting, since both countries believe they embody China and the Chinese people, and the island originally belonged to China. So both countries have held, and hold, age-old claims to this last island. Raina: Is it a policy priority for the Chinese government? By that, I mean is it an imminent threat to China, or at least perceived as such by the Chinese government? Yu: The word imminent is interesting. The security threat is not imminent, but the economic loss to China is imminent. According to Ocean law, there are around 200 miles of surrounding ocean that belongs to the power that owns the island. So whoever owns the island has the fishing rights and the mining rights, which include oil and natural gas. That’s not to say that the security threat to China isn’t present. The security concern is going to play out over the long-term. If you see the conflict as simply over one small island, it seems like a trivial concern. But if you see how close it is to China, you realize it has an incredible strategic value. It is also the last island of the first island chain that China can hope to have. Raina: What is the island chain? Yu: The chain of islands that include Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines lock China from Pacific Ocean. There’s no way that China can access the Pacific Ocean without crossing some of these islands. This island is one last hope for China to break this chain. Securitywise, if you look at the islands in the first island chain, you see that all of these islands are U.S. allied islands. Raina: Does the islands’ affiliation to the U.S. pose a threat? Yu: Yes, in the case of any future conflicts, the U.S. can send its navy to blockade China. The U.S. always had the opportunity to do this, but the islands provide a huge advantage. With the last island being claimed by an American ally Japan, they can completely lock down any supply to China that comes from the sea. That’s obviously not in China’s best interests, so they are, understandably, trying to break this chain so that they can have unrestricted access to the Pacific Ocean. Raina: Would you agree that the fact the Japanese have taken over the islands presents more of a symbolic rather than strategic threat to China? Yu: I think the island issue is completely strategic. Raina: Yes, but didn’t the island, since it was previously owned by a Japanese family, always represent Japanese control and influence? To what extent is China making a fuss over a change in paperwork?

Yu: The Japanese private client wasn’t directly under Japanese control, so the nationalization of the islands by Japan’s public declaration is a drastic shift on the island’s status. Raina: So isn’t there an aspect to the issue that’s symbolic—an act that’s meant to signal Japan’s exercise of its sovereignty to China? Yu: A signal that Japan dares to challenge China? I think Japan did so in China in the past with several consequences. They don’t want to do that again, and they shouldn’t. Raina: But wouldn’t you say that the power dynamics have changed so much, with China proverbially “on top” so that Japan’s move means something different now? Yu: Let’s look at the powers that have really been competing with China in recent times, specifically countries like Russia and the United States. If challenging China has a symbolic value to Japan, then this action is not only directed at China but also the U.S., and here’s why: Japan has not only been an island but the foot soldier of the U.S. and Japan’s actions and attitude towards China have largely been backed by the U.S. If Japan challenges China in this way without U.S. support, there’s a signal that Japan is willing to state that it can act, independent of U.S. endorsement. I think if there was a symbolic meaning in the act, then Japan is going to face pressure from the U.S. and China. I don’t think U.S. is backing Japanese expansion. Since the Far East poses a delicate situation, the U.S.’s policy has been largely motivated towards urging peace in the region. Raina: You were talking about the advantages of the U.S. having a connection to the first island chain. So couldn’t the U.S. be secretly backing this for this strategic advantage? Yu: On the surface, the U.S.’s stance was conciliatory. The U.S. does want China to stay away from the chain, but the U.S. definitely

War. It has a reduced defensive capability. If China does “invade,” Japan will have the excuse to expand its military. Raina: Right now China is so militarily ahead that doesn’t make sense for Japan to make an aggressive move, right? In an immediate conflict, Japan will be obliterated. Yu: Japan will never be destroyed. Not only is it true that Japan has a pretty strong defensive military, but the U.S. will defend Japan. The U.S.-Japan defense strategy is very much in place. But that’s not all. In a contest between China and Japan, all the other powers, Korea, Philippines etc., will also back Japan. So China will avoid a war, but if it has to, it will be a very small, quick, regional war. Raina: But then using your logic, won’t that also be in Japan’s advantage? Yu: Right, even that will be in Japan’s interests. That is why China’s trying to avoid any conflict. For Japan, conflict with China, at whatever level, is a dominant strategy. Right now China doesn’t want a war. A disturbance will give other countries the excuse to intervene and exert military influence over the region, namely the United States. That is why China is being soft on its policy on the islands. Raina: China has obviously, to some level, mandated the anti-Japanese riots to occur. Do you think that it is possible that public protest is being manipulated by some other, deeper objective of the Chinese government? Yu: There’s definitely government propaganda at work. Usually when there’s protest, the government sends out the armed police force, even the military, to suppress the protest. But in this case, this is not happening. The government, then, is letting this happen. But what is the intention behind this permission? It is not rare for the government to use one social issue to distract the people from the other. The government has managed to transfer public dissatisfaction with the corrupt government onto an external

Uotsuri Island, one of the disputed islands in the East China Seas.

Associated Press

doesn’t want Japan to make the bid now. The U.S. doesn’t want conflict in the Far East at this point. There are crises in the Middle East and Africa that are taking up considerable U.S. time and energy. The U.S. does not want war. Japan, however, does. Raina: War? Yu: A very small-scale war. Japan does not have a normal military force, a measure in place since the aftermath of the Second World

enemy. Within this recent protest movement, there are people who advocate for freedom and justice alongside protesting against Japan. These people have been jailed. But the people who are burning cars and looting, these people have been allowed to continue to do this, or at least targeted to a smaller degree by the authorities. Therefore the government has clearly allowed the protest to distract the public from its internal issues.

Raina: The New York Times ascribes the “genuine rage of China’s crowds” to the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda, which has obscured “Maoist triumphalism” since the mid-1990s with a new “victim narrative” about Chinese suffering. Do you think that the “victim narrative” is an accurate depiction of current government propaganda, and secondly, the motivating force behind Chinese public outrage? Yu: It’s true that the Communist Party likes telling its people that they were the victims of imperialism, but that they have been saved by the Communist Party takeover. I don’t think that the Communist party would want to depict itself as losing the battle against other parties. Raina: So vulnerability is not a selling point? Yu: No. However, the Chinese government does tell its people that the foreign forces have maligned intentions to take advantage of China. The U.S. is always portrayed as inflaming conditions in the region and provoking Chinese retaliation, for example. But in this riot, I don’t think the sentiment has to do with these diplomatic issues. I think the sentiment operating in the riots is inherited from the antiJapanese feeling from the Second World War era. Now if you look deeper, I do think the antiJapanese feeling might have triggered the riot, but it’s not what has expanded or sustained the riot. The current riot is not a well-organized, peaceful protest against Japan. It’s a mob that burns cars and smashed stores, and not just Japanese stores. The Rolex store was smashed and watches were stolen. We see that a low income demographic is angry, and is going on the streets and destroying things in their frustration with a variety of issues. According to the news, most of the people jailed for their violent behavior have criminal records. So many of these people also went out to create destruction for their own amusement. Raina: So, going back to Chinese Government actions. Do you envision a rise in Chinese public and governmental opinion to the extent that China will challenge Japan despite the U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty, in the future? Yu: No. China will never invade Japan first. Because of the US Defense Treaty, China doesn’t want U.S. force involved more than it already has been. But if Japan attacks first, then this gives China the ability to send their forces. The Defense Treaty is not an attack treaty. China will then be able to end things in a quick, regional way. Raina: You say that the Defense Treaty is not an attack treaty, but won’t China fear American involvement regardless? Yu: America will not do this. The backlash from international powers such as Russia and others would be far too great. The U.S. will not help any country that starts a military engagement first. Raina: Of course, counter balancing Chinese power in Asia is a priority for the United States. Ideally, what measures do you think would most effectively achieve this? What measures would least inflame antiAmerican sentiment in China? Yu: Anti-U.S. sentiment will not coexist with any efforts to counter-balance Chinese power in Asia: there’s just no way. China’s ownership of American debt acts as an economic suppressant on China in a way, but that’s not an intentionally political trigger.

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foreIgn AffAIrs
Democratic Transitions in Africa: Sudan and the Arab Spring
oFFice Hours witH proFessor ismail rasHiD
Michael Greene, Nat’l & Foreign Affairs Editor Arushi Raina, Debate & Discourse Editor

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he Chronicle recently sat down with Professor of History Ismail Rashid to discuss how the Arab Spring points the way to the future of the rest of Africa, the state of civic involvement in African democracies, conflict in the Sudans, and the role of the United States in the region. The Vassar Chronicle: I think the first question, a general question that might come up, is how would you label this period, particularly in North African history? Professor Ismail Rashid: I think this particular period would be considered a period of significant historical transition from post-colonial regimes, which were very autocratic, which constrained the political freedoms of people, and in a way economic and social development of the region. We don’t have a clear sense of the kinds of political forms that I imagined, but I think the seeds for those political forms are already there. I think we’re beginning to see the kind of shape that post-Arab Spring North Africa is going to look like. I think it’s going to be a significant force in that. You are going to have secular democracies with Islam as the dominant religion. VC: Do you feel like in the next fifty years, students in high school will be reading a chapter in international history called “Arab Spring,” and they’re going to talk about how secularlism was put on the table, how current systems, the postcolonial framework, were questioned to such a fundamental degree? Rashid: In a textbook kind of way, I think it will be seen as a revolutionary idea. I don’t know any way of seeing or imagining how history would write this particular period, which is seen really right across north Africa, except for Morocco and Algeria. The collapse of the regimes that have been deeply entrenched, that have been in power, in some cases for 30, 40 years; I don’t see how history would see that particular period. All of those particular changes would have to be seen as historically significant. I think they would be seen as a period of evil and a period of revolution and a period of change. It’s change for the good or change for the worse. VC: Who do you think is going to take charge of this history? Rashid: I don’t know whether the West, the way you’re talking about it now, has charge of the history of this particular part. I mean, even as we speak, there are versions of history that are national and specific to particular countries that do not agree or jive with western versions. VC: But will these versions dominate? Rashid: I think the problem of what’s happening and one of the things that, if you follow the presidential campaign, especially some of the stuff the Republican candidate Mitt Romney is saying about America imposing on the Middle East, is sort of living in the past. Because what’s

happening now in the Middle East is that people are writing their history. If the society is much more open and much more responsive, I expect there will be historians competing to provide versions of their history. VC: How would you contextualize the recent Ghanaian transition of power, which was relatively peaceful?

Professor of History Ismail Rashid focuses on pre-colonial and modern African history, including military conflicts in contemporary Africa.

Michael Greene

Rashid: What’s happening is that the democracy in Ghana is slowly maturing. Both in civil society, at the level of the population, and the level of the people involved in politics, there’s a much more mature approach to politics. This is the second significant political development in Ghana within a five-year period. Remember the elections of the now deceased president were very much contested. He won by the narrowest of margins. In Ghana, it was resolved very quickly and very quietly. John Atta Mills, in the first term of the elections, actually lost to the person who was eventually defeated, by the person who won by a small margin. And the second of the elections, he won by a very narrow margin. In other African situations, it’s been very difficult for people to accept such results. Zimbabwe was a place where Mugabe lost the first round of the last election by a significant margin and won the next round of election by a huge margin. But by that particular period he had succeeded in intermediating in basically rolling his opponent Tsvangirai out of the way. So in Ghana we sort of see a much more mature approach to that kind of thing. VC: I lived in Niger for two years, and in South Africa. There are definitely populations in both countries that have detached themselves because they think politics is a foregone conclusion, or they think the leadership doesn’t reflect their concerns, or they won’t improve it. You feel like in Ghana, there’s that civil sort of engagement and trust? Rashid: Part of the reason why I think

this is maturing is that there’s a high level of civil engagement. Civil society, the common people, are invested in Ghanaian politics. They may not be delivering all of the services, delivering all of the public goods that they want, but I think that the people are engaged in elections. VC: I do think politics devolves down to the microscopic level where people get together over a beverage, and politics comes up as a way of starting up the banter. Do you think Ghanain culture does have embedded in it a tendency to look at the newspaper every day, whether you are in the middle class or the upper classes? Rashid: Well, politics occupies, in Ghana and most African countries, a significant portion of space in people’s lives. It’s only very recently that in times of formal employment, the governments have ceased to be the largest employer. The second thing that was very significant is one of the most significant roots of engagement. Social mobility was through government. There was a strong stake, but there still is a much stronger stake, of who’s in government, and competitive politics plays a role. Chronicle: A reflection on the Arab Spring shows that civil engagement is there and can be channeled into a more peaceful way. Rashid: In a sense, the Arab Spring is behind what’s happened in most parts of southern Africa. It’s actually catching on. VC: Definitely there’s a very useful contrast in saying northern Africa, or the northern regions, and southern regions; there seem to be different levels not of development, but of discourse that’s happening.

back protest. Compare that to the rest of south-Saharan Africa and, for example, West Africa, where the regimes came under considerable stress and challenges during the 1980s and 1990s. And some of them were forced to open up the political space. Ghana’s political space was opened up much earlier in the late 1980s/early 1990s. When I was first hired at Vassar, I was diplomatically engaged in conflict resolution that was going on in West Africa. And one of the meetings that I had was a meeting that included West African leaders including, Wade, and ironically, we were sitting around the table talking about democratic governance, and ironically he said, you shouldn’t include North Africa, they belong to a different system, a monarchic system. It was ironic because of two things. One, he was correct because the North African regimes in ‘96 seemed entrenched. Mubarak wanted to put his son in power and Gadaffi’s sons were running the place, and Ben Ali’s family was entrenched all over the system. It was also ironic because since he was positioning himself as this sophisticated, cosmopolitan ruler who was willing to play by democratic rules, but was also scheming to entrench himself in power. But I say this anecdote to convey a sense of where in the nineties changes could be expected in Africa and where changes could not be expected. VC: Now there’s the question of sovereignty in Sudan, and what’s occurring right now. How do we articulate this conflict, and what do you think the legacy of this conflict between Southern Sudan and Sudan will be? What do you think should be or is the role of the United States, in light of the upcoming election?

South Sudanese generals celebrate independence, while the future of their country remains uncertain. Rashid: Yes, when it comes to political discourse there’s a push to open up the democratic state. It’s not that there haven’t been struggles to do that in northern Africa. One of the things that was significant in northern Africa was the strength of the regimes. And the extent to which the regime could contain and roll

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Rashid: First, South Sudan and Sudan continue to face huge challenges. The first is, all of the conflicts in what is now left of Sudan; Darfur continues to be a huge problem, the government still has problems with people in the southern areas of what’s left of regional Sudan. South Sudan also faces its challenges. We’re talking about Continued on Page 15

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ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

Religious Violence Causes Turmoil in Nigeria
a new country that’s very poor, but very factitious, in the sense that, they’re trying to get together disparate groups who are against northern Sudan. The two major challenges are moving from the situation of interstate conflict to some workable relationship that allows them to coexist in peace and to forge an interstate relationship. Two of the issues in that are the issues of citizenship and nationality for people forced to move from the north to the south, and the issue of resources, of which oil is crucial. Most of that oil is in South Sudan, some is in northern Sudan, but the independence of South Sudan has cost northern Sudan a huge amount of resources. South Sudan has been willing to use the oil weapon against Sudan. In terms of giving a picture of what the situation looks like, there is a peace conference going on in, I think, Kenya, in which these two Sudans are trying to work out the difficulties and differences between them. VC: Do you think there’s a sincere wish to work out these difficulties? Rashid: I don’t think the Sudans have any choice. The development and security of the people in these two countries compel them to do that. For its survival and standing in the international community, the Bashir regime needs to seem committed to peace. VC: And the people of the different countries, will they follow their leaders? Rashid: South Sudan held elections immediately after independence. They do have a mandate. They do have the support of people to pursue peace. But the situation in northern Sudan is a bit murky. We question the credibility of its elections, but there is a commitment, for the reasons I pointed out, and there’s an investment by people there because some of this conflict is affecting the well being of people, except for the people who profit from war. The international community, broadly conceived of in terms of the US and various African organizations, played a very important rule in setting up the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which set up peace between the two Sudans. Another major player wanting peace is China. China depends on Sudan’s oil, and therefore China has an investment in some kind of peaceful relations existing between the two Sudan’s so the oil can flow. There plans for significant investment that people hope will pick up some of the development of east Africa, particularly in Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. One of the projects is the Lamu corridor project, which would connect South Sudan by road to Lamu port, and they want to build a huge shipping facility in Lamu. Part of it is for South Sudan to bypass moving stuff through northern Sudan. The international community has been instrumental, and continues to be instrumental, in these projects. VC: The topical news on Nigeria is jihadists coming into the country and the potential turmoil they could cause in the next few months or years. There has been a trend of religion triggering conflicts, but there’s also a strong secularism, so how influential will this trend be? Rashid: Nigeria is one of the countries where religion, Islam especially, is most entrenched. About a decade ago most of the northern Nigerian counties enshrined Sharia law in their state constitutions. If you go two centuries back, northern Nigeria was one of the epicenters of the jihad movement of the nineteenth century, so that region of Nigeria is very influenced intelligences agencies, need to be able to confront those threats. VC: There’s a level of corrupt or disorganized institutions? Rashid: I don’t know if you should just throw corruption into that. It’s an issue of capacity, the ability and skills to do this and do this well. Nigeria is a developing country, and even where you don’t have corruption, its security forces are not as efficient or developed as South Africa, or even Kenya or Ethiopia, or even Rwanda, which just came out of war. of states to create opportunity, but also on the level of civil society to work with these groups but also to find alternative ways to express their frustrations about conditions in Nigeria. VC: I want to talk about the response and unrest caused by this “Innocence of Muslims” video. My question is, do you find the fact that there are protests triggered by such pieces of work troubling? Or do you think it poses an opportunity, with the amazing crosspollination of technology, to see the region in a less-than negative light? Rashid: I think we are going to continue seeing these reactions. First it was the Danish cartoons, then it was the French cartoons, now it’s this video that have triggered this response from Muslim communities not only in the Middle East, but also in other parts of the world. I don’t think those spontaneous outbursts of rage will disappear soon. The reasons why are, first, the sense of siege that various groups of Muslims and communities feel, and which has been exploited by militant groups. Dialog is being pursued, people in different parts of the world are engaging. This is something that is important to understand. It’s something you can dismiss as irrational, but for people living in these contexts it’s very palpable. When issues like this come up it reminds them that they are sort of under siege or attack. I don’t want to discuss the merits of this. The other thing these videos or these sorts of cartoons or movies, which are considered outrages against Islam, provide is opportunities for people to express outrage against deep and underlying problems. For instance, in places such as Libya the transition is very difficult. There are issues of security, people’s participation in government, resources, and the responsiveness of the state. Expectations in periods of change are always high, and sometimes those expectations are not realized very quickly. What happened in Libya is an expression of those frustrations and clearly was exploited by militant Islamic groups who wanted to get back at the United States. The same in Egypt, Pakistan, etc. These are societies with huge challenges and these provide outlets for people to vent their frustration, their anger—I don’t want to say helplessness, that may be pushing it—a form of agency, even if it is skewed or problematic. VC: Those underlying causes are so large or abstract that it’s hard to find a target, so its easy here for this video to be used as a target for underlying issues. Rashid: They become focal points that bring all of those grievances into sharp focus and get people, even in short periods, to spontaneously react and act. Maybe in a month or two from now we’re going to forget about the video and the guy who made the video—it won’t be significant. But I can say that there will be another event in the future that will bring people to this state of outrage.

foreIgn AffAIrs

A former Boko Haram militant. The Boko Haram militia threatens the security of Nigeria. The government is working to protect the civilian population. by Islam. But as you move forward to the future, the intensification of activities by Islamically-inspired militants is a threat to the Nigerian state. It has cost the lives of hundreds of people. The militants are attacking not only people of opposing faiths, but also government institutions, not only local, but also national. The Islamic militants, the Boko Haram, are a security and development threat to Nigeria. VC: I guess the question is, does Nigeria have innate systems that can be resilient to some extent? Rashid: Let me throw in one quick point before I answer your question. One of the issues is why is the violence intensifying now, and that’s where the original question you asked about what about what’s going on in North Africa is very important. Part of why Islamically-inspired violence is intensifying in Nigeria, and much more recently in Mali, is because of the Arab Spring. The disintegration and overthrow of the Gaddafi regime led to the movement of a lot of soldiers and people who were armed into Nigeria, to Mali, to some of the neighboring countries. In terms of the capacity of the Nigeria state to respond, that capacity needs to be strengthened. The Nigerian security forces, the Nigerian

Wall Street Journal

The first issue is the level of capacity of those forces tasked to respond to violence. They’re probably doing as much as they can. There are many questions concerning “scored successes” in terms of arresting, busting up cells of militants, or basically killing militants. Are government leaders invested in this? Of course they are. Even in northern Nigeria, government realizes that they have to provide security and welfare to their people. So in some of the states where violence has been particularly prevalent, local governors have been working with Nigerian federal authorities, police as well as military, to bring some security to those states. But much more important is leaders of those states working to make sure they bring in people of different faiths, Christian as well as Muslim. Boko Haram represents a very small militant group. The majority of Muslims are not invested in that kind of violence. There’s also a lot of work among members of civil society to address some of what they regard as the underlying causes of that violence. There’s an attempt to reach out and work with unemployed youth in northern Nigeria who have not had employment opportunities or are living under very dire circumstances. There have been attempts on the level

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

PAge 15

The Efficacy of Apathy: Why I’m Not Voting
Ethan Madore Alumnus, Class of 2012

deBAte & dIscourse

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turned 18 a few months before the 2008 presidential election and, by that time, I had already petitioned the town clerk for an absentee ballot and moved off for my freshman year at Vassar. It’s a little shocking for me to now realize that almost no current Vassar students were on campus for the 2008 election and that very few were even old enough to vote. It’s easy to imagine that people were excited, though. 2008 was an exciting year. I remember nearly my entire fellow group sitting together with their big absentee ballots and test-appropriate pens and pencils. The choice for president was beyond debate, but I remember people taking great care with the smaller, more local items on the ballot. People from California got to vote against things like Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, and I got to weigh in on my small town’s major voting issue: a referendum on whether or not to allocate more funds to our volunteer fire department to buy new coolers for their yearly picnic. It was good democracy all around, we thought, and when the campus rose to celebration in November we felt a definite, prideful part of it. For the 2010 midterm election I was a Junior and a little more jaded. I still picked up an absentee ballot before I left home, but I only filled out a single section of it (a vote for an anti-establishment socialist party to fill the seat of state comptroller, which seemed like a paradoxical enough idea to warrant an ironic vote of support). And, after election day had come and gone, I found the envelop sitting, unsent, in my desk. It was an offyear, on many accounts. Now we’re back to it, the Presidential election. And, newly graduated, I at last have an opportunity to cast my vote in person. We have two ballot-boxes in my hometown of just about a thousand people. They’re tall, old-fashioned deals, both with long, bronze levers that bring the aged red-curtain down around you as you make your selection and swooshing back out again when you finally cast your vote—hanging-chad and all, none of this new electronic touch-screen nonsense. It’s exciting, promising to give me a taste of that purple-thumbed thrill that new democrats are experiencing the world over. And, yet, I find myself ever more convinced that I’ll probably skip out on this one. In response to my intention of not voting I’ve gotten quite a few apathetic shrugs, a pair of smug smirks from an elderly couple that seemingly took it as proof that the youth are abandoning Obama, and one worried intervention. The last was from a family friend. She’s an older woman, somewhere not far from my mother’s age, I remind myself, despite her acceptance, in a neat bun, of her prematurely grayed hair. She is a liberal, of the stout variety that held Massachusetts even against Regan’s 49-state reelection and who has voted the Democratic party line every year since she was eighteen, not out of bored partisanship, but from a sincere dogmatism that has cast the choice between Democrat and Republican as one between forwards and backwards much more so than left and right. It’s during one of my parents’ weekly canasta games that she scented my wavering

commitment to the man I helped vote into office four years ago. It’s not that I am considering Romney, I say—I see him as basically power hungry—so much as I am honestly frightened by his running mate’s clean-faced, deficit-striking demagogy. It is that I think I’d rather not vote at all. There is a sort of passion in this. Didn’t I know that those who don’t vote are failing in their democratic (I guess that she meant it with the small ‘d’) duty? People died for your right to vote, she says, and you’re just going to throw all that away. It’s perhaps the one thing every politically active person holds in common—that political activity is good, that it is a citizen’s duty to care about his or her democracy and take steps to better the forces that govern them. Voting is held as the easiest, but also the most important, aspect of being politically active. And while the majority of Americans don’t end up at the polls in any given year, those who don’t vote are described at best as apathetic and at worst as squanderers of hard won gifts and contributors to one of the leading problems of American democracy. The willful nonvoter is probably poor, uneducated, or both. He hasn’t read a newspaper in years and is too busy working or watching TV to give elections much thought. Anyone who has given a lot of consideration to issues of national importance votes, if you’ve gone to college you vote; essentially, smart people vote, because voting is smart. So why am I not voting?

republic probably had other things in mind: less glorious and hardly star-spangled, yes, but all motives that probably seemed quite rational at the time. Had all those minutemen, patriots and soldiers all just stayed at home, from 1776 through 2003, I would probably be sitting comfortably with my voting rights and people would still be making a fuss about me staying home in November. Now, this is of course different for many Americans. I don’t think many were killed in the cause of women’s suffrage here in the States, but it certainly took some doing, and there are many others in America, like African-Americans, who can rightly say that the brave and misfortunate underwent a great deal of brutality to deliver up their rights. So it’s a weak response on my part; my apparent political apathy should probably be born out of something a little more resilient and global than privilege (but, similarly, “people died for your right to do this” should never be sufficient cause for any action). Another line you need to reconcile when not voting, given the unique pleasures of our two party system, is that sometimes you just have to pick the lesser of two evils. This, again, has rhetorical appeal (it’s romantic, even: do we vote for Barack Obama, our fallen angel who we all wish would come back to the light, or that sinister but sly Republican demon?). The problem is that this argument narrowly casts voting as an act of calculated utility and, therefore, is subject to a great deal of suspicion on those very grounds. I’m

honors.cua.edu

Aristotle argued that everyone should vote, while Plato believed that God was the only one whose vote made a difference.

I didn’t retort, half out of respect for my family’s stringent dedication to timeworn codes of hospitality that frown on speaking back to guests and, partly, because things I say when I’m in debate mode are held as increasingly dubious due to arguments that sound like over-intellectualization (which, in the depth of immediate family’s pastoral nostalgia, just sounds like argument for its own sake). The stifling wasn’t easy, though, and I nearly spoke up; I at least let an imagined version of the argument speed on in my head. My first response could have been that no one has ever died for my right to vote. History classes have, perhaps indirectly, imbued me with the notion that all those people who claimed to be starting wars for my liberty or running to the defense of the

registered to vote in Connecticut and, were the quaint and quiet Nutmeg state actually in contention, then the race would go to the Republicans in a landside regardless. So, if I’m not even going to have an impact, why is it so important that I weigh in on Obama and Romney’s no-one’s-a-good-guy celestial battle? Vote-counters and interactiveelectoral-map-jockeys everywhere would answer: What if everyone thought like that? The problem with trying to counter the free rider problem in this instance of federal elections is that the free rider problem is so perfectly applicable here. I can really only make my own decision, and nobody’s decision is going to rest—or even really be influenced—by mine. If I’m just thinking about voting in terms of utility, then staying at home on election day and baking cookies,

sleeping in, or wood carving is always going to be a better use of my time than the utility of voting, which can probably be roughly understood as how much things would change in my life due to the outcome of the election (which is easily overestimated) divided by the chance that the election will be decided by my single vote (which cannot be underestimated enough). If the best the denizens of democracy can do is try to convince me that, bereft of enthusiasm for one candidate, then I better vote to help keep out the other guy, then voting never really seems rational. The fact of the matter is, indeed, that I am very unmotivated towards either candidate. I’m unenthusiastic in any support for Obama due to his laughably insufficient healthcare plan (which still embraces the central tenet that wealth does earn you access to a better standard of treatment) and his moonlighting as our drone-trigger-happy, security-minded commander-in-chief. And Romney’s wiles haven’t even been so successful as to illicit enthusiastic dislike. So what else is there? In what I might now think of as a personal low, I found myself on Jill Stein’s website, the last resort for disillusioned liberals nationwide. Listening to her campaign speeches one gets the impression that she’ll usher in a new golden age for the bicycle and organic food co-op, both of which I like. There’s of course no hope for the realization of her GreenParty naïveté, but I like the sound of it (the explanation for which is probably related to the reason that I like to get my news from NPR: their abundance of nice, happy, wouldn’t-that-be-nice fluff pieces and sweater-vested disregard of sensationalism). Voting for a third party isn’t the insanity Gore supporters made it out to be, I could hear myself positing as I watched Stein’s speech. It sends a message (I have halfmemories of someone explaining that strong turnouts for the Socialist party in the early 20th century convinced the major parties to appropriate some of its platform, helping win us the social security and labor laws we so cherish today). A symbolic vote for Stein, then, that was the plan. Two problems arose: first, Stein isn’t even on the ballot in my state and, more importantly, I don’t want my vote to be symbolic. I don’t even want my not-voting to be symbolic. It is actually not the case that I think that my vote is something too cherished and sacred to cast before swine. Quite the opposite, I realize, watching Stein’s utopian vision crumble in my mind. It’s that my vote is a small, pitiable thing, a weak quadrennial effort to turn my tacit consent to be governed into active participation. With my vote I allow people who I’ve never met, who I really have little in common with, if you discount their nationalistic rhetoric, to claim slightly more convincingly that they have the people’s mandate to govern. It is not that I resent their efforts or wish that another system spring forth. It is certainly not that I think Romney is particularly bad or Obama massively disappointing. It is not even that I am one of those who fantasize about shrugging off all those who govern me or all responsibility to govern others. It is just that, knowing the smallness of it, the helplessness of it, I would rather not rush into that feeling of excitement I get from the dialing of a few levers and the swoosh of a closing curtain.

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ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

If Faith Is a Virtue, Why Is Extremism a Vice?
Jeremy Bright Alumnus, Class of 2011

deBAte & dIscourse

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ecent headlines detailing Islamic fundamentalist violence have culminated in an international discussion, both serious and satirical, of what Ayaan Hirsi Ali terms “Muslim Rage” (Newsweek, September 17). However, I would rather draw your attention to a germane interview given by Hirsi Ali in October of 2010—easily found on YouTube—in which she seriously posits that Christians must strive to convert Muslims en masse in order to defeat Islamism. “If we want to avoid military confrontation,” she concludes, “let us get into the business of converting.” If one instinctively recoils from such sentiments, it is partially because one suspects most Americans concur with them, given that about a third already sing praise to Jesus fortissimo possible, if opinion polls are to be trusted. But Hirsi Ali is different: she is a Somali-born Muslim-turned-atheist, a feminist, and a New York Times bestselling author, who has earned the highest praise of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. So why did one of the most influential atheists call for essentially renewing the Crusades? Encapsulated, Hirsi Ali argues that “dormant Christianity” is far more moderate and tolerant than Islam, and in counters “there is nothing wrong, and everything right” with competing “to win their hearts and minds.” What is more, the churches “know how to do it,” but are too “intimidated” by politically correct bullies and anti-theists who “think all Christians are radical.” Should we fail, she believes, the West will find itself at war with Islamists who fight against secularization and existentially threaten its Enlightenment values—never mind how Rick “Holy Warrior” Santorum embodied jihad on the campaign trail, declaring that only “God’s Army” could save America from the great Satan and immanentize the eschaton, heralding the Armageddon of starting a war with Iran. This might seem like methadone for the opiate addict, as Marx might put it, but new drugs often sustain old abuses. Ignoring efficacy and ethics, if one were to press a button and suddenly witness every Muslim declare Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior, why think that they would be liberal and not literal? Why believe that these BornAgains would pray for a Ford pickup or hold the First Annual Musa Qala July Fourth Community Barbeque, not pen variants of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” anti-homosexuality bill, or otherwise construct a theocracy inclined toward Biblically-inspired acts of terror and genocide? History suggests one sect of fundamentalists is no less inclined to theocratic Fascism or less capable of the same human cruelties than another. Yet, Hirsi Ali’s full remarks imply that imbibing the blood of a two-thousand year old human sacrifice once a week will serve as a soothing nerve tonic. To fully stretch this absurdity, the annexation of Islam would boost the world Christian population from approximately one third to over half, controlling many of its richest areas, shifting the balance of power to favor a resurgent, supremacist Christendom,

swollen with evangelical fundamentalists looking to impose their own brand of theocratic Fascism, particularly upon those born bearing God’s universal birthmark of natural inferiority: double-X chromosomes. While that is fantasy, the underlying notions of such an endorsement by Hirsi Ali of the lesser of two evils are real. We know that the Bible is by no means a part of the road to secularism or even moderation; secular-humanist values are, but she drops such socially progressive possibilities in favor of the same problem wearing a new mask: the spread of an organized religion equally open to theocrats and fanatics. It also insincerely flatters Westerners— particularly Hirsi Ali’s religiously-driven, anti-Islamist fellow travelers—by promoting Christianity as the Religion of Peace for practical, not spiritual, reasons while omitting its role in atrocities such as the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and of course the Holocaust, to cite but three examples in living memory. Finally, it implies that America and Europe are as free and tolerant as they are because of Christianity, rather than in spite of it, an erroneous notion which harmonizes with neo-imperialist discourse of cultural superiority, reflecting the Euro-American proclivity toward “culturally Christian” identity. Perhaps most illogically for someone under a fatwa since 2004 for apostasy, she blames comrades for stymieing such conversion efforts without a word in consideration of how missionaries will successfully operate under Islamist regimes that punish conversion with death. I bring up and dwell on a two-yearold interview because it perfectly frames ongoing conversations about the nature of faith and its role in public life. Hirsi Ali’s central point that moderation is better than extremism—and by extension Christianity is supposedly superior to Islam—is uncritically echoed daily by those on the right and left alike. By the cultural standards of many Americans who pay lip-service to the value of the Bible and multiculturalism at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment is high and weekly Church attendance is low, the sight of anyone, but especially the barbarous Other of Orientalist mythology, taking their religion seriously enough to trump secularhumanist values is a source of great anxiety, to the point where many self-identifying moderates are classed indiscriminately with the violent radicals in their midst because they might violate those standards, such as using scripture as a pretext to censor art. But, pray tell, what is wrong with fundamentalism in the first place? Everything, I would posit as an anti-theist. But since only two percent of Americans seem willing to identify as atheist, it bears asking: If faith is a virtue, why is religious fundamentalism regarded as a vice, when it is the ultimate triumph of faith—belief sans reason—over doubt? If there is a more important existential matter than whether there is a god, and if so, which religion is true, it completely escapes me. Therefore, if I were convinced to put faith into any particular brand of theism, I think I would want, if not need, to devote myself to its doctrine as zealously as possible. Overwhelming scientific and historical knowledge are transmuted by the alchemy of faith from creeping doubts into trials,

from which another cultural demonstration of cognitive dissonance—that it is good to be educated, but bad to be intellectual—might surface as a defense mechanism. I think one could easily overcome the temptation of material comforts or the ease of following the crowd, for the Abrahamic God is said to eternally reward those who endure the hardships of his path and both Testaments admonish descent into temptations that defy the Word. But for many, faith-as-virtue is dashed upon the rocks of modern values—much like the innocent babies of Babylonian unbelievers in Psalm 137—when demanded to unquestioningly accept the Bible

only for the reassurance of a self-centered universe and afterlife, but also for the positive connotations of labels long after parting with their actual tenets, insofar as they feel connected by membership, sense comparable lifestyles, and bond at services like baseball fans in a sports bar, taking their religious lives less seriously than the game. Meanwhile, in one of the great ironies of our culture, fundamentalists who have true faith in the Testaments that 80% of Americans claim to believe are ridiculed, vilified, and attacked by moderate Christians, who are in the privileged position of being able to simultaneously identify as comparably “liberal” and part of that in-group. To me,

Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Ayaan Hirsi Ali supports converting Muslims to “dormant Christianity” as a way of “winning their hearts and minds.”

as literal and inerrant, riddled as it is with inconsistencies and paragons of monstrous morality. To further a favorite Dawkinsian analysis, Yahweh’s trademark characteristics include being petty, jealous and proud of it, remorseless, a firm believer in slavery, deceitful, sadistic, cruel to animals, criminally irresponsible, irrational, impulsive, self-contradictory, egomaniacal, megalomaniacal, a textbook sociopath, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, totalitarian, infanticidal, filicidal, genocidal, et cetera literally ad nauseum. I would hate to think that I was created in the image of a psychotic sky tyrant worse than Adolf Hitler in all ways except one: Hitler manifestly existed. For that reason, many people no longer take the Word of God literally; but how ridiculous would it sound if “moderate Nazis” proclaimed that everything in Mein Kampf contrary to modern values was not actually written by Hitler, but rather “fake” Nazis, allowing them to continue conceiving of their Führer as the Supreme Good? It is not only utterly ridiculous, but abhorrent. Why would anyone with modern values and knowledge of history choose such a label for themselves? I make the comparison not to offend, but to best illustrate the deeply offensive ideas explicit and implicit within the Bible. It strikes me that many people seem to cling to traditional religious identities not

the contempt felt by the Westboro Baptist Church for moderate Christians seems more readily understandable than vice versa, since it is an organization within the laws of society that shuns terrorism—if only because they believe we will all burn eternally in Hell shortly enough. Such people are often said to be not “real Christians,” but this is just another matter of convenience, for they are embarrassing reminders of Biblical literalism and how flexible and ultimately meaningless such beliefs are without inerrancy. It is an act of supreme fatuity and cognitive dissonance to egotistically edit the Word of one’s God, cherry-pick passages that happen to align with modernity, dismiss the rest, and then assert any personal claim to absolute truth. Moreover, it is this path of least resistance, this passive position under the umbrella of American Christianity, which helps empower the very fundamentalists who disdain Jeffersonian separation of Church and State by giving statistical weight to the argument that America is a Christian nation and ought to be governed as such. Perhaps those with labels more cultural than literal ought to reflect upon their privileged identities and what has actually contributed to their values—faith or reason—and cease bashing alternative faiths as much as the idea that faith itself is a virtue. —Jeremy Bright, ‘11, co-founded the current incarnation of the Vassar Chronicle.

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

PAge 17

deBAte & dIscourse
Ought Diversity Be Considered in College Admissions?
Nathan Tauger, Nat’l & Foreign Affairs Editor Arushi Raina, Debate & Discourse Editor

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or Case of the Month, we seek to present a potentially controversial case, and seek out ways to engage with the topic, despite problematic aspects or positions on socio-economic/moral levels. This is what debate is about, and of course, the debate does not reflect the true thoughts and feelings of the participants. Our argumentation should, and hopefully will, be criticized. Arushi Raina: So the proposition you have here, Tauger, seems pretty contentious. How can you justify taking away diversity as an admissions goal? Nathan Tauger: First, let’s clarify what exactly we mean by diversity. In the sense of academic diversity, getting the right number of prospective studio art, math, and Hispanic studies majors so everyone can be in classes when they get here that make sense. What I’m talking about is racial, socioeconomic, gender, and cultural diversity. AR: I think the best way to do this is to actually look at some of the general reasons why diversity is included as a parameter for college admissions. Firstly, there is that well-worn argument about the most productive and valuable learning environment. Diversity allows for a learning environment that teaches students to interact with people from different backgrounds. NT: Your argument relies on two flawed premises. The first is the assumption that because white boy interacts with, say, green girl, that white boy and green girl are now tolerant and accepting of each other. In reality, I would like to be thought of as more than two essentialized characteristics, and I hope most other people would as well. AR: I was taking a more Social Darwinist slant to it. As a potential “Leader of the World,” you will come into contact with brown, yellow, green people. And to facilitate and succeed in your actions, your diverse experience at Vassar should stand you in better stead than your suggestion for a homogenous student pool. NT: Sharing an educational experience with someone that is supposed to serve as a definitive representative of some group should not inform your opinion of that entire group. By that same logic, if I shared a mutually negative educational experience with some “representative” would I be justified in having a negative impression of all green girls? AR: No, and that is why increased diversity would reduce rather than increase those simplistic generalizations that come from waving to a foreigner in the grocery store. Increased green girls means increased/nuanced experiences of green girls. In your status quo, there is reduced exposure and enlightenment. NT: You think that it is possible to make these generalizations from a sample size present at a small college. I think that by relying on this policy for “better” generalizations we’re falling into the trap of stereotyping. In fact, we can see this at Vassar now. All it takes is that moment in a history or political science class where

the professor asks about “the” AfricanAmerican, Muslim, Gay, Native-American, or religious perspective and the entire class (and professor) looks at the one or two people to whom that category applies in the class. This kind of stereotype is harmful to the non-targeted students because it makes them think that these generalizations are permissible, and harmful to the targeted students because it restricts their freedom in forming their own identity. Colleges should not pigeonhole students into ethnic or cultural classes. AR: Your system is not solving for the problem you’ve identified at all. By limiting diversity priorities in admissions, you’re not solving for bad generalizations or stereotypes, you’re just increasing the chance they occur. Because the diverse students are present, and not the idea of what we think they are is present, they can offer a more nuanced view of the situation. Secondly, I don’t think that the “diverse” students’ freedom of identity is threatened at all. In the academic environment at Vassar, they are given the freedom to declare themselves as they see fit. Instead of getting abstract here, let’s evaluate this green girl’s utility from my side and yours. On your side, we have the nebulous potentiality that they may feel “targeted” in the most abstract and academic of senses. I agree that colleges shouldn’t pigeonhole students for whatever diversity tag they represent. Definitely teaching and learning should not function from such a limited framework. That can be reformed. NT: I say that college admissions should instead function under a system of merit, because an elite college education is a privilege and also (unfortunately) a scarce resource. But merit does not have to mean SAT scores and a high GPA. Rather, the role of the admissions office should be to figure out who has worked hard to get here based on context. So if someone has demonstrably persevered in the face of discrimination to achieve academically or in their community (relatively), that is merit. If someone has a troubled background and fought past objectively difficult circumstances (like discrimination) to be able to reach college, that is merit. In this respect, diversity comes about naturally without having a specific target. AR: I don’t think “worked hard” is a calculable parameter. The reason why we have income, diversity, and gender diversity is an effort to reach that happy medium–so we can identify the adversity despite a difference in articulation in application essays. Also, on your side, you have a fairly abstract and subjective parameter that may encourage college applicants to fabricate essays listing the trials of Hercules–because adversity itself is the differentiating factor, and its easier to fake it than a racial or cultural, gender context. But you haven’t really answered the crux of my case, which is that academic institutions have a responsibility towards promoting, for example, racially progressive policies in a country that as yet does not have racial parity. NT: I’ll address your second point first: does having a more racially diverse class photo mean that the issues of race

have been solved in America? I think that you are relying on a superficial notion of equality. Which brings me back to merit. You are correct in saying that figuring out who “worked hard” to get to Vassar is difficult. Just because it is difficult does not mean that the admissions office should abandon this goal. The reason admissions officers have jobs is to figure this kind of thing out. College application essays should attempt to demonstrate the trials and adversity that applicants go through to get to this point in their lives. The point of a college application is to construct a narrative about that applicant. Regardless of the criteria used, that narrative will be constructed. So the real choice here is whether you want a shaded bubble under the “race/ethnicity” category to tell more of a story than the applicant’s own words. Moreover, should a college really be the arbiter of what background is considered diverse and what is not?

“I say that college admissions should instead function under a system of merit, because an elite college education is a privilege.” — Nathan Tauger
AR: I believe that race, socioeconomic issues, including intergroup conflicts besides purely economic issues, are being given some level of attention by the college, which has that intrinsic social responsibility to at least attempt to improve societal interactions, even if its just among a select few liberal arts students. I think that promoting diversity is a socially/governmentally-accepted norm that should be followed. If Vassar were to suddenly opt out from taking progressive measures, not only might they incur backlash from sponsors, and perhaps receive a lower quality of applications but also they will receive negative publicity on a larger scale. So lets look at your “effort” parameter. What about people who haven’t been able to articulate the “effort” they’ve made because their differing cultural and racial background? You’re further biasing the college admissions towards the elite and articulate, and not allowing a person’s background speak for itself. But more importantly, your “effort” parameter seems to exclude students of more ability than effort. NT: I think that moves beyond the scope of this debate. Whether a suitable baseline ability is necessary and the extent to which college admissions should be decided based on expected returns are two important, but different questions than the one we are facing today. I think you make a good point about the process favoring descriptive applications. I think that more descriptive applications are good for necessarily tough admissions

decisions (I would rather have more than less information when deciding who to admit). Improving and expanding existing programs that help underprivileged students apply to college and good recommendations can emphasize the importance of telling a unique story that accurately reflects challenges faced and personal determination. Different people succeed in different ways, and everyone has their own unique story. AR: You’ve critiqued diversity as a consideration in applications for the following reasons: for the way that it can negatively impact discourse and pigeonhole students. I’ve proved to you how increased diversity actually mitigates your problem, and the more diversity there is, the better and more nuanced discourse will be. I’ve shown you how this pigeonholing is completely a choice, and definitely does not mean removing diversity as a parameter for applications. Pigeonholing will improve with greater diversity. The alternative you’ve given me is this whole idea of “merit” which is not really merit, but a case about constructing a narrative about diversity. I’ve illustrated, in detail, how this is an extremely regressive policy, favoring the articulate and elite, and putting more obstacles against the talented but under-resourced, comparatively inarticulate (maybe simply inarticulate in English) student. You’ve excluded this very deserving subset that on my side, has been given some fighting chance. Your solution will not only bring you a more homogenous applicant pool (with fewer college resources being spent recruiting for diversity, abroad and in different local communities) but also a less successful one. NT: In this debate I said that the reasons for making diversity a goal in college admissions are problematic because they rely on stereotypes and a presumption of radically different or “representative” perspectives from students labeled as diverse. I’ve also said that the climate on campus of representativeness locks students into certain identities instead of allowing a more free self-construction, and that there are problems with the college or university deciding who is diverse and who is more or less diverse. My alternative system that I proposed was one of contextual merit in the face of adversity. This would look at a more precise account of the applicant’s life and their challenges and accomplishments in it. This standard would still result in a diverse student body and avoid making the unsettling presumptions explained above.

do you enjoy the kInd
of deBAte found In thIs

vAssAr deBAte socIety, vAssAr’s most soPhIstIcAted sPort.
deBAte.vsA@vAssAr.edu

sectIon? joIn the

PAge 18

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

Obama Administration Wages War on Hipsters
Zack Struver Senior Editor

humour

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he Obama Administration announced that it would be waging a “War on Hipsters” as an extension of executive powers granted under the PATRIOT Act. Obama stated in a recent press briefing that, “It’s time for us to move on from Islamic extremism and far away terrorist threats and focus our attention on the biggest internal threat since communism.” He continued, “Hipsters spread very dangerous, anti-democratic ideas, like the works of Foucault and Butler. Their continual refusal to shower and the second-hand smoke produced by their American Spirits are huge public health hazards. In general, they really don’t contribute anything to society. As an American, and as your President, I cannot allow these frightening trends to continue.” The Federal Government has reportedly been monitoring the hipster situation for years; one source confirmed that covert operations began during the Clinton administration. FBI Director Robert

Mueller revealed that, since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, the agency has been paying hundreds of informants from various hipster communities around the United States in an effort to fully understand the magnitude of the threat. He admitted that they “have people in eco-terrorist hipster groups like PETA, corporations like Urban Outfitters, cult movements like Occupy Wall Street, assorted organic farm projects and co-ops, and bands like Animal Collective.” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, surprised that he was actually being interviewed about something, justified the new policy using the precedent set by Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern University that explained the Constitutionality of the targeted killing of American citizens abroad who have participated in terrorist activities. “The logic is the same,” said Salazar, “Hipsterism threatens the American way of life and, moreover, they’ve ruined PBR.” The Department of Health has released a pamphlet describing new health advisory standards that outline the symptoms of

hipsterdom. According to the Department of Health, signs of being a hipster include “lack of interest in getting a job, awful smell, listening to popular music ironically, and a profound knowledge of obscure films.” The Department also released new regulations that require all employers, religious and educational institutions, and doctors to report signs of developing hipsters and individuals who have already become hipsters, and to act to prevent further contamination of the community. Individuals determined to be hipsters are to be sent to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta for further studies. This reporter urges Vassar students to contact Baldwin Health Center immediately if they believe that they or their friends are exhibiting any signs of being a hipster. Furthermore, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has recommended a targeted tactical nuclear weapon strike with strategic drone support on Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. Clinton fears that if hipsters are allowed to leave Williamsburg, they will cause major international incidents: “Hipsters have already taken

Williamsburg from the Jews and NYU from the upstanding business and law students. They’re slowly spreading into Bushwick, and may take the rest of Manhattan in a few years. If we allow them to get out of the country, the combination of backpacking and living on the streets ironically will certainly destroy America’s ability to engage in soft-power diplomacy. They may very well outright destroy our reputation abroad.” Vassar College plans to comply with the policy, “to the fullest extent,” as President Catherine Bond Hill noted in a recent statement. The new law requires Vassar to stop offering obscure degrees, including Urban and Victorian Studies. It also requires the school to end subversive organizations that may have major ties with the hipster underground, including the VC Punx and the Ferry House vegetarian cooperative. “We’re planning on putting the money we save towards useful majors and extracurricular activities, like economics and sports.” Hill continued, “Unfortunately, we’ll also have to expel over half of the student body.”

Student Body Outraged By Size of Nilda’s Cookies
Chris Gonzalez Contributor

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fter anxiously awaiting the opening of UpC, the popular late night destination for starving Vassar students on the second floor of the ACDC, students were shocked and disappointed at the diminished size of Nilda’s cookies, a brand of the delicious dessert served all over campus. One heartbroken senior explained in dismay, “I remember smiling and reaching down to grab my favorite chocolate chip cookie. I was actually shaking when I looked at that small, insignificant crumb. It’s like these last four years have been a lie!” “I rode my bike all the way across campus,” cried a freshman, tears flooding his face, “all the way from Lathrop, and then I found out that I was spending roughly eleven dollars for a Berry Bonanza, and a cookie smaller than an Oreo! People love to talk about how we’re all privileged, but where’s the privilege in that?” Despite the outward student response, UpC workers defended their change in cookie size. “The large cookies are way too expensive. Do people think that $11 really covers a large cookie AND a milkshake?

That’s absurd,” said one employee of Java City. Another expressed surprise at the violence of the reaction of the student population. Security bulletins have also advised staff & faculty to remain on the lookout for a group of students who reportedly threw a brick through a UpC window. Other students have meanwhile taken to protests; students wielding tents & handwritten signs were spotted setting up and forming human chains in UpC, declaring that they would “Occupy UpC” until the original cookies return. Visits to the Metcalf Center have spiked since UpC opened this year. One doctor, who spoke to the Chronicle on the condition that her name remains anonymous, confirmed that many of the students who came to Metcalf indicated distress over the size of UpC cookies. “It’s a shame,” the source said, “Those poor, hard-working kids don’t even get a full sized cookie with their meal swipe. No wonder there’s a sophomore slump” she added. Campus dialogue on the issue has been growing significantly since the change in cookie circumference. There has been also a significant increase in anonymous, passiveaggressive comments on SayAnythingVC, and several cruel comments have been dropped into the ACDC suggestion box. Sources confirm that the Miscellany News declined to publish an article on the issue, and there are suspicions that the paper may have been silenced by the administration. Vassar’s Economics department conducted a study of the situation and determined that the marginal utility lost by the diminished status of the cookie was offset by the long-term health effects of the piece of fruit that now comes with an UPC shake or smoothie. But as one student pointed out elegantly, “No one cares. I just want my cookie.”

sigNiFicaNt uptick

iN

aFter iNstallatioN oF circular coucHes

library sex

knoW you’re funny? WrIte for the chronIcle.

vAssArchronIcle@gmAIl.com

Zack Struver

ChroniCle, octoBer 2012

PAge 19

The LasT Page
“you caN be a raNk iNsiDer as well as a raNk outsiDer.” — robert Frost

Why Vassar Is Ranked #10

More bros / Fewer hipsters

We’re an arboretum...

Fewer bros / More hipsters

Awesome ViCE Concerts

Meryl & Lisa!

Serenading Happy Inter-Class Love-Fest
Madeleine Morris