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The Problem of Political Science: Why Scientific Inquiry Does Not Always Translate Well Into Social Phenomenological Explanation

Oliver Thomas

I just arrived in Vancouver on September 1 to begin my graduate studies in Political Science at the University of British Columbia. After thumbing through a required text titled Designing Social Inquiry, I’m already worried about course content this Fall. Continue reading “The Problem of Political Science: Why Scientific Inquiry Does Not Always Translate Well Into Social Phenomenological Explanation”

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An American 圍棋: The New and Old Order of Things

Roots of Chinese Strategic Doctrine and Statecraft

Near the end of 2015, General Secretary Xi Jinping (习近平) announced a shift in the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA-中国人民解放军)strategic doctrine, orienting the Chinese military toward achieving long term modernization goals. The Central Military Commission (CMC) has since restructured military organization within the services, command and control doctrine, and instituted new definitions of regional security theaters. Moreover, improvements in logistical connectivity, weapons systems, and quality of leadership will allow China greater joint operational capability, making possible more poignant regional power projection. As the latest Department of Defense China Military Power Report underscores, new reforms have been implemented to improve the PLA’s “ability to fight short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts at greater distances from the Chinese mainland and strengthen the Chinese Communist Party’s control over the military.” Continue reading “An American 圍棋: The New and Old Order of Things”

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Semiotic Implications of Battle: U.S. Concepts of War and Interest in an Uncertain International Order

Oliver Thomas

Once the location of brutal warfare, the Pacific Command (USPACOM) region is at a point of relative peace. On June 23, American and Japanese service members gathered to pay their respects to lives lost at the Battle of Okinawa seventy-two years ago. As the region enjoys relative stability, it is a time to reflect on fundamental questions concerning America’s notion of “national interest,” the structuring the international order, and the changing role of the US military in East Asia. These questions are necessary if we want to avoid more tragedy and bloodshed like that which occurred during the island hopping campaign in World War II. Continue reading “Semiotic Implications of Battle: U.S. Concepts of War and Interest in an Uncertain International Order”

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The Senate Bill Doesn’t Repeal Obamacare. Here’s Why It Should.

Chris Medrano & Luke Robson

On Thursday, June 22nd, Senate Republicans released their version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). In terms of popularity, not much has changed since the House released their version of the bill. Very few Americans like it.

We are among them, but for different reasons. From our point of view, the Senate bill is bad because it does not actually repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) regulations. Continue reading “The Senate Bill Doesn’t Repeal Obamacare. Here’s Why It Should.”

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Duty to the East: Sustaining American Security Commitments in Asia

Oliver Thomas

United States Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis arrived in Singapore on June 2 for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an intergovernmental forum on the future of Asian security.

Mattis’s second trip to the Asia-Pacific undergirds a time of ambiguity, uncertainty and aggressive posture in the region. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to test new, more sophisticated ballistic missile variants. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is expanding its sphere of influence though extensive infrastructure investment and shifts in the People’s Liberation Army strategic doctrine. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has shown repeated lapses in leadership as the country faces internal terrorist threats. Continue reading “Duty to the East: Sustaining American Security Commitments in Asia”

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Criminal Sentencing and Unalienable Rights

Nathan Thompson

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These, proclaims the Declaration of Independence, are the unalienable rights with which we have been endowed by our Creator. These are the rights woven into the constitutional fabric of the United States.

And yet, for all the profound language of our founding documents, it remains the case that not every American enjoys these rights equally. In few places is this problem clearer than the realm of criminal drug sentencing and mass incarceration.

Recently, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered that federal prosecutors pursue the harshest possible sentences for criminal defendants when charges are readily provable. This includes mandatory minimum prison sentences even for minor, non-violent drug offenses.

Of course, one might ask why aggressively prosecuting illicit drug use is problematic. If we want to minimize the use of substances that cause bodily harm and disruptions to communities, does it not make sense to establish consequences steep enough to deter such use?

This kind of logic may appear reasonable at first glance, but the truth of the matter is that such an approach has institutionalized a system that incarcerates and punishes citizens—particularly African-Americans—at rates not seen anywhere else in the world.

The United States, home to just under 5% of the world’s population, houses roughly 22% of the world’s prisoners. The prison population has increased 700% since 1980 despite the fact that 90% of those new inmates are non-violent offenders. This means that several million Americans are currently imprisoned in facilities that are filled past capacity, the vast majority for offenses that did not physically harm another person.

But one of the single most worrying facets of this issue centers on criminal prosecution and race. For example, African-Americans and Caucasians report being equally likely to use marijuana, but the former are 3.7 times as likely as the latter to be arrested for its possession or use and more likely to face criminal conviction. Roughly 1 in 3 black males can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes. And while the majority of drug users and dealers in the United States are white, three quarters of those imprisoned for drug offenses are African-American or Latino.

Such racial disparities in rates of arrest and conviction are staggering and should be deeply troubling to us. But rather than focusing on the numbers, perhaps there is a more personal question we should be asking ourselves: What do we will for our fellow Americans?

When we speak of our founding documents, do we really believe what they say? Do we wish for every last one of our fellow citizens, regardless of creed or skin color, to enjoy the freedom to pursue a life of happiness? To be able to learn from his or her mistakes without a 25-year minimum prison sentence? Or are we comfortable living in a world where such freedom is denied to others—especially minorities and minors—for a lifetime because of a few poor choices? I would suggest that, if we are comfortable in such a world, some serious resorting of priorities is needed.

Republican senator Rand Paul was right on the money when he wrote that we should be treating the nation’s drug epidemic for what it is: a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy.

Such an attitude of willing the good for each of our fellow Americans is one we would all do well to adopt. After all, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if unalienable, are not partisan. Defending every citizen’s access to them shouldn’t be, either.

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NYU Admin: Postmodern Priorities Trump Truth

Chris Medrano

In a recent opinion piece for The New York Times titled “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech,” New York University vice provost Ulrich Baer insinuated that the very concept of truth is a tool for oppression.

Baer’s underlying assumptions on the nature of truth are dangerously postmodern and threaten a more liberal understanding of free speech. Continue reading “NYU Admin: Postmodern Priorities Trump Truth”

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The Other Silent Majority

Hayden Couvillion

White rural America is playing an outsized role in America’s political narrative, and with reason. As J.D. Vance and Nancy Eisenberg write in their respective books, Hillbilly Elegy and White Trash, rural high-school educated white voters are facing dramatic social and economic hardships. These hardships and consequent frustrations were major forces that propelled Donald Trump from a long-shot candidate to the office of the presidency.

Yet, lost in the narrative are the stories of some 600 plus rural counties that are far from majority white.
Continue reading “The Other Silent Majority”

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The Impotence of Numbers

Recent events in the spheres of US policy on Syria, healthcare, and free trade have exposed what seems a fundamental human truth: no one really cares about the numbers.

For all our talk of data-driven policy (and the treasure troves of information available to us), it is not apparent that our decision making is based on what rigorous analysis might suggest the best solutions are. The long and short of it is that, when it comes to making policy decisions, we are far more human than we are rational. Continue reading “The Impotence of Numbers”

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Libertarianism: Hedonism in Freedom’s Clothing

Dave Hansbury

A friend of mine once remarked, “libertarians are simply ideologically consistent progressives.” As a former libertarian, I felt some disgust at the statement. Libertarianism, at least on the surface, is the opposite of progressivism—a far-right reaction to leftward-realing world. While progressives see the state as a tool to overcome man’s oppressions in both the public and private spheres, libertarians see the state as a dangerous and often counter-productive entity which can make disparities worse. Instead, libertarians have taken on the challenge of unshackling mankind from oppression, but with  different views of what constitutes oppression and freedom.

But as I reconsidered my friend’s statement, it began to make more sense. I considered the reasons why I stopped classifying myself as a libertarian. The more I thought about it, the more I came to agree with its premise,especially as I considered the ancient philosophy of hedonism. Continue reading “Libertarianism: Hedonism in Freedom’s Clothing”

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