In re Gun Control

The Houston Chronicle has a cover story today about the President’s urge to move forward with gun control legislation. As always, the cynic in me has a few things to say:

1. The right has already won
It  took a plethora of massacres for anything to even be brought up. Tucson, Virginia Tech, Aurora. Whenever this happened, the liberals and centrists of the country declined to even talk about gun control. It was only after over a dozen kindergarden-aged children were murdered, that anything was even brought up.

2. The NRA is too powerful
The NRA is like Grover Norquist when it comes to the GOP (or, you could say, a Teacher’s Union to the Democrats). In addition to the 45 GOP Senators, it might as well control Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AK), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Max Baucus (D-MT), & Jon Tester (D-MT). So 54 Senators, in all.

3. It is unconstitutional
In 2008, the Supreme Court held that banning handguns was a violation of the second amendment. Additionally, in 2010, it reaffirmed this ruling. The two cases (DC v. Heller; McDonald v. Chicago) may be the most powerful evidence yet that any effort towards gun control is futile.

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In re Romney

My op-ed on the (hashem forbid) possible Presidency of Mitt Romney. From The Justice.

It’s January 20, 2013 at noon. Mitt Romney has just been sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as the 45th president of the United States of America. Yes, this is the nightmare many of us have been having since the first debate, and I would like to share how I think this would play out.

Romney was elected in a very close election, winning Ohio by a few thousand votes to capture a majority of the Electoral College. President Obama won the popular vote. The Republican Party’s momentum allowed for Republican candidates to win in Senate elections in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia, along with Senator Scott Brown’s reelection here in Massachusetts.

This caused the Senate to be comprised of 50 Democratic members and 50 Republican members, meaning that the Republican party would hold control of the chamber through Vice President Paul Ryan’s tiebreaking vote.

Meanwhile, Republicans maintained their control of the House of Representatives, effectively in control of all three segments of the elected government.

A Democratic filibuster in the Senate might prevent President Romney from actually repealing Obamacare on “Day one,” but he would only need a simple majority in the Senate to defund the act through a process called “reconciliation,” that is, amending a previous law with just over half of the possible votes. This would allow for a Romney administration to effectively make the law moot. Through reconciliation, Republicans would also be able to enact massive tax cuts, mainly for the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations.

However, without 60 Republican votes in the Senate, a Romney administration would not be able to embark on some of the other more ambitious aspirations of the Republican Party.

These include drastically increasing off-shore drilling, enacting a national Arizona-style immigration law and turning Medicare into a voucher system.

A Romney presidency would also be disastrous for foreign affairs. The last time a Republican was president, under George W. Bush, the United States was heavily criticized by our allies, such as France and Germany during the Iraq War, for abiding by unilateral, destructive policies.

The Obama administration has taken many steps to not only improve our image overseas but to make the world a safer place. The Obama administration touts the signing of the New START treaty with Russia, which allows for United States oversight of Russian nuclear programs, an invaluably important provision supported by presidents and presidential candidates since Reagan—until now, that is.

A President Romney would withdraw from the New START treaty. This would put America at egregious risk purely for the appeasement of Romney’s political party. A President Romney would also further exacerbate tensions with Iran, and would be more likely to go to war. As we have seen in the recent vice-presidential debate, a Romney administration would be dubious of economic or diplomatic sanctions against Iran. The result would surely be military action.

A Romney administration would repeal Obamacare, make permanent the Bush tax cuts, and return to the same style of diplomacy as President Bush. These are not trivial accomplishments by any means. However, they are surely not the Armageddon that many on the left are predicting from a Romney presidency. That is, unless one key event occurs.

The Supreme Court is currently comprised of four liberals, four extreme conservatives and one moderate conservative. One of the liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is currently 79 years old. She has had multiple battles with cancer in the past, but is currently in remission. If Justice Ginsburg would have to retire or otherwise be replaced during a Romney presidency, it might very well be the end of the world that many are predicting. Romney has a history of being called “not conservative enough,” so he would have an added impetus to appoint an ultra-conservative to the court. Otherwise, he would risk drawing a primary challenger from the ultra-Conservative wing of the Republican Party for his possible re-election bid in 2016.

This new Supreme Court justice would alter many of the most important cases to come before the court. Once he or she took office, the new justice would be the deciding vote in a number of key cases including: a case overturning Roe v. Wade, a case overturning N.F.I.B. v. Sebilius (striking Obamacare) and a case that would prevent a national recognition of marriage equality for a generation. Further, I feel there is a very low chance that Romney’s nominee for the court would ever side with liberal justices. If someone claims that a Romney administration will not be able to accomplish anything significant because they could not block a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, they would be simply wrong. With the smallest of majorities in Congress, the theoretical President Romney could, for all intent and purposes, repeal Obamacare and make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Without congressional approval, a Republican administration in the White House could severely alter foreign relations with other nations. However, most importantly, a Romney administration could destroy the integrity of our Supreme Court for a generation to come.

In re Fisher

My take on Affirmative Action, from my day-job at The Justice:

This past week was the 50th anniversary of integration at my hometown’s college, the University of Houston.

The college has seen a dramatic transition and is now the third most racially and ethnically diverse college in the nation, according to the U.S. News and World Report. This reversal is most likely the result of both changing demographics and affirmative action.

On the other hand, the diversity at the University of Texas is less likely to be attributed just to changing demographics: Since integration, the proportion of African-American students has risen to 20 percent, and the proportion of Latino students has risen to nearly 21 percent.

This blossoming of diversity is newly found in the South, finally taking part in the progressive tenants of the 20th century. However, these programs now face new challenges from our judicial system.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, in what will, most likely, be a landmark Supreme Court decision. It  could outlaw all affirmative action programs used at public universities.

The Supreme Court is likely to strike down all affirmative action programs, as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the swing vote who saved the programs 10 years ago, is no longer on the court.

There is no doubt in my mind that affirmative action has tremendously changed this country for the better.

In my “Social and Political Philosophy: Democracy and Disobedience” course, Prof.Andreas Teuber (PHIL) mentioned that President Johnson once stated that affirmative action was necessary because students overcoming poverty and racism could not be accurately measured against those who did not have to face the same difficulties.

Johnson compared a person helped by affirmative action to a person who “has been hobbled by chains, and then when liberated, brought to the starting line of a race and told, ‘You are free to compete with all the others.’”

Indeed, the harshest critics of affirmative action today, in their blind hatred of anyone given the slightest push in college admissions, underscore why affirmative action is needed in the first place.

All too often, those who oppose affirmative action lay out the same story: The sad rich white kid was denied entrance into a prestigious university, as he may feel is his birthright.

Each of the plaintiffs of affirmative action court cases have sued institutions of higher learning after they were denied admission. These people assumed that the sole reason for their rejection was because they were white. 



Additionally, most detractors seem to fundamentally misunderstand how affirmative action programs function today.

While originally, universities may have had quota systems, these actions have been illegal for 34 years since the Supreme Court case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Under current precedents and universities’ rules, race may only be considered a part of the larger picture in admissions decisions.

In reality, several other factors are considered during the college admissions process aside from grade point average, leadership and extracurricular positions. Personality (that is one of the reasons there is often an interview), background and profile are some of the additional factors.

Affirmative action’s opponents may not understand that wealth, familial connections and a stable home life have tremendous influence on a student’s grades throughout high school.

In 2010, Harvard University published an article alleging that the SAT was biased toward white people, citing cultural differences in the verbal section. Additionally, a 2009 study published by The New York Times showed an average difference in score of about 375 points between the lowest and highest income groups, most likely as a result of the ability to purchase preparation materials and tutoring.

Rather, the opponents of affirmative action should look at the positive effects of fostering diversity within the community. An article from The New York Times from this past Friday claimed that ending such programs, “would reduce the number of black students by about 60 percent, and the number of Hispanic students by about one-third, at selective private schools.”



Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio, who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, is another example of the positive attributes of affirmative action. While Castro had always stood out among his friends and family for being intelligent, he could not overcome the institutional bias of standardized testing.

According to a New York Times article from a few years ago, Mayor Castro’s SAT score was 1210 out of a maximum of 1600, well below the mean score for Stanford University.

He attributed his acceptance to Stanford to its affirmative action program. Granted, Castro boasted a stellar grade point average, but affirmative action was most likely at least partially responsible for his acceptance. It is worth noting that without any further help, he excelled at Stanford, was elected to the university’s student senate, and gained admission to Harvard Law School, this time in the median range of incoming students.

Nevertheless, opponents of the program find that any such boost is unfair. Conservative organizations and blogs such as Breitbart, Drudge Report, and The Washington Times have given Castro the pejorative, if not racist, title of “affirmative action boy” or “Mayor affirmative action.”
Such hatred underscores why the program is still needed today, just as it has been needed in the past.

I am sure there are many more like Castro whose stories have yet to be written. If our nation’s Supreme Court justices overturn the 30 years of precedent to outlaw affirmative action in public institutions, their stories may never be written.