Will President Xi Jinping seek a third term?

Photo: Reuters

Hiroki Takeuchi, Tower Center Senior Fellow and Director of the Sun & Star Program, was quoted in an article in the South China Morning Post about the possible future of Chinese President Xi Jingping. Takeuchi believes that even though it’s possible that President Xi will seek out a third term, it is more likely that he will abstain due to the Chinese political norm that shuns such a prolonged presidency.

“The act of seeking a third term itself will undermine the institutional mechanism that supports the resilience of one-party rule,” Takeuchi said.

Read the article here.

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TC Associate publishes study on education policy and student mobilization

Tower Center Associate Dominique Baker published a study in The Journal of Higher Education that investigates for connections between a school’s racial and gender diversity and the likelihood of an I, Too, Am campaign on campus. I, Too, Am Harvard was the first campaign of its kind, which sought to highlight the experiences of black students attending the Ivy League school; similar campaigns have since been adopted by groups at other universities. Baker found that changes in the level of women and racial minorities on campus did not actually impact the likelihood of adoption of a campaign at all.

Read Baker’s research here.

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Cullum Clark: Tax reform will be harder to pass than healthcare

Tower Center Fellow and director of the SMU Economics Center Cullum Clark was interviewed on NBC 5 about the GOP’s newly proposed tax reform plan.

“We’ve already seen that the Republicans have already had a really hard time reaching consensus on healthcare where they promised repeal or repeal and replace for years…tax reform, I would argue, is harder,” Clark said.

Watch the interview here.

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Does it matter if imports from Mexico are actually made of U.S. stuff?

Executive director of the Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center was quoted in an article for the Houston Chronicle regarding imports from Mexico and their impacts on the U.S. economy. Luisa del Rosal argues that even if most of an import is made abroad, it can still have a positive effect in the domestic marketplace because of the lesser cost to consumers.

“Consumers lose their ability to buy things if we aren’t able to produce them in the most effective ways,” del Rosal said. “There has to be a better way to measure what value it adds to our economy than what percentage is made in a certain country.”

Read the article here.

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TC Expert analyzes the latest EU Withdrawal Bill

Tower Center Fellow Sionaidh Douglas-Scott wrote a piece for The UK in a Changing Europe Initiative that looks at the possible impact of the current EU Withdrawal Bill. As Britain works through the legal necessities required to complete Brexit and separate from the EU the British government must figure out how to adopt or dismiss massive amounts of previously ruling European Union Law. Douglas-Scott believes that the current draft of the Withdrawal Bill threatens to completely upset the traditional balance of and separation of powers in the British government.

“If the Bill stands in its current form, Parliament will be handing over powers to the Executive on an unprecedented scale,” she wrote.

Read her essay here.

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Student Blog | Investment & Risk in Energy Transport

Dedman Law School Professor James Coleman gives a lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 18.

Dedman Law School Professor James Coleman led a discussion at the Tower Center looking at the complexities of the energy sector focusing on transportation as the driving force. His talk covered what is driving new investment in energy transport, what is holding that investment back, and how the U.S. can better the procedures involved. Read HCM Tower Scholar Destiny Rose Murphy’s summary of the lecture below.

The need for new energy transport investment – pipelines and powerlines

The fracking revolution opened huge new oil reservoirs all across states and regions that had previously had little to no local oil. These new production sites mean that now oil does not need to be transported into traditionally oil-needy areas, like Texas and the Midwest. Instead, what is needed is pipelines to take oil out of these new production sites.

There is a parallel need in the renewable energy world. Though there is a great deal of land in the center of the country that is perfect for wind energy production, this land is significantly less populated, and so requires significantly less energy than the U.S.’s densely packed coastal regions. That means that renewable energy production projects from these areas need to build powerlines to bring the energy to more populated areas.

Adequate energy transportation is increasingly important because of the desire to use renewable resources. Though solar power may be able to cover half a city’s power usage during the prime sunshine hours of the day, that same city needs to have other energy resources to fill in during non-solar hours. Without flexible backup energy, like natural gas, that can be turned up or down during different times of day, cities often cannot fully utilize renewable resources. Unfortunately, however, natural gas is expensive to transport because it requires a pipeline. This means it is often right at the source, instead of being sent to cities that need it.

Trends increase uncertainty for investors

With all that need for power transportation, it would seem that investment in the energy transport sector should be booming. However, several policy and public action trends have contributed to uncertainty for investors, resulting in lower levels of energy transportation investment.

Opponents of certain kinds of energy have realized that transportation is a perfect choke point for halting energy production. These advocacy groups have thus launched projects to halt transportation of energy, including everything from protesting pipeline production to suspending people from bridges to prevent boats from passing through harbors. These protests have drawn media attention, which has led to increased fights and huge swings in energy transportation policy.

The swings in energy transportation policy have manifested in huge sets of rule changes. The Obama administration moved toward growing the power of the federal government in regard to decisions on the legality of interstate projects, which was shown greatly in the fights over the Keystone XL pipeline.  Several states have also pushed to increase their power, especially in the area of gas pipelines, sometimes requiring power transportation projects to get permission from each individually affected county in the state before beginning construction. These grabs for power in the energy transportation sector have led to new rule sets and constantly moving governmental review deadlines that make investors hesitate to believe that energy transport projects can ever get done and return on investments.

Principles to enable the energy future

Professor Coleman proposed three policy suggestions that he believes will reduce the costs in energy transport procedure, and more generally improve the process by which energy transportation projects are produced and completed.

  1. Hard deadlines for reviews and projects, so that investors can know definitively when the project will move forward.
  2. There should not be overlapping review on projects; though both the states and the federal government should be included in the discussions on projects, there should be strict rules on who gets the final say.
  3. Coleman proposed that new rules regarding the creation of energy transportation projects should only be implemented on future projects so that projects already underway are not affected. By not applying new rules to existing projects the government would be able to provide certainty to investors.

Destiny Rose Murphy is from Denton, Texas and is triple majoring in political science, English, and philosophy, each of which she will be pursuing distinction in, as well as minoring in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. In addition to being an HCM Tower Scholar, she is a Dedman Scholar and a Second Century Scholar. In her free time she writes and is managing editor for the Honors Magazine Hilltopics, competes with SMU’s award winning competitive ballroom dancing team, and has founded a Rotaract club on campus to provide service for the greater Dallas community in conjunction with the Dallas Rotary Club. Her policy interests focus on the judicial branch and how policy can be affected through nontraditional, non-legislative means. She hopes to pursue a career in the judiciary, and dreams of one day becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

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Center Spotlight | A Life of Service

Retired Brig. Gen. Patrick Mordente has dedicated his life to serving the United States, first through the military and now at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Mordente was appointed to be the director of the Bush Library & Museum in February. He is also a member of the Tower Center Board of Directors, a Tower Center Senior Fellow, and a professor for the Tower Scholars Program. The Tower Center sat down with Mordente to discuss his transition from commanding an air force base to directing the 13th presidential library.

Ret. Brig. Gen. Patrick Mordente (left) being sworn in by Emily Robison (right), Deputy Director, George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Tower Center: What brought you to the Bush Library and Museum?

Mordente: I was retiring from the Air Force in two months, and an honorary commander learned that the George W. Bush Library & Museum was losing their director and that they would like a senior military officer to fill the position. Eventually I ended up talking to the CEO Ken Hersh about if I was interested in being the director. I said obviously I have the utmost respect for President Bush who was my commander in chief, a great commander in chief, and I would love to be able to serve again.

I said I’m not an archivist, I’m not a librarian, and they said don’t worry. As a director it’s more about the public outreach, the engagement, developing the cooperation between the foundation and SMU. I was interested so I put in the application with the federal government, and five interviews later I was selected.

You retired officially from the Air Force in October and began your position as director in February. Were you planning on rejoining the workforce so quickly?

I’m too young to retire; I’d go crazy. I was looking at what to do next. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed my military career, but it’s that next chapter in life; what are you going to do next? At the museum and library I am able to continue serving. We teach people about their government, we engage with SMU’s campus and with local school districts, we engage with the American people. They have the opportunity to come in and say, “Here’s the history behind the Bush administration and all the challenges they had to deal with and how they dealt with them.” I mean, that’s rewarding.

Ret. Brig. Gen. Patrick Mordente

Was there something about President George W. Bush and hislegacy that made the opportunity to direct his library and museum stand out?

His respect for the military. His respect for the veterans who have served. I’ve always said that when I raised my right hand and joined the military I knew that going into combat, into harms way, was part of the bargain. I served in Afghanistan and I served in Iraq. I respected him as my commander in chief, and I still respect him, because he always had my back. He was a president that cared about his military; he was a president that cared about his veterans. He respected sacrifices we made. That’s what stood out to me about President Bush: his loyalty to the veterans.

Aside from your full-time job at the library and museum you have also accepted a position teaching a course for the Tower Scholars Program. Why?

I have to go back to my air force days to explain why. As I became older in the air force it became incumbent upon me to teach, and shape, and develop the next airmen. It’s not about me as an individual, it’s about the organization, the future of the air force. I became even more nostalgic the older I got in the air force — in essence I was building my replacement.

Take that one step further into the civilian world. I was given an opportunity to teach and help shape and instruct a young leader. I look at the Tower Scholars as future leaders within our country, whether it’s in the private sector or in our government; to someway be able to help bring them along and develop them as leaders, to me that’s more rewarding than a paycheck. I remember day one, walking into class with these 12 students, and thinking they’re extremely sharp.  I was extremely impressed by the caliber of students in my class. I think the country is in good hands.

Given your experience in the air force mentioned above, did teaching come naturally to you?

I’m still working on my approach. I’ve been in an academic training environment. This is more of an academic education environment, and there’s a difference between training and education. The advantage I have is that I was a practitioner.

How are you using your experience as Director of Mobility during the Ebola crisis to teach Tower Scholars about the reality of building and implementing policy?

The relationship between the central government library side, SMU, and the Bush foundation — there’s a great synergy that occurs when we can leverage all three. I can use my crisis management experience with the Ebola crisis as a backdrop and show an international policy issue that involves agencies within the executive branch. I can show how that works not only within the executive branch, but how it played into the governments of Liberia, Europe, and the United Nations.

Following the discussion of the Ebola crisis the second scenario is going to be the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2002. We are going to bring over people from the Bush Foundation to talk about what’s truly a U.S. national policy so that the students can have a flavor of both international and national policy.

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Scholar Spotlight | My Semester in South America

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross in Machu Picchu, Peru

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross spent the spring of 2017 studying abroad in Argentina and Chile. He spent seven weeks in each country learning about economics, political development, and business in Latin America. During breaks he visited Uruguay and Peru. Cross sat down with the Tower Center to talk about his experience.

Describe your life in Argentina. What was a typical day like for you?

I began each day enjoying breakfast with my host family and roommate. Coffee, fresh fruit, medialunas (a croissant-like pastry), and dulce de leche (a spread similar to caramel) were staples. Next, I rode a public bus to the office building that housed the program’s classrooms. I participated in a lengthy seminar each morning with the nine other American students led by professors from distinguished local universities. For lunch, I often ate Argentine empanadas: a pastry shell filled with ground beef, olives, and eggs. Throughout the afternoon, my friends and I strolled through Buenos Aires’ eclectic mix of neighborhoods. We explored posh Recoleta, industrial La Boca, and youthful Palermo Soho, coming into contact with a cross-section of Argentine society.

Dinner with my host family was the highlight of each day. Over an Italian-style meal of gnocchi, ravioli, or risotto, we discussed current events and debated politics. In Argentina, asking about political views is not as taboo as in the U.S. My host family was captivated by the daily drama of President Trump. In fact, they followed American politics more closely than I did! Since most American college students study abroad in Europe, I was often the first young American Argentines had ever met. 

What is one lesson you took away from your time there?

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross in Santiago, Chile.

Living in Latin America requires all-embracing patience on a daily basis. I was routinely frustrated by small aspects of life which we take for granted in the United States. Modifying my expectations to match the reality of city life was imperative. For example, public transportation in Buenos Aires is notoriously unreliable. My 45-minute morning commute was often stymied by strikes and protest marches that obstructed thoroughfares leading to the city’s center. I surmounted this challenge with extremely flexible planning.

How has this experience impacted your goals for the future?

My semester in Argentina and Chile brought me one step closer to my professional goals. I secured a summer internship at the headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service in Washington. My responsibilities centered around Latin American affairs. Drawing upon my newfound comfort speaking in Spanish, I communicated with foreign government officials by letter, phone, and email. I helped to facilitate bilateral negotiations with the postal services of Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, and Venezuela. This opportunity solidified my interest in pursuing a career oriented toward Latin America.

What is it like transitioning back into life in Dallas and at SMU?

After living in dense neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and Santiago my lifestyle in Dallas feels relaxed. I now understand what a breeze it is to live in the Park Cities. Compared with the chaotic streets of Buenos Aires and Santiago, the busiest roads near campus like Mockingbird and Hillcrest are calm and orderly. I also enjoy the availability of green spaces like the Katy Trail. While I am grateful for the exposure to life in Latin American cities, I cannot deny that Dallas provides a very comfortable environment by comparison.

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Pia Orrenius | Effects of E-Verify on Unauthorized Immigrant Employment and Population

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius published a new study with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Digital Enforcement, on the effects of the E-Verify system on the employment of immigrants. The E-Verify system requires employers in some states to electronically verify the immigration status of workers before they can be hired.

“E-Verify, when it’s mandatory and all employers have to use it, can have very large deterrent effects on the employment of undocumented immigrants and possibly also on the immigration of undocumented immigrants or illegal immigration,” Orrenius said.

Read her report here.

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Event Recap | Food Safety After Fukushima

The Tower Center Sun & Star Japan East Asia Program held a discussion Sept. 7 with SMU Anthropology Assistant Professor Nicolas Sternsdorff Cisterna examining how citizens banded together to demand safe food after the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.

The three disasters

The Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 and a subsequent tsunami of 30-foot waves March 11, 2011. More than 16,000 people died as a result of the disasters and more than 100,000 were displaced. The tsunami also triggered a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which released radioactive elements into the air.

Sternsdorff-Cisterna’s talk, a presentation on his forthcoming book, looked at how mistrust of the Japanese state led people to band together to demand stricter safety standards on food from the Fukushima prefecture, or government district. After the nuclear meltdown there was disagreement among different states about what level of radioactive poisoning in food was safe to consume. European countries were much more conservative after Chernobyl than Japan and the U.S. were after Fukushima. The goal was to cause as little harm to area farmers as possible, while still insuring the safety of the consumers.

The neoliberal subject

This discrepancy in safety standards between the European reaction and the Japanese and U.S. reaction worried Japanese consumers — especially mothers. Many responded by protesting nuclear energy in Tokyo and becoming a member of the Seikatsu Club, which by July of 2011 was offering food with levels of radioactive cesium at a range of one tenth to one half of what the government required. The Japanese people were united by the feeling that they had to take action in the face of the accident.

Sternsdorff-Cisterna tied this reaction from the Japanese people into the idea of the neoliberal subject. He argued that as mistrust in the state increases, citizens are taking on the responsibility of becoming informed consumers themselves. People no longer rely on the government to keep them safe, but instead vote with their wallet to govern their own actions. Sternsdorff-Cisterna believes this individual action comes after social deliberation and groupsharing. Outlets such as the Seikatsu Club provided Japanese people with more information about the products they were consuming, thereby bringing producers and consumers together.

Rehabilitating the Fukushima name

Farmers carried much of the burden after the accident. Even though they had nothing to do with the disaster, they were still held accountable to provide safe food for consumers. If their land reached a certain level of contamination, the farmers were compensated by TEPCO, the energy company that owned the nuclear plant. But there were many farmers whose land was not contaminated enough to receive compensation and therefore suffered from their lost business. These farmers felt trapped and some committed suicide.

Protected by mountains, the west side of the Fukushima prefecture was hardly affected by the accident, but because farmers still had to label their products as coming from Fukushima they lost many of their customers anyway. Producers were unable to differentiate Fukushima the place from Fukushima the accident. One orchard farmer from the area told Sternsdorff-Cisterna that he lost 50 percent of his customers. The issue of contamination is more complex than consumers think, he said.

Many campaigns have been launched to rebrand Fukushima. One store began posting photos and bios of each producer, as well as testing results for each product, so consumers could feel comfortable purchasing from Fukushima. Establishing a personal connection with the producers encouraged people to buy from them. Still, farmers expressed concern saying that the sympathy was temporary. They still need a long-term plan.

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