Human Rights vs Natural Rights - By – Adam Kaiser In our current political discourse the claim of human rights is often used to describe something as sacred or inviolable, express a sense of entitlement, and shape ideas of justice. However, there is much dispute over what counts as a right, where they comes from, and what moral weight we ought to credit them. Much of this dispute has originated from the transition from a natural rights framework to a human rights framework, which has blurred the line between negative and...
What are School Vouchers? - By Erik Lepisto ’20 Ever since Betsy Devos was confirmed as Secretary of Education last month, there has been an increased interest in educational policy like never before. Unfortunately, many people seemingly have very little knowledge about the fundamental debates, contrasting policies, and different types of educational “reform.” This is the case because we just had an important election, but there was very little substantial debate or discussion about the different routes K-12 education can take. Many American citizens believe that the America’s Public Schools...
Reframing War: A Path to Peace - By Griffin Edwards ’17 As of the Second World War, our understanding of war has radically shifted. Gone are the days of massive empires gobbling up their neighbors at the end of a sword. Since 1945, the liberal world order and the institutions it has created have ensured peace and prevented another large-scale conflict. Paradoxically, however, today’s world seems forever embroiled in conflict. The Middle East seems perpetually tumultuous, rebel groups in Africa terrorize rural areas, and a few “rogue nations” persist. But by and...
Write-up: Nestor Gomez Jimenez - On Tuesday, February 21, Nestor Gomez Jimenez came to speak at a dinner event hosted by the Political Awareness Committee. Mr. Jimenez is a progressive political organizer in the Twin Cities area. He has worked in the political activism field since he was 14 and most recently worked with local DFL candidates in an effort to get them elected. In his talk, he addressed many of the concerns people of color or non-citizens are currently having. He spoke against the REAL ID Act which is...
The Irony of Power: Or, Enjoy your President! - Griffin Edwards I should start out by saying that I’m not a supporter of Donald Trump; he makes me cringe as much as the next liberal arts student (although perhaps not to the point of protesting). But my fear of Trump stems more from the President on his way out than the President currently on his way in. In a strange irony of politics, the monster-elect is a product of his predecessor’s policies. Consider three recent events: Obama’s executive order regarding immigration, Obama’s expulsion of...
Finding Solutions for Gun Violence in Chicago - Bianca Renteria ’17 Below is a message my former teacher from my High School recently posted, as it perfectly embodies the importance of education not only to our students, but also for the people who judge those students for where they come from. It demonstrates determination for a better future, and that is worth noting and admiring. Therefore, I call for a new gun law solution. If there were something that Democrats and Republicans do not agree with, other than almost everything, it would be...
A Brave New World: Death of International Liberalism - By Griffin Edwards ’17 Since the 1940s, there are certain mores that nearly every world-power state has followed fairly closely, largely to avoid another set of World Wars. Agreements and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as Bretton Woods, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, NATO, the Warsaw Pact, GATT, and a slew of others encouraged diplomatic cooperation between nations for the sake of economic prosperity, national security, and general goodwill. This kind of cooperation is typically called “liberalism” in modern International Relations circles. Liberal-style international cooperation...
The Case for Donald Trump - By Andrew Morales ’19 On Tuesday November 8th 2016, after 16 months of careful deliberations pertaining to the overall wellbeing of the United States, I decided to cast my vote for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. This decision was by no means simple and required a great deal of moral and theoretical rigor. Although I lean ideologically right and identify as a conservative Republican, I find Donald Trump to be an absolute train wreck of a man and an imbecile at best. One might ask...
Introducing Green Party 2016 Presidential Candidate Jill Stein - By Danny Vojcak ’19   “I don’t care who does the electing so long as I get to do the nominating” –Boss Tweed “Americans have not only the right to vote, but a right to know whom we can vote for” – Jill Stein   You probably haven’t heard of Jill Stein. While large news networks continue to highlight Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, many have all but forgotten about the other female presidential candidate in the upcoming 2016 election—Jill Stein of the Green Party....
An Aria that Trumps all Others - By Siri Lundgren ’19 It’s no doubt that the 2016 presidential election has been extremely polarized. In fact, the election has become so polarized that politicization rears its head on the most unexpected front: the stage. Donald Trump has had several musicians ranging from Adele to Twisted Sister request that he refrain from using their music for his campaign. However, the most surprising request came from the family of Luciano Pavarotti. So why would the family of Pavarotti, an Italian opera singer who died in...
Tuesday Event: Ilhan Omar - On Tuesday, October 11, Ilhan Omar visited St. Olaf to deliver a talk about the importance of youth involvement in politics. Ilhan Omar is currently running unopposed for Minnesota State Representative of Housing District 60B and will be elected in November. Omar has been involved in politics since attending caucuses with her grandfather at the age of 14 and she will be the first Somali-American legislator in the United States. In her talk, she discussed how rather than being the leaders of the future, the...
Elections at Home - By Abigail Olson ’19 It’s difficult to forget that this is an election year. The yard signs come out, the T.V. ads get aggressive, and the bumper stickers demand to be recognized. Politics, predictions, and polls are on everyone’s mind these days, and with all of the chaos surrounding two very famous (or infamous) presidential candidates, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of electing a new president. Understandable yes, but I think many of us lose sight of the equally important elections...
On Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and Women - By Alexandra Rosati ’18 Gender has played a central role in the 2016 election. In addition to the widely discussed possibility of electing the first female president, Republican nominee Donald Trump has been widely criticized for a string of sexist statements. The primary season began with a question from Fox News’s Megyn Kelly about Trump’s treatment of women which prompted one of the Trump campaign’s first public feuds. He went on make sexist attacks on women such as Megyn Kelly, female politicians including Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, as well...
Tuesday Event: Eric Schwartz - This Tuesday, Eric Schwartz came to St. Olaf to speak to students about the refugee crisis and humanitarianism. Eric Schwartz, a graduate of Binghamton University, has an impressive career. Before taking his current position as Dean of Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, he worked for several organizations: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford Foundation, and the Human Rights Watch to name a few. Schwartz’s public career took off when he worked with Bill Clinton during his presidential campaign and...
South Africa in Rocky Waters - By Tazorodzwa Mnangagwa ’16 In a recent interview with the Al Jazeera English Network, outspoken South African opposition figure Julius Malema, threatened to use “…the barrel of a gun” as a last resort if necessary to remove the ruling party—African National Congress (ANC)—from government. Malema, 35, and leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is not a stranger to controversy in South African politics. At a press conference in 2010, Malema, then head of the influential ANC Youth League (once headed by Nelson Mandela) chastised...
Jonathan Haidt’s “What an Asshole” Remark is Wrong - Posted Anonymously Within the last 10 years, United States politics have become hyperpolarized. Jonathan Haidt, in his speech, “What on Earth is Happening to our Country? The Moral Psychology of Political Division,” argues that Congress is extremely polarized and describes this polarization as a “disaster.” While Haidt provides a detailed explanation of the reasons for this polarization, he gives an example that college campuses reflect this hyperpolarization in his Atlantic article. I will give a response to his argument criticizing political correctness and trigger warnings...
A Supreme 2016 - Griffin Edwards ’17 On the last weekend of February, I had the honor of attending the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, DC. ISFLC is the largest annual gathering of liberty-minded people from around the world: anarcho-capitalists, classical liberals, objectivists, constitutional conservatives, and minarchists all under one roof. “Celebritarians” ranging from the president of Liberland (an experimental micronation in the Balkans), to a state representative from Brazil, to the crown prince of Lichtenstein, to the president of the ACLU, to American internet star Julie...
The Basic Income: A Compassionate Alternative to the Welfare State - Adam Kaiser ’19 It has become a common refrain of late on both sides of the aisle that our welfare system is in dire need of reform. Only 16% of Americans feel the government is doing an adequate job addressing poverty. The left generally feels our current programs don’t provide enough assistance; the right is convinced that such programs are wasteful and encourage the perpetuation of poverty. The truth is both are accurate criticisms. Giving a homeless unemployed person food stamps worth on average $1.50...
Elections and Democracy in Africa - Tazo Mnangagwa, ’16 2015-2016 is an important period for the state of democracy in Africa. By December, at least 35 countries across the continent will organize for elections, be it local, legislative or presidential. The sheer number of states organizing elections this year demonstrates the progress of democracy in Africa. Millions of Africans now have a platform to exercise their political rights and vote for their future leaders. The fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s created a ‘third wave’ of democracy, with many African states abandoning the one...
Digital Privacy: An Issue for the 21st Century - By Griffin Edwards ’17 On February 16, 2016, the Silicon Valley tech company Apple released a statement written by CEO Tim Cook publicly declaring that Apple would decline to obey an FBI order. At first glance, Cook and his employees may seem to be flagrantly disobeying government charges. One could even go so far as to characterize their refusal as contempt towards a federal mandate. However, Cook chose morality over legality, and will have plenty of hearings, I’m certain, to show for it. Following the San Bernardino shooting, the FBI...
The Failure of the Keynesian Orthodoxy - By Adam Kaiser There has been much buzz about our northern neighbor’s new government under Justin Trudeau. Between his shiny aesthetically diverse cabinet, charming good looks, and embrace of “Millennial Politics” he’s all the rage nowadays. However it also marks something else of equal importance that’s snuck in relatively unnoticed; John Maynard Keynes’s worn policies have returned once again to Canada. While not in extremely bad shape Canada’s economy is technically in a recession right now. After running a balanced budget for several years Trudeau’s promise of sweeping deficit spending to jumpstart...
Fear: The New American Value - By Kyle Wilmar Fear has always been a strong motivation in politics and is nothing new for American culture but in more recent times it has gone too far. The use of fear to fuel political agendas and scare people into submission will be one of the biggest mistakes of our generation if we don’t fight the problem now. From 9/11 to Syrian Refugees our generation has become cold to the needs of others and submissive to the actions of government in the name of...
Gun Control and the Monopoly of Force - By Griffin Edwards ‘17  A friend of mine who lives in Faribault invited myself and some other Oles to a shooting range back in November. He emerged from his car at the range wearing a black t-shirt reading “From my Cold Dead Hands” over a picture of an assault rifle. He then opened up the trunk to reveal a veritable arsenal: three or four pistols, a black-powder flintlock, an old-fashioned percussion cap revolver, and an AK-47, among others. Our eyes bugged out of our heads...
Campus Activism: From Mizzou to St. Olaf - By Siri Ericson ’17 After countless microaggressions and a wave of recent hate crimes across campus, students throughout University of Missouri (Mizzou) have united to challenge racist acts and the inaction of the school’s administration. In an interview with CNN, the African American student activist, Jonathan Butler, says, “I’m in this because it’s that serious. We’re dealing with humanity here. And at this point, we can’t afford to continue to work with individuals who just don’t care for their constituents”. Frustrated with escalating racial tensions,...
A Call to Action: Adopting an Affirmative Consent Policy at St. Olaf - By Sydney Spreck ‘17 In the University of Minnesota policy handbook, affirmative consent is defined as “informed, freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in sexual activity that is expressed by clear and unambiguous words or actions.”  This newly adopted policy applies to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, and works to enforce the importance of asking for consent before initiating sexual contact with a partner.  Policies at St. Olaf College likewise need to change to a standard of affirmative consent in order...
Campus Activism: It’s Possible, Even During Finals - By Emma Whitford ’18 A couple weeks ago my American Conversations professors asked the class to ignore the assigned readings and to catch up on the recent protests and conflict at Mizzou, Yale, in Minneapolis and in Chicago. Their intention was to facilitate a conversation about racial tension on college campuses, specifically at St. Olaf. Our discussion began like any typical day in AmCon; we started by pointing out a problem, discussed and argued over that problem and… that was it. That was it! Few...
Transitioning from Terrorism to Climate Talks: Paris Turns from Grief to Hope - By Michaela Marincic ’16 Leaders from 195 countries convened in Paris on Monday for a week of negotiations to develop a global action plan on climate change. Marked by peaceful environmental demonstrations worldwide, the Paris climate conference (COP21) represents true optimism that, maybe, just maybe, we can get it right this time. However, these talks come with a long history of less successful attempts as well as an (organic, non-GMO) alphabet soup of acronyms, so here are the basics to help guide you through the...
Canada: The Liberal to the North - By Kyle Wilmar ’17 Americans have long seen Canada as some sort of socialist paradise to the North. However, Canada has been far removed from socialism for the last eleven years under a majority government and prime minister from the Conservative Party of Canada. Only in the recent 2015 election has the Liberal Party of Canada gained control with a majority government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Following the recent election, talk of Canadian politics has drawn the world’s eye. With the new management of...
Not a Minute Too Late: Free Speech on College Campuses - By Griffin Edwards ‘17 I’m disappointed in you, Oles. After hearing about what’s going on at Mizzou, hearing of schools with safe spaces, students silenced in class and online, socially marginalized for their beliefs, I   was quick to say, “Thank God I go to a place like St. Olaf, where all  views are respected and free speech is so open. Oles    are better than that.” Granted, I’ve heard a few students tell others “You can’t think like that” or “You can’t say that.” But...
Developments in the Capital Punishment Debate - By Gabrielle Simeck ’18 In recent years, capital punishment has become a contentious issue in the United States due to lethal injection drug shortages and international pressure  to shelf in the institution as a whole. Both the UK and all European Union member-states have outlawed the death penalty and the export of lethal injection drugs to the United States for execution purposes. As a result, state governments have been under extreme pressure to locate and acquire drugs necessary for lethal injection procedures. Lethal injection became...
Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership: What is it and Why Does it Matter? - By Adam Kaiser ’19 If you’ve been paying any general attention to the news,  politics, and the presidential debates, or even happen to flip on a TV lately, you’ve probably heard about the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) by now. Every politician, pundit, and armchair analyst is ready to sing the TPP’s praises or condemn it as a corporatist scheme. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership is poised to be the crowning achievement of Obama’s second term, and this appears to be his follow-up of Bill Clintons NAFTA...
The Minimum Wage: Fact and Feelings - By Griffin Edwards ’17 Let me begin with a little disclaimer. I don’t hate “the poor”. I believe that, as a human being, I am a brother to every other human being on earth, a member of the same global family. And I think a lot of people think that way too. Ask anyone, and I guarantee you,  most- if not all- would agree that, yes, it’s good to help  the poor. The only ones that might respond in the negative probably keep a copy...
The Devils in Democracy: Shortcomings of Utopian Government - By Griffin Edwards ’17 I spent spring break touring Oregon and Washington with a good friend of mine. Highlights included seeing an authentic Klingon bat’leth from Star Trek; Forks, WA, of Twilight fame; and the Women and Women First bookstore, as featured in Portlandia. Besides these icons of pop culture, our adventures included Olympic National Park, Pike’s Place Market, and the Oregon coast. It was a wonderful vacation that won’t soon be forgotten. One interesting thing struck me while on our journey, however. All throughout...
New Solutions, or Relics from a Former Time? - By Gabrielle Simeck ’18 Throughout this year, I’ve been writing capital punishment updates and chronicling the lethal injection debate. In March, a new series of developments emerged. States are beginning to realize that the reputation of lethal injection is in decline. Due to limited imports of chemicals needed for lethal injection, states have been hard pressed to collect the necessary chemicals for the execution procedure. As result, a movement in state legislatures supporting alternative means of execution has been gaining strength in the past few...
Israeli Elections Threaten Relations with the United States - By Christine Barkley ’18   On Tuesday March 17, 2015 Benjamin Netanyahu won an election that will see him Prime Minister of Israel for a fourth term. Immediately prior to being elected, the Prime Minister made two extremely polarizing remarks. Netanyahu stated on Election Day that there were too many Arab voters out in “droves” in order to encourage right wing voters to come to the polls. A few days before the election, he made the bold statement that there would be no Palestinian state...
A Lost Opportunity - By Gabrielle Simeck ’18 This past week in Congress, progress on new sex-trafficking legislation stalled. Bill S140 sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) previously garnered support from both sides of the aisle in committee. The proposed legislation would raise money for a fund benefiting sex-trafficking victims using fees assessed to sexual predators. However, this initial bi-partisan support eroded when senators took a second look at the bill.   At first glance, the bill looks like a step in the right direction, by providing support for...
The Problem of Partisanship - By Griffin Edwards ‘17  There’s a great scene in the Russell Crowe film Master and Commander (one of my favorites) in which the officers aboard a Napoleonic-era British frigate are dining together. Captain Aubrey (Crowe) asks his ship’s doctor to choose between a pair of weevils wriggling about on the table between some hard tack. The doctor responds that they’re identical. The captain pressures the doctor to choose one of the two. The doctor chooses one, saying it’s larger and thus superior. Aubrey hits the...
An Unlikely Alliance - By Gabrielle Simeck, ’18 It’s not very often that Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress find common ground. However, the new Coalition for Public Safety suggests that the two organizations may have found an issue over which to unite. Launched on Thursday, February 19, the Coalition for Public Safety brings these two polar opposite organizations together along with a slew of other bipartisan political and financial organizations for the purpose of advocating for criminal justice reform. The bipartisan membership of the coalition includes...
Lessons Learned from the NYPD Strike - By Griffin Edwards ‘17 Police can oftentimes inspire fear. Ever since she was pulled over and given a speeding ticket last year, my girlfriend has become a little fearful. If I’m driving her car, she emphatically encourages me to stay less than 5 miles over the speed limit on freeways- a request my Californian roots sometimes find difficult to fulfill. That being said, police are people too. In late December of last year, the New York City Police Department went on strike. This was a...
A Modern-Day Witch Hunt - By Gabielle Simeck ’18 On January 20, 2015, President Obama addressed the American people in his annual State of the Union address. Obama appealed to the nation for a return to our convictions of justice, fairness, and freedom. Throughout the speech, President Obama called on Congress as well as each American citizen to reconsider the past 15 years and to contemplate the United States’ proper role in international politics. The many political issues raised during the speech — equal pay, free college tuition, closing Guantánamo...
Capital Punishment Update - By Gabrielle Simeck ’18 December 23, 2014: The Supreme Court voted on Friday to hear a case, Glossip v. Gross, No.14-7955, involving three death-row inmates who claim the three-drug method often used for lethal injection violates the 8th amendment’s ban of cruel and unusual punishment. It’s been seven years since the Supreme Court last heard and ruled on a case regarding lethal injection: Baze v. Rees, a case which evaluated the constitutionality of the three-drug mixture for lethal injection in Kentucky. The Court upheld most of...
A Broken Promise of Justice: The CIA Interrogation Program - By Gabrielle Simeck ’18 On December 9th, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The committee took five years to draw up the report and its conclusions were based on over 6 million documents. The report included details regarding enhanced interrogation techniques, behavior of interrogators and CIA personnel, and conditions at the many secret CIA prison facilities. Moreover, the report suggested that the CIA used the media repeatedly to create the sense that...
The Equal Pay (Non)Debate - By Emma Whitford ‘18 Equal pay has become one of the driving issues of the 2014 midterm elections, and it seems that everyone, democrats and republicans alike, have been stepping out to defend it. Why, then, are women still making less than men? Good question. In 1963 congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which requires that men and women under the same employer be given equal pay for equal work. Even with this in place, women still make an average of 77 cents to the...
America’s Police Problem: Collisions of Liberty and Safety - By Nick Bowlin ’16 Over the past month, Americans have closely followed the events in Ferguson, Missouri. The widespread protests that followed the racially charged shooting served to expose a disturbing trend in American police departments. The problem is this: our police forces have become identical to our military. Images from the protests showed heavily armed paramilitary units threatening protestors and driving on city streets in assault vehicles. In short, they looked like an invading army. Citizens across the country were outraged at what they saw...
The Law Perverted: Musings on the Constitution - By Griffin Edwards ’17 “The Law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its former purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law became the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!             “If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens...