Category: Opinion

Opinion

It’s Time To Start Talking About Bail Reform

By Francis Folz | United States

Criminal justice reform is often a precarious topic of American politics. Although Americans by and large recognize our criminal justice system is broken, they often dispute which solutions are best to mend our system’s innumerable quagmires. Political inaction, or worse, further detrimental actions, only exacerbate our system’s woes.

The land of the free is the home of the brave. However, it is also home to 21 percent of the world’s prison population, but only 4.4% of the world’s general population. The United States has between 3 to 4 times as many citizens behind bars in comparison to other developed nations. And what’s worse than locking citizens up for victimless crimes is that 34% of defendants are kept in jail because of their inability to post bail.

From a fiscally responsible perspective, bail reform is a no brainer. A recent study revealed that as of 2014, almost 63 percent of local jail inmates have not been convicted. That statistic is calamitous for two reasons. First, that the state assumes 60 percent of prisoners are innocent, but still detains them without a verdict. Second, housing inmates isn’t cheap. On average, the United States spends $33,000 per year for every inmate. These costs range between states, with Alabama spending nearly $15,000 per inmate and New York spending $69,000.

A majority of Americans support the idea of bail reform in a number of ways. For starters, 57% favor removing people from jails who cannot afford their bail, except in the most extreme circumstances. Furthermore, 70% of Americans believe public safety should be the deciding factor as to whether someone stays in jail before their trial or not. Clearly, Americans broadly support altering the merits of whether individuals walk free before their trial, and for good reason.

Although the concept of reforming our bail system may be new to public discussion, the concept of bail has great historical precedent. In fact, bail has been a part of the Anglo-Saxon justice system for a very long time. Our founding fathers dedicated the 8th amendment to ensure the government could not levy excessive bails against the accused. The purpose of a bail system has always been to assure the accused return to court for their trial.

Regrettably over time, combined with diminutive oversight, our bail system has transformed into a trap for lower income individuals. For example, police accused one man in New York City of possessing drug paraphernalia for merely carrying a soda and straw from the local convenience store. Although the man had a prior criminal history, all of his offenses were low-level and non-violent. Despite the man posing no threat to his community, the state set his bail at an incomprehensible 1,500 dollars. For someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, that is an absurd amount of money, especially when your crime was possessing a plastic straw.

Unfortunately, like so many other issues we currently face, our nation has strayed from the Constitution’s limitations. And as a result, we now find ourselves in a crossroads where change is necessary to avert further dilemmas. At a time when it is imperative to reign in government spending and reduce the amount of citizens behind bars, ameliorating our current system is one of America’s most rational and promising chances at bail reform.


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The Communist Roots of the European Union

By Daniel Szewc | Poland

One cannot defeat a problem without knowing its origins. We cannot stop the disease of the European Union symptomatically. Instead, we must find where the problem came from. The answer to this dilemma may surprise many with just how devastating it is.

Many people will falsely claim that European political elites desired a common free market. Thus, they may say, the elites formed the European Union to accomplish this. However, this could not be further from the truth.

To first see the true initiative that shaped the idea of a United Europe, we have to look at the portfolio of the man behind it all, Altiero Spinelli.

Spinelli, a communist even during Mussolini’s government, was one of the most influential people who formed the EU. He was a member of the European Commission for 6 years, from 1970-1976 (he left voluntarily), as well as a member of the European Parliament for seven years after. A staunch supporter of Trotsky, his views were so radical that the Italian Communist Party threw him out.

Trotskyism is a subset-ideology of Marxism-Leninism that proposes a permanent communist revolution in all countries, not only ones that the Trotskyists take control of. This shows how dangerous Spinelli’s ideas were, even towards non-Europeans.

The Duce’s government imprisoned Spinelli, and then interrogated him during WWII. During his interrogation, he wrote the Ventotene Manifesto, named after the island on which he was held hostage. Here’s a quote from the document: “In order to respond to our needs, the European revolution must be socialist, that is, it must have as its goal the emancipation of the working classes and the realization for them of more humane living conditions.”

As you can see, Spinelli was in every way a communist. One may ask about his views for European unity, but he simply goes much too far with it. Spinelli called for European federalism, which would make all European countries into one and diminish the importance of nationhood.

Though the man himself is long dead, the Spinelli group, created by Guy Verhofstadt (a former Belgian Prime Minister), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (former co-chair of the Greens/EFA group) French MEP Sylvie Goulard and former EP Vice President Isabelle Durant (Greens/EFA) is anything but. I’s main policy is to return the European Union onto the path of federalism.

What happens when you mix Machiavellian tactics, Marxism, cultural hegemony and globalism? You get Antonio Gramsci. Another Italian, this theorist of communism proposed the most significant ideology to Eurocrats: Gramscianism. More appropriately, he is the father of Eurocommunism. Mussolini also imprisoned Gramsci, but he started theorizing the use of European unification as a tool to achieve Marxism before even Spinelli. Here are a few of his major ideas:

1) Embracing new social movements, especially trying to form a minority based majority group of support (supporting women’s rights and gay rights only to gain their support, for example).

2) Achieving cultural hegemony- causing the minds of people in Europe to accept a Homo Sovieticus (the Soviet man- a human unable to live without the state’s societal and economic help, with no motivation to stop the state from exploiting them through taxation) standpoint, and make it the “logical” norm.

3) Achieving socialism through a “third” democratic “way”- as Marx said, “Democracy is the road to Socialism”, and socialism is a milestone on the path to communism.

4) Temporarily reconciling with the power hierarchy to achieve all of the above.

As you probably know, these tactics are exactly what the European Union leadership is using nowadays. As for another great influence on Europe’s non Soviet left, lastly comes Rudi Dutschke.

A West German socialist student activist, Dutschke was an influential figure for many. At one point, his influence caused a lone wolf to try to shoot him. While the plan failed, it sparked a wave of violence from Dutschke’s ideological apprentices. At that point, he told them to stop the nonsense, and proposed a “Long March through the institutions of power”, based on the Chinese communist army’s long march through China.

His idea was to subvert the governments of Europe, and to install communism from inside. This is the most popular interpretation of his words. However, in recent years, it makes more sense that he wanted to create alternative European governing bodies. The European Union is such an alternative.

A good example of such a march through the institutions can be (for example) Donald Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland, and current President of the European Council. In his 2007 election campaign, he promised to cut taxes and bureaucracy, reduce the number of speed limits, and liberalize the law in general. Soon enough, he raised taxes and inflicted more regulations.

Starting off as a classical liberal, he now happily takes part in the most bureaucratic organisation since the Soviet Union, the European Union. Tusk makes no attempt to reform it in any way.

The aforementioned Guy Verhofstadt is another excellent example. Many, before his election, called him “Young Thatcher” for his support of privatization and generally right-wing views. Now, he is the leader of Spinelli’s EU fan club.

What does the future hold for Europe? All we can do is pray that the hippy-esque generation of politicians who are now in power will soon loose their grip on it. The liberty of Europe is at stake.


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Twitter’s Terrible Mob Mentality

By K. Tymon Zhou | United States

A defining characteristic of mobs is their irrationality. Self-awareness is lost in an all-consuming group identity. They readily apply double standards without a second thought. Most mobs are monstrous mayflies, spreading disaster momentary.  Unfortunately, a mob mentality can morph into a corporate culture. Such is the terrible tale of Twitter and Candace Owens.

Candace Owens, a conservative activist at Turning Point USA, had her Twitter account banned for 12 hours. Why? Mimicking The New York Times writer Sarah Jeong, Owens made defamatory statements:

Such statements are shocking.  One can readily understand why Twitter would ban a user who made such statements. However, Owens stated she simply used black where Jeong used white. Her intent was clear: to criticize Jeong. Nevertheless, Twitter, falsely detecting hate, banned her. To their credit, Twitter apologized. This begs the question: why wasn’t Jeong similarly banned? The answer lies in the psychological origins of mob mentality and Twitter’s corporate culture.

Mobs are a catastrophic case of conformity.  In 1951, Solomon Asch, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College, conducted a classic experiment on conformity.  During the experiment, students were presented several lines and were asked to compare a line.  Asch separated the students into groups of eight with seven being willing confederates with him. The confederates would give an incorrect answer before the unaware participant. However, thirty-two percent of participants agreed with the incorrect majority.   In mobs, individuals who would otherwise challenge the mob’s flawed assumptions bend to the majority’s will. Asch’s experiment presented only peer influence. In reality, mobs present even greater pressure such as damaging a dissident’s career.   This results in even greater conformity under such conditions.

A corporate culture can similarly create conformity. If a corporate culture is dominated by a particular ideology, individuals from opposing ideologies feel less comfortable sharing their views. Such is the case with several technology companies such as Apple and Facebook. In a survey by the Lincoln Network, sixty-six percent of conservatives and libertarians in these companies shared that they would feel uncomfortable sharing their political views with their colleagues. By way of comparison,  only thirty percent of liberals felt similarly.  This liberal corporate culture can lead to poorly informed decisions such as whether or not to ban an individual from using Twitter. Mo Nohrai, a former Twitter content agent, describes this process:

…if they said this is: ‘Pro-Trump’ I don’t want it because it offends me, this, that. And I say I banned this whole thing, and it goes over here and they are like, ‘Oh you know what? I don’t like it too. You know what? Mo’s right, let’s go, let’s carry on, what’s next?

The response of “Mo’s right, let’s go” echoes Asch’s line experiment. In a corporation dominated by liberal ideology such as Twitter, questioning a ban would likely go unrewarded. It would result in exposing political views, something many conservative and libertarian employees find uncomfortable. Instead, they are placed with a stark choice: conform and succeed or dissent and be isolated. Faced with such a choice, remaining silent seems the preferable option, allowing double standards to emerge.

What can Twitter do to resolve this conflict? Altering a culture presents no easy task. By making the banning process more sophisticated, Twitter can avoid embarrassing mistakes such as Owen’s. By decentralizing this process, Twitter could remove the pressure to conform to a content agent’s position.  In any case, substantial reform is needed to control Twitter’s mob mentality. Through such efforts, Twitter can regain its rationality and become the open forum it needs to be.


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This Could Be Worse Than the Cold War

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

With growing tensions in the world, falling economic markets, militaries expanding, a rise of the number of refugees, instability in the Middle East, European and EU frustrations, the US’ interventionist foreign policy, Russia’s unpredictable expansionist attitude, and now the bittering of US-Russia relations, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the world is entering a new Cold War. I will provide evidence for and against the idea that the US and Russia are entering such a predicament. It is my position that we are neither in a new Cold War nor the same Cold War, rather we are headed into the direction of an all-out world conflict.

The anxiety between Russia and the US have expedited since the Russian Federation annexed Crimea invading Ukraine in 2014. Already, there were accusations by the US prior to this invasion that Russia had been committing acts of cyber attacks around the world, which former US President Obama had addressed. Once Russia marched into Ukraine, the world was aware of the unpredictability of Russian President Putin and his expansionist foreign policy. Many scholars and writers have been maintaining a careful eye on the intensifying circumstances and have duly noted the evidence of US and Russian aggression.

As stated by US political scientist, Robert Legvold, the possible second Cold War began during the Ukraine crisis of 2013. While Andrew Kuchins, an American political scientist and Kremlinologist, believes the term of a “Cold War” is unsuited for the current conflict. Yet, Kuchins also believes it may actually be more dangerous than the first Cold War. From the Kremlin’s perspective, it is the US that first upended previous norms of communication and peace, when in 2002, former President George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was a Cold War treaty limiting possible nuclear warfare. Due to the lessening of treaties and agreements, it is perpetually leading US-Russia relations to an impasse. According to John Sawers, a former MI6 chief, believes the world is entering an era that was possibly more dangerous than the Cold War, as we do not have a focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington.

According to Dr. Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto, “The Cold War was an orderly competition; there were rules to the game. Now the rules aren’t there, and there is a lot more unpredictability. Russia is no longer a superpower, so in that way, it may not be worse,” Braun said. “Before, the countries had different and competing ideologies, and they wanted to expand those across the world, so there was also constant tension and a threat of nuclear war.” So, “In that sense, no, this is not the Cold War. But we should not dismiss it.”

In early April 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that relations between the two nations have never been worse than they are today. “The situation is worse compared to the classical Cold War since some sort of rules were in force at that time and some decency was in place.” On the other hand, according to Ivan Kurilla, a historian at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia, “If you look for similarities with what is happening, it is not the Cold War that can explain events but Russia’s first revolutionary regime which regularly assassinated opponents abroad.” He went on to say that Russia’s President, Vladimir V. Putin, had no interest in spreading a new ideology and fomenting world revolution, unlike the early Bolsheviks, but that Russia under Mr. Putin had “become a revolutionary regime in terms of international relations.”

However, contradictory to Kurilla, in March of 2018, a former Russian spy was poisoned while in the UK, as apparently it was an attempted murder and the immediate accusations were pointing to Russia as the culprit. Russia fervently denied all allegations to the incident. Nevertheless, the international response was a devastating blow to Russian relations with not only the UK, but also the US, and the West in general. Immediate action was taken, President Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States that very month, adding to a growing cascade of similar actions taken by Western allies. Poland, Italy, Denmark, France, and Germany were among 14 EU member nations announcing plans to expel Russians from their respective countries in solidarity with Britain, which expelled 23 Russian diplomats after the poisoning. Canada also said it would expel 4. In addition, Poland and Germany stated that they, too, would expel some Russian diplomats.

Russia consistently adheres to the principle of reciprocity, and the Kremlin declared that it would assess the damage to its diplomat corps overseas and that Russia would respond with expulsions of Western diplomats. The Russian Parliament added with the deputy head of its foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Chepa, telling the Interfax news agency that Russia would not bow to the West’s diplomatic war tactics. Russia, Chepa said, “Will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be.”

An additional blow to Russia’s reputation and credibility, adding fuel to the tumultuous fire building between Russia and the US, twelve Russians have been indicted for supposedly hacking the Democratic Party’s servers and emails while also jeopardizing voter information in the US. For years, Russia has been accused of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism, and this has been one of the most significant of those accusations. Although after Trump met with Putin and they discussed the circumstances and situation of the hacking, Putin denied the allegations, and for now Trump has accepted his answer. Nevertheless, the trial against the twelve will carry on.

Although the evidence for a current Cold War is piling up, there are some key differences between the former Cold War and the escalating tensions currently straining US and Russian relations. One of those factor differences is that the Cold War consisted of the two world leading powers with significantly more polarity than the current state of being. The bipolar split between the US and former USSR was not only caused by the nuclear arms race but also in philosophical ideology as each felt their universal values were superior. The US was pressing for global Liberal Capitalism, while the USSR was pushing for Marxism-Leninism type Communism. True Capitalism focuses on the natural rights of the individual with a government protecting the negative rights of that individual. While the Marxism-Leninism form of Communism, on the other hand, attempts a top-level down approach of positive rights theory, claiming that elites can scientifically approach society for complete control with the greatest equal outcome for all.

With the arms race, innate philosophical differences, and both the USSR and the US expanding militarily while assisting other like-minded countries, the Cold War led to creating global bipolarity with proxy wars and spillover into other countries, and plenty of political blowback to boot. Although the current status of the world military climate is building into separate countries adhering to ideologies of nationalism, we do not see as great of a number of countries joining in opposition of one another based on ideological claims. The monster of Communism is not as overtly displayed in the world today. Rather, we are seeing hybrids of Communism in the form of Democratic Socialism and mixed economies utilizing both Capitalistic individualism and free trade, with Communistic welfare, regulations, and control. These ideologies are creating more conflict and polarization within countries rather than States in direct opposition and conflict. So, these are signs of contentions and escalating tensions, but not the same as the Cold War between the US and USSR.

Overall, the world is seeing a rise in expansionism and nationalism, while also conflicts are arising between countries. This does not mean that we are in a new Cold War or even a continuation of the first. Rather, this is evidence of escalating global conflict more likened to that of an actual World War than a Cold War. To prevent such a terrifying occurrence as WWIII, communication needs to be restored between countries, and expansionism needs to cease in order to not press other countries towards retaliation. Many fear the possibility of a political power vacuum if global control is voluntarily ended by the US; but, equally, the building of confrontational militaries and contentious communication will surely push for resentment and all-out war. Let us pursue communication, trade, and peace, with treaties and agreements, and see where that takes us instead.


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It’s Time to Ensure Equal Standards for Government and the People

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In today’s political landscape, government and the people do not have an equal amount of power. Such a notion really is indisputable, considering the fact that our military just aided Saudi forces by supplying weapons and mid-air support to their air strikes, which bombed and killed a bus full of schoolchildren in Yemen Thursday. However, not one of them will face a prison sentence, or any real punishment at all. In fact, most of this, like the planes, flew under the radar of the people entirely.

Clearly, if an individual did this, he or she would be looking at a nasty punishment, likely involving the electric chair. But ironically, the death penalty is also an example of government carrying more rights than the people. As the average time spent on death row exceeds 15 years, it is safe to say that this is no act of self defense. Thus, it is yet another legal ability government has, but the people do not. It’s darkly and bitterly funny how the state sees killing. They kill people who kill people, because killing people is wrong, right? Got it. How else would you deal with someone who does something so morally reprehensible as killing someone?

Now, the list of government privileges that the people do not have goes far beyond these two. For example, the government may confiscate your land through eminent domain, then take and sell back your right to fish on that land. Imagining the consequences of an individual trying to do the same to his neighbor leads down a wicked path to the end of a shotgun barrel, not to mention a potential for some more government-approved killing as well.

Despite this clear power imbalance, the most crucial part of the Declaration of Independence directly warns against such an atrocity.

To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

The Consent of the Governed clause is a tremendously important segment of the document. Though not legally binding, it establishes an important precedent for the types of government that may exist.

Essentially, this clause states that the people may choose what powers they give to the state. Power begins with the people, and then, they may delegate them to the state at will. But how can the people delegate powers that they don’t have in the first place?

The question stumped Vermont’s very own Senator Bernie Sanders, in a 2008 interview. The independent, on a YouTube show with Jan Helfeld, agreed that all just powers of the government are derived from the people. But then, after some back and forth questioning, Sanders admits that people do not have the right to initiate force against others (sans self defense).

As Helfeld excellently questions after this, how can the people delegate this right, if they do not have it? If the people give their rights to the government, and that is the only form of just government, how does a just government obtain rights that the people did not have, and thus, were entirely unable to give away? This sends Sanders, and likely many others, into a tailspin.

The senator admits that the people give the state the power to make war and roads. Then, he goes so far as to say yes, people can give government rights they do not have. However, this is entirely contradictory to his previous statement.

In no way is Bernie Sanders alone in his clearly contradictory beliefs in this manner. He just happened to be unlucky enough to get caught under the net of Helfeld’s tough questioning. When it comes down to it, all 100 senators have the same ideals as Sanders, in this way. All claim a desire for a just and representative government, as outlined by the founding documents of our country. Yet, all support a government with rights that the people do not have.

Last March, the Senate voted, 55-44, against a treaty that would have made it more difficult for the president to place troops in Yemen without congressional oversight. In fact, Sanders, along with Senators Mike Lee and Chris Murphy, were on the right side of this one. Had the bill passed, Congress would have needed to approve any further military action. But in this case, even the right side ignores the real issues.

Regardless of whether or not the president or Congress is stationing troops in Yemen, there is a body forcing troops to go to Yemen. Yes, it is true that the draft is not currently active, and those in Yemen are volunteers. But the Senate made sure in 2016 that they had the power to round up the troops if necessary. When the civilians do that one, it’s called kidnapping.

Ultimately, it matters little whether the men (and women now) in Yemen are volunteer or recruit. Likewise, it matters little in the 39% of the world’s countries the United States is fighting terror in. Spoiler alert, terror is winning. With each civilian casualty, terror spreads. And as it all happens, the government approves it, clearly without a justification.

Thomas Jefferson was an imperfect man, owning slaves and having an affair with at least one of them. His public policy was also, in many cases, hypocritical, as his distaste for noble blood matched his equal belief that white blood was superior. But, when it comes to the Declaration of Independence, the third president is spot on.

A government, if it is to exist at all, must derive its rights from the consent of the governed (not from 51% of them, either). Today’s state entirely ignores this principle. In many cases such as with Senator Sanders, our elected officials do not even realize their own hypocrisy. It is time to take the government back, end the wars, bring the rights back to the people, and eliminate those rights which do not exist at all. It is time to ensure equal standards exist between government and the people. The future of our country and the lives of those abroad depend on it.


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