Back to Prindle Institute

Why Jeff Sessions Should End his War on Marijuana

A photo of Jeff Sessions on stage

Six in 10 Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized. Yet, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has openly declared a “War on Marijuana.” Sessions recently reversed several policies enacted by President Obama, making it easier for prosecutors to enforce federal laws regarding marijuana in states where it is either medically or recreationally legal. So far, marijuana is recreationally legal in eight states and medically legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, making it both a large recreational and medical industry.

Continue reading “Why Jeff Sessions Should End his War on Marijuana”

Are Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa What Chicago Needs?

The city of Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. With its iconic skyline and bustling downtown area, Chicago’s allure is only rivaled by a small number of other cities. Even though the city boasts magnificent landscapes and atmosphere, the city is plagued by violence. According to the Chicago Tribune, in 2016, Chicago had 745 homicides and over 4,000 shooting victims. Per The New York Times, the majority of the shootings were gang-related. In 2017, the homicide number dropped to 644 homicides. Although that is somewhat of an improvement, the number of homicides is too high.

Continue reading “Are Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa What Chicago Needs?”

What The Supreme Court Is(n’t) Doing About Gerrymandering

A map of a gerrymandered district in Chicago in 2004

In early January, a panel of judges in North Carolina ruled that North Carolina must redraw its Congressional maps. The state’s 2016 plan was believed by many critics to was drawn “with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates.” Being that the 2016 plan was passed by a Republican-led legislature, the judges ruled that the plan violated the First Amendment by discriminating against voters based on their prior political preferences. The judges ordered that the North Carolina General Assembly enact a redistricting plan in order to allow time to redraw the district lines. However, on Thursday the Supreme Court froze the opinion of the lower court. The action by the Supreme Court has seemingly delayed redistricting to eliminate gerrymandering in North Carolina for another election.

Continue reading “What The Supreme Court Is(n’t) Doing About Gerrymandering”

Tax Reform and the Value of Economic Equality: Part Three

An image of the Capitol Hill dome with a statue in the foreground

Egalitarianism is the assumption behind the criticisms of the recent Republican tax reform legislation (“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”) that were presented in the first two parts of this series. Egalitarians of all stripes believe that all persons deserve equal moral consideration. Unequal treatment is the exception and needs justification. Egalitarians disagree on what is required by equal moral consideration. Most egalitarians would criticize the Republican tax legislation for disproportionately benefiting the rich and exacerbating economic inequality in the United States.

The argument in Part One held that economic equality was itself desirable, while the argument in Part Two held that a more economically equal society is desirable because it would promote a society where everyone was treated as equal citizens. Both arguments presume that all persons deserve equal consideration in policy decisions; they just disagree what that consideration would entail regarding the distribution to tax benefits and burdens.

Continue reading “Tax Reform and the Value of Economic Equality: Part Three”

Why Give $75 Million to Philosophy?

Image of Johns Hopkins University's Main Campus

When Bill Miller, a wealthy businessman, recently made a $75 million donation to the philosophy profession—specifically, to the Johns Hopkins philosophy department—philosophers rejoiced in unison, right? Not exactly. Some rejoiced while others engaged in a debate. Mike Huemer, a philosopher at the University of Colorado, kicked it off in a Facebook post, which was reposted at the What’s Wrong? blog.

Continue reading “Why Give $75 Million to Philosophy?”

The 2018 Davos Forum: Plutocratic Gathering or Genuine Discussion?

An image of Davos, Switzerland in the winter.

Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Narendra Modi, and many other world leaders, CEOs, celebrities, and influencers will gather this week in a beautiful ski resort in Davos, Switzerland to attend the 2018 World Economic Forum. This gathering started in 1971 as a small conference attempting to teach underperforming European companies American management techniques. Since then, the Davos Forum has established itself as the most important world gathering where the world economy is tested, evaluated, and planned.

Continue reading “The 2018 Davos Forum: Plutocratic Gathering or Genuine Discussion?”

Thomas S. Monson and the Politics of Obituaries

A portrait of Thomas S. Monson

Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, died on January 2 of this year. Monson led the LDS Church for almost a decade.  On January 3, The New York Times published an obituary for Monson that was not well received by many members of the church.  They felt that it was politically biased and did not paint the life and work of their much-loved leader in a positive light.  

Continue reading “Thomas S. Monson and the Politics of Obituaries”

Opinion: “Dreamers” Have Been Taken Hostage in the Battle for Trump’s Wall

An image of a DACA protest in Columbus Circle

At the beginning of January, it became clear what it will take for Donald Trump to allow DACA immigrants (“Dreamers”) to remain in the country. These are about 780,000 people brought to this country illegally, as children. Now adults, they have known no other country as their own and often understand no other language but English. They have jobs or are going to college, they have families, homes—in short, a life, here in the US. In 2012, President Obama made an executive decision allowing them to remain in this country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, but Trump rescinded the program in September 2017, effective in March 2018.

Continue reading “Opinion: “Dreamers” Have Been Taken Hostage in the Battle for Trump’s Wall”

Lab-Grown Meat: A Moral Revolution?

A close-up photo of a hamburger.

In 2013, Dutch scientists announced that they had produced a lab-grown hamburger.  Scientists generated the muscle cells comprising the burger—no animals were killed as part of the process.  Many are hopeful that this “cultured meat” is the solution to many societal problems.  Earlier this year, author Paul Shapiro and director of The Humane Society released a book called Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals will Revolutionize Dinner and The World. The book provides a history of the development of meat produced in labs and discusses the moral benefits of a future that includes meat produced in this way.

Continue reading “Lab-Grown Meat: A Moral Revolution?”

From the Field to the Podium, Appropriating Native American Culture

An image of a protest outside a Washington Redskins football game.

A stereotypical Native American profile—skin the color of cherry oak, braid twisting over his right shoulder, pensive expression, large nose, and feathers in his hair—is branded onto helmets, the stadium’s field, banners, hats, shirts, couches, shot glasses, rugs, slippers, and robes. You name it, and the Washington Redskins sell it as the football team’s merchandise.

Continue reading “From the Field to the Podium, Appropriating Native American Culture”

Hip-Hop Misogyny’s Effects on Women of Color

A photo from a Kanye West concert.

Hip-hop has become one of the most popular and influential music genres to date, with clout that has reached far beyond the United States and its inner-city New York roots. Rappers and poets alike craft clever verses and lay them over powerful beats, while smooth crooners sing over catchy instrumentals. Hip-hop has even crossed over music genres, with influences in styles of music such as rock, gospel, and even country. With hip-hop being integrated into so many different classifications, the music genre has brought people together, allowing individuals of different races, religions, and creeds to come together to enjoy something that they all have in common.

Continue reading “Hip-Hop Misogyny’s Effects on Women of Color”

Tax Reform and the Value of Economic Equality: Part 2

A photo of President Trump speaking behind a podium.

Concerns for economic inequality have re-emerged with the recent tax reform legislation signed into law by the president (“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”). In the first part of this series, I considered an argument given in favor of the moral value of economic equality itself. Many prominent arguments, however, have been phrased less as in favor of economic equality and more as against the current and rising level of economic inequality in American society. While these arguments do not view economic equality per se as important, they do argue that equality of other kinds is important and that economic inequality can contribute to making us unequal in other important ways.

Continue reading “Tax Reform and the Value of Economic Equality: Part 2”

Are Undocumented Immigrants Obligated to Obey US Immigration Law?

A black-and-white image of the U.S.-Mexico border wall fence.

In September 2017, the current presidential administration stopped accepting new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is an administrative program that provides temporary protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States, enabling them to attend university, get jobs, apply for driver’s licenses, etc. Nearly 800,000 people received this DACA protection. The administration has signaled that they may be open to a legislative fix reinstating these or similar protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, and negotiations over the future of DACA have been ongoing. (For a helpful explainer on the recent political history of DACA, read this article.)

Continue reading “Are Undocumented Immigrants Obligated to Obey US Immigration Law?”

Should the United States Invade Venezuela?

A landscape image of Caracas, Venezuela

Harvard’s Ricardo Hausmann has recently written a column claiming Venezuela is approaching D-Day: options are running out in the solution of the South American country’s crisis, and the only remaining solution, according to him, is the participation of a coalition of regional forces. Hausmann is quite explicit arguing that such a coalition should be led by the US.

Hausmann does not use these phrases in his article, but he is clearly thinking of “humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect” (R2P). Both concepts are now common parlance in security studies and international law, yet they give rise to heated debates.

Continue reading “Should the United States Invade Venezuela?”

Donald Trump and Twitter: A Turbulent Relationship, Here to Stay

An image of Donald Trump making a speech.

Many people across the United States have joked about Donald Trump’s Twitter. He is often brunt and open about his opinions regarding everything from foreign policy to his own political agenda. To the average American, Twitter is a place to get one’s thoughts out there and state opinions. However, Trump is not the average American. He is the President of the United States. Trump’s Twitter has become an immature platform for him to say essentially whatever he wants. Some of his tweets are harmless and ego-inflating. Yet, other tweets present danger to the United States as a whole.

 

On January 2, Donald Trump tweeted, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Despite the playful nature of the tweet, Donald Trump made a threat to use nuclear weapons on North Korea. At this time, North Korea has significantly developed its nuclear program and could eventually have the capability to send nuclear warheads as far as the continental US. Trump’s tweet seems to further destabilize an already unstable relationship.

 

Lawmakers, diplomats, and security experts alike have offered mixed opinions on the tweet and what it implies.Some have expressed their alarm and scorn at the immaturity and the danger of the president’s current approach to foreign policy with North Korea. That approach is characterized mainly by his tweets directed towards Kim Jong Un. In August  2017, a similar threat was made towards North Korea when Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” down upon the country if it were to put the United States in any sort of danger. Eliot A. Cohen, former counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under President George W. Bush, said that he found the January tweet immature and dangerous for someone in such a position of power. He tweeted, “Spoken like a petulant ten-year-old. But one with nuclear weapons- for real- at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me.

Yet, Trump’s supporters and even some high level diplomats view the tweet positively as a message of strength. Ban Ki-moon, the former UN Secretary General called the tweets “a message from the international community.” In some ways, the tweet could be seen as a more aggressive tactic for relations with North Korea, as many presidents have seemed to take a passive role in response to the dictatorship.

Amidst the controversy surrounding Trump’s North Korea tweet (and many others), some have called for Twitter to ban Donald Trump. However, Twitter responded to the requests and said that they did not believe that it was beneficial to international discussions to ban political leaders from Twitter. In a way, banning public figures from Twitter silences them. So, in spite of the danger that Trump imposes by tweeting, his tweets are here to stay.

Despite the controversial tweets that spew from Donald Trump’s account daily, banning him from Twitter would be equally controversial. Twitter is right when it says that banning him would be silencing him. Like it or not, he is a powerful public figure and the President of the United States, and his opinions cannot be silenced. However offensive and dangerous his remarks may be, banning Donald Trump from Twitter would probably have negative implications.

The Ethics of Facebook’s Virtual Cemeteries

A photo of reporters taking pictures of the Facebook logo with their phones.

In May, Facebook reported hitting 1.94 billion users—a statistic that speaks to the tremendous popularity and influence of the social network.  As any Facebook user knows, members must take the good aspects of the technology with the bad.  The network can be a great place to reconnect with old friends, to make new ones, and to keep in touch with loved ones who live far away.  Unfortunately, conversations on Facebook also frequently end friendships. Facebook profiles and posts often tell us far more about people than may seem warranted by the intimacy level of our relationship with them.

Continue reading “The Ethics of Facebook’s Virtual Cemeteries”

Trusting Women and Epistemic Justice

An anonymous woman holding up a sign that says #MeToo

Over the past three months, public figures have been exposed as serial sexual harassers and perpetrators of sexual assault. Survivors of harassment and assault have raised new awareness of toxic masculinity and its effects in a short period of time.

However, as time goes on, supporters of the movement have been voicing rising concerns that something is bound to go awry. There is an undercurrent of worry that an untrustworthy individual will make an errant claim and thereby provide fodder for skeptics and bring the momentum of the movement to a halt. In response to this, it may seem like more vetting or investigation of the claims is the way forward. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be unfortunate to erode trust and belief in women’s stories in hopes of keeping the very momentum in service of hearing women’s voices?

Continue reading “Trusting Women and Epistemic Justice”

In the Iran Nuclear Deal, Decoupling Human Rights and International Security

Two gloved hands holding a circular plate of uranium.

Following a January 2 tweet by the President of the United States, the world has turned its attention once again to Iran. Recent weeks have been marked by increasing anti-government and pro-government protests clashing on the streets of Tehran. The celebration of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and European allies now seems like a distant past. Seemingly, these two events are not strongly intertwined, but when we dig deeper, one might be surprised by the influence of the protests on the outcomes and success of the nuclear deal. This raises the question: is it possible to isolate the current protests from the security benefits that the nuclear deal provides to the international community, and would this mean giving in to the Iran regime’s treatment of its own people?

Continue reading “In the Iran Nuclear Deal, Decoupling Human Rights and International Security”

CRISPR, Moral Obligations and Editing the Human Genome

A close-up image of a scientist examining DNA test results

As our understanding of the human genome improves, pathways leading in the direction of new and powerful technologies are cleared.  In recent years, scientists have developed a new technique called CRISPR, which allows them to edit the genome—adding, subtracting, or deleting pieces of genetic code.  This process has the potential to bring about significant changes in human health.  CRISPR could prevent children from being born with a wide range of painful or life-threatening conditions.  So far, scientists have used this process in attempts to prevent blood disorders, allergies, heart disease, and to mutate the genome in such a way that the resulting person is less likely to get HIV.   Continue reading “CRISPR, Moral Obligations and Editing the Human Genome”

Tax Reform and the Value of Economic Equality: Part 1

An image of an Occupy Wall Street protest.

Growing economic inequality in American society has been a theme in American politics for some time. Ever since the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, politicians on the left have railed against the ills of inequality, and politicians on the right have been forced to defend the economic inequality exacerbated by their preferred policies. Though the occupation of Zucotti Park eventually ended, the social movement launched economic inequality into the forefront of American political consciousness.

Continue reading “Tax Reform and the Value of Economic Equality: Part 1”

The Shifting Ethical Landscape of Online Shopping

An image of an abandoned mall.

Throughout the course of 2017, after a disappointing bottom line during the 2016 holiday season, Macy’s department store closed 100 of its locations nationwide.  Gap Inc. announced last year that it would close 200 underperforming Gap and Banana Republic locations, with an eye toward shifting greater focus to online sales.  Shopping malls across the country resemble ghost towns—lined with the empty façades of the retail giants that once were.

Continue reading “The Shifting Ethical Landscape of Online Shopping”

In Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration, Diplomacy by Blowtorch

A landscape photo of Jerusalem.

On December 6, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv to a new location in Jerusalem.  This move is in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress in 1995 but waived by every president every year since it was passed. This decision has tremendous political implications, which is why previous presidents, despite conducting much of their business pertaining to Israel in Jerusalem, have refrained from moving the embassy or announcing any formal position on the matter of Jerusalem at all, other than to attempt to advance peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Continue reading “In Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration, Diplomacy by Blowtorch”