By: Madeleine Teele, Expert Access Participant
Friday the 13th is an unlucky day in the lives of superstitious Americans as it is, but what the world saw on November 13th, 2015 was on another level of terror, tragedy and loss. One hundred and twenty-nine people lost their lives and hundreds more were critically injured in a series of mass shootings, suicide bombings and hostage crisis in Paris, France. For France, these were the deadliest attacks since World War II. For the world, they represented a substantial threat to Western power. Buildings and monuments from across the globe demonstrated their solidarity and light up in France’s national colors from the Pyramids of Giza to the Sydney Opera House.
France remains under a heavy police presence and a somber feeling washes over the French nation. In the wake of the attacks, public protests are prohibited in Paris and some of the surrounding departments until this coming Thursday. This removal of a basic right under French law has shocked the nation. Citizens have been advised to stay indoors, but that did not stop the public from coming together to mourn the loss of their fellow citizens.
France’s president, Francois Hollande, believes ISIS was responsible for these deadly attacks. American officials have not disputed the French President’s opinion on the matter. Additionally, ISIS claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Beirut, as well as the crashing of the Metrojet flight 9268. It was a unanimous decision among all world leaders that ISIS must be stopped as quickly and swiftly and possible. However, for the presidential candidates, the degree to which the United States is involved in this fight is hotly contested. Hillary Clinton stated in the most recent Democratic Presidential Debate that addressing the threat of terrorism “cannot be an American fight” while Martin O’Malley disagreed and urged the US to “stand up to evil” and lead the fight.
What do these attacks mean for the United States? President Obama maintains that his foreign policy strategy is effective, even in the face of these recent attacks. President Obama declared that he will intensify targeted airstrikes and assistance to ground forces in Syria and Iraq. He realizes, however, that this is not an overnight solution and that it will take time to bring the terrorist group down.
President Obama’s Republican critics, on the other hand, do not agree with his handling of the situation. Many Republicans are urging the President to block the entrance of Syrian refugees to the country, in hopes of preventing the entrance of terrorists. President Obama has responded by stating that closing the entry to refugees is un-American and will not happen as long as he is president. “We do not close our hearts to the victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism,” President Obama said. “The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism.” In other words, the United States will not block the entry of Syrian refugees simply because that is not what America stands for.
This tragedy brought about a new agreement between the United States and France to share more intelligence information, saying that the new arrangement would allow personnel to pass threat information to France in a more efficient and quick manner. Additionally, the attacks and their threat to the safety of Western nations have brought back to the forefront America’s fight against global terror and the organizations that propagate it.
Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline: A Symbolic Victory for Environmentalists, or Something More Substantial?
By: Marjorie Howard ’16, Environmental Leadership Participant
On Friday, November 6, President Obama rejected the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The construction of this 1,179-mile-long pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska has been the subject of heated debate for the majority of Obama’s presidency, generating strong opposition from environmentalists and strong support from those who believe the pipeline would enable the U.S. to increase its energy independence while creating jobs and boosting the economy. Preventing one pipeline construction project from taking place is only a small step in addressing the massive problem of greenhouse gas emissions, but the symbolic nature of this decision is important on a larger scale.
President Obama discussed this, saying that the pipeline “has become a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter…this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.” Nevertheless, the decision he made to reject the pipeline granted environmental advocates this symbolic victory and reaffirmed his administration’s goal to curb the impact of climate change, especially in his last year in office.
Obama cited the U.S.’s role as a global leader in climate change mitigation as one of the major reasons behind the rejection of the pipeline. This has particular relevance to the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Paris, where world leaders will gather in December to discuss limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.
President and CEO Russ Girling of TransCanada, the company responsible for construction of the pipeline, made the following comment on the pipeline’s rejection: “We are disappointed with the President’s decision to deny the Keystone XL application. Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science—rhetoric won out over reason.”
Environmental advocates argue that science, in fact, was a prominent part of the decision to reject the pipeline. The Canadian tar sands oil that would have been extracted for transport in this project is carbon-intensive, and the pipeline would contribute to the availability of fossil fuels for consumption and contribution to global warming. Though the rejection of Keystone pipeline in itself will not cause a substantial reduction in emissions, the decision has the potential to lead to the development of cleaner energy sources and the prevention of similar projects in the future. And if the U.S. can encourage other nations to take similar actions, this symbolic decision may result in some substantial change.
By: Elizabeth Miller, ‘19- Inside Politics Participant
Climate change or global warming? Whatever your terminology, the politics and policy around environmental issues are rapidly changing. The 2016 presidential race is not the only thing heating up.
Historically, environmental issues have been owned and touted by Democrats. But why? Why is it that Dems are painted as tree huggers and Republicans seen as axe-sporting lumberjacks? The image of Theodore Roosevelt strolling through the national parks declaring nature sacred for the future has been obstructed by the sight of Reagan condemning environmental causes as a cripple to our economy. As the 2016 election cycle continues and the world anticipates leaders of powerful nations to come together to talk Mother Earth, it won’t just be the left side of the isle listening.
Here are 9 reasons why both reds and blues will be seeing green:
- Green can mean money too.
One of the main arguments against regulatory environmental policy is the perception that it will have adverse affects on the economy. However, keeping energy production and manufacturing in America creates jobs by striking an “appropriate regulatory balance.” Altering energy infrastructure to benefit companies that take steps to minimize their impact on environment is a key goal in the environmental sphere. And who doesn’t like two kinds of green?
- Because the Pope said so
According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the University of Michigan, American acceptance of global warming as scientific fact rose to its highest levels (70%) since Fall 2008, specifically increasing 10 points since Fall 2014. The spike can, in some ways, be attributed to the visit from Pope Francis in the early fall of 2015. The Pope called for environmental action from the U.S. government. Roger that, Pope!
- Lady Liberty is a Rich Girl
The Hall & Oates ballad might think we’re going too far but according to a recent survey, Americans don’t think the U.S. is getting their money’s worth of environmental reform. According to this survey “an overwhelming 75% of Americans agree that ‘Rich countries like the US have a moral obligation to show international leadership by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.’” Time to put our money where our survey responses are.
- Paul Ryan tanks- in a good way.
The recent election of Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House may be better for environmentalists than at face value. According to his staff, the previous Ways and Means Chairman has the potential to look favorably upon environmentalists. Apparently, Ryan will remain open to, and even favor, the advice of ideologically oriented think tanks, rather than K Street lobbyists. His tendency to be open minded and take advice from expert think tanks isn’t the only reason we’ll all have our eyes on Ryan, if we’re being honest.
- E for Effort?
According to the National Journal, big oil companies are watching their hold on the market slip through their fingers. The combination of Shell’s recent failure to find crude oil in Alaska and Chevron’s ever-tightening belt is showing signs of change in the oil market. Maybe next time, oil!
- Getting to DuPont
In light of recent controversy (*cough * VW *cough*) the car industry is scrambling to prove they can be green, too. One American chemical company is really stealing the spotlight; “With expertise in the fields of feedstock, bioprocessing and biofuel production, DuPont is uniquely positioned to help make cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels a commercial reality.” You go DuPont!!
- Say Aloha to Renewable Energy
Researchers and scientists are working on a new meaning of “current research” off the coastline of Oahu, Hawaii. Beginning in July, researchers and developers have been working on project Azura, hoping to harness the power of waves for renewable electricity. The developing technology is “currently capable of powering only a handful of homes, but developers and backers say it could become a reliable and widespread source of sustainable energy for coastal regions in the future.” Until then, we’ll just have to hang ten.
- The Paris of All Conventions
All of environmentalists’ hopes and dreams may come true in the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change in Paris (aka COP21/CMP11) next month. The climate talks will aim to create a new international agreement that is applicable to all countries and keeps global warming below 2ºC. Like Paris said, “that’s hot.”
- Girls Just Wanna Save the Planet
In July, Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and the top Democrat, Maria Cantwell collaborated to draft the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which “addresses a range of issues that include energy efficiency, infrastructure modernization, renewable energy, and critical minerals mining” (Geman, National Journal). In an 18-4 vote, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved its first broad energy policy in 8 years. Not only is this a huge step forward for environmental policy in general but it is also indicative of the collaboration and bipartisanship which will undoubtedly dictate the future of environmental legislation. While some Green Party members and more ardent environmentalists may see a bi-partisan bill as not strong enough, the compromises in this bill are a huge step in the right direction. Girl power!
The tail end of 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting time to be alive for anyone who likes to look at trees, breathe clean air, and troll UN policy conferences. Leave it to environmental policy to make “fetch” happen.”
Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline: A Symbolic Victory for Environmentalists, or Something More Substantial?
By: Marjorie Howard ’16, Environmental Leadership Participant
The construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a 1,179-mile-long pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska, has been the subject of heated debate for the majority of President Obama’s time in office. The debate generates strong opposition from environmentalists and strong support from those who believe the pipeline would enable the U.S. to increase its energy independence while also creating jobs and boosting the economy. On Friday, November 6th, President Obama rejected the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, marking a step in the direction of environmentally conscious policy. While preventing one pipeline construction project from taking place is only a small step in addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, the symbolic nature of this decision is important on a larger scale.
President Obama discussed this, saying that the pipeline “has become a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter…this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.” Nevertheless, the decision he made to reject the pipeline granted environmental advocates a symbolic victory, and reaffirmed his administration’s goal to curb climate change, especially during his last year in office.
Obama cited the United States’ role as a global leader in climate change mitigation as one of the major reasons behind the rejection of the pipeline. This has particular relevance to the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Paris, where world leaders will gather in December to discuss limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.
President and CEO Russ Girling of TransCanada, the company responsible for construction of the pipeline, made the following comment on the pipeline’s rejection: “We are disappointed with the President’s decision to deny the Keystone XL application. Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science—rhetoric won out over reason.” Environmental advocates, however, argue that science was a prominent part of the decision to reject the pipeline. The Canadian tar sands oil that would have been extracted for transport in this project is carbon-intensive, and the pipeline would expand to the availability of fossil fuels for consumption, thereby contributing to global warming.
Though the rejection of Keystone pipeline in itself will not cause a substantial reduction in emissions, the decision has the potential to lead to the development of cleaner energy sources and the prevention of similar projects in the future. If the U.S. can encourage other nations to take similar actions, this symbolic decision may result in some substantial change.
By: Matthew Lowerre, Inside Politics Participant
In 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the grave danger the United States faced if the abuses of power in government and the weapons industry he witnessed during his administration persisted. Today, the very thing Eisenhower warned about is happening at the expense of our nation’s once admirable foreign policy. The Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) is not a physical place where the production of industrial goods for the military takes place. It is a combination of many actors from the military, private, and public sectors that develop relationships and pursue their own self-interests; all in the name of national security. The seemingly unbreakable web of legislators, executives of defense firms, military personnel, and lobbyists construct an economic environment in which efficiency is sacrificed to ensure that political gains occur and profits are maximized for each party, usually at the expense of the taxpayer. This negative or positive feedback cycle, depending on one’s perspective, continues to solidify its roots in the absence of a competitive market. Elected Congressman and their staff will approve contracts to those defense industries that can give them something in return. While this is a rather broad example, there is evidence of similar exchanges between private and public sector workers.
When one follows the career path of certain individuals, one can clearly see how the MIC has strengthened internally, with very little success from external forces trying to break it up or make it more efficient. Looking at the case of Thomas L. Mackenzie, there is a suspicious pattern to be observed. He began his career in the U.S. Navy but later became a staff member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. This is a reasonable transition, as the knowledge Mackenzie gained in the Navy would suit him well for a position as an advisor for government relations with military operations. However, he later joined Northrop Grumman, a private defense firm, as Vice President of Naval Affairs. It didn’t stop there; Mackenzie returned several years later to the public sector as a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee.
The rate at which Mackenzie was changing jobs would imply a lack of success for most job markets. However, for the Military Industrial Complex, this type of movement is the norm. Mackenzie took the relations he gained from each stop on his career path and used them to strengthen his personal value. This is not sinister in and off itself, but when one considers that each of these sectors are constantly in the other’s ear, it begins to look like collusion. If the isolated incident of Mackenzie is not enough proof, there are more numbers to back it up. A US Government Accountability Office report from May 2008 showed that in 2006, 52 major defense contractors employed 86,181 of the 1,857,004 former military personnel who left the DOD since 2001. Additionally, eighty percent of retired three- and four- star officials relocated to the private defense industry between the years 2004 and 2008. This homogenous pool of individuals with aligning interests has not gone without consequence.
Another case study involves closely analyzing the influence of Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is a giant weapons corporation that seems to have a say in more than just what weapons it sells to the government. They received $36 billion in government contracts in 2008, more than any company in history. Not surprisingly, Lockheed Martin donated roughly $50,000 to the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Republican Howard McKeon. This highlights the earlier point, that Congressional staff is approving contracts to those firms who can provide them with something in return.
While one may argue this a huge conflict of interest, nothing illegal is occurring here. This immense allotment of government funds has allowed for Lockheed Martin to grow, seemingly without boundaries. That $36 billion comes from taxpayers, roughly $260 per household in the United States. To make sure that they keep their stranglehold on this market, the firm also spends $12 million on congressional lobbying. Lockheed Martin now employs 140,000 people across 46 states.
It can be argued that Lockheed Martin and other large defense firms have created a permanent war economy. The arms race and weapons proliferation the MIC arguably impacts the country’s involvement in war. There may not be any direct evidence, but this phenomenon is more indirectly related to country’s entering war or armed conflict. Lockheed Martin alone has been involved in overseeing assassination programs in Pakistan, recruiting interrogators from Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan, and even providing personnel to draft the Afghani Constitution. The company’s involvement in such unstable areas, even with good intentions, can and has increased tensions between American forces stationed in these areas and the local rebels and armed forces that are tired of having their lives governed by foreigners.
Eisenhower warned of a Military Industrial Complex, but he never realized to what degree his dismal vision would become a reality.
By: Elizabeth Hupper, Inside Politics Participant
It’s 2015 and we’ve come a long way: equal rights for genders are in play, women have had the vote for almost a century, and we have two female presidential candidates in the election cycle. It would stand to reason that women and men are paid the same for equal work; however, empirical evidence demonstrates otherwise. A significant wage gap in the United States still exists, affecting women in all sectors. And according to recent studies, this gap is widening even further.
The gender wage gap has been garnering a lot of attention recently in Hollywood of all places. Last February, Patricia Arquette addressed the gender wage disparity in her Oscar acceptance speech: “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all.” Her comments received a standing ovation from audiences and, later, glowing praise. She is not the only actress who has been vocal about pay inequality: just last week Jennifer Lawrence published an essay addressing wage disparities. This was largely in response to the Sony hacks, which exposed that she and Amy Adams were paid less than their male counterparts in the blockbuster film, “American Hustle.”
Yet, these issues don’t just remain in the already-lavish lives of celebrities; these gender wage gaps affect everyday lives of millions of Americans.
Women who worked full time earned 81.1 cents for every dollar a man earned from July through September of 2015. Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard University, found that the gap even exists for identical jobs, even when controlling for hours, education, race and age. She found that female doctors and surgeons earn 71 percent of what their male colleagues make. Additionally, it’s been calculated that, one year after college graduation, women earn 6.6 percent less than men after controlling for occupation and hours. Female M.B.A. graduates earn, on average, $4,600 less than male classmates for their first job.
Joanne Lipman, an opinion columnist at the New York Times, agreed; “More than a half-century after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the gap between what men and women earn has defied every effort to close it. And it can’t be explained away as a statistical glitch, a function of women preferring lower-paying industries or choosing to take time off for kids.” She’s right. It’s been over fifty years since JFK signed the Act, and not much has changed.
But why is there a gap in the first place? Some theorize that it isn’t necessarily a company purposely paying women less, but rather a function of men being more likely to ask for a raise. When they do, men are four times more likely to ask for a higher raise than a woman would.
Some theorists have suggested major companies publish their own gender pay gap, which has already been done by Britain, Austria, and Belgium. Unfortunately, the reality of a plan such as this being put in action in the United States is not very likely. Opponents argue it’s expensive and doesn’t establish enough concrete evidence. But the transparency has been proven to be very telling in the wage gap issue; after these reports, about 20 percent of large companies trained employees to recognize unconscious bias.
The spotlight has been set on gender wage gaps, and it’s time to do something about it.
By: Todd Sammis – Inside Politics Participant
At this stage of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, most people are very well versed in the campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump. Since he first announced his run for the White House back in June, his campaign has become a nationwide phenomenon.
The success of the billionaire real-estate mogul’s campaign has managed to shock both political thinkers and average Americans alike. Trump, a political outsider that has never held public office and who is notorious for his hot temper and large ego, was seriously doubted. The New York Times stated: “Trump faces an uphill battle to be taken serious by his rivals, political watchers, and the media.”
The nation remains divided on his White House run: many think he is destined to implode. He has been has offended a large number of Americans including women, Hispanics, Muslims, and even John McCain. It’s no secret Trump has made countless controversial remarks since beginning his campaign, and has taken extreme stances on many issues, specifically immigration. His lack of political correctness, and arguably rude and elitist demeanor, have angered millions of American voters. Yet shockingly, his campaign has been, and still is, wildly successful. The current Real Clear Politics average shows Trump as the frontrunner of GOP candidates with 26.8% of support of the polls and nearly a 5% margin over runner up Ben Carson. So, how is he doing it?
Many major media outlets have focused heavily on Trump’s campaign, receiving fantastic ratings from the millions of viewers in the process. People tuned in to see what Trump would say or do next and waited for him to eventually implode. As the campaign progressed, however, the implosion never came. His face was plastered everywhere. One could not watch the nightly news or even go on Twitter without seeing his provocative behavior being discussed or criticized, often leaving many of his fellow GOP candidates in the background. This intense media coverage has arguably been the key to his campaign’s success. It wasn’t until the Republican debates that there was any wavering in the Trump campaign. Carson, Fiorina, Bush, and Rubio, receiving more media coverage than some of them had received since entering the race, gained some ground on the frontrunner. Since then, Trump hasn’t let up. Using a proven Hollywood tactic, he has applied the media frenzy toward his Presidential campaign, and done it well. The extensive media coverage that he has commandeered has been one of the most important factors to the success of his campaign thus far.
Trump has never held any sort of public office, which, for many, seems like a major disadvantage. Trump, however, has utilized this resume in his favor. The American approval ratings of Washington are extremely low (46% for President Obama and 14% for Congress as of September 13th) and many Americans are looking for a change. Trump has tapped into the built up frustration that the American public holds towards today’s stagnant national government, using his ‘outsider’ status as an asset: a common campaign strategy. In this instance, it’s worked remarkably, rewarding both him and his fellow ‘outsider’ rivals Fiorina and Carson handsomely.
Many of Trump’s rival GOP candidates have attempted to sidestep the most controversial topics, (particularly before the primary) trying to keep themselves in good standing with as many American voters as possible. Trump however, is holding nothing back; he unapologetically says exactly what he wants and doesn’t care who he hurts or offends in the process. Many of Trump’s supporters respect him for his odd transparency. He plays no political games and has earned the trust of many American voters. On the other hand, many find his lack of tact unfitting for a presidential candidate.
Election Day is still a year away, and a lot can happen until then. It’s impossible to say how long the Trump campaign can stay this successful. Unpredictable has been an understatement when describing Trump’s run; the Hollywood strategy that has led him to the top of the polls has never been utilized over long periods of time. However, if the past six months are any indication, Trump cannot be counted out of the race to the White House.