Texas Entrepreneurs Want More Work Visas

This news story first appeared on August 28, 2014. For more information click here.

Tower Center Fellow, Pia Orrenius is Senior Economist and Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Texas Entrepreneurs Want More Work Visas

By Lauren Silverman, KERA; August 28, 2014

Nearly a quarter of Texas business owners are foreign born. These entrepreneurs brought in a total income of $10 billion dollars in 2010. Still, immigration is a sticking point, and some Texas entrepreneurs are pushing for more high-skilled visas.

Famed futurist and physicist Michio Kaku has said that America has a secret weapon.

“That secret weapon is the H-1B,” Kaku said, “Without the H-1B the scientific establishment of this country would collapse! Forget about Google. Forget about Silicon Valley, there would be no Silicon Valley without the H-1B.”

So what exactly are H-1B visas? They’re visas for highly-skilled, foreign born workers. And they’re hard to get. Companies looking for these employees snatch them up fast – in October, it took less than a week for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to hit the cap of 65,000 for 2015.

“It’s a talent war,” says Shams Juma. He’s CEO of a Dallas business consulting startup called Quantifye.

“It’s very difficult for us to find good talent, and in house.”

Juma shared his struggle with a group of startup enthusiasts a few weeks ago at an event put on by local startup group LaunchDFW and the national lobby group FWD.us. FWD.us has been called the Zuckerberg PAC, for its Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

Not everyone searching for an H-1B visa wants to work in IT for Google, Facebook, or a consulting firm. Adrian Avendano wants to work at his own company, but it’s not that easy.

Tricky Transition From School To Startup

Avendano moved here from Mexico six years ago to finish his Ph.D. While at the University of Texas at Dallas, he founded Ares Materials, a company to fabricate electronics on flexible materials. Since Avendano’s on an F-1 student visa, he’s not allowed to work.

“I think it’s kind of backwards,” he says, “Because there’s people who come here, six, ten years to pursue their grad school, that U.S. and taxpayer dollars funded to prepare, and then when they’re done, immigration law sends them back home.”

Avendano says he wants to contribute to the economy, and feels stuck because he can’t find an H1-B visa. In September, he’ll apply for an OPT (Optional Practical Training), which would give him 12 months to look for a job and work in the U.S.

Pia Orrenius says it’s the dream of many foreign students to stay here and find work in high tech.

“But since the private sector runs out,” she says, “these are very hard visas to get.”

Orrenius is Senior Economist and Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a Fellow in the Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU. She says North Texas is in serious need of more H1-B visa workers.

“We’re growing at a blistering pace,” she says, “We are a poster child for an economy with labor shortages so we are bringing in lots of migrants not only from other states but also from out of the country.”

Opposition And Limited Options

Opposition to H1-B visas generally comes from workers in the U.S. who say the visas allow companies to import cheaper, younger competition. And the biggest employer of foreign tech workers aren’t startups, they’re consulting firms.

In an interview with NPR, Ron Hira called them “offshore-outsourcing firms.” Hira, author of Outsourcing America and associate professor at Howard University, says companies use H1-B visas to “bring in on-site workers who are cheaper on the H-1B and undercut American workers right here.”

And there’s another problem with the visas – H1-B visas don’t allow entrepreneurs to work for themselves, they have to be sponsored by an employer. Which is why some in the startup community are pushing for something called the Startup Visa.

“In principal the idea is a good one,” Hira says. “I mean we want to encourage innovation and startups and so on, I think the devil is in the details.”

Hira says a visa for people who have raised money from American investors is worth considering, but worries founders could become reliant on investors to stay in the country.

“I don’t think things have been vetted very well in the public discussion. There really haven’t been careful analyses of what the impacts of the startup visa would be either by think tanks or through congressional hearings.”

Conversations like the one at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center are a good start, even if they’re frustrating. Immigration reform is slow, and many entrepreneurs here are anxious to start working in the growing North Texas tech community.

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Tower Center Welcomes Nuclear Strategist Paul Avey


AveyPaul Avey joins the SMU John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies as a new postdoctoral fellow focusing on nuclear statecraft, foreign policy and international relations.

Avey joined the Tower Center on Aug. 1 from MIT where he served as a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow in the Security Studies Program. Prior to MIT, he was a pre-doctoral fellow with the Managing the Atom project and International Security Program at Harvard’s Belfer Center for International Studies.

“Paul Avey is one of the leaders of an extraordinary group of young nuclear strategists,” said Joshua Rovner, John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security. “He has done pathbreaking work to bridge the gap between scholars and policymakers by conducting a broad survey of current leaders to discover what kind of research is useful and what influences policy decisions. His effort to encourage this kind of practical political science is the kind of scholarship we encourage at the Tower Center.”

Avey has written and presented on various topics including the relationship between scholarly theory and policy-making, nuclear war, military strategy and Cold War relations. He is currently writing a book titled Tempting Fate: Interests, Red-lines and Conflict in Nuclear Monopoly. The book will examine why nations without nuclear weapons challenge and resist nuclear-armed opponents.

“I am looking forward to engaging in dynamic political study and debate at SMU,” Avey said. “The commitment by Tower Center scholars to combine rigorous research with policy relevance makes it an exciting environment for the study of politics.”

Avey earned a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in political science from the University of Notre Dame, a Master of Arts in social sciences from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in political science and history from the University of Iowa.

The John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies was created to commemorate the late U.S. senator whose life was dedicated to public service and education. In the spirit of Tower’s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, and the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center will pursue its mission in a nonpartisan manner.

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Tower Center Associate, Edward T. Rincón | “Texas: Quality of Life at the Crossroads.”

Tower Center Associate, Edward T. Rincón co-authored a public policy paper entitled “Texas:  Quality of Life at the Crossroads” with Marcos G. Ronquillo, Esq., a prominent trial attorney in Dallas.

The paper reviews the reasons that Texas is enjoying a high level of economic prosperity, why the state is experiencing considerable population growth, and the impact that this economic prosperity and growth has had on the quality of life experienced by its residents.

The paper concludes with a discussion regarding private-public partnerships (P3 programs) and the benefits that it provides state and local governments for meeting their rapidly deteriorating infrastructure needs.

To download a copy of the paper, please click here.

EdHeadShot300dpiEdward T. Rincón is president of Rincón & Associates LLC, a privately-owned research company that provides research and consultative support to organizations that seek to understand diverse communities in domestic and global markets. He received his master’s in School Psychology and doctorate in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin with a concentration in survey and experimental research methods, psychometrics, and statistical analysis.

He has taught various courses at area academic institutions, including Statistics and Hispanic Marketing at Southern Methodist University; Mass Communications Research at The University of North Texas; and Survey Research Methods at The University of Texas at Dallas.  In addition, he has provided workshops to the public and community organizations on selected topics such as retrieving and analyzing Census data, principles of Hispanic marketing, designing effective questionnaires for diverse audiences, data analysis with SPSS, and designing effective visual presentations of research data.

Dr. Rincón’s scholarly interests include survey and polling methodology, demographic analysis, measurement bias, and qualitative research with a focus on multicultural populations.  His perspectives have often challenged high-stakes measurement systems utilized by The Nielsen Company, aptitude testing in college admissions, competency testing in Texas schools, and affirmative action programs in public contracting. His research studies and perspectives have been cited in national and regional publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Advertising Age, Forbes.com, Ad Week, Broadcasting and Cable, The Dallas Morning News, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Miami Herald, Multi-Channel News, National Public Radio, Restaurants & Institutions, and others.

Over the past 35 years, Dr. Rincón has consulted with a broad variety of private and public organizations, and has testified before governmental bodies and court cases as an expert witness. In the political arena, his clients have included Pete Sessions for Congress Campaign, Consortium of Public Broadcasters 2000 Presidential campaign poll, Zan Holmes for Mayor Campaign poll, Eastfield College bond election campaign, UT-Arlington and SMU political poll of perceptions of immigrants, and a WFAA political opinion poll concerning race relations in Dallas.  In the non-political arena, some of his clients have included Proctor & Gamble, The Sherwin-Williams Company, Texas Rangers, Texas Instruments, DFW International Airport, Verizon Information Systems, Educational Testing Service, Coca Cola North America, Circle K/Tosco Marketing, Pepsi Cola, Dr Pepper/Cadbury North America, KERA, WFAA, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Palm Beach Post, ABC and CBS Network Television, City of Dallas, Dallas Zoo, State of Texas, State of North Carolina Library Association, Comerica Bank, Catholic Diocese of Dallas, General Baptist Convention of Texas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Trial Psychology Institute, Parkland Health & Hospital System, Baylor Health Care System, and Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

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Joshua Rovner | What Ukraine means for how we study war

This news story first appeared on August 4, 2014, edition of The Washington Post. For more information click here.

Professor Joshua Rovner is John G. Tower Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security & Director of Studies at the Tower Center for Political Studies.

What Ukraine means for how we study war

By Joshua Rovner

Last week Marc Lynch wrote a thoughtful commentary on the future of political science after Gaza. He noted that while the ongoing violence seems very familiar, it actually suggests a number of new questions for political scientists who focus on the Arab-Israeli dispute. These include everything from the limits of transnational moral campaigns to the future of U.S alliance relations in the region. What looks like another dreary chapter in a stagnant conflict may ultimately inspire research that pushes our understanding of war and politics in the Middle East.

The crisis in Ukraine raises similar questions for the future of strategic studies, a related though somewhat different discipline. Research in strategic studies tends to focus on historical analyses, and it usually shies away from quantitative work or formal modeling. Students of strategy often emphasize the role of contingency and chance and are wary of making broad generalizations as a result. Despite these differences, the two subjects are inseparable. Strategy is about war, and war is simply the continuation of politics by other means. Decisions about how to use violence shape political outcomes, and political problems shape the purposes of organized force. So political scientists have a strong interest in understanding strategy, just as strategists must pay close attention to politics.

Ukraine raises at least two issues that may inspire new thinking on strategic theory. One is the problem of recognizing success when it involves something less than victory. Ukraine has been on the offensive against the separatist fighters, rapidly driving them back into a handful of strongholds. But it’s unlikely the government can destroy them, given pro-Russian sentiment in the east and the possible existence of a large sanctuary for committed separatists across the border. Moreover, any durable settlement will require making concessions to groups that are extremely hostile to Kiev, as well as tacit promises to the Russian regime.

This might be a reasonable outcome, especially if Russia is badly bruised and if Ukraine comes away with increased Western economic and political support. But some Ukrainian leaders will bridle at any settlement that leaves their perceived enemies in place, especially after having lost Crimea. Not everyone will learn to live with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his proxies, and their unease may cause them to underrate important strategic gains.

Such a scenario should resonate with American observers. As I write in the forthcoming issue of The Journal of Strategic Studies, U.S. officials were unable to recognize their own success against Iraq during the 1990s. The first Gulf War and the sanctions that came after demolished the Iraqi economy and military, along with its unconventional weapons programs. Perhaps most important, Saddam Hussein’s behavior had changed for the better. In the past he had been an aggressive ruler with a powerful military and dreams of regional hegemony. After the war, the sanctions and the inspections, he turned his focus inward, doing everything in his power just to stay in power. The United States had triumphed by any definition of victory.

As the decade went on, however, U.S. officials came to believe that while they had won the war, Iraq was winning the peace. They believed that Saddam was playing a cunning diplomatic game to undermine the multinational sanctions regime. If the coalition came apart, he would be able to rebuild his military strength, revive his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and go back to menacing the Persian Gulf. This nightmare scenario was never realistic, given the depth of Iraq’s economic pain and the fragility of its government, but these factors didn’t seem to matter. U.S. leaders simply couldn’t accept the status quo as long as Saddam remained in power. Whether Ukrainian leaders can accept limited success remains to be seen.

A second issue is the relationship between strategy and grand strategy, terms that are often used interchangeably even though they are analytically distinct. Strategy is a theory of victory in war, a logical guide for using use violence to achieve political goals. Grand strategy is a theory of security, a logical guide for coordinating all instruments of state power to keep it safe, and for determining whether force should be used at all. A strategy identifies the best way to compel a particular enemy to do your will. A grand strategy identifies which enemies are worth fighting.

While strategy and grand strategy are interrelated, they are not always mutually supporting. In some cases, strategic requirements for victory in war may undermine grand strategy after the shooting stops. A large investment may be needed to compel an enemy to surrender, for example, but this may leave the state bankrupt and vulnerable.

Some analysts believe that the Obama administration should provide military aid to Ukraine. They argue that economic sanctions are unlikely to compel Russia to stop aiding the separatists and start working for peace. Worse, they believe that the United States is demonstrating a lack of resolve that will embolden Russia. Rather than forcing Putin to back down, he might escalate by sending Russian forces across the border.

These criticisms, however, consider possible strategies for Ukraine outside the context of the U.S. grand strategy. The administration’s ongoing pivot to Asia, along with its decision to draw down forces from the Middle East and Afghanistan, suggests that its primary concern is with a rising China. So while it is possible that the United States could implement a much more aggressive strategy toward Russia, this might divert attention and resources from the place it cares about most. A costly approach that compels Russia to back down might count as a strategic success but a grand strategic failure.

The converse is also true. Russia has suffered extraordinary economic consequences over the last several months, and the pain is going to increase now that Europe has levied broad sanctions against the Russian banking and energy sectors. Meanwhile Russia already is on the hook for Crimea; if it decides to invade eastern Ukraine its fiscal burden will grow. All of this is making Russia’s plan for a massive military modernization program, which is supposed to cost over $750 billion over the next decade, look like a fantasy. Any hopes of restoring great power status are fading fast.

For Russia, the strategic benefits of escalation will come at an extraordinary cost to its grand strategy. The harder it fights, the more isolated and impoverished it will become. For the United States this will mean one less great power to worry about. Critics will castigate the Obama administration if its diplomatic approach fails to change Russian behavior, but Putin is in the process of slowly eroding Russian power. This means that the United States will be free to concentrate on East Asia – where the real action is happening – while a former superpower exhausts itself.


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Joshua Rovner on Iraq and the Politics of Intelligence

This news story first appeared on July 30, 2014, edition of Cicero. For more information click here.

Professor Joshua Rovner is John G. Tower Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security & Director of Studies at the Tower Center for Political Studies.

Joshua Rovner on Iraq and the Politics of Intelligence

By Joshua Rovner

Fixing the Facts, Joshua Rovner explores the complex interaction between intelligence and policy and shines a spotlight on the problem of politicization. He describes how the Johnson administration dealt with the intelligence community during the Vietnam War; how Presidents Nixon and  Ford politicized estimates on the Soviet Union; and how pressure from the George W. Bush administration contributed to flawed intelligence on Iraq. He also compares the U.S. case with the British experience between 1998 and 2003, and demonstrates that high-profile government inquiries in both countries were fundamentally wrong about what happened before the war.

So just what is “politicization” of intelligence? Some—often those accused of doing the politicizing—tend to wave away its existence or import or even argue “intelligence is politics.” What is it and why is it important to look at?

Politicization is a word we use all the time without defining it. Some observers use it whenever there is overlap between the worlds of intelligence and policy. Others shrug it off because they assume there’s no way to keep those worlds apart.  To some extent this is true: if intelligence agencies are to play any part in the policy process then they must work closely with their policy counterparts.  But calling the normal day-to-day interaction “politicization” isn’t very useful for our understanding of intelligence-policy relations.  One of the things I do in the book is describe routine relations and then explain why politicization is a sharp deviation from the norm.

I define politicization as the manipulation of intelligence to reflect policy preferences.  Sometimes policymakers pressure intelligence leaders to change their views so they line up with stated policy.  Sometimes intelligence analysts color their findings in ways consistent with their own views. In either case the result is that political bias creeps into estimates.

Politicization is important because it has terrible effects on the quality of intelligence.  In the short term, it causes intelligence analysts to present their findings with unrealistic confidence, even when the underlying information is patchy and unreliable.  Politicization occurs when issues are open to multiple and competing interpretations.  If the answers were obvious there would be no reason to turn to intelligence in the first place.  But those who are interested in using intelligence to win political arguments cannot abide estimates that are hedging or inconclusive.  So they manufacture exaggerated intelligence and pretend that it represents a firm consensus.

Read the full story.

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Joshua Rovner | Putin’s grand strategy is failing

This news story first appeared on July 20, 2014, edition of The Washington Post. For more information click here.

Professor Joshua Rovner is John G. Tower Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security & Director of Studies at the Tower Center for Political Studies.

Putin’s grand strategy is failing

By Joshua Rovner, The Washington Post; July 20, 2014

Over the past few months critics have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a cunning strategist and the mastermind of a dangerous new foreign policy. He is playing the long game, they say, making moves in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine as part of a program to undermine the post-Cold War order while western leaders scramble without purpose. These fears are unwarranted. Putin may be a ruthless commander, but he is a second-rate strategist.

On Friday, President Obama told reporters that Ukrainian separatists were guilty of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and while he stopped short of blaming Russia for the tragedy, he suggested that Moscow was at least indirectly responsible for supporting the insurgency. Other experts have come to similar conclusions. The surface-to-air missile that probably brought down MH17 was too sophisticated for pro-Russian rebels to operate without at least some rudimentary instruction.

But perhaps not enough. There is good reason to believe this was a case of user error. Air defense personnel in several countries, including the United States, have mistaken commercial airliners for military aircraft, with tragic results. Even highly capable crews sometimes blunder under the stress of combat. It would be no surprise if amateurs did the same.

Despite this danger, Russia has become more enthusiastic about using proxy fighters, voicing rhetorical support for their politics while disclaiming responsibility for their actions. Russian leaders may believe that this allows them to destabilize unfriendly governments while maintaining enough plausible deniability to avoid the consequences. Some analysts believe this is part of a broader shift toward “non-linear war,” which involves indirect methods of expanding Russian influence. They worry this is a ruthless but effective way for Russia to paper over its conventional military weakness, especially since the United States is unable or unwilling to respond in kind. Putin is a former KGB officer, after all. President Obama is a former law professor.

In fact, non-linear war is not a brilliant reconceptualization of strategy. It’s an old-fashioned trick: the use of armed groups to stir unrest in neighboring countries as a way of gaining strategic depth.

The undisputed champion of this approach is Pakistan, which has used militants for most of its history. Pakistan has cultivated groups in India, Kashmir and Afghanistan in large part to overcome its military weaknesses. Supporting proxies might have seemed like a good idea, given Pakistan’s security problems, but the results have been disastrous. The belief that armed groups could solve its security problem may have encouraged military leaders to indulge in corruption rather than building a more professional force. The decision to nurture groups that engage in terrorism has led to international scorn and opprobrium. Worst of all, some of the same groups that Pakistan helped create are now waging an insurgency against it.

Russia is also suffering for its intervention-by-proxy in Ukraine. Its economy has been in deep distress since the annexation of Crimea this spring, with tens of billions of dollars exiting the country during a stock market and currency crisis. U.S.-led sanctions have worsened Russia’s economic outlook, as investors fear returning to a country that increasingly looks like an international pariah. Washington announced tougher sanctions the day before the MH17 went down, and it is now likely that these will remain in place indefinitely. The Obama administration may go further still by enacting industry-wide sanctions, a serious escalation that it has so far avoided.

Russia is increasingly isolated as well. According to one close observer of Ukrainian politics, the MH17 tragedy has unified almost all Ukrainians against Putin, even those who might sympathize with some elements of the pro-Russian opposition. And rather than undermining NATO, it has breathed new life into the alliance. The more that Moscow meddles in its neighbors’ politics, the more likely that other states will move toward the west. In other words, Russian actions will provoke exactly the same kind of behavior they were designed to prevent.

In response to this looming diplomatic disaster, Russia has spent lavishly to win new friends. For example, it made significant concessions to finalize a major gas and oil deal with China that may end up providing marginal returns at the cost of long-term dependency. If it becomes clear that Russia was culpable in the MH17 shoot-down, it will be hard for it to find other allies, however much it spends.

Nonetheless, policy analysts still worry that Putin is eroding the post-Cold War order, and military analysts still warn that the west is unprepared for Russia’s new way of war. Both concerns are mistaken. Putin’s grand strategy is proving to be a dismal failure, and his high-risk strategy in Ukraine is only making things worse. As the Obama administration considers its next steps, it should be careful not to overestimate its adversary.

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Violence Is Behind the Surge of Children Crossing the Border

This news story first appeared on July 8, 2014. For more information click here.

Dr. Tom K. Wong was a postdoctoral fellow at the Tower Center from 2011-2013.

Statistical Analysis Shows that Violence, Not Deferred Action, Is Behind the Surge of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border

By Tom K. Wong, Center for American Progress; July 8, 2014

A humanitarian refugee situation at the U.S. southern border has been unfolding over the past few years and dramatically intensifying over the past several months, as tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are fleeing their homes in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Even as the Obama administration struggles to deal with the situation, including finding adequate shelter and protection for the kids, some in Congress have attempted to score political points by arguing that the increased numbers are the result of the administration’s own immigration enforcement policies, such as the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. However, a close statistical evaluation of the available data suggests a very different dynamic that is leading children to leave their Central American homes. It is not U.S. policy but rather violence and the desire to find safety that is the impetus for these children’s journeys. Read more.

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The NYT Quotes Pamela Corley’s Recent Book called “The Puzzle of Unanimity: Consensus on the United States Supreme Court.”

This news story first appeared on July 1, 2014. For more information click here.

Tower Center Associate, Pamela Corley is an associate professor in the Political Science Department at SMU.

Compromise at the Supreme Court Veils Its Rifts

By Adam Liptak, New York Times; July 1, 2014

WASHINGTON — Two very different group portraits of the Supreme Court emerged this term, one familiar and one unexpected.

The familiar was on display Monday in two 5-to-4 decisions that were split by angry divisions and seemed to advance a conservative agenda.

But the more finely drawn portrait takes account of the 67 decisions in argued cases this term. The court was unanimous about two-thirds of the time, and those cases revealed signs of compromise and restraint, which many Supreme Court specialists said was a testament to the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., 59.

“The chief has done a remarkable job this term navigating divisions and dodging the most controversial of issues,” said Lisa S. Blatt, a lawyer with Arnold & Porter who argues frequently before the court.

Chief Justice Roberts, who completed his ninth term, does not get his way by backslapping or horse-trading, but by writing savvy opinions, making strategic opinion assignments to the other justices and sometimes working to protect the Supreme Court from accusations that it is a political institution.

Chief Justice Roberts’s handiwork was apparent this term in major rulings on abortion protests and cellphone searches, both unanimous decisions.

His majority opinion striking down buffer zones around Massachusetts abortion clinics was much narrower than his earlier First Amendment jurisprudence would have suggested, narrow enough to attract the votes of all four liberal justices. And he wrote a muscular opinion for a unanimous court requiring the police to get warrants before they search the cellphones of people they arrest.

All of the justices are sensitive to the accusation that they are motivated by politics.

The current set of nine justices is, for the first time in history, firmly divided along partisan lines, with all of the Republican appointees more conservative than all of the Democratic ones. Their efforts to find common ground may have been partly an attempt to counter the charge that they are, in Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s words, “nine junior varsity politicians” motivated by partisan agendas better left to elected officials.

But the number of unanimous decisions — a record for the Roberts court and the highest percentage since at least 1953 — masked some powerful disagreements, as the justices often agreed only on the bottom line, as was true in the abortion protest and recess appointment cases.

What matters most in Supreme Court decisions is what legal principle commanded a majority, not which side won. Lower courts will apply those principles, and the divisions about the reasoning supporting decisions can be vital. They mattered so much to Justice Antonin Scalia that he all but created a new judicial genre — he wrote three furious concurrences.

The Roberts court’s conservative majority has not retreated from several of its core concerns. It remains skeptical of campaign finance regulations, efforts to drive religion from public life and race-conscious decision-making by the government. It remains solicitous of corporate rights and of efforts to curb union power.

When the chief justice was in the majority in such cases, most decided by narrow margins, another side of him emerged. In all of them, he wrote or joined opinions that claimed to be modest extensions of existing law but may well portend wrenching change.

But the 5-to-4 splits dropped, to just 10. Of those, six featured the classic alignments, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining either the court’s four more liberal members or its four more conservative ones. He leaned right two-thirds of the time.

But in a great many cases the justices found ways to agree. This was the fourth term together for the nine current justices. Its newest members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, have grown increasingly comfortable in their roles, and all of the justices seemed, mostly, eager to find common ground with their colleagues.

It did not hurt that the term lacked huge and profoundly divisive cases like those that ended the last two terms. In June 2012, months before the presidential election, the court narrowly upheld the Affordable Care Act. In June 2013, the court issued one major ruling on same-sex marriage but kicked an even bigger question down the road.

The story of the current term was somewhat anticipated in a book published last year by three political scientists: Pamela C. Corley, Amy Steigerwalt and Artemus Ward. It was called “The Puzzle of Unanimity: Consensus on the United States Supreme Court.”

It is, after all, not obvious that the justices should ever all agree. The issues that reach them are complicated and usually susceptible to multiple plausible answers. Lower courts have almost always given varying answers. The justices themselves have differing judicial philosophies.

But the justices know that unanimous decisions have more force, which is why they worked hard to issue them in Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 school desegregation case, and United States v. Nixon, the 1974 decision that hastened the end of the Nixon administration.

Lower courts are less likely to follow divided decisions. But, and here is the bad news for the current court, there are two ways to be divided. “While dissents are clearly detrimental to the authority of majority opinions, concurrences can be equally damaging,” the “Puzzle of Unanimity” authors wrote. “In fact, if a decision of the court is accompanied by a concurrence that does not support the majority opinion, lower courts are less likely to comply with it.”

While the court’s level of agreement this term was authentically high, the numbers overstate the case. “A lot of the unanimity is ersatz,” said David A. Strauss, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

It is not every day, for instance, that you see a Supreme Court justice reading an angry concurrence from the bench, as Justice Scalia did last week in the recess appointments case. (Even oral dissents are rare, issued perhaps four times a term.)

Justice Scalia was similarly dismissive of the majority opinion in the unanimous case on abortion clinic buffer zones, issued the same day, though he concurred in the result. “I prefer not to take part in the assembling of an apparent but specious unanimity,” he wrote.

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by the court’s four liberals, an exceedingly unusual alignment. It was the same alignment that saved the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

Justice Scalia was no happier about two other narrow Roberts opinions for the same coalition plus Justice Kennedy, one avoiding a major decision on the scope of congressional power in a treaty case, the other rejecting a request to do away with securities fraud class actions.

Both times, Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. would have gone much bigger, and they refused to adopt the majority’s reasoning in either case. But nonetheless the vote counts said the decisions were unanimous.

“The higher unanimity rate might reflect an increase in cases with low ideological stakes,” said Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. “This term, about 36 percent involved questions of rights and liberties, compared with 57 percent in the three previous terms.”

Justice Kennedy was most often in the majority, though not by much. He was rivaled by Chief Justice Roberts.

But Justice Kennedy was the only justice in the majority in all of the 5-to-4 decisions. The six that featured the classic ideological splits were telling.

Justice Kennedy joined the court’s conservative wing in major cases allowing more money in politics, more religion in official settings, religious liberty rights for corporations and limits on union power. He joined the court’s liberals in limiting the use of the death penalty and sustaining the use of a federal gun control law to curb so-called straw purchases.

Business groups had a good if relatively quiet year at the court. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed briefs in 17 cases decided by signed opinions and was on the winning side 13 times. “As in past terms, the court continued to curb the worst excesses of the plaintiffs’ bar and overreach by regulators,” said Lily Fu Claffee, general counsel to the group. “We consider that a great year.”

The administration suffered stinging losses in several major cases, including ones on campaign finance, recess appointments and the contraception coverage put in place under the Affordable Care Act. The court “rejected Obama’s position in nearly all the high-profile cases of the term,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

But the administration still won 56 percent of the cases in which it was a party, compared with 39 percent last term, Professor Winkler said. It did even better in cases in which it had filed supporting briefs, ending up on the winning side 70 percent of the time.

Some of this may reflect decisions to take fairly conservative positions, notably in the case on opening town board meetings with a prayer. But the administration did well in major environmental cases in which it was not obvious that it would prevail.

The current term may have been a chance for the court to catch its breath, said Ms. Blatt, the lawyer with Arnold & Porter. “They are either resting up and saving their fire for all of the abortion, guns and gay marriage cases in the lower courts,” she said, “or the cases this term were simply not as controversial as in the past two years.”

Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University, cautioned that it was too soon to declare a new era of harmony and light based on, say, the unanimous votes on recess appointments and abortion clinic buffer zones.

“No one should confuse these outcomes with a sudden outbreak of Kumbaya fever at the court,” he said. “The familiar lines of division were in evidence in all these cases. But, surprisingly, the court found a way to channel its core divisions into compromise holdings that allowed controversial cases to be settled rather than resolved.”

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Anna Batta, Associate

• Presenter, “The Russian Minority in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova,” the annual conference of the International Studies Association, ISA, Toronto, March 26-29, 2014.
• Presenter, “Russian Aggression against Ukraine: Why? Why does it Matter,” University of North Texas, Denton, March 6, 2014.

Mark A. Chancey, Associate

• Presenter, “Rewriting History for a ‘Christian America’: The Texas Social Studies Controversy,” Allen-Head Lecture, Austin College, Sherman, TX, Feb. 2014.
• Presenter, “Teaching about the Bible in the Shadow of Court Decisions: Bible Courses, Public Education, and the Changing Terrain of Church-State Relations in Texas,” Allen-Head Lecture, Austin College, Sherman, TX, Feb. 2014.

Elizabeth Colton, Fellow

• Presenter, “The Politics of Global Images: Global Politics, Diplomacy & the News Media,” UVA-International Shipboard Education’s Enrichment Voyages, 2014.
• Panelist, “Free Press & the Freedom of Information Act and Foreign Policy Implications,” McCuistion TV/KERA, Jan. 28, 2014.
• Speaker, “Foreign Policy Decision-Making & the News Media,” Defense Intelligence Analysts Association (DIAA), McLean, VA, Feb. 18, 2014.
• Panelist, “On the Record: A Freedom of Information Update,” Press Club of Dallas, Feb. 20, 2014.

Carrie Liu Currier, Associate

• “China: la busqueda de la seguridad energetica en el mundo en desarrollo”(China’s Search for Energy Security in the Developing World – in Spanish), article with Manochehr Dorraj in Alejandro Chanona & Miguel Angel Porrua Editors, Confrontando Modelos de Sequridad Energetica (Mexico City: National University of Mexico), 2013, pp. 143-162.
• Presenter, “China’s Global Dreams,” Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, March 24, 2014.
• Presenter, “Armed for Peace: China’s Strategic Interests in the Middle East and Maghreb,” the Western Political Science Association, Seattle, WA, April 17, 2014.
• Presenter, “The Rise of China and the World,” National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, April 29, 2014.

Shubha Ghosh, Fellow

• Lecturer, “Implications of United States Supreme Court Decisions on Global Patent Law,” National Law School of Delhi, March 25, 2014.
• Appointment, Selected as the first AAAS Fellow in Law & Science, Federal Judicial Center, Washington, DC.

Christopher Jenks, Associate

• Thematic Note, Monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding: Does the Human Rights Council report on human rights in North Korea provide a template for the Sri Lankan investigation?, Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection, April 28, 2014.
• Contributor, “Law of Warcraft”: New Approaches to Generating Respect for the Law and Peace Forces at War: Implications Under International Humanitarian Law, American Society of International Law Cables online reporting of the ASIL annual meeting, April, 2014.
• Guest Post, Eyes Wide Shut: Scahill and Greenwald’s Flawed Critique of U.S. SIGINT Based Targeting, Just Security, February 18, 2014.
• Thematic Note, The Janus Moon Rising-Why 2014 Heralds United States’ Detention Policy on a Collision Course…With Itself, Professional in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection’s Current Challenges in International Humanitarian Law, February 10, 2014.
• Interview, “SMU law professor discusses likelihood of Knox extradition,” WFAA, Jan. 31, 2014.
• “Drone Strikes: Security, Human Rights, and Morality,” The Corazon Group Speaker Series, Park Cities Club, Dallas, April 2014.
• Presenter, “Battlefield Status and Protected Persons,” and “International Criminal Law,” International Humanitarian Law Workshop, Berkeley Law; Berkeley, CA, January 2014.
• Panelist, “Transparency and Targeting,” US Pacific Command Military Operations and Law Conference, Manila, Philippines, April 2014.

Jeffrey D. Kahn, Fellow

• Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, (University of Michigan Press, paperback edition 2014).
• “The Law is a Causeway: Metaphor and the Rule of Law in Russia,” The Legal Doctrines of the Rule of Law and the Legal State (Rechsstaat) (Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, Vol. 38) (J. Silkenat et al., eds., Springer, 2014).
• “How Federal Is The Russian Federation?” (with A. Trochev & N. Balayan), Federalism and Legal Unification: A Comparative Empirical Investigation of Twenty Systems (Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, Vol. 28) (D. Halberstam & M. Reimann, eds., Springer, 2014).
• “Freedom of Expression in Post-Soviet Russia,” 18 UCLA J. Int’l L. & For. Aff. 1-30 (2013).
• Panalist, Fugh Symposium on Law and Military Operations, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Department of the Army, Charlottesville, VA, May 14, 2014.
• Presenter, “The Law is a Causeway: Metaphor and the Rule of Law in Russia,” 3rd Annual Conference of the Younger Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law, Lewis & Clark School of Law, Portland, OR, April 5, 2014.
• Presenter, “Separation of Powers and the Future of National Security Law,” Symposium of the Pepperdine Law Review on the Future of National Security Law, Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, CA, April 4, 2014.
• Presenter, “The Law is a Causeway: Metaphor and the Rule of Law in Russia,” 17th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture & the Humanities, University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, VA, March 10, 2014.
• Appointment, Promotion to Professor of Law by action of the Board of Trustees, May 9, 2014 (effective September 1, 2014).

Sheri Kunovich, Fellow

• Speaker, “Gender Gaps in Voting and Political Knowledge, Poland 1989 to 2007,” Polish Academy of Sciences Warsaw Poland, March 2014.

Tony Pederson, Associate

• Award, SMU M Award, April 2014.

Carolyn Smith-Morris, Associate

• Smith-Morris, Carolyn, Gilberto Lopez, Lisa Ottomanelli, Lance Goetz, and Kim Dixon-Lawson. “Ethnography and Fidelity to Evidence-Based Medicine: Supplementing the Fidelity Process in a Clinical Trial of Supported Employment with Ethnographic Data”. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 21 April 2014.
• Smith-Morris, Carolyn and Jenny Epstein. “Beyond Cultural Competency: Skill, Reflexivity, and Structure in Successful Tribal Health Care”. In Special Issue Cultural Capital and Health in Native American Communities, Jennie Joe and Robert Young (Eds). American Indian Culture & Research Journal 38(1): 29-48.

Michael Strausz, Associate

• Grant, Program for Promotion of International Research, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan, with Dr. Michiya Mori from Ritsumeikan.

Hiroki Takeuchi, Fellow

• “Sino-Japanese Relations: Power, Interdependence, and Domestic Politics,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 14(1) (2014): 7-32.
• “From the World Trade Organization to the Trans-Pacific Partnership: China’s Rise, Globalization, and American Domestic Politics,” the International Studies Association, Toronto, Canada, March 2014.
• “Sino-Japanese Relations: Power, Interdependence, and Domestic Politics,” the International Studies Association, Toronto, Canada, March 2014.
• “Dancing in Another Ball Room? What Are the Roles of China’s Democratic Institutions?” (co-authored with Tomoki Kamo), the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, January 2014.
• “Japan-U.S.-China Relations Seen from the U.S.,” Jan. 1, 2014.
• “U.S. Misunderstandings on the Senkaku Issue (1): The Possession of Senkaku and the Treaty of Shimonoseki,” Jan. 6, 2014.
• “U.S. Misunderstandings on the Senkaku Issue (2): The Senkaku Nationalization and the U.S. Response,” Jan. 10, 2014.
• “Dictator’s Dilemma (1): Dictatorship and People’s Voice,” Jan. 19, 2014.
• “Dictator’s Dilemma (2): The Contrast of Tunisia and Egypt,” Jan. 24, 2014.
• “Dictator’s Dilemma (3): China and Nationalism,” Jan. 28, 2014.
• “Mexico’s Energy Revolution,” Feb. 6, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (1): The Importance of ‘13%’ and ’42 million people,'” Feb. 12, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (2): The Implications of Increasing ‘Hispanics,'” Feb. 28, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (3): Is It Good for the Japanese to Support the Republican Party?” March 13, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (4): The Implications of ‘Unauthorized Immigrants,'” March 26, 2014.
• “The Korean Peninsula Seen from the U.S. (1): How to Evaluate the ‘Kim Jong-un Regime,'” April 13, 2014.
• “The Korean Peninsula Seen from the U.S. (2): The Perspective for Unification,” April 20, 2014.
• “The Korean Peninsula Seen from the U.S. (3): Why the Japan-South Korea Relationship Has Deteriorated,” May 3, 2014.

Jenia Iontcheva Turner, Associate

• Article 65: Proceedings on an Admission of Guilt, in Klamberg Commentary on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2014).
• Rule 139: Decision on Admission of Guilt, in Klamberg Commentary on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Court (2014).
• The Constitutionality of Negotiated Criminal Judgments in Germany, 15 German L.J. 81 (2014) (with Thomas Weigend) (peer review)
Effective Remedies for Ineffective Assistance, 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 949 (2013).
• Participant, International Criminal Law Workshop, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, May 2, 2014 (via videoconference).
• Moderator, Testing the Boundaries of the Adversarial Contest, SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium, Jan. 24, 2014.
• Limits on the Search for Truth in Criminal Procedure: A Comparative View, SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium, Jan. 23, 2014.
• Candidate, Fulbright SpecialistRoster, 2013-present

Sandy Thatcher, Associate

• Writings (78 articles) on publishing and copy right issues accessible at this institutional repository: https://scholarsphere.psu.edu/?f[desc_metadata__creator_sim][]=Sanford+G.+Thatcher

Bud Weinstein, Associate

• “Tax Reform May Be The Best Energy Plan Of All,” Investor’s Business Daily, April 14, 2014.
• “Repeal Jones Act before exporting oil,” Houston Chronicle, April 11, 2014.
• Book Chapter, “The moving media industry as a catalyst for technological change and economic development: Texas as a case study,” Agglomeration, Clusters and Entrepreneurship, eds. Karlsson, Johansson, and Stough (Edward Elgar, 2014).
• Congressional Testimony, U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Feb. 5, 2014.

Matthew Wilson, Fellow

• Presenter, “Catholicism and Contemporary American Politics” a conference on Catholicism and Mormonism in America, University of Notre Dame.



[May.] Time to React: The Efficiency of
International Organizations in Crisis Response
by Professor Heidi Hardt

ghosh[Apr.] The Idea of International Intellectual Property
by Tower Center Fellow, Shubha Ghosh

Jenks-Large[Mar.] Secret Intelligence and the Law of Lethal Attacks
by Tower Center Associate, Christopher Jenks

tchumkam2[Feb.] Rioters for Justice: Remnants of Colonization and Civil Unrest in the French Banlieues
by Tower Center Associate, Hervé Tchumkam

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Student Blog – Catherine Kirby | My Experience at the Tower Center

My Experience at the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies


Being introduced to the John Goodwin Tower Center was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was introduced to the Tower Center by my teacher and mentor, Mrs. Jieun Pyun, when we met at a Korean speech contest. Over the past six months, I have attended two fantastic events, and my experiences at them have changed my life.

The first event I attended was the Sun & Star Symposium: Asia’s Contested Waters: The East China and South China Sea. I listened to the wonderful presentations of six professors. The first three spoke about the history of conflict over resources in the East and South China Seas, and the next three talked about the politics of territorial disputes. Through this event, the Tower Center helped me further develop my interest in the history and relations among Asian countries; I was able to learn relevant information about the area I am interested in. Additionally, while attending the events, I met many people with whom I share similar interests which was a great opportunity for me.

Without the Tower Center and its wonderful events, I would never have been able to meet Dr. Muscolino. As a result of my experience at the Tower Center, I read the publications of the various professors I had heard speak including those of Dr. Micah Muscolino who is a professor of Global Environmental Studies, Chinese Environmental History, Modern China and the Pacific World at Georgetown. Because I was going to be in Washington D.C. over Thanksgiving break, I was able to arrange a meeting with him. I had a lot of questions about what I had read, and I used the opportunity in Washington D.C. to see if Dr. Muscolino were available to speak with me. Dr. Muscolino graciously obliged, and I talked with him for about an hour about subjects from China’s environmental history to his own personal story. This was an amazing experience and thrilling opportunity for me. I couldn’t believe that a college professor would be willing to meet a young inexperienced high school student and discuss his work. Also, it made me less anxious about attending college in two years. To know that professors were kind and approachable greatly comforted me. I learned so much about the history of international relations, environmental history, and possible career choices, and it motivated me to further dedicate myself to studying foreign language and affairs. Dr. Muscolino also provided me with a book that I greatly treasure, Lost Names, a story set during the Japanese occupation of Korea; I would recommend this book to anyone.

The second event I attended was U.S., South and North Korea: What the Future Holds. This event was of particular interest to me because I have been studying Korean language, culture, and history for three years. Thanks to this event, I had the opportunity to meet people who actually work and teach in the field in which I am interested. The two speakers were Dr. Han Park and Dr. Victor Cha, experts on North Korea. The questions asked to both professors were very relevant, and they allowed for interesting discussions. It was so fascinating to learn about the five different possible methods of reunification outlined by Dr. Park, and the practicality and desirability of reunification by Dr. Cha. After the event was over, I greeted and talked with many of the other attendees, and I was thrilled that I met people who remembered me from the previous event. I was even able to talk to Dr. Cha, and I got him to sign my book. I was also fortunate enough to converse with the consulate general and the administrative head of the Dallas Korean Consulate as well.

The environment created by the Tower Center was very welcoming, and it has allowed me to grow as a person. I plan to pursue international relations in the future, and the Tower Center has successfully introduced me to the academics of this study area. I hope that someday the knowledge I have gained from my experience at the Tower Center can be used to promote and create the best foreign policy for the United States.

– Catherine Kirby, Senior at the Hockaday School in Dallas

catherineCatherine will be a senior at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas next year. She will graduate in May 2015. Catherine has attended Tower Center events since last September, and she looks forward to continuing her relationship with the Tower Center. Catherine wants to pursue international relations and international business in college, and she hopes to become involved in foreign affairs.

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