OCTOBER 4, 2011






Vassar & Local National Affairs Foreign Affairs Debate & Discourse The Last Page 3 7 12 16 20

Alaric Chinn

Ethan Madore William Serio
PRODUCTION & DESIGN COPY & STYLE VASSAR & LOCAL NATL. & FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEBATE & DISCOURSE COPY & STYLE ASST. DEBATE & DISC. ASST. ILLUSTRATORS Pavel Shchyhelski Abby Krolik Jessica Tarantine Thomas Enering Michael Greene Kaitlin Reed Eunice Roh Shivani Dave Pavel Shchyhelski Madeleine Morris

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Administration Neglects Summer Students
ach year, Vassar students can expect the annual Princeton Review College Rankings to depict their school as a halcyon bastion of liberalism and secular thought. Yet the publication also articulates a more troubling trend: the dismal “towngown relations” between Vassar and Poughkeepsie. Despite removing the fence that previously encircled the campus and engaging in other ostentatious attempts to make the college appear more “open” and less elitist, the administration’s efforts have largely failed to address the more substantive issues dividing the college from the city. With homeless shelters, battered women’s clinics, and legal aid organizations facing budgetary constraints and desperate for additional volunteers, opportunities to interact with the Poughkeepsie community are abundant. These non-profits offer students a more nuanced understanding of the city’s dynamics and facilitate direct communication between Poughkeepsie residents and Vassar students. Unfortunately, the Vassar administration squanders its best opportunity to augment this relationship by treating the students who elect to remain on campus during the summer so poorly. For instance, Vassar makes absolutely no attempt to offer access to any sort of food plan to the students working with social justice agencies. The Retreat holds irregular hours and declines to open any of the three primary meal stations for most of the summer. The All Campus Dining Center (ACDC) proves even less accommodating: though they grant special meal cards to elementary and high school students attending summer programs, Vassar students offering to pay cash provoke only confused stares from


“Deece” employees. This leaves students with two options: find public transportation to Stop & Shop to purchase food to cook on a convection oven outside of the Retreat or eat out at a restaurant. Both of these possibilities are inconvenient and expensive. The refusal to provide useful hours for the library and the gym only makes the Vassar summer experience more frustrating. The library operates from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and is closed on weekends. Students working the forty-hour week suggested by local agencies are waiting on Fulton Street for the bus at 8 a.m. and don’t arrive back on campus until well after 5 p.m. Rising seniors who were determined to avoid procrastination and work on their senior theses over the summer find it impossible to begin their research. Most alarmingly, the absence of virtually any food or transportation program unfairly impacts our poorest students and effectively precludes them from accepting local unpaid internships. Virtually everyone who accepted employment opportunities with Hudson River Housing, Dutchess Outreach, and Legal Services Corporation over the summer reported that their experiences allowed them to communicate with Poughkeepsie denizens and gain a far deeper appreciation for the local community. Yet students unanimously articulated how these unpaid opportunities forced them to carry a large fiscal burden and prompted many to rely on their families for financial support. For many students though, calling their parents for constant cash infusions is simply not an option. As a direct result of this, one noticed a disturbing number of students huddled over ramen noodles every night.

Several students expressed that they wanted to work for a local organization, but they simply decided not to apply, understanding that they lacked the financial resources to support themselves for three full months. The very reasonable daily rate of $7 for lodging in Main and the creation of the Internship Grant Fund (IGF), a fund designed to support internship pursuits anywhere in the nation, mark critical improvements. However, the administration must do far more to foster an inclusive environment that respects the financial constraints of many students. Of course, Vassar offers The Community Fellows Program, a Field Work Office administered initiative that pays $320 a week to 10 students who work with a local agency dedicated to pursuing social justice. This is Vassar’s most innovative attempt to mend town-gown relations. However, it was disturbing to watch the Field Work Office scrambling to find sources of funding for this program most of last year, stating for months that they doubted if they could support it. We are, ultimately, left with an administration that claims to promote improving town-gown relations, but seems conspicuously unsympathetic to students residing here over the summer. Their policies deter financial aid students from seeking local employment and make it even more difficult to endure the sweltering summer days in a Main single. Both Poughkeepsie citizens and Vassar students deserve far better. —The Staff Editorial is agreed upon by at least a 70 percent majority of the Editorial Board.

Letters Policy: The Vassar Chronicle encourages its readers to voice their opinions by writing Letters to the Editor, several of which will be selected for publication in each issue without regard to the author’s race, religion, sex, gender, sexual identity, or ideology. Please address correspondence to VassarChronicle@gmail.com. Advertising Policy: All advertisements will be clearly demarcated as such. Contact MICA.vsa@ vassar.edu for rates. All material is subject to editors’ discretion, without regard for race, religion, or sex. Nota bene: The opinions published in The Vassar Chronicle do not necessarily represent those of the editors, except for the Staff Editorial, which is supported by at least 70 percent of the Editorial Board. M.I.C.A. is a student umbrella organization that aims to further moderate, independent, conservative, and libertarian thought on campus by sponsoring events designed to expand the breadth of Vassar’s political dialogue; to this end, M.I.C.A. produces The Vassar Chronicle. Contact MICA.vsa@vassar.edu to become involved with the club.


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Standardized Core Requirements Detrimental To Higher Ed.
Jessica Tarantine Vassar & Local Editor

o graduating high school seniors, few things matter as much as college rankings. There’s the gold standard of U. S. World Report, the slightly less mainstream Forbes ranking, and other rankings devoted to more specific factors like dorm quality and food. These rankings are used by students and parents to find the best college, one that suits their individual needs. While the harm of these rankings is often debated, with many arguing that lesserranked institutions with great educational value are often overlooked, Vassar College never suffers too much. In fact, on many of these “flawed” lists, Vassar does very well. Except for one college guide. A new, up-and-coming list once again assigned Vassar, as well as several other liberal arts colleges, a grade of “F.” “What Will They Learn”: a guide published by former Harvard Dean Harry Lewis, claims that amidst the muck of other college rankings and guides, this new guide simplifies the process and tells you what students will learn. The appeal of this is evident, since students and parents have a common goal: education. This is the entire point of postsecondary study, so, insofar that education is what What Will They Learn aims to quantify, it should be applauded for its intent. The result of said intent has gone drastically awry, however. With checklist in hand, the ranking site sees if colleges meet certain requirements: a U.S. History class, a composition class, a foreign language class, a math class, an economics class, and a science class. These, according to the guide, are the things college students should be learning and, consequently, what colleges should require. Based on this colleges earn a grade on a sliding scale, indicating their strength or lack thereof in regard to general education. Vassar, interestingly enough, earned a grade of “F,” indicating that not a single requirement was met. Evidently, a quantitative reasoning requirement does not fulfill anything on their check list, nor does our foreign language requirement meet their standards on language study because study is only mandated at the beginning level. Does this mean you shouldn’t go to Vassar? In the eyes of What Will They Learn, the answer is yes. As the website proclaims, college graduates are failing to live up to the standards of the work place and institutions like Vassar only perpetuate the problem. You will not get a good general education at Vassar because we has no commitment to a well-developed general education, or so they say. Something here seems wrong, and not just because, as Vassar students, we want our school to do well. Consider that Vassar, an “F” rated school, boasts a graduation rate of 93 percent, while City University of New York (CUNY) Brookyln College, which boasts an “A” rating, has a graduation rate in the 40 percent range. Is this because Vassar simply let their students coast by taking easy classes? I would argue not. Something seems strange if we are to believe this grading system has merit. This decree on Vassar’s worth is as problematic as the grading system itself, which fundamentally misunderstands the point


of higher education. One glaring logical contradiction presents itself in particular: in order to give the list any sort of value or to believe it is a valid system, you have to think that general education is an inherently important good. If you think that general education is an inherent good, you would already be taking the classes that comprise a general education regardless of where you attended college, thus rendering the list useless. Why would students want to be forced to take classes that don’t interest them? It seems absurd. Are we really getting a subpar education at Vassar because we are not required to take an economics class? What this system fundamentally misunderstands is that in order to respond yes to the above question, you’d have to think that economics is important, and if you think economics is important, you have probaly already taken an economics class. This inconsistency is indicative of the stance What Will They Learn takes on education in general: students can not be allowed to take ownership of their education. At schools such as Vassar, you control your eduction. This self-determination is what What Will They Learn is against. It thinks students can’t be trusted, and, so they think, this is what is harming higher education. However, autonomy is not the problem. The problem is much more deeply rooted in how we view the purpose of post-secondary education and how we go about accomplishing it. What Will They Learn moves to address the problem by commending schools who remove autonomy—but this does not sufficiently fix the problem. All the list accomplished is pointing out which colleges don’t require core classes and brand them as “bad.” If this is the case, Vassar is in good company with schools like Brown and the majority of the University of California schools.

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The recent rankings given to Vassar incorrectly assess the amount of work required by students.

“It is not the job of colleges to fix the problems created by our public educational system.”
In the view presented by this list, top liberal arts colleges do a lesser job of educating students than “A” schools like CUNY Brooklyn College. Let’s consider why schools like CUNY might need to have core requirement while Vassar does not from the schools’ stand points. CUNY requires a combined SAT score of 1000 to gain admission, while Vassar accepts students with an average score of around 1400. From this statistic alone, it seems as though Vassar students have a more proficient understanding of topics presented in high school. But, according to What Will They Learn, it appears as though all college students are the same and must be taught the same thing. Here, we see the incorrect premise the list is utilizing: all schools ought to serve the same purpose. This is problematic in a number of ways. First, when we accept the premise of all schools serving the same purpose we begin to frame the discussion of

whether schools are succeeding by whether students are making general gains in subjects like critical reading skills. This seems reasonable and is what books like Academically Adrift, published last February, point out as one of the major flaws of the higher education system. It is true many students are not making the kinds of gains we would like, but the solution to the problem isn’t more core classes and it’s not more intensive schooling. The solution is reframing the debate. This may seem only nominal but it is extremely important, considering that if we change how we view this type of education, we see why certain problems are not actually problems. First, let’s look at why it is not the role of colleges to present basic education. What Will They Learn argues that it is the job of colleges and universities to teach students the things they will need to be informed citizens—this is why they say a U.S. history class is important. But this is problematic because such things are the task of a high school. Why? Because not all U.S. citizens go to college, so this means that we must be satisfied with what high school graduates know in regard to citizenship. It is not the job of colleges to fix the problems created by our public educational system. It is not fair for colleges to be forced into correcting this problem, and it is even more unfair to have a ranking system which penalizes schools for not attempting to fix this unnecessary problem. This is, of course, not to say that fixing the problem is not a laudable goal undertaken by many schools. Some schools like CUNY see that their students have not learned these key lessons in their pre-college schooling and are taking steps to correct for this, but at Vassar, where students demonstrate excellent scores on the SAT,

ACT, SAT IIs, and APs, it is not necessary to reteach these skills. Vassar assumes students have the necessary skills that render an intensive core curriculum unnecessary, and the assumption is correct because admission standards ensures a level of excellence in Vassar students. Core curriculums must fit the school and the students. A standard, ubiquitous core is not the answer. This gets to the second problem: the goal of secondary schools should not all be the same. As Vassar students we value the liberal arts, which is good, but it is incorrect to assume that we would necessarily benefit from a country of only liberal arts schools. Countries raise standards of living through division of labor. This division of labor necessarily entails different learning environments and standards. Just as liberal arts students would dislike taking business classes, business students would dislike taking liberal arts classes. While our society perpetuates the idea that all students should go to four-year colleges, in reality we may be better off if we recognize that four-year colleges might not be for all students, and, as a society, we should give more information about alternatives for those students who might desire them. We should stop pushing students into situations for which they are not academically prepared and focus on improving public schools and ensuring access to higher education for qualified students regardless of socioeconomic class. By seeing that, as a society, we would benefit from a more varied post-secondary education structure, we can change how we talk about the post-secondary education system. No longer would we judge schools under the same framework of what classes they require, because fundamentally different types of schools with different types of students should require different classes.



Meal Plan Comparisons Prove Vassar’s Inadequacy
Meg Mielke Contributor

Fro-yo, Brad’s granola, and “Eggs All Day.” These are the highlights of any Vassar student’s trip to the All Camus Dining Center (ACDC) and last Thursday I had the fortune of encountering all three of these delights in the same meal, allowing me to leave the ACDC estatic at my good luck. The next day however, I travelled to Amherst for a debate tournament. At their dining facility, I encountered delicious tacos, soft served ice cream, and a “Make Your Own Smoothies” station. The juxtaposition shook me and I returned disillusioned through the unguarded Main Gate. When thinking about the dining experience at Vassar College, “The grass is always greener on the other side” is the old phrase that I try to instill in my mind. But sometimes when I hear about schools with multiple dining centers, made to order food, and ice cream endowments, that old platitude about greener pastures. I know that I’m not alone with my dissatisfied feelings. Rarely does a day pass when I don’t hear complaints about the quality (and sometimes quantity) of the food at the “Deece,” more formally known as the ACDC. But my main critique of Vassar’s dining services is not the lack of made to order fajitas and chronic cup shortages but is the cost of the dining plan. At Vassar, on the standard meal plan, each meal ends up costing a student around $13.66 per meal. The costs of visitor meals are equally outrageous, topping off at $13.50 for dinner. This seems unreasonable. Since obsessing about the lack of options and the high cost of our meals, I became curious as to the costs of other dining plans at other comparable educational institutions. Was Vassar alone in its high cost and low flexibility? I’m not sure if what I found was surprising, but it made me question why Vassar’s dining services have stayed at the same poor quality. I did a quick study, comparing similar educational institutions –Amherst, Skidmore, Claremont McKenna, Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Middlebury, as well as Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, which use the same food provider, Aramark. This study wasn’t scientific at all; I simply browsed the schools’ websites for information and emailed a few dining center employees when the information wasn’t readily available—something all students could do. The price of Vassar’s meal plan does not far outweigh other colleges’ costs (the meal plan that the average student purchases is actually less expensive than four out of the 7 colleges studied) but what you get for the meal plan is worth considering is perhaps the more alarming part. The main issue in regard to what the meal plan can get you is flexibility because at Vassar, a meal swipe can get you: 1. Access to unlimited food at the ACDA, 2. An express lunch consisting of a sandwich, chips, cookies, drink, and a piece of fruit, or 3. A smoothie/cookie/water

Pavel Shchyhelski

combination at UpC late at night. While this might seem pretty flexible, other colleges provide much more freedom. At Swarthmore College, students can use their meal credits at the snack bar (our version of the Retreat) for the following equivalent cash amounts: $2.60 for breakfast, $3.75 for lunch, and $4.60 for dinner. While this definitely discourages people from using their $9.06 priced meal at this location, it still provides options for those who cannot or choose not to make it to the dining center.

“I’m not sure if what I found was surprising, but it made me question why Vassar’s dining services have stayed at the same poor quality.”
At Skidmore College, there is an option for late night dining in their main cafeteria from 8pm to 11pm that includes a limited menu of pizza, snack food, desserts, ice cream, and etc.

Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, located in Indiana, which even boasts Aramark, still has a greater amount of freedom for meal plans. For example, you can choose a meal plan that gives you the option of having half declining balance points and half meal swipes that wound up decreasing the cost of a meal swipe from $13.57 to $11.33, while giving you more freedom with the declining balance points. Another notable difference on the Rose Hulman campus is the presence of a Subway and a pizza restaurant on campus. And, to make matters worse, students are able to use meal swipes (worth $5.00 in subway and $5.80 in the pizza place) at these establishments; giving students much more freedom in dining options than Vassar College offers. Alarmed by these finding, I tried to locate reasons that would make dining plans at colleges better or worse, and I couldn’t quite find a trend that stuck. Many of the Colleges—Wesleyan, Middlebury, Amherst, and Swarthmore—surveyed have independent dining services belonging to the college, (not contracted out, like Aramark), which I assume makes them

cheaper than what Vassar is using. Claremont McKenna, which has the highest possible ranking of dining service on College Prowler, a site giving reviews of campus dining uses Bon Appetit as their contracting option, proving that it is possible to have a positive experience with a contractor. However, even the college that uses the same dining service as Vassar offers possibilities for cheaper meals with more flexibility, which raises the question: why the high cost and low flexibility with Vassar’s plan? In the end, maybe the grass is always greener on the other side, and the made to order burritos and ice cream options at other colleges may become old, but the question still remains as to why our cost per meal remains so high and why our options remain so few. While Vassar may not have a choice to find another food provider, we must seriously consider cost and flexibility in our upcoming contract negotiations. —Meg Mielke ’14 is the Treasurer of the Vassar Prison Initiative and a Student Fellow in Lathrop House.



More Reflection Needed in Judicial Board Sanctions
Arushi Raina Contributor

he Judicial Board, like several institutions on campus, considers itself progressive. While the intent and process of the Judicial Board may be commended, often the realisation of the former, in reality, may not live up to expectations and careful deliberation should be undertaken to understand how the process should be modified to better correct this mismatch of ideal and reality. Rather than a strict adherence to precedents in deciding cases, the unique situation and context of the student is incorporated in order to create the most effective solution, in line with the intent of the Judicial Board. This may be achieved through a variety of ways: personal statements made at the hearing, character statements from friends, witnesses, a support person to bring along to the panel hearing, and a new development—an impact statement. This impact statement allows the student to produce an essay in addition to their personal statements made at the hearing that may provide greater context and allow the student to speak more on their own character in general rather than simply putting forward their account of the events discussed in the judi-


cial hearing. The addition to the impact statement, as well as the opportunity for character statements from friends naturally provides an interesting question regarding the notion of discipline and bias in college regulation implementations. Namely by this means, is a fair system being provided? In a purist judicial sense, it seems somewhat counter intuitive. Proverbial judicial “blindness” is removed in favour of painting a detailed and emotionally textured picture of the student. The main objection is the contrasting abilities of students to be personable or an object of compassion may have a significant impact on their sanction. The eloquence of the student’s friends is yet another factor, allowing for the possibility of a sympathetic and touching portrait out of a rather unfortunate set of circumstances. There are definitely several arguments in favour of it this more holistic view, however, that go hand in hand with Vassar’s more educational approach towards sanctions. Often, the conversations in the room repeatedly assert that there is no intention to punish the student. In fact, punishment is a rather dangerous word to use when discussing sanctions. So when the aim is to educate rather than chastise, sanctions almost take a remedial touch, where the question is “how can we help the student, as

an individual, to not do this again?” as averse to “how can we make sure he or she doesn’t?” How can we propose a solution that, in this case, this student will react to positively? It is, as it sounds, a difficult task indeed. Letters of apology and letters of reflections are ingredients as they are ostensibly more educational than punitive in nature. Some letters of reflection have been known to be no more than a page, double spaced. Although such things as discussing page lengths seems to amount to quibbling, a letter of recommendation of this length begs the serious question on whether there was only the beginning of what could have been reflection, or whether there was any reflection at all. These reflection letters are not edited for content and have also been known to be rather interesting in sentiment and assertion. When received, they are put with the rest of the contents of the person’s file. It would be ludicrous to think that they should be looked over and assessed, which they are not. This is not a history or politics seminar after all. In cases that involve the student’s personal actions, it is odd to propose assessing letters of reflection for their strength of argumentation —though this standard is applied to the other facets of student writing at Vassar.

In fact, the college’s impressive emphasis on writing might indicate that using letters of reflection in order to encourage the aforementioned reflection and change of habit might not be such a good idea. Charging a student to write a letter of reflection is designed to make them think deeply about the matter through a careful process and hopefully leading them to resolve on a better way of conducting themselves. As Vassar students, we are inevitably exposed to freshmen writing seminars and other such writing intensive courses at some point or other in our supposedly illustrious college careers. We have had to argue for such obscure things such as the female emancipation of women in Beowulf. Writing an essay on why it was not a good idea to inhale a certain substance at a particular time of night and being caught would be, comparatively, a piece of cake. The work of minutes, in fact. And if one can write about female emancipation in Beowulf, without much believing it, it is possible to write about things with a similar, cultivated and more effortless sense of detachment. Although the intent of creating a more holistic approach to college regulation enforcement at Vassar is not only commendable, but indispensible, it is safe to say that some of the elements could and should, require a little bit more of that thing we call reflection.

Strong House President Calls for Serenading Reform
Manning Wu Contributor

t’s common knowledge that for several years now, a Serenading tradition has been Strong’s light-hearted roasting of the senior class. This gentle teasing does not in any way imply that we do not respect the seniors—they are partly made up of former Strong residents, and we really love them just as much as any other House. That being said, we realized that with our song being of a “roasting” nature, there was a possibility that something might go slightly awry during the event. The tradition can generate a sense of animosity between the freshmen and seniors, especially when the songs are shouted down by “boos,” a memory that is still fresh in the minds of Strong sophomores. We determined as a house team that this year we were going to make a conscious effort to improve the experience for the freshmen.


The bonding experience that came out of the time spent writing, learning, and choreographing the song was fantastic, bringing the house team and the residents closer together and increasing Strong House pride. Thanks to 2012 President Pamela Vogel’s hard work, many of the Strong girls have told me how positive the Serenading experience was. However, while the Senior Class Council did a good job preparing for the event, the conduct of one of its members during the judging was particularly disparaging and did much to undo what was otherwise a great job. The comments were related to “menstrual blood” and suggested residents of Strong House were “just jealous because their parents made them live in Strong.” These comments, heard by many Strong residents, were quite hurtful and triggered an angry set of reactions inside the house towards what was otherwise a great event. They insulted not only Strong, but also the

female community at large, which, given Vassar’s history as a female college, only intensifies its unacceptability. That these remarks were said after Strong’s main group had left Ballantine Field was particularly upsetting, as we were given no chance to defend ourselves from such low-blow remarks. I also want to take the time to interject here that improvement is not a one way street. Strong Team and its residents are actively trying to change its perceived image and the stereotypes that are associated with it. While we’re in the midst of this active progression, the progress that we’ve made forward is vulnerable, and these steps forward can all too easily be undone. Yes, Strong is an all-female dorm, but this one characteristic does not mean we are a different species of student. We are the same type of fun loving, hard working, diverse Vassar students that are found in every dorm across campus—despite what the stereotypes say.

In making this criticism, I want to state that I am aware of the discussion over whether or not Serenading should continue to exist. Though I could be proven wrong, I feel that these negative comments during the Serenading judging from an isolated individual are far from enough to invalidate and cause the removal of it. In fact, I hope that a fruitful discussion can come out of this incident, and we can make things better for future generations at Vassar. Overall, Serenading this year was a crucial event that got all the freshmen familiar with another facet of Vassar life and served as a further induction to the Vassar community. Serenading is a tradition we should keep, and as long as discretion, good judgment, and respect is maintained by all parties involved and adjustment is made where these qualities are lacking, I see no reason why Serenading shouldn’t continue to be an exciting part of the Vassar First Year experience.


Keg Ban Contradicts Alcohol Philosophy at Vassar
Todd Densen Contributor

enjoy a good party as much as any Vassar student, but I have never been inclined to host one myself. I’ve never understood why anyone would want loads of drunk students they don’t know stumbling through his or her own house, bringing mess and destruction in their wake. My new housemates do have this desire though. So, last month, I spent an hour attending the “party registration safety course.” I have no problem with Vassar conducting these courses, and I actually think it is the responsible thing to do. The course teaches party hosts how to be responsible. I was instructed how to recognize when someone is overly intoxicated and at a safety risk, how to react appropriately to these situations, and how to seek appropriate help, and how to prevent these situations all together. I hope you believe me when I tell you that none of this was ground-breaking news to anyone in the room. In general, I believe Vassar students are pretty good at this. However, there is always room for improvement, and we never want to take any chances. That’s really the motivation behind these courses, so Vassar can say they educated you. If something terrible did ever happen, the college can deflect responsibility. This is a standard procedure, and, in general, it is a good practice for the college to engage. More safety education never hurt anyone. The Office of Residential Life (ResLife) can really only preach so much though. Ultimately, it is up to students to act responsibly. But what happens when everything we are told is the responsible thing to do is in conflict with the policies Vassar chooses to adopt? Such is the case in the most important objectives of these safety trainings; how to prevent students from becoming overly intoxicated, and to help someone who has managed to become so. When I began my freshman year, I think the policies in place encouraged students to act responsibly on these two fronts, but over the past three years the school has managed to change the incentives and turn responsible students into irrational ones. The first problem is one that has gotten a lot of attention lately: the infamous keg ban. One of the things they teach you, not only in these safety courses, but also in the Alcohol EDU course taken by every first year, is that hard alcohol is much more dangerous than beer or similar drinks. In addition to this, mixing hard alcohol with sugary or carbonated drinks actually speeds up alcohol absorption. Obviously, it is better to encourage students to avoid drinking these beverages if they want to maintain a healthy drinking culture. I will not be the first, nor the last, to point out why a keg ban encourages irresponsible drinking behavior. If this rant seems redundant I apologize, but it is only because the measure is so clearly shortsighted. Let me make it abundantly clear where the problem is with empirical evidence and not just generalizations. A standard keg holds 165 12 ounce serv-


ings of beer (this is slightly more than what a registered party is allowed to have, but for equalities’ sake we will assume 165 drinks is our standard). The price of purchasing a keg varies depending on brand, but, according to www.savemorbeer.com, a keg of Natural Light—one of the cheapest beers and a Vassar favorite—can be purchased for $60.99. This works out to about $0.37 per drink. Of course, you will have to pay a keg deposit which covers the actual keg and the tap, but that money is refunded to the purchaser when you return the keg a day later. What does it cost to purchase roughly the same amount of Natural Light in cans—a permissible practice? If someone shops around a case containing 30 cans of Natural Light can be found relatively cheaply at around $13.99 a case. Five of these cases doesn’t quite get you to 165, but it’s close. The cost to buy five cases, or 150 cans of beer, would cost about $10 more than the keg, $69.95. We aren’t quite finished though. New York state charges a $0.05 deposit for each individual can (you know, because they we care about the environment here. When did Vassar stop supporting sustainable practices?) Realistically, students at a party are not collecting these cans to bring back to the store for their deposit. This adds an additional $7.50, bringing our total to $77.45. Since there are only 150 drinks, this works out to $0.52 per drink, 40 per cent more expensive than buying a keg! Clearly, based on tastes and the safety measures drilled into students, beer is the preferred choice of drink for a party. Trying to replace a keg (an environmentally more sustainable beer drinking practice) with individual cans does add a significant cost, and no one wants to throw an understocked party. How will students replace this? They’ll replace it with “punch” made from cheap, hard liquor. A standard shot is 45 milliliters (ml.). Crystal Palace (another Vassar favorite), 1.75 liter bottles of vodka, can be found for $12.99 a piece. A 1.75 liter bottle would be about 39 standard drinks. Buying four bottles of this (about 156 drinks) can be had for $52.16 (including the $0.20 bottle deposit). Adding two and a half gallons (appx 9.5 liters) of fruit punch or Gatorade can be made from a mix for around $5.99. Our total cost is $58.15, or $0.38 per drink. What does this mean? It means that kegs and “punch” cost roughly the same (the keg is actually slightly cheaper). With no ban, the choice is up to the host, but beer seems to be much more popular. With this ban in place though, the choice becomes much clearer, the “punch” will inevitably become the drink of choice. Maybe I am being ignorant though. Isn’t it true that, with kegs, people will have a harder time keeping track of how much they have consumed compared to cans? Doesn’t filling a cup give a higher amount of beer than a can but the illusion of the same amount? Didn’t the Committee on Campus Life find studies that found parties with kegs are more likely to result in over intoxication? Yes, these are all true, but what is the comparison? The comparison is not kegs versus cans, it is kegs versus large buckets of “punch.”

Wikimedia Commons

The recent keg ban runs counter to Vassar’s traditional drinking culture and Brewer legacy.

It isn’t rocket science to realize the problems with keeping track of drinks and consumption are the same with kegs and “punch” because they both use plastic cups instead of cans. I am also pretty sure that, if we compared studies of parties with vats of “punch” with parties without those vats, there would also be plenty more over intoxication! Anyone who has tried to drink a lot of beer will tell you, after a little while, it becomes more difficult to drink because you get bloated and feel full. Not so with “punch” and mixed drinks. Also we have been taught that the alcohol in sugary drinks is absorbed faster. The end result is a clearly less safe drinking environment. Fine, now we have a bunch of drunk kids at our parties because it was too expensive to provide more responsible alternatives. How do I deal with this? When I was a first year student, it was drilled into my head that Vassar has a “Good Samaritan” policy. That is to say, if I were unsure if my friend or another student were over intoxicated, it was always best to seek help from Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The policy guaranteed that no one involved, the caller or the intoxicated student, would get into trouble or receive disciplinary action. This is a great policy, and a number of times unfortunately my friends and I had to utilize EMS. We never got into trouble, and the person in question was usually sent to Baldwin where overnight nurses could sober up the students and monitor their health. By morning, they would be released. This all changed a few years back. As far as I know, the same policy exists; no one is going to get in trouble. However, due to budget cuts, the school has been forced to eliminate its overnight staff at Baldwin. So what happens when a students are over intoxicated now? EMS comes and makes a determination if they are fine to sober up on their own (so far there is no difference from before). If the student does need overnight attention and care though, the only option is to send him or her to Arlington or Vassar Brothers’ Hospital. This wouldn’t be terrible,

but the way students are brought there is almost always by ambulance, and, once there, even simple services such as an IV and overnight observation become billed costs to the student. I have also unfortunately had friends put in this situation. It is true that sometimes, before Baldwin cut its hours, particularly bad students would still need to go to the hospital for more radical procedures (e.g. stomach pump), but now students that could have been observed on campus without additional fees attached are being sent to the hospital. Many aspects of these hospital trips are not covered by most students’ insurance policies, and I know several students who have been hit with bills ranging anywhere from $700$2,000 in fees. What does this mean in terms of incentives? Well, students are always taught to err on the side of caution. If you are unsure if someone is really too drunk, it is always better to seek medical attention. Doing so is fine because no one can get in trouble; your friend will, at most, be slightly inconvenienced by waking up in Baldwin and having to walk across campus. Now though, when I am in that area of uncertainty, I do not know if I will err on the side of caution. I know that, by calling EMS, it is very likely my friend will go to the hospital (much more annoying in and of itself) and be stuck with a potentially large bill. Not everyone can easily afford to pay these medical fees and there is significant probability that my friend will become upset that EMS was called. Vassar does all of these great things to promote a safe drinking culture. Students are reminded year after year, and taught courses on how to develop a safe environment for parties and how to act responsibly in dangerous situations. Simultaneously, Vassar is trimming the budget fat in ways that endanger students’ lives. In an attempt to decrease the drinking problem, Vassar has enacted policies that push students to make even more irresponsible decisions. How can we expect our classmates to make good decisions when the policies Vassar puts in place skew the incentives?



United States Congress Must Pass Comprehensive Jobs Bill
Todd Densen Contributor

arlier this month, President Obama unveiled his $447 billion “American Jobs Act.” After the fanfare surrounding the timing of the whole ordeal, the much-anticipated announcement certainly provided plenty of political fodder for both sides of the House to utilize in the coming weeks. The announcement comes shortly after the debt-ceiling crisis that left everyone in congress looking pretty awful. The right blamed the left, the left blamed the right, and the American public blamed everybody. Well, the jobs bill seems to be a direct challenge by the President to the GOP. If you are serious about fixing the economy, no more delays, no more miscommunication: pass this bill. Near the end of his speech to the joint sessions of congress the President spoke: It’s been a commitment to stay at it—to be persistent—to keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it. Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country. And I ask—I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice: Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. These are strong and targeted words. Now the President may claim that this bill is not about politics, but I believe the speech and timing of the proposal absolutely are. It is perfectly valid to question the politics of this move from either side. From a Republican perspective, I am sure they do not appreciate the implied blame placed on them for the debt crisis. The Democrats should also question the timing and forcefulness of the proposal. If the bill doesn’t pass through the House (which doesn’t seem very likely), what will President Obama have to show for his economic record come election season? Shelve the politicking for a moment though and look at the meat of Obama’s proposal. First of all, it has become clear that from a monetary standpoint there is little else that can be done. The Fed’s invocation of “Operation Twist” last week offered a brief glimmer of hope, but ultimately the markets remained unimpressed and unconvinced of its effectiveness. Keynesian economics would claim the recent evidence from monetary policy seems to indicate that we are deeply entrenched in a liquidity trap; continued monetary policy will have minimal effects and the way to climb out is through fiscal stimulus. This is an opinion that has been echoed by several economic and political journalists of late. So maybe fiscal stimulus might be what we need, and there is actually some sound policy in the President’s proposal. The bill raises money to pay for itself by reforming the tax code. It does this by


eliminating many deductions and loopholes for taxpayers earning more than $200,000 per year. It takes this money and uses it to compensate for several other tax cuts and credits. The bill promises to offer tax credits for hiring new workers and veterans. Money is also set aside to prevent teacher layoffs and build infrastructure. And perhaps the most universally welcomed reforms are the job training measures and unemployment insurance reforms which have been praised by both sides of the House. All of this sounds wonderful indeed. But some of the tax cuts that the President champions are in question. One of the most prominently featured benefits of the bill is a cut of the payroll tax for most American businesses. The tax cut works in several ways. Businesses with payrolls under $5 million are required to pay only half the existing payroll tax for each employee. New hires or increases in payroll result in a payroll tax holiday for businesses. It also cuts employees payroll tax in half. The hope is that this will allow businesses to hire more workers, give raises to existing employees, and provide tax relief to families. The first problem with this measure is that the current social security system is already unsustainable. Cutting the tax that funds social security will certainly not help this. This might be an early indication that social security reform could be the next big political hurdle congress will tackle, but there have been no indications from the Obama camp or the early GOP candidates that this is a priority. Next there is an issue of whether the tax cut will actually have any of the purported benefits it claims. Under the plan, what is the incentive for businesses to pass on the payroll savings to employees? And even if this does result in more hiring, wages of new employees are unlikely to be higher because of the businesses saving money on the payroll tax. They might even be lower because companies know that the individual is saving money from their portion of the payroll tax. But maybe I am wrong about this. Maybe the bill won’t suffer from these problems and the economics will work out the way the Democrats claim. If this is true though, the Democrats must admit there is utility in a recent Republican proposal as well. Just this week House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R WI) unveiled a new proposal for repealing “Obamacare” and reforming the healthcare system. There is plenty to debate about the Presidents attempt at healthcare reform, but a few things are clear. Most Americans do not support it. And while it may or may not solve problems associated with access to healthcare, strong evidence is emerging that healthcare premiums are actually rising significantly as a result (some reports say faster than GDP). The new proposal is a second attempt by Representative Ryan at repealing the President’s plan in favor of an alternative. Last time it didn’t work out so well for the young congressman. The reform never made it through the Senate and many pundits panned the bill. Well

Wikimedia Commons

President Obama presented the American Jobs Act before a joint session of Congress on September 8, 2011.

this new proposal is actually garnering some positive attention from the media. Ryan’s bill attacks what he sees as one of the main problems with the current healthcare system, employer provided coverage. More specifically tax exempt employer coverage. In a speech given at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, CA last week he expressed his concerns with the current system: Under current law, employer-sponsored health insurance plans are entirely exempt from taxation, regardless of how much an individual contributes to their policy. This tilts the compensation scale toward benefits, which are tax-free, and away from higher wages, which are taxable. It also provides ways for high-income earners to artificially reduce their tax-able income by purchasing high-cost health coverage – which in turn can fuel the overuse of health services…These structural flaws push affordable coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. Ryan goes on to propose a “free market” solution. End these tax breaks he says, instead give tax credits to individuals. Have individuals shop for coverage. While this will probably make shopping for healthcare difficult and burdensome while the market is still adjusting, it provides several benefits. It makes healthcare more portable. Employees no longer need worry about losing coverage when changing careers, they can take there insurance with them. This also effectively ends the problems of providers denying coverage for preexisting conditions without a mandate to do so. This is because people will not suddenly lose coverage from their old employer and only be eligible for one affordable solution from a new employer that can simply block access. Portability means having to change coverage less often and only if the individual actively decides to. This means there is no opportunity for someone who develops a “preexisting condition” which would prohibit access, to lose coverage from changing employment. The Ryan plan also would increase competition amongst providers and choice for consumers. Instead of signing on with whatever provider an individuals employee chose, they would have several choices of providers, and those providers would have to compete with each other

to attract individual customers. The largest benefit though is actually that initial tax credit to individuals. Although Ryan does not say so, many see this credit as a method for actual universal coverage. Why? Because by giving individuals a tax credit for signing on to health insurance rather than businesses reaches everyone, not just the employed. And combined with a more competitive insurance market and coverage portability, coverage will be come extraordinarily attractive for buyers. This sentiment of universal coverage is echoing throughout numerous publications and political blogs. So why do I bring up Ryan’s healthcare proposal when talking about Obama’s jobs proposal? These two politicians could not seem more dissimilar, and it is no secret that they really don’t care for one another all that much. I bring it up because the benefits the Obama camp sees a payroll tax cut having on expanding employment and increasing wages also exist in Ryan’s plan by cutting employer costs of providing healthcare. Proponents of the Ryan plan make the same claims. Lowering the financial burden on businesses per employee will increase hiring and salaries. Obama shifts tax savings and Ryan shifts untaxable benefit savings into the pockets of workers. So what does this all mean? Maybe both Rep. Ryan and President Obama are both right? With all the finger-pointing going on in Washington, both sides of the House are missing the big picture. That politics have devolved. The economic principles that each party subscribes to really aren’t so different. In fact they actually advocate very similar principals for stimulating growth. Yet both inexplicably fault the others identical reasoning. The moral of the story is, there is still plenty of good policy to be made to repair the American economy, and it’s coming from both sides of the aisle. Bipartisan cooperation can fix the little problems each party has with these bills, then pass them and get the country moving. The new healthcare and jobs proposals are far from perfect, but they are both stepping-stones to a more productive economy. Washington has done enough nothing, that hasn’t worked. Let’s get talking, and let’s get moving toward a solution.



Republican Nomination Process Historically Consistent
David Keith Contributor

hether I am watching MSNBC or Fox, the consensus seems to be that Republicans don’t have a candidate that they truly love for 2012. I see what these folks are saying: Huntsman’s a liberal, Perry likes mandated vaccinations and is potentially lacking a brain, Romney’s a Mormon from Massachusetts, and the rest of them are nuts. Although a simplified summary, this closely resembles what many Republican Primary voters and caucus goers are feeling. The crazy thing is, this is not the first time this has happened. In fact, the 2012 Republican primary cycle closely resembles each cycle since the Reagan era. So, when Rachel Maddow makes fun of the right for “having no one,” or Bill O’reilly can’t understand how the GOP can’t find the right nominee to beat the “anointed one,” I beg the question, how is this year different? Let’s take for example the 2008 GOP nomination fight. During the spring and summer months of 2007, what were folks saying? 2008 was going to be a Clinton vs. Giuliani race. All polls showed Giuliani as the national front-runner, and, while I won’t analyze the democratic side, the same could be said for Hillary. While Giuliani led, were primary voters “happy,” like so many pundits claim no one is now? The answer is no. Many pundits consistently asked, how can the Italian Mayor of New York


City, with multiple bad marriages and support for liberal social policies take the nomination of the GOP. Doesn’t this seem similar to the question many have asked of the spring and summer’s frontrunner Mitt Romney? I think so. Whether it is Romney’s health care mandate or his seemingly John Kerry-like flip-flops, the same questions have been asked of Governor Romney. What about Rick Perry, the candidate who so many in late August claimed was the one who would unite the party? He’s a better-looking Fred Thompson. With McCain’s “straight talk express” having numerous flat tires, and Giuliani facing low approval among social conservatives, everyone thought that the Actor/Senator from Tennessee was the guy to beat Giuliani in the 2008 primaries. Upon entering the race, Thompson’s numbers neared the top—with Giuliani’s steadily sliding—and most pundits thought that he was the guy to beat, much like they have recently thought of Rick Perry. And then the debates came, and it became clear that Thompson would much rather be in a rocking chair in Tennessee than on a debate stage. This is likely exactly where we are right now. There is a reason that as I write this, the name Chris Christie is being talked about on every news outlet. Perry has proven inadequate to the business community, and may very well be starting to become weak among his core base of southern conservatives. So, the media, and probably GOP donors, are looking for the savior.

I must break it to these folks: he or she won’t come. This savior won’t come out of the wood works, because they never do. Even Reagan, a man revered as the modern GOP king, took a few attempts at running for the presidency before becoming the star of his generation. So, in all likelihood, we are looking at the field, and the few scenarios that can unfold.

“The GOP, to some extent, is always searching for the more perfect candidate.”
Does Romney become Giuliani, and totally fall off the face of the earth? Probably not. This would only occur with the emergence of a strong moderate Republican, much like John McCain in 2008. Jon Huntsman, no matter how many languages he speaks, will not be that guy. He certainly is trying to pull off the magic of “Mac is back,” building an enormously expensive New Hampshire operation. Yet it is hard for me to believe that with the strong presence of Romney’s money, and Huntsman’s own flaws (e.g. working for Barack Obama) that he will be the 2012 John McCain. Does Perry fade like Thompson, giving way to a lesser social conservative candidate such as Bachman or Santourum to be the Huckabee of 2012? Prob-

ably not. No one has Huckabee’s talent on the stump, and Perry isn’t nearly as bad at politicking as Thompson. Yes, he gets tired on stage and puzzled by his own words, but he fits in well with socially conservative Iowans and tends to impress on the campaign trail. This gives us what many see as a boring nomination battle between Perry and Romney. And if history proves accurate, the more moderate Mitt Romney will be the nominee. This is almost identical to McCain’s victory. Yes, McCain pulled off an amazing comeback (both electorally and financially) but Romney will be, as McCain was, someone who does not perfectly satisfy the base, and may provide Rush Limbaugh with some extra (potentially unnecessary) anger. But, just as McCain selected Palin, Romney will take a loud tea partier like Mario Rubio to satisfy the bitter right, and then hope that the anti-Obama sentiment carries him to victory. Did the GOP love Dole, Bush, or McCain? No, they were all flawed in one-way or another. The GOP, to some extent, is always searching for the more perfect candidate. But, as history shows, it doesn’t matter all that much. To beat an incumbent, the sitting President’s numbers matter most, not the GOP nominee. If Obama keeps up his poor approval ratings, keeps Joe Biden on the ticket, and hails over a notably bad economy, a Romney-Rubio/Daniels/Christie/Martinez/Paul (Rand)/Hailey ticket will fair just fine come November.

Greater Student Participation Needed to Combat Poverty
Lauren MacLean Contributor

very day, 82 percent of Poughkeepsie Middle School students receive free or reduced lunches. That means that over three-quarters of all students’ families make under $40,000 a year. This means eight out of ten middle schoolers are not just worried about fitting in and trying to get rid of their acne; they are worried about their families’ futures. The percentage at local Poughkeepsie High School is also very high, at 70 percent. Seven out of ten high school students, in between studying for their SATs and filling out college applications, are also worrying about from where the next meal will come. Statistics, of course, can be manipulated, but these numbers do not lie; poverty is a serious issue in Poughkeepsie. The Lunchbox at Dutchess Outreach, which provides food for community members in need in downtown Poughkeepsie, has seen and felt the effects of the economy personally. After Hurricane Irene flooded its basement and ruined much of the stored food, it has seen a significant increase in local need.


“Our stores are the worst I’ve ever seen, and we need food now more than ever” says Carol Hegener, a Dutchess Outreach employee who has worked there for more than 10 years. One in four Poughkeepsie residents are currently living below the poverty line. These are people who now, more than ever, are relying on local food pantries to feed themselves and their families. Dutchess Outreach is not the only food pantry struggling; across the area, food pantries are seeing an increase in clients, but a decrease in donations. Unemployment continues to rise, meaning more and more families are unable to get the food and housing they need. Of course, poverty is not just a local issue. As politicians continue to bicker about the best way to solve the current economic crisis it is we, the citizens, who continue to suffer. But what can we do to fix Washington, or even Albany? Encourage your politicians to support anti-poverty initiatives or help for the neediest Americans; advocate extending unemployment benefits and providing more funding to food pantries and homeless shelters. How to fix unemployment is a political issue, but helping those in need is a civic duty. Vassar College students are extremely

privileged; no matter what our economic background, we are receiving an education that will give us the tools to prevent poverty and empower the community around us. Poverty is not just a Poughkeepsie problem; it is a Vassar problem as well. As we grow and learn the tools to better the world around us, we must also consider what we can do to better our own Vassar/Poughkeepsie community. To assume that the two are mutually exclusive is absurd, but to consider the two to be the same is equally ridiculous. As college students, we face different pressures than Poughkeepsie community members, and, as a result, we must be cognizant of both our differences and of what we can do to inspire the community around us. I do not contend that Vassar can alleviate all the suffering going on in Poughkeepsie; however, each and every student, faculty, and staff member can do something to reduce local poverty. Help out at an after-school program, giving children the tools they need to succeed in the future. Take any course related to poverty in the Sociology, Education, Economics, and Political Science departments—many are available. Student organizations such as UNICEF, Hunger Action, and Habitat for Human-

ity all deal with poverty-related issues, too. With politicians displaying little interest in expending political capital on strengthening the welfare state, it is even more important for American citizens to combat poverty in their local communities. Vassar students need to gain a more nuanced understanding of urban poverty by both taking appropriate classes and by participating in organizations that directly interact with the broader community. Specifically, if you’re interested in getting more involved with poverty-specific food security issues in Poughkeepsie and helping out local food pantries, consider volunteering at a local food pantry or participating in a food drive. Operation Donation has food drives nearly every weekend to raise food for Dutchess Outreach with the help of the Poughkeepsie community, and they will be holding a canvassing event that will ask the whole Vassar community to participate. We cannot end poverty without serious support from our government and an economic policy that addresses the fundamental roots of poverty. However, it is still our responsibility to make empowering Poughkeepsie during this difficult economic time our priority as members of the community.



The Shifting Trends of American Innovation
Alaric Chinn Editor-in-Chief

he United States of America is embroiled in an ongoing debate regarding innovation. In light of the recent failure of Solyndra, members of Congress and the Obama administration are reevaluating the methods of how the government becomes involved in research and development. Despite this, the level of awareness regarding innovation in the United States varies sharply from person to person, with many Americans content with “innovation” being left as a linear economic variable. However, this linear view of innovation is overly simplistic and counterproductive. The first step toward regaining our competitive edge in the world market of technology is to discuss the nature of innovation, and in order to do that, we must first be introduced to the primary innovative engines in the country. Giant research facilities are often found in science-fiction movies (e.g. The Island) or computer games (e.g. the Portal series), yet there are many impressive research and development projects that exist well within the realm of reality. At a time when “innovation” is the buzzword amongst politicians, I believe that it is imperative that more people are familiar not only with traditional innovative practices but also with the growing movement towards alternative models. Firstly, the current, and more traditional, structure of American innovation sits in three, well-defined areas: research universities, private industry, and federal laboratories. Almost all of the total research and development within the United States takes place in these three areas. The first of these is perhaps the most recognizable. Research universities, or at least researchers/professors/graduate students from those universities, are often the subjects of front-page news when it comes to a new discovery. Institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), have contributed massively to the understanding of the world around us, with each institution capable of boasting its fair share of Nobel Prize laureates and innovations. Indeed, the research university model has many benefits. For the most part, research universities generally have a large population of enthusiastic research assistants from which to draw (i.e. students), and, when coupled with professors/researchers who have definite projects, they can lead the university towards becoming a center for innovation and discovery. However, the model does not lend itself well to projects that span multiple disciplines, as the research tends to be individual, rather than team driven (although there is a growing movement towards team-based research). Regardless, research universities continue to contribute to new ideas and new patents. The second form of innovation actually dots the landscape around Vassar College and Poughkeepsie. Private laboratories such as those used by IBM to develop new


computer components represent a sizable portion of total patents developed in the United States of America. Another example of private innovation is Pfizer Inc., which is a world leader in pharmaceuticals. The list goes on. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with the current patent system that allows for very large gaps when it comes to marketable innovation. Under the current patent system, there is no regulation for the implementation of an inventor’s or a corporation’s patent. This leads to situations in which companies and individuals leave their patents in databases, wait for other companies to attempt to develop in the same field, and then sue the latter company for infringement. In many ways, this is counter-productive to economic development and exposes the primary flaw under the private industrial model: private industries innovate for profit. When motivated purely by profit, private industries will often not develop technologies that are no longer patentable or brand their innovations as “trade secrets” (like the CocaCola formula), stunting overall technological growth. The third primary form of American innovation rests with the federal government that operates on both indirect and direct systems of research and development. The first one, which revolves around subsidies, tax breaks, guaranteed loans, contracts, and research grants, serves as a major source of funding for the private laboratory and research university models of innovation. For example, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is the largest single source of funding for medical research in the world while the Department of Energy Office of Science is responsible for 40 percent of research in the physical sciences in the country. The second, and slightly more controversial system is the vast network of federal laboratories that exist throughout the nation. Ranging in scale from four field researchers studying bees to the weapons development of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the federal laboratory system fills an important niche in overall national innovation. While research universities are primarily individual-driven and private industry is interested in the market, federal laboratories provide two things. First, they form multi-disciplinary research teams to address issues at the nodes of scientific fields. Second, they support the scientific community through what are called “user facilities.” These facilities include the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF). They provide scientists and researchers, not only from the government but also from educational institutions and private laboratories, facilities that would not otherwise be in existence. Although the above research and development models are the predominant sources of overall U.S. innovation, there is a growing movement towards decentralized scientific projects. One popular example of how ordinary people can take part in science is the website of the United States

Geological Survey—usgs.gov. If you follow the link, on the left-hand side is another link that reads, “Did you feel it?” This link allows an individual to report whether or not they felt an earthquake, which then leads to a constantly updated physical map that shows the epicenter and depicts how far-reaching the earthquake was. More recently, a team of scientists developed an even more interactive means for regular people to participate in high-impact scientific projects. Through the online game “Foldit,” the researchers posed a puzzle to the gaming community that scientists were unable to solve—the structure of a retrovirus enzyme in an AIDS-like virus. Foldit allows players to predict the structure of proteins, allowing individuals or teams of gamers to compete with one another. These projects are in the same vein as allowing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) to use your computer when it would otherwise be in sleep mode to process data. Engaging the general public in science


The Molecular Foundry is a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility—a premier nanoscience research center in the U.S.

has many potential benefits. First, it allows the public to actually be exposed to science. At a time when very few people can actually discuss the technological underpinnings of an iPod and when the United States is falling behind in math and science education, simple exposure to science leads to renewed interest in understanding how the world around us works. Second, putting projects like data processing and figuring out the structure of proteins into the public sphere allows for a more efficient allocation of scientific resources. For example, instead of having several PhD’s run models for hours on end with supercomputers, those same scientists can engage their supercomputers to run sensitive calculations or process data that should not be released to the public (e.g. government top secret calculations or potential trade secrets like Google’s search algorithm) by having thousands of computer gamers essentially performing the modeling. Despite its inherent limitations—such as limiting participation to data processing or computer modeling competitions (as harder science requires a better understanding of scientific and technological principles)—this populist style of scientific discovery may become more of a paradigm as the United States’ leadership in science is challenged by Asian and European competitors. Another alternative to the three primary research and development models is one that is being pioneered in the deserts of the southwestern United States. In September 2011, Pegasus Global Holdings—a technology development firm—announced

its plans to construct a “fake city” in the state of New Mexico. The company aims to reconstruct a typical American city, complete with a warehouse district, downtown, “old city,” residential suburbs, and agricultural communities, that would be able to house 300,000 people. The thing is, the company would only allow a select few to live there—350 engineers who would occupy underground laboratories. Dubbed the “Center for Innovation, Test and Evaluation,” this city would serve as an integrated research laboratory that would fill the gap between a sterile laboratory environment and urban settings where a technology may finally be implemented. Possible projects include testing the limits of wireless networks, operating driverless vehicles, and implementing geothermal energy sources in office buildings. At an estimated cost of $200 million and spanning twenty square miles, this city would be rented out as testing grounds to universities and government agencies. In this way, this project diverges significantly from traditional research and development models that stem from the private sector. Instead of constructing a new laboratory, Pegasus Global Holdings, Inc. hopes to utilize the “Center” as a place for researchers to collaborate. In a sense, it would follow roughly the same philosophy as the government’s “user facilities,” but without the direct cost in infrastructure to the taxpayer. In the company’s view, by paying for the entire project, this would free up government resources to be invested in projects for sustainability, green energy, and robotics. Why the lack of people, you ask? Well, for one thing, it would be a huge liability for the company if a driverless vehicle ploughed into some unlucky pedestrians, but the bigger principle that the company wishes to address is the idea that humans are too random to be variables. Herein lies the fundamental critique of the “Center:” If humans are deemed as random variables, then how will researchers know if the technologies they hope to test in the city are actually applicable? The second critique of the “Center” is that it buys into the idea that technology moves linearly. In contrast to a populistbased scientific model, in which society actively participates in the development of an innovation, the philosophy behind the “Center” almost rejects society completely, preferring instead to break down the intricacies of urban life into equations and computer models. Although technology can be viewed as a series of inputs and outputs, that view is insufficient in that it is incomplete. Just as the market affects what products are sold, society affects the end result of technology. In the end, innovation can be an amorphous topic, which makes it perfect for politics. The more vague a subject, the easier it is for the public to accept it at face value. In reality, innovation is a complex issue that operates on multiple levels and different scales. Before we engage in discussions on how to increase innovation, we should start by developing a better understanding of what innovation is and how we can achieve it.



Vassar Student Investigates Hometown Hydrofracking
Nathan Tauger Contributor

n July 11, 2011, just under one hundred West Virginia residents traveled to the Capitol, in Charleston, to rally for a meeting of the Legislative Select Committee on Marcellus Shale. Leaning against the modest number of folding chairs assembled for the rally were signs, ranging in vitriol from “Ask Questions First, Drill Later!” to “If Bin Ladin (sic) had thought of fracking, he would have rejoiced at the opportunity it is providing.” Lawmakers, would-be politicians, environmentalists, and concerned citizens spoke, sang, and preached against the horizontal drilling hydraulic fracturing process, popularly known as hydrofracking. Some warned against potential environmental consequences, others called for stricter regulation and government involvement, yet others decried the “oilmen” swindling elderly West Virginians and stealing their land to pollute it and make a profit. Most of the speakers came from Morgantown, a city in north central West Virginia between the two panhandles, a city that maintained a tenuous hold on the unfractured gas beneath its surface. Morgantown banned horizontal hydraulic fracturing within its city limits and up to a mile outside of them on June 22, 2011 in response to public outcry against Northeast Natural Energy LLC, a drilling company that earlier made a contract with private landowners to drill two wells within a mile of Morgantown’s main water supply, the Monongahela River. Legal battles and garbled rhetoric emerged from opponents and supporters of the ban. Calls for an extended ban were met with demands for jobs and energy; calls for immediate drilling were met with skepticism. People in Morgantown took sides, or at least a few people did. For an issue that made the front page of Morgantown’s newspaper, The Dominion Post, the resistance and concerned citizens groups were surprisingly small. One group, able to mobilize a large number of supporters to spill outside city council meetings to speak against the drilling, and eventually five hundred to join an e-mail list, was responsible for the ban. The opposite side, those in favor of hydraulic fracturing, also had a strong core consisting of employees from natural gas companies, an occasional West Virginia University economist, and firms with correlating business interests. The politics of mobilization make hydraulic fracturing difficult to understand. Anyone seriously interested in investigating the danger or benefit knows that the problem is not interpreting a vast number of reports and data collections, but rather interpreting the sparse non-political scientific materials we have. And for those who just want to take a cursory look and see if there is an economic benefit, or an environmental cost, it is too easy to get caught up in exaggerated claims and half-truths. So when I attempted to reflect on my just completed freshman year, in the back seat of my parents’ minivan on the way from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Morgantown, WV, and I heard my parents talk about hydraulic fracturing, I wanted to get involved. I


contacted the people in charge of the antifracking group, eventually christened WV4MOM (West Virginians for a Moratorium on Marcellus shale drilling), and started researching for their website, occasionally attending city council meetings and rallies. Although the ban was passed, the fight seemed like a losing battle for the environmentalists and WV4MOM members. Every day, driving to work, I saw Northeast Natural Energy’s well pad next to the Monongahela River, a reminder that it was already built, and just being postponed. And even though I worked with a resistance group, I could not shake the feeling in my mind that I did not know the whole story, or even part of it. I read the Times Topic on natural gas drilling, the few public Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cases, Gasland, industry responses to Gasland, Gasland responses to industry responses to Gasland, and my local newspaper, but I still did not feel like I fully understood what was going on. So, as Lucy Maynard Salmon, founder of the Vassar History Department, prescribed, I went to the source. On a rainy afternoon on Monday, August 15, I traveled to my local IHOP to meet a hydrofracker. Dennis Xander, Vice-President of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, a portly man with a firm handshake and a thirst for iced tea, told me he has been in the natural gas business for

Nathan Tauger

Dennis Xander, Vice-President of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia.

more than 37 years. I asked him if Marcellus drilling was a recent development. “Well, no. We have drilled through the Marcellus for years, we’ve never thought it was productive until recently.” Mr. Xander explained that this is one of the general misunderstandings of the hydraulic fracturing process. Most people hear the term hydraulic fracturing and associate it with a “new” process of getting gas from the ground, but gas has been drilled on American soil since the 1940s. The difference that has been making the news is not that drillers are using water, chemicals, or entirely different materials, it’s the scale. The development of horizontal fracturing and discovering the correct chemical composition to fracturing the Marcellus shale plate have been the new

part of the story. Dave McMahon, a founding member of the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization and prominent West Virginia attorney, explained the difference in a phone conversation. “Fracking has been done for decades, they used to use a little bit of water, now they’re using three Olympic size swimming pools.” This distinction becomes important when interpreting data. Mr. Xander gave me a document entitled “A Fluid Situation: Typical Solution* Used in Hydraulic Fracturing.” The asterisk is for a disclaimer at the bottom: “The specific compounds used in a given fracturing operation will vary depending on source water quality and site, and specific characteristics of the target formation. The compounds listed above are representatives of the major material components used in the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas shales. Compositions are approximates.” On the document text on a large blue water pail boldly states that Frack fluid is “99.51% water and sand.” The amount of water needs to be considered here, 99.51% of 7.5 million gallons of water comes out to 7,463,250 gallons of water, meaning there are still 36,750 gallons of other chemicals: other chemicals, of course, being one of the defining aspects of the fracturing debate. The composition of fracturing fluid used in Marcellus drilling is controversial for many different reasons. Some sources claim that fracturing fluid contains benzene, a chemical familiar to any students in organic chemistry. Benzene is extremely toxic and heavily regulated by the Clean Water Drinking Act, legislation that natural gas drillers are not required to comply with. “The Halliburton loophole?” said Mr. Xander, referring to the popular title of the exemptions. “The government set up the Clean Water Act, it’s a federal law that I have to comply with and that everyone else has to comply with.” Xander continued: “They granted exemptions to certain industries for certain reasons, they looked at [natural gas drilling] and they said no incidence of any problems with fracking so we’ll give them an exemption on the use of water.” “When we build a tank we have to build a dike around it to prevent a rupture.” Xander noted that when ruptures do happen, it is mostly due to vandalism. “So you have to have a dike around the tank, that’s an EPA rule. We then have EPA rules and regulation with state. A lot of the things like erosion and sedimentation control plans fall under federal guidelines too, so on your soil and erosion control plans the state prescribes a procedure you have to follow that the feds approved, so by complying with the states you’re complying federally with the EPA inspections.” Kathy Cash, leader of WV4MOM, in an interview on August 15, 2011, took issue with the federal exemption and state oversight. “The WV DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has never refused a permit and they’ve never cited any driller for contamination. You go to Wetzel County and you look at the pollution there, there is evidence of contamination there.” “I was talking to one farmer, he has skin infections, his dog lost its hair. I think 80 of his lambs last year died; that’s never hap-

pened before. When people come forward and they see this they say, ‘Oh you’re getting contamination from some junkyard down the road.’ But they never had contamination before in their water, but they’ll cite something.” Ms. Cash continued, “In effect they’re lying, I don’t know how else to describe what they do. What’s happening is people are being told don’t drink your water. Why are companies telling people don’t drink your water, why are people in Wetzel County drinking bottled water if there is no contamination?” Determining what caused contamination and pollution is a problematic aspect of hydraulic fracturing. Critics like Josh Fox, maker of the film Gasland, argue that the lack of federal regulation results in underfunded state environmental protection agencies skimping on regulation or being unable to perform necessary tests. Mr. Xander disputed this argument by referencing the notable scenes in the Gasland film, where people begin setting their water taps on fire. “In West Virginia, people with water wells, their water is coming off the coal seams. Methane is on coal seams. When they got to investigating this and they took a sample of the deep Marcellus gas and the shallow water level gas, and ran it through a chromatograph, they showed a totally different chemistry. The chemistry proves that it’s not coming from Marcellus gas.” Mr. Xander also referenced the area of Wirt County, WV, known as Burning Springs because of the natural (in the sense that it was there before human manipulation) gas that would bubble from the water. “I fractured a well 500 feet from my house, and 500 feet from my water well, do you think for a nanosecond that I would have shit in my own mess gear and fractured a well that might have caused my children or my family any kind of harm? I fervently believe there was no danger there or I wouldn’t have done it.” Several state environmental regulators claim that one gallon of benzene can contaminate up to one million gallons of water. Mr. Xander denied that any West Virginia driller would use a chemical as toxic as benzene. He claimed that spray deodorant contains more toxic chemicals than frack fluid. He added that perhaps in other mineral plates, like the Balkan shale in the Dakotas, drillers may have used diesel fuel and toluene, another toxic chemical, to break up the chemically different oil shale. Yet the regulation question remains. “The feds don’t regulate what you pump. Some crackjob with mineral rights says, ‘you can pump anything you want down those wells,’ and you could. If it’s liquid you could pump it.” Mr. Xander recalled the story of a mineral rights owner who refused to sell his land to drillers. “He said, ‘You could even pump medical waste down those wells.’ Where did that come from? Basically chemicals are expensive, and you aren’t going to pump something that you don’t need.” Mr. Xander’s last claim is disputed. During a later interview on August 17, 2011, Hiram Lewis, a West Virginia attorney, former Marine, and Republican candidate for Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the United States Senate says otherwise. “There’s no regulation as to what is put in See Misunderstandings on page 11



Misunderstandings Plague Hydrofracking Debate
Continued from Vassar on page 10 frack disposal sites. Drillers can get paid to dump other companies’ waste; that’s the part of the industry they don’t tell you about.” This leads to one of the more important clarifications for people wishing to be just “informed” about hydraulic fracturing. Mr. Xander insisted that besides one anomaly, a shallow vertical well in Jackson County WV that polluted groundwater, that hydraulic fracturing is entirely safe—the process of using water to fracture shale many thousands of feet below the ground has never polluted water or been condemned by the EPA. But when the entire procedure is taken into account—the heavy traffic from semitrucks transporting thousands of gallons of water and chemicals, the disposal of waste water and other chemicals, and what to do with the well after drilling—it has potential flaws. Mr. McMahon understood this: “The world needs to understand it’s not just fracking, but the whole process.” He referenced his presentation, called “The Industrialization of West Virginia,” which he prepared for surface and mineral owners that own either the property above the shale or the shale itself. In it he emphasizes the auxiliary problems of hydraulic fracturing: wells owned by companies that have gone out of business and that the state lacks resources to plug, rural roads damaged by large water and chemical transport trucks, and sections of forest and wildlife killed by sprayed waste water (a permitted action). Ms. Cash also brought up roads. “We were in Wetzel County, and one day there were 80 truck accidents.” Ms. Cash continued, “The parents have been so worried that their children are going to get hit by trucks that they’re following the school buses and staying there when their children have to cross. The roads are crumbling.” Quality of regulation depends on the number of regulators. Mr. Xander argued, based on a sheet he gave me titled “Natural Gas Industry Facts,” that because the number of new well permits has sharply declined (and it has, from 1959 vertical shallow wells and 23 horizontal deep wells in 2007 to 142 shallow wells and 41 deep wells in 2010) that more regulators would be a waste of taxpayer money. Mr. McMahon opposed this claim. “That’s laughable. There are 4,000 wells out there that still have an operator that should be plugged. The state is not making [the operators] plug them because there are not enough inspectors.” McMahon continued, “There are 5,000 wells that we’ve waited so long to plug that the operators have gone out of business, and the state is plugging 25 a year, using our money.” There is also reason to believe that operators may be slighting regulation. “I can’t tell you the number of times the surface owners call me: ‘I’ve caught him red handed, here’s a problem.’ The inspector comes out and they’ve already fixed it. The inspectors don’t do enough finds to deter them.” Ms. Cash also protested the lack of inspectors. “I was just in Tygart, Philipi (Barbour County), there’s one area where they’re going to put up 86 wells, they’re drilling for 86 wells in this one small area, and no inspectors, or two inspectors? How are the inspectors going to manage this, the inspectors are going to need specific training, they need to be there when they’re pouring the cement, they need to appear regularly.” regulation occasionally means more unnecessary steps, such as a proposal that encouraged gas drillers to capture and “recycle” gas unfit for domestic use or efficient purification, which hurt the revenue of a social issues have emerged from horizontal fracturing. “The naysayers want to paint this as a big battle between surface owners and big gas companies.” Mr. Xander said, referencing the dichotomy present in many West Virginia counties. Some property holders own only the surface rights, and not the minerals beneath their property. Mr. Xander continued. “What about the mineral owners, they want to legislate all these things, you can’t drill here; you can’t drill there. What about the guy that owns the minerals that’s been paying taxes for the minerals for the past 75 years? What about his rights? If you think that I lay awake at night thinking of ways to screw over the surface owner -- why would I want to do that? That’s why I work in Barbour County; surface owners own their minerals.” For other parts of the state, the conflict between surface and mineral owners has been very real. “Wetzel County wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen to them.” Ms. Cash said. “Their community has been destroyed not only in terms of roads, air quality, and water, but their fabric of life has been destroyed in that you have people in families and neighbors not speaking to each other, fighting. It’s created a kind of unfortunate Hatfield and McCoy type of situation.” At the end of the interview I walked outside to Mr. Xander’s truck to pick up a few fliers. As we walked he told me about one of the State Legislature’s special sessions, held to gather public opinion on gas drilling for constructing legislation, in Clarksburg, WV. After explaining that there were not as many out of state cars as the opposition to drilling alleged, he commented on another one of their claims. “It was 11 pm and they said, ‘Oh look the gas industry left, they’re scared!’ These guys have to get up at 5:00 AM in the morning to work, most of these other clowns don’t even have jobs.” On the drive from Morgantown to New York I wanted to forget about hydraulic fracturing. But knowing that even if Morgantown was temporarily safe (the ban had been lifted a few days earlier, but an appeal was in the works), that people in Wetzel County and other areas of West Virginia might be exploited for cheap gas bothered me. I still have not reconciled my skepticism of hydraulic fracturing with my implicit support of it, my use of electricity and products that exist because of the energy supplied by it. I do not see an end to fracturing coming any time soon; Mr. Xander pointed out that analysts estimate that there is enough gas in the Marcellus to keep the nation running at its current energy use for 93 years. And as long as we keep demanding energy, and alternative energy sources remain underfunded and problematic, we are going to end up using the Marcellus. I can only hope that people of West Virginia are able to push for the proper and necessary regulations to keep all inhabitants of West Virginia safe and healthy. On Friday, September 30, 2011, Northeast Natural Energy began fracking in the Mylan Industrial Park, less than a mile outside of Morgantown. On Thursday two people protested, on Friday none. The committee from the State Legislature has not yet passed any kind of law or new regulations with respect to inspectors or disclosure of chemicals.

Nathan Tauger

An example of anti-hydraulic fracturing statistics.

Why are there so many abandoned wells? About mid-way through the interview Mr. Xander remarked, “I really think all these environmental problems are going to get solved because people are just going to stop drilling.” There is a very reasonable economic phenomenon that explains why this is happening. “What people don’t understand is that this is an industry that’s been so successful that it’s quickly putting itself out of business. You can’t afford to go spend 5 or 6 million dollars for one of these wells if the price of gas is lower than 4 bucks. But every time a firm go out and dig a new well they’re increasing the supply.” Large drilling companies, like Dominion and Exxon, are able to move from economically unproductive activities like fracking to other methods of natural gas extraction; smaller companies face the prospect of bankruptcy. Many smaller firms now see buying wells as a kind of future investment for a potential overseas or more receptive American market. This explains the ambivalence to more regulation for hydraulic fracturing. More

company. The real harm from not recognizing that there is a legitimate reason for natural gas drillers, or any other business owners, to oppose steps that unnecessarily hurt their revenue is the effect on discourse. A lack of concern from citizens regarding the economic livelihood of gas drillers or other firms is matched by a lack of concern regarding environmental or social issues. “People seem to think oil and gas is a zero sum game. They seem to think that if Exxon is making money you’re losing money. That’s bullshit. If Exxon is making money the economy is doing well, everyone will have jobs. Exxon’s rate of return corporatewise is shitty. Coca-Cola’s rate of return is better, Coca-Cola doesn’t have any exploration risk.” Mr. Xander continued. “Explain to me why Apple is a bigger company than Exxon, what risk has Apple ever taken? They’re bigger than Exxon, why aren’t all these whackos mad at Apple? The funny thing is, all the whackos have Apple, they’re not mad at Apple, they’re mad at Exxon, I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.” In addition to environmental concerns,



Palestine’s Disastrous United Nations Statehood Proposal
Thomas Enering National & Foreign Affairs Editor

ahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, sparked a diplomatic crisis by announcing plans to appeal to the United Nations Security Council for international recognition of a Palestinian state. In order to secure full U.N. member voting powers, the Palestinians would need to secure affirmative votes from nine of the fifteen nations on the Security Council. As one of the five permanent members of the committee, the United States possesses veto power over any proposal, and American officials have repeatedly informed Abbas that they intend to veto any resolution demanding Palestinian statehood. After this process fails, Abbas could submit his proposal to the U.N. General Assembly, where Palestine enjoys widespread popularity, and request to be elevated to an enhanced nonmember observer status akin to the Vatican. This would allow Palestine to sit on numerous committees, and obtain more direct access to such international institutions as the World Bank and International Criminal Court. Quite simply, Abbas’s policy marks a wildly irresponsible attempt to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel. Employing the cheapest of political theatrics, Mr. Abbas, who at 76 has stated his plans of retiring next year, aspires to avoid the painful concessions required of all parties. International recognition of a Palestinian state will do absolutely nothing to ameliorate the violence in the region. Since the peace negotiations of 1979, diplomats have struggled to define the borders of a Palestinian state, respect Israeli security demands, find relief for Palestinian refugees, and determine the fate of Jerusalem, a city claimed by both sides as their capital. A United Nations resolution resolves none of these issues. In fact, it would probably exacerbate tensions and lead to more bloodshed. Obviously, any declaration that contradicts Israel’s perception of the current state borders will facilitate a deadly conflict between the two parties. If Israel’s consent to any final resolution is so fundamental to achieving regional stability, it is difficult to understand why Abbas wants to utilize the U.N. at all. Several recent quotes from Abbas reveal that he understands just how damaging this process will be for his own people. He conceded that several American officials warned him of how “things will be very difficult after September,” reminding him that any push for U.N. statehood would inspire U.S. policymakers to impose punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority. True to their word, numerous Congressmen from both political parties engaged in an escalating competition designed to see who could craft the most draconian punishment. For example, Representative Steve Israel (DNY) supported a measure that would end all bilateral military assistance to any country that voted in support of the Palestinian Authority. Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) advanced an even more anti-Palestine bill, advocating Israel’s right to seize the West Bank in response to any Palestinian call for statehood. Such extreme assertions have shifted the debate so much that simply cutting off direct


aid to the Palestinian Authority now looks like a nuanced, moderate compromise. Passing this legislation would be nothing short of disastrous for the Palestinian people. Despite the soaring rhetoric of Arab brotherhood and nationalism, it is actually the United States and Europe that provide the vast majority of the vital aid keeping Palestinian refugees alive. Last year, the United States provided over $200 million directly to the Palestinian Authority’s budget, constituting over 15 percent of their aggregate budget. The Palestinian Authority suffers from a $600 million deficit and remains unable to convince other Arab states to provide their promised payments. The loss of American provided “Economic Support Funds” would ruin the Palestinian Authority’s admirable advances in state building over the past decade. In many respects, President Abbas sold the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority to the international community by highlighting how his administration augmented the region’s institutional and infrastructural strength. The economic deterioration resulting from his U.N. gambit will impede any future advances

twenty years in international conflict resolution. In every diplomatic impasse deemed intractable, solutions have only resulted from constructive dialogues between the two opposing parties. While states external to the dispute are frequently required to moderate these talks, enduring peace treaties can only be constructed through good-faith negotiations, not international declarations. From the Dayton Peace Accords to the Good Friday Agreement, the two opposing groups overcame disputes historically thought irreconcilable. Indeed, even Israel’s own experience with Egypt highlights the critical role of direct negotiations. With the Camp David Accords, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin resolved the future of the Sinai Peninsula and initiated what, at worst, could be deemed a “cold peace” between Israel and Egypt. A U.N. declaration proposing the future of military commitments in the Sinai surely would have been as ineffective as a U.N. resolution striving to define the borders of Palestine in our contemporary crisis.


Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Benjamin Netanyahu (middle) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left).

and, consequently, weaken the legitimacy of his government. Several media sources confirm that Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) sent President Abbas a detailed accounting of this legislation and urged him to return to direct two-state negotiations. His decision to place a dramatic political gesture above the welfare of his people demonstrates an appalling callousness. President Abbas also risks inspiring a broader xenophobia and anti-internationalist spirit within the United States. The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), drafted a bill depriving funds “from any U.N. Agency or program that upgrades the status of the PLO/Palestinian observer mission.” This bill simply serves as one manifestation of a narrative that depicts all international organs as vast bureaucracies exclusively interested in strengthening terrorists and challenging American sovereignty. The Palestinian Authority appears quite content to neglect the lessons of the last

Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority’s chronicling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process also obfuscates how close they came to achieving a substantive two-state solution in July 2000. The Camp David Summit witnessed President Bill Clinton moderate a discussion that would have provided Palestinians with the vast majority of their West Bank and Gaza Strip demands, with only some Israeli bypass roads deemed essential for security purposes. Historians may dispute the merits of this agreement, but both Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami observed that the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat failed to advance a Palestinian counter-proposal. This seminal summit provides two essential insights: all parties must be prepared to submit constructive solutions (even if they contain difficult concessions), and the Israeli government was willing to move towards a viable two-state solution. Although the rise of conservative politicians in Israel has made it increasingly difficult to negotiate,

it remains disingenuous to denounce twostate dialogues as counter-productive and unlikely to engender a meaningful peace. From a strictly legal perspective, it remains doubtful if the current construction of Palestine even meets the standard for statehood entrenched by the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. Establishing a declarative theory of statehood as a component of customary international law, this treaty articulated four criteria for statehood: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) a government; and d) the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Several legal theorists doubt whether Palestine actually fulfills this fourth principle. There exists a divide between the Palestinian Authority, the governing body of the West Bank that accepts Israel’s existence, and Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza and perpetually calls for the destruction of Israel. With this unresolved tension in governance, it remains difficult to see how Palestine could engage in diplomatic relations with other states in any sort of coherent fashion. Of course, none of this analysis should obscure the stunning ineptitude of the Netanyahu government. Faced with a virulently anti-Israeli movement brewing in Egypt (as evidenced by Cairo’s ejection of the Israeli diplomat) and deteriorating relations with both Turkey and Jordan, Netanyahu has failed to modify his alienating, far-right foreign policy in any substantial way. Instead, he relies upon his American allies for help on every major crisis, and threatens to exploit his immense influence over Congress if President Obama even considers a new Middle East platform. When the Palestinian Authority announced its intention to call upon the United Nations, Netanyahu had two options: either shape the U.N. debate with his own proposal calling for a two-state solution or offer to initiate a meaningful direct discussion with the Palestinian Authority. He elected to do neither. Given Israel’s intransigence and the continued production of settlements, it is clear that President Obama must exert greater pressure on the Netanyahu government to begin a productive dialogue with the Palestinians. He quite justifiably fears what an antagonized Israel Lobby will do to his electoral chances in 2012. But maintaining the status quo proves even more dangerous. Since the inception of negotiated conferences for a two-state solution, America has strived to play the role of the “honest negotiator.” This recent diplomatic crisis has challenged America’s status as the pre-eminent power broker in the region, and invited other European nations to take over this role. Surely losing nearly 70 years of influence in the most important peace process in the world to the French will not play well with the American electorate either. The United States must, therefore, exert greater diplomatic pressure on Israel to engage in good-faith negotiations with Palestine. However, the Palestinian people deserve a leader who is more concerned with their fundamental human rights than carving out the most superficial of political legacies. Democratically elected leaders possess an affirmative obligation to promote the welfare of their citizens. Mr. Abbas has abrogated this responsibility in the most shameful fashion in order to perform a sweeping political gesture bound to devastate the Palestinian people.



United States-Pakistan Relations Require Reevaluation
Shivani Dave Contributor

n May 1, 2011 the White House announced that Osama Bin Laden had been captured and killed; an operation that had been in the works for at least four years, beginning when intelligence discovered the name of Bin Laden’s most trusted courier. The operation officially began on March 14, 2011 when President Barrack Obama held the first of five national security meetings to discuss plans for action. The operation, however, was never officially discussed with any other country, including Pakistan. Fire opened when Bin Laden resisted the assault. Weapons were found in the room, and Bin Laden allegedly never made any attempt to retrieve them. The successful mission left him, three other men, and one woman, said to have been used as a human shield, dead. Bin Laden’s body was then flown to Afghanistan and buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition. Muslim burial law has four requirements—washing, shrouding in white cloth, ritual prayer and burial. Islamic law experts argue that there was no need for his body to be buried at sea, and that it was in fact inappropriate to do so, as it was untrue to claim that no one in the Muslim world was ready to receive his body. US officials contended that they did not want Bin Laden’s grave to become a shrine and there was no time to negotiate with other countries on behalf of a possible burial space. Jubilance and euphoria swept the nation as crowds swarmed the White House in anticipation of the news. Across the country, citizens rejoiced and openly celebrated the news of Bin Laden’s death. Often thought of as public enemy number one, Bin Laden’s defeat offered a profound sense of closure to many citizens. Others, however, feared reprisals. After 10 years of hunting, Bin Laden was found in the city of Abbottadad, an hour


north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. Naturally, many questions were raised about the country’s involvement in the search for Bin Laden. The Pakistani military leadership was deeply humiliated and angered by the raid, having received no warning about the American plan. The United States’ operation to capture Bin Laden was thus intended to be a stealth mission: move in and move out completely under Pakistan’s radar. Three weeks later, militants attacked the Pakistani naval base in Karachi. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and argued that it represented a retaliatory strike for the assassination of Bin Laden. This attack appeared to affirm the pundits’ bleakest predictions: the assassination of Bin Laden would ultimately usher in an era of regional volatility sustained by terrorists’ avenging strikes. Pakistan clearly demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the raid by arresting five informants who had supported the CIA during the operation’s developmental stages. At the same time, the Obama Administration sought support from Pakistan in ending the war in Afghanistan, but acknowledged their recent intransigence. When asked to rate Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations on a scale of one to ten, Michael J. Morell, deputy CIA director, replied with a “three.” Similarly, American officials hoped to exploit the momentum derived from killing Bin Laden to launch more expansive attacks against other prominent Al-Qaeda officials. They expressed their anger when Pakistan policymakers attempted to distance themselves from American intelligence and counterterrorism operatives. In many respects, launching an attack against Bin Laden without obtaining any prior consent marked the final injustice in a long string of overtly aggressive U.S. policies. For instance, last January, a CIA contractor killed two Pakistani civilians on a street in Lahore,

prompting the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to refuse to participate in CIA operations any longer. The struggle American officials face in obtaining visas marks one more manifestation of Pakistani resistance. Following widespread outrage that an ostensible ally supported Bin Laden and engaged in pervasive misuse of U.S. military aid, the Obama Administration suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Pakistani military in July of 2011. By adopting such a hardline stance, the Obama Administration hoped to force Pakistan to accept the return of American military training personnel, vigorously target terrorist cells, and employ greater transparency measures to minimize corruption. Previous aid packages included reimbursement for costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers to combat terrorism, training assistance and military hardware, as well equipment that Pakistan refused to accept. Desperate to root out terrorists remaining in Pakistan, the Obama Administration has suggested that it would resume aid in exchange for gaining greater ISI support. Unfortunately, the extreme tension of the past months makes clear that Pakistan and the United States will not be able to foster the relationship hoped for when the Obama Administration gained power. Keenly aware of the collapse of diplomatic relations in 1990, the Obama Administration is struggling to maintain ties with Pakistan, but the situation continues to deteriorate. “Trust issues” comes to mind when I think about Pakistani and U.S relations. The situation here is lose-lose. Had the United States provided Pakistan with significant information, we might have risked losing Bin Laden. Now, because we didn’t contact their government, we may have lost Pakistani support. Perhaps American officials also unjustly anticipated a monolithic response of adulation from the Pakistani people after the assassination of Bin Laden. Drone attacks and

invasive counter-terrorism programs have alienated large portions of the Pakistani population. It was clearly unreasonable to expect the response in Islamabad to replicate the exuberance of Washington D.C. In many respects, the cuts in military aid appear shortsighted. Former Pakistani diplomat, Maleeha Lodhi, points to how the U.S. imposed sanctions on Pakistan during the 1990s, and consequently, witnessed its influence with the military diminish. It seems likely that the same thing will occur today. Indeed, the Pakistani military experienced great humiliation when the United States’ Special Forces penetrated deep into the country without being detected by the ISI. A policy as combative as eliminating aid seems unlikely to ameliorate the ISI’s chagrin or inspire a closer relationship. As a major nuclear power and a neighbor to Afghanistan, Pakistan remains vital to American security interests. Therefore, I wonder why the U.S. so hastily determined to reduce military funding: restricting financial support hardly seems the best way to encourage Pakistan to aid the United States in its fight against terrorism. If anything, reducing aid diminishes America’s soft power presence in the Middle East. Perhaps the initial operation should have aspired to capture Bin Laden rather than explicitly seeking to kill him. Holding Bin Laden accountable for his crimes, which in the end are arguably punishable by death, may have prevented such diplomatic fallout and the subsequent retaliatory attacks. By this point, it may be impossible to rebuild a mutually beneficial diplomatic relationship with Pakistan. Reliance on them as an ally appears precarious, at best. The United States should carefully observe developing political trends in Pakistan and remain cognizant of how it fits into our larger geo-political interests, but security interests might be better served by carefully cultivating alliances with other nearby states.

For European Union to Survive, Allow Greece to Fail
Nik Goldberg Contributor

he European Economic Community (EEC) is currently at the precipice. For the third time in less than two years, the Greek economy looks like it will collapse, and Italy doesn’t appear too far behind. The fundamentals of the Greek economy are unsound, and their current government has not taken the initiative to make the necessary changes. Established in 1958, the EEC predates the European Union (EU) by more than three decades and the currency by almost 41 years. Yet in a continent as economically diverse as Europe, fault lines have divided countries into two distinct camps: those suffering from crippling debt and faltering economies, and those that have come to be viewed as economic powerhouses, namely Germany and France. Outside of China, the German economy is the world’s strongest coming out of the Great Recession. In modern history (excluding very short aberrations), the Northern European economies have dominated their neighbors to the south, and, with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the subsequent establishment of a greater economic community, their econom-


ic superiority has become conspicuous to even the most oblivious observers. The European Union is being criticized over the way it has dealt with struggling economies, particularly Greece and Italy—two countries with a substantial welfare framework but little to support even the most basic fundamentals necessary for growth. Basic economics can be employed to highlight why incentives in these countries are perverse. Welfare initiatives are a necessary part of the modern economy, and socialist governments have traditionally sought to entrench expansive state-funded social programs. However, the heavy burdens caused by such a system are hindering the Greek economy’s ability to grow by allocating more money than the state possesses to a relatively young populace (the average age in Greece is roughly 43 years old). This will obviously cause the economy to sputter and die. The problem with pushing austerity measures in countries like these should be obvious; the state would stem the flow of aid to the needy, without providing any legitimate alternative measures. There are no grand jobs programs available, and few funds exist to spur job creation. Furthermore, the regulatory climate surrounding the finance institutions in these countries is nonexistent (the

only country in the world with adequate regulatory systems in place is the Republic of France, which only introduced them after a myriad of scandals). This is the second time that Greece has teetered on the brink of collapse in as many years. This alone should throw up red flags, since it reflects a problem of economic management. There is a systemic problem in the Greek economy that cannot be solved simply by fanning the fire with money. The proposed bailout amount is 109 billion euros (roughly $148.6 billion). So, why not, for once, let the acropolis burn so that we can rebuild it? Bailouts, if not applied correctly, can engender perverse incentives and will ultimately lead to stagnation, and, in some cases, a repeat of the recession. By no means should the European community stop aiding Greece, but the proposed stopgap measures simply will not work. As such, we should let Greece fail, forgive their debts, and use the money otherwise allocated for the bailout to help rebuild the economy. We can implement conditionality with more positive measures, provide supplemental aid to stimulate their economy, and restructure every aspect of their economy, especially the financial sector. Pro-

posed bailouts may keep Greece from immediate default and provide them with enough capital to keep themselves afloat for another few years, but these policies don’t promise long-term, sustained economic viability. Greece would still be obligated to demand additional bailouts every few years. Naturally, perpetually demanding additional aid would likely provoke anti-bailout sentiments throughout Europe. Ample signs of such discontent are already appearing in Germany, the nation that would be obligated to carry the greatest share of any bailout plan. Mass disapproval would constrain the German government from repeatedly offering substantial aid, ensuring that each successive bailout would carry stricter terms and carry less financial aid. The lesson from all of this is obvious: let Greece fail now. We can provide a more fundamental restructuring to their economy with the money currently arranged for stop-gap measures and ensure that they could participate as a competitive member of the global economy. This allows us to bypass the unpopular bailouts bound to produce regional strife. So let Greece default. The cavalry will be just beyond the horizon, ready to ride in and save the day.




Reflections on 10-Year Anniversary of America in Afghanistan
Thomas Enering National & Foreign Affairs

homas Enering: As you know, October 2011 marks the 10 year anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan. Although the U.S. rapidly defeated the Taliban, the military struggle to eradicate Al Qaeda’s influence in the region—locating Osama bin Laden and constructing a modern democracy— proved more problematic. Two years later, the Bush administration would be accused of going into Iraq with few goals and few objectives of what victory meant. Do you think that the same allegation can be said about the Bush administration going into Afghanistan in 2001? Robert Brigham: I don’t know that it was a lack of goals or a lack of definition of what victory meant that led to problems in Afghanistan. I think it was a lack of understanding of what you can and cannot do with military force. It’s very difficult to do border security, nation building, counter-insurgency programs, economic development, regional security structure building, and providing a framework or an architecture for peace—it’s difficult to do all those things in the best circumstances. Afghanistan, over history, has proven to be a place that usually presents adversaries with the worst circumstances. I think it was just—more a matter of just a total lack of understanding of what’s possible with the military. Enering: With this conception of what was possible with the military, we saw how this new notion of counterinsurgency emerged. Can you describe what counter-insurgency looked like in Afghanistan? Brigham: I think it was unevenly applied. “Counter-insurgency,” of course, is the political side of war where troops— light infantry troops—are usually put inside population centers to protect people. That’s the new definition of counterinsurgency. The center of gravity is the local population, it’s people-centric. The idea is that, if ordinary people, ordinary Afghanis are secure—in their livelihoods, in their daily lives, in their homes—then it helps build a bridge to the government and its national program. Counter-insurgency is an effort to use light infantry troops to provide security but also to provide structure on which highmodernist development projects can take place. The combination of security and these modernization projects is aimed to create a tie from ordinary citizens to the national government that then dries up the pool of potential recruits for the insurgents. It hasn’t quite worked that way in Afghnistan. There are claims of success in Iraq—I think that’s debatable. I don’t think anyone was claiming that counter-insurgency has been a success in Afghanistan. I think even that talks of troop draw-downs don’t really indicate success. Success is the word that replaces victory in counter-insurgency. So, how do you define success? We clearly know that insurgent deaths are no measure of


success. The rise in number of insurgents killed has no relationship at all with the government’s ability to construct a viable state. So, success replaces victory, but then the definition of success is slippery. I think at this point, what you’re trying to do in Afghanistan is to create an environment where total collapse isn’t possible. Essentially, what you’re after is a decent interval between a U.S. withdrawal and the chaos that’s obviously going to ensue in Afghanistan once the United States does withdraw its military forces. Enering: One of the largest complaints we see from the Afghani government, now that Obama has said that we’re going to start withdrawing troops, is this notion that local troops haven’t been trained sufficiently. In counter-insurgency wars, why has training local forces and actually improving their capacity been so problematic? Brigham: I think training is always problematic. There’s never enough time to train, there’s never enough live demonstrations, there’s never enough capable trainers—this is, in a way, when you have a foreign army training a local army, and this is the norm. There are huge gaps in training effectiveness and efficiency. You can say that about any army that’s working closely with a more powerful ally. I don’t think Karzai has any unique claim here that his national army—for example, the South Vietnamese army training regimen was just pathetic, despite good-intentioned American efforts. It just never worked. To do training work, you have to rotate divisions out of the field. In a place like Afghanistan, that’s impossible. To set up a rotation schedule that meets your security needs as well as your future training needs—it’s a nightmare. Enering: I think that, during the Bush administration, we also saw a shift in the narrative in terms of Afghanistan. Originally, it was justified as a security imperative, but then, as we continued forward, we saw humanitarian causes being infused—we saw Afghani women coming into the discourse more and more. How do you think counter-insurgency works in advancing these human rights goals? Brigham: Well, that’s exactly why you move to counter-insurgency. Counter-insurgency is all about the political side of warfare. With the FM324, the Army and Marines’ field manual that ushered in this new counter-insurgency era—when you place the citizen in the forefront of military, political, and economic activity—in the new manual, what you’re doing is that you’re safeguarding their human rights. It shifts the conversation purposefully. One interesting thing would be to see how have human rights improved in Iraq and Afghanistan since the introduction of counter-insurgency. I would argue that they haven’t improved much at all. A lot depends on how you define human rights, but I think there are still gross human rights violations by the state in both of those nations. It’s a natural development to have human rights discourse come into the picture when you move to modern counter-insurgency. That doesn’t mean

that it’s actually being addressed, but it does mean that it’s part of the discourse. Enering: You mentioned the new marine counter-insurgency guide. Proponents of this call it a really revolutionary reform to counter-insurgency, and that this is a radically new proposal. Do you think that this is a new proposal or does it have historical roots? Brigham: I think there are elements of this that are new. Obviously, there was a huge counter-insurgency program in Vietnam, and the major criticism against that counter-insurgency program was that the violence perpetrated in its name was too indiscriminate. The level of violence needed to pacify the countryside in the Mekong Delta really meant increased levels of violence that would alienate the local population from the state. In other words, counter-insurgency is about building bridges from the local population to the state, but if you have to increase violence to effectively counter-attack an insurgency, you diminish the capability to build those bridges. FM 324 starts where Vietnam left off. It starts with the premise that there was too much violence aimed at ordinary citizens in Vietnam and that you have to correct that first before you do any of the winning of hearts and minds. In that way, it is a departure, and I think that most of the human rights scholars and NGO leaders who were invited to Fort Leavenworth to help construct FM 324 have backed away from seeing it as a panacea. They realize today that there are numerous human rights problems in Iraq and Afghanistan that counter-insurgency didn’t solve. I’m sure all of them would like to see human rights issues placed more at the forefront of efforts—especially in Afghanistan. But it’s also a useful discourse, to think of Afghani girls not being able to go to school or having acid thrown on them. That image is just so loaded with coded meaning that it helps politically sell the conflict, but I’m not sure if it’s very effective, actually, from a strategic, or even a human rights, standpoint. Enering: We’ve also, I think it would be fair to say, that in recent years, seen a very revisionist history of Vietnam emerge. With Mark Moyer and Louis Surley advancing notions that the United States had victory within its grasp. Do you think that this re-conception of Vietnam influenced the administration’s thinking in both Afghanistan and Iraq? Brigham: Oh absolutely. I also don’t think it’s just Moyer and Sorley. General Petraeus—that’s at the heart of his PhD dissertation, that the United States drew the wrong lessons from Vietnam, that pacification had been far more successful than the United States realized. I think there is an entire generation of people who believe that strongly. I think that’s highly debatable. I think that research by David Elliot and others who really looked into Vietnamese language sources in the delta would really show that pacification was riddled with problems. That, what was perceived as success against insurgency in the south was really just a de-

Vassar College

Robert K. Brigham, Professor of History.

population of the countryside through this intensification of the violence. Drawing on Vietnam lessons to fight in Iraq is problematic on a hundred different levels. But, you do have to review Vietnam to try to do counter-insurgency again. It was an absolutely necessary intellectual act for those who supported intervention in Iraq. Enering: I think that, of those that supported it, we saw a rise of this neoconservative ideology over the past decade that really became the dominant discourse of the 2000’s. Would you say that this is a static ideology of the Bush administration or did it evolve over its two terms? Brigham: I think it was dead by the second half of the last term. If you looked at Condoleezza Rice’s—when she became Secretary of State—if you looked at her efforts at transformative diplomacy, it’s back to kind of multi-lateral approach— all of the talk of muscular U.S. foreign policy, all of that is gone. It’s replaced in a sense by counter-insurgency. Counterinsurgency removes the ideologues from policy positions, in a sense, because they were wrong. They were wrong about the U.S. ability to transform societies through a certain kind of use of military. Their views aren’t replaced with the notion that counter-insurgency is now that transformative power, but counter-insurgency at least acknowledges that there are limits to what you can do with your military, and that was something that the neoconservatives were unwilling to embrace. So, I think when you see the surge come in late 2006, what you’re also seeing then is the last two years of the Bush administration not being ideologically driven by neo-conservatives. And you see them leaving the administration in droves, either willingly or unwillingly. Enering: Some liberals who endorsed Obama wanted a more radical break in foreign policy from the Bush administration. Do you see changes from the Obama administration in his policies on AfghaniSee Future on page 15



Future of American Foreign Policy in Afghansitan, Iraq
Continued from Reflections on page 14 stan and Iraq? Brigham: Not really. Personally, I would have liked to see a lot more. It’s clear that he accepted the basic premise of counter-insurgency, that he saw it as a way to achieve success if victory was elusive. It seems to me that he’s just continued the policies up until the draw down, and the draw down, in a sense, was really Gates all along. I don’t think there was radical departure—at least in my view, not a significant enough departure. However, and this is a big caveat, even though counter-insurgency is still the tail wagging dog in U.S. policy, we aren’t seeing it being implemented in any nations experiencing the Arab Spring. I think that would be something worth noting. That the notion that counter-insurgency was so effective, that the United States could come into a state that was relatively broken, engage in regime change, and then roll out government in a box, which is essentially what counter-insurgency is. I think that notion has been dismissed by key policymakers in the Obama administration. Enering: In June 2011, President Obama said that we could begin withdrawing troops because we had largely achieved the goals that we had set out in Afghanistan. How do you see the ultimate endgame looking for Afghanistan and the U.S. there? Brigham: Probably just what we should’ve done all along in Afghanistan— containment. Some of Obama’s policy looks like containment. And containment in Afghanistan recognizes that the border is porous, that military affiliations follow a different pattern, that the state’s power often stops at the end of the paved road, that there are limits to what the centralized authority can accomplish militarily or politically. You have to work with all of those variables, and that leads you to a containment policy of sorts—that you have at least a presence militarily, somehow, either through surrogate troops or through your own troops. Even with the draw-down, there are still going to be U.S. troops in Afghanistan. So, that’s part of a larger containment strategy—you harass insurgents, you interdict supplies—but

Wikimedia Commons

An Iraqi soldier watches a U.S. army patrol vehicle drive by during counter-insurgency operations.

you don’t engage in a huge nation-building project supported by a large military. So the scale is much smaller, you’re trying to contain Afghanistan, you’re trying to isolate it. If it starts to fall to insurgents, you try to isolate the insurgents from the general population or from external support. I think that’s where we’re heading. Something that looks a lot more like what Bill Clinton did in Iraq or what George W. Bush did in his first two years in Afghanistan. Enering: So do you see the possibility of reincorporating Iraq or Afghanistan into a broader Middle Eastern peace process? Brigham: Well, that’s always been the goal of the realists, right? In a lot of ways,

the Iraq Study Group report by Hamilton and Baker really is a call for realism. In that, what they’re trying to do is trade off some level of sovereign power for a region-wide agreement. Especially with Iraq, the whole idea was that you made Iraq’s six contiguous neighbors shareholders in the problem of Iraq, and you provided incentives for them to cooperate in containing the violence inside Iraq and actually trying to draw down the sectarian nature of that violence. So, in a sense, this realist paradigm where you look after state power and you build up regional alliances that recognize the sovereign authority of the state—that seems to me that it will resurrect itself. Enering: Some scholars have argued

that the Middle East has really just served as a diversion over the last decade. The last century was largely predicated on great power struggles, and now we’re going to move back into these [power struggles] in terms of a greater Chinese-American conflict or a Chinese-India relationship really dominating foreign policy. Where do you see the Middle East’s role in U.S. foreign policy as we move forward? Brigham: As long as the United States remains energy-dependent, the Middle East will always be on the front burner. Of course, the question of Israel is always one with domestic and international components to it. I don’t see the Middle East as sliding in significance at all in a whole host of international affairs issues.


Ought Social Security be Partially Privatized?
Todd Densen, Contributor Ethan Madore, Senior Editor

fter the controversy surrounding an audience member shouting “Yeah!” in response to the question of whether an uninsured thirty year-old individual should be allowed to die at the CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate on September 12, the question of healthcare reform, and that of Social Security and Medicare reform in general, has again been raised. Todd Densen: It is my hope that the next president (or the current one, if he is fortunate enough to be reelected) will address the growing problem of Social Security reform. The current system is unsustainable. While estimates may vary, there seems to be little disagreement over the fact that if the current system continues to operate, eventually the Social Security Trust Fund will run out, and the money collected from the Payroll Tax will no longer be sufficient to pay out benefits to current retirees. I hope that a new plan will advocate for a system that offers higher returns, probably a partially privatized plan that could mimic the plan President Bush advocated in 2005 but was unable to enact. Ethan Madore: Bush’s plan of privatization allowed personal retirement accounts with different investment options? Densen: That is the essence of the plan. Individuals have the option to open a personal investment account that would utilize up to a third of the individual’s payroll tax payments. Madore: This substantially reduces the amount of money that a person would contribute to the general Social Security fund? Densen: Yes, this is true, but it also substantially reduces the amount that they would take out of the general fund. Madore: My problem with this is that these private retirement funds seem tailormade for specifically wealthy individuals. First, this plan is only personally beneficial if your income crosses a certain threshold where the amount you would personally contribute is greater than the general populace. Second, poorer people typically don’t have the experience in investing that is required to make this access to multiple investment options advantageous or even a safe bet. This just seems like a ‘first class’ section of retirement planning that allows the rich a pass on paying for the poor. Densen: I think you misunderstand both the current system and Bush’s proposed reforms. First of all, the current system enacts a 12.4 percent tax on income that is diverted to Social Security (and some to Medicare), but the amount of income subject to this tax is capped (currently at $106,800). In actuality, the current system is abusive to the poorer individuals because they pay a higher real percentage of their income than the wealthier individuals. Also, the current system only pays you benefits after age 62, and when you die, your income payments stop. Poorer people are generally less likely to live long enough to receive benefits from the system into which they pay and are more likely to receive benefits for a shorter period than wealthier individuals who may have had better access to health care in the past. A partially


privatized system is actually better for the poor. First, they can still opt into the existing plan, but the partially privatized system is still a better option. This is because, even though they will have less money to contribute to their personal retirement account, the funds they have choices to invest in are all likely to give greater returns than the current system. The options are limited to five, widely diversified funds that are generally safe investments. Secondly, a partially privatized system allows individuals to keep the remaining money in their personal account as a nest egg to pass onto the next generation. This would help improve the generational wealth of poorer families that would other wise receive no posthumous benefits. Madore: You claim that the privatization plan is better, even for poorer individuals, under what situation would someone not opt into it? Densen: I don’t imagine it is likely that people will not choose not to opt into it, but if people are especially suspicious of the open market, I suppose they might choose not to. Madore: Thus, less money will be put into the general fund, leading to the necessary cutting of some benefits or, under the case of near-unanimous selection of the privatization option, people will get drastically different payouts at the end, based on how much they could afford to put in. Correct? Densen: Yes, the benefits would be less for non-investors than they are now. This will not be the case for most people though, because the market generally outperforms the current benefit structure, so most people will be much better off. There is strong evidence for this, not only from market figures, but from the alternative plan to social security in Galveston, TX. Also, because there are likely to be only five investment options, and all of these options are highly diversified, the returns for these five plans will not be drastically different. The percentage return investors receive is not dependent on the amount they put in at all. Madore: Yes, but there’s a considerable difference between a percent of thirty thousand and three hundred thousand dollars, right? My concern is that the more you claim that the privatization option seems more beneficial to investment-minded people, the less redistributive the system becomes. The only people who will not opt into the private system will be those who do not believe that they could put enough away with their limited incomes in order to survive retirement. Carried to an extreme, there comes a point where the cuts to general benefits drive the quality of life provided to those at the bottom of society to a point that I would consider unacceptable. There is a minimum standard of life that needs to be sustained, there is no reason for the government to need to facilitate greater disparity between the rich and the poor, which would happen under this system. Having decent, roughly equal retirement benefits allowed for all people, with people who can afford it investing extra for their own savings is the most acceptable option currently on the table. Densen: I don’t really even think that is an option. The current system will run out eventually, and then the status quo option

Pavel Shchyhelski

“I prefer to think of it as a sustainable Ponzi-structure.”
doesn’t even exist. Beyond this though, the current system is too redistributive in my opinion. It really ought not to be the government’s responsibility to plan for your retirement. Social Security was enacted after the onset of the Great Depression because many people lost their entire life savings in the crash. It was a safety net. In modern times though, many people neglect to save at all and rely on Social Security to fund their retirement. This is fundamentally not the responsibility of the federal government. If people save properly, there is no reason the reduced benefits under my system wouldn’t be enough, and those who privately invest would be significantly better off. Even if you don’t agree with this function of Social Security, I think the current system is more unequal. Wealthier citizens already receive nominally more in benefits, and, due to the income cap, wealthier individuals pay much lower real percentages of their income into the system. Since the wealthier generally live longer, they draw from the fund longer and receive greater real levels of benefits anyway. Under a privatized system, it is technically less redistributive, but in real terms it is unclear if it is actually less beneficial to the poor. Either way, both the rich and the poor make out with better benefits overall, so why is redistribution a problem? Madore: You suggest that this system will result in full privatization anyway, so why not just advocate that in the first place? Even if it is the same percentage, the amount of real money people can put away differs dramatically, yet the expense of sustaining themselves through retirement does not. There is a point at which a person can live, paycheck to paycheck, but can’t set aside enough to live on in the future. Even if they’re forced to save a fixed percent by your initiative, there is no guarantee that it will be enough. Those who do earn enough to substantially benefit from privatization are probably those who already are involved in a culture of saving and investment, rendering this measure little more than overkill for the rich and disastrous for the poor. Throughout the course of a person’s life, their ability to earn money, to find a good job and a stable home environment--even their capacity to be a “hard worker”—is so dependent on external factors beyond their control that those who can afford a comfortable retirement are largely more fortunate, not more deserving. As we’re discussing this, our own retirements are decades away, and we cannot be certain that we ourselves will not be on the unlucky side of life. Isn’t it better to design a system in which the government ensures an acceptable result for all, even at the expense of some superfluous luxuries of the few? Densen: My system allows the benefits you want for lower income savers. They aren’t left behind as though there were full privatization. However, if we continue the system we have, soon, there won’t be enough benefits for everyone. The system is unsustainable and impractical. Unless you advocate some alternative method that can ensure the system is solvent, I think government directed partial privatization offers the best compromise. The system becomes more sustainable and remains somewhat redistributive so that everyone can guarantee they receive benefits. Even if it is less redistributive, if the market is giving those who save worse returns than the current system, they still retire with more money. I don’t see why it is better to give everyone less in your scenario. Madore: More taxes and more redistribution, and the current system can work. At least it will not leave people with nowhere to turn after a life of misfortune and hardship, not having made enough to carry them through their final years. In addition, you’ve given no way to transfer to this new system, with millions already dependent on benefits from those paying into it. When it folds, people get hurt—a gold-plated, government-insured savings account that lets the rich keep their taxes in their own bank accounts simply cannot be a priority over real need.



Dinner with Gaddafi: Lessons from the Arab Spring?
Michael Greene Debate & Discourse Editor

ollowing the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year-long regime in Libya late this September, much speculation about the whereabouts of the deposed dictator has swirled about, ranging from recent National Transitional Council (NTC) reports that Gaddafi is hiding in his embattled hometown Sirte to more exotic speculation that he had fled to Zimbabwe. Indeed, speaking at the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Zimbabwe’s 87-year-old president, Robert Mugabe—who has ruled the country for 31 years but is increasingly besieged and has been in awkward power-sharing agreement since disputed elections in 2008—roundly condemned NATO intervention in Libya as an imperialist rush for Libya’s oil, and, in solidarity with his long-time ally, denied that Gaddafi and his forces had killed civilians. Yet, while Mugabe publicly proclaims his support for the ousted Libyan ruler (going so far as to expel the Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe after he declared for the NTC), the recent peaceful transfer of power in neighboring Zambia, following incumbent president Rupiah Banda’s electoral loss to opposition leader Michael Sata, bespeaks a potential shift in sub-Saharan Africa away from the dictatorships that have defined the region politically in recent decades. A thoughtful Mugabe may well consider these lessons in anticipation of projected elections in Zimbabwe in 2012 and as he (potentially) harbors the deposed Gaddafi. Mugabe: Oh God, Muammar, don’t you see? I ought to just quit. I’m getting too old for the strain of office— clinging to power despite international sanctions, agricultural and economic collapse, and the loss of public support. Now, look at this WikiLeaks business! As if anyone ever believed that those trips to Singapore were really for “cata-


ract surgery.” Now it’s clear as day that I’m dying from prostate cancer. My doctor didn’t even want me running in 2008 with my health, and I feel like this time it’ll kill me. Why even bother? Now that it’s been leaked that everyone from my vice-president to the Commander General of the army are jockeying for my succession like I’m already dead, how can I go on? If I cleared house of them all—and you know my methods of dealing with such sellouts—the whole government and party would implode! I can’t honor this power-sharing agreement with Prime Minister Tsvangirai. Our relations are too strained, and I can brook no rival. But the UN will never lift these accursed sanctions until I’m gone. No, it would be best for me and for Zimbabwe if I found a quiet way out of office before the elections and allow the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) to reform the constitution. Look at Zambia, two peaceful democratic transfers of power in a decade, and they’re lauded by the international community! Then there’s you, and Mubarak, and soon enough, Assad and Saleh, driven out by protesters or bloody civil war, on trial or seeking asylum. I was a liberation hero once, and perhaps the only shred of a legacy I could have left would be to step down and let democracy come to Zimbabwe peacefully, unlike in Libya. Gaddafi: Never! The leader of the revolution can never allow those NATO dogs and some drugged up protesters to drive him from his country! (Waves fist in the air) You are the liberation warrior who has brought glory to Zimbabwe, and all of your people love you—all! AlQaeda put drugs in the MDC’s NesCafe! With leaders like us, Africa shall rule the world! (Waves fist in the air some more) Your mistake is to exercise power through a party and to hold elections, which is inherently undemocratic, as party politics and parliaments only abort democracy. Zimbabwe, like Libya, needs one man to speak for the will of the masses. That is the only true form of freedom! And you speak of honor in surrender? Look at me, a beggar fleeing

By Pavel Shchyhelski

his own country for asylum, with only my offshore accounts and business assets to support me! Do you think you’ll be allowed to retire quietly? That NATO court, the International Criminal Court, won’t forget what you and your North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade did in Matabeleland in the eighties. You’ll be hanged! Mugabe: Hmmm, that is, in all likelihood, true. But enough with all these lies about democracy! Even now, Libyans are stomping on copies of that Green Book of yours, with your nonsense about “people power” and “people’s congresses.” This is the age of Twitter, and the people of Zimbabwe are fed up with the sham democracy I’ve been running. They, like the Libyans and the Egyptian protesters, can see the freedoms they’re missing. I can’t block their Blackberry service forever! Your mistake was selfserving complacency that your system would last forever. You believed that Libyans would be content with their rubber-stamp congresses and the redistribution of some oil wealth, while the majority of the country’s money went to support you and your playboy sons. If you hadn’t been so nearsighted, you would have opened up the political system, given the people a real say in their affairs, conducted social reforms, given them more to hope for than cheap Green Book imitations of Rousseau and your two-faced “reformer” son, Saif. Gaddafi: Listen to yourself! Denigrating the Great Socialist Libyan Arab People’s Jamahiriya, the only true form of democracy on earth! No, the Libyan people were free, and the Bedouin warrior could never have bowed to the demands of Western-backed troublemakers and Al-Qaeda “protesters.” As you valiantly said before the UN earlier this week, this was nothing more than a NATO invasion to steal the Libyan people’s oil and to recolonize an African country. Think of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty! Mugabe: Yes, no doubt Britain will use discontent against me to erode the sovereignty we have fought for, to reclaim the land they stole. No, what am I saying? You could have averted this mess before the protesters ever gathered in Green Square! Zambia is the better model. Already, just today, work has resumed on drafting a new constitution for Zimbabwe, one guaranteeing human rights and doing away with our skewed electoral process. We are on track to meeting conditions for sanctions to be removed, if just barely. The only viable option would be for me to step aside, allow the coalition government to enact a democratic constitution in concert with the moderates in my party, and hold free and fair elections— then the sanctions could be lifted. Only then could a younger generation of leaders set about productively dealing with Zimbabwe’s ails: 80 per cent unemployment, a dilapidated health-care system, 11,000,000 per cent inflation, and a ruined agriculture. A leader must have dignity, and that includes knowing when to bend to shifting winds. Your “dignity,” with your outlandish outfits

and female bodyguard make you more a clown than a respectable leader. You’re a modern-day Idi Amin! Gaddafi: You sound like the West (waves both fists in the air), always complaining about my yurts, mocking my outfits, laughing at my Amazonian Guard. Look at them (he gestures at a group women walking by), they would make a fine bodyguard for you in your revolutionary struggle! The West simply doesn’t understand our genius or our great cause. We revolutionary leaders must double down in our resistance to protests and NATO aggression. Mugabe: Your cause was lost when you turned a deaf ear to reform, and your doom was sealed when you turned foreign mercenaries and helicopters against your own people when they raised the call for more freedoms. All of your cabinet was for quick reform and transition. It was your stubbornness and brutality that escalated events. I can no longer sustain my regime by the usual tactics of sending war veterans and the military to rough up MDC supporters. My cabinet equally wants quick reform, with me out of the way. As you should know well, repression has become counterproductive. The only answer, I fear, is peaceful reform and transition to democracy, to spare us a civil war like you allowed to rage in Libya. Gaddafi: No, the answer is more helicopters. Mugabe: Have you still learned nothing from these past nine months? You had let your military decay and kept its command decentralized so that it could not stand against you, creating discontent in the ranks and leading to the defections that turned events from protests to the armed insurrection that threw you out. My military is equally weak and discontented, and everyone knows that I can barely control the war veterans and the anarchy they cause, seizing farms and now trying to take over foreign-owned businesses. I could never respond with force to my opposition—can’t you see that, after what has happened in your country? Gaddafi: Leaders like you and me have no other choice! Your subordinates will never let you step down. Too much patronage would be lost, and NATO and their ICC will never allow you to peacefully seek retirement somewhere. There can be only chaos in Zimbabwe without you. Your military will tear the country apart in their factional strife, as those foolish rebels will destroy themselves and all of Libya soon enough. You must never surrender to the imperialists! Plan A must be to fight and die in Zimbabwe, Plan B must be to fight and die in Zimbabwe, and Plan C must be to fight and die in Zimbabwe! Men such as ourselves may have no future, but we cannot bow to “democracy” and Western aggression. To do so would be to betray our characters! Mugabe: Yes, you’re right. I can never surrender to George Bush and Tony Blair! But what if NATO comes for me? Gaddafi: Don’t worry, I know a place where we can crash in Pyongyang.



Burqa Ban Demands Context of Cultural Values

Malcolm Evans, 2011

Shivani Dave Contributor


ban on wearing burqas and niqabs in France results in a fine of $190 or, if the woman does not remove her covering in public places, lessons in “French citizenship.” Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or burqa will be punishable by a year in prison or a $19,000 fine. While Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark debate passing such legislation, Italy and Belgium have already done so. These laws are designed to emancipate Muslims and save Muslim women from the backward influence of religiously conservative men. According to a 2010 CNN titled “French Senate Approves Burqa Ban,” the French government said the ban was implemented to “ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes” and that this practice, “even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place.” The ban includes the burqa and niqab, but, apparently, excludes the hijab and chador because they do not cover the face. This is clearly a very misconstrued approach to equality. The Qu’ran instructs both men and women to dress in a modest way. It instructs the men to talk to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad behind a hijab, which originally did not refer to an article of clothing but to a spatial curtain that divides or provides privacy. Later, this instruction became more generalized, so as to include all Muslim men and women. At first, only cloaks were worn in public and later, the texts of the fiqh and hadith promoted guidelines for covering the entire female body

except for the hands, feet and face. Some Muslims,however, still believe that the guidelines refer only to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad, and, therefore, do not adopt the dress. Men are also instructed to cover from the navel to the knees and, according to some interpretations, below the knees as well. Today different types of garments are worn including the burqa which covers the entire body with usually only a slit for the eyes, the niqab which is a cloth that covers the entire face, also with only a slit for the eyes; the hijab, on the other hand, covers only the head as a type of shawl, and the chador is more of a cloak that is placed over the woman’s body and manually held closed. The purpose of the such dress it to express modesty and to protect women from indecent acts or thoughts. Rather than enslavement, many Muslim women view it as empowerment. Muslim women cover themselves only in front of men who are not their husbands or direct relatives in order to protect themselves. It is believed that Muslim women should not be looked upon in a sexual manner by anyone other than their husbands. Many women testify that they enjoy dressing modestly because it allows men to pursue them for their mind, personality, and character. In an article by IslamForToday.com by Sumayyah Hussein entitled “Why do Muslim women wear the hijab?” Rema Zawi, age 16, says “you feel modest […] and you feel like you’re covered up. You have more self-respect. You have more confidence in yourself that you don’t need to care about [how] you look.” Others claimed that it gives them an “identity.” They don’t need to

tell people they are Muslim because it is made clear through their dress. Some women feel more comfortable and modest behind a veil. A woman, if she chooses to, should be able to wear her hijab, burka, niqab or chador without feeling uncomfortable in public. If a woman is forced to wear the garment when she does not believe in its ideals, then one can absolutely argue against the custom. The problem arises only when the woman is forced to do something with which she does not agree. Similarly, forcing women not to wear a veil in public is an act of religious persecution. We come full circle when we do not allow women to express their religion on their own terms; we are now just as guilty as the man who forces his wife to be covered. While France and other countries argue that banning the burqa will create equality in public places, it is actually targeting specifically one religious group of people—this is hardly equality. If a woman faces scorn and humiliation for wearing a veil in public, it is the fault of the public and not of the Muslim culture. In a recent political cartoon by Malcolm Evans, a woman wearing a burqa and a woman wearing a bikini are standing side by side. At first glance, one can guess what the general consensus would be: the bikini-clad woman is a strong, independent woman living a life free from constraint and on her own terms. While this may be true, we often fail to see how constrained she actually is. Women wear bikinis, mini skirts, and plunging neck lines because they are proud of their bodies, because they are confident, and because they are determined to not let anyone tell them what they

can and cannot wear. Why are we women not proud of their minds, confident in their personalities, and determined to take a stand against objectification of their bodies? Perhaps, if men were not so preoccupied with double-D’s, long legs, and flat stomachs, there would be fewer women with eating disorders and more self-esteem. We see a woman behind a veil as a woman who is subjected to a “cruel, male-dominated culture.” What we don’t see is that that the covered woman is now being judged for her character, morals, and personality rather than her outfit or her body. Perhaps that is the key to equality in society; a culture where men and women are evaluated on the basis of their minds. We should be able to respect and appreciate both women, and we should be able to understand the mentality behind both types of dress. In the West, we often look at veiled women and feel sorry for them. We assume that the men in their families have forced them to cover their bodies. We judge their husbands as degrading and cruel to their wives and unappreciative of women. The problem truly is one of ignorance, a lack of understanding of others’ culture, and the lack of a desire to discover new things. The image of a self-respecting and confident woman may be one who dresses provocatively because she can, one who walks tall and embraces glances and comments from other men. In Islamic culture, however, this is not the image that many women want to employ. Rather than judging the custom and trying to change it, we should try to understand it and see that it is not misconstrued.



An Introduction to the Philosophical History of Chess
David Gonzalez Contributor

Chess is famous not only for its endurance and depth of strategy, but also for its semblance to ancient and medieval society. People with no familiarity to chess strategy can gauge the individual importance of pawns, knights, and kings. However, chess is not a truly medieval game in many respects. Despite its association with royalty, chess is an egalitarian and utilitarian game. Practiced by many of the great Enlightenment philosophers, chess provided a great medium for showcasing their ideals. One reason why chess was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries was that chess offered philosophers a means of exercising personal agency. Whereas in die-based games, where fate or chance were the primary engines for victory, chess allowed individuals to engage an opponent in an arena where skill was more important than luck. During this time period, some of the first common chess openings were explored—the King’s Gambit, the Sicilian Defense, the Ruy Lopez Opening. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, chess was a favorite study for the nascent field of psychology. Particularly of interest were chess grandmasters that were capable of playing games simultaneously

against several opponents, blindfolded. Vladimir Nabokov studied chess-related psychological issues in works such as The Defense (1930), which explored the possibility of chess leading to mental breakdowns. In The Defense, the main character, Aleksandr Ivanovich Luzhin, spends much time developing a defense against a rival grandmaster in a game that would determine who would face the world champion. During the game, Luzhin sees his carefully calculated defense fail almost immediately, and while the game has no clear victor, Luzhin wanders the world in a surreal state thereafter. Yet to analyze chess as a game, let us begin with an introduction to its origins. Chess’s association with royalty cannot be escaped, yet, in reality, few comparisons can be made between pieces and their historical counterparts. The “back row” pieces on a chessboard, namely, the rooks, knights, bishops, queen, and king, represent the upper crust of medieval society. However this comparison is not only limited, but also superficial, making any far reaching comparisons between pieces and their real world counterparts a dubious task. What we can do is look at these pieces collectively as the first and second estates. There is a hierarchy of piece value, with each piece’s movement patterns rigid-

ly fixed. A bishop can never switch colors, the knight must always move to a different colored square, and the king must consider its safety the top priority. However, no piece can exert lasting control without pawn support. In fact, the arrangement of pawns dictates the course of the game. Pawns hem in the rooks during the beginning of the game, keeping them from exerting their maximum influence, bishops have limited mobility if the pawns do not form openings to let them out, and knights can be forced to the edge by ambitious pawns eager for space in the center. Even the near-invincible queen cannot threaten an entire army without help from her subjects. A queen that tries to pick apart an enemy single-handedly usually ends up trapped, isolated, and under attack. The greedy monarch usually snatches a sickly pawn, but then realizes that the remaining pawns form the skeleton of a deadly snare. Finally, the king, for all its prestige and glory, is subject to protection from its pawns. Without the cover they provide the patriarch is at the mercy of his opponent’s assault. In this very basic illustration of the social contract, the pawns dictate the monarch’s course of action. In contrast to the large pieces, pawns are dynamic and paradoxical. They are individually weakest entities on the board,

but they are the most numerous and they dictate how the other pieces should maneuver. Unlike the other pieces, pawns do not want their course to be fixed, they constantly switch columns and inch towards the others side of the board, dreaming of being promoted to a more powerful piece. At the end of a game, when the king is no longer capable of being checkmated by the remaining pieces on the board, the pawns quickly become the focus. The player who can promote his pawns first usually obtains victory. As David Schenk argues in The Immortal Game (2006), chess is “the epitome of meritocracy” where victory is determined on “the basis of skill.” Opportunities are afforded to each player with only a slight advantage for white (which always move first) in non-competitive circles; no die rolls or obscenely unbalanced elements allow one player to dominate an opponent of equal caliber. As for the gameplay itself, utility is the ultimate factor in making a move. Therefore, sacrificing stronger pieces for ones of lesser value is perfectly feasible as long as it leads to the capture of the enemy king. Robert James Fischer, the first American World Champion, who traded a queen for three smaller pieces and dominated the board, demonstrated this principle in a famous game known as “The Game of the Century.” Ultimately, in chess, no title exempts a piece from its duty. A clever player pretending to be a chess-playing automaton known as “The Turk” bested even Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte, two of the most brilliant minds in history. Hence, chess depends on the dedication and the talent put forth, never on the social or class status of the players or on the archaic social structure that chess seems to embody.

Answers to Chess Puzzle


Black to move, checkmate in 6.


White ------Pxe6 Rf7 Kf8 Ke8 Kf8

Black Pxe6+ Bxe6+ Ne7+ Ng6+ Rh8+ Rxf8++



Madeleine Morris & Pavel Shchyhelski