I Didn't Know That!

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

13 March 2015

Today in I Didn't Know That!: constitutional minutiae!

Over at Brookings's Lawfare blog, Jack Goldsmith schools Republcian senators — and me! — on how treaties are ratified passed:

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

I must admit, I had also assumed it was the Senate that was charged with ratifying treaties. But as a reading of the actual constitutional text confirms, Goldsmith is technically correct — the best kind of correct:

Article II, Section 2.

The President ... shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur

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American Daily: March 13, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

13 March 2015

The two officers shot early Thursday are expected to survive, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. They were treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and released Thursday, though one still had a bullet lodged behind his ear.

  • The deep roots of Ferguson's legal system in the South's racist past.
Just as with the convict-leasing system in the South post-Reconstruction, the “crimes” with which Ferguson residents were charged were often not crimes at all, and were almost exclusively enforced against blacks. Records examined by the Department of Justice showed that blacks, despite only comprising about 67% of the population, accounted “for 95% of Manner of Walking charges; 94% of all Fail to Comply charges; 92% of all Resisting Arrest charges; 92% of all Peace Disturbance charges; and 89% of all Failure to Obey charges.” Between 2012 and 2014, blacks were accounted for for 85% of vehicle stops, 90% of citations, and 93% of arrests made by FPD officers.”
  • How the media fails in its coverage of Hillary Clinton.

Here's a tip for my fellow scribes and opinionators: If you find yourself justifying blanket coverage of an issue because it "plays into a narrative," stop right there. That's a way of saying that you can't come up with an actual, substantive reason this is important or newsworthy, just that it bears some superficial but probably meaningless similarity to something that happened at some point in the past. It's the updated version of "out there" — during the Clinton years, reporters would say they had no choice but to devote attention to some scurrilous charge, whether there was evidence for it or not, because someone had made the charge and therefore it was "out there."

Earlier this week, a California federal jury held Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams liable for $7.4m in damages because of copyright infringement, due to the similarities between “Blurred Lines” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” The ruling has been largely greeted with schadenfreude, probably because Thicke is a massive dick and the world seems happy to see him get what appears to be a richly-deserved comeuppance. The only problem? The ruling sets a pretty scary precedent, and is highly questionable from the perspective of music theory.

I was born in the Soviet Union and came to America as a small child. Unlike immigrants from many other places, once you left the Soviet Union there was no going back. You were a traitor, and they took your passport at the door. The family you left behind might suffer for your decision. My parents pulled no punches about what a horrible, backward, evil place it was and how happy they were to be out. They referred to it as “prison.” Every year we celebrate the day we came to America, our “Americaversary.”

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American Daily: March 11, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

11 March 2015

[P]ath dependence is a powerful force in foreign policy. If — still a big if — Obama successfully negotiates a deal in the spring, that deal will have until January 2017 to marinate before the next president has the opportunity to scuttle the executive agreement. If Iran acts in a dodgy fashion, that’s one thing. If, however, they honor the terms as well as they’ve honored the interim deal, then the next president will be trying to sabotage an agreement that tamped down a major stressor in the region.
Clinton will not be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory. Her popularity has already faded considerably over the last two years. Her support could erode even further as the campaign unfolds, or as she comes under new scrutiny, be it for foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, her private email account as secretary of state or new issues.
In a discussion about Clinton’s email controversy, NBC host Chuck Todd asked Graham if he has a personal email account.
“I don’t email,” Graham said. “You can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”
Hardcore was born as a double-negative genre: a rebellion against a rebellion. The early punks were convinced that rock and roll had gone wrong and were resolved to put it right, deflating arena-rock pretension with crude songs and rude attitudes. Legs McNeil, the New York fanzine editor who helped coin the term “punk,” saw the movement as a rejection of “lame hippie stuff” and other symptoms of cultural exhaustion. But when punk, too, came to seem lame, the hardcore kids arrived, eager to show up their elders. The idea was to out-punk the punks, thereby recapturing the wild promise of the genre, with its tantalizing suggestion that rock music should be something more than mere entertainment—that it should, somehow, pose a threat to mainstream culture.

So — live from New York — a passionate, definitive, opinionated, subjective, irresponsible and indefensible breakdown of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. It's a celebration of Lorne Michaels' creation 40 years on — and as every SNL fan knows, part of loving the show means surfing through the lows along with the highs. Keep in mind: We're not ranking their careers, merely their stints on SNL. Also, we're ranking them strictly for what they did onscreen, not behind the scenes. As for who counts as an SNL player, there's a lot of gray area. The whole point of this list is ranking everybody, not just the big names, so it tries to err on the side of being inclusive. "Writers who occasionally showed up in sketches" is a mighty crowded category, but they're ultimately judged by onscreen impact. It's a game of inches out there.

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American Daily: March 10, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

10 March 2015

On Monday, I had received an email from the White House offering “a potential opportunity with President Obama in the very near future.” The opportunity was to be a part of a roundtable of five journalists who would have 30 minutes to talk with the president.
Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, just a sunrise away from that one question, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to ask. I had written one question down, but I wasn’t convinced it was the question. And I was running out of time.
  • What not to say at Florida Department of Environmental Protection: "climate change." 
DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.
  • House of Cards is the worst show about American politics ever made.
Frank and Claire Underwood start off at the beginning of Season 1 as the Democratic majority whip and the head of a small environmental nonprofit organization, respectively. Within two years, they are the president and first lady, all without a competitive election. They did this because they are able to game out people’s behavior and incentives and — this is the key point — no one else is. Much of Washington is just a bunch of naive rubes who want to keep their jobs and avoid bad press, and Frank and Claire are able to exploit that naivete every time. “The West Wing” could certainly get preachy and self-righteous at times, but one thing it got right was that there are lots of smart people in Washington and they’re all working against one another.
  • Why Rand Paul turned down an offer to cameo on Parks and Recreation.

Mike Schur told entertainment news site Hitfix in an interview published Wednesday that Paul was slated to appear on an episode of the show set in Washington, D.C., "but then bailed at the eleventh hour."

"I think he thought we were making fun of him, or something, which we were not, at all," Schur said. "We were in fact flattering him, by linking him to Ron [Swanson, a character on the show]. I get the sense that maybe interpreting writing and humor is not his strong suit."


A photo posted by Foodiggity (@foodiggity) onJul 23, 2014 at 5:43pm PDT

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American Daily: March 9, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

9 March 2015

The President intended to make a useful clarification, yet it’s nearly impossible to overlook the fact that the battles in Selma were animated by a local police force empowered to uphold a racially toxic status quo on behalf of a white minority population. Ferguson’s is not a singular situation. It is an object lesson in the national policing practices that have created the largest incarcerated population in the Western world, as well as a veil of permanent racial suspicion—practices that many people believe will deliver safety in exchange for injustice. What happened in Selma is happening in Ferguson, and elsewhere, too. The great danger is not that we will discount the progress that has been made but that we have claimed it prematurely.​

One should understand that the Justice Department did not simply find indirect evidence of unintentionally racist practices which harm black people, but "discriminatory intent”—that is to say willful racism aimed to generate cash. Justice in Ferguson is not a matter of "racism without racists," but racism with racists so secure, so proud, so brazen that they used their government emails to flaunt it.
“Good supervision would correct improper arrests by an officer before they became routine,” the DOJ report said. “But in Ferguson, the same dynamics that lead officers to make unlawful stops and arrests cause supervisors to conduct only perfunctory reviews of officers’ actions — when they conduct any review at all. FPD supervisors are more concerned with the number of citations and arrests officers produce than whether those citations and arrests are lawful or promote public safety.”
The 21,000 residents of Ferguson, the third of them who are white and the two-thirds who are black, deserve better. Dump this police force ASAP.
In the United States, women still do not receive equal pay for equal work. The pay gap has barely changed in a decade, it exists in nearly every occupation and it is exacerbated for women of color and older women. The lack of paid maternity leave makes it difficult for women to have children and also work outside the home. The resulting loss of income hurts families and the larger economy.

In the first episode of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, a new fish-out-of-water sitcom about a Taiwanese-American family that moves from DC to suburban Orlando, patriarch Louis Huang (Randall Park) floats the idea of hiring a white greeter for the steakhouse he owns so white people will feel comfortable when they walk in and spot a familiar face. It’s a clueless, optimistic line that is played for laughs, and Park’s delivery is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s also a line that works on multiple levels, because it speaks volumes about the current television landscape and its irritating approach to diversity: Networks cater to white audiences by always promoting white faces — or trying to universalize the nonwhite narratives that they do have in an attempt at mass appeal — rather than taking chances on stories whose characters don’t superficially resemble the majority of their viewers.

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DADT in the TPP

By Jacky Kiswanto in Sydney, Australia

7 March 2015

Jacky Kiswanto is a student in the Centre's postgraduate program.

I recently attended the inaugural G’Day USA American Insights program. The Centre sent 19 master's-level students to Washington DC to see and discuss policy making. In New York we attended meetings with legal and financial institutions. Then, we flew to San Francisco and Silicon Valley to unpack the essence of American innovation and entrepreneurship. Finally, in Los Angeles, we attended events concerning trade and tourism, and networked with Australians who made it in Hollywood. 

It was during this time that I observed a strong and invigorated US economy emerging from the 2008 global financial crisis. Amidst a cooling Chinese economy and structurally challenged Europe, many look to the United States to invest, increase trade, and lead in international politics.

A constant topic during policy conversations is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade, market-access, and investment treaty involving 12 countries touching the Pacific Ocean, which the Obama Administration keenly advocates. In the timely spirit of the Sydney Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Mardi Gras festival, this blog entry specifically discusses the interplay of the TPP and LGBTI rights.

The Obama administration heavily sells the benefits of the TPP but, at the same time, many are apprehensive. This is because the TPP will affect many but its processes are shrouded in secrecy. Members of US Congress Mark Pocan (WI-2), Mark Takano (CA-41), David Cicilline (RI-1), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9), and, separately, Representative Jared Polis (CO-2) wrote to President Obama to highlight their concern regarding the administration’s silence on LGBTI rights at the TPP negotiations.

All six representatives concur that the administration’s foreign policy on LGBTI rights is inconsistent by allowing Malaysia and Brunei — I would also add Singapore — to access TPP benefits while they have penal laws that adversely affect LGBTI rights. Pocan et al. advocate for the removal of Malaysia and Brunei from the TPP. Polis hopes that the administration will seize the occasion by leveraging the US’s economic and diplomatic power to express with certain terms that bring an end to discriminatory laws that subject minority groups to violence and danger. I disagree with Pocan et al. and agree with Polis.

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The Obama administration’s domestic LGBTI position is clear and consistent. However, its international approach is strategic and pragmatic. For example, it is easier to suspend trade with Gambia (valued at $37 million) than to risk friction with Singapore, Malaysia, or Brunei (combined trade value of over $100 billion annually). That being said, inconsistency at the international stage is unacceptable if the Administration deems LGBTI rights to be a fundamental human right.

Its silence during TPP negotiations mirrors the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy repealed by this very administration in 2010. Such a hushed position hampers a commitment to defend LGBTI rights as a priority of the administration’s foreign policy. It is possible that the administration’s silence is to avoid contentious issues in an already contentious and difficult discussion with TPP counterparts. The administration probably thinks that by treating these issues separately, the US can strategically dispense their international influence in order to optimally achieve their objectives.

The administration will most likely try to do so by categorising TPP as a business, trade, and commerce issue, while international LGBTI rights will be treated as a distinct and separate front of foreign policy. For example, Randy Berry’s recent appointment as the US's first LGBTI envoy, or the sanctions imposed on Uganda and other extreme anti-LGBTI countries on occasion where it does not adversely affect US interests. The Obama administration should adopt a consistent international voice by using three TPP objectives that directly include and advocate for LGBTI rights.

A more nuanced understanding regarding TPP provisions will produce three instances where the Obama administration can leverage the TPP to benefit international LGBTI rights.

First, strong and enforceable labour standards and rights cannot be divorced from anti-discrimination provisions. Thereby it must include clear protection for LGBTI employees. Second, free and open internet access ought to address censorship of LGBTI content. Third, pharmaceutical intellectual property provisions must support lifesaving affordable access to medicine and, most importantly, change a member country’s penal provision criminalising, burdening, or hampering access for individuals seeking treatment — for example, for citizens in TPP member countries who need HIV/AIDS treatments. As the TPP provisions are not settled, the administration must work to include, achieve, and ensure reservations are not inserted for the provisions above.

The US must lead international efforts to protect LGBTI rights. It is a pressing issue to do so because, as many LGBTI lives improve in some parts of the world, they are deteriorating in many others. The US must use its political and economic power, adopt persuasive diplomacy, empower negotiations, and use all bargaining tools available to advocate at the global stage for fundamental principles embraced by the Obama administration. Rather than treating trade negotiation as an inappropriate time and place to talk about LGBTI rights, these instances are great opportunities for the US to use its economic leverage to constructively engage many unlikely attendees in aspects of human rights and LGBTI issues incidental to trade.

Highlight, talk, discuss, persuade, and persist, because silence is not an option.


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Debunking the civil war tariff myth

By Marc Palen in Exeter, United Kingdom

5 March 2015

Marc Palen is a research associate at the Centre and a lecturer in imperial history at the University of Exeter. This post was originally published at the Centre for Imperial and Global History's blog.

Civil war tariff cartoon

The outbreak of the American Civil War is now more than 150 years past. All the while, the question of what caused the conflict continues to spark disagreement, this despite a longstanding consensus among specialists that slavery — a cultural, political, ideological, and economic institution that permeated (and divided) mid-19th-century American society — was the primary cause of the war. One of the most egregious of the so-called Lost Cause narratives instead suggests that it was not slavery, but a protective tariff that sparked the Civil War.

On 2 March 1861, the Morrill Tariff was signed into law by outgoing Democratic President James Buchanan to protect northern infant industries. A pernicious lie quickly formed around the tariff’s passage, a lie suggesting that somehow this tariff had caused the US Civil War. By ignoring slavery’s central role in precipitating secession and Civil War, this tariff myth has survived in the United States for more than a century and a half — and needs to be debunked once and for all.

In trying to make their case but lacking adequate evidence for the 1860–61 period, “Lost Cause” advocates instead commonly hark back to the previously important role that another protective tariff had played in the 1832 Nullification Crisis. They then (mistakenly) assume the political scenario to have been the same three decades later — that Southern secession from 1860–61 was but a replay of the divisive tariff politics of some thirty years before. From this faulty leap of logic, the argument then follows that the Republican Party’s legislative efforts on behalf of the Morrill Tariff from 1860 until its March 1861 passage became the primary reason for southern secession — and thus for causing the Civil War.

Because of the unfortunate timing of the Morrill Tariff’s passage — coinciding closely as it did with the secession of various Southern states — this has remained perhaps the most tenacious myth surrounding the Civil War’s onset, and one that blatantly ignores the decidedly divisive role of slavery in mid-century American politics and society. Accordingly, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War has witnessed a slew of ahistorical tariff-centered explanations for the conflict’s causation, articles like “Protective Tariffs: The Primary Cause of the Civil War,” which appeared in Forbes Magazine in June 2013. Although the article was quickly pulled from the Forbes website following a rapid response from historians on Twitter (#twitterstorians), this particular piece of tariff fiction still exists on the author’s website as well as in a local Virginia newspaper, the Daily Progress.[1]

Similar tariff-driven arguments for the war’s causation continue to be given voice in American news outlets, in viral Youtube videos, and even on a recent Daily Show episode: No, not by host Jon Stewart, but by that evening’s guest, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a FOX news analyst and NYC law professor. In response to Stewart’s question “Why did Abraham Lincoln start the Civil War?”, Napolitano answered: “Because he needed the tariffs from the southern states.”[2]

The Civil War’s tariff myth has somehow survived for more than a century and a half in the United States. Let’s put an end to it.

In debunking the tariff myth, two key points quickly illustrate how the tariff issue was far from a cause of the Civil War:

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1. The tariff issue, on those rare occasions in which it was even mentioned at all, was utterly overwhelmed by the issue of slavery within the South’s own secession conventions.

2. Precisely because southern states began seceding from December 1860 onwards, a number of southern senators had resigned that could otherwise have voted against the tariff bill. Had they not resigned, they would have had enough votes in the Senate to successfully block the tariff’s congressional passage.

In other words, far from causing the Civil War or secession, the Morrill Tariff of March 1861 became law as a result of Southern secession.

The Tariff Myth’s Transatlantic Origins

Okay. So the Morrill Tariff clearly did not cause either secession or the Civil War. Then how and why did the myth arise?

As I have recently explored in the New York Times (“The Great Civil War Lie”) and at greater length in the Journal of the Civil War Era, the Civil War tariff myth first arose on the eve of the bill’s March 1861 passage. But the myth did not originate in the United States — it first took root in Free Trade England.

Southern congressmen had opposed the protectionist legislation, which is why it passed so easily after several southern states seceded in December 1860 and the first months of 1861. However, this coincidence of timing fed a mistaken inversion of causation among the British public, with many initially speculating that it was an underlying cause of secession, or at least that it impeded any chance of reunion.

The tariff thus played an integral role in confounding British opinion about the causes of Southern secession, and in enhancing the possibility of British recognition of the Confederacy. And thus “across the pond” the myth was born that the the Morrill Tariff had caused the Civil War.

Nor was the tariff myth’s transatlantic conception immaculate. As I’ve previously noted, it was crafted by canny Southern agents in the hopes of confounding British public opinion so as to obtain British recognition of the Confederacy:

Pro-Southern business interests and journalists fed the myth that the war was over trade, not slavery — the better to win over people who might be appalled at siding with slave owners against the forces of abolition. On March 12, 1861, just 10 days after the Morrill Tariff had become law, The London Times gave editorial voice to the tariff lie. The newspaper pronounced that “Protection was quite as much a cause of the disruption of the Union as Slavery,” and remarked upon how the Morrill Tariff had “much changed the tone of public feeling” in favor of “the Secessionists.”

The pro-North magazine Fraser’s made the more accurate observation that the new Northern tariff had handily given the Confederacy “an ex post facto justification” for secession, but British newspapers would continue to give voice to the Morrill myth for many months to come.

Why was England so susceptible to this fiction? For one thing, the Union did not immediately declare itself on a crusade for abolition at the war’s outset. Instead, Northern politicians cited vague notions of “union” — which could easily sound like an effort to put a noble gloss on a crass commercial dispute.

It also helped that commerce was anything but crass in Britain. On the question of free trade, the British “are unanimous and fanatical,” as the abolitionist and laissez-faire advocate Richard Cobden pointed out in December 1861. The Morrill Tariff was pejoratively nicknamed the “Immoral” tariff by British wags. It was easy for them to see the South as a kindred oppressed spirit.

As a result, over the course of the first two years of the Civil War, the tariff myth grew in proportion and in popularity across the Atlantic, propagated by pro-South sympathizers and by the Confederate State Department.

Debunking the Tariff Myth

It would take the concerted efforts of abolitionists like John Stuart Mill, alongside Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, to debunk the Civil War tariff myth in Britain:

The Union soon obtained some much needed trans-Atlantic help from none other than the English liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill. By the beginning of 1862, the tariff myth had gained enough public traction to earn Mill’s intellectual ire, and he proved quite effective at voicing his opinion concerning slavery’s centrality to the conflict. He sought to refute this “theory in England, believed by some, half believed by many more … that, on the side of the North, the question is not one of slavery at all.”

Assuming this to be true, Mill asked, then “what are the Southern chiefs fighting about? Their apologists in England say that it is about tariffs, and similar trumpery.” Yet, Mill noted, the Southerners themselves “say nothing of the kind. They tell the world … that the object of the fight was slavery. … Slavery alone was thought of, alone talked of … the South separated on slavery, and proclaimed slavery as the one cause of separation.”

Mill concluded with a prediction that the Civil War would soon placate the abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic. That, as the war progressed, “the contest would become distinctly an anti-slavery one,” and the tariff fable finally forgotten.

Mill’s prescient antislavery vision eventually begin to take hold in Britain, but only after Abraham Lincoln himself got involved in the trans-Atlantic fight for British hearts and minds when he put forth his Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.

By February, Cobden happily observed how Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had aroused “our old anti-slavery feeling … and it has been gathering strength ever since.” […] And so, two years after the Morrill Tariff’s March 1861 passage, Northern antislavery advocates had finally exploded the transatlantic tariff myth.

It only took the British public about two years to see through the tariff myth, and to recognize the centrality of slavery. In contrast — and tragically — for more than 150 years afterwards the same tariff myth has somehow continued to survive in the United States.

[1] “Protective Tariffs: Primary Cause of the Civil War,” Daily Progress, 23 June 2013. See, also, Mark Cheatham’s critical response to the Forbes piece, “Were Tariffs the Cause of the Civil War?,“ showing how slavery overwhelmingly dominated state secessionist conventions; Phil Magness’s dismantling of both extreme ends of the debate in “Before You Start Claiming that Tariffs Caused the Civil War…” and “Did Tariffs Really Cause the Civil War? The Morrill Act at 150“; and Andy Hall, “Walter E. Williams Polishes the Turd on Tariffs.” You can read the secessionist ordinances in full here.

[2] (If you must), see, et al., “Tariffs, not Slavery, Precipitated the Civil War,” Baltimore Sun, 6 July 2013; “Understanding the Causes of the Uncivil War: A Brief Explanation of the Impact of the Morrill Tariff,” Asheville Tribune; “The True Cause of the Civil War,” Soda Head, 4 October 2010; “The Morrill Tariff Sparked War Between the States,” Madison Journal Today, 10 March 2014; “Real Causes of ‘The Civil War,’” YouTube; “Economic Reasons for the War,” TV Ad, Sons of Confederate Veterans.


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American Daily: March 5, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

5 March 2015

  • Will states' rights prove decisive in the current court challenge to Obamacare?
After nearly ninety minutes of oral arguments today in King v. Burwell, the challenge to the availability of tax subsidies for people who purchase health insurance on a marketplace created by the federal government, six Justices had tipped their hands. Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all seemed like solid votes for the federal government, defending the subsidies, while the challengers could clearly count on the votes of Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Chief Justice John Roberts – who three years ago joined the Court’s more liberal Justices to uphold another provision of the Affordable Care Act, requiring everyone to buy health insurance or pay a penalty (it’s a tax!) – kept his cards close to his chest, asking only a few questions that gave no real hint as to how he might vote. But even if it ultimately doesn’t get the Chief Justice’s vote, the government could still win as long as it can pick up just one more vote. And that seemed like at least a possibility, because Justice Anthony Kennedy asked several questions which suggested that he might be leaning more toward the government than the challengers.
The first phrase speaks to the suspicion that has long hung around the Clintons that they are always working the angles, stretching the limits of how business can be conducted for their own benefit. It seemed clear that Clinton went out of her way to avoid the federal disclosure requirements related to e-mail by never even setting up an official account. That she took it another step and created a "homebrew" e-mail system that would give her "impressive control over limiting access" is stunning — at least to me — given that she (or someone close to her) had to have a sense that this would not look good if it ever came out.
The actual public response to the controversy is likely to be a combination of apathy and partisanship. Few Americans are paying attention to any aspect of the campaign at this point. Those who do notice will most likely divide largely along partisan lines, with Democrats interpreting her actions more charitably, especially once they see Republicans attacking Mrs. Clinton on the issue.
  • How effective was Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress?
Netanyahu claims that Iran is this powerful aggressive state that has recently taken over four countries: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. I’m sorry, but as someone who follows the region somewhat closely, this is simply silly. Iraq is especially peculiar. The reason there is a Shia government in Baghdad is because George W. Bush invaded (with the very strong recommendation of Netanyahu) and installed a pro-Iranian Shia government. If this is a case of conquest, he has the wrong culprit.

Nicole Soojung Callahan: Hi everyone, thank you so much for being part of this discussion. This is a question whose answer might seem obvious, but I still think it’s a good place for us to begin: what exactly is “Asian American literature”? Some people might hear that term and only be able to come up with one or two writers; others might think of writers who deal with certain types of “Asian themes.” What does the term mean to each of you? What kind of work can and does it encompass?

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LA placement, at two weeks

By Eric Xu in Los Angles, California

5 March 2015

Eric Xu is an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney. He is currently in the United States as part of the Centre's Los Angeles Placement Program.

We’re two weeks into the program and the time has simply disappeared. Our days and nights have been jam packed, so I’m writing this on the bus to uni tonight.

Buses are kind of a menagerie of the weird and wonderful, from the surprisingly eloquent hobos who wear fox skin hats on a hot day and perform monologues at the back of the bus rant about the disparity between the rich and poor, to the old guys wearing 3-D glasses for sunnies. But hey, we’re in LA and who knows, maybe 6-D is the next big thing.

The program has been exhausting, but I’m having the time of my life. Even when I get up in the morning, way too groggy to do anything but sit there gormless, I pinch myself to remind me that I’m here studying and working in the City of Angels. It’s an exhilarating thought, and my biggest fear is getting complacent and not making the most of my time here.

Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

On our way to bike the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

I’ve been trying therefore to travel as much as possible, and experience as much of America as I can. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of the two weeks of travelling around America with Nicola, Dan, and Edison after Chicago, but suffice it to say, we had an awesome time. We explored New York, rode out a couple of ups and downs at Disneyworld, nerded it out at Harry Potter World in Universal Studios, celebrated New Years in San Francisco, and drove down to LA. It was so intense, but so much fun. After that, we got straight into the swing of things with our first class at UCLA.

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Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

Literally soaking up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York


Most of our week is pretty structured, with work from Monday to Thursday and class three nights a week. On Monday nights, Heather takes us through what we need to do for our research assignment, so it’s a good chance to hang out with the others and catch up on all the goss.

Our Tuesday and Wednesday classes are run by professors at UCLA, who teach us about doing business in the US and leadership communication strategies. Although they sound fluffy, the classes here are actually really interesting, as they’re so different to those at home. Run akin to seminars, there’s about 30–40 people per class, so it’s much more interactive and we get cold called all the time.


I’m working with Lisa and Nathan at Cappello Capital, a boutique investment bank based right across the road from the Santa Monica beach and a five minute walk from the pier. The view from the office is amazing; sometimes it’s hard not to get distracted when we’re trying to learn financial modelling or build lists of potential strategic partners for various transactions. We sit at the Australia desk, surrounded by buckets of Vegemite and boomerangs. Everyone here is cool; they’re fascinated with anything “Awwssie,” especially when we tell them about drop bears and riding kangaroos to school. Weird accents and even stranger words are a constant source of banter with the guys there, so we broaden our accents and turn up the bogan sometimes.

Cappello Capital boardroom

The view from the board room


I’m living with three other boys, which is great. The four of us muck around, do some stupid stuff and generally have a good time. In saying that however, we’re also pretty much living below the poverty line, which isn’t as much fun for some strange reason. There’s nothing wrong with our apartment, but we’re lazy and can’t be bothered to go out and buy the essentials. Our place looks quite similar to what it looked like when we first moved in, with bare cupboards and an empty fridge.

However, we’ve made some pretty major changes around the place, stocking the pantry with a pack of chips, microwavable popcorn, and some UCLA Jell-O moulds (how do these even exist?!). Just the essentials really. Oh, we also bought brown rice and whole grain spaghetti because we’re super health conscious.

Apartment lifestyle

We’ve got a pretty ghetto setup going for our drying rack, using the cannibalised freezer rack and a Jell-O box to prop it up on.

There’s also a funky smell in the kitchen which we can’t find the source of, but given time it’ll go away eventually. We hope. But give us time and we might just get our act together. That’s entry two of Eric’s not so wise words: Get organised. There’s a ton of work coming up and I’ve been remiss in keeping on top of things, so learn from my mistakes and get with the program.


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American Daily: March 4, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

4 March 2015

  • Was Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress on Iran a success?
Netanyahu may—may—have succeeded in putting Obama on the back foot. Obama has a very hard job here. He has to convince American legislators that reaching an agreement with a terror-sponsoring regime that is known to cheat on nuclear matters (and, by the way, also calls for the annihilation of Israel, a country the majority of Americans support) will make the world a safer place. That's a difficult thing to do, especially when one way to actually reach a deal, American negotiators believe, is to "preserve the dignity" of the Iranian side. There's a reasonable chance that this speech will be forgotten in a month. There's also a reasonable chance that Netanyahu just made Obama's mission harder.

The Justice Department's investigation confirms what various reports from other groups found in Ferguson: the city has long relied on discriminatory traffic stops for budget revenue, and the racial disparities have inflamed tensions between the St. Louis suburb's majority black population and predominantly white local government.

  • Will the Ferguson police department end up closing down as a result of the report?
"My guess is it's going to be so expensive to the city of Ferguson, they're going to have to make a survival decision,” Tim Fitch, the former head of the St. Louis County Police Department, said in a recent interview with The Huffington Post. "Financially, I don't believe they're going to be able to do one of two things: Either they're going to fight it, and not be able to afford that, or to implement all of the changes that DOJ is going to require is going to be so expensive, they're not going to be able to do it."
  • There are more men named John running major companies than there are women.

Among chief executives of S.&P. 1500 firms, for each woman, there are four men named John, Robert, William or James. We’re calling this ratio the Glass Ceiling Index, and an index value above one means that Jims, Bobs, Jacks and Bills — combined — outnumber the total number of women, including every women’s name, from Abby to Zara. Thus we score chief executive officers of large firms as having an index score of 4.0.

  • What rules did Hillary Clinton break by using her personal email for State business?

If Clinton used personal email to conduct official business—which apparently did not violate any federal rules at the time—all of those emails had to be collected and preserved within the State Department's recordkeeping system. That makes sense: The whole point of preserving official records of government business is to have this material controlled by the government, not by the individual official or employee. Yet in this case, Clinton and her aides apparently did not preserve all her emails within the system.

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