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Vol. 14 Issue 4February 2015
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 2
From the editors:The hill Our February cover story examines the similarities between the Russian economic crisis of 1998 and the tumbling rouble today. We also take a broader look at Russian foreign policy, including relations with Latin America (pg. 4) and provide a snapshot of Sino-Russian relations (pg. 11). Zach Williams lays out potential obstacles to improving US-Cuban relations in the wake of President Obamas announcement in Decem-ber 2014 (pg. 8). In our national section Tess Landon explains some of the ongoing partisan battles over education reform and changes to the NCLB standards set under President Bush (pg. 17). We hope you enjoy reading our latest issue and as
always we welcome your comments and engagement.
-Jon Buchleiter and Brian Bartholomew
Carolina Political Review
Vol. 14 Issue 4
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3 The Hill Political Review January 2015
TABLE OF CONTENTS:international:Putin on TourUS-Cuban RelationsReligious Tensions in FrancePower Struggle in NigeriaChinese-Russian RelationsParty Like Its 1998?
national:Impact of Falling Oil PricesProsecuting PetraeusCommunity College ProposalFight Over Overhauling NCLBGOP Presidential CampsIndictment in Ferguson
perspectives:A Love StoryTheory in PracticeTerrorism TodayTwo Cents
state and local:NC Democratic Party Common Core in NC
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 4
Perhaps the country most studied during the Cold War show-down, Russia has been negligent towards Cuba since the late 90s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba suffered a great economic blow that sent the country looking for other in-vestment partners and opening tourism to foreigners. Howev-er, in July 2014, Putin stepped in Havana, met with the Castro brothers, and announced the loan-forgiveness of the islands $32 billion dollar in debt to Russia. The impact of the Obama administrations recent decision to normalize diplomatic re-lations with Cuba on Russias influence remains to be seen.
The country is now in the opening stage of building the Nicara-guan canal, which will challenge the monopoly of the Panama Canalan engineering feat of the early 20th century financed by the United States. China has agreed to pay for most of the costs in exchange for extracting the majority of the canals future rev-enues. In 2014, the country received a Russian head of state for the first time in its history, as Vladimir Putin offered financial aid to the ambitious project. In the international context, Nic-aragua sided with Russia in the latters annexation of Crimea.
In recent weeks, President Nicolas Maduro embarked on a worldwide tour as he tried to save the country from eco-nomic collapse. Plummeting oil prices, coupled with run-away inflation and complex exchange rates have put the country on the brink of bankruptcy. Maduro visited Moscow to request emergency funds and convince Russia to invest more inside Venezuela. At first, the South-American digni-tary was not even received by President Putin, but rather a deputy-foreign ministerclearly a disinterested reception for the Venezuelan delegation. However, Maduro returned a week later and was greeted by Putin after he had travelled to China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. According to unofficial reports, Russia agreed to expand investment in oil explora-tion and shared strategies to combat the falling of oil prices.
SOURCE: BLOG DE PANALTO
5 The Hill Political Review January 2015
Putin On Tour RuSsia Revisits Relations With Latin America
Javier Zurita Staff Writer
In both the rouble crisis of the late 90s and the cur-rent recession, Russia has tried to exert its influence
in Latin America despite financial short-comings. During the Cold War, the
U.S. and U.S.S.R. competed for control over this region.
Both countries funneled
money and intelligence into bitter conflicts, such as the Cuban Revolution, right-wing military dictator-ships or leftist revolutionary insurgencies, and neolib-eral policies or communist economies. Now, in the 21st century, Russia faces similar challenges from its tradi-tional opponents, but also a new challenge with Chi-nas emergence in the regions geopolitical relations.
In the aftermath of revelations that accused the U.S. Na-tional Security Agency of spying on foreign leaders, in-cluding Brazils Dilma Roussef, relations between the U.S. and Brazil have faltered. Subsequently, Putin came in 2014 to visit Latin Americas largest economy. The two leaders announced plans to build a $1 billion anti-aircraft mis-sile system. The meeting also coincided with the BRICS meetingBrazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africaduring which each country announced to contribute $10 billion for the establishment of a shared development bank.
The headquarters of the BRIC bank will be in Shanghai and not Moscowan unimaginable move thirty years ago when Russian influence still permeated throughout the re-gion. During the 20th century, Latin America was inspired by the propagation of communist ideology and the promise of the Russian Revolution. However, this new millennium has been marked with the rise of Chinawhich is more interested in deepening economic ties, not creating social tumult by opposing the U.S. in key foreign policy decisions.
Russia and Argentina have both faced internation-al setbacks, the former in the form of economic sanc-tions, and the latter with a U.S. Court of Appeals deci-sion that forced the country to repay its debt to foreign creditors, mostly American firms that purchased gov-ernments bonds in 2002. Putin visited Argentina to discuss debt-restructuring strategies and nuclear en-ergy agreements in the backdrop of an alliance that de-nounces foreign involvement into national economies.
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 6
Future of the democratic party in North Carolina
state and local
By Michael ShanahanStaff writer
The Democratic Party stands at a ma-jor crossroads in North Carolina. Re-cent losses in congressional and state elections coupled with the flow of older, white voters towards the Republicans demonstrate a concerning trend.
The main focus of this decline is cen-tered on the clash between 21st century liberal, democratic views and the deeply rooted southern culture and values of North Carolina. The national platform has focused on reforming healthcare entailing increased spending, but a large portion of older, white North Carolin-ians have begun to push back.
The major issues in this seemingly ir-reconcilable battle between Democratic views and Southern Culture surround-ing gun laws, religion, and government spending. While democratic representa-tives from North Carolina have felt pres-sured by the national party to support further regulation on gun ownership, popular opinion and the NC General Assembly has strongly opposed such efforts. North Carolina House Bill 937 from 2013 demonstrated this growing tension as it relaxed rather than tight-ened requirements for owning and car-rying firearms.
These two parties have come into con-flict over religion as well. Attempts by Democrats across the country to change guidelines for school prayer and other public religious demonstrations have met considerable resistance in North Carolina. This issue has become a ma-jor focal point of many local, state, and national representative elections within
North Carolina. The battle over religion reached fever point in 2013 when, in an unprecedented move, a bill was filed in the state house in an attempt to create a state religion. While this is a somewhat radical example, it does demonstrate the level of contention over this issue.
A poignant example of the challenges for the Democratic party in North Car-olina is the defeat of incumbent Demo-cratic Senator Kay Hagan to Republican challenger Senator Thom Tillis last fall. While many point to the apparent lack of voter turnout from the democratic, changing preference in the NC elector-ate also likely played a role.
Linked to controversial policies pro-moted by President Obama, Kay Hagan was unable to come over the liability of being tied to a president with sagging approval ratings during the election. Hagans support for the Affordable Care Act and other areas of expanded spending proved con-siderably damaging. Many Republicans and conservatives in North Carolina viewed her to be a supporter of poli-cies that increased the role of the government and featured wasteful spending. These two political labels are historically regarded as devastating in southern elections.
Hagans loss to Tillis also stemmed from a six year trend of older, white voters leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP. These voters who encapsulate traditional Southern, North Carolin-ian values voted overwhelmingly for
Thom Tillis. Those conservative Dem-ocrats still remaining in the party were not incentivized to vote for Hagen even though they might have opposed Thom Tillis and the majority of his platform.
Kay Hagans loss demonstrates the chal-lenges for the Democratic Party in North Carolina and the prospects for Republi-can dominance in the near future. There is strong debate within media circles and the Democratic Party surrounding the question of what the next move should be for party in North Carolina and the South. Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast recently wrote, At the congressio-nal level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the [South] based on the seemingly irrepa-rable conflict between Democratic views and current popular sentiment.
Others have seen this as an opportunity to reinvest and refocus in North Carolina, as well as a period for the potential reemergence of the Blue Dogs. This conservative faction of the party was extreme-ly prominent during the majority of the 20th century when Demo-crats had a firm grasp on North Carolina and
the rest of the South. Many analysts and party member see the Blue Dogs as the potential bridge between the nation-al Democratic Party and conservative North Carolinian culture. This is a cru-cial period for Democrats in the North Carolina with future midterm elections relying on the response of the Demo-cratic Party.
kay hagans loss demonstrates...the prospects for republican
dominance in the near future.
7 The Hill Political Review January 2015
COMMON CORE in NCJohn HessStaff Writer
In 2009, results from the Programme for International Student Assessment sent educators scrambling for answers as to whyout of thirty-four coun-triesstudents from the United States were positioned 14th in reading and 25th in math proficiency. Called an absolute wake-up call at the time by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, many experts cited a lack of consis-tency across state borders in education standards as a major cause of falling levels of achievement among American students.
Ensuing discussions about the need for standardizedor at the least, con-sistentlearning checkpoints among state school superintendents and gov-ernors yielded the framework known as the Common Core State Standards. Forty-five states, in addition to Wash-ington, DC and several territories, have taken up the standards as a way to boost student performance.
Common Core experienced push-back from many conservatives discom-forted by the idea of federal overreach in a perceived violation of states rights. Through heated na-tional debate, Common Core became a contest-ed issueeven among early supporters. Some of the staunchest backers of President Obamas 2012 reelec-tion bid, such as the National Education As-sociation (NEA), fear a rehashing of President Bushs No Child Left Behind program. Many of Com-mon Cores present critics simply fear the uncertainty of uncharted territory.
Among the first of the forty-five states which joined together to both create and adopt the standards, North Car-olina has since been near the front of
the effort to amend them. Legislation pushed by conservative members of the NC Legislature aimed at repeal spawned instead a commission to re-view the standards and recommend potential changes; however, most par-ties agree that the $66 million spent by the NC Department of Education to train 100,000 teachers on the original Common Core standards has made the implementation of Common Core a major investment by the state.
Concern for the well-being of their stu-dents has some teach-ers in NC thinking long-termand high stakes. As one high school teacher put it, I thought [the stan-dards] were a road mapa guide to where the teacher could take the class. The stakes
changed when my performance as a teacher was determined by students scores.
Despite some claims, the belief re-mains that challenging students to read and reason is a goal that reaches far be-yond Common Core. Supporters argue
that as math and English proficiency continue to become more important in a globalizing world, it gets harder to ig-nore poor performance among Ameri-can students. With the states releaseof a set of clear and consistent academic standards, our nation is one step closer to supporting effective teaching in ev-ery classroom, charting a path to col-lege and careers for all students, and developing the tools to help all children stay motivated and engaged in their own education, said philanthropist Bill Gates. The more states that adopt these college and career based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innova-tion across state borders and becoming more competitive as a country.
Whether Common Core standards are the right choice for both the nation and North Carolina remains to be seen, but some action must be takenafter all, said Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) to the NC commission charged with re-viewing the standards in the state, Our kids are depending on you.
North Carolina has been near
the front of the effort to amend
state and local
SOURCE: ALAN LEVINE
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 8
close but no [ ] cigarobstacles to normalized cuban-american relations
c u b a n
By Zachary WilliamsStaff writer
In a change from over fifty years of Cold War-era policy, the United States and Cuba agreed to resume a diplomatic rela-tionship in December. President Obama and the Castro regime reached a tentative deal that would establish formal embas-sies in both countries and exchange polit-ical prisoners. The deal would also reduce travel restrictions between the countries and allow American travelers to more eas-ily purchase Cuban goods. Justifying the new policy, Obama argued that attempts to impose change upon Cuba by isolation have failed, and that it does not serve Americas interests, or the Cuban peo-ple, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. There is considerable disagreement on this point, most importantly in Congress, which will likely minimize the degree of change to U.S.-Cuba relations.
No matter what the executive branch agrees to, American trade sanctions on Cuba can only legally end through legis-lative action. Six federal statutes currently enforce the embargo, and the G.O.P.-con-trolled Congress is reluctant to repeal or modify them. Libertarian-leaning Rand Paul (R-KY) supports a move toward Cuban engagement, partly because an-ti-American propaganda will lose its power if the U.S. is an ally of Cuba instead of an enemy. Paul is a minority within the party; most Republicans publicly de-nounce the policy change. Cuban-Amer-ican legislators Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Blart have labelled the negotiation an act of ill-advised appeasement.
There seems to be a near-consensus that opening trade with Cuba will help both countries economies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a perennial supporter of Republican candidates for office, heart-ily endorses the prospect of trade with Cuba. The primary issue among Repub-lican lawmakers is Cubas lack of democ-
racy and abysmal track record on human rights. This was evident in Januarys State of the Union Address by Speaker John Boehners choice of guest: Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, an anti-Castro activist who spent seventeen years in prison for his ac-tions. Perez contends that the U.S. should not re-engage in Cuban commerce since the stronger the [Castro] regime be-comes economically because of invest-ment, the weaker the resistance becomes. Polls conducted by Gallup and others in-dicate that a majority of Americans favor normalized relations with our Caribbean neighbor, Republicans may denounce re-lations with the current regime, in part, to appeal to Cuban Floridians. A notori-ous swing state, Florida is also home to two presidential frontrunners for 2016, Jeb Bush and Rubio. Many Republicans will think twice before contradicting the pro-embargo, anti-diplomacy stance in regards to Cuba.
The Castro regime is urging the U.S. to end the wet foot, dry foot policy, a rule that grants the opportunity for American citizenship to any Cuban refugee who sets foot on American soil. Ending the rule would trap dissatisfied Cubans on the island but also discourage a danger-ous 90-mile trip across the Florida Strait.
Raul Castro further demands the return of theGuantanamoBay military base to Cuba and assurances against American intervention on domestic issues. Also compounding the negotiations is Cubas presence on the State Departments short list of countries involved in state-spon-sored terrorism. The United States alleges that the island nation harbors Basque and Colombian terrorist groups. Cuba must repair its reputation for the U.S. to remove sanctions that categorically prevent it from exporting stateside and from receiv-ing foreign aid.
The embargo will likely remain in place for many years to come. The most im-mediate question is whether Congress will grant funding for the agreed-upon embassies. Rubio, Senator Lindsey Gra-ham, and many others, have vowed to op-pose all funding for an embassy in Cuba. Christopher Sabatini, policy director of the Americas Society, argues that the em-bassy funding battle is mere political the-ater, considering that the US maintains an informal embassy in Havana called the Interests Section. Nonetheless, the re-sult of the Congressional vote on embassy funding should provide a good indication of whether substantial changes to Cuban policy are feasible.
SOURCE: STEWART CUTLER
9 The Hill Political Review January 2015
By Connor CookeStaff writer
With the recent attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamic extremists, already strained re-lations between French Muslims and non-Muslims have become even tenser. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, polarization between an increasingly populist France and its marginalized Muslim population is growing, as vio-lent actions of a few continue to hamper the assimilation of Muslim immigrants as a whole into French culture. Uneasy relations between the two groups can be traced back to French colonialism in North Africa, but more recently this fric-tion has arisen from difficulties related to the integration of Muslim immigrants into French society. France has the larg-est number of Muslim immigrants in Western Europe, accounting for 7 to 10 percent of the overall population.
Successful immigration and integra-tion into French society is difficult in and of itself. According to Dr. Rahsaan Maxwell, an Associate Professor of Po-litical Science at UNC who specializ-es in the politics of ethnic, racial, reli-gious, and immigrant-origin minorities in Western Europe, some of the factors generating tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims are due to Frances tradition of laicit, which calls for the re-ligious neutrality of the state.
Frances secular tradition, called lacit, stems from the French Revolution and emphasizes secularism of the state, guar-antees the freedom of religious exercise, and prohibits public funding of religion, among other things. Lacit is extreme-ly resistant to attempts by religious mi-norities to be recognized on the basis of their religion, and presents a significant cultural difference for devout Muslims living in a secular society. Although the French government did create a council in 1989 to help accommodate Muslims through the construction of mosques, the training of imams, and halal butch-
ery, Muslims today are quick to point out Jews have established their own pri-vate schools and communities, while Muslims lack such infrastructure and, with the exception of one private Mus-lim school, must attend secular schools where religion is mentioned merely as a sociological phenomenon.
Furthermore, a 2004 law reversed a rul-ing the hijab could be worn in schools, and expanded restrictions it to any sign that could conspicuously reveal re-ligious affiliation. The integration of Muslim immigrants has been impeded by lacit and because of cultural shock and the lack of established Muslim infra-structure, but also because rulings like the 2004 law have created the sentiment among French Muslims that lacit is be-ing used to discriminate against them.
The integration of Muslim immigrants is hamstrung by widespread discrimina-tion in France. An experiment conduct-ed by the French think tank Observa-toire des Discriminations, which studies discrimination in the workplace, found that of two identical ap-plicants, the applicant whose name sounded Moroccan was six times less likely to get an inter-view than the applicant whose name sounded Franco-French. Of six factors tested, only be-ing disabled was more penalizing than being of North African descent. Additionally, a 2010 Stanford University study found Muslims are 2.5 times less likely than Christians to receive a positive response on their applications, while monthly sal-aries for Muslims are on average 400 eu-ros less than those of Christians.
The combination of discrimination and a struggling French economy means Muslims are economically marginalized compared to the non-Muslim popula-tion. While Frances unemployment rate
hovers around ten percent, the rate of Muslims is around thirty percent. Tem-porary housing originally built in order to accommodate the baby boomers of the 1960s has since been occupied by immigrants, creating slums on the pe-riphery of cities known as banlieues. In addition, Muslims make up around fifty percent of the prison population, an important statistic when taking into ac-count French prisons have been found to be hotbeds for the birth of Islamic radi-calization. The discrimination against and the economic marginalization of Muslims compounds the difficulties of integration by causing resentment, wid-ening polarization, and even radicaliza-tion of both Muslims and the far right in France.
Despite these factors, Muslim immi-grants have shown committed willing-ness to assimilate and adopt French culture. According to the Conseil Suprieur de lAudiovisuel, 68 percent of Muslims in France support the sep-aration of church and state, and most
Muslims have adopted French cultural norms. A 2004 CSA poll found 90 percent of Muslim respondents support-ed gender equality and other French republican values.
While these statistics imply assimilation is proceeding successfully, a slow economy coupled with leftover tensions and prejudices from the end of French colonial-ism in North Africa has
led to discrimination and distrust be-tween both groups. Now, with the rise of Islamophobia across the Western world, full assimilation and socioeconomic mobility is becoming much harder to achieve. As Dr. Maxwell pointed out, it is not clear how one can be Muslim AND French, so many people feel like they are forced to choose.
muslim and non-muslim relations in france
it is not clearhow one can be
muslim andfrench, so many people feel likethey are forced
to choose.-dr. rahsaan maxwell
unc political science professor
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 10
nigerian power struggleinternational
By Meredith AllenStaff writer
Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group based in northeast Nigeria, has utilized brutal tactics such as kidnapping and killing in the name of Islam with the intent of undermining the power of the Nigerian government. Despite their re-cent notoriety in the press, the group formed in 2002, and has persisted in its opposition to the government and West-ern education.
Nigeria is Africas most populated country, with 174 million residents, and also one of its most impoverished. De-spite being the second largest economy on the continent, 72 percent of those living in the north of the country live in poverty, compared to only 27 percent of Nigerians in the south. The large degree of poverty can be partially attributed to a small sector of the population possessing a sizeable degree of Nigerias oil, which is located in the south of the nation.
The widespread poverty in the north has enable Boko Harams rise. John Campbell, of the Council on Foreign Relations, notes that, As social and eco-nomic conditions deteriorate, public, if not support, sympathy...seems to have increased. The greatest advantage to the insurgent campaign may be the very government they are combating.
The government of Nigeria transi-tioned from military rule to civilian rule in 1999. Since the transition, the civilian government, like their military prede-cessors, has left the population wanting. The government of President Goodluck Jonathan is notorious for corruption and favoring the south of Nigeria due to the concentration of wealth and oil revenue there. According to Dr. Navin Bapat, an Associate Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, The governments army is not terribly functional and also suffers from internal corruption and a willingness to abuse civilians. [Boko Ha-rams] ability to defeat the governments
military force and operate with impuni-ty is alarming.
Amnesty International claims the Ni-gerian police are responsible for hun-dreds of extrajudicial killings and disap-pearances each year. Those crimes have not been investigated, nor have the offi-cers responsible been charged. The Joint Task Force, (JTF), has also been accused of wrongdoing. The JTF was created to combat Boko Haram, but may be un-wittingly galvanizing support for the insurgent group due to its unnecessary murder of civilians.
The insurgents struggle is not only one of radical Islamists whose primary concern is ridding Nigeria of western education. Boko Haram is strategically fighting to alter the balance of power. The group and others in northern Ni-geria no longer want to be victims of police bribes, extrajudicial killings dealt out by the police and the JTF, and dearth of political participation in the national government.
The lack of consideration for the plight of northern Nigeria regarding the cor-
ruption of the government has lead Boko Haram to seek support from other insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda. This third party intervention of such insur-gent groups on behalf of Boko Haram, and of Western nations on behalf of the Nigeria government, further reduces each groups willingness to make con-cessions that could lead to peace.
Based off of the precedent established by the government of Nigeria, Boko Haram and northern civilians face a commitment problem. Supposing the government begins peace talks with the insurgents, Boko Haram cannot be cer-tain there will be representation for the north and a reduction of injustices in-flicted by government forces. However, successful channels of communication have been created between Boko Haram and both the Cameroonian and Nigeri-an governments to organize the transfer of hostages. These channels offer the greatest opportunity for peace negotia-tions and settlement. Nonetheless, Boko Haram will desire government reform and concessions before negotiation.
11 The Hill Political Review January 2015
is china the tovarishch?
the friendshipbetween chinaand russia has
been temporaryand situational
in the past...
By Henry LiStaff writer
Facing international isolation and sanc-tions from the West, Russia is desperate-ly seeking to secure new allies. Putin has even reached out to Kim Jong-un, the worlds most secluded politician, who received an invitation to an upcoming parade in Moscow. Putting the official purpose of Kims upcoming trip aside, it is too early to tell whether any politi-cal or economic dialogue between North Korea and Russia can come to fruition. China was also invited and Xi Jinping shared a stage with Putin at least five times in 2014. Speculations indicating a renewed Russo-Chinese alliance are swirling in Eastern and Western media outlets, especially as increasing numbers of natural gas and crude oil are scheduled to be shipped across Siberia into China proper. Yet further analysis of the history of Russo-Chinese relations, Arctic expe-dition, and the rise of Chinese xenopho-bia in Russia could prove otherwise.
While the U.S. attempts to strengthen relations with Chinas neighbors, Russia also aims to keep healthy ties with many of these countries. Despite ongoing ter-ritorial disputes with Japan, the Kremlin has had a working relationship with To-kyo on joint energy exploration in Sibe-ria. Looking southward, Russia is seeking assis-tance in collective secu-rity from India, whose military is equipped with the most up-to-date Russian armories, a lux-ury that Russia offered to China only reluctant-ly. Muscovite military strategists have noted many of the ammunitions sold to Chi-na are deployed along the Sino-Russian border, indicating a significant lack of trust between the two militaries. Histo-ry shows that since the downfall of the Soviet Union, Russia has not sided with
China regarding the latters territorial disputes with its neighbors. The Rus-sians have bitter memories with the Chi-nese regarding borders, land and sover-eignty. One of the most salient causes of the 1960s Sino-Soviet split was Chinas reluctance to agree to Moscows sugges-tion of a combined naval fleet, which the-oretically would have subjected a Chi-nese warm-water port to Soviet control. Beijings position softened in 1990s, and it ceased claims over northern territories lost to Siberia. In exchange, Russia stood behind China when Sino-U.S. relations went through a difficult period at the turn of the millennium.
The friendship between China and Russia has been temporary and situa-tional in the past, as most of their collab-orations have been based primarily on short-term geopolitical interests. Today, the Russians and the Chinese inevitably share a mutual interest in the Arctic, due to Chinas unmatched growth in energy consumption as well as Western sanc-tions on Russia. According to a 2008 study by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic accounts for 13 percent of the worlds undiscovered oil, 20 percent of its undiscovered natural gas liquids, and 30 percent of its undiscovered nat-ural gas. These percentages translate to an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil, 44
billion barrels of natural gas liquids, in addition to 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. For China, their current energy solutions - the inroad imports from Russia and maritime imports from the Mid-dle East are pricy and risky, partly due to po-
litical instabilities in both areas. An oil trade route beginning in the Arctic would bring energy diversity and security to China. With Exxon, Eni and Statoil pull-ing out of operations in northern Russia amidst Western sanctions, Russian firms
are looking southward for financial and technological partners. Because of West-ern sanctions, Russias lack of alternative partners puts China at an advantageous position in most negotiations, and the Chinese are fearless in playing hardball in energy deals reached with Russians since the conception of the Crimean cri-sis.
An increasingly demanding China would not be perceived well in Russia, especially when the Russian economy is sliding downhill. For the most of the 20th century, the Soviet Union and later Rus-sia were unwilling to be Chinas junior partner by having little to no bargaining power. The 1960s debate between Mao and Khrushchev, a match between a ris-ing power and an aging power within the communist bloc made China a contender to Russian supremacy in the Far East.
Russia currently sends 8.1 percent of its exports to China, while 15 percent of its imports come from this neighbor. Both governments want to see their volume of trade grow, but a feeble ruble is already driving Chinese real estate investors and shoe merchants out of Moscow. For the Russian government, granting vacant Siberian lands to Russian developers free of charge might in theory attract wealthy immigrants from China, but the latter may find language barriers and the harsh climate unpleasant.
If attracting Chinese investment is a goal, the Russian government may make practical use of Putins positive image in China Putin is admired for his strong leadership and anti-Western nationalism. Chinese citizens have been calling for a stronger and more charismatic leader for decades, and Putins machismo, includ-ing his pet Siberian tigers, have made him a pop star in China. Time will tell whether a Russo-Chinese alliance will be realized despite the difficulties of se-curing an alliance amidst a rocky history between the two nations, friction per-taining to Arctic oil, and rising xenopho-bia in Russia.
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 12
By Colin KantorStaff writer
During his remarks at the World Eco-nomic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 23, 2015, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov promised that ordinary citizens will remain strong in the face of an increasingly worry-ing economic downturn. Shuvalov was particularly insistent that support for Russias President, Vladimir Putin, fac-es no challenge. [A Russian] will never give up his leader, he said, Never. We will survive any hardship in the coun-try eat less food, use less electricity.
This type of framework when speaking about the current situation in Russia, seemingly implying there is much more at stake than simply a rapidly devaluing currency, has become increasingly com-mon in recent weeks as more interna-tional attention is drawn towards Mos-cow. Some observers, both in Russia and elsewhere, have drawn comparisons to the Russian economic collapse of 1998, which saw widespread socio-economic as well as political effects with the even-tual resignation of then-president Bo-ris Yeltsin. Some wonder if Putin, who succeeded Yeltsin in the wake of that crisis and steered Russia back on track over the next decade, will face a chal-lenge of his own in the coming months.
There are strong similarities between the currency collapse of 1998 and the current situation in Russia. Most im-mediately, the problems of 1998 were linked to the falling price worldwide of oil, a commodity heavily linked to the value of the Russian currency because of Russias robust energy industry and its vast natural resources. This devaluation then tanked the government and private firms ability to pay off foreign loans, be-cause those loans had to be paid in dol-lars and rubles were worth less and less against the dollar. The government ran out of reserves of more stable foreign
currencies and was unable to pay off its debts, resulting in default. Inflation rose rapidly as purchasing power decreased, leaving many ordinary Russians with-out the means to support themselves, as an estimated one-third of the pop-ulation fell below the poverty line.
There were other contributing factors as well. In 1997, a financial crisis had hit many nations of East and South-east Asia, prompting global interven-tion via the IMF and triggering fears of a worldwide economic collapse. The shockwaves of those events are thought to have precipitated the sinking price of oil, which had far-reaching effects as demonstrated above. Russia was also dealing with the aftermath of a costly war in Chechnya, a breakaway Cauca-sian republic with a distinct ethnic and religious identity. Though the war had ended in 1996, widespread devastation of urban areas like the capital, Gro-znyy, and displacement of thousands of refugees would turn Chechnya into a Russian reconstruction project un-til hostilities broke out anew in 1999.
At first glance, parallels to todays sit-uation are numerous. Since reaching their peak near $100 per barrel in July 2014, crude oil prices have plummeted over 50 percent and remain under $50 per barrel as of mid-January 2015. The corresponding devaluation of the ruble is about the same: from its July 2014 val-ue of around 33 rubles to the dollar, as of mid-January the exchange rate hov-ered around 64 rubles to the dollar, up slightly in value in recent weeks but still approximately a 50 percent drop for the period as a whole. Russias ruble-denom-inated debt is valued around $11 billion, while its dollar-based debt is over five times that at $60 billion. The debts of state-controlled energy conglomerates like Rosneft and Gazprom is also cause for concern, as these companies have become increasingly tied to the state and also have accrued large foreign debts.
Russia is also dealing with the after-math of military action in Crimea, and allegations of continued involvement in the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine between the government and separat-ists. The key difference to note here, however, between the First Chechen War and Russian actions in Crimea, is Russias current intervention has drawn condemnation from the international community. Russias belligerent actions inspired economic sanctions against the government as well as banks and busi-ness with state ties that seem to be tak-ing a toll on Russias economy as a whole. These sanctions have blocked interna-
party like its 1998?
13 The Hill Political Review January 2015
the parallels between russias economic crises then and now
tional investment in Russia and made it increasingly difficult for affected entities to access credit and currency from out-side the country. Thus the government is increasingly responsible for keeping the ruble afloat and supporting the domes-tic economy through its own reserves of foreign currency, which in January 2015 fell 2 percent in just one week.
At the same time, the Russian econo-my is unquestionably stronger than it was before the onset of the 1998 disas-ter. Though Russias balance of trade is still substantially reliant on oil and gas, it has increased its sources of export reve-nue through a variety of agreements and
deals to bring Russian energy to places like Turkey and Vietnam. The creation of the Eurasian Customs Union, seen by some as an attempt to rival the Euro-pean Union, has brought Russian trade ties with neighbors like Belarus and Kazakhstan closer as well. Russias gov-ernment is also in a far better position to weather the rubles free-fall than it was in 1998; reserves of foreign currency stood at about $400 billion at the begin-ning of 2015, a far cry from the mere $16 billion that was available 17 years ago.
The biggest remaining uncertainty in todays situation is what the political consequences might be. Russias 1998
collapse proved to be the last straw for public support of Yeltsin, whose ap-proval ratings had fallen into the sin-gle digits. President Putin, on the oth-er hand, has retained robust support from the Russian people. A December poll found two-thirds of respondents saw the West as belligerent towards Russia, and that sentiment seems to be buoying support of Putin. Mr. Shu-valovs comments indicate Putin would have little to fear in terms of losing support, but if the situation continues to spiral out of control, the chances Yeltsins successor might have to face a challenge of his own seem ever higher.
SOURCE: NGOZIKA NWOKO
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 14
price at the pump plummetswho wins and who loses?
By David PingreeDirector of PR
Since last June, American con-sumers have benefited from low-er gas prices at the pump; Amer-ican crude oil prices have fallen by more than 50 percent to where they now stand at $46.88 a barrel at the time this article was written.
As a result, the Federal Energy Information Administration has es-timated that the typical American household will save around $750 this year because of lower gasoline pric-es. In addition, those that use home heating oil or propane are project-ed to save another $750 this win-ter, the New York Times reported.
It may not have a huge effect on the top 10 percent of households, but if youre earning $30,000 or $40,000 a year and drive to work, this is a big deal, Guy Berger, Unit-ed States economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, told The New York Times. Conceptually, this is the opposite of the stock market boom, which was concentrated at the top.
The seven-month fall in oil prices is due to several factors, including less demand in Europe, increased en-ergy efficiency and a surge in Amer-ican production of oil and natural gas, largely the result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Since early 2013, the United States has produced 1 million to 2 million barrels of oil per day, Business Insider reported. Across the Atlantic, the Eurozone, in contrast, has seen its economy stag-nate and has witnessed a decrease in demand for oil and natural gas.
In addition, Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC havent agreed to raise oil prices, which
would greatly boost their revenues. Experts believe that Saudi Arabias decision to keep prices low is to hurt other oil exporting countries, particularly Russia and Iran, ac-cording to The Economist. The In-ternational Monetary Fund expects that Saudi Arabia will need to keep oil prices at $91 a barrel in order to balance its budget in the long run.
Some geopolitical analysts be-lieve that the decrease in oil pric-es could reign in aggressive pow-ers such as Russia and Iran, whose economies are heavily dependent on the exportation of oil and natu-ral gas. Other experts, however, fear that Russia and other vulnerable states could lash out in desperation.
The impact on the United States economy is mixed because the coun-try is the worlds largest producer, importer and consumer. Obviously, the people who buy when the pric-es are low are the winners. If youre a consumer and not otherwise af-fected, then you gain, said Richard Froyen, professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If youre an oil pro-ducer then most likely youre los-ing some are losing more than others. If you are just getting into producing then you lose a lot. Com-panies like [Exxon-Mobil] will see their profits go down but then they will go back up. Theyre losing but theyre not a big loser.
Areas such as west Texas and North Dakota, which heavily invest-ed in the fracking boom over the past few years, are now beginning to feel the negative effects of the drop in oil and gas prices. Companies that produce fracking equipment and supplies are also feeling economic
constraints. Fracking and oil wells are expensive, you get little right away, said Professor Froyen. Its not worth doing if marginal cost is re-
ally high and its going to last long. Clearly, the American consum-
er benefits greatly from the re-duced prices, especially consum-ers with lower income. Although producers are temporarily hurt by the low oil prices, the price will most likely readjust in the future.
SOURCE: DAVID WRIGHT
15 The Hill Political Review January 2015
some worry about the dangerousprecedent that is set when a high-ranking official is simply let off easyfor carelessly disclosing documents.
By Jacob JohnsonStaff writer
Recently, cyber security has become a hot button issue in the news. It seems ev-ery other day anonymous hackers swipe social security and credit card numbers from major corporations. However, on-line duplicity did not play a role in the case of General David H. Petraeus. The US Governments recent security leaks occurred in a far more traditional and less technical manner. From September 2011 until around August 2012 the for-mer four-star general and CIA director shared much more than emails with his biographer, Pauala Broadwell. Unfor-tunately, the emails shared between the two may be more damaging than the affair itself. The FBI discovered classi-fied military documents in exchang-es between the pair. Now, the current debate revolves around the numerous arguments for and against prosecuting the disgraced General.
Before this unfortunate indiscretion, General Petreaus has had an impec-cable record. He was the senior com-mander in Iraq in 2007 and was largely responsible for the surge in American troops that helped stabilize the country
enough for the withdrawal of troops in 2010. Following his success in Iraq, he received multiple calls for him to run for high office.
Now, General Petraeus fate lies in the hands of US Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder, who has a reputation for keen action against government officials who reveal secrets, has prose-cuted more potential leaks than any all of his predecessors combined. Holders decision to prosecute was expected be-fore the end of the year but has since been delayed.
Petraeus supporters believe the affair is just a minor hiccup in an otherwise stellar career. Many argue that the leak did nothing to affect national security. Furthermore, government officials reg-ularly leak information for a variety of reasons ranging from testing the pop-ularity of a policy to undermining the policies of an opponent. While the gov-ernment should not be leaking docu-ments at all, it is not as if a minor leak is an infrequent occurrence. Additionally, there is the question of how top secret these documents really are. As many as 1.4 million people in the U.S. have ac-cess to tens of millions of top-secret documents.
On the other side, some worry about the dangerous precedent that is set when a high-ranking official is simply let off easy for carelessly disclosing doc-uments. Numerous lower ranking gov-ernment officials have received much harsher punishments then mere public embarrassment. For example, Army private Chelsea Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence for her as-sociation with Julian Assange in the Wikileaks scandal. While these cases may be different in scope, critics argue that there is a clear double standard.
Today, Petraeus isnt exactly suffering. He still receives a hefty military pension because the affair occurred after his re-tirement from the armed forces. He also splits his time between lucrative speak-ing tours, teaching, and being a partner in Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, one of the words largest private equity firms
The Petreaus affair is also not the first time a CIA director has run into trouble. John M. Deutch, the former CIA head honcho under Bill Clinton, underwent a two-year investigation before he was ultimately pardoned setting a precedent for the prosecution of government of-ficials. Many believe the Petreaus affair will most likely follow the same course.
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 16
By Kurt BrownStaff writer
Many Americans have come to the realization over the past few decades that, in terms of education, a high school diploma is no longer enough. As part of his State of the Union address in 1997, Bill Clinton emphasized the need to make the thirteenth and four-teenth years of schooling as universal as high school. President Obama echoed the sentiment this month, both at Pel-lissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee and in his State of the Union address. Free higher educa-tion has the potential to rejuvenate the American middle class, but detractors are concerned that the initiative will simply create a thirteenth and four-teenth grade.
President Obamas plan would have the federal government foot seven-ty-five percent of the bill for commu-nity college in participating states, with those state governments contrib-uting the remaining quarter. Students would be required to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average during the course of their education to remain eligible for the plan. The estimated cost of en-acting this program? $60 billion over ten years (Economist). If all fifty states participate, nine million students could be looking at a savings of $3,800 a year (White House). With all of those num-bers in mind, the question becomes what the final outcome would look like.
President Obama called community colleges essential pathways to the mid-dle class (Allen et al.). Without some post-secondary training, high school graduates will soon find themselves in-eligible for all but the most basic, low paying positions. Proponents point out that fourteen years has become the new twelve in terms of education, as those extra years spend developing critical thinking or vocational skills are critical in todays world-wide economy. Free college, training, and apprentice pro-
obamas college proposalnational
grams will help keep America on top of global competition (Alter).
However, there are some critics who claim that free higher education would harm the very demographic it is at-tempting to help: the poor. For those detractors, the plan sweeps too broadly. Middle and upper class students could take advantage of the same opportuni-ty, even though many could afford to attend college without government as-sistance. Meanwhile, many lower-in-come students at community colleges would still not have the money to cover the non-tuition costs, such as books, supplies and transportation and room and board for those not living at home (Butler). Others have pointed to statis-tics showing that community college is not effective in bettering students situ-ations, with low retention and gradua-tion rates. Proponents of the presidents plan will argue that, by removing the financial burden from the equation, those numbers will inevitably improve.
Another large concern is that free community college will increase in-stances of undermatching, where stu-dents settle for a degree at an affordable
institution instead of applying to a more rigorous, expensive university match-ing their academic caliber. The promise of free education may be too good to pass up for smart students from finan-cially struggling families, so they would miss out on the enhanced opportuni-ties of a four-year degree. Altering the current Pell Grant system, which cur-rently provides money to students who exhibit need, or taking action to reduce the cost of higher education across the board, are two proposed alternative measures (Butler). How plausible those plans are or how effective they would be at universalizing higher education is anybodys guess.
The president, if nothing else, has made the future of higher education a key issue in the political conversation. Republicans and democrats have been able to agree on a system that helps stu-dents in Tennessee through the Tennes-see Promise program, using lottery rev-enue to subsidize community college. Hopefully, the success of the Tennessee Promise foreshadows cooperation in Washington to affect change in higher education at the national level.
SOURCE: BRUCE BISHOP
17 The Hill Political Review January 2015
By Tess LandonTreasurer
Education policy is the new battle-ground in the war of partisan politics, but unlike previous disputes both par-ties ultimately want the same outcome: an overhaul of the current No Child Left Behind (NCLB) bill, enacted in 2002. The bill was intended to bring equity of educational opportunities to national elementary and secondary public school systems through com-plex funding allocation algorithms with a focus on standardized testing as a way to measure students (and therefor teachers) success. However, unfeasible testing benchmarks raised an array of issues such as inappropriate teaching methods and marginalization of non-math or non-reading subjects. Both parties have drafted bills to repeal NCLB but the main argument remains over who should be in charge of setting and maintaining education standards: federal or state government?
In 2013, Republicans introduced their strategy for revitalizing the cur-rent education policy. The crux of their proposal is stripping all federal pow-er in setting education standards and
placing that power in the hands of the states. Their argument stems from the exceedingly high rate of districts un-able to maintain impossible federal standards outlined in NCLB. A high failure rate was not the only issue it was not uncommon for teachers to be accused of teaching to the test (i.e. focusing only on topics covered in the standardized tests and disregarding other subjects) which hinders receiving a well-rounded education. With State and local districts in control of setting standards, the Republicans believe the parents and students will have more influence in decision-making for their district and a higher level of account-ability can be achieved, especially in low performance districts. Siphoning authority from federal to states is an unprecedented move, and not a popu-lar one. Dennis Van Roekl, president of the National Education Association, spoke adversely about the Republican plan saying it erodes the historical federal role in public education to be an enforcer of equity of opportunities, tools and resources so that we can level the playing field.
Similarly, Democrats support lessen-ing the rigidity of the current testing
standards, but believe federal regulation holds districts accountable for main-taining adequate education standards. Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, released the Obama administrations plan to overhaul NCLB at the begin-ning of the year. Instead of revoking all federal power, Obama plans to modify the role of federal government through fundamental changes in education funding allocation and creating a new measurement system. In this plan, out-dated and inefficient formulas would be nixed leaving federal funds to be distributed by competitive need-base grants. Instead of setting a fixed level of proficiency which dictates whether a student passed or failed, each student will be judged on the progression they have made that year. A handful of spe-cialists, such as president of American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weing-arten, contend that Obamas plan does little to aid teachers in the new changes.
Education policy has always been a prevalent issue and is known to reso-nate with constituents. Anticipation for an overhaul of NCLB has been escalat-ing, and with tangible plans to make a change it is sure to be the frontrunner in presidential campaigns.
partisan crossroads:the fight for education and no child left behind
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 18
GOP factions andpresidential candidates
By Andrew LevineStaff writer
The Republican Party is seeking to regain control of the White House af-ter eight years of control by President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. After the 2014 midterm elec-tions, the GOP has control of both houses of Congress and their eyes on the Presidency. Although President Obama is unpopular right now, his ratings have not fallen to the extent of President Bushs ratings in 2008, which almost ensured that a Democrat would be elected. As such, the GOP will still need to muster a considerable amount of cooperative effort in order to secure the White House. However, the Repub-lican Party has shown signs of fractur-ing, and the various big names that are aiming for the Presidency in 2016 fur-ther illustrate these internal divisions.
The Republican Party has a number of factions that are commonly united mainly in their opposition to the Dem-ocrats and their policies. The libertari-an faction and the similar Tea Partiers champion personal freedoms, lower taxes, and less government interference both in the world and in the everyday lives of American citizens. The liber-tarian group is very popular among younger people; the likely champion is Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Son of the outspoken ex-Congressman Ron Paul, Rand has amassed a strong fol-lowing, especially with younger voters, and is expected to announce his candi-dacy over the next few months.
The Christian religious right has long staunchly supported many of the more conservative members of the GOP. So-cial issues are a major factor for these voters; abortion, immigration, and drug laws are areas that this massive block of people tends to vote on; unfortunate-
ly for the Republicans much of the rest of America is becoming more liberal in their attitudes regarding these issues. Evangelical Christians are heavily in this bloc of voters, who tend to reside in southern and Midwestern states. Of the possible candidates, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is a favorite of this faction, but critics expect his chances of winning a national election are close to nil, while Rick Santorum is not expected to run.
Chris Christie is a Republican gover-nor from a state that usually votes blue in national elections, which will allow him to market himself as a centrist who can beat whomever the Democratic Party nominates. Christie has a reputa-tion as a straight talking decision mak-er, and he will appeal to a wide swath of the nation that is moderately conser-vative on fiscal issues. He may struggle in the primaries, especially in the more socially conservative states where his more conservative opponents will ac-cuse him of being a RINO (Republican in name only). Christie has several sim-ilarities to Mitt Romney, the Repub-lican candidate in the 2012 elections. Romney provided a serious challenge to Obama and the Democrats, but he
was unable to take the White House. This may cause some Republican strat-egists to look elsewhere. Jeb Bush is also a similar candidate to Christie, but his family and the nations perception of the Bush and Clinton families may force the Republicans to reconsider him as their presidential nominee.
Both of the major parties know that the groups that will likely decide the election in 2016 are Hispanic-Amer-icans and voters under the age of 30. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are both conservative Republicans who will ap-peal to Hispanics that have not seen one of their own on a presidential tick-et. Rubio especially has a strong case for being the GOP Vice-Presidential can-didate if he is unable to win the main nomination; Cruz, on the other hand, is seen as too conservative by many.
Regardless of who wins the even-tual Republican Party nomination, they must eventually unite their par-tys splintered factions into a collected coalition. The GOP will need to find common ground amongst the various ideologies, which may an even more difficult challenge than facing the Dem-ocratic champion.
SOURCE: GAGE SKIDMORE
19 The Hill Political Review January 2015
the prosecutors did not recommend a
specific charge for the grand jury to consider, instead
allowing the jurors to decide how, if, and with
what crimes wilson should be charged.
By Richard ZhengNational Editor
From the beginning, events in Fergu-son unfolded in an explosive manner. Protests and riots began after the ini-tial encounter between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, setting off a wave of anti-police demonstrations across the nation. The grand jurys de-cision not to indict Officer Wilson was similarly controversial. However, an examination of the grand jury process itself reveals many inconsistencies with a typical grand jury proceeding, further highlighting the unique nature of the Michael Brown case.
First, its important to note the legal definition and requirements of a grand jury. Grand jury practices vary from state to state, with about half of states requiring a grand jury indictment in order to move forward in prosecuting felony criminal cases. Indictments do not need to be unanimous; only 9 of 12 jurors were required to vote for indictment in Fer-guson. When delib-erating, jurors de-cide whether or not criminal charges should be brought against the so-called target. Because this is not a trial, the jurys decision is not a reflection of guilty or not guilty. In addition, the stan-dard for indictment is probable cause, which, according to the Supreme Court, is not a high bar. It requires only the kind of fair probability on which rea-sonable and prudent [people,] not legal
technicians, act. Most grand juries are routine affairs,
with few receiving the amount of scru-tiny that Officer Wilsons did. But in comparison to an average grand jury proceeding, the Wilson jury featured numerous inconsistencies with the typ-ical process that show how uniqueand thus controversialthe Ferguson one was. To begin with, the prosecutors did not recommend a specific charge for the grand jury to consider, instead allowing the jurors to decide how, if, and with what crimes Wilson should be charged. Although most grand jury proceedings only hear from one or two witnesses, over 60 were called upon in Ferguson, which was one of the main reasons it dragged on for 3 months instead of the typical few days. According to Columbia Law professors Fagan and Harcourt, the process resembled a trial in its intense
cross-examination of witnesses, where some were open-ly criticized by the skeptical jurors. Officer Wilson was then questioned in a 4-hour segment (al-though not nearly as harshly as other witnesses), which itself is atypical as grand jury targets usually do not speak at the proceeding. After the grand ju-rys decision, the
transcript of all the events was also re-leased. In many states this would be ille-gal and impossible. Finally, the outcome of the jury was strange in that the statis-tical precedent for grand juries is skewed heavily towards indictments. The Bu-
reau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2010, out of 162,000 federal cases, grand juries decided to not return an indict-ment in only 11 of them. Although these are federal cases, which may differ from the types held by states, these numbers still strongly imply that grand jury pro-ceedings typically move forward to trial.
Supporters of Officer Wilson and those of Michael Brown propose different reasons for why the grand jury hearing was handled this way. The lead prosecu-tor for the case, Robert McCulloch, has gone on record to say that he wanted to give the jurors as much information as possible in order to help them come to the correct conclusion. According to an interview over a St. Louis radio station, McCulloch even knew some of the wit-nesses were lying, but still wanted to put them on the stand and let jurors decide their credibility. Michael Brown sup-porters push back and contend that the prosecutors were intentionally attempt-ing to overload the jury with informa-tion in order to present a muddled and inconclusive picture. They also point to McCullochs possible bias towards sup-porting the police force; in addition to the professional conflict of interest in-herent in prosecuting people he typical-ly partners with, several of McCullochs family members serve in the force or work alongside it.
Formal proceedings have concluded; the grand jury decision resulted in no indictment, while the U.S. Justice De-partments separate investigation also recommended no charges be brought against Officer Wilson. But deep and un-resolved racial tensions persist across the United States, as exposed now as theyve ever been before. In any case, it wouldve taken more than a panel of jurors to help the country heal those wounds.
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 20
A Love StoryHollywood and Moral Obligation
Nikki MandellOnline Managing Editor
Sonys decision to pull the theatrical release of Seth Rogan comedy The Inter-view prompted a fervent First Amend-ment backlash.
So Sony decided to re-release it. Well, kind of.
They released the movie online and to individual theaters across the country. The decision to pull the release initially stemmed from threats by hackers telling potential moviegoers to remember the 11th of September 2001. Sony says big theater companies like AMC refused to show the movie due to safety concerns, forcing Sony to pull the release. Theater companies said Sony didnt give them enough time to make the decision.
Regardless of what actually went on behind closed doors, people were angry. They became even angrier when the FBI confirmed the threats and hacks were connected to the North Korean gov-ernment. Even President Obama con-demned Sonys decision, saying, We cannot have a society in which some dic-tator someplace can start imposing cen-sorship here in the United States. Politi-cally, yes, that makes sense. But Sony, and the theater companies to an extent, dont just have the glory of American freedom to worry about. They have a business to run. The question is - does the film com-pany have enough of a moral responsibil-ity to principles like freedom of speech to supersede its main role as a for-profit
business?In an interview with Charlie Rose in
1997, Disney CEO at the time Michael Eisner discussed issues Disney was hav-ing with the Chinese government re-garding its Tibetan human rights movie Kundun. He told Rose, We do not take, as a company, a position either in human rights or not in human rights. We are a movie company. Were an entertainment company. So Eisner didnt necessarily feel the responsibility, but historically, di-rectors and execs have felt a duty to the integration of Hollywood and politics.
Lets stay on the same track of movies tacklinh dictators, and go further back on the timeline to Charlie Chaplins The Great Dictator. Chaplins film came out in the late 1930s as the stars first talkie, a satire aimed at Adolph Hitler, or Ade-noid Hynkel, in the film. It was a hit, but Chaplin later said had he truly known of the atrocities occurring in Europe at the time of its release, he would not have made the film. Im not one to put words in the great Chaplins mouth, but I think he meant it would be morally irrespon-sible to draw humor from the depths of these atrocities. In this sense, he would have stifled creation by the name of moral obligation, whereas Sony was reprimand-ed for not releasing theirs by a similar civ-ic consciousness. Both decisions would have led to significant monetary loses.
And, while were on the subject of Hitler (the best segue Ive ever written), lets talk about The Producers. The films entire plot was creating a musical so politically
incorrect that the audience would take the moral obligation onto themselves and not watch. Thus, the musical would be a flop, and the producers would get rich.
In a way, Sonys digital release of the interview put the moral obligation back in the hands of the audience as well. If the point is to make a statement that, Some dictator someplace can(not) start imposing censorship here in the United States, then maybe its the viewers duty to seek out the content. In this case, I think the viewers have spoken. According to Bloomberg, The Interview earned about $36 million by early January, with the majority of that coming from online pay-per-view. Viewer demand was so strong that streaming sites like Crackle and Net-flix picked up the movie.
Still, this doesnt mean Sony broke even. Its estimated that Sony spent about $80 million on The Interview, and its unlike-ly theyll recoup that sum with a mainly digital release. Yet it could have been worse business-wise for all parties in-volved if they had gone ahead with a tra-ditional Christmas Day release. If people were too scared to go to a theater playing The Interview, it wouldve been devastat-ing to other films as well as the theaters themselves on the most profitable movie day of the year. Perhaps thats where the audiences moral obligation should have emerged. Its risk of violence versus the statement of solidarity by going. Sonys biggest mistake wasnt bowing to the will of North Korea; it was not allowing Americans to show strength of their own.
SOURCE: KEVIN STANCHFIELD
21 The Hill Political Review January 2015
the problemwith numb rS
By Clay BallardDistribution Editor
Terrorism, at its core, is commu-nicative violence. Terrorists are suc-cessful when they effectively commu-nicate political or religious messages to a wide audience. To do this, ter-rorists often misrep-resent and inflate casualties and con-sequences to appear more dangerous and relevant. This ele-ment, however, is not unique to just ter-rorist organizations. Governments and NGOs often have am-ple reason to misrep-resent figures to ex-aggerate success and downplay failures.
Recently in Baga, Nigeria, reports sur-faced indicating death tolls from an attack by Boko Ha-ram ranging from 150 to 2,000 dead. The 150 figure came from Nigerian government officials, while the 2,000 figure has been approximated by wit-nesses. The difference in figuresan order of magnitudeimplies two different situations on the ground.
Casualty inflation is not a new component of terrorism. The Af-ghani Taliban are notorious for overestimating death tolls to better suit their message. In 2008, the Tal-iban claimed to have killed almost 20 times the number of reported
troop casualties by NATO and Af-ghan forces. These exaggerations are specifically designed to commu-nicate success in order to expand recruitment, boost morale, and at-tract financial support. These in-flated claims amount to propaganda.
Similarly in Nigeria, Boko Haram claim casualty numbers that often conflict with those from the gov-ernment. So while what occurred in Baga is an u n e q u i v o -cal tragedy, estimates of 2,000 dead are unlike-ly and help explain why this recent attack was
so underreported in contrast to the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. While the lowest estimates of 150 are an order of magnitude greater than the 17 killed in Paris, reporting in Nigeria remains diffi-cult for journalists, who are often targeted by Boko Haram. Addition-ally, the government has remained uncooperative, downplaying the significance of the attack to report-ers. These factors coupled with the convoluted range of casualty figures are part of why Boko Harams latest attack didnt make many headlines.
Terrorist groups are not the only organizations who misrepresent the results of an attack. Governments and NGOs often adjust figures to their policy likings. In response to the Baga attacks, the Nigerian gov-ernment issued a statement declaring that no more than 150 people had been killed in the attacks. However, Nigerian government officials have a record of minimizing casualty fig-ures claimed by Boko Haram to ap-pear to have a handle on the situa-tion. Resentful communities have also been known to inflate death tolls to combat government deflation.
Each of these organizations has reason to misinform. Government officials want to be reelected, ci-vilians want substantial protection from the military, and terrorists want to be feared and reach a mass audi-ence. This creates a sea of misinfor-mation where it is nearly impossi-ble for analysts to pinpoint accurate death tolls. This sort of environment makes consensus on appropriate pol-icy responses all the more difficult.
This war of information is import-ant in assessing and addressing the consequences of terrorism. The need for accurate, credible government figures is crucial to forming appro-priate responses to terrorist attacks.
Terrorism, At its core is communicative
violence...Terrorist organizations often
misrepresent and inflate Casualties and
consequences to appear more dangerous and
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 22
On the day I penned this colum, two dramatic events swept the Middle East. First, the president and prime minister of Yemen resigned in protest of the anti-government violence of the Houthis, a northern Shiite group which has repeatedly made and then broken deals with the central govern-ment in an attempt to secure greater autonomy. Second, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died, giving way to his possibly senile 79-year-old half-broth-er as his kingdom faces falling oil pric-es and rising Islamic extremism. As two key states in the Middle East face wrenching transitions, and the region as a whole remains wracked by civil wars and authoritar-ian crackdowns, one cant help but won-der how it came to this. The answer lies in the tactics Mid-dle Eastern autocrats use to stay in power.
Before the Arab Spring, most Mid-dle Eastern govern-ments were person-alist authoritarian or sultanist regimes. D e m o c r at i z a t i o n theorists have long pointed out that not all authoritarian governments are alike. In a seminal summation, politi-cal scientist Barbara Geddes identified three broad types of authoritarianism: military, single-party, and personalist. These three groups have vastly differ-
Theory In Practiceperspectives
Staying ALiveAuthoriatian SurviVal in the Middle East
Military, Single Party,
and Personalist Authoritarian
Systems have vastly different Rections
to attempted revolutions.
ent reactions to attempted revolutions. Military governments, as a rule, are most concerned with protecting the interests of the army and often see themselves more as protectors of their country than rulers, so they are open to negotiated transitions so long as they protect military prerogatives. Sin-gle-party governments hold onto pow-er in the face of all but the strongest challenges by maintaining strong sup-port networks based on party mem-bership that cuts across all groups of society. Personalist regimes, however, depend on patronage networks that are personally loyal to whatever individu-al or family controls the government.
Because the clients that make up pa-tronage networks depend on the per-
sonal dictator for their wealth and power, they will fight to maintain the dictators rule if it is challenged. However, at the same time, the dictators redirec-tion of national wealth to clients impoverishes the people as a whole and fuels opposi-tion movements. The result is a rec-ipe for revolution
and civil war. Its precisely this dynam-ic that resulted in the revolutions of the Arab Spring. From Tunisia to Egypt, Libya to Syria, the people revolted against the corruption and widespread destitution created by policies serving only a narrow elite. Countries with
stronger social networks independent of the ruling partylike Tunisia, Ye-men, and Egyptexperienced more peaceful transitions, at least at first. Libya and Syria, however, had less or-ganized opposition factions and got bogged down in civil war. Meanwhile, petrostates like Saudi Arabia had so much oil wealth that they could buy the support of the whole population with social welfare programs, even though, as personalist states, they de-pended on client networks to survive.
Now, those factors that preserved stability in Saudi Arabia and Yemen are collapsing. Saudi Arabias abili-ty to buy public support will be test-ed as oil prices crash. Yemens social groups do not share a common vision around which they can rally the coun-try, and have taken to attacking each other instead of the deposed presi-dent. And the fate of the Middle East depends on whether and how its lead-ers old and new, military and per-sonalist choose to hold on to power.
23 The Hill Political Review January 2015
TWo CentsThe Objective
Wit & WitlessnessPutins Feats
In a stunning turn of events, the Islam-ic extremists who attacked the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, have achieved exactly what they set out to do on the morning of January 7th. En-raged by strips depicting the Prophet Mohammed - an act considered deeply irreverent by many Muslims - brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi set out to ter-rify France and the West into shutting down organizations like Charlie Hebdo, prohibiting free speech, and submitting to the indomitable will of violent fringe sects of Islam.
As publicist Anne Hommel said in a press release the following Friday, De-spite Charlie Hebdos long history of pushing boundaries and making im-portant political and social statements via satire, this attack has completely con-vinced us to never print another page.
And this response has not just been limited to news outlets - most of who have either closed or refuse to publish any articles even vaguely referencing Islam - Frances government has also waved the white flag.
Stated President Francois Hollande, Many leaders from around the world have expressed their solidarity with us.
Several have told me that they will at-tend the mass demonstration on Sunday. My response? No thanks guys. These nut jobs perverting the true meaning of Is-lam obviously mean business. So I call on all French people to toss those values of democracy, freedom and pluralism so important to us all. Sure, Ive got the 6th most powerful military in the world at my command, not to mention the ab-surd American military might as one of my allies, but two lunatics with machine guns have 100% changed my mind on taking a stand against radical Islam.
His muscles are just unbelievable.- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher R-CA after Losing
an arm Wresting match to PutinI dont read books by people who have betrayed the Motherland.
- Vladimir Putins Response when Asked about A Book Written by A Soviet Defector
I UNDERSTAND WHY HE HAS TO DO THIS TO PROVE HES A MAN...HES AFRAID OF HIS OWN WEAKNESS.
- German Chancellor angela merkel after Putin Attempted to Intimidate her in a press conference with his large Black Labrador
January 2015 The Hill Political Review 24