Vol. XXII, Issue 2 November 6, 2012


chronicLE EditorS ProjEct ELEction rESuLtS P. 10

Charlie Neibergall—AP


Sondra FarganiS on LocaL ELEctionS

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NatioNal rhEtoric in thE ELEction SEaSon

Economics ProfEssor Paul Johnson on ThE u.s. Economy

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ChroniCle, November 2012

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Staff Editorial Vassar & Local National Affairs Foreign Affairs Debate & Discourse Humour The Last Page 2 3 5 13 15 19 20

“You can’t handle the truth!” because in democracy, truth is subjective.

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sEnior EdiTor
Zack Struver

Will Serio

Democratic Discourse Requires Rhetoric

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


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

s you read this, chances are that you, a responsible member of our American democracy, have already cast your vote in the 2012 election or will do so soon. Unless you’re one of the few people who voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, you’ve cast your ballot for one of our two major political parties, signaling your alliance in our ongoing cultural and economic wars. It’s all too tempting, after the last few months of conflicting attack ads accusing either Obama or Romney of “apologizing for America” or “setting women’s rights back fifty years,” to settle into an easy pessimism about the fate of democracy in our polarized republic. After three presidential debates characterized by Romney’s gaffes about “binders full of women,” Obama’s zingers about bayonets, or talking-head commentary on Biden’s grin, one could understandably lament how the candidates have seemingly given up on debating “the facts” in favor of rhetorical point-scoring. But as Sophists like Gorgias would say, there is no such thing as “the facts.” As much as we detest Romney’s inability to see the self-evident “fact” that deregulation and upper-income tax cuts won’t get us out of our current economic malaise, the truth of the matter is that in our rhetoricbased democracy, nothing is a fact; there are only arguments. Our political candidates may clash over whether or not Bill Clinton-esque tax policies lead to economic growth or whether deregulation of banks always causes economic distress, but there is no absolute, Platonic truth that will ever be reached on these issues. Indeed, the fact that our candidates and voters continue to argue about the relative merits and justice of healthcare reform or our response to climate change indicates

that our democratic discourse remains healthy. Polarization, that favorite target of commentators and apathetic voters across the nation, can also be interpreted as a barometer for our democratic health. The pivotal importance of “Get Out the Vote” drives, as well as Obama’s and Romney’s attempts to galvanize their respective Democratic and Republican bases through traditional rhetorical tropes, illustrate that democratic discourse still remains as important as ever. Undoubtedly, it is problematic that most of America has been so convinced by the left-right dichotomy that they are unwilling to give credence to the arguments of the opposing ideology. Looking beyond Election Day though, it should be our goal as citizens to make a greater effort to engage with one another and challenge our “self-evident” values, painful as it may be. The real grist of democratic discourse relies on methods of argumentation. One is not persuaded by “truths” per se, but by the arguments that frame them. The basic structure of an argument requires that any claim one makes have some sort of empirically or analytically verifiable proof (i.e., through statistics or logical deduction). Arguments should also have some sort of significance within the discourse as it has been framed. As such, it should go without saying that almost nobody will be persuaded by arguments that lack some sort of verifiable proof or any sort of significance. Yet even when arguments are grounded in “solid facts,” such as job report numbers or GDP growth figures, argumentation remains pivotal. The art of twisting the presentation and delivery of this information is the heart of rhetoric. For instance, both Romney

and Obama jumped on the recent unemployment report for their own opposing purposes, claiming the numbers were negative and positive, respectively. Yet it is the arguments that are blatantly “wrong” that most warrant responses in our democracy. For example, Missouri Senatorial Candidate Todd Akin’s claims regarding “legitimate rape” have rightfully ignited a political firestorm, with one-time supporters distancing themselves from the embattled candidate and a plethora of officials, commentators, activists, and medical professionals rising to refute his spurious claims. By countering his argument with arguments of our own, democratic discourse prevails and we shape our political landscape to reflect our beliefs. This stands in sharp contrast to the all-too-common tendency to dismiss a candidate, usually Romney here at Vassar, as a liar. Unwarranted dismissal of a candidate’s ideas, be it an outrageous one like Akin’s or an economic policy that we disagree with, denies that the idea merits a response. Since democratic discourse is predicated on the rhetorical clash between differing ideas and viewpoints, denial only helps these ideas continue to function as acceptable in our society. Democracy relies on a dynamic notion of “ideals” like truth and justice. Indeed, the democratic system of the United States experiences shifts in values because our government reflects the present wants and needs of the people. It is only when we cease arguing with each other and adhere to a Platonic notion of one single truth or “correct” policy that democracy has truly died. —The Staff Editorial is agreed upon by at least a 70 percent majority of the Editorial Board.

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ChroniCle, November 2012

Fmr. Professor Sondra Farganis Endorses Local Democrats
Sondra Farganis Former Vassar Sociology Professor

VaSSar & LocaL


am writing to ask your support for the candidacy of Sean Patrick Maloney for the U.S. House of Representatives, Terry Gipson for the New York State Senate, and Didi Barrett for the New York State Assembly. Like you, I am deeply worried by the rancor and partisanship at the national and local levels. I am as well concerned not only that Barack Obama may not be returned to office (unlikely, perhaps), but that if returned, he will not have a viable Congress to work with him on the many issues facing the country. I am also concerned that New York State send to Albany representatives who are forwardlooking, progressive, and committed to inclusion of talent irrespective of class, race, or gender. This trio of candidates seems to me to be on the mark here: I have met each of them and they understand the tensions which stretch back to the nation’s origins, of honoring equality and liberty. They see citizenship as being at the core of the Constitution. They understand the specifics and particularities of this District

and they put forward policies to address job creation, but also the needs of those without jobs or working at underpaid jobs with minimal hours. They appreciate the problems facing health care, but also the need to assess not simply costs, but the practical consequences for concrete individuals should we dramatically reduce services. They are aware of deficits, but also of the need to protect entitlements; for if our political leaders are addressing only the deficit, we shall find ourselves with the diminution of responsible programs at the core of decent government action. This trio also talks of the importance for the citizenry’s involvement in the political life of the community and the nation at large. They worry about policies that give an unfair and detrimental edge to moneyed interests and each of them reiterates the absolute importance of voting: of registering to vote; of getting out the vote; of holding political conversations on how to vote. In this spirit, I would ask you to take the opportunity to make this election count by actually voting, and urge at least ten people you know to do the same. It would be a terrible shame if the candidates you want to see elected miss out because we did not vote or did not help in

whatever ways we can to turn out the vote. I shall be voting for Sean Patrick Maloney, Terry Gipson, and Didi Barrett on the Working Families Party line. I believe it is important to have a vital, progressive party in our district and I have supported WFP from the outset. Their platform includes: raising the minimum wage, meaningful tax reform, a strong defense of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and an across the board commitment to public education and quality centers of learning. In addition, the WFP—I know, I do not like the Party’s name that much either—is strong on issues of women’s rights, LGBT rights, and reproductive rights. I have been impressed with the candidates they have endorsed in the past and triply pleased for their endorsements of Maloney, Gipson, and Barrett. I can understand if you want to support this trio on the Democratic Party line: it will not be a deal-breaker for our friendship. Many of us have not recovered from John Hall’s defeat in 2010 and we have waited for the chance to present a candidate who has the potential to defeat Nan Hayworth and restore a Congressional seat that takes into account the progressive interests

of the 18th Congressional District. Sean Patrick Maloney is that candidate. Many of us congratulated Steve Saland on his principled stand on gay marriage; but there is a fuller story of Saland’s voting record that must be taken into account. It is imperative that we take a stand in opposition to the plank of the Republican Party which is regressive on social issues, on women’s issues, and on environmental issues, and which has allowed the Tea Party to both polarize politics and put a hold on making even the most modest reforms to our economic system. I am confident that Terry Gipson and Didi Barrett will work on behalf of those of us who share an opposition to a Republican and Conservative agenda that has, at its core, a deeply felt opposition to President Obama, to the liberalism of the New Deal, and to the embrace of community and economic and political inclusion that matters to us. I look forward to our celebrating a win on November 6th. —Sondra Farganis was a member of the Arlington School Board and taught Sociology at Vassar from 1979 to 1987. She is currently a Trustee of the Poughkeepsie Public Library.

Vassar Dems Active in Campaigning Despite Campus Apathy
Joshua Sherman Contributor


or the Vassar Campus, October 28th was not the most pleasant of Sundays to experience on our otherwise beautiful campus. While the eve of our presidential election drew ever closer and the anticipation for its results continued to rise, another much more ominous event was about to take place. As Hurricane Sandy made its way up the Atlantic, millions of Americans along the Eastern seaboard prepared to hunker down in preparation for the hurricane to make landfall sometime Monday. At Vassar, the wind was beginning to pick up as the evening dragged into the night. What began as an otherwise cool October day ended with a howling wind that picked up leaves and tossed them around the Residential Quad. All the while, an uncomfortable feeling continued to grow across the campus as the storm barreled toward us. Despite the uncertainty of what Sandy would bring to our campus the next day, along with the weather gradually becoming worse,

a small handful of students gathered in the Faculty Commons to dedicate a few hours of their time for the sake of the presidential election, and incumbent President Obama. It was quiet, for the most part, in the College Center, as most people had retreated to their dorms and respective housing, expecting the weather to take a turn for the worse sometime that night as it transitioned to heavy gusts of wind and rain. Despite the weather, the election would still take place on November 6, and there were still students who wanted to help do their part in helping influence the outcome of the election. These few students all gathered around their laptops, dialing into an automated system that connected them with families in Pennsylvania, giving them an opportunity to ask the people on the other end of the line who they planned on voting for come Election Day. The phone bank was being operated through a group called Vassar Students for Obama, which was established in conjunction with the Vassar Democrats and the Hudson Valley Obama for America re-election team. The group has

focused on a wide variety of activities for the re-election season, ranging from doorto-door trips in swing states, to meeting with like-minded organizations in nearby Lafayette College, and of course, phone banking. This certainly wasn’t their first phone bank, and not their last, even as the election drew to being just 9 days away. Just two days later, the Vassar Democrats met once again for their weekly meeting as well as additional phone banking. “Thank you for your time,” said one of the phone bankers as I sat down in the Faculty Commons. We spoke briefly, as time was of the essence between the weather and the necessity of getting calls in before the end of the night. Originally the phone bank had been canceled as all Obama for America activities were supposed to end at 5 o’clock, but after some convincing from the field organizers, the phone bank was back on. As I spoke with the student, he mentioned the wide variety of events the Vassar Democrats had been organizing in conjunction with the re-election campaign, ranging from the aforementioned trips to working with local candidates like Sean Patrick Maloney to help with campaign efforts.

Whether or not you agree with what the Vassar Democrats are doing, one thing worth commending is their proactive efforts to assist the members of their political alignment, and their efforts for election or re-election. As the student I spoke with put it, there is a very galvanizing effect within the campus atmosphere, and politics, at times, can certainly feel apathetic, at best, for the Vassar campus. While our school does press efforts for programs such as voter registration, politics have been tough to talk about or draw attention to, people often opting out for very jaded mentalities in the wake of 21st century polarization. It’s a philosophy that has become a norm at Vassar. Come Election Day, whether our next President is Barrack or Mitt, or whether you agree with the candidates and their values, you must commend the millions of Americans who worked in campaigns, local and national, much like the Vassar Democrats, doing their part to influence the outcome. In an atmosphere like Vassar’s, it’s only all the harder, and they deserve credit for their hard work this election season.

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VaSSar & LocaL
Family Court Judge Sees Conflict Between Law and Justice
Zack Struver, Senior Editor Arushi Raina, Debate & Discourse Editor


amily court exists at the peculiar intersection of the family and the state, in a realm of law that attempts to balance the right of a family to conduct its affairs privately and the responsibility of a community to collectively ensure a safe and positive community. This marginal position, as a checkpoint on the border of public and private life, becomes precarious for judges, who must weigh expediency, required in resolving often violent or unstable issues and confrontations between family members, with their implicit role as a judge to make the most just decisions under the law. Especially important is the position that family courts take in protecting children. A large portion of family court cases deal with parental rights over a child and the protection of a child from abusive or dangerous situations. As Judge Joan A. Posner of the Dutchess County Family Court notes, “You’re not making decisions about money or contracts, but about where a child lives, who a child’s gonna go home with today, whether you’re gonna cut off somebody’s visitation, whether you’re gonna remove a child from her parents, whether you’re gonna grant an order of protection.” The very nature of the decisions made by family court judges require a degree of social support not found in normal civil and criminal courts. The historical evolution of family courts reflects the necessity for a court based on community involvement, but current legal standards and a lack of resources make implementing the mission of family court difficult.

“You’re not making decisions about money or contracts, but about where a child lives, who a child’s gonna go home with today, whether you’re gonna cut off somebody’s visitation, whether you’re gonna remove a child from her parents, whether you’re gonna grant an order of protection.”
Family courts arose in the nineteenth century in the social milieu of modernity. Industrialization presented new forms of technological tension as well as scientific developments that fostered an increased quality of life. Postbellum society saw an increase in the mechanization as the Union war effort created an infrastructure that necessitated an increased reliance on technological innovations. For example, city streets were dubbed dangerous for children as horse-drawn traffic increased and automobiles were introduced. Children were integrated into the home for their protection, and parents were held responsible for keeping their children safe. At the same time, the Civil War introduced

widespread sanitation through the United States Sanitary Commission. Moral and religious organizations pushed for increased sanitation in the household and the protection of children from disease and threats to their mortality, especially from abusive parents. In 1875, Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Elbridge Gerry, his lawyer, founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC), a non-governmental organization that worked to protect children who faced abusive situations in their homes. The creation of the NYSPCC sparked the development of societies for the prevention of cruelty to children around the country, and these eventually evolved into state child protective services beginning in the 1960s, after child abuse became a national issue. Professor Merril Sobie of Pace University Law School notes that “an increasing children’s caseload, the growth of the social sciences, the development of childcare agencies, and the inappropriateness of mixing children’s and criminal proceedings” made the establishment of a family court inevitable. Thus, the unwritten law behind family court is the idea that it would be improper for a criminal court to deal with the removal of children from a bad home. The role of a family court is to regulate the most basic social unit - the family - and to ensure that the basis for our society remains safe for all. Contemporary family courts are in “a constant state of emergency,” as Judge Posner notes, “You can hear testimony for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes, and you have to decide whether to remove the child from the parent’s care and custody and place that child in foster care. You don’t have the time - you don’t have the leisure - to sit down, meet with your court attorney, talk about the case, and look at all aspects of it. Basically the buck stops here, on my shoulders. I have to make those decisions throughout the day, on many many cases…you’ve gotta make [those decisions] quickly and use your best judgment. You bring your experience and your sensibilities to the job.” The Dutchess County Family Court hears anywhere from six to seven thousand cases a year between three judges, all of whom need to quickly decide each case based on their legal intuitions and instincts that have been developed in their years of legal practice. The key, in all cases, is finding a permanent living situation for the child. This becomes problematic when the court spends a short amount of time on each case, and when the court lacks the resources to properly implement decisions. The amount of time devoted to each case is, by necessity, short, as the law demands quick and efficient resolutions. Judge Posner explains that some of this push for quick decisions makes sense because “children shouldn’t live in limbo.” Law-makers and judges believe that an obligation exists for the court to find a permanent living situation outside of foster care, where children tend to “languish,” as soon as possible. Family court judges

have two real alternatives in determining whether or not to terminate parental rights in any given case. The first is to return the child to the parent and ensure that the parent does what is necessary to maintain proper care and custody over the child, while the second is to terminate the parent’s rights entirely and put the child up for adoption. Judges have difficulty making decisions

they are forced to make decisions contrary to the best interests of the child. If family courts are to implement decisions that reflect the best interests of the child, lawmakers and communities need to examine the original intent of family courts and their important position in community life. Family courts arose out of child protection movements that saw fit to look out for the interests of

The Honorable Judge Joan A. Posner (second from left) poses with her colleagues in the Dutchess County Court System. She is one of three judges on the Dutchess County Family Court.

based on, what Judge Posner sees as, a false dichotomy between law and justice: “I think that when you’re confronted with an application to terminate a parent’s rights to a child forever, and make that parent a legal stranger to the child, those are among the most difficult cases because you know that you’re forever changing the life of that child. And while sometimes the law will point you in one direction, the facts and circumstances sort of point you in a different direction, and having those meet is sometimes very difficult. And when the law sort of is asking you or requiring you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing, that’s one of the greatest challenges because I’m always focused on the children, and what’s best for the children who come before the court. Sometimes the law is on your side, and sometimes it isn’t.” For example, sometimes the best decision involves granting a parent limited rights over their child, such as supervised visitation or placement in a group home that has the resources to assist parents with limited mental or physical capacities in raising their children. Indeed, justice demands these sorts of decisions, but the law requires a judge to decide quickly. The court does not have the luxury of holding off on making a decision to wait for the proper resources to arise. According to Judge Posner, this prevents the court from “moving [cases] in a positive direction.” When a judge lacks the ability to grant a parent supervised visitation rights because the court can only oversee two families in the visitation program at any given time,

mistreated children in society. Due to the lack of resources and time to make proper decisions, contemporary family courts merely mask the problem of child abuse and familial violence. When courts are focused on efficiently getting a child out of an abusive home, they do not seek to reduce violence in the community, nor do they seek to help parents parent better. Family courts are required, by law, to be more ready to remove a parents rights than they are to provide resources to help a parent retain rights over their children. Family court judges make decisions, based on the context of their community, that effect families in a “very basic way.” In Dutchess County, this means that judges make decisions for families in urban and rural areas and middle and lower class families. The disparity of resources makes distributing assistance in parenting difficult, and forces judges to somewhat arbitrarily grant parents either limited or no rights over their children. Problems in implementing a just family court system arise in borderline cases, cases where a judge could either grant or deny parental rights. These problems will only be resolved when the law catches up with a community-based conception of justice. —Judge Posner is committed to reducing domestic violence and promoting gender equality in the community, and is a member of such organizations as the Dutchess County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Ninth Judicial District Committee to Promote Gender Fairness in the Courts.

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ChroniCle, November 2012

Rehabilitating Rhetoric: Classical Athens and the 2012 Election
Michael Greene National & Foreign Affairs Editor

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s Election Day draws near, and a nation that has been systematically pummeled by a barrage of ads coming from both campaigns wearily awaits the results, it’s not uncommon to hear candidate’s statements dismissed as being “only rhetoric.” Such comments are more than mere systems of political apathy, as they speak to a widespread misconception of what rhetoric is and how it effects the democratic process. It is timely then that on Thursday, November 1, the Department of Greek and Roman Studies Blegen Fellow Curtis Dozier presented a lecture titled “Classical Rhetoric and the Presidential Campaign: Perspectives on Speech, Politics, and Democracy in 2012.” Professor Dozier is currently working on a book examining the Institutio Oratoria of the firstcentury Roman rhetorician Quintilian; for Thursday’s lecture, however, the focus was on the impact of Classical Greek rhetoric on modern political discourse. Specifically, he examined electoral discourse in light of Aristotle’s fourth-century CE ΤΕΧΝΗ ΡΗΤΟΡΙΚΗ, or Art of Rhetoric, a multivolume treatise that most scholars have studied only in so far as it can be mined for information on other Greek rhetoricians and philosophers. While many voters are keen to dismiss rhetoric as the art of using verbal puffery to avoid addressing hard, factual issues, Prof. Dozier pointed out that Aristotle and others in democratic Athens had a very different idea of what rhetoric was. “Rhetoric then may be defined as the facility of discourse, the possible means of persuasion in reference to any subject whatever,” Aristotle believed. It is with this understanding of rhetoric as the art of persuasion that its impact on American democracy can best be grappled with. In democratic Athens, where every male citizen was eligible to be called upon to serve in public office for a short term, success in politics depended almost entirely on one’s ability to deliver persuasive speeches before the Assembly; a skilled enough speaker could make almost anything happen, be it changing a law or extending a term limit. It should come as no surprise then that Greek intellectuals devoted so much ink to laying out and codifying what constituted persuasive speech. Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric relied on tripartite appeals to emotion (logos), virtue (ethos), and reason (logos), and it is here that the heavy hand of Ancient Greece is most apparent in the 2012 election cycle. Voters don’t need to look very far or hard to hear President Obama or Mitt Romney appealing to emotions such as fear, anger, shame, indignation, and, yes, even friendliness. When Democrats advocating for universal healthcare espouse lines like “America is the only industrialized Western democracy that doesn’t provide healthcare to all its citizens,” or when Republicans accuse the President of “apologizing for America,” they are engaging in the implicitly rhetorical exercise of appealing to our sense of national shame to advance an agenda. Prof. Dozier also explored how the rhetorical dichotomy between appeals to hatred and friendliness have the Aristotelian function of signaling that a candidate has

The Pnyx, the platform where speeches were delivered in democratic Athens.

the same friends and enemies as the voter. Republican recourse to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton’s ubiquitous association with Obama are thus a rhetorical method for signaling the candidates’ respective “alliances.” More provocative is the rhetorical appeal to indignation–in 2012, most often indignation at undeserved good fortune. Lines like “Romney was born with a silver spoon in his mouth” or “The media supports Obama” are designed to energize voters against a particular candidate by exploiting voters’ sense of indignation. This can also be seen clearly in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements’ respective indignation with government spending and Wall Street profits. Key to such Aristotelian discourse is the dichotomy that exists between emotional opposites. Whenever a candidate seeks to inspire hope in their audience, they must also instill a sense of dread around their opponent; Obama’s message of hope and change implicitly cannot function without also making listeners afraid that Romney will appoint four Supreme Court justices or roll back reproductive rights. As Prof. Dozier provocatively noted, if you feel dread at the thought of a Romney or Obama victory, rhetoric has effected you. Ethical appeals are, according to Prof. Dozier, how the candidates ask voters to “Trust me.” The 2012 election cycle has seen a large amount of appeals to andreia, or manly courage, the most obvious being President Obama’s “I gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden.” Interestingly, Prof. Dozier asserted that the prevalent criticism of Romney as “a flip-flopper” is an ethical attack on his manly courage, for, underlying attacks on his constant changes of position is the notion that he is not brave enough to stand behind his words and simply says whatever an audience wants to hear out of fear of rebuke or losing votes. Conversely, Romney’s business experience has been used by his campaign to draw attention to his supposed economic wisdom. The most important of all ethical appeals, and a key tenet of rhetorical discourse, is a candidate’s sense of justice. Over the last four years, American politics have seen intense debate over the justice of issues such as healthcare and taxes. President Obama and Democrats have argued that it is just for all citizens to have access to healthcare, the flaws and limitations of resultant legislation notwithstanding;

conservatives have countered that is not just to compel taxpayers to subsidize healthcare reform or for the government to mandate the purchase of insurance. Many of the most emotional and divisive invocations of justice this election cycle have evolved around reproductive rights and contending notions of justice for women, or what constitutes the beginning of life. Prof. Dozier drew attention to the pivotal importance of these debates to the health of our democratic system, for they illustrate that our societal conceptions of justice are not static, but evolving. Even though the Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, upholding its legality, candidates have continued to spar over the relative justice of its components. While the notions that healthcare is a basic right or that it is not one’s place to pay for another’s care seem self-evident and beyond reproof to the contending sides, Prof. Dozier was emphatic in warning against such absolute notions. Indeed, he looked tellingly to fifthcentury sophist Gorgias, “the Nihilist,” who believed that there was no set reality and who delighted in using rhetoric to make the weaker argument the stronger; in one case, he even exonerated Helen of Troy from the traditional blame laid at her feet for the Trojan War. The Sophists filled a unique place in Athenian society, where their rhetorical skills were highly sought after because they were the key to power and influence. In contrast was the philosophy of Plato, who believed in one absolute truth that could, in an ideal state, be rigidly applied to society. America definitely leans toward the Sophist camp, in that our politicians and lawmakers constantly challenge our notions of justice, rather than accepting a static Platonic form. Plato, Prof. Dozier reminded the audience, didn’t want a democracy. The provocative question is, do we? The third tenet of Aristotelian rhetoric is the one that, at first look, appears to be what voters want most: appeal to reason (logos). Throughout the debates, President Obama and Romney were criticized for avoiding “hard facts” and “real arguments.” Voters want to hear more about job numbers, tax plans, and budgets. As Prof. Dozier pointed out, even when one of the candidates seems to do just this–President Obama saying, for instance, “Bill Clinton’s tax policies led to one of the strongest economies in recent

times, and I’ll follow policies like his”–all logic is inherently flawed. Both inductive and deductive reasoning rely on the false assumption that historical data can ever be relevant to the modern situation, be it common assumptions like “Ronald Reagan lowered taxes and oversaw a strong economy, therefore low taxes always lead to a strong economy” or “Wall Street crashed after a period of deregulation, therefore deregulation always leads to economic crash.” Such points are to be argued about and challenged, not dogmatically accepted as fact, particularly in a rhetorical world where “fact” is something that can always be reinvented and represented, where even supposedly non-partisan fact-checkers engage in a subjective exercise in presenting reality. The drama surrounding whether or not President Obama called the Benghazi embassy a terrorist attack, or simply lumped it in with other “acts of terror,” and America’s jubilation when Candy Crowley ‘corrected’ Romney on this point, even when the issue remains open to shades of interpretation, is a perfect example. And besides, facts and figures don’t galvanize voters as effectively as appeals to emotion and virtue any better now than they did in democratic Athens. Despite the comforting assertion that constant bickering over justice indicates the health of our democratic system, many voters and students have been appalled by some of the more radical arguments to come out of this election cycle, such as “Man-made climate change is a myth.” The key to coming to grips with such rhetoric lies in argumentation. On issues such as climate change, scientists and activists have relied too much on a Platonic attitude that man-made climate change is both real and self-evident, but, Prof. Dozier pointed out, such blanket assertions lend themselves to rejection when not accompanied by supporting argumentation. It is equally undemocratic to simply label a candidate a liar, as Mitt Romney is often labeled on tax issues, in that such an accusation denies that arguments can be made on behalf of Romney’s views and ideas. It is healthier to refute an argument than refuse to recognize its validity. Moreover, the climate change issue occupies a complex matrix of virtues. It may be beneficial to reduce carbon emissions, but it could be equally detrimental to our industrialized way of life. Is it necessarily just to limit industrialization in developing countries? Is it even prudent or possible to try get countries like China to adhere to a climatechange plan? Despite this, there are limitations to Prof. Dozier’s mostly optimistic prognosis for American democracy. Most important from the rhetorical point of view is the equation of money with speech by the Supreme Court and the removal of most campaign contribution limits for corporations. Healthy rhetorical discourse on climate change, for example, cannot happen in an atmosphere where one side of the argument, like oil companies, is able to use its money to shut down or out-broadcast the opposing side. Despite these issues, and the bad name rhetoric has among American voters, it is the basis for our entire democratic system just as it was for Classical Athens, and rhetoric is here to stay.

ChroniCle, November 2012

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Fracking Ignored Despite Troublesome Connection
Erin Murray Contributor


n April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion made everyone care, for a split second, about energy-extracting methods in the U.S. All of a sudden, people started asking more questions about what was used to obtain petroleum; concern grew about what is left behind when the oil and gasmen leave. This concern set the stage for opposition to the new practice of Hydraulic Fracturing. Hydrofracking became the new “it” movement for the sort of people who, in 2006, told everyone to go see an Inconvenient Truth but were back to leaving the computer on overnight 6 months later. Now hydrofracking’s 15 minutes of infamy have passed, but the problems are still the same and very real. Fracking is unlike most people’s traditional idea of an oil well. The goal is to extract natural gas from the porous shale rocks the gas was formed in. Fracking wells inject liquid into the rock, which causes it to crack. Rigs can then access the natural gas inside. There are problems with production wells, but most of the trouble comes from what the energy companies are putting into our earth and leaving behind in their injection wells. Proppants and fracking fluids are cocktails of benign and toxic chemicals including toluene and, in some cases, benzene. After the gas has been extracted, the leftover waste fluids are disposed of using injection wells. These wells are supposed to store the waste liquid in impermeable rock that prevents it from getting to the water supply. There is debate as to whether the injection wells are dependable or not. In addition to concerns about water, the very structural integrity of our world may be at stake. Some of us are already living with the negative consequences of fracking. I’m from Oklahoma -- the heart of oil and gas country. Our whole economy revolves around companies that bring petroleum and natural gas to the nation. I have an uncomfortable relationship with it. The breakfast on the table in the morning is paid for by the companies I condemn in

the afternoon. But this relationship has taken on an ever-increasing abusive aspect that I can’t ignore. On November 5, 2011, I was writing a paper in the library here at Vassar when I received a call from home. A 5.6 magnitude earthquake had hit Oklahoma that was felt as far away as Illinois. Prior to 2010, Oklahoma recorded roughly 50 earthquakes a year, all of them very minor and the majority of them undetectable by the average resident. However, 1,047 earthquakes were recorded in the state in 2010 alone. The 5.6 magnitude earthquake was the climax of a cluster of quakes that ranged from 2.2-4.7 in intensity on the Richter scale, and thus was not a lone event. The seismic activities on November 5 were centered in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, where there happens to be over 180 injection wells. An abnormally high number of earthquakes are also occurring in Ohio, where there are also a large number of well sites. It seems as if these innumerable fractures left behind in the Earth by the drilling have shifted the stability of the ground in a region of the world never known for seismic activity. Many in the industry claim ignorance, that this could not have been predicted if in fact there even was a connection between the wells and the earthquakes. If you happen to a do a little research, however, you can learn that government institutions have been observing this causal relationship since the 1960’s. The U.S. Army constructed the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) Well in 1961. The Army shut down the well in 1966 after discovering the possibility that, according to the RMA, the injection of waste fluids was “triggering earthquakes in the area.” This conclusion was proved when, in 1967, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake hit the usually seismically calm area of Denver, Colorado. The U.S. Geological Survey actually has an F.A.Q on the official Department of Interior website with a question asking, “Can we cause earthquakes?” This official government website’s answer is, “Earthquakes induced by human activity

have been documented in a few locations in the United States… The cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal…” The U.S. Geological Survey states that the 1967 earthquake in Denver is the largest and most widely known earthquake to result from fluid injection. However, if the earthquake experienced in Oklahoma was indeed caused by hydraulic fracturing, then it surpasses the Denver earthquake in intensity. These earthquakes are not the only problems that the oil and gas industry denies responsibility for. Many people who live near well sites have had their water contaminated with methane and known carcinogenic chemicals. Fracking has lost its place in the limelight, so Food & Water Watch staged a “Global Frackdown” on September 22nd to try and rectify this situation. Though most protests were small, an impressive number of people attended protests in larger U.S. cities and internationally in South Africa and France. Both Bulgaria and France have banned the process in the last year. This is not enough. Everyone needs to confront this issue as it represents a critical juncture in our world, both on a social and physical level. When I arrived home last winter break after the series of earthquakes, I surveyed the superficial

damage to my childhood home. There were new cracks in the drywall. Our windows no longer sat firmly in their frames. Our doors would jam in the frame or open of their own accord. Compared with elsewhere in the state, closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, our damage was laughably minimal. The mostly aesthetic scarring that my house now carries is nothing compared to the bigger picture of where Oklahoma and all the states experiencing hydraulic fracturing, or any other abuse from the oil and gas industry, stand. The list of states involved is growing rapidly with the discovery of the Marcellus shale, and now includes Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New York. The damage thus far has been shocking, but it serves as a rude awakening to the reality of the situation. Fracking is on the precipice of irreversibly damaging the homes and lives of many people throughout the U.S. Though hydraulic fracturing continues to be relayed as a positive movement for this country, as time goes by it is easier to see through this façade fabricated by the energy industry. These issues fade from prominence, but that does not mean their detrimental effects are fading too.

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PagE 6 ChroniCle, November 2012

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Media Corporations Subject to Perverse Incentives
Greg Perry Contributor


orporations are legally obligated to make as much money off of consumers as possible. Their role in the stock market requires them to act in the best interest of shareholders. Drastic problems emerge when these institutions, that provide services that our society and personal wellbeing rely upon, are motivated exclusively by profit. The present dynamic is one in which the search for profit and social benefits exist as mutually exclusive considerations. This need not be the case. The theory behind corporations is one which espouses benefits for the public. It is rooted in the concept that successful companies have a heightened capacity to contribute more to the economy, yielding a collective benefit. Praxis has, obviously, demonstrated differently. Individuals distinguish between corporations by their products and services. Yet, these distinctions fall apart when one notes that all corporations act according to profit. We make the mistake of conceptualizing the differences between corporations as distinctions in function, while they all merely follow various avenues toward fulfilling the same goal. Their functions are homogeneous and entirely self-interested.

“Various renditions of unreality are presented in proportion to the belligerence of their projection.”
Even at the level of the individual employee, performance is measured by amount of profit brought to shareholders. If one fails to make enough money for the company, or expresses dissent to company policy, they, in all likelihood, will be fired. Higher-ups in the corporation can be sued and even imprisoned if the case can be made that not all potential profits had been “unlocked” for the company. Exploitation of legal loopholes is par for the course. Although corporate law varies state by state, the mandate to maximize “shareholder value” is ubiquitous. News media is no exception. It seems self-evident that the function of mainstream news should be to inform the public in as much of an accurate and refined manner as possible. Evidently, this is not the case. All of our mainstream news media are corporations. Thus, their primary motivation is to make more and more money. Media corporations make more money by attracting more consumers. Because consumer statistics dictate the behavior of the company, news media corporations have the direct incentive of making “the news” entertaining. The American public is entertained by provocative, shocking, hyper-condensed images and sound-bites that provide banal two-sided arguments on every issue, the correct answers to which are without exception “somewhere in the middle.” News media allegedly attempts to cater to popular perceptions in order to establish a presence. However, the output of our news media has

a much larger effect on popular perception. This is evident not only in the diffusion of particular sound-bites attached to particular issues, but also in the manner by which we have been conditioned to frame political discourse and conceptualize our political climate. Among the various toxins which incessantly exude from popular news media is the fallacy of “fifty-fifty representation.” The premise of the idea entails that in any debate, one should seek to offer equal air time to each of two sides, regardless of what claims or prescriptions might emerge. This idea is incredibly popular among the mildly informed. At face value, “equal representation” sounds like a universal ideological trump card. To oppose anything dubbed “50/50” seems inherently intolerant or unfair. To think in this way is to deliberately disregard context. Fact checking exists, and it should constitute an integral part of ideological debate. Instead, it is treated as though it were an incompatible field of study. Various renditions of unreality are presented in proportion to the belligerence of their projection. Televised news media are among the worst culprits. Rarely is it the case that a pundit will jeopardize their image of “fairness and balance” by pointing out a false premise. Thus, we have a structure which discourages holding political stances with conviction, and instead constructs an imaginary “moderate” or “centrist” camp to which most people belong and which everyone should aspire to. This representation is utterly fallacious. The media body which espouses this “centrist conventional wisdom” is the same collection of entities which is most responsible for shifting the political spectrum. The appeal of appearing moderate is a product of popular culture, and is rooted in a system of institutionalized ignorance. The idea of truth has been lost. Undoubtedly, there exists an implication that “truth” entails a gradient of probability based on the vigorousness of the projection by each side. The “news” has transformed its focus from investigative journalism to the reporting of what people think, without much consideration of the degree to which those thoughts are factually supported. Yet, the former image remains, along with the persistent capacity to define what “everybody knows.” One is constantly barraged with so many fleeting instances of contradictory claims and faulty statistics that it becomes quite an endeavor to wade through the misinformation. Sadly, we do not live in a delightful world in which most people are politically knowledgeable or engaged. In our system, ignorance and apathy run rampant, and the people who benefit from it are the same individuals with the power to effect its perpetuation. More money is to be gained from catering to this state of affairs than from opposing it. The imposition of ignorance has long been the primary weapon of the ruling classes. With a complacent populace comes an untold extent of leeway for corrupt policy makers. Local property taxes almost exclusively constitute the funding for our public schools in this country, with standards of education varying state by

state. Just to spell that out briefly, this means that low-income areas receive drastically lower funds for education, so low-income individuals receive substandard educations, rendering socioeconomic mobility just about impossible. Not only does this preserve wealth gaps of revolting proportions, but it also aggravates them by deteriorating the state of the general public. Inconceivable amounts of money and power have been accumulated from the extortion of the populace in accordance with this structure. And then came Citizens United. The upcoming election constitutes the first run for presidency after the Supreme Court’s decision in 2008 to include corporations in the category of individual “people” as it pertains to the First Amendment. For those of you uninformed, this decision is nothing short of catastrophic. To be a “person” bearing Freedom of Expression, in this context, translates to “being able to contribute unlimited sums of money to political candidates.” For actual, individual, human beings, this makes some modicum of sense, albeit in tune with the other aspects of our sociopolitical structure which are rooted in the fallacious assumption of meritocracy. For corporations, it doesn’t even come close. Corporations constitute the largest nonstate economic entities in existence. They are collections of very wealthy individuals, exclusively disposed toward expanding their wealth, under the guise of a legal fiction of singularity. Of the largest 100 economic entities in the world, 44 are corporations. The drastic consequences of Citizens United became evident as we approached Election Day. In the first half of October alone, the amount of money spent on presidential campaigns was roughly ten times what it would have been before the Citizens United ruling. On top of the roughly $6 million that was previously allowed, over $55 million has been forked over which would not have been otherwise—in a two week period. If the utter dismantling of our

‘representative democracy’ has not yet registered with you, feel free to take a minute and think about it. In the meantime, for an in-depth speculative analysis on how many debate interruptions and eyebrow twitches it takes to lose an election, tune in to our national news networks. There is a stigma in conventional wisdom, some variety of inevitability, surrounding the will of corporations, that portrays confrontations as useless and legislation as unenforceable. Despite our situation, this defeatist perspective is not necessarily selfevident, yet it is self-fulfilling. It is true that corporations hold enormous amounts of influence, thus it is enormously difficult to oppose their agendas. However, this is not an inherent state of affairs. Moreover, to wallow in hopeless despair serves to enable their transgressions. Corporations derive their influence in politics through finance, which, although exponentially increasing for the past twenty years, is not irreversible. We are not even close to heading in the right direction. However, the framing of this issue is important. A corporation is a group of people. People are often greedy. This is why we need legislation to prevent selfish crime. “The problem” is the legal framework which prioritizes the pursuit of profit over the public interest, and thus encourages exploitative behavior, not the selfishness itself. Corporations act meticulously according to corporate law, at risk of ceasing to exist. To amend corporate law would be to change the behavior of corporations. Theoretically, this would amount to very little; a mere accession of thirty words to current legislation. In practice, the resources required to exercise such change would include a public engagement of proportions so massive that the prospect seems ludicrous. So long as we have systems in place which actively stifle access and dilute the quality of information, the general public will remain substantially unengaged.

ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 7

Econ. Prof. Paul Johnson on the Economy, Gov’t Spending
oFFice Hours witH proFessor paul JoHNsoN
Will Serio Editor-in-Chief

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WS: How do you think the U.S. economy will perform over the next 5 years or so? PJ: Over the next 5 years, unless there’s a big change in policy, which I don’t really think will happen, we’re likely to see pretty slow growth. One of the problems at the moment is that households just aren’t spending because they had such a blow— they lost a big chunk of wealth, 401ks are down, their balance sheets are in pretty bad shape—so they’re busily doing things to get their balance sheets back in decent shape. So what do they do? They save, because that’s pretty much the only thing they can do. They’re spending less. In the long-term, it actually wouldn’t be a bad thing if households spent less. As a society we don’t save enough, so that wouldn’t be a bad thing. But in the shortterm, that’s a drag on aggregate demand, and that slows down the rate of growth of GDP. So I’m expecting relatively slow growth over the next 5 years, and that means, amongst other things, a relatively slow return of the unemployment rate to its normal level due to a relatively slow creation of jobs. WS: Do you think an Obama economy would differ significantly from a Romney economy in that timeframe? PJ: I think the economy would actually do better under Obama than it would under Romney, but it’s a bit hard to tell with Romney because we don’t actually know what Romney’s going to do. For example, Romney wants to cut taxes, and he’s claiming that he’ll eliminate a lot of deductions and balance the budget that way, but the Tax Policy Center has crunched the numbers as best they can and they actually find that the middle class ends up paying more in taxes, so that’s got to be a drag on demand and that’s got to slow the economy down. So, if we accept that, and then we believe that middle class taxes will be lower under Obama, then it’s likely that the economy will do better under him than it would under Romney.

kind of money are doctors and lawyers and investment bankers. It also turns out that, in gross terms, small businesses aren’t terribly good job creators. So it’s true that in net terms small businesses create a lot of new jobs, but a lot of small businesses fail. So, in gross terms, over the last 10 years, small businesses have not created a lot of new jobs. WS: So where does our job growth come from? PJ: The big businesses. WS: So, why don’t we reduce taxes on big businesses?

Zack Struver

“So what’s keeping growth slow? The short answer is just a lack of aggregate demand. Investment, for example, is low. Consumption is low. Households and businesses just aren’t spending their money, and that’s reducing demand.”
WS: Even though the “job creators” would have more money under Romney, supposedly? PJ: The “job creators” story is just that, it’s just a story. It turns out that, if you take the $250,000 cutoff that’s often thrown around, a very small fraction of those people are actually small business owners. The sorts of people that are making that

PJ: I think we should actually reduce taxes on lots of businesses. One of the tax reforms that I would do, if I were given my druthers, would be to eliminate the corporate income tax altogether, for a couple of reasons. One is that it vastly simplifies things; it takes away all the double-taxation arguments, whether you buy those or not. It also takes away a lot of incentives for lobbying and other things that we’d rather not see happen. Obviously we’d need a way to recoup the revenue, because you lose a fair bit of revenue; so I’d eliminate all the corporate tax breaks because they’re no longer valuable. So all the corporate welfare goes. And then the other way you recoup the revenue is to tax it back from those that benefit most from the elimination of the corporate income tax, so you’d increase individual rates at the high-end. WS: One common argument that gets thrown around is that simplifying the tax code will make it more pro-growth. Do you believe that argument? PJ: I think that’s true for a couple of reasons. The big reason, in my mind, is that because tax code is so complicated and there are so many loopholes and people looking for loopholes, it creates all these distortions, and that’s certainly not progrowth. Making it simpler would eliminate a lot of the distortions. And, instead of people spending their effort looking for tax loopholes and lobbying, which is total rent-seeking activity and not conducive to growth, those folks would go and do something that was actually useful, and that would also be pro-growth. WS: Although this would also help reduce compliance costs, what would those sorts of people involved in this industry do in the short-run? In other words, where

would these hordes of H&R Block workers go? PJ: Well, pro-growth is long-term. These are things that will play out over 10 or 20 years. With a lot of these policies, there’s always some dislocation: there’s winners and losers in the short-run, but in the long-run we’re all winners. I’d much rather have the market, for all its failings, make these sorts of choices, rather than quirks in government policy or having the choice made by lobbying to get the rules changed in their favor. WS: Recent GDP numbers showed that our economy grew at only 2% last quarter. What do you think are the main factors keeping growth so low in the U.S.? PJ: 2% is better than it’s been in the recent past, but it’s also far from great. Post World War II average growth has been about 3%, and coming out of an economic downturn we should be above average. We ought to be able to get 4% out of the economy for a while without putting any upward pressure on inflation, since we’ve got plenty of excess capacity. And indeed we need some growth rates of that sort of magnitude to make a serious dent in unemployment. We’ve not created anywhere near as many jobs as we need to create coming out of the recession to get the people that lost their jobs back to a state of employment. So, we need some rapid growth. So what’s keeping growth slow? The short answer is just a lack of aggregate demand. Investment, for example, is low. Consumption is low. Households and businesses just aren’t spending their money, and that’s reducing demand. We’ve also had the state and local governments cutting spending because they’ve lost so much revenue, and that’s also been a drag on demand over the last few years. So the short-run story is a demand side story; we’ve got plenty of idle capacity, we could be producing a lot more than we are. WS: Do you think that government spending is “crowding out” private investment, at this time? PJ: No, because the crowding out argument just doesn’t apply in the current situation. The crowding out argument applies at full employment, and it applies in that situation because there’s not much capacity to produce more goods and services. So if the government demands more goods and services, the only place that can come from is if the private sector gets less. So, that means less investment, less consumption. That’s the crowding out story. In the current situation, we’ve got the economy operating at below capacity, so the government can actually demand more goods and services without that reducing the goods and services available to the private sector for investment. WS: What kind of economic policies would you like to see out of the next administration in order to jumpstart aggregate demand in a meaningful way? PJ: Well, the policy I really like, and what I would have liked them to have done right at the beginning of the Obama administration, is public works. We had this situation where we had a lot of people involved in construction that were

unemployed; they lost their jobs because the housing industry collapsed. So, it would have been a relatively simple matter to put them to work doing all sorts of things: refurbishing schools, fixing potholes in roads, building new roads and bridges, a lot of that work that’s available to be done. The advantage of doing that is that when the recession is over, we have all this infrastructure that’s been refurbished or newly built, and that increases the productive capacity of the economy, so you get an extra effect from that after the fact as well. I’d actually like to see some of that done now. The difficulty now is that that’s probably not politically feasible. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why the original stimulus was less than what a lot economists said it should have been, which was seen as politically infeasible to do more. The fiscal policy part of it, at the moment, would be more spending on that sort of thing, and maybe some tax cuts, but for people that would spend the money, not for the “job creators.”

“It’s not the dollar value of the debt that is of any interest; it’s more about the debt relative to the size of the economy. And there’s no reason why it can’t stay, relative to the size of the economy, where it is at the moment indefinitely.”
WS: So, in the short term you’d like to see the government spend a lot of money. As such, what would you do to bring down the debt, if anything? PJ: Well, we’ve got to be careful here. It’s not the dollar value of the debt that is of any interest; it’s more about the debt relative to the size of the economy. And there’s no reason why it can’t stay, relative to the size of the economy, where it is at the moment indefinitely. The debt held by the public, which is the part that matters, is about 75% of GDP. There’s no reason why it can’t stay there forever. It isn’t important to bring that number down, although, other things equal, it’s better to be less in debt than more in debt, so if it did fall we’re not going to be too upset. The issue is how do we get it to stabilize? If nothing is done, it actually tends to stabilize itself. If the Bush tax cuts expire and the economy improves, that actually turns out enough revenue to get it to stabilize for about the next 8 to 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The real problems are if the Bush tax cuts are extended, because we lose a big chunk of revenue, and, down the road, the rise in health care costs, particularly Medicare. If nothing is done, and those two things happen, the debt goes through the roof and ends up somewhere on the order of 200% of GDP in 20 or 30 years. We’d rather that not happen; we don’t want healthcare costs to consume such a large fraction of national output. Continued on Page 9

PagE 8

ChroniCle, November 2012

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Johnson On Post-Financial Crisis Regulatory, Fiscal Policy
Continued from Page 10 The big issue is what we do about healthcare spending, both publically and privately. It’s not just a public sector problem. Paul Ryan’s voucher plan doesn’t address the problem at all; it just shifts it from the public sector to the private sector. The problem is still going to exist in healthcare unless something is done. So we’ve got to do things to slow the rise of healthcare costs. There’s some experiments going on in hospitals with the way they deliver healthcare and the cost savings they’ve been able to achieve. We can do a lot of stuff that we don’t do in preventative care. One of the problems with the insurance market in the U.S. at the moment is that no insurance company has any large incentive to offer coverage for preventive care, because then you can take your good health and go to another insurance company which is going to benefit from your good health that the first insurance company has subsidized. So there’s a bias against covering preventative care. interest deduction accrues to higher income tax payers, because they have higher marginal rates, they live in bigger houses, and they have bigger mortgages. So how do you solve that problem in a politically feasible way? You cap the deduction at some figure like 150% of the current median deduction, which means that more than half of the people who are getting the deduction still get it and they don’t see any change, but then people who are getting a huge deduction have it lopped off. We over-subsidize housing, and this was part of the problem behind the bubble in 2008. There are enormous subsidies for housing in the U.S., and so people consume more housing because the government will subsidize your housing consumption if you buy a house. So the fact that people consume more housing because it’s subsidized, means that—and this is a version of the crowding out argument— there are fewer resources available for productive things like investment. So, one of the longer term pro-growth effects of this, apart from making the tax system more sensible, would be that we have more resources for investment and productive things, and that means higher incomes for everybody, because we’ll have more capital, so workers will be more productive and so their wages are higher. WS: On that point, what do you think of the housing market currently? Do you think that it’s bottomed out? New home sales are up at 2-year highs. PJ: I was actually surprised by that because there’s still a lot of houses in foreclosure, so, in my perception, there is a lot of excess supply in the housing market. There’s a lot of excess supply in Nevada, for example, but if you can’t find a job in Nevada, then there’s no point in going there to live and buy a house. So maybe that excess supply just doesn’t factor into national home prices because it’s excess supply in areas that people don’t want to live in at the moment. fairly stable long-run average, in real terms, before the run up started in the 90s, so it may well be that the new long-run average is higher. There’s only a certain amount of really desirable places to live and they’re getting crowded, so that’s going to tend to push up prices. Or it may be that prices have further to fall. However, what is fairly certain is that prices aren’t going to go up to anything like they were before the crash. That was a bubble. So unless there’s another bubble—I’m hoping that people have learned their lesson—if anyone’s expecting home prices to go back up to anywhere near where they were, then they’re going to be very disappointed. WS: With that in mind, how much blame do you put on a specific administration, Congress, or legislation for the housing crisis? PJ: Where the buck stops is actually with the regulators. The industry was poorly regulated, and it’s an industry that has to be regulated because the problem was that we had a lot of people acting in their own best interest, and that had undesirable effects. People that were in this originate-and-sell mortgage business, loaning money and then selling mortgages off to investment banks that created the collateralized debt obligations, they were acting in their own best interest because issuing mortgages and then selling them increased their incomes. And the investment banks were acting in their best interest; they were packaging up the mortgages and then selling them. So we’ve got all the actors involved acting in their own best interest given the rules of the game that they were facing. The problem really is that the rules weren’t a good set of rules. And who sets the rules? Well, the government makes the laws and writes the rules of the game, so at the end of the day it was that the rules of the game weren’t right. So it’s a long-term regulatory issue. It’s probably true that the repeal of GlassSteagall under Clinton made things worse. It’s also true that the SEC was basically told to turn a blind eye to certain things under big banks; there’s no reason for the banks to be so large. They should be broken up into smaller institutions so that they’re no longer too big to fail. We also need financial institutions to hold more capital. They have an incentive to hold as little capital as possible because they can make more money if they hold as little capital as possible, and under the current rules of the game, implicitly and explicitly, they don’t bear the risk of doing that. The risk, as we’ve now seen, is going to be borne, to some extent at least, by the public sector. The public sector will bail them out. And the public sector has to bail them out. We had no choice but to bail out the banks because everything is so interconnected that they were, quite literally, too big to fail. So, if we are going to bail them out, we should require them to hold more capital so they become less risky entities. They’re in a really great position to be in currently, because they privatize the profits and socialize the losses. We should all be so lucky. WS: Following up on that particular issue, what’s your opinion of Dodd-Frank? One of the accomplishments that President Obama trumpeted after signing DoddFrank into law was that there would be no more bailouts. Does Dodd-Frank really accomplish that? PJ: Dodd-Frank just doesn’t go far enough. It does some things, like it regulates derivatives trading, which is great, but the big thing to my mind is that financial institutions need to hold more capital, just to give them a cushion so that, when asset prices fall, they don’t become bankrupt. There’s been very little done to stop what happened from happening again. It could happen again, and the history of the world suggests that it almost certainly will happen again. There’s a great book by Kindleberger called Manias, Crashes, and Panics, which is a really great piece of economic history on all sorts of, well, manias, crashes, and panics, over the last several hundred years. And the thing that, for me, was embarrassing as an economist when I read this book, was that you could take any one of these crises and you could read it, and, but for the details, the language was exactly the same as what’s happened before. There’s an eerie similarity in these events, and they’ve been occurring for hundreds of years with greater or lesser frequency, because of, basically, our psychological failings as human beings. So, unless we have a really good set of regulations, and regulate this away, then it’s almost certainly going to happen again. Going back to the point I made before, we haven’t changed the incentives for people’s actions; the people on Wall Street have pretty much the same incentives they faced before, so, what are they going to do? They’re going to behave in pretty much the same way they behaved before. The originateand-sell mortgage industry has pretty much gone away: Countrywide has been bought by Bank of America. And at the moment, it’s actually pretty difficult to get a loan to buy a house; but somewhere, somehow, there’ll be another bubble and another crash.

“In many ways, we eat our way to higher health care costs.”
Diabetes, for example, is very expensive to treat but relatively inexpensive to prevent. So we could be changing things like the U.S. diet, which is atrocious. In many ways, we eat our way to higher health care costs. It would be much more sensible if we didn’t. There are things we could do, but nobody is actually addressing the problem, except for Michael Bloomberg in his own special way. The other thing is that we are almost certainly going to have to pay higher taxes. The U.S. is, as far as the industrialized world goes, a relatively low tax country despite what people will tell you. WS: How would you prefer to see this happen? PJ: I would make the tax structure more progressive. As far as the personal tax structure goes, I would also simplify that. I would abolish all the deductions. Everything. All the deductions go. I’m talking about my ideal world. In my ideal world, there are no deductions. And rates are lower, of course, because then you save a lot of money, and then we can make the structure more progressive, particularly at the very high end. The other reform I would do in my ideal world, and this one won’t get very far, is that I’d tax people as individuals, not as households. So, right now, we give you a tax break if you’re married, but if you’re married and don’t file with your spouse you get penalized, so I would actually just tax people as individuals regardless of their marital status. WS: Backing out of your ideal world, what would you do about the deductions we have now? Which ones would you reduce or get rid of that are politically feasible? PJ: The home mortgage interest deduction—I hate it—but it’s very popular with middle class people because they get some money. But it turns out that taxpayers at the higher end benefit much more; the lion’s share of this so called tax expenditure that’s generated by the home mortgage

It’s possible that the market has bottomed out, but the average home prices are still above the long-run average. If you look at the graph of home prices, there’s a

Bush. That certainly didn’t help. But was that the cause? No. It really is a regulatory issue, and part of the solution has got to be things like breaking up the

ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 9

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Editors’ Prediction: As Ohio Goes, So Goes The Nation

EdiTor-in-chiEf sEnior EdiTor
Zack Struver Will Serio


his election season, Ohio embodies the center of the electoral universe. With 18 electoral votes up for grabs, both candidates have focused plenty of time and money on the Buckeye State. Nevertheless, over the past few weeks, polls have consistently shown that Obama has a slight lead in Ohio, typically on the order of one to two percent. Consequently, Obama’s team should feel slightly more comfortable than Romney’s heading into Tuesday, as Ohio would put Obama over the necessary 270 electoral votes per the Electoral College map shown above. In our opinion, the true swing states in this election are: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire. These six states constitute the set of states that, according to Nate Silver’s competitive state summary, have less than four to one odds that either candidate will win them. Other states, such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, and North Carolina, that many pundits and websites have labeled as

Nate Silver—FiveThirtyEight

swing states, appear to favor one of the candidates too much to really fit the description. As such, we have ceded those states to their respective likely winners, leaving the electoral math at 253-206 in favor of Obama.

Fortunately for Obama, he has many paths to victory. For example, he can cede Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire and still win so long as he holds Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, all of which he is at least

88 percent likely to win according to Nate Silver, and the all-important Ohio, which currently favors him at nearly 84 percent. It would be close, with the final tally at 271-267, but a win is a win. Moreover, nearly all of those states (Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia) are currently leaning towards Obama, so this is an unlikely scenario. Nonetheless, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Ohio could swing towards Romney. In that case, the polls thus far would probably all have been skewed in the same direction against Romney, which means that he would be likely to win states that would no longer be as heavily in Obama’s favor, such as Virginia and Florida. If any additional one of the undecided states we have outlined (Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire) go red, Romney would win the Electoral College. Ultimately, since these polls are all based on “likely voter” models, we are confident that the actual election results and turnout will reflect the general consensus of the polls, in the event of good weather. So, perhaps more important than anything else, Ohio has a zero percent chance of rain on Tuesday according to The Weather Channel, signaling a potentially sunny day for Democrats across the country.

PagE 10

ChroniCle, November 2012

Despite Romney’s Reframe, Obama Holds Electoral Edge
Will Serio Editor-in-Chief

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lthough this article is in print on Election Day, well before the polls have closed, and was written more than few days in advance of November 6th, I am confident enough in the recent consensus of polls to say that President Obama will likely be re-elected. As of November 4th, Nate Silver, renowned statistician and author of the New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight, calculated President Obama’s odds of winning at about 85 percent. Therefore, unless the polls this election cycle have been systematically biased against Romney, which is certainly possible (albeit highly unlikely), it’s about that time to break out your Hillary 2016 and Christie 2016 signs. This was certainly not the case just a few short weeks ago. If this article were in print shortly after the first presidential debate on October 3rd, my conclusion would have been significantly different. Governor Romney did exactly what he needed to in order to keep the race competitive: he presented himself as a moderate alternative to President Obama. Meanwhile, President Obama seemed lethargic and unable to refute any of Romney’s numerous arguments and criticisms, much to the detriment of his sizable lead. Consequently, the election became about as close as it’s ever been as both national and state polls swung heavily towards Romney. Immediately following the debate the Obama team was clearly worried, and for good reason. According to many political pundits, Obama’s advisers and surrogates collaborated for roughly 10 minutes before entering the “spin room” with their message on how the debate went. But their spin didn’t matter because the country had just witnessed a historic moment in presidential debates. According to a Gallup Poll on October 8th, “Those who viewed the debate overwhelmingly believe Romney did a better job than Obama, 72% to 20%... Across all of the various debatereaction polls Gallup has conducted, Romney’s 52-point win is the largest Gallup has measured.” As such, one thing was undeniable: the President had to do far better in the two subsequent debates, and Vice President Joe Biden had to be on the attack in the debate against Congressman Paul Ryan in order to reignite the Democratic base. Before October 3rd, the only people I knew that publicly expressed their support for Romney were registered Republicans. But after Romney’s stellar debate performance, it seemed to become more acceptable for independent and moderate voters to express their interest in voting for the Republican presidential candidate. The reasoning is obvious: he looked and sounded like a President, while Obama appeared tired and uninterested. The greedy, heartless plutocrat, about whom the Obama campaign waxed poetic, didn’t show up; instead, we all met former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney: a brilliant reinvention about which Obama seemed unprepared to respond. Former President Bill Clinton framed it best on October 9th at an Obama rally in Las Vegas.

He explained how “Moderate Mitt” showed up at the debate with a “sunny face” and obscured the truth about his plans after his strategists realized that “this ship is sinking faster than the Titanic.” Even this compelling argument from, arguably, the most highly regarded president in modern history wouldn’t be enough to stem the tide of Romney’s momentum.

Moving on from this pivotal moment in the race, Obama stopped Romney’s momentum and returned it to his side via the Vice Presidential debate and, more importantly, the second presidential debate. During the former, Biden fervently attacked Ryan on the Republican’s plans to reform Medicare and the tax code. Ryan

In the first presidential debate of 2012, held on October 3rd in Denver, Colorado, Republican nominee for president Mitt Romney was the clear winner over President Barack Obama.


Counterintuitively, Romney seems to have benefitted even more from his first debate performance than he would have otherwise due to the character assassination carried out by the Obama campaign team. By virtue of being continually criticized

held his own though, quelling fears that he would not be ready to step up as president should something happen to Romney. Still, this debate did not matter nearly as much as any of the presidential debates. During the latter, Obama took a page


In the second presidential debate, held at Hofstra University on October 16th, President Obama stared down Governor Romney while answering a question concerning the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya.

on personal matters that aren’t readily apparent in a debate setting, people’s expectations of how well Romney would fare in the debate were significantly lowered. Accordingly, even though the attacks regarding his work at Bain Capital and owning Swiss bank accounts were unavailable for use in the debates, the effects of these impressions still lingered in voters’ minds. This reasoning also provides a logical foundation for how the Obama team tried to reverse Romney’s low expectations before the first debate. Obama’s campaign staff continually appeared on TV and in news articles repeating the same basic line: Romney represents the most prepared debater in decades. Ultimately, the Obama team was unsuccessful at lowering expectations for Obama or raising expectations for Romney due to, at least in part, the effectiveness of their previous attacks.

from Biden’s book and came out swinging. He consistently refuted Romney’s points and even talked over Romney at several moments. One particular moment that stood out above all the others occurred when Romney accused Obama of worrying about politics the day after the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi. In response, President Obama chastised Romney, wagging his finger and staring him down, stating, “And the suggestion that anybody on my team—whether Secretary of State, our U.N. ambassador— would play politics or mislead when we lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as President. That’s not what I do as Commander-in-Chief” [Emphasis added]. The tone and body language were clear and dominant, demonstrating that Romney had crossed a line he shouldn’t have. Immediately following this, Romney was

proven wrong via an instant-fact check by CNN moderator Candy Crowley on the question of whether Obama had called the attack an “act of terror” in his first press conference following the tragic event. With these two moments in mind, and as a result of his strong comeback, Obama regained his stature and brought the momentum back to his side. Obama continued to hold his own in the third presidential debate, but this debate didn’t matter as much as the others, since viewership was far lower than the first two due to competing sports events. Moreover, for those who did watch, the fact that Romney agreed with Obama on most foreign policy issues made this debate uninteresting. Overall, the pundits and the polls agreed that the debate was basically a draw, which allowed Obama to retain his slight advantage over Romney from the second debate and continue his slow upward movement in the polls. Since the final debate, people have been inundated with ads and nothing major has happened to change the state of the race. The slight advantage in the polls Obama has held will likely lead him to an electoral victory on November 6th, since Romney failed to connect with voters and maintain the momentum he desperately needed after losing ground in the second debate. This is not to say he did poorly in the second and third debates, rather that Obama recovered in the second debate and they basically drew in the third debate, so the momentum seems to be in Obama’s favor. With these game-changing moments now in the past, the referendum versus choice framing of this election seems to have held up fairly well, although it has become a bit more complex. In one sense, Romney’s main argument for why he should be elected has remained unchanged: Obama’s polices have failed to lead us into a proper economic recovery. Moreover, Romney’s referendum argument has been only mildly enhanced by his vague economic plan. As such, he has been unable to claw above 50 percent in national polls, and is heading into Election Day at a clear disadvantage. On the flip side, Obama framed this election as one between two clear choices: through character and policy differences. Obama has also been much more willing to defend his record than Romney, as was apparent in the second debate. As a result, he was able to attack Romney for both being vague and, when Romney was specific, for being out of touch. Thus, the vicious attacks both sides engaged in were aimed toward shoring up their respective bases, while their plans for the future were intended for swing voters. With this framework in mind, one can easily discern why Obama is the favorite to win on Tuesday despite the rhetoric we have seen from the pundits. Even with the enthusiasm gap, where the Republican side holds a significant advantage in comparison 2008, Obama is simply in a better position to win. So, as both sides do their best to “get out the vote” and we wait with bated breath as the election results trickle in from the swing states (especially Ohio!), we should all remember that this story was written far in advance: 11 p.m. on November 4th, to be exact.

ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 11

Undecided Voters Lack Relevant Facts from Obama
Victoria Weiss Contributor

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uring campaigns, most candidates make promises, many of which are later broken. Strangely, one candidate has largely abstained from making promises—President Barack Obama. For a president who ran his entire first campaign on the concept of “Change,” his re-election campaign seems to be “Keep Calm and Carry On.” President Obama has not made many promises or outlined many specific plans for the next four years. One of the few promises Obama has actually made is to bring troops home from Afghanistan by 2014—a view Romney agrees with. The lack of specific goals for the next four years could lead an undecided voter to look at the Democratic Party’s platform in order to make an informed decision about who to vote for. The platform, however, is also lacking in promises and goals. The main structure of the Democratic platform is quite simple. First, it names things the President has done while in office. Second, it provides a list of vague ideals behind which the party stands. Third,

it says that Democrats and the President are committed to the aforementioned ideals listed. Finally, it slams the Republicans and Governor Romney when they disagree. While simple, the platform will no doubt resonate with millions of voters across the United States. An undecided voter, however, might notice something missing. The Democratic platform very carefully avoids saying what the Democratic Party wants to get done in the next four years. As such, it makes little sense that Romney has been hounded regarding gaps in policy plans while Obama has been given a pass. One reason for this lack of specificity may be due to an increasingly partisan government where it is difficult to garner enough support to pass bills, even for those with highly detailed plans for implementation. While current polls predict that Democrats will remain in control of the Senate, Republicans have also made gains in the polls. Not only will the Republican Party have a significant showing in Congress, but the GOP has become increasingly conservative, partially in response to the Obama administration’s policies. As such, if re-elected, President Obama will face

an uphill battle to get anything done. So, despite the polarization, he needs to have a more concrete plan and not just general ideals. Although he will undoubtedly have to compromise, without more strategy, the GOP will prevent almost all bills not aligned with the GOP platform from passing. Even when Obama has had a plan and a very clear idea of how to follow through, he has had difficulty pushing bills through Congress. For example, four years ago Obama had big ideas for healthcare reform. Some of his ideas did not make it into the final bill, but others such as universal coverage did. The Republicans opposed the bill and did not vote for it. In fact, not a single Republican senator voted in favor of Obamacare, and it only passed by increasing funding to Nebraska to sway the one Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson, who had initially not voted in favor of the bill. If Obama had such difficulty when he had a comprehensive plan, how will he fare when he attempts to uphold his vaguely stated ideals? With such a poor record of bipartisanship, how does he expect to sway the Republicans in Congress over the next four years? Perhaps his campaign strategy conveys

how he will deal with this problem. The President is not campaigning to win the votes of conservative Republicans; he is campaigning to win the votes of Democrats and moderates. For this reason, he is not discussing with the public how he plans to work with Republicans. In this election cycle, he needs to separate himself as much as possible from the GOP for his Democratic base. He is probably not giving any details for any promises so that Romney does not have the chance to rip his plans to shreds, much as Obama did to Romney’s tax plans. So, the reason why the Democratic Party is being vague makes sense, but moderate undecided voters may be annoyed, since this makes it difficult to make an informed decision about who to vote for. Still, track records are a good way to see the patterns candidates fall into, and can give an insight into how a candidate might act or vote in the future. In an election staged as a choice between two completely different visions of where to take the United States, highlighting his accomplishments is a good strategy for Obama, but not enough. The combination of accomplishments and future goals would be ideal for undecided voters to make informed decisions.

U.S. Must Adopt UNCLOS to Avoid International Rife
Alex Evans Contributor


he United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea III (UNCLOS) codifies history’s most comprehensive framework of maritime and oceanic law. Negotiated between 1972 and 1982, the treaty spans 320 articles and nine annexes. The treaty’s importance cannot be overstated; it covers environmental, industrial, military, navigational, territorial, economic, and political concerns. UNCLOS determines the legal character of over 70% of the world’s surface. Backed by a governmental body, the International Seabed Authority, and empowered with the rights of regulation and dispute resolution, UNCLOS provides a powerful tool for managing the international sphere. The United States, however, has failed to ratify the treaty. Though supported by the Ford and Carter administrations–as well as a bipartisan coalition of the Joint Chief of Staffs–the Reagan administration entered office determined to remove the United States from the convention. After an extensive policy review that concluded with a return to negotiations in good faith, roadblocks in the re-negotiation of Article XI’s deep-seabed mining provisions were met by a hesitant American delegation. On July 9, 1982, six months before the convention’s conclusion, President Ronald Reagan announced a U.S. withdrawal. Now excluded from the 160 member state body, the U.S. stands in solidarity with North Korea, Libya, and Somalia in opposition to the treaty’s establishment. Lacking membership, the U.S. now attempts to protect its oceanic and maritime rights through unilateral proclamations in defiance of international consensus. We can no longer afford this belligerence. The Cold War’s end and the rise of a multipolar

system have made unilateral proclamations both ineffective and counterproductive. Emerging environmental, economic, and political crisis will defy the limits of a single nation and demand a global response. These crises will test the boundaries of existing international law and we cannot, as naysayers have claimed, fall back on existing customary law. We cannot fight tomorrow’s war with last century’s weapons. UNCLOS’ first major test is brewing in the Arctic Circle. Melting icecaps have opened access to new regions and uncovered major reserves of strategic resources such as natural gas, crystallized methane, and, according to some estimates, 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil. Russia’s 2007 mini-sub expedition to plant a titanium encased flag to mark its claim to the northern cap was met with ardent opposition as Canada, Denmark, and Norway have expanded their territorial claims under UNCLOS’ framework. Customary law cannot provide a solution– rather, UNCLOS states will have to negotiate new guidelines for territorial distribution, resource exploration, and the delineation of international passage. As the only arctic boundary country (Alaska) outside of the treaty community, the U.S. will be unable to either exert its own territorial claim or participate in the negotiations. As the Arctic’s future is forged, we can only watch from the sidelines. Similar disputes are heating up in the South and East China Seas as fishing and oil exploration have resulted in a surge of territorial disputes. The Senkaku and Spratly Islands should not be isolated from a broader conflict of interests as the established Asian powers of Japan and China clash with emerging nations—and each other–over access to key maritime resources key to feeding their growing economies and populations. Though the chances for full escalation remain low, economic and diplomatic spats go against

U.S. strategic interests in a period when American forces are increasingly pivotal to the region. July’s ASEAN failure proves that traditional, U.S.-friendly organizations are unprepared to resolve disputes; rather, nations like Vietnam and China have turned to UNCLOS as a mechanism to bestow international legitimacy and peacefully resolve territorial claims. As these conflicts proliferate–and potentially escalate–the U.S. will be unable to exert its influence on negotiations. Unilateral proclamations will do little but undermine our legitimacy in a region already wary of American pressure. Lacking a seat at the negotiating table, American policymakers will have no way to ensure our interests are respected. Beyond its codification of multilateral dispute resolution, UNCLOS ratification would have major implications for American national security. The convention codifies the rights of innocent passage, rights of archipelagic sea lane passage, high seas freedom in exclusive economic zones, and transit passage through international straits (including critical chokepoints like the Straits of Hormuz, Malacca, Gibraltar), ensuring U.S. air and naval forces the freedom of navigation necessary to sustain troops abroad, secure sea and air lines of communication, and protect U.S. economic interests. Moreover, UNCLOS affords U.S. warships the right to patrol and board stateless vessels, greatly expanding our efforts to combat nuclear proliferation, narcotic smuggling, piracy, and human trafficking. In times of conflict, these rights will greatly expand the United States’ ability to project force, secure resources, and ensure a quick return to stability. The Joint Chief of Staff’s continued support for the treaty should not be overlooked: it is clear that ratification is key to securing U.S. strategic flexibility. The continued opposition to ratification relies on a series of outdated misperceptions

about the treaty’s intentions and implications. Maintaining the Reagan administration’s protests, the anti-UNCLOS lobby seeks to frame the treaty’s International Seabed Authority and deep seabed mining provisions as antithetical to American economic, political, and ideological interests. These protests ignore the 1994 Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI that resolves the Reagan administration’s objections by protecting the United States and U.S. private corporations against production limits and technology sharing provisions while increasing U.S. flexibility during arbitrations, prohibiting forced subsidies, and guaranteeing the United Seas a permanent seat on the International Seabed Authority Council. Moreover, its codification of an international law and customs provides a stable investment environment that protects core industries such as fishing, alternative and conventional energy, transportation, navigation, and mining. U.S. corporations have overwhelmingly turned in previous years to support the treaty as even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, and National Association of Manufacturers have renounced their former opposition and now demand ratification. Despite the Senate’s protests, it is clear UNCLOS neither establishes a global government nor international socialism. Rather, it secures American economic, strategic, and political objectives while providing a forum for a stable transition into the new world order. As resource demands shift and new conflicts arise, it’s time for the United States to reconsider its refusal. We must not repeat President Ronald Reagan’s mistake. Instead, we must join the 160 other member states and pledge ourselves to the establishment of a stable international maritime order. It’s time to ratify the Law of the Sea.

PagE 12

ChroniCle, November 2012

Libyan Tragedy Politicized, Miscontrued by Candidates
Stacey Nieves Contributor

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News that she felt Romney was not “doing himself any favors” by commenting in this way. “When you stsep forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you’re always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically,” Noonan said. Obama got a chance to deliver his own criticism of Romney face-to-face during the second presidential debate. He accused Romney of “trying to make political points” while “we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened.” He said “You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.” Given Romney’s conspicuous lack of foreign policy experience when compared to the incumbent President’s, he is bound to attempt to make Obama look weak in this area. This comment fits right in alongside his campaign’s continuous efforts to summarize Obama’s foreign policy work as “apologist.” However in this instance, Romney’s attempt to portray himself as an aggressive, principled politician and Obama as a coward came back to bite him. The American Public and pundits alike agree aggressive politicking is not appropriate in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. Despite this, the Obama administration is not entirely blameless. Original U.S. accounts depicted the attack as completely spontaneous, despite Libyan witnesses describing the attackers as organized and heavily armed. Eventually the U.S. settled on portraying the attack as split into two parts: the first a mob-like, spontaneous rush of protesters, the second a sophisticated ambush in which assailants waited and then struck rescuers as they arrived. But Libyan witnesses, including two guards at the compound, maintained that the building was stormed all at once on three sides, and that there was no initial protest. There were also mixed messages with regard to who perpetrated the attacks, after the official description had fully shifted from “spontaneous protest” to “preplanned terrorist attack.” First, Secretary of State Clinton hinted that a branch of alQaeda based in the Islamic Maghreb may have been involved, a story corroborated by the Libyan president. But Benghazi militia leaders and witnesses disagree, saying that extremist militias within Libya were the more likely culprits. The attack is currently recognized as the doing of Ansar al-Shariah, an east Libyan extremist group, and it is unlikely that the attack was planned weeks in advance. U.S. intelligence services deserve some


t 6 A.M. Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 11th, the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the United States embassy in Cairo released a statement condemning the amateur video entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” which included an offensive portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. At about midafternoon Eastern Time the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. By 10:30 that night, before the correct number of deaths had even been confirmed, Mitt Romney proclaimed, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Not Mitt’s finest move. What’s most condemnable about Romney’s comment is how quickly he pounced on the opportunity to politicize a tragedy, which he has been rightly called out on by politicians on both the right and the left. Former Republican Senator from New Hampshire, John E. Sununu, specifically questioned the timing. He stated the Romney campaign “should have waited,” and Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist, said on Fox

blame for these shifting stories, but not long after the attacks, newspaper reports were already including the conflicting stories of the U.S. government and actual witnesses. Many Republicans, though not Romney, have been quick to claim that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed possible terrorist involvement. Had the administration immediately implied the possibility of the attack being the work of terrorists, the resulting reaction would have detracted from the ongoing backlash to the Romney comment. Were the government’s shifting stories deliberately timed so as not to distract from Romney’s gaffe? I would not put it past them. When Obama and the Democrats took aim at Romney for politicizing a tragedy, I couldn’t help but detect a sense of disgust – much as I do every time one politician criticizes another for taking advantage of an opportunity. Had Romney waited a bit longer to make his attack, would there still have been such a fuss over it? Romney may have jumped the gun on this one, yet what he did is what any politician would do: politicize absolutely anything that happens during an election season. Romney’s timing was certainly disrespectful, but his actions were not out of the ordinary. The Obama administration is guilty of at least a little bit of hypocrisy, even more if the allegations of their manipulation of the story are true.

Mexican Political Parties Exacerbate War on Drugs
Mina Zorilla-Gonzalez Contributor


lthough the socioeconomic issues are vast, the recent political focus in Mexico has been on the containment of violence from the war on drugs. This issue is best elucidated by discussing Mexico’s three main political parties, which allows one to fully understand the underlying complexity of these issues. Mexico’s key parties can be easily categorized into left (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD), right (National Action Party, or PAN), and center (Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI). The PRD has lost its place in competition with the PRI and the PAN since their candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, lost by a close margin in the 2006 election. Because of Obrador’s radical leftist speeches and policies, he was frequently compared to Venezuela’s extreme leftist president Hugo Chavez, which lost him many supporters. On election night, when the PAN triumphed over the PRD by a very close margin, Obrador’s reaction dropped his popularity numbers even further. He not only refused to acknowledge the official results, but he also presented himself as the legitimate president and organized a type of Occupy-style sit-in in the city center. The drama was repeated in the 2012 election as Obrador, who ran and lost again, refused to accept the official vote count, even after a public apology and a promise to not repeat his actions. The PRI is a controversial party that ran the country for 70 uninterrupted years until they were ousted from the presidency by PAN’s Vicente Fox in 2000. Although the PRI started as the National Revolutionary Party in 1929 to manage the political unrest that still existed after the Mexican Revolution, through constant decades of power they managed to build themselves a pernicious reputation. The PRI developed a patronage system in which electoral victory for their candidates was ensured year after year. Needless to say, the party quickly became synonymous with corruption and fraud. The PRI, hoping to create an image of a controlled and prosperous Mexico,

Ricardo Stuckert-Agência Brasil

Felipe Calderón is responsible for increasing cartel violence in Mexico because of his anti-corruption policies.

collaborated with the leaders of the drug cartels on a regular basis, turning a blind eye in exchange for peace and quiet, and control of the drug market. They were not only successful in maintaining their deals throughout their “perfect dictatorship,” but they also made it so that intervening would be extremely difficult. After two terms of the PAN holding the presidency and using different tactics to overcome the drug cartels, the PRI, claiming it was a “new” PRI, has recently come back into power. This is evident with president Enrique Peña Nieto in this year’s July 2012 elections, though they have yet to prove that they will govern in a different way than before. The National Action Party, PAN, successfully triumphed over the PRI in the 2000 elections when Vicente Fox gained presidency. The PAN is the devout home for most capitalists and Catholics in Mexico. It is conservative on social issues, pro markets, and friendly to foreign interests. Unlike the PRI, the PAN holds a much cleaner reputation amongst most Mexicans and foreigners alike. Although the PAN is critiqued for a lack of notable changes in the economy and increasing violence in Mexico, it must be noted that the majority of congressional seats in Mexico are held by the PRI, which makes it nearly impossible to pass any beneficial legislation that would make the PAN look better than

the PRI. And even though the level of violence in Mexico significantly rose after Felipe Calderón took office in 2006 and initiated the war on drugs, I don’t think that the new tactics he implemented to combat cartels should be so heavily criticized. Instead of complying with the drug lords’ demands at the beginning of his term, Calderón did the unthinkable instead by declaring war on the cartels. He is the first president in recent memory to take action to defeat the powerful cartels, and this fundamentally makes sense because he is combating the source of corruption in the country in order to grow Mexico’s economy. Calderón defended the governments actions when he spoke at the National Palace on September 3, 2012, stating: “What’s clear ... is that we’ve made advances Mexicans should feel proud of. Mexico has started along the path toward a life full of liberty and security.” This is not to say that Calderón’s approach was perfect or didn’t contain many mistakes, but it was one of the first approaches taken to reshape Mexico into the country it can be; for that bold move, he should be applauded. It should also be noted that the increase in violence is mostly a result of a territorial war between the different cartels in Mexico. In addition to the war the Mexican government declared on the cartels, the cartels declared war on each other. Most of the violence should be attributed to the violent clash between the two most important cartels, the Sinaloas and the Zetas, as they engage in aggressive power struggles throughout the country. Mexico, with help from the U.S., has been struggling to pin down the cartels’ leaders and minimize violent outbreaks amongst the two groups in public areas where the innocent could become collateral victims. After the July 2012 elections in Mexico, the PRI is now back in power. To say the least, the PRI’s return did not receive a warm welcome from everyone, as they have yet to prove that they have replaced their old corrupt ways with new governing strategies. Spectators say that even with the political party shift, it is unlikely much will change in relation to the war on drugs. Ultimately, only time will tell whether the PRI has changed or not. Unfortunately, the stakes are far too high for mere chance to determine the very future of Mexico.

ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 13

Arushi Raina Debate & Discourse Editor


dEbatE & diScourSE

The Vassar Chronicle: At a liberal arts school like Vassar, is it problematic that one of the only courses that focus on African History is a post-colonial class? Samson Opondo: I wouldn’t say that it’s problematic as such. I’d move from that assertion and frame the discussion by asking: what is at stake when one teaches African History from a postcolonial perspective? That raises some questions. One, what is Africa? It’s relevance as a category, or how is it perceived? And two, what is at stake in engaging, not only Africa, but any previously colonized society, with a postcolonial sensibility? Those are the broader questions, questions that enable you to have an idea of Africa and not simply in a post-colonial sense. I would pose another question. Why engage African pasts; as multiple as they are with that historical sense in the first place? There are ways of reading African pasts that are not necessarily based on the historical point of view. However, if you are understanding the past based on history, then the post-colonial sometimes becomes an indispensable part of that equation. Because the colonial encounter is not a footnote in African past and present, a lot of African subjectivities we engage today are the product of colonial governance, writing, historiography and forms of knowledge. Then, it has to be recognized that the postcolonial, at least as I see it, is an attempt to disturb, to rewrite these narratives, to provide a voice for those who were silenced by colonialism and its neo-colonial formations. To return to your question: is it post-colonialism in a temporal sense— that you’re looking at African history from the point of view of that which comes after colonization? Or is it postcolonialism as a mode of critique? VC: But, regardless of taking these two very different approaches, don’t you think that the semantics of the post-colonial is detrimental? Particularly the consequence of focus primarily on the effects of Western imperialism? SO: When you come to the specifics of Africa and its pasts, and the modalities of teaching at Western universities, the challenge is always there: which stories to tell and how do you tell the stories of these pasts? Which encounters make their way into the classroom? For me, this becomes an ethico-political imperative, especially when engaging the multiplicity of African pasts, some of which are the product of colonial culture, some that existed prior to and in spite of the colonial encounter, and some that exists outside, resisted or exceed colonialism. In the broader sense of addressing this issue, I would go back to the efficacy of thinking about Africa and African pasts that does not engage the colonial and post-colonial. Pretty much ask a simple question, what is at stake when this narrative is muted? VC: But doesn’t such a policy send a signal that the post-colonial is the most important model regarding this subject? That this is the most important way of accessing this information? SO: I’ll give you examples that are not from history classes but engage African pasts and their relationship to the present—the

two classes I’m teaching this semester. One is on ‘Settler Colonialism in a Comparative Perspective’ and the other one is titled “Genre and the Postcolonial City.” In thinking about the postcolonial city, I don’t just draw on theories and cultures of the city in a generic sense. Given that I’m talking about postcolonial Nairobi, Algiers, Johannesburg and London, we look at how certain pasts or products of the pasts, how entanglements with or departures from the past pertain to this particular moment. Now, that becomes a post-colonial intervention. It brings in perspectives that show how we self-govern or are governed, as urban subjects. It highlights rules and modes of life that people stretch and are stretched by. There’s a lot in these cultures, and you can see that just by looking at the present. The notion of engaging the present critically as a way of thinking critically about the past is something I am seduced by (and the postcolonial offers a point of entry for such readings). VC: So you’re saying that the post-colonial is the most effective framework because we can develop our views for and against this model and learn from the contrasts and connections. Is that the most effective alternative we have? SO: Well, it’s not the most effective—it’s a partial intervention. VC: So what’s the most effective alternative reading of history that we have? SO: It’s good that you raised that question. An alternative reading of history becomes a problem when it is framed in terms of a mere alternative look at history while leaving the notion of historicism and the colonial archive intact. I would go further and encourage us to explore alternatives to history. That becomes a much more radical intervention because when you come to Africa as Victorians or Parisians, for example, and produce (culturally and racially coded) historical subjects who adhere to predetermined conceptions of the ‘proper’ and ‘civilized’ thinking subject, that has to be a part of your historical consciousness. Then ‘we’ have to seek an alternative to this narrative that is rigging what it means to be a knowledgeable subject, what it means to be able to narrate a past. VC: So why don’t you try to consolidate different models and readings into a seminal course where we’re not just engaging in postcolonial Africa but a wider African history where we’re going to be using these models in their limited capacity and introduce other models besides the post-colonial to create this necessarily complex reading? SO: Instead of model, I would say an assemblage. VC: But what will this assemblage be? SO: I’d say an assemblage of the multiplicity that is Africa and its disparate elements. For me, this speaks to my interest in diplomatic lives, machines and patterns in Africa and elsewhere. Some of them are colonial—some of them exist outside the register of colonialism. It’s an issue of producing multiple readings and destroying or fleeing from others. So, the problem comes when you try to make these broad generalizations about Africa or Africanness in the hope that they will pass as knowledge. If you are going to be talking about a category that is already part of a model of historical thinking, and

its insertion or exclusion from this mode is through violence, then the quest for other presents, pasts, or that which is to come becomes an effective project. Such a world wouldn’t be part of the historical consciousness, or African history as it is conventionally taught or thought or even post-colonial African history. It is an aversion to historicism and the disciplinary quest for authentic history, colonial, postcolonial, or otherwise. VC: So, let’s look at the possible effects on Vassar students, that framing this course could lead students to overestimate Western imperialism as a way of reading Africa. Intellectual engagement is compromised, and then maybe students’ engagements with African issues are inadvertently either compensating for paternalism or paternalistic. SO: When teaching in a space or about a given space you have to ‘speak truth to power’ and you have to point to its, the space’s, valance. Not to say that, “okay, because I want to give agency to people that exist outside, then what you do is give a much more subtle account of the valance.” You have to illustrate, to some extent, how it exists now and how it existed then, and the disjuncture or productive relationship— the forms of knowledge, the ‘facts’, simple things, rationalities, beliefs, enchantments or desires that produce them. And sometimes all this makes sense for the students, sometimes it does not. So, to that extent that you provoke thought, it is effective. The problem comes when you are acting as a native informer—all you are doing is giving information about that other place. But to inform does not have to be devoid of thought. It needs to be made very clear that this is a partial account. And being attentive to such partialities means asking questions about who is in the textual community when you write and if it’s teaching, you have to ask yourself: how are you engaging or working with the content? Where are students coming from? What’s their point of entry into this story? And what formations do they speak for? Then you can try to create—sometimes disastrously–a space to engage this particular class and bring them into a conversation about other lives and their implication in it. Thus, it becomes important to teach the postcolonial because it enables the students to unlearn their habitual ways of thinking or to question their ways of living or relating. VC: So you think post-colonialism is a way of unlearning? SO: Attentiveness to the postcolonial becomes a way of unlearning. VC: But then it’s not really the “postcolonialism” tag, it’s just the way you’re teaching history—it’s not the tag that’s really helping. SO: No, it is not a tag. It is way more than that. It is a condition, a moment, a disposition. VC: So bringing this example to students— they need to be intelligent about realizing their unique context, acknowledge how their learning of African history is colored by their unique cultural, socio-economic context, their natural leanings? SO: There is an ethics of learning, an ethics of engagement. And I wouldn’t really call them “natural” leanings, I would call



Google Earth

them “received.” Received through culture, received through media reporting, received through university education. These ways of thinking about the world have to be disturbed. I’ll give you an example: today, we talked about humanitarianism in Australia. The humanitarian and philanthropic subjectivity that white women cultivated for themselves in Australia as part of the settler colonial project of child removal that reconfigured Aboriginal homes, bodies and families was problematic. And by thinking about such moments in the early 20th century, we’re able to think about, “what it means to be a philanthropic subject today.” A lot of students are really thinking, “Oh, I want to go to Africa and volunteer,” and you’re really feeling like you’re a philanthropic subject without interrogating the impact or condition of possibility for such subjectivity and the practices it promotes. Is it capitalism? Is it the status of the US as a superpower that enables you to move across national borders and boundaries in ways that someone from Africa can’t, even if they had the same urge to volunteer elsewhere? Say if someone from Africa wanted to go to Haiti during the earthquake as part of a humanitarian effort or as part of Pan-African solidarity, they would have to plug themselves into certain institutions or narrate themselves in a certain way, go through screenings and verifications. To put it otherwise, to refuse to get into the volunteering mode predicated on the current humanitarian imaginary, but through a different archive—say that of the Black Atlantic—is to disturb the received sympathy while highlighting the conditions under which capital and bodies move or are made static in the world … something that a presentist humanitarian activism or certain futurist ecological stories disavow. However, there are ways of undoing and unlearning how you think and act —you want to be critical of your practices. Maybe the university is not the place, and a postcolonial African History class might not the most effective space, but it can be reoriented to be a space where one can be critical of their position and be encouraged to act or to think otherwise. To become otherwise. -Professor Sampson Opondo studies political science at Vassar College. His research focuses on colonialism, race, and the mediation of estrangement.

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ChroniCle, November 2012


ASU, BSU Members Discuss Race Relations, Identities
Arushi Raina Debate & Discourse Editor



dEbatE & diScourSE
Racial Divide




AR: Do you think that stating that there is a racial divide on campus is a controversial statement?

haron Adongo ’14 from the African Students Union and Nathan Hoston ’13 from the Black Students Union share their personal views on race relations and identity on campus. Arushi Raina: Do you perceive that there is a sense of racial divide on campus? Sharon Adongo: Yes, I think that there is a divide on campus, in the way that students tend to socialize predominantly within their race, particularly minorities. That’s not to say that people do not have friends outside these groups, but their dominant group tends to be made up of people of their own race. I think forming these groups is often a positive thing, and gives you a sense of belonging and an understanding of your identity. You are more yourself when you are around people of this common race or nationality than around others. The negatives are that to the extent that you are mostly interacting with those with shared backgrounds and racial experiences, you are limiting your learning through limiting your exposure to other viewpoints. Nathan Hoston: Absolutely. There is a way that Vassar students separate themselves. I wouldn’t say segregate, because it connotes something of much bigger historical context that I’d rather not get into. Vassar students separate themselves, not just through the ALANA Center orgs, but through who they eat lunch with at ACDC, or who we live with, or who we play sports with. I’m also not sure if that’s a bad thing because I do think that people of the same races have things, very deeply in common, with people of that race. And I know that, for me, a student of color, I wouldn’t want to deny myself of the experience of hanging out with other people of color just for the sake of integrating. But I want to address whether or not this divide is an issue. I think that there are some students of color on campus who are coming to a racial awakening, through classes like “Politics of Difference,” “Sex, Gender, and Society,” and “Black Intellectual History.” And I think that through these classes, they’re coming to understand how race has affected them through their entire lives, and they haven’t necessarily been aware of that, which is very true for myself. I didn’t see how my experience as a black man affected the way I lived until I got to college. By being part of these groups that are predominantly of color, I’m able to acknowledge my black identity, in a way that I think is very helpful for my self-esteem. There were ways that I used to be treated that I didn’t feel were a problem, that I don’t accept anymore. In that regard, I’m fine with the fact that there is a racial divide on campus.

“Vassar’s a very liberal place, and the student body prides itself on its liberal views and tolerance towards difference. So there’s a move towards denying that this rather unsurprising division exists, because it challenges the concept of a truly liberal student body.”
SA: Yes. Vassar’s a very liberal place, and the student body prides itself on its liberal views and tolerance towards difference. So there’s a move towards denying that this rather unsurprising division exists, because it challenges the concept of a truly liberal student body. I think that the recent instances of racial graffitti illustrate how there are views that are antithetical to this liberal identity. AR: Do you think there is a certain defensiveness that’s contributing to this divide? NH: This is complicated. I would like to think that it has less to do with people of color feeling comfortable with other people of color and more to do with white people not feeling comfortable with people of people of color. AR: Can you give me an example of how this divide is evident on campus? NH: Something like an ALANA Center org meeting. BSU for example, is open to everybody, but most white people on campus don’t want to go, because they feel like it’s not their space too. My friends here are predominantly white. At the same time I’m vice president of the MBSA, I’ve participated in BSU org meetings and programs. I very much feel a part of two different worlds. The reason why those two worlds haven’t met is because my white friends feel that they wouldn’t understand the experience of color. SA: A particular example for me, that shows the systematic nature of this racial insularity, manifests itself in class choices and the demographics of these classes. There are particular classes whose lecturers are known to encourage racial discourse, or discourse about minorities. Every year, you see that these classes will always have a large number of minority students. It’s an unchanging pattern of how students are gravitating to particular intellectual pursuits that further insularize their interactions. Faculty that promote certain discourses regarding race continually are associated with similar events in collabo-

ration with the Alana center, and draw the same students. AR: So do you think that this pattern is faculty driven or student driven, then? SA: I think of course, that it is a largely student driven pattern, and I think that these groupings are initially constructed by students, but I definitely think that it is furthered by faculty and administration. AR: You’ve both talked about how being part of these groups is important for personal identity, but do you think that the formation of these groups has been the result of wariness of other groups, or perception that they would be less welcome/ comfortable in these groups? NH: I do think it’s more a function of people of color choosing to form their own groups. SA: I don’t think that these ‘other groups’ are exclusive. Not at all. I think that people find the challenge of joining another group, where you, potentially, are the only “different” one, overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to go out of your comfort zone to try a more difficult interaction. A lot of these groups are now well established, and there is a reluctance to try and expand, deviate from a system that for now, works. AR: So since we have identified that there are challenges to effective social interactions and sharing on campus, how do you recommend that we can address these issues? SA: I think that organizations for minorities should open up their discourse, and make greater efforts to include diverse people in their activities. This is not only through campus awareness forums, and tabling, but doing activities that are not necessarily minority/race based but can include different students, and to advertise these activities as such. For example, it

“I think the change has to occur through students’ interactions with each other. And I don’t think this should happen in a forum, or some other formal situations. People are so caught up in political correctness, that they are not having an open discourse that will allow for better interactions.”
would be interesting for the ASU to run discussions on the Presidential Debate, that is something that all students can participate in, and would widen discussion and interaction immensely. I think minority/race organizations should not just collaborate with those in the Alana center, but some completely unrelated organizations to cre-

ate this sharing, to give people who haven’t had a reason to visit the Alana center to do so. NH: I think the change has to occur through students’ interactions with each other. And I don’t think this should happen in a forum, or some other formal situations. People are so caught up in political correctness, that they are not having an open discourse that will allow for better interactions. Even if someone accidentally says something offensive, it’s easy to correct that and make it a learning moment, instead of not making these mistakes, and not having the conversation. AR: So taking your views and contrasting it to larger campus views, do you think there’s a disjunct in perception of race relations/the importance of expressing racial identity between African American students on campus and African students? NH: I haven’t really ever engaged with this issue—it’s never been on the agenda for my conversations with anyone at Vassar. SA: Yes, I think that as an African growing up in Nairobi, my race was not something I thought about. It sounds simple, or unbelievable, but when you are in that environment where most people look like you do, race is not an issue. This background is very different from the background of African Americans, which very much includes a discourse of racial struggle and how this racial struggle is still occurring. So our priorities and viewpoints are sometimes different, as manifested by the different attitudes regarding race on campus. AR: So do you think that if you are a student of a minority group, or a student of color, you have a responsibility to engage or be an advocate for these issues? SA: No, I don’t think it’s a responsibility. I think it’s totally up to the student to choose how they want to identify themselves, in the end its up to the individual how they want to represent themselves and what they want to further. And I think that the college environment does give the student the choice to do so, if they want to be involved or not either through their organizations or socially. NH: I don’t think anyone is accountable to a social org such as BSU. But I do think that students of color who go to an institution like Vassar and who are getting this education, have to be accountable to their race. Contributing in some way, whether through their time, or engaging in discussions or advocating this issue is a necessity. I know a lot of people will disagree with me. They believe that if they’ve got to the point that they don’t have to acknowledge their race, they’ve transcended this issue. But I think I have a responsibility to people, children specifically, who are growing up similar to how I grew up.

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ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 15

Analyzing Tactics in the Final Presidential Debate
Arushi Raina Debate & Discourse Editor

dEbatE & diScourSE

Framing the Debate The first move Romney makes is an attempt to frame the question by contextualising it. Here, Romney has taken the chance to broaden the debate so he has room to not answer specifically. This instinct is good, because Romney has the power to trivialize or illuminate elements of the question to his advantage. Unfortunately, this framing is ineffective. The assertion of the fact that the Libyan incident is an “area of great” concern to the world is neither strategically advantageous nor particularly enlightening. When people die in embassies its an area of great concern, generally. That’s why the moderator bothered to ask the question. Romney could have done a better job putting forward a more specific, narrow framing. He should have focused on the Libyan incident, because it was a failure and he has a chance to critique it. A specific attack is a more effective attack.

Contextualizing The Question We’re talking about the possible failure of American policy, intelligence or integrity. Inserting how nice it is to have “greater moderation and opportunity on the part of women in the Middle East” at this point in the question, before he’s even addressed the Libyan issue directly, weakens his position. Not only has Romney alienated himself from the question, but he’s also become less relevant to the audience, whose American civilian deaths and their protection come out to the forefront of this question.

The third and final Presidential Debate was held on October 22, 2012 and covered the issue of foreign policy. The debate was moderated by Bob Schieffer.

Debate and Discourse Editor, Arushi Raina, goes through the last debate with a magnifying glass, trying to prove how the Presidential candidates could have benifited from some old fashioned lessons in logic, strategy and perhaps, etiquette. MR. SCHIEFFER: The first question, and it concerns Libya, the controversy over what happened there continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador. Questions remain. What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened? MITT ROMNEY: This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world and to America in particular, which is to see a complete change in the structure and the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women and public life and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead we’ve seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events. Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in Libya an attack apparently by — well, I think we know now by terrorists of some kind against our people there, four people dead. Our hearts and minds go to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali, by al-Qaida-type individuals. We have in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president. And so what we’re seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course, the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon. And we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaida. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism which is — it’s really not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism. MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President. PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, my first job as commander in chief, Bob, is to keep the American people safe, and that’s what we’ve done over the last four years. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, al-Qaida’s core leadership has been decimated. In addition, we’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security, and that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats. Now, with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm’s way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened; and number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed Americans, and we would bring them to justice, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. But I think it’s important to step back and think about what happened in Libya. Now, keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to — without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq — liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years, got rid of a despot who had killed Americans. And as a consequence, despite this tragedy, you had tens of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi marching and saying, America’s our friend. We stand with them. Now that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage of. And you know, Governor Romney, I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al-Qaida, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy

Wompy the Womp Womp says, “Bob Schieffer was the real winner here.”

Not Worth Speaking Romney doesn’t need to bring this up; this is not winning him points. He is making concessions on a point he shouldn’t even be making. Tip for Romney: graceful concessions are only effective when they are trivial and on point. Al Qaeda is, to the American populace anything but trivial, and to this particular question, relatively off point.

“Our Hearts and Minds Go To Them?” What is this? Romney is not playing to his strengths as a “doer” candidate through this empty phrase. What worsens the situation is that so far, this cliché is the most direct way he’s addressed Libya. Tip for Romney: Don’t address the question the first time directly with the hearts and minds phrase, until you have a particular critique or argument in place.

A Vague Critique In his overall response to this question, Romney has created a really vague critique of violent strategy, while still championing the targeting of celebrity terrorists. Romney has not said Libya, or even American strategy as a whole, is a policy failure. An intelligence failure has misleading aspects. Romney would have done better if he had talked about all the precautions that could have been taken, and that weren’t taken, preceding the events, without going all the way in saying that Obama did a bad job. This would reveal an attention to detail, focus, and competence, that this response is completely lacking.

A Frame, or Lack Thereof Obama’s opening, in contrast with Romney’s, is a collection of buzzwords. With “commander in chief” and “keep American people safe,” Obama is putting the audience on track with his speech, at least by acknowledging that their primary interest is domestic issues. He introduces his response by taking the concession that Romney has given him—Al Qaeda’s decimination—to then weaken the argument that American policy competence or intelligence failure contributed to the Libya tragedy. He also references his response in the last debate—a point he won through a wonderful play of wronged dignity—that his integrity with regards to the American people is unquestionable. By referring lightly to this, Obama has allowed the audience to carry over the effectiveness of this point over to this debate, without having to rehash the affronted demeanor. Note here, though, that Obama has not framed the debate adequately here either, but that he gets away with it since Romney had the first response and choice to broaden the debate.

Following The Opponent’s Scope Because Romney has created a situation where he’s broadened the debate to American efforts to “reconstruct” the Middle East, instead of just focusing on the Libyan tragedy, he’s given Obama the power to wax eloquently about rebuilding and fighting yokes of oppression, one of Obama’s comparative advantages.

PagE 16

ChroniCle, November 2012



dEbatE & diScourSE


Ready on the Rebound Here, Romney is prepped for this answer, and has a more successful framing when he refuses to engage in the hypothetical, and instead provides the vision of a more in control and compassionate American presidency.

Following The Opponent’s Scope This indicates a failure in Romney’s overall strategy. Don’t go broad and unspecific and have a mixed collection of assertions that hops a few national borders, an attack that attacks nothing in particular, because he hasn’t explicitly shown a contrast between his own “broader strategy” and Obama’s current policy. In his last chance to clarify his position, he shows how vague it is. Maybe he should have, now, at least tried a specific attack on the Libyan incident in particular?

The Reality of Israel I think that we need more substantiation about the Israel-US issue. Romney needs to illuminate a different path for Israel and US decisions that would contrast with Obama’s. What we get again is a broader framing that isn’t doing Romney much good.

The unexploited potential for crafting complex arguments: This mention of the military could have been used really well in response to the moderator’s question. While playing up the moderate approach of a well thought out presidential action in order to support Israel, he could have also talked about how, under his administration, his military would be more equipped to respond to the “hypothetical” security threat that Israel and the US might face, should such an action need to be taken. That way Romney could have articulated the importance of sustaining the military while engaging with the moderator’s question, though not compromising on centrism. Romney had the opportunity to win on two counts.

Microscopic examples In debates, there’s always been the issue of using appropriate examples, which includes the issue of whether an example is an accurate representation of the sample, accurate enough to argue a point. Obama’s use here is largely a vicious tug at the heartstrings (another thing somewhat frowned upon when assessing logic in debate). The young girl becomes a point to prove that it was worth heaven and earth to kill Osama, giving a gentler feel to the rather ra-ra, shoot the bad guys policy that the Bin Laden example had up till now. But these insertions of personal anecdotes aren’t really examples that prove the validity of an argument, and Obama shouldn’t win on fluently narrating other people’s last words as a way of proving the efficacy of targeting one man (a man who no longer is the main threat to security) at the expense of Pakistan’s national sovereignty, but more importantly, other national priorities.

previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East. MR. ROMNEY: Well, my strategy’s pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than that. That’s important, of course, but the key that we’re going to have to pursue is a pathway to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan. That’s not the right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world. MR. SCHIEFFER: What if the prime minister of Israel called you on the phone and said: Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb Iran. What do you say? MR. ROMNEY: Bob, let’s not go into hypotheticals of that nature. Our relationship with Israel, my relationship with the prime minister of Israel is such that we would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way or their fighters are on the way. This is the kind of thing that would have been discussed and thoroughly evaluated well before that kind of action. MR. SCHIEFFER: So you’re saying just what — MR. ROMNEY: I’m — that’s — MR. SCHIEFFER: OK. But let’s see what — MR. ROMNEY: Yes, let’s come back and go back to what the president was speaking about, which is what’s happening in the world and the president’s statement that things are going so well. Look, I look at what’s happening around the world and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread. Whether they’re rising or just about the same level hard to precisely measure, but it’s clear they’re there. They’re very, very strong. I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power. I see our trade deficit with China larger than it’s — growing larger every year as a matter of fact. I look around the world and I don’t feel that — you see North Korea continuing to export their nuclear technology. Russia’s said they’re not going to follow Nunn-Lugar anymore; they’ve backed away from their nuclear proliferation treaty that we had with them. I look around the world, I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding, in part because of the failure of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home, in part because of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military and the way I think it ought to be, in part because of the turmoil with Israel. I mean, the president received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying the tensions with Israel were a real problem. PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. MR. ROMNEY: They asked him, please repair the tension—Democrat senators — please repair the damage in his own party. MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the problem is, is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map. I mean, I’m pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program. But just a few years ago you said that’s something you’d never do, in the same way that you initially opposed a time table in Afghanistan, now you’re for it, although it depends; in the same way that you say you would have ended the war in Iraq, but recently gave a speech saying that we should have 20,000 more folks in there; the same way that you said that it was mission creep to go after Gadhafi. When it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, you said, well, any president would make that call. But when you were a candidate in 2008 — as I was — and I said, if I got bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot, you said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man, and you said we should ask Pakistan for permission. And if we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him. You know, after we killed bin Laden, I was at Ground Zero for a memorial and talked to a young woman who was 4 years old when 9/11 happened. And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying, Peyton (sp), I love you, and I will always watch over you. And for the next decade she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, you know, by finally getting bin Laden that brought some closure to me. And when we do things like that, when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world, and it tells Peyton (sp) that we did not forget her father. MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. PRESIDENT OBAMA: And I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity of leadership — and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally are not poll-tested. And even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did. But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions.

Painting hypothetical pictures but cementing with argumentation: Romney has started to get into his stride of painting a world of doom and gloom, a summary that’s probably an improvement from his last summary, but he isn’t capitalizing on it. He needs to spend less time on the painting, and more time on directly articulating the distinction between Obama and his actions. We don’t get that. Why structure matters, Mr. Romney: This allegation comes too late in response. If Romney had put it at the beginning, and built the case of a fractured attitude towards foreign policy that exists on Obama’s side and created a contrast with his own, fictional presidency, he’d have created a powerful response. Romney’s broadening of the issue has left him little time to build his strongest points on Israel and US relations. The art of evasion: Obama’s refusal to challenge Romney’s assertion regarding the dissenting Democrats is striking but does not clearly put Obama on his backfoot. The more troubling debate etiquette aspect is evidenced in the way that Obama doesn’t even try to engage the moderator’s question. It is an uncomfortable one, and probably one in which Obama would either sound exactly like Romney, or come out confused and sticky. So he avoids it, and again uses Romney’s licence to go all over the map, anywhere but to the question at hand. Strategically, this abstractedness probably works in Obama’s favor. In terms of debate, poor form, sir.

Using the same examples for new revelations Obama likes his laurels, and displays another instance of his fondness for laying out the very same laurels for our examination, believing that the audience will find them, somehow, irrevocably altered. What mitigates the repetition, is the way in which Obama uses the example to contrast himself to Romney and build a case for Romney’s inconsistency. The Final, Trivial, Graceful Concession A more successful example here. The concession is on point, but trivial, and paints Obama as a man who takes hard decisions.

ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 17

Ought Financial Need Dictate Tertiary Scholarships?
Arushi Raina, Debate & Discourse Editor Jessica Tarantine, Contributor

dEbatE & diScourSE


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: You’re arguing, Jessica, that the government should issue a policy that prevents institutions (whether they be private or public) from issuing aid unless it is on the basis of financial need. That means scholarships based on any other criteria are eliminated. Correct? Jessica Tarantine: Yes. We could talk about ways for this policy to be enforced and what gives a government the right to enact this type of policy. The way this would be implemented is that federal aid to an institution would stop if it grants merit based aid or aid on any other criteria except need. AR: What you mean by financial need? How will this be evaluated? JT: We can look at what the Department of Education dictates, and assess a student’s need based on parental and student contribution. Of course, the standard that determines a student’s need is not without problems. In many cases, it will overestimate what a student can pay, but right now I think it’s the best thing we have to work with. AR: I don’t think you can just brush aside this concession you’ve made regarding administrative shortfalls. If the government makes an incorrect or incomplete estimation, then you’ve signed a death warrant on this student’s ability to get funds for education, where previously the tertiary institution, having a more comprehensive understanding of the student, could have corrected for this error—or provided opportunities to get this aid through qualifying through other categories. You’ve tied these institutions’ hands. JT: I think this discussion falls within the realm of discourse rather than debate so we can actually talk about issues and ways to reform what is becoming an increasingly problematic higher education system, rather than attempting to win nebulous debating points. I wouldn’t say it’s a concession. If FAFSA has problems it should be reformed, but that’s another discussion. AR: So let’s tackle the first aspect of this issue: the government’s right to enact this policy. Of course, all tertiary institutions operate in a legal environment and obey certain legal codes, but let’s look into this policy more closely. It’s restricting the manner in which an institution can spend its own money, not just from preventing it from spending it on one or two sources, but instead limiting it to one sort of expenditure. I think that’s an important distinction. Tertiary institutions, like businesses, have formed their individual identities so they can foster a unique set of competencies and products. By restricting how they spend

their money, you’re invalidating their claims for self-determination. The impacts are huge too, because you’re reducing the distinguishing aspects of universities’ student bodies. JT: They give up their right to complete self-determination when they accept government funds. If schools do not wish to enact this policy, they can simply give up all federal money. AR: But that’s the distinction I’m trying to make. Outlying certain types of expenditure on grounds of illegitimacy is fine, but restricting the institution to one type of expenditure is far more invasive.

“Why is a school’s brand of education more important than access for low income students? The ethical basis of capitalism requires an ability to better oneself; I think we more fully realize this when we have an equal playing field in terms of student aid.”
JT: The fact is, higher education is heavily subsidized, and we consider it to be a social good–something that affects all of society. I think that the legality of this policy is pretty clear. Consider the example of the federal government pulling their support for roads if states lower their drinking age. It’s the same type of policy and the government isn’t outlawing anything. So as long as the policy would best allow for the interests of the federal government, I think it would be fair to implement it; the federal government cares about accessible education for all, not a specific school’s flavor of education. Why is a school’s brand of education more important than access for low income students? The ethical basis of capitalism requires an ability to better oneself; I think we more fully realize this when we have an equal playing field in terms of student aid. AR: What distinguishes my case from yours is that you’re seeing scholarships in a very restricted way. In your case, scholarships work primarily to answer financial need. Scholarships, however, have a far broader purpose, such as acknowledging particular achievements or a body of work or representing a certain minority. If someone is given a particular scholarship for their contribution to narrative fiction, for example, it’s a way of furthering a legacy of excellence in this craft, but also encouraging the furtherance in a craft that is not necessarily commercially viable, and in this way, addressing the inequalities of the future. The broader purpose of scholarships needs to be acknowledged along with the fundamental capitalist right to have the choice on how to spend money. If the only way a tertiary institution can give financial rewards to students is through their needing it, there’s too much stress on existing financial circumstances, and you’re preventing the development of other important aspects of the student body. You have financial need but totally neglect support. Scholarships can serve as an incentive towards certain

behaviors. There is a way in which you are encouraging a meritocracy, and I’m arguing that although all financial aid doesn’t need to do this, having the option to do so is important. Encouraging certain kinds of accomplishments promotes certain behaviors among students, and this can be used to contribute positively to the campus–for example, through scholarships based on community work. When you limit scholarships to financial need, you’re excluding anyone who does not meet these stringent criteria from this sort of incentives, and while not creating an entitlement culture, are skewing incentives in that direction. Such a policy limits your flexibility of sometimes acting outside the norm to make an important exception. JT: This gets at what a society thinks education is for and why we subsidize it. The fundamental purpose of education is to better oneself, whether that means to stop the cycle of poverty, gain new knowledge, or get a specific skillset. We should be working to provide as many people as possible with that opportunity and the only way this can be accomplished is by giving aid to students who need it. I would disagree with any conception of higher education that does not work to this end. Even if you refuse to believe this, there are ways to allow for your type of scholarship when only granting need based aid. If you really care about narrative fiction, simply accept more students who wish to study narrative fiction. Furthermore, accept students who are diverse–that is why we have policies like affirmative action. That way we can help to mitigate the effects of historical discrimination, but not give aid to minority students who are part of the upper class and do not need it. AR: Incentives have to be distinguished from a once-off acceptance. An incentive serves as an ongoing support, encouraging certain talents and aptitudes. I’m talking about legacy, and providing support to student for answering future possible inequalities. JT: Ultimately, why should we give money to students who don’t need it, when there are thousands of students who can’t afford to attend, especially when you consider that many things that are considered merit can simply be bought. From higher SAT scores, to studying overseas, and impressive internships, wealth plays a huge advantage. Why are we continuing to disadvantage low income students? AR: I’m not saying that financial need should not dominate as a policy. Even if it is 99% of the decisions made, it shouldn’t be enforced as 100%. That absolutist policy severely restricts the college’s choice to use a more unique decision making process when giving scholarships. When you consider that government is making this decision, it’s limiting tertiary institutions to correct this. And although there is a link between merit and class, you can’t assert that all merit is based on class. There are enough examples of low income students who have earned merit based scholarships through showing exceptional achievement. I would argue that this is the ideal because it’s progressive and meritocratic, and is ensuring that the student is not only funded, but has been incentivized to

perform well. JT: How do we expect low income students to compete in a meritocracy when our system has placed them in horrible inner-city schools that have failed them? For every student who has worked hard to overcome adversity, there are many who haven’t. Why are we worsening these effects by giving aid to students who don’t need it? AR: Encouraging certain activities and facets is progressive, not only for the individual and what future contribution they’ll make to society, but for the institution that wants to craft its unique student body by encouraging certain things. This need is fundamental. You haven’t told me how fostering a meritocracy, particularly in cases where most aid given by an institution is based on need, should be completely removed. The importance of a meritocracy still stands. You’ve told me about changing admissions to reflect this, but I’ve differentiated admissions from ongoing incentives. JT: When it comes to college we need to be concerned about access for all. When we give merit aid, we hurt access because we are taking money which could be used to help low income students, and giving it to students who don’t need it. When you additionally consider that “merit” can be bought through tutors, trips and admission coaches, we see that merit aid continues to perpetuate systems of privilege. Privilege is so ingrained in the admission process that allowing it to also permeate scholarships removes any chance that the playing field will be level; higher income students already obtain degrees at much higher rates than low income students. Education is fundamentally about leveling the playing field and when we have policies that further tilt the field it’s failing to fulfill that purpose.

“… fostering merit, even if to a small degree, is essential for not only upholding an institution’s unique competencies and aims, but also supporting a student’s intellectual achievements and pursuits.”
AR: At the most fundamental level, an institution’s right to determine how it spends its money, particularly its scholarship funds, is integral to its right to self-determine. I think that you’ve critiqued the system of how merit is assessed, but not the system of a meritocracy itself, and I’ve proved how fostering merit, even if to a small degree, is essential for not only upholding an institution’s unique competencies and aims, but also supporting a student’s intellectual achievements and pursuits. Ultimately, you had to prove that a marginal limitation of funds for those who could not afford it trumps not only the tertiary institution’s right to self determine, but also it’s option to provide aid on a case by case basis, and not to be limited by the stringency of an, at times, inaccurate system administered by the government.

PagE 18

ChroniCle, November 2012

Mitt Romney: “I am in no way affiliated with Mitt Romney”
Kris Adkins Contributor


DES MOINES—Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, made a statement while campaigning in Iowa signaling a new strategy for the former governor who is hoping to win over undecided voters in this key swing state: “President Obama has been saying a whole lot over the course of this campaign, a lot of which I don’t agree with and still more that is just patently untrue. It’s bad enough that the President has accused me of proposing a 5 trillion dollar tax cut that I do not endorse, but I hear now that President Obama is going around telling good Iowans that I am somehow affiliated with Mitt Romney’s campaign. Let’s be clear on one thing, I am not in any way affiliated with Mitt Romney. So if the President attacks me for endorsing any of Mitt Romney’s proposals, that’s not me, that’s not what I believe, and that’s not who I’ll be when I’m elected President.”

Confused Iowans had mixed reactions to Governor Romney’s statement. Grinnell farmer, Steve Haddlestad, had this to say: “I’m very skeptical of concentrating wealth in the hands of a privileged few like Mitt Romney seems to want to do… but I guess I’m voting for Romney now because he was very tough on Mitt Romney’s policies today. We need a tough president!” However, Jefferson High School teacher, Dottie Overhulser, is still undecided: “Well, I think it shows a lot of backbone standing up to the President and telling him that he can’t just go around calling people ‘Mitt Romney’ or ‘Republican candidate for president,’ but I still don’t know who I’m going to cast my vote for.” Meanwhile, others like restaurant owner Carl Bruener are having a tough time comprehending Romney’s change in strategy: “Whoa, I just woke up. Where’s mom?” Bruener’s sentiment is shared by many others in the town of Ames.

Grinnell College professor of political science, Bob Overholtz, believes that this is actually the smartest thing Mitt Romney can do at this point. “It’s really fascinating actually. By separating himself from Mitt Romney’s right-leaning politics, Mitt Romney can now attack the president from the left! It’s actually the most effective way to destroy a more moderate candidate that I’ve ever seen!” Recently, while meeting with Iowan construction workers who have been instrumental in building wind turbines, Obama criticized Governor Romney’s proposed energy policy, saying that it doesn’t allow enough innovation for new kinds of alternative energy. Mitt Romney had this to say in response: “Well I’m glad the President is starting to agree with me on how misguided Romney’s energy policy is! But it’s too little too late, Mr. President!” On the subject of tax policy, when asked in detail about which specific tax loopholes and inefficiencies Mitt

Romney would work to eliminate, he said that, “Being an American means you get to be whoever you want to be. It means you get to believe in whatever you want to believe in. I want Americans to understand that they have a very clear choice in this election. If you want to vote for Mitt Romney, great vote for Mitt. But if you want a candidate that doesn’t stand by Romney’s policies on the issues that are important to you, come on over and see what our campaign is about!” After the question about tax policy was repeated, Governor Romney replied: “I believe I’ve been clear enough, let’s let America decide! Ha ha. Yeah, you bet.”

CORRECTION: Mitt Romney’s campaign staff has asked us to make explicit that all of Mitt Romney’s quotes above were made by Mitt Romney, not by Mitt Romney.

Zack Struver Senior Editor






urricane Sandy recently announced her candidacy for President of the United States in a whirlwind tour of the Eastern seaboard. Sandy hit key swing states, including Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, along with many states that were firmly blue and red. Voters in all states responded to Sandy’s howling cries for political upheaval with thunderous applause. Frank Dorson, an undecided voter in Boca Raton, Florida, said that Hurricane Sandy provided voters with a compelling third alternative for President. “Forget Jill Stein,” said Dorson, “Sandy’s a real hellraiser.” According to the National Hurricane Center, Sandy began as a localized tropical depression south of Kingston, Jamaica, and made her way slowly onto the scene of American politics as a full-fledged hurricane. Recent polls indicated that 95 percent of undecided and independent voters are impressed with Sandy’s track record. “It’s difficult being a woman in American politics,” said voter Alyssa Jones of Portland, Oregon, “and I’m really impressed that Sandy managed to go from a tropical storm to a hurricane in the course of a week. I think we can anticipate far bigger things from her in the future.” President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney both spoke about Hurricane Sandy on recent campaign tour stops. President Obama criticized Sandy for her nation-

building policies, including her plans to completely overhaul the New York City Subway system and the Metro-North rail service. In a recent speech in New Jersey, he promised Governor Chris Christie that he would work with the citizens of New Jersey, while Sandy promised a return to

Carter-era gas rationing and a complete dissolution of infrastructure. Governor Romney agreed with some of Sandy’s policies, but warned that looks can be deceiving. “Hurricane Sandy has some good ideas, such as reducing wasteful spending by cutting funding to bloated

federal agencies like FEMA,” he noted, “but do you really want a woman in the White House?” In a recent press-conference, Sandy summed up all the major political issues in one word, “WAHHAHAHHAHARHARHARHA.”

“we caN’t be coNsumeD by our petty DiFFereNces aNymore,” says mitt romNey, “we will be uNiteD iN our commoN iNterests.”

knoW you’rE Funny? WritE For thE chronicLE.
Christa Guild

ChroniCle, November 2012

PagE 19

The LasT Page
“a Democratic goverNmeNt is tHe oNly oNe iN wHicH tHose wHo vote For a tax caN escape tHe obligatioN to pay it.” — alexis De tocqueville

Madeleine Morris

ChroniCle, November 2012