When I was younger, I would ask my mother to spray me with her perfume before I left for school so I could smell just like her. My mother, whom I can thank for my curly hair, fair skin, and brown eyes, is a minimalist when it comes to skin care. As a result of me wanting to be just like her, so am I.
Month: February 2019 Page 1 of 3
Sunday afternoon I was pleased to sit down and meet with the presidents of a club, one of whom suggests, “people don’t know it exists.” Frank Fusco, ’19, and Charles Harker, ’19, are co-presidents of Bates College Republicans. The club can be characterized as the proverbial “black sheep” of Bates clubs — the organization does not set up tables in Commons or the Fireplace Lounge, was absent at 2018’s Fall Club Fair, and has not solely hosted a speaker since 2016. Despite the lack of public support for conservative values, Fusco and Harker remain steadfast in their views.
Fusco and Harker arrived at the same ideological destination, though each had a unique way of getting there. Harker attributes his viewpoints to the upbringing he received in a family full of Republican values. “My mom’s side, my dad’s side, both of their parents were Republican,” he says. However, Harker is never slow to acknowledge Paul Ryan, born in Harker’s hometown, influenced his thinking in many ways as well. Fusco, on the other hand, was generally apathetic towards politics until the 2012 election. In 2012, he realized, “Those political ideas that [Republicans] were sharing, were the same ones I believed were best for this country.” Since coming to Bates, both Fusco and Harker have been increasingly involved with the Bates College Republicans club.
As trends have suggested, political polarization has steadily increased since the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s impact has certainly been felt by the club, Harker notes, saying, “People just automatically assume the worst… they think ‘oh you must love Trump including all of the bad things he espouses.’” Fusco chimed in, saying, “People saw the election of Donald Trump’s bad qualities and prescribed his values to the entire Republican party.” Fusco views educating people on true Republican values as the role of Bates College Republicans. “Our job as Bates College Republicans is to show people that there is more to the issues than what many college students think.”
It is no secret that many of Bates students differ ideologically from the members of Bates College Republicans. In fact, a Hart Research Associates study found twice as many college students identified as Democrats compared to Republicans. Fusco and Harker both attribute this fact to a lack of information. Harker explained to me, “I think some people just watch the fifteen second NowThis video, or read Buzzfeed, or get CNN updates on their phone, but they won’t talk to conservatives and see where they stand on an issue. I think that leads to a disconnect between the right and the left.” Fusco sees some people’s lack of information as an opportunity rather than a roadblock, saying, “the conservative view is not being heard anywhere on college campuses in America. When we offer our beliefs, you start to see people rethinking the mainstream, liberal narrative. I think that’s a good thing.”
While having an unpopular opinion during one of the most politically hostile times may be a burden to some, Fusco is overall grateful for his experience as a minority on a liberal arts college campus. He proudly states, “Being a conservative on a liberal college campus is a gift. We hear every single argument against the things that we believe in.” Harker echoed his statement, saying, “Here, you’re really forced to think for yourself.” The constant pressure from the other side has helped Fusco develop an appreciation for conservatives across all campuses, exclaiming, “It actually takes a lot of courage to be a conservative. You really have to know your stuff because people are going to try to find a way to beat you. You have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in because people aren’t going to understand it.”
Despite the tumultuous political environment, Harker and Fusco are optimistic for the future of the club and the development of public discourse. Harker cites the Bates College mission statement, saying, “I think if people come to Bates, they should be ready to embrace ‘the transformative power of our differences,’ but I think people forget the mission statement includes diversity in political thought as well.” He continued, proposing, “It would be great if we could get five or six liberals to come to a meeting and talk with us.” Fusco voiced his confidence in the future success of the club, stating, “I foresee the club maintaining its presence on campus and even growing within the new few years.”
In the words of co-president Frank Fusco, “People should join our club because we offer intellectual diversity. You will hear points of view and positions that are not often heard on college campuses. I think that’s really, really important.”
The Men’s Squash team (9-8) posted a fourth place finish at the NESCAC championships, defeating Amherst 6-3, but falling to two-time defending national champion Trinity 8-1 on Feb. 2. The next day, Bates went up against Middlebury in the third place match, but ultimately fell 5-4.
On Thursday Jan. 31, John Kosinski, the Government Relations Director for Maine’s Education Association (MEA) gave a talk about the current state of “malarkey” in Maine regarding charter schools. His talk in particular focused on the need to recognize that charter schools are in fact private rather than public and that for them to be considered public, they need to be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as public schools.
Before discussing the controversies surrounding charter schools, Kosinski deemed it important to provide a definition: “I’m going to start out with a definition of what a charter school is, I just pulled this off of Google, but it’s a publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority.” Although the state of Maine defines charter schools to be public, The MEA believes they are private schools, having to do with “transparency, the oversight, the governing boards of these organizations,” said Kosinski.
One of the primary concerns of charter schools is the rather high percentage of for-profit charter schools whose number continues to grow in the state and country. Kosinski estimates that the percentage of for-profit charters could be as low as 32% or as high as 45%. When it comes to virtual charter schools, the percentage of for-profits increases. The two in Maine, K-12 inc. and Connections Academy are listed on the New York stock exchange. As Kosinski says, “I think educators by and large would say…that education is something that we all benefit from, and that the resources that are dedicated to education in this state and in this country already are insufficient, let alone to introduce a market dynamic of someone who is trying to make a profit out of educating children.”
Another concern Kosinski raised in his talk is the lack of transparency common to charter schools and their relatively low standards of accountability. In public schools, school boards are elected by citizens to oversee the school and to make the school system as best they can using the resources. Charter schools, on the other hand, do not face this amount of scrutiny or community involvement. In Maine, there is a board of seven people: three are on the state board of education and are appointed by the governor, and the remaining four members are chosen by the appointed three. For Kosinski, “That doesn’t sound right. That’s a lack of accountability, some would say, and certainly a lack of transparency, because then that charter commission get to decide which charters they’re going to approve, how many students they can take on, how many grades, etc.”
Another monkey wrench that compounds the problems with charter schools is the amount of funding they receive. Given that they are not submitted to the same standards of accountability that public schools are held to, it is much easier for charter schools to misappropriate tax dollars for personal enrichment:“The Center for Popular Democracy has a pretty extensive analysis that you can look up where they account for $223 million dollars of waste fraud in charter schools in 15 states,” stated Kosinski. “Some of this is definitely segregated to the for-profit element of charter schools, where we’re seeing personal enrichment in-for-profit entity as they’re using these tax dollars, and again without transparency, accountability, and oversight, these problems are propping up.”
This misappropriation of funds is even more devastating given how much more money charter schools receive than their chronically underfunded counterparts. Charter schools in Maine receive $30 million dollars. According to Kosinski, this is not “chump change.” He further added, “And this money, important to note, comes right off the top. Not one public school in this state gets a penny, the way this it’s structured, before the charter schools get a 100% of their state aid, and only after that happens, does the money flow to every other public schools in the state. I describe it as charter schools sitting on top of public schools.”
The good news is that it’s a whole new day for Maine after the most recent election. With a new legislature, Kosinski hopes to pass a ballot initiative to tax the wealthy to get to the 2003 goal that voters agreed on to fund 55% of the cost of education. In addition, he hopes to tackle the charter school cap in the state, and evaluate the current nine’s overall performance. Another thing he hopes for Maine is a greater accountability of both brick-and-mortar charter schools and especially virtual charter schools. He also hopes to change the way charter commissions are formed, as the appointing system is “malarkey”. Overall, with these changes in place, Kosinski hopes to make sure that there are people holding the charter commissions accountable and pulling their charters if needed.
Upon returning to Bates in the fall of 2018, I found an email from Professor Engel sitting in my inbox. “Dear politics majors,” it read, “the department is hosting a welcome back reception in the Muskie Archives Garden. Besides getting a chance to have ice cream with us, you can meet some faculty new to the department and some faculty returning after leaves.” The promise of ice cream immediately coaxed me into attending. And while my expectations about mint chocolate chip and peanut butter caramel failed to materialize, I ended up having a fascinating conversation with a current senior about his thesis on so-called “citizenship by investment” programs around the world.
Citizenship by Investment (CIP), an accredited practice in multiple small nations, provides for the immediate granting of citizenship in exchange for an investment or donation to local industries. Benefits are significant: from a greater freedom of movement to immunity from government policies back home. So when Sen. Elizabeth Warren began staking a claim to the 2020 presidential run by unveiling her wealth tax proposal, my mind could not help but click back to the global citizenship market and its prospective American customers.
Described as an “ultra millionaire tax,” Warren’s plan seeks to place a 2 percent levy on households worth more than $50 million and an additional 1 percent on those with net assets north of $1 billion. According to the Morning Consult poll, close to 74 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans are “strongly” or “somewhat” in favor of the proposal.
Like most young conservatives, I am terrified at the corrosive influence wealth inequality is having on our national psyche. Americans from all walks of life––blue-collar workers in Rust Belt towns, Sanders-admiring socialist groups on the coasts, and freshly minted college graduates embarking on a lifelong journey of loan repayment––are increasingly coming to believe that hard work is no longer the recipe for social mobility. Birth is seemingly the only reliable predictor of one’s economic wellbeing. Warren’s revolutionary proposal seeks to address that by shifting the locus of revenue collection from income to wealth. Instead of taxing, say, highly successful startup owners’ annual earnings, we would be targeting wealth that tends to migrate across generations. Are you convinced of the merits yet? I was… at least until the reality began to dawn on me.
To put it simply, a substantial number of individuals affected by Warren’s plan would be all but guaranteed to give up their citizenship and make home in one of the world’s many tax havens. I, for one, do not feel the slightest sympathy for expatriates giving up their citizenship for tax reasons. Being an American is a privilege people cross the oceans and endanger their lives for, and if one deems a couple of millions more important than the country, they do not deserve to be here in the first place. What troubles me, however, is the purchasing power that the US would lose by shedding its wealthiest citizens to tax havens. From portfolio investments that shore up the economy to donations to non-profit organizations, it serves our fiscal interests to encourage well-to-do Americans to stay and raise their families stateside.
Perhaps Uncle Sam could leverage his soft power to discourage tax evaders from trotting the globe. I cannot help but point out that the US does not exercise any significant influence over St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, and other citizenship-peddling microstates. Whatever those countries might lose in foreign aid from the State Department they would make up in having the world’s wealthiest individuals join their citizenship ranks. And once that happens, what would prevent, say, a US-born St. Kitts national from opening a bank account in Zurich?
Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax, albeit premised on noble ideals, is at best counterproductive and at worst likely to bring more damage than economic benefits.
Calvin Reedy’s talent is evident from his photographs, but on closer inspection it can be seen that they represent and embody something deeper than aesthetic appeal. Some of his most recent work is a collection of photographs titled “Negro Sunshine” which captures people of color in the golden hour between sun set and evening. Reedy’s studio thesis work “Hallowed be their Names” is comprised of depictions of black men. He explains in his artist statement that he chooses to depict black people in his photography a means to “Combat the tendency in western art to marginalize black artists, and limit authentic depictions of black people.” Reedy and similar trailblazers are leading the charge in reimagining and reshaping the art world into something that fairly represents all people, a theme of Reedy’s talk last Wednesday evening.
After spending February 6th at Bates meeting with senior studio art majors, Calvin Reedy ’17 presented a talk in Olin Arts Center titled, “On Art and Justice: working towards a more just (art) world.” His talk highlighted the role of black artists in creating a more just and accurate art representation, but also the numerous opportunities in the art world outside of making art, and their impact in perpetuating change. Reedy, a Bates studio art graduate was well suited to deliver this presentation. In conjunction with creating his own transformative art, he works as gallery assistant for Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. Reedy’s other experience includes a curatorial internship at The Whitney and writing for the Aperture Foundation.
The first part of Reedy’s talk focused on black artists, primarily photographers. Reedy featured art ranging from Carrie Mae Weems’ iconic “Kitchen Table Series” to work from more contemporary artists like Latoya Ruby Frazier and Shikeith. Reedy discussed the artistic elements of the work as well as their broader social implications. Reedy said, “One of the reasons that I did want to focus on black artists [is because] the world is really changing and representation is changing, there are a lot more black artists … working in the world and their work is being seen.” He notes that the black liberation model can be used for other minorities who are historically underrepresented, “You can use this model as a framework to use when other groups of people are coming to the table.”
Reedy emphasized that the often-overlooked workers in the art world have just as much as an effect on social issues as the artists themselves, because they control how the art is portrayed to the public. Jobs that help support artwork include curators, archivists, researchers, writers, and many other instrumental positions. In the majority of cases the curator is charged with acquiring and managing collections, and most importantly interpreting an artist’s work in order for it to be most accurately showcased to the public. According to Reedy, art institutions have historically been “Colonial projects and manifestations of colonial power.” Thanks to a new generation of individuals in the art industry, institutions are reckoning with how they are dealing with their collections. Artists are not the only ones responsible for art justice, and they are not the only career opportunities available if one wants to work in art, “People who are working alongside artists can also effect change and work towards different social changes,” said Reedy.
Reedy concluded the talk with a section discussing culture as a mechanism to create social change through art. He utilized Beyoncé to illustrate someone propagating a positive art culture. Beyoncé in many instances has hand selected minority artists to collaborate or work for her. “She provides a really good example for someone who has power, influence, and money reaching back to help other people along in their career,” says Reedy. He also cites Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s music video “Apesh*t” which is set in the Louvre. The video critiques the historical connotations of high art, while at the same time highlighting contemporary black artists. In the past some art has been used to demean and divide. Fortunately, Reedy has demonstrated that the work of artists of color are creating a more just (art) world.
Hullo hullo my feisty friends, I hope that y’all are doing fan-freaking-tastic! In today’s edition of Motivation with Maru we’re going to talk about the Law of the Universe and some other feel good shenanigans that might help you have a more positive, open-minded perspective! LET’S DO THIS!
Last year, the Maine State title was snagged from the Men’s Track and Field team; they fell to Bowdoin by 43 points at their home track in Merrill Gymnasium. Flash forward one year and the tables have turned. On Saturday Feb. 2, in Gorham, Maine at the University of Southern Maine, the men came back superior, defeating Bowdoin by 41 points and securing the status of reigning state champions. Colby and the University of Southern Maine trailed in second and third respectively.
In the first years of the Trump Presidency, late-night comedians and TV shows often make headlines for mocking the president and his ragtag administration of wannabe autocrats. In one corner you have Alec Baldwin’s cruddy impression of Trump lamenting the Mueller investigation with the rest of the Saturday Night Live cast. Change the channel and you can tune into Jimmy Kimmel delivering mildly chuckle-worthy jokes about how Ted Cruz is weird. If you’re so inclined, you might even see Stephen Colbert in the shadow of his former satirical glory delivering average stand up about the latest bizarre Trump tweet.
All over mainstream entertainment, slightly left-of-center Democrats and bourgeois progressives seem to have an oligopoly on political satire. The elite bastions of both Hollywood and New York, while often critical for creating representation and innovating art, are often hit-or-miss with speaking truth to power.
All sarcasm aside, I’d be lying if I said the jokes and skits were never funny or well-acted. My main problem with all these comedians, however, is how little they actually have to say about politics. They will always say that Trump is a gross, stupid sexist, but they never ask why; as in, why would millions of Americans continue to support this gross, stupid sexist man and his administration. They won’t go so far as to say that the institutions of capitalism and white supremacy in this country have fundamentally damaged our political system. They’ll make fun of Trump’s bad toupee and call it a night. One can’t help but think that, with SNL in particular, there’s no real political conviction beneath the surface. It’s all muzzled barks and no bite. People will often just lament that Donald Trump is too hard to make fun of because he’s already so absurd. In many ways, this is true, but it is followed by a pretty simple solution: why not make your satire actually about the guts of politics and not just surface-level observations?
And that is why the “Between the Scenes” clips from “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” are some of the only consistently good political humor that currently exists in popular media. These are the short segments posted online during which Noah interacts with the audience and answers their questions while the “Daily Show” cuts to commercial. “The Daily Show” itself, given the herculean task of coming up with hot-takes every night, often falls into the exact same tired, barely funny pattern of “ORANGE PRESIDENT BAD” that plagues other comedians. But when off-script (“Between the Scenes” is entirely ad-libbed), Trevor Noah not only shines in his outstanding stand-up skills, but also his political insight.
Noah, while delivering quips about news stories and answering audience questions, does what few other comedians even think of: counterintuitively, he’s unafraid to not make people laugh. When making his political positions clear and explaining his arguments, Trevor Noah doesn’t try to put a joke at the end of every sentence. He understands that for satire, your political stance must always come first. The comedy is the main tool, not the end goal. The best satire will make you laugh but does not hesitate to take itself seriously.
While covering the shooting of Emantic Bradford Jr., a black man who was shot in cold blood by Alabama police while trying to prevent a mall shooting, Noah’s grievances are nuanced but blunt. At one point he minces no words and says “the Second Amendment is not intended for black people.” In discussing the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, Trevor Noah mocks Trump’s chauvinism and voice but concisely explains how he has weaponized victimhood in the name of misogyny. When Colin Kaepernick’s Nike Ad debuted, Noah praised Kaepernick and the message while also clearly warning that we shouldn’t be convinced that “woke” corporations will ever put politics over their goal of making profits.
To be sure, Noah is by no means especially further to the left than other late-night comedians. I, myself, am often critical of the lax ways he discusses the police state and mainstream Democrats. But in all these commercial extras, Noah perfectly balances humor with insight. He knows that his platform as the host of a satirical news show is to preach politics while being funny, not to be funny with a political twist.