Moving Beyond Schoolhouse Rock and Understanding Regulatory Processes

This week in North Philly Notes, Sara Rinfret, editor of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, writes about why regulations do matter.

Former President Trump often used slogans on the campaign trail to “end bad regulations” or to halt the “war on coal.” These soundbites assisted the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback more than 100 environmental regulations in the United States during his presidency. But, why? Are regulations bad?

Teaching courses on U.S. government to high school or college students often only covers the Schoolhouse Rock‘s version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” Unfortunately, we do not spend enough time examining in our curriculum what occurs after a piece of legislation becomes law.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, urges that we must increase our understanding of regulatory processes to document policymaking in the United States less complex, with a myriad of access points for public participation. The book uses illustrative environmental policy case studies to guide the reader through the stages of administrative rulemaking. Unpacking these regulatory stages moves us beyond our Schoolhouse Rock mindset and illustrates how and why Congress delegates its decision-making authority to administrative agencies.

Congress delegates the implementation of policy to administrative agencies because it does not have the time or expertise to do so. This delegation of authority provides administrative agencies the ability to create law through the administrative rulemaking process. The stages of this process can be best understood by learning from the case studies that examine each of the distinct steps, such as rule development, public comment, to post-rulemaking activities. Our regulatory adventure does not stop after the stages of the rulemaking, but it is monitored and carried out by state environmental inspectors who ensure compliance with environmental law. These individuals, for example, ensure a nearby company is not improperly disposing of waste.

Unfortunately, the regulatory process is not discussed enough and often depicted as detrimental to business. Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? dispels this myth by inviting and encouraging the opportunity for students, practitioners and the general public to engage in a clear, step-by-step guide about the stages of the process. Specifically, we argue environmental policymaking is not made in a black hole. Instead, taking the time to understand regulatory processes is another access point for the American public to directly engage in providing input by using electronic platforms such as Regulations.gov.  

Regulations are not bad in general; they protect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The heavy lifters of environmental policy are career civil servants, your next-door neighbor who works for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Park Service, to name a few. We just need to do a better job of understanding the process, which is the goal of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? As Regulations.gov clearly states, “Make a difference. Submit your comments, and let your voice be heard!”

The Top Five Reasons to Pack the Supreme Court

This week in North Philly Notes, Stephen Feldman, author of Pack the Court! explains why Democrats should expand the number of Supreme Court justices.

Democrats should pack the Supreme Court if and when they have the opportunity. Yet, many object to court packing, arguing that it would destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a judicial institution. According to this view, the Court’s legitimacy is based on a law-politics dichotomy: The idea that law and politics must remain separate and independent. The justices must decide cases by neutrally applying the rule of law. If politics infect the Court and its decision making, then Court decisions are tainted.

Although many Republicans and Democrats share this view of the Court, it is seriously mistaken. Here, then, are five reasons to support court packing.

1. History of the Court’s Size. History reveals that Congress has repeatedly changed the number of justices based partly on political grounds; seven times by express statute. The Court has fluctuated between a minimum of six and a maximum of ten seats. Nothing in the Constitution precludes Congress from changing the Court’s size. From 1861 to 1869, for instance, politically driven Congresses changed the number of authorized Court seats from nine to ten to seven to nine. Most recently, for more than a year from February 2016 to April 2017, Mitch McConnell and a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee de facto reduced the Court to eight justices when they refused to open confirmation hearings for Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.

2. History of the Appointment and Confirmation Processes. Despite the usual insistence that politics must be irrelevant to the Court’s business, presidents choose and congresses typically confirm (or reject) Supreme Court nominees based heavily on political considerations. Contrary to conservative claims that Democrats politicized and ruined the confirmation process in 1987, when they refused to confirm Robert Bork, presidents starting with George Washington have seen Congress shoot down their nominees for political reasons. Throughout American history, nearly one-fourth of the Supreme Court nominees have failed.

3. Analytical Argument Against the Law-Politics Dichotomy—Understanding the Law-Politics Dynamic. The law-politics dichotomy is a myth, propagated over the years for professional and political reasons. Contrary to this myth, law and politics dynamically interact in Supreme Court decision making. Law is neither the handmaiden of politics nor mere window-dressing, hiding political machinations. But law should never be understood as being separate and independent from politics, at least in Supreme Court decision making. In most cases, the justices sincerely interpret the relevant legal texts—the Constitution, statutes, executive orders, and so on—but interpretation is never mechanical. The justices’ political ideologies always influence their textual interpretations, so law and politics always intertwine in the adjudicative process. Politics, in other words, shapes the justices’ interpretive conclusions even though the justices focus on the law. Unsurprisingly, then, the justices’ legal interpretations and judicial conclusions ordinarily coincide with their respective political preferences.

If the Court decides cases pursuant to a law-politics dynamic—and the law-politics dichotomy is a myth—then the primary criticism of court-packing vanishes. If Supreme Court decision making is not and never has been apolitical, then court-packing cannot undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an apolitical institution. Court-packing cannot infect the Court with politics because the law-politics dynamic is already (and always) inherent in legal interpretation and Supreme Court adjudication.

4. Politics of the Roberts Court. Despite claiming to follow the rule of law, the Roberts Court has consistently decided cases in accord with a conservative political agenda. Corporations and the wealthy usually win; the poor might not even get into court. Employers win; unions and employees lose. Whites win; people of color lose. Men win; women lose. Christians win; non-Christians lose. Republicans with entrenched political power win; Democratic voters lose. Gun owners win; everybody else loses.

If the Democrats were to enact progressive legislation—for example, statutes restoring and fortifying voting rights, creating universal health care, strengthening environmental protections and fighting climate change, restricting gun ownership, and protecting documented and undocumented immigrants—the Roberts Court, with its current personnel, would likely construct constitutional barriers to weaken or invalidate such laws.

5. Public Support for the Court. Would court packing cause many people to lose faith in the Court’s authority? The question here is not how the Court actually decides cases, but rather how the public perceives the Court. Nevertheless, political science studies suggest that the Democrats should go ahead and pack the Court. The public’s diffuse support for the Court is resilient, sustained by “a reservoir of favorable attitudes or good will.” Even when the Court issues a decision contrary to an individual’s personal views, that individual is unlikely to lose faith in the Court. If anything, when news of Court activities draws an individual’s attention, then that attention (to the Court) will likely reinforce the individual’s positive views of the institution. In a sense, the more one knows about the Court, the more one is likely to find its decisions legitimate (the opposite is true for Congress). In fact, many Americans understand that Supreme Court decision making entails a combination of law and politics—the law-politics dynamic. The people’s support for and loyalty to the Court does not depend on the myth of the law-politics dichotomy. To the extent that individual views of the Court’s legitimacy might change in response to a court-packing plan, partisan shifts would likely cancel each other out.

In conclusion, the potential for court packing is baked into the checks and balances of our tripartite national government. As history demonstrates, the Constitution grants Congress and the president control over the size of the Court as well as the nomination and confirmation processes. Therefore, at any particular time, politics determines whether court packing is possible and appropriate. When the time is right, as it is today, then a court-packing proposal would likely reinforce rather than weaken the Court’s legitimacy.

Examining our fraught relationship with food

This week in North Philly Notes, Jeffrey Haydu, author of Upsetting Food, writes about how food is ethically identified—and why that matters.

On May 28, 2021, the New York Times reported a lawsuit against Vital Farms. Plaintiffs charged that Vital Farms misled consumers by advertising its eggs as, “‘delicious, ethical food you don’t have to question.'” Three years earlier, a leading proponent of alternative agriculture, The Cornucopia Institute, rounded up different egg labels (ranging from “All Natural” to “Omega-3”). Of eleven examined, the Institute found five to be meaningless, misleading or “seriously flawed.”

These disputes testify to our fraught relationship with food. Concerns about the safety, nutritional value, and ethical virtues of what we eat are pervasive. Increasingly, consumers rely on third-party programs to certify a food as “good,” whether for body or soul, local community or planet. Upsetting Food: Three Eras of Food Protest in the United States, shows that such doubts about commercial food date back to the early 19th century. But the ways in which conscientious consumers sought to resolve those doubts have changed. Consumers have looked to quite different markers of trustworthy food from one era to another.

In the 1830s, Sylvester Graham warned his followers of the dangers of meat, commercial bread, and spices. What were the hallmarks of trustworthy foods? Those sanctified by the Bible, but also those prepared at home with the loving hands of wives and mothers. Such food, wrapped in piety, family, and tradition, was good for the body. It also met ethical goals by quieting men’s and women’s baser impulses.

Food reformers of the 1890s and 1900s voiced some similar concerns over suspect bread, contaminated meat, “unnatural” preservatives, and adulterated beverages. In this era, however, consumers were told to trust food that had been vetted by the federal government; that conformed to the new science of nutrition; and that had been prepared in modern, “hygienic” factories. Here too, more than health was at stake. The new regulatory and educational regime would restore honesty to markets and expertise to tradition-bound homemakers.

In the 1960s, some additional concerns emerged: “artificial” foods and pesticides joined fluffy white bread and preservatives on the list of anxieties. But now, food untainted by modern technology and nutritional science—”natural” food—represented the gold standard. And food acquired through alternative institutions like small farms, natural food stores, and neighborhood co-ops was deemed more reliable. By patronizing these alternatives, moreover, consumers were joining a virtuous conspiracy against Big Ag, corporate capital, and a servile state.

These differences among the three eras mostly reflect the larger movement cultures in which food reformers moved. Graham applied to diet a more general evangelical template for social uplift, one already in use to address the problems of slavery, intemperance, and “fallen women.” Proponents of pure food legislation and nutritional science applied to food the standard Progressive playbook: modern science can identify solutions for social ills, and government regulation can implement those solutions. Early organic advocates shared with a wider counterculture a deep suspicion of organized politics and modern technology. They shared, too, its belief that by living our lives differently we could bit by bit build a better society. Nowadays, many activists retain doubts about government as a lever for change. And partly for that reason, we have more faith in our ability to achieve social justice through concerted consumer choices. For a better food system, vote with your fork!

But there is more to the story than that. Upsetting Food also shows how reformers’ ideals of trustworthy food built on—or deliberately repudiated—the efforts of their predecessors. Progressive reformers were deeply skeptical of religion and tradition as guides to social practices, whether in managing factories or cooking food. Early organic advocates, in turn, explicitly rejected modern science and government—the Progressive stalwarts—for being little more than shills for big business. And contemporary food reformers are often guided by the perceived failures of the organic movement. Its eventual embrace of minimalist government standards and its cooptation by large food companies, we hear, doomed organic as a genuinely alternative food system. Hence the appeal both of labels less easily coopted by global corporations (“local”) and of third-party certifiers (Non-GMO Project, Certified C.L.E.A.N.) who, we hope, can themselves be trusted. And thus the outrage (channeled through legal action) when the virtues proclaimed by labels (“delicious, ethical food”) prove illusory.

Considering electric vehicle initiatives

This week in North Philly Notes, Rachel Krause and Christopher Hawkins, coauthors of Implementing City Sustainability, consider the administrative complexity that local governments face to implement sustainability efforts.

Between President Biden’s announcement about replacing the federal government fleet with US-made electric vehicles, General Motors’ recent plans to eliminate the production of light-duty cars and trucks with tail-pipe emissions by 2035, and a few well-placed super bowl ads, electric vehicles are experiencing an upswing in popular attention.

This timing, which parallels the United States’ recommitment to international climate protection goals, is not a coincidence. An estimated 17% of the country’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions come from light-duty passenger vehicles, making their decarbonization essential to achieving larger mitigation efforts. A transition away from gas-powered cars and trucks, along with a simultaneous transition towards clean electricity, is considered by many to be the most feasible route to decarbonizing the transportation sector.

Articles on the future of electric vehicles frequently lead with statements of imperative and possibility only to follow with a litany of challenges that need to be overcome prior to meaningful progress. To a degree, this post follows that typical format, but focuses on a single under-examined consideration: the administrative complexity that local governments face during efforts to implement policies and integrate infrastructure supporting the widespread use of electric vehicles. For example, the setup of a relatively standard city-wide vehicle charging system would likely require on-going collaboration from members of local planning, transportation, and public works departments, not to mention the elected and top managerial leadership who establish general priorities and allocate resources accordingly. The scope of actors and complexity of their interactions would be significantly greater in cities aiming to facilitate electric vehicle integration in a manner that is broadly inclusive and equitable.

In Implementing City Sustainability, we examine the administrative challenges associated with implementing initiatives that necessitate the active input of multiple semi-independent units across an organization. Electric vehicle initiatives are one example (of many) where fuzzy boundaries of responsibility, the presence of externalities, and a potential lack of departmental buy-in can stymie progress on organization-wide goals.

In the book, a case study of the City of Oakland, California provides relevant insight around the implementation of a broad electric vehicles initiative. From the outset, it is worth noting that sustainability efforts in Oakland prioritize equity. Led by “Sustainable Oakland,” a small unit within the City’s Public Works department, programmatic priorities aim to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in ways that also address the city’s historic and racial inequities. This approach is explicitly spelled out in the city’s Equitable Climate Action Plan (ECAP). In this context, the city’s vehicle electrification policies have focused on ensuring that the approximately 60% of Oakland residents who live in rented multi-family units will have convenient access to charging infrastructure. This availability can in turn facilitate a locally robust used car market for electric vehicles, making them a financially and logistically viable option for a much larger segment of the population. 

In 2017, Oakland’s city council passed an ordinance requiring that all newly constructed multi-family and non-residential buildings include charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles. Extensive conversations were held with renters, property owners, developers, and utility company representatives prior to this ordinance’s final drafting and passage. Its successful implementation, guided by the ECAP, will rely on the active cooperation of multiple city departments. Although implementation logistics and cross-departmental collaboration are often not headline-grabbing topics–at least not when they are working correctly—they are key to the achievement of many sustainability initiatives, including those related a wide-spread transition to electric vehicles.

Implementing City Sustainability delineates four paths forward that cities can use to successfully chart their way through the adoption and implementation of integrative sustainability strategies. Whether it is designing and implementing a plan to make electric vehicle charging stations available to apartment dwellers in Oakland, improving the energy efficiency of large commercial buildings in Orlando, or establishing green infrastructure in Kansas City, how cities organize their sustainability efforts to obtain cooperation from the range of involved partners is integral to success.

What’s a mother to do?

This week in North Philly Notes, Leah Ruppanner, author of Motherlands, writes about women who are forced to choose between working and child care.

Emily Tatro is a paralegal working full-time while balancing the demands of three school aged kids. School closures mean she is learning Seesaw, Google classroom, IXL, and RazKids while also writing up legal briefs. She is at the end of her rope.

Emily said: “My everything is suffering and I’m not sure how much longer we can keep this up. As soon as the kids are asleep, I pass out because I’m always bone tired. But, I also feel this pressure to keep up a happy-it’s-all-good face so the kids don’t feel bad or sad or scared because none of it is their fault and I don’t want them to see this pressure.”

Without the support of her mother, she would drop out of work altogether. Working full-time job on top of school closures is unsustainable.

What happens when state governments close schools to stop the spread of a deadly pathogen?

The same as before: mothers step out of employment to manage the care.

My book, Motherlands: How States Push Mothers Out of Employment, shows these patterns are nothing new. Prior to the pandemic, California had some of the highest childcare costs in the nation and some of the shortest school days. Afterschool care? Forget about it—many Californian families need but cannot access afterschool care. These structural impediments mean mothers often reduce work to part-time or drop out altogether.

As Emily says, “Childcare was always hard and now it’s just impossible. In summer, I pay someone to watch the kids and I would lose money on these days.”

These patterns are distinct to many of the states in the heartland where childcare gobbles up less of the family budget, school days are longer and afterschool care is more accessible. The result? More mothers are employed, in part, because they can access more affordable childcare.

As Motherlands shows, California is a gender progressive state and is one of the leaders in the country in empowering women. When women do work, they make more money and have access to higher level professional positions. More women are voted into California’s state legislature and California is one of the few states in the nation that provides its constituents paid parental leave.

So, what is happening here? How can California be both progressive in its gender policies but have some of the worst childcare outcomes?

Motherlands shows states tend to cluster on one of these metrics or the other—either facilitating mother’s employment through childcare resources or empowering women through policies and access to better economic markets. Only a handful of states do both—empower women and provide childcare resources. This means even the progressive states that aim to empower women must do more to support them when they become mothers.

And, now seems to be the time because women like Emily are suffering with closed schools and limited childcare support.

We need employers and governments to invest in, advocate for and execute comprehensive and effective childcare policies.

The pandemic and its impending recession is a major crisis. Within these crises, if we are smart, can come change. Putting childcare as a central policy solution is the only way forward.

Overcoming Isolation in the Great Depression

This week in North Philly Notes, Abigail Trollinger, author of Becoming Entitled, writes about how workers in the 1930’s shed the stigma of unemployment and gained a sense of entitlement, and what we can learn in the age of COVID.

Unemployment is often hugely isolating, even when it happens en masse. It was for workers in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. And considering recent debates over unemployment insurance, it seems that COVID-related unemployment has left many jobless workers facing economic insecurity alone.

Becoming Entitled: Relief, Unemployment, and Reform During the Great Depression tells the story of jobless workers and the urban reformers who worked to redeem them. It was an uphill climb: in the 1930’s, workers faced an American culture that was slow to defend the jobless and a federal government that was unwilling to fund the relief they needed, situations that only seemed to reinforce a jobless worker’s feeling of personal failure. As one worker described in Chicago of that year, “I was out of work two years last month. I have never gone for charity. I was ashamed to go.”

In 1932 Chicago reformers rightly sensed, then, that an unemployed worker’s first step toward survival might be the small step of seeing others like them and shedding their sense of shame. Which is why, in Chicago, the newly founded Workers’ Committee on Unemployment (WCOU) hosted seven hearings across the city that allowed workers to tell their stories, and to hear the stories of their neighbors, their landlords, their grocers, and their kids’ teachers. Once workers saw themselves as part of a group, rather than part of the problem, they were able to craft solutions to the economic crisis facing them. As members of the WCOU, workers offered collective action to solve both immediate and long-term problems.

Was a jobless worker’s electricity shut off suddenly, leaving their family in the dark? A formerly employed electrical worker could come turn it back on! Was a family unable to pay rent and thrown on the street? A WCOU member with a truck could help them move! Was a caseworker routinely cutting clients relief funds? The WCOU was there—protesting at the relief site! And were the state and federal governments failing to provide relief where it was highly deserved and much needed? The WCOU was ready to protest—like the 1932 silent march through Chicago.

What emerged from the hearings, the mutual assistance, and the protests was a sense of worker entitlement, or the belief that jobless workers had the right to ask for protection from the state—that when the economy fails, the state is responsible for preserving the dignity and livelihood of those most impacted. As a WCOU pamphlet on declining relief budgets said, “You are entitled to live.… We can not beg all the time. We must ask and demand.”

Unemployment and isolation. These are not unfamiliar concepts for many Americans right now, as the nation has faced unemployment rates between 8-14% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jobless workers in the U.S. have had support in the form of the CARES Act and some stopgap emergency funds, and yet they, too, face questions about how much relief they really need. Debates in Congress over stimulus plans (the Heroes Act and the Heals Act), in which legislation has stalled over how much weekly income the unemployed should receive (ranging between $200 and $600 a week), suggest that either jobless workers have a miraculous economy of thrift or that they earn more than they say. And on October 5 the Wall Street Journal reported that some states are requesting that workers who were inadvertently paid more than they were allotted should return as much as $8,000 to the state.

Workers in 1932 did not have a pandemic to reckon with, but their story is a reminder of the fact that entitlement is not a given, even in the midst of national crisis. As we approach the 2020 election, let us call for a generous entitlement that offers both relief and dignity to the many thousands of Americans who currently feel isolated in their economic insecurity.

Here’s how the gender gap in presidential politics breaks down by issue

This week in North Philly Notes, a recent commentary by Mary-Kate Lizotte, author of  Gender Differences in Public Opinion from MarketWatch about what women want presidential candidates.

Gender_Differences_in_Public_OpinionMuch has been written about the gender gap in American electoral politics. In this year marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, a Democrat cannot win in November without women voters and without minority voters, particularly African Americans and Latinx. And what the majority of women want, according to my research as a political scientist, is for a candidate who promotes social equality and policies that provide for the well-being of all.

Democratic primary candidates and President Donald Trump should take note of these influences when strategizing how to promote women’s turnout and garner women’s vote in November.

Data on the presidential vote choice of men and women by demographic subgroup from 1980 through 2016 reveals that women are more likely than men in the same demographic subgroup to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate.

The overall gender gap between men and women who voted in the presidential race that election year during that period is only 6 percentage points. But within subgroups, the gap varies in size from 2 percentage points among African Americans and to 8 percentage points among those born prior to the boomer generation. These gaps are statistically significant.

What is most striking, though, are the differences between subgroups. The biggest difference is the race gap: 99% of black women voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in those years compared to only 38% of white women.

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It is still true that women, across the different subgroups, are more likely than men to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Why? Political science research, including my own, provides insight into what issues and other characteristics explain this phenomenon. Attracting the majority of women voters, especially white women, college-educated women, and black women, requires presidential candidates to highlight a vision of a more equal society and a government that protects the well-being of its citizens through a strong social safety net, a commitment to anti-discrimination policies and a green environmental policy agenda.

Statistical mediational analysis allows one to determine to what extent different factors explain the gender gap in presidential vote choice. Each of the factors discussed below were analyzed separately, and thus, the percentages do not add up to 100%.

• Egalitarianism, or a preference for an equal society, is a political value on which there is a gender difference. Egalitarianism explains 34.56% of the gender gap in presidential vote choice.

• Support for a social safety net includes a desire for more government spending on public schools, health care, and childcare; for more government services; and for a reduction in income inequality. Women across demographic subgroups of race, age cohort, income, and education prefer a strong social safety net compared to men of the same subgroup, and this explains an astounding 60.95% of the gender gap in vote choice.

This could prove detrimental for Trump’s 2020 campaign given his administration’s proposed budgetary cuts to such programs. It also may shed light on Sen. Bernie Sander’s popularity given his income equality campaign messaging and Vice President Joe Biden’s popularity because of the legacy of the Affordable Care Act.

• Women also are more likely than men to back anti-discrimination policies and express more progressive attitudes toward women and African Americans. With respect to discrimination, women are more in favor extending rights and legal protections to gay men and lesbians. In addition, women are more in favor of affirmative action compared to men. Attitudes toward gay men and lesbians having the legal right to adopt explains 28.99% of the gender gap and having legal protections against discrimination explain 25.47% of the gender gap in presidential vote choice.

In the past, attitudes toward affirmative action and women’s role in society has not been a factor in presidential vote choice. Of course that could change given the salience of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo.

• Racial resentment, a measure of negative attitudes toward African Americans, explains 18.21% of the gender gap in vote choice and a strong predictor of presidential vote among white and Black voters.

• Environmental policy preferences also divide men and women. In comparison to white men and college educated men, white women and college educated women want more government spending and regulations to protect the environment. Among Black Americans, both men and women report high levels of support for environmental protection policies, including government spending and greater regulations. Attitudes toward government spending and regulations to protect the environment explain 14.81% and 20.93% of the gender gap in presidential vote choice.

Simply put, women are more likely to want a candidate who advocates for policies that promote equality and provide a social safety net. To motivate turnout among and procure votes from women, candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination should stress such a vision and emphasize how they differ from President Trump on these issues, on equality, and on compassion more generally.

Mary-Kate Lizotte is an associate professor of political science in the department of social sciences at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga., and the author of Gender Differences in Public Opinion.

Making visible the afterlives of U.S. colonial and occupation tutelage in the Philippines and Japan

This week in North Philly Notes, Malini Johar Schueller, author of Campaigns of Knowledge, writes about benevolent assimilations.

While most liberal Americans condemn U.S. military strikes and occupations as manifestations of superpower domination by force, they view church groups and educational missions as signs of American goodwill and benevolence toward the world. After all, most Americans see Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations as civilizationally “behind” the U.S. Dedicated teachers and philanthropists, backed by the United States’ government to set up schools, universities, and libraries in occupied areas are thus signs of a kinder, gentler, democratic America that the world emulates. However, it is precisely because benevolent assimilation—as famously articulated by President McKinley was a strategy of U.S. colonialism—that we should be suspicious of such charitable undertakings overseas. This is especially true in cases where the United States wishes to take over hearts and minds. Take for instance George Bush, who shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 devoted his weekly radio address to informing a skeptical nation that the American occupation was designed to build a stable and secure Iraq through the rebuilding of schools via the personal intervention of American soldiers.

Campaigns_of_Knowledge_SMCampaigns of Knowledge tracks this pattern of America as savior, following its politics of violence with the benign recovery of education in two seemingly different locations—colonial Philippines and occupied Japan—in order to demonstrate the similarity of purpose: pacification through schooling. Amidst the throes of the Philippine-American war, American soldiers opened the first school in Corregidor, initiating a comprehensive system of education. Following Japanese surrender, the U.S.-led occupation commenced its educational reform in that country. The object in both cases was to inculcate values of individualism, self-reliance, capitalism, modernity, and a nationalism amenable to American influence. While both Filipinos and Japanese were often seen by educators as “Oriental,” they were contrasting subjects of racial management: Filipinos were undercivilized and had to be educated and civilized; the Japanese were overcivilized and had to be re-educated and decivilized.

Contrapuntally viewing colonial archives such as Senate hearings, educational reports, textbooks, English primers and political cartoons, alongside the cultural productions of colonized subjects including film and literature, Campaigns of Knowledge demonstrates how natives variously appropriated, reinterpreted, rerouted and resisted the lessons of colonial rule. Children’s primers such as Filipino educator Camilo Osias’s The Philippine Reader not only teach English but also articulate a nationalism that both questions and accommodates American rule. The specter of colonial and occupation schooling continues to haunt the imaginations of Filipinos, Filipino Americans, Japanese and Japanese-Americans and the book analyzes the varied nature of these hauntings in autobiographies, novels, films, short stories, and oral histories. Contributing to a transnational intersection of Asian American studies with Asian studies, Campaigns of Knowledge examines figures canonized in the U.S. such as Carlos Bulosan and Bienvenido Santos alongside those canonized in the Philippines and Japan such as Edith Tiempo and Masahiro Shinoda. More broadly, the book demonstrates the centrality of schooling to the project of American empire and the importance of racial difference to this project.

 

 

 

Examining the global migration crisis, human rights, and xenophobia

This week in North Philly Notes, Heather Smith-Cannoy, editor of Emerging Threats to Human Rights, asks, Do things really get better once forced migrants escape dangerous conditions? 

In September of 2015, the tiny body of a 3-year old Syrian refugee washed ashore in Greece. The gut-wrenching image of a small, innocent child trying to escape a brutal civil war with his family, only to drown in route to a better life, was not one that I could shake. Little Aylan Kurdi’s tragic journey struck me especially hard because he was the same age as my son. Until that day my research on human rights had always been about the impact of laws on people in far off places—women in Hungary, civilians in UN protected combat zones, and political prisoners in Central Asia. But the image of his small body, face down on the shore fundamentally changed the way that I think about human rights in a rapidly changing world.

Emerging Threats to Human RIghtsEmerging Threats to Human Rights is my attempt to look beyond the traditional boundaries that defined how I had thought about global human rights.  Rather than studying one group of people, in one particular county, Aylan Kurdi’s story showed me to that to wrestle with emerging threats to human rights in our world, I needed to look across the human experience to understand both the causes of flight and the possibilities for the fulfillment of rights after flight. In other words, do things really get better once forced migrants escape dangerous conditions?

In collaborating with the talented academics, attorneys, and activists that contributed to this volume, we arrived at three interwoven themes that capture a new way of thinking about human rights within a process of migration. When sea levels rise, for example, where will people who call small island nations their home go to seek refuge and what will be the status of their rights what they arrive in that new community? If violence erupts in one’s country of residence and they flee, do they have a chance to improve their lives in their new country? When governments dismantle citizenship rights, effectively stripping people of their legal status, what happens when they try to escape?

Collectively, this anthology examines three causes of migration—resource depletion, violence and deprivation of citizenship, which, to varying degrees compel people to leave their homes in search of safety and a better life. We find that violence generates more refugees than resource depletion and deprivation of citizenship but together these chapters show that escape is only the beginning of the story. When people escape dangerous conditions, their prospects for a full life depend critically on where they land and how they get there. Contributors Money and Western conduct a global macro analysis of rights fulfillment in one chapter. They show that the fate of forced migrants depends on three factors of the host state—governance quality, access to resources, and the availability of citizenship for new migrants.

Contributor Kerstin Fisk shows that when refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia sought asylum in South Africa, they were instead subjected to organized xenophobic violence carried out with the support of the South African government. In the chapter I wrote, I show that as Rohingya refugees are stripped of citizenship by their government in Myanmar, they run for their lives to boats waiting at sea. Traffickers use the opportunity to exploit people desperate to escape genocide. The cover image of the book shows some of those Rohingya refugees who made it out of Myanmar successfully. That image comes from the largest refugee camp in the world, Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.

In the time it took to put this volume together, the global migration crisis has only intensified. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that as of September 2019, there are more than 70.8 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, unquestionably the worst migration crisis on record. I hope that Emerging Threats to Human Rights will start a conversation about the human rights and human dignity of the world’s growing migrant population and serve to counteract a rising tide of xenophobia.

Yes, trafficking is bad for sex workers. But “getting tough on traffickers” can make their lives worse.

This week in North Philly Notes, Carisa Showden and Samantha Majic, co-authors of Youth Who Trade Sex in the U.S., write about the importance of listening to sex workers, and not just passing laws and policies that aim to catch and punish traffickers.

Through newspaper stories, popular films, and Dateline exposés (to name just some sources), the term “sex trafficking” is now commonplace, bringing to mind images and stories of young girls trapped in vans and sold for sex in strange and dark places. These ideas about sex trafficking have informed public policy in the U.S. and internationally: local, regional, and national governments, as well as international governing bodies, have supported and passed laws and policies that aim to catch and punish traffickers and other parties who fuel this crime. Yet despite these laws, those they are supposed to help are also often their most vocal critics.

This disconnect between the ideas about an issue and its related policy outcomes is not unique to sex trafficking, but recent legal changes make interrogating this gap particularly urgent. The 2018 Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) (SESTA/FOSTA) provides a recent example of popular narratives trumping evidence. By making website publishers responsible for third parties who post ads for prostitution, SESTA/FOSTA effectively renders illegal the websites that sex workers use to sell services, screen clients, and warn other sex workers about dangerous clients. SESTA/FOSTA is based on the idea that persons in the sex industry are there against their will (trafficked), and that websites only enable their victimization.

Sex workers resisted this characterization, arguing mightily, but unsuccessfully, against  SESTA/FOSTA, and the effects have been immediate. For example, out of fear of violating the law, many sex workers started “preemptively closing sex work-related Facebook groups, … talking about taking down bad date lists, etc.,” all of which were essential to their safety and security. In another example, Backpage immediately shut down its dating and related ad services. With Backpage gone, some sex workers have returned to the streets and law enforcement receives fewer tips from online activity, making the tracking of actual trafficking more difficult. As Notre Dame Law Professor Alex F. Levy writes, “Backpage sets a trap for traffickers: lured by the prospect of reaching a large, centralized repository of customers, traffickers end up revealing themselves to law enforcement and victim advocates. There’s nothing to suggest that Backpage causes them to be victimized, but plenty of reason to believe that, without it, they would be much harder to find.” And outside of the U.S., including places like New Zealand where sex work is legal, the disappearance of Backpage “has, without warning, taken livelihoods away, leaving workers without the resources to operate their businesses or, in some cases, survive.”

Youth Who Trade_smNeither the failure to listen to sex workers nor a new law making it harder to fight the very thing it targets is surprising to us, given what we found when researching our book Youth Who Trade Sex in the U.S.: Intersectionality, Agency, and Vulnerability. For example, policies that target trafficking of young people take a law-and-order approach, focusing on criminal gangs, “bad men” (pimps), and very young girl victims. But as our research indicates, young people commonly enter the sex trades through a highly variable mix of “self-exploitation,” family exploitation, and peer-recruitment, most frequently to meet their basic needs for shelter and food. And youth who are poor and housing insecure because of racialized poverty and gender discrimination are particularly vulnerable. All people under the age of 18 who sell or trade sex for any reason are defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act as trafficking victims, yet most of them are ignored by “get tough on crime” policies. As a result, while we must protect all youth from persons who may harm and exploit them, the majority of young people who trade sex need interventions like housing support that is safe for youth of all genders. And when they are trading sex to afford food or shelter, they need to do this in the least dangerous way possible—something online services facilitated.

The more vulnerable people are, the less likely they are to be listened to, and the more likely they are to be talked about. We saw this in SESTA/ FOSTA, where sex workers and their allies lobbied hard to prevent the bill’s passage. And we see this with youth-specific bills as well. Politicians talk a lot about vulnerable youth in the abstract, but they rarely talk or listen to them directly. Yet sex workers and young people have a lot to say about what works and doesn’t work for helping them survive and improve their lives. Hopefully researchers and policy makers will start to listen to them.

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