By Atreya Misra
Nearly 600,000 authors represent Elsevier, a publishing company that compiles, reviews, and publishes journals across academia. However, in recent months, over 5,700 authors have joined a boycott against the organization. A statement issued in January from 34 mathematicians charges that Elsevier, along with many other publishing companies, “charge exorbitantly high prices for subscription to individual journals…makes huge profits [through a bundle payment system]…and support measures such as SOPA and PIPA that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.”
Among the protestors include three field medalists – Timothy Gowers, Terence Tao and Wendelin Werner – and the President of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), Ingrid Daubechies. Clearly this is no small matter. Rather, it is part of a broader debate on the role publishing companies play in academia. As the protesters note, these companies rely on a peer review system that is largely voluntary and based on free labor – labor that is highly prized in the research world. Nonetheless, while researchers and authors take on the load of peer review, these companies are the ones raking in larger and larger profits by selling journals only in bundles. Thus, libraries around the world end up paying for journals they in reality never need, since only part of each bundle is what they really desire.
In a sense, then, the publishing houses are the middlemen that academics no longer see as absolutely necessary. Of course, they have a rich history in disseminating research and validating academic work, yet the protest is aimed more at changing commercial practices rather than the entire publishing apparatus.
Timothy Gowers of Cambridge University, the man who started it all on January 21st of this year, posted on a blog post to get the attention of thousands of people worldwide on the fallacies of making revenue from this free labor. Nevertheless, it seems as though this conflict as gone unnoticed. In 2010, Elsevier reported profits hitting over $3.2 billion, a 36% profit. Even so, on a larger level, Congress made a stand after Gowers’ actions. First drafted in 2006, the Federal Research Public Access Act was reintroduced to Congress last month. This act would make information of federal researchers open to the public and forbid prices from being placed on research financed through public funding.
Hence, the issue of journal publishing reform continues. Elsevier, particularly, has been targeted because of the relatively high prices of its journals in relation to their academic reputations. Indeed, we believe that free access to scientific research bolsters innovation, and will only spur greater improvements in how public funding is targeted. Walling off research hinders academic cooperation, a key issue with the constant imposition of politics already stifling the flow of public funds. Steps need to be taken one at a time – already, Elsevier has backed off from its prior support of the Research Works Act, which would prohibit open access mandates on public research. Congress should act to increase the sharing of scientific advances by passing the Federal Research Public Access Act (H.R. 4004), which has already received 27 co-sponsors as of March 28th. Scholarly publication must continue, but not at the expense of public access.
By Atreya Misra
The Kashmir Conflict has plagued the minds of American politicians for years. From our traditional view of aiding Pakistan, to this recent emergence of a need to distance ourselves from them, we find ourselves more and more pressured to make a decision. Pakistan and India’s aggressiveness, arrogance, and attitude have damaged the United States image in the Southern Asia, especially in Pakistan. However, while they continuously benefit from our relationship, we lose influence and spend increasing amounts of money every year. While in the future we must maintain positive ties, at the moment we must take a stand against their infractions of international laws.
The problem today is that ever since India and Pakistan split into two countries from former British India, they have continuously disregarded our requests to make a compromise in the Kashmir region between them in order to make peace. From New Delhi to Islamabad, the Indian and Pakistani governments have continued to believe that they are not in violation of any international laws. The truth however, is that the condominium international law states that two countries cannot claim past the borders of another country as their own land. Also, nearly 100,000 people of all religions since the 1980s have been killed by this conflict. The human rights violation has been detrimental in this area, with thousands of protestors dying every year. We must not allow this to continue as this conflict has been going on for over 60 years now.
The solution is simple. Halting monetary military aid to India and Pakistan until they agree to abide by international laws and create a compromise regarding the Kashmir region to effectively stop massive amounts of violence from occurring. Pakistan has received $20.7 billion worth of U.S. assistance over the past decade, about two-thirds of it is military aid. Even though we will be suspending $800 million dollars of it, this is only a third of the total US military aid to Pakistan every year, meaning that over the next decade, we will be sending massive amounts of aid to Pakistan. The fact of the matter is, the United States sends approximately $2 billion of aid to India and Pakistan every year. This means over time India and Pakistan will realize that they are reliant on the US and they cannot do without the aid. Now, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if India and Pakistan didn’t use our aid as a way to intimidate their neighbors. The fact that we lend our name in the international sphere to protect them is detrimental to our own image abroad. India and Pakistan officials however rely on our assistance in order to continue to have any type of influence in the international community.
Ending military aid is imperative to achieving our goals to ensure peace between India and Pakistan, as well as improving our image in the southern Asia. Pakistan’s people have been claiming the Kashmir region as their own. Also, Brajesh Mishra, India’s former national security adviser, states that, “No matter what government is in place, India is not going to relinquish control of Jammu and Kashmir, that is written in stone and cannot be changed.” The main chunk would be a split state has caused citizens of both nations to threaten to walk out of the peace process if they are not stopped immediately. By correcting these international law violations, peace will come to an area that has been plagued with war, hate, and blood for the past century. Furthermore, this benefit’s the United States directly. By reducing aid to these nations in the short term, we are declaring that there actions will not be condoned. This will be met with large amounts of approval from the international community.
Ending aid is the only way that we are going to see any changes in the Kashmir region. India and Pakistan’s aggressiveness, arrogance, and attitude have for too long lent the international community a reason to stand against the United States. We have to act now for the good of our country and that of the Kashmir people suffering at India and Pakistan’s hands.
By Kevin Yang
Among President Obama’s many actions, perhaps his most notorious and controversial one is his health care reform bill, known as the Affordable Care Act. Now, starting Monday, March 26, 2012, the bill will be reviewed by the one of the nation’s most venerable institutions, the Supreme Court.
The first thing the court will do is go through three days of hearings on the law itself. According to ABC News, the question of whether it is the appropriate time for the Supreme Court to take up the case is the first question that will be asked. This is an issue only because of the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act, which prevents lawsuits regarding bills with taxes that haven’t been paid yet. Since the individual mandate outlined in Obama’s bill, which requires all Americans to buy health insurance, does not start until 2014, there haven’t been any taxes yet. Thus, some people are able to argue that it is illegal according to US law for the Supreme Court to review Obama’s health care bill.
On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, the Supreme Court will address the most controversial part of Obama’s bill – the constitutionality of the individual mandate. If instituted, this individual mandate would force everyone to buy insurance, regardless of your ability to afford it. If someone does not purchase health insurance, that person will be punished by a fine. In fact, Obama himself spoke out against such an individual mandate during his 2008 campaign for the Democratic primaries.
Opponents to the individual mandate argue that such legislation would violate the basic principles of individual freedom and limited government. If the federal government has the power to force Americans to purchase health care insurance, then why couldn’t it force Americans to purchase every other good? Opponents to the mandate believe that it would make the government’s power effectively limitless.
On the other hand, proponents of the individual mandate argue that it would reap many benefits, most notably, a prevention of free riders in the health care system. The Christian Science Monitor notes that a free rider is someone who benefits from the health care system without actually paying for it. The problem with free riders is especially plaguing the health care system, as people who lack health insurance are still able to receive health care. Almost all health care providers are either unable or unwilling to turn people away. Consequently, the financial cost of these free riders lies on the shoulders of everyone else that pays health insurance. The CATO Institute finds that in 2001, the uninsured received $35 billion worth of care.
Despite the controversies surrounding the individual mandate, it is still expected to pass. The Republican American Action Forum and the Democratic Blue Dog Research Forum both released polls of former clerks of current justices, finding that a mere 35% of people thought that the individual mandate would be ruled unconstitutional. If the individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional and is taken out of the bill, it is likely that the rest of the Affordable Care Act would legally stand up to the Supreme Court.
Amidst the 2012 US presidential elections, this Supreme Court decision might be key in determining the next president. CBS News predicts that depending on if the bill is found to be constitutional or unconstitutional, democratic and republican voters would be more energized, respectively. This decision could indeed play a huge role in determining the United States’ next president, and as such, is one of the most important moments in our history.
By Alex Liao
With recent cyberattacks on defense corporations including Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman, cybersecurity has gained its place in the public consciousness. Indeed, President Obama declared that the “cyber threat is one of the most significant economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” In May, the Obama Administration released a Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal aimed at securing and safeguarding the nation’s network infrastructure in light of growing threats online.
In its proposal, the White House emphasized the primacy of public-private partnerships in developing a cohesive cybersecurity policy. In the status quo, companies often have little incentive to share information about cyberattacks, such as data breaches, which can erode public confidence in the company. The White House seeks to incentivize private cooperation with government in order to work together in protecting the nation’s security systems. In particular, the proposal will unify 47 divergent state notification laws on identity theft, creating a more cogent system for reporting requirements. This mandates that organizations must inform citizens when personal information has been compromised. Moreover, the proposal will attempt to unify criminal penalties for hacking the nation’s critical infrastructure system, and permits the government to share information with organizations that manage critical infrastructure with guarantees for immunity. In this way, the Administration aims to ultimately create a transparent security apparatus that can simultaneously ensure that information which organizations share will not be used to impinge citizens’ civil liberties, while incentivizing the distribution of information in the first place. Hence, the cooperative system melds both the private and public sectors to create a more unified security basis.
On the individual level, the Obama Administration aims to allow the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement intrusion detection systems, with oversight embedded alongside annual certification to verify the safeguards’ rigor. This authority, which would be vested from an updated Federal Information Security Management Act, would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to hire more cybersecurity professionals to bolster the amount of human capital in the fight. This plank of the proposal would require cooperation with the private sector in the wake of cyberattacks, cooperation which is currently fractured due to the various state laws. The proposal would end the inequity with national and unified cybersecurity legislation.
Currently, federal policy permits the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense to defend .gov and .mil network space. However, this scale of coordination does not exist for private networks. There is little regulatory oversight or enforcement mechanisms in place over the private sector as a whole. In cases where government does work with the private sector, information sharing is voluntary. In turn, a quasi-balance has been created, between sharing enough information for cybersecurity collaboration with other companies, and protecting confidential information. The Obama Administration, then, is attempting to increase collaboration while providing assurances for companies’ privacy.
Instead of strict regulation, the Pentagon has worked directly with defense contractors, creating a partnership called the Enduring Security Framework in 2007 with large technology and defense companies to safeguard their computer systems. The Defense Industrial Base effort under the Department of Homeland Security also works with defense companies to protect their intellectual property and coordinate responses to intrusions. Nevertheless, it has been criticized for its poor technological expertise. Several shortfalls include the inability to determine the identity of perpetrators of cyber intrusions and the methods of intrusion. Counter-intrusion strategies have also been revealed to be over a decade old. Hence, while defense companies have been able to detect intrusions and provide short-term fixes, they can do very little in terms of eradicating the problem.
With the creation of the U.S. Cyber Command under the Department of Defense, the nation has gained the ability to develop a cogent cybersecurity doctrine and to train cybersecurity specialists. Its partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, called “Active Defense,” allows it to work with Tier 1 Internet service providers – which are involved in critical infrastructure systems – to stop malware and other privacy concerns from infiltrating networks. Moreover, working with private sector professionals, the federal government has set up the United States Telecommunications Training Institute to train professionals around the world in cybersecurity and in related fields. It has additionally worked with the International Telecommunications Union to develop capacity-building study groups and international risk standards. Likewise, on the international level, the third iteration of Cyber Storm – the Department of Homeland Security’s biennial cybersecurity exercises – contained extensive private sector contributions, including 60 private sector companies. The exercise helped implement the National Cyber Response Plan to coordinate future public-private strategies in the case of cybersecurity emergencies. Hence, private sector participation in cybersecurity efforts has proved to be readily available, with critical infrastructure companies playing integral roles in the Cyber Storm exercises.
Nevertheless, the current level of public-private partnerships leaves much work to be done, as both parties require at least a baseline level of cybersecurity defense above the current haphazard, overlapping security landscape which readily excludes private companies who are unwilling to participate. Of course, the high risk of cybersecurity threats warrants higher levels of public-private cooperation, which may inevitably include regulation and oversight. With increased regulation comes increased risk of outcry or backlash from the business community.
On the whole, private industry has been receptive to the federal government’s cybersecurity initiatives. Intellectual property theft causes multibillion dollar losses for high-profile companies, which could also be hurt from the negative stigma attached to a public announcement of a data breach or cyberattack. Notwithstanding, private companies often withhold information that could prove useful to stifling cyber intrusions or coordinating with other companies. Especially with classified information in the hands of defense companies, the current system of voluntary relationships creates roadblocks to a successful cybersecurity doctrine. Draft legislation in Congress could potentially provide incentives or reimbursements to encourage companies to cooperate with a more stringent regulatory apparatus based on risk-based performance standards developed by the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, drafting federal security standards collaboratively on a public-private level would override the vagaries of haphazard state laws and regulations.
Members of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, however, were displeased at the lack of an Office of Cyberspace in the White House’s proposal. They argue that more concrete incentives and legal requirements are necessary for companies to consider sharing more personal information. They cite breaches in Sony’s security over the past few months, which require more specific legislation than the one proffered by Obama’s staff. Private sector firms, such as Imperva and SpiderLabs, which called for more specific action from the private-public partnerships, corroborated this sentiment.
Hence, companies have largely avoided criticism of the federal government’s overtures in the cybersecurity realm. Under future regulation, according to Obama’s proposal, industry professionals would be able to set their own standards with government approval and without the threat of any monetary fines. Private organizations would also be immune from lawsuits when sharing information with the federal government. Moreover, there is significant indication that the safeguards will never be developed. The privacy and civil liberties oversight board created to deal with the situation has seated only two of five members, and holds little power over enforcement of standards. Thus, the voluntary, collaborative public-private partnership appeals to private companies, especially security firms who stand to gain demand for their products.
The companies most affected by the Obama Administration’s cybersecurity strategy, however, are critical infrastructure businesses. These include companies that manage systems which manage substantial areas of the nation’s security, economy, and public health. The administration has taken a staunchly protective posture on these companies, placing great emphasis on them in its policy. For instance, it has requested a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence for hackers who cause significant harm to critical infrastructure systems. While protecting them, however, the enforcement mechanisms for cybersecurity compliance remain lean and favor businesses. For instance, industry audits of these companies under Obama’s proposal will open the door for abuse, allowing companies to simply pay auditors to certify their security systems. Moreover, the national data breach notification law will supplant state laws, which some lawmakers argue are more stringent than Obama’s proposal. Despite these concerns, critical infrastructure businesses contend that the unified cybersecurity strategy will institute new, tougher standards for the entire United States. Representatives of the Business Software Alliance and the Financial Services Roundtable came out strongly in support of new steps forward in national cybersecurity legislation, calling them necessary for the prevention of ever-growing cyberattacks.
This does not mean the federal government intends to ignore non-critical infrastructure. On the contrary, the Department of Commerce recently released recommendations for online companies to buttress cybersecurity protections. It advocated for the establishment of codes of conduct and sought to create government incentives for companies to adopt more robust security systems and improve cybersecurity training. While non-critical infrastructure companies remain outside the sphere of regulation, the Commerce Department intends to seek industry input to establish greater cybersecurity cooperation. For example, it proposed the creation of an online identification system to prevent online fraud. These voluntary proposals have been welcomed by businesses, with public support from the Software and Information Industry Association. Therefore, government action in this arena primarily stands to bolster companies’ cybersecurity efforts without imposing any roadblocks to growth. Indeed, online fraud cost U.S. businesses $37 billion dollars in 2010, creating a significant economic incentive for companies to listen.
Thus, on the whole, the United States Federal Government’s cybersecurity proposals and policies engender an accommodative setting for public-private partnerships to flourish. Support from business groups confirms this notion, as does the lack of public outcry over the administration’s recent overtures on the issue. Hence, little resistance to federal cybersecurity policy should be expected in the near term. As high-profile cyberattacks of Nasdaq, Sony, Google, RSA, Lockheed Martin, and most recently Citigroup emerge, the private industry will naturally seek a more unified system for cybersecurity collaboration in order to reduce risk and limit potential liabilities of data breaches. The federal government, then, must carefully balance the needs of the private sector with the necessity of maintaining a stringent cybersecurity regime which can cogently assess companies’ cybersecurity defenses.
1 The White House, “FACT SHEET: Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal,” Office of the Press Secretary of The White House, May 12, 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/12/fact-sheet-cybersecurity-legislative-proposal.
2 Grant Gross, “Lawmakers question Obama cybersecurity proposal,” CSO, May 25, 2011, http://www.csoonline.com/article/682966/lawmakers-question-obama-cybersecurity-proposal.
3 Bonney Kapp, “White House lays out cyber-security proposal,” CNN, May 12, 2011, http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/12/white-house-lays-out-cyber-security-proposal/.
4 Zeljka Zorz, “Obama administration reveals cybersecurity plan,” Help Net Security, May 16, 2011, http://www.net-security.org/secworld.php?id=11027.
5 Lisa Daniel, “Pentagon, Homeland Security Collaborate on Cybersecurity, American Forces Press Service, May 23, 2011, http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=64045.
6 Greg Masters, “Reaction to White House proposals mixed,” SC Magazine, May 13, 2011, http://www.scmagazineus.com/reactions-to-white-house-proposals-mixed/article/202773/.
7 CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, “Cybersecurity Two Years Later,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, January 2011, pp. 7-8, http://csis.org/files/publication/110128_Lewis_CybersecurityTwoYearsLater_Web.pdf.
8 Marjorie Morgan, “ISAlliance on Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity,” The Internet Security Alliance, April 21, 2010, https://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/3753-ISAlliance-on-Defense-Industrial-Base-Cybersecurity.html.
9 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Cyberspace: United States Faces Challenges in Addressing Global Cybersecurity and Governance,” GAO, July 2010, pp. 22-23, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10606.pdf.
10 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Cyber Storm: Securing Cyber Space,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security, September 27, 2010, http://www.dhs.gov/files/training/gc_1204738275985.shtm.
11 Robert K. Knake, “Internet Governance in an Age of Cyber Insecurity,” Council on Foreign Relations Press, September 2010, pp.5, http://www.cfr.org/terrorism-and-technology/internet-governance-age-cyber-insecurity/p22832.
12 Sean Lawson, “Richard Clarke Responds to Administration Cybersecurity Proposals,” Forbes, June 03, 2011, http://blogs.forbes.com/seanlawson/2011/06/03/richard-clarke-responds-to-administration-cybersecurity-proposals/.
13 Kim Zetter, “White House Wants Mandatory Three-Year Sentence for Critical-Infrastructure Hackers,” Wired, May 13, 2011, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/05/white-house-cybersecurity/.
14 Kelly Riddell, “Online Companies Urged by U.S. to Boost Their Cyber Defenses,” Bloomberg, June 08, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-08/online-businesses-urged-by-u-s-to-bolster-their-cyber-defenses.html.
By Shaina Spector
Abraham Lincoln, who once called America’s political system a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” would be shocked to discover that it has transformed into a compilation of lobbying, unfair policymaking, and corruption. Despite Lincoln’s hopes for a land where politicians would devote themselves to the common good, George Washington’s astounding net worth of $525 million (in today’s dollars) and ownership of over 300 slaves may show that our nation was built on a concept that represents anything but that. Other individuals with extreme wealth have been elected to office ever since that time long ago, making it likely that low-income individuals feel that any efforts for removing income inequality in America are going, going, gone; such inequality is the very foundation of the system and, ironically, under this social hierarchy determined by wealth and status, America was able to become the greatest and longest standing democracy in the world. Thus, many may wonder what the problem is with the wealthy controlling the political system. Well, there is none. Unless, of course, they are using the system in pursuit of their own interests and infringe on the rights of those economically beneath them. As reflected in Madison’s Dilemma, part of human nature involves being self-interested. Therefore, when the wealthy are not only the citizens of the nation, but the ones who guide it, then the system is inevitably in their favor. Additionally, with their wealth, they are able to control the media and, consequently, citizens’ perceptions of government.
Due to their wealth disparity, legislators fail to accurately represent American citizens, resulting in their inability to make decisions appropriately on their behalf. To provide insight into the wealth of Congressional members, it is interesting to note that only 1% of the country’s population is comprised of millionaires; however, a whopping 58% of Congress is a part of this 1%. When such a large portion of that 1% are concentrated in the White House and the rest is dispersed throughout the country, it is difficult to say that they are representing most Americans. Additionally, Congress’ self-voted salaries are four times the amount of an average American household and their freshman class has a worth of $533 million, equivalent to the value of 10,000 American citizens. With numbers like these, it is no surprise that Congress members never want to leave their positions of power, and lucky for them, they do not have to since they have no term limits. In the Constitution, the Framers predicted that the legislative branch would be the most powerful branch, but the issue that arises is that members of Congress are promoting the same partial decision-making that those Constitution writers feared would occur in the executive branch. A major reason for this is the lobbying. Lobbying is an act protected by First Amendment rights and is not inherently bad, but it does sometimes impact policy negatively.
Take General Electric, for example. They are the country’s largest corporation and biggest lobbying company. They spend almost $40 million in lobbying expenditures. Accusations are often made about a connection between their extensive lobbying and the favors they receive from Congress. They are guilty of lobbying in exchange for tax breaks, making their tax burden so minimal that they end up spending more on lobbying than they do on taxes. Furthermore, in 2011, they spent millions of dollars lobbying after the House stated that it would stop funding the corporation’s jet, Their lobbying worked to their benefit, as it helped them to achieve $26 billion in profits and a net tax benefit of more than $4 billion.
Lobbyists hired by corporations use the government to their advantage, and political candidates often make average Americans feel that they can do the same. Politicians do so by touching upon one’s desire to achieve the American Dream. This idea was quite apparent in Barack Obama’s campaign, as he stole the hearts of many by chanting his “Yes we can” mantra to make all Americans feel that they could pursue happiness and prosperity under his presidency. In this way, citizens will vote for politicians who they believe they can depend on, despite the fact that meeting the expectations of these citizens is virtually an impossible task for a single individual to do. Because it is so difficult to make a perfect nation, the government conditions citizens to be obedient. The system longs for citizens who are intelligent enough to work efficiently, thereby spurring economic growth, but ignorant enough to accept the injustice thrust upon them. Citizens of the lower class feel that they cannot, and need not, fix the system because they are willing to accept anything that they can get, in the hope that it brings them closer to fulfilling that Dream. Corporations depend on this concept because it is what keeps the lower class working for minimal wages and gives them more money, which provides funds for politicians as a result.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study that found that wealthier people are more likely to act unethically than those with considerably less money. The participants who were wealthy confessed that they would lie when making negotiations and would cheat to win a prize. This reflects how, while those with a considerable amount of wealth have power, they sometimes achieve this power wrongfully and at the expense of those below them. The wealth of politicians is not in itself a crime, and is more likely a sign of their success, but the injustice that it contributes to their policy-making is what makes it a threat to the country’s democracy, and what transforms the governing body into a “moneycracy” at its finest.