Where is the outcry?

The New York Times reports on soccer team Beitar Jerusalem’s recruitment of two Muslim players — who aren’t even Arab; they’re from Chechnya — and the reaction of racist fans:

The team, Beitar Jerusalem, has long been linked to Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and for 15 years has been notorious for racism and violence, including an incident last spring in which fans stormed a local mall chanting “Death to Arabs” and beat up several Arab employees. Founded in 1936, it is the only one of Israel’s professional soccer teams never to have recruited an Arab player.

The current controversy concerns the team’s addition of two Muslim players from Chechnya. Although one is injured, the other is expected to play for the first time in a match on Sunday against a team from Sakhnin, an Arab-Israeli town.

In anticipation of the Muslim players’ arrival, some fans unfurled a banner at the team’s Jan. 26 game saying “Beitar Pure Forever.” Some critics said the banner was reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s expulsion of Jews from sport, and it led to nationwide soul-searching.

The greatest irony?

“We cannot accept such racist behavior,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “The Jewish people, who suffered excommunications and expulsions, need to represent a light unto the nations.”

There has long been a double standard in the American media in which blatant Israeli racism towards Arabs and Muslims is largely ignored — or, at best, excused as an outlier — while even the slightest hint of negative sentiments towards Israel — even if motivated primarily by political considerations — is reflexively excoriated as anti-Semitic.

Take, for example, the recent brouhaha at Brooklyn College, where a predictable uproar was fortunately insufficient to prevent the institution from holding an event featuring speakers who support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (B.D.S.) policies relating to Israel. Following the event, Brooklyn College professor Corey Robin blogged about a previous speaker at the school:

In March 2011, David Horowitz spoke at Brooklyn College. Someone yesterday brought to my attention this report from the event. A few highlights:

Given this context, it was all the more disturbing last night when I looked across the crowd and saw tears run down the face of a member of the Palestine Club as Horowitz said to the group of mostly nodding heads, “All through history people have been oppressed but no people has done what the Palestinians have done—no people has shown itself so morally sick as the Palestinians have.”

Horowitz, who admitted he had actually never even been to Israel, proceeded to give everyone a lesson in Middle East politics: according to him, Muslims in the Middle East are “Islamic Nazi’s” who “want to kill Jews, that’s their agenda.” He added later, “all Muslim associations are fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The most revealing moment came when a young Arab-American woman directed a question to Horowitz and the audience: “You talk about Muslims as if you know them—We have a Muslim American Society, we have a Palestine Club [on campus]. I want to raise the question to any of the Jews in this room, and students, have you guys ever been threatened by a Muslim on campus or an Arab?” To this, the crowd almost unanimously spun around in their seats to face the young woman and replied “yes.” Someone shouted, “and we’re scared when we see Muslims on buses and airplanes too.”

Horowitz encouraged anti-Muslim hate by telling the crowd, “no other people have sunk so low as the Palestinians have and yet everybody is afraid to say this,” claiming that Muslims are a “protected species in this country” and that he’s “wait[ing] for the day when the good Muslims step forward.”

As Robin then asked:

First, how is it that the comments of Horowitz can be so easily admitted into the mansion of “the open exchange of ideas” while the comments of Butler and Barghouti [who spoke at the recent BDS event] seem to threaten the very foundation of that edifice?

It’s a good question, but not one we’re likely to see answered by traditional media establishments any time soon.

The next four years

With the election safely behind us — and, fortunately, without any controversy or recount in the offing — we can now pivot towards prognostications for the future. And no, not 2016. (Please, not for another two and a half years at the least.)

To that end, The First Casualty contributors Sam Lim, Mark McAdam, and Victoria Kwan have each weighed in with their thoughts on what to watch for — especially given their areas of interest — in the coming months and years. Feel free to join in the conversation in the comments!

Sam Lim: Higher Education

In his first term, President Obama worked to make higher education more affordable, shifting over $60 billion from private student loan providers to boosting the federal Pell grant program. In his second term, I expect that President Obama will continue pushing for maintaining — and hopefully increasing — Pell grant funding for students with financial need.

I expect further simplification of the process for applying for federal student aid. Changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) over the past few years have made it immensely easier for students, but then-candidate Obama proposed even simpler solutions in 2008 (such as streamlining the FAFSA application process with the filing of tax returns).

Combined with the continued development of financial tools such as college price comparison calculators for students and families offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I expect to see an effort to make processes like applying for aid or choosing the best type of loans even more transparent and accessible.

Of greatest concern are the skyrocketing costs of college tuition and rising student debt. As he mentioned in his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama will work to ensure that colleges and universities are not pricing higher education out of range for most middle- and low-income students.

I would expect to see either financial incentives or sanctions for public colleges and universities to bring tuition down and keep it in check. If not proposed, I would at least expect these options to be strongly considered. I would also expect to see further initiatives to help students and graduates manage their debt, potentially through expanded loan forgiveness programs tied to public service and other high-need areas.

The Obama Administration seems to favor addressing educational issues most by incentivizing local solutions (more so in K-12, but also in higher ed), so I would fully expect to see more incentive-based programs and initiatives to encourage local level education reform through programs similar to Race to the Top or Innovation (i3) Grants. With jobs and economic growth a key focus, I expect areas that might be further targeted include community colleges, career and technical education, and college-to-career pipelines.

Without a doubt, given the little support for higher education demonstrated by Governor Romney, students and supporters of higher education should be hopeful that President Obama has four more years to continue working to make higher education an accessible opportunity for all students.

Samson Lim is the Executive Director of Seattle-based Scholarship Junkies, a scholarship resource organization that works to help students make higher education more affordable. Sam spent a year conducting ethnographic research on access to higher education in Berlin, Germany, as a 2010-11 U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar. Currently, Sam can be found buried in reading for his Masters of Education program in Politics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, although he emerges every once in a while to highlight higher ed and financial aid issues in 140 characters or less at @samsonxlim.

Mark McAdam: The (Indispensable) Republican Reformation

“What a waste.”

It is more than likely that this was the sentiment Republican strategists awoke to on Wednesday morning, as they pondered the past 16 months on the campaign trail.  “What a waste because–a sluggish economic recovery provided–it should have been so easy to beat Barack Obama on Tuesday.”

As pundits have begun offering their own explanations as to why Republicans failed to win back the White House on Tuesday, the Republican Party will have to reexamine its own platform if it hopes to remain electorally competitive and actually win future national elections. Below is an outline of four issue areas Republicans must address:

1) Same-sex marriage: 2012 is not 2004. Whereas opposition to gay marriage in 2004 actually helped bring out the vote and secured a second term for George W. Bush, public opinion on gay marriage has changed significantly in the past eight years. With 69% of voters under 30 years of age supporting gay marriage (not to mention 37% of Republicans between ages 18 and 29!), it hardly seems feasible to build a party platform around discriminatory policies which young people–i.e. those voting for the next sixty years–largely reject.

2) Immigration: The Republican primary process was a disgrace and provides clear evidence that a “race to the bottom” is possible in selecting a party’s nominee. On no issue was this as apparent as on how to deal with undocumented immigrants. With demographic trends suggesting that the United States is becoming less and less Caucasian, it should have been surprising that each candidate attempted to outperform the next in terms of alienating voters with an immigration background. (Or, for that matter, voters who know immigrants.) Wanting to cause conditions which would lead to “self-deportation” and endorsing ideas like that of an electric fence on the border does not only seem eerily un-American, but xenophobia is also bad politics in a demographically changing electorate.

3) Foreign Policy: The days in which neoconservative thought ruled Republican thinking on foreign policy seem over, yet instead of a competing paradigm emerging to replace it, Republicans face an intellectual void on foreign policy matters. (Admittedly, the same–i.e. an intellectual void–is also true for the Democratic Party.) Substantively meaningless, Republicans seem motivated to “be tougher than their opponents” on foreign policy, yet this reveals nothing about whether to intervene in Libya, how to respond to developments in Syria, or what the country’s relationship with Pakistan should look like. More importantly, there is no understanding–no vision–of what America’s role in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 world is or should be.

4) The Economy & The State: Likely the issue on which Republicans perform best, one is nevertheless forgiven to assume that the Republican answer to all economic matters is to deregulate and to cut taxes and government spending. Yet the assumption that the economic state of nature is one of harmony finds no credible support. Indeed, Republicans, who are only partially justified in purporting to be heirs of the free enterprise tradition, would do well to argue that the state can and must take on a positive role in a free enterprise framework: it must provide a legal framework, including oversight of markets; it must provide proper regulation; and it should push for legislation fostering competition. All of these ideas are entirely consistent with a free enterprise approach and, if put into place properly, do not lead to a path towards socialism.

Republicans mistakenly hoped that unemployment at 7.9% would suffice to win the White House. But without altering their rigid party platform and making it more amenable to the electorate as a whole, Republicans could lose many more national elections.

Mark McAdam is a football guru. When he’s not writing about the Bundesliga, he advocates on behalf of free societies. He has a Master’s degree in “Politics, Economics & Philosophy” and studied at the University of Hamburg’s Institute for Economic Systems, the History of Economic Thought and the History of Ideas.

Victoria Kwan: The Federal Judiciary

How much will Barack Obama’s re-election affect the composition of the Supreme Court? Looking at current circumstances, the answer is “not much.” Right now, there are three Supreme Court justices over the age of 75: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (79), her best friend Antonin Scalia (76), and Anthony Kennedy (76). Of the three, Justice Ginsburg is the most likely to retire in the coming four years.  The Brooklyn native is tough as nails–she has already weathered two bouts of cancer (while barely missing any work) and the death of her husband in her 19 years on the Court, and her mind remains as sharp as ever–but given her health history, her age and her liberal stance, it would not be surprising at all if she stepped down and gave a Democratic administration the chance to fill her place. President Obama would surely replace Ginsburg with a moderate to liberal justice who would preserve the current balance on the Court (four conservatives, four liberals and one swing vote).

Now, if either Justice Scalia or Justice Kennedy were to step down, Obama would have the opportunity to put together a five-liberal majority bloc. Barring a serious health issue, however, this isn’t likely to happen. Scalia accumulated quite a list of furious dissents before finally seeing a five-conservative majority coalesce under George W. Bush’s administration, and he relishes his position as the anchor of the Court’s conservative wing too much to voluntarily give up his seat. Meanwhile, despite all protestations to the contrary, Kennedy seems to greatly enjoy his current role as the swing vote.  Their job satisfaction and apparent good health mean that Citizens United–the ruling that the Democrats would most like to see SCOTUS overturn, and hence, the liberal equivalent of Roe v. Wade–will remain intact for at least the next four years.  On the other hand, Obama’s re-election also means that Roe continues to be safe for now.

Beyond the Supreme Court, there is the question of the re-election’s impact on the rest of the federal judiciary. George W. Bush made the appointment of young conservative judges a top priority in both terms, filling a total of 325 federal judgeships over eight years. So far, Obama has appointed 160 (which is behind the pace Bush and Clinton set in each of their first four years). The rate at which Obama has been able to fill judicial vacancies has been slow to say the least, creating judicial emergencies in some understaffed and overworked courts. Part of the reason for this is Republican obstructionism. As Slate reported in September, citing studies from the Congressional Research Service, even the uncontroversial Obama nominees have seen their confirmation times (the number of days between nomination and confirmation) jump up sharply compared to Bush’s nominees. None of Obama’s nominees to federal appeals courts have been confirmed in under 100 days, while 28.6% of Bush’s were.

But the blame does not rest solely on the Republican party: Obama himself has not made the appointment of judges a top priority in the same way Bush did. He has moved slowly to even name candidates–many of the current vacancies don’t even have nominees to vote on–and when he does nominate, Obama more often than not chooses moderates over outspoken liberals. And of course, in this past election cycle, the federal judiciary was barely discussed by the Obama campaign. One optimistic explanation (for liberals, that is) for Obama’s moderate first-term approach could be that he had re-election in mind, and can now nominate liberal judges at a much faster and more aggressive clip. But the likelier explanation is that, as Jeffrey Toobin writes, Obama simply does not see the courts as the most appropriate place to enact widespread social change, preferring to problem-solve through the legislative arena.

Bottom Line: when it comes to the courts, we should expect to see more of the same.

Victoria holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School in New York and has recently completed a clerkship with a judge in Anchorage, Alaska. She tweets as @nerdmeetsboy and posts primarily on legal issues, especially those involving the Supreme Court.

Higher Education Issues 2012: California’s Proposition 30

Sather Gate at UC Berkeley: If Prop. 30 fails, it may not be long before students take to protests again.

With the 2012 election just around the corner, a number of key issues around the United States are front-and-center in the higher education universe. Not all of the major higher education issues will be directly affected or determined by votes on November 6th, but if you’ve been following higher education news at all (or have been reading here), you’ll no doubt be at least somewhat familiar with the current U.S. Supreme Court case examining affirmative action in state universities, Fisher vs. University of Texas. Since Victoria has so eloquently covered it here, here, and here, I’ll cover a few other higher education-related headlines you may or may not know about already in this short series on higher education. So, without further ado, your higher ed issue du jour:

Proposition 30 in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed several ways to chip away at the more than $25 billion deficit he inherited after taking office in 2011, but drastic spending cuts only gets one so far without gutting the entire system. As such, Gov. Brown has proposed raising over $6 billion annually from 2012-13 through 2016-17 and continuing through 2018-19 with smaller amounts raised per year. Most of the money would come from raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year by roughly 1-3% and by increasing the state sales tax by 0.25% annually for four years.

The Numbers

89% of the funding raised through Proposition 30 must be directed toward K-12 funding, and the remaining 11% will go toward community colleges. However, as the LA Times explained, these figures would sufficiently meet requirements enacted in 1988 by Proposition 98, which requires that approximately 50% of the state general fund must be spent on public education. This would infuse the state general fund with $3 billion for such state priorities like higher education and curb the skyrocketing tuition increases students have faced.

Why is Proposition 30 significant?

1) Draconian budget cuts over the past few years have left state funding of California’s higher education system in tatters. In fact, it is now more expensive for a student from California to attend a state school than Harvard or Yale (granted, it may still be extremely difficult to gain admissions to Harvard or Yale, but the mere fact that attending a public university in your own state could be more expensive than an Ivy League university is simply bewildering – and we’re not talking just UC Berkeley or UCLA). With $3 billion from Proposition 30 set aside for non-public education (as in most other states, public education in California does not include higher education), California can and should use that funding to invest more in its public higher education system. If Proposition 30 fails, public universities would see a $500 million reduction in state funding for the 2012-13 year alone (CSU has already approved a 5% tuition increase for next year if Proposition 30 fails). This would trigger tuition increases for the CSU and UC systems across the board, so whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student, you might be looking at even more sticker shock for spring semester (as if the prospect of likely tuition increases next school year weren’t bad enough already!).

2) Proposition 30 faces competition on the Nov. 6th ballot. Led by Molly Munger, a lawyer and wealthy schools advocate, Proposition 38 is also a plan to fund California’s schools. However, instead of a temporary round of tax increases, it would lock in a sliding scale of tax increases for the next twelve years, regardless of how California’s economy performs during that time. Proposition 38 also focuses exclusively on K-12 education while giving no attention to higher education. Moreover, the challenge of having a competing tax-increasing proposition on the ballot is that voters aren’t too keen on tax increases to begin with, so seeing more tax initiatives on the ballot might push the average voter to simply vote no for all tax increases. Finally, only one of the two propositions can be enacted even if both pass – whichever proposition has the most votes over 50% will be the one enacted. Thus, between Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, Proposition 30 seems the more appropriate proposal at this time. If neither passes, there will be devastating effects for education in California, period.

What’s Next?

On November 6th, we’ll know if voters in California are willing to tighten their belts just a little bit more (easier said than done, I know) to invest in their younger population. If Proposition 30 passes, more students will be able to access, afford, and stay in college (e.g. Cal State would back track on the 9% tuition increase they implemented this year through refunding tuition, granting tuition credits, and/or recalculating financial aid). If Proposition 30 fails though, California will be balancing its budget even more on the backs of its own students. The costs of attending public higher education in California will increase at an even greater rate than anticipated and could close off access to higher education for many low-income and middle-income students. So, even if you don’t reside in California, the implications of the Proposition 30 vote on how other states may try to tackle budget balancing without destroying public higher education make this an issue worth tracking.

Do Your Own Research

Next Time: Changes to the University of North Carolina’s financial aid system and projected impacts on students

Samson Lim is the chief scholarship junkie of Seattle-based Scholarship Junkies, a scholarship resource organization that works to help students make higher education more affordable. Among his various scholarship experiences, Sam spent a year conducting ethnographic research on access to higher education in Berlin, Germany, as a 2010-11 U.S. Fulbright Student Scholar. Currently, Sam can be found buried in reading for his Masters of Education program in Politics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and often tries to highlight higher ed and financial aid issues in 140 characters or less at @samsonxlim.