Note: This article was initially published in the March 2016 issue of the satirical publication The Really Independent Florida Crocodile, as well as its online counterpart. It is satire, and is not meant to be taken as a serious news piece.
Note: This article was initially published on the news site The Tab on 3/15/16.
Floridian presidential candidate Marco Rubio has said that winning the Florida primary is a priority. Although he comes from the Sunshine State, the sun doesn’t seem to be shining on him.
Today, the day of the Florida primary, he is 25 percent behind his GOP rival Donald Trump in the polls.
According to Charles Shields, a Political Science instructor at the University of Florida, a fundamental component of political support is name recognition. He said while Rubio may be recognizable in Florida, Trump is still the most candidate recognized in the state.
“There isn’t a single American who doesn’t know who Trump is,” Shields said.
Political Science student Eric Schoen said Trump has a massive presence in Florida. From hotels to businesses, Trump has brought a plethora of economic benefits to the state.
However, both Shields and Schoen agree that name recognition alone isn’t the only reason Trump is more popular than Rubio in Florida.
In Schoen’s opinion, Rubio is the least morally disreputable Republican candidate. However, he clarified that Rubio hasn’t been involved in big government for long.
“One of his negatives and positives is that he hasn’t done anything yet,” Schoen said. “Rubio is very inexperienced, so he shouldn’t be the most powerful person in the world.”
Shields attributes Trump’s success over Rubio as an issue of failure in both major political parties.
“The Democrats didn’t put enough effort into defeating Trump until it was too late,” he said.
He also attributed some of the blame to the Republican party. He said Trump has behaved very inappropriately, especially by Republican standards.
“It’s unfathomable that a party based around structure and effectiveness is failing at this time,” Shields said.
However, he said this is all just speculation, as it will be very hard to truly understand this presidential race until it is over. Shields also admitted his non-affiliation with the Republican party has probably led to his lack of ability to comprehend Trump’s success.
“I feel like I would have a better understanding of the thought process that goes into supporting Trump if I were a Republican,” he said.
Juliette Morgan, a Journalism major, has her own ideas regarding Trump’s success: “Donald Trump makes an ass of himself on TV, so people like how honest he is.”
She also said there is a large amount of elderly conservatives in Florida, as well as uneducated voters who will support Trump simply based on name and television presence alone.
Regardless of Morgan, Schoen, and Shields all saying they prefer Rubio to Trump, they agree Trump is going to win the Republican primary.
“Losing the primary will clearly be the end of Rubio’s campaign,” said Shields.
Schoen, despite his lack of support for the candidate, said he believes Trump will not only win the Florida primary, but will most likely become the next president of the United States.
He said: “Rubio is a very small fish trying to swim with the big sharks.”
Note: This article was initially published on the news site The Tab on 2/26/16.
ISIS is one of the most dominant organizations in the current media sphere. Some disregard the terrorist organization, using its geographical distance from the United States as a safety blanket.
Others, however, believe that an understanding of the affairs of the group is important, supporting its heavy media presence. However, what is common ground is the organization needs to be stopped.
The question is clearly not if, but how.
The amount of young people passionate about the subject was surprising to me. I was especially surprised to receive such a lively response after midnight on a Saturday.
“I’ll use the biggest beam ever on them. Then I’ll give them some drugs and alcohol, stuff they don’t like,” said a heavily breathing partygoer.
“We get informants and espionage people to join ISIS and drug the leaders. We bomb the hell out of them if they come close to the U.S. though,” explained one shaking teen.
“We build a giant wall around them, call it the great wall of ISIS,” said a college student who stated he was sober. When asked what would happen if the wall was destroyed, he shouted “then we build two walls.”
One man in his mid 20s, lounging on a couch with a red solo cup in his right hand, and a female looking to be the same age wrapped in his left arm, was extremely passionate about the issue. He was adamant that I quoted him directly, but failed to provide my with a clear answer to the question of what his name was.
“Bomb the cities, bomb the whole fucking country. Fuck them, ISIS can take their tongues and stick them up my ass. ISIS is just a couple of guys in turbans with their cocks up each other’s asses. ISIS is not my fucking problem,” the man slurred.
As the party began to die down, one young man stumbled towards me. He had heard about my interviews, and was eager to be a subject.
As his breath reeked of alcohol, and he had to hold onto my shoulder to remain standing, I knew I was in for a great answer. However, what I got was the most interesting of response the night, but not for the reasons you would expect.
“Because of the very nature of ISIS, it’s not like you can just turn them off. There’s always gonna be anti-semitism and hate no matter what we do. If anything, we need drone strikes on major hideouts and the freezing of any funds supporting them.”
He continued saying, “But ISIS doesn’t really exist because of the west, so we need a fundamental change in the Arab world to truly stop them. They need to move past the past and move towards a more progressive future.”
“We need to change what those people learn as kids, and keep the hateful out of teaching positions and positions of power. Only then can we truly hope for a better future in the middle east.”
Note: This article was initially published in the February 2016 of the satirical publication The Really Independent Florida Crocodile. It is satire, and is not meant to be taken as a serious news piece.
Note: This article was initially published on the site of the satirical publication The Really Independent Florida Crocodile on 10/22/15. It is satire, and is not meant to be taken as a serious news piece.
The Clean Restrooms Assessment Association of Alachua County has declared this week that they are naming the bathrooms of Little Hall at the University of Florida to be the cleanest in Alachua County.
The association spent over a year testing every restroom in the county, public or private, according to a strict rubric which included criteria such as: amount of abnormally large insects, likeness of toilet paper to sandpaper and area of restroom floor that was a recognizable color. They came to their conclusion after much deliberation and anticipation.
“It was a very difficult choice,” said Keith Bradley, CEO, chairman, and president of CRAAC. “The Grog House restrooms on Ladies’ Night were always a close contender.”
Students and faculty had mixed responses to this decision. Professors with offices in the building noted the frostbite that they had acquired by walking to the outdoor restrooms in winter. Professor Henrietta Weinberg of the Department of Restroom Architecture, was especially appalled by the decision, citing the hundreds of Palmetto Bugs she has encountered in the Little Hall women’s room.
“Those palmetto bugs? Cleanest I’ve ever seen,” said freshman engineering student Brad Richards.
Due to receiving the honor for 2015, Little Hall will no longer be eligible for the consideration in the coming years. However, CRAAC has indicated their intent to look into other campus favorites such as the stalls in the stadium, Keene-Flint Hall bathrooms and the toilets in the back of every RTS bus. They plan to begin the search for the 2016 winner as soon as the resources are available.
“It takes a lot time, tax dollars, and Febreeze to use every bathroom in Alachua County,”
Note: This analytical essay was initially submitted as a final paper for a Comparative Political Institutions course, and has been edited modified for the purposes of this blog.
Modern Japan is considered by many to be a beacon of democracy. However, Japan didn’t’ always have the democratic prominence that it is known for today. Before the conclusion of World War 2, Japan was an imperial nation, striving to conquer the rest of East Asia. The transformation of Japan into a democracy ushered on a multitude of drastic institutional changes. These changes are extremely evident in the restructuring of the Japanese legislature.
Historical context is necessary to understand the scale of this institutional reconstruction. In the early historical periods of the Paleolithic, Jomon, and Yayoi, the Japanese archipelago was inhabited by a series of independent tribes. Combined, these eras lasted from roughly 10,000 BC to 300 AD. Due to the nature of this society, there wasn’t any formalized legislature of sorts to be discussed. However, this all changed with the onset of the Kofun period.
Early into the common era, 300 years to be exact, Japan was successfully unified under a single emperor, and the regime type of Japan shifted to authoritarian. The emperor and his small group of elites were known as the Yamato Court. “As for regional control, according to the Chinese Book of Sui … the country was already divided into kuni (provinces), which were subdivided into agata. These territorial units were governed by Kuni no Miyatsuko and Agatanushi, who were responsible for collecting tribute” (Yamato Court, jref.com). In other words, the Yamato Court divided what was once the territory of a multitude of individual tribes into provinces and subdivisions known as agata. These agata were then appointed a specific regional leader. These regional leaders were typically people who were already local leaders, but now officially approved by the court. The Kuni no Miyatsuko and Agatanushi were responsible for collecting tribute from the citizens of their specific regions. Although extremely primitive by today’s standards, this was the first sign of somewhat unified legislative action in Japanese history. Basic legislative practices as discussed continued with some failures and successes for quite some time. While various different dynasties rose and fell, the same basic principles of tribute and taxation applied. Further drastic changes in the legislature of Japan, however, came about with the emergence of the Edo Period in the early 1600s.
The Edo Period began with rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a military regime that ruled from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. They believed in complete Japanese isolationism, and disconnected the nation from all relations with the outside world. Therefore, all concentrations were on the internal politics of Japan. With this internal focus, the Tokugawa Shogunate completely changed the legislature of Japan on an unprecedented scale. By many standards, this was the first time the Japanese government had a true legislative branch. The Tokugawa Shogunate implemented a legislature very similar to a system of committees that you would see in modern legislatures. These groups were known as the Roju and Wakadoshiyori, the Ometsuke and Metsuke, and the San-Bugyo.
The Roju and Wakadoshiyori were responsible for ensuring smooth relations between the imperial court, the Buddhist temples, and the Shinto shrines. As Buddhism and Shintoism were the two most prominent religions in the country at the time, non-hostile relations between these religious institutions and the government was very important to Japanese stability.
The Ometsuke and Metsuke were responsible for monitoring the imperial court. They were appointed to do so in order to spot and thwart any form of rebellion against the government before it could truly take off. As the Tokugawa Shogunate was a military regime, rebellion was a genuine concern that needed to be monitored. Therefore, the Ometsuke and Metsuke were a pivotal part of the Edo Period legislature.
The San-Bugyo were, in modern terms, the accountants of the Tokugawa Shogunate. They were responsible for monitoring and organizing the funds and economics of temples, shrines, cities, and the Shogunate itself. As they dealt with the economics of the nation, they were a necessary component for the functionality of the Japanese government.
The conglomeration of these various groups composed a political institution that is very reminiscent to a simplified modern committee-based legislature. It was the first time Japan operated with a somewhat modernized government system. However, due to intense isolationism, the Edo Period prevented Japan from modernizing at the pace of the rest of the world. This issue would shape Japan, and the legislature of the nation, for the rest of its history.
As evident by the modern condition of Japan, the nation’s isolationism had to come to a close. With the dawn of the era that is known as the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan, as a nation, was completely reshaped. With what is perhaps the most drastic transformation of the nation (other than in the aftermath of World War 2), Japan ended its isolationism. The emperor at the time, Meiji, saw the technological, political, and imperial progress that western nations had made while Japan was isolated, and wanted to emulate it. For the first time in Japan’s history, a semi-democratic constitutional monarchy government was implemented. However, the slightly democratic components of the Meiji regime did not last for long. Using a variety of influences from a multitude of European nations, Meiji constructed a culturally appropriated government, borrowing what he considered to be the “highlights” of European culture. In essence, Meiji created a “European” nation in East Asia.
With the onset of the Meiji Restoration came the construction of a formalized legislature as we understand the term. Based on the success of bicameral legislatures in multiple European nations, Japan constructed their own bicameral legislative branch known as the Imperial Diet. What was unique about the Imperial Diet, and the other political institutions of the time, was that the emperor was actually a part of it. He was a member of all of the institutions below him, and used his membership to actively pass and uphold statute.
The Imperial Diet was composed of two branches, the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. Members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by voters. However, who was allowed to vote at the time was very limited. Male, purely Japanese citizens were the only people allowed to vote, with some limited exceptions. Members of The House of Peers, on the other hand, were all aristocrats, given positions based on their nobility.
The process of passing legislation in the Imperial Diet was somewhat similar to how it works in the current Japanese legislature. A bill must pass through both the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. However, after passing through both, it must also be approved by the emperor. The emperor had the final say on the passing of all statute within his empire, with no exceptions.
The Imperial Diet operated successfully for the rest of the 19th century, and most of the early 20th century. However, international history has prominent impacts on not just the members involved, but the world as a whole. While Japan wasn’t actively involved in World War 1, it suffered tremendous consequences from the conflict. After the war, most of the world entered a period of economic depression, Japan being no exception. This was not aided by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
The earthquake nearly destroyed Tokyo, which was the current capital of Japan. Tokyo was the center of Japan’s imperial power, and the hub for all of the nation’s political institutions. This devastated the government of Japan at the time, and only amplified their intense economic depression. The Japanese imperial government, including all of the political institutions that composed it, were on the brink of collapse, and needed to find a way to survive. They found savior in the abandonment of any democratic tendencies, and the conquering of neighboring territory.
Japan had been enemies with its western neighbor China since its ancient inception. China served as a threat for imperial Japan, due to its sheer size and influence in the region. Before there was any official alliance, Japan was already receiving aid from Germany, and actively aggressing China. However, in order to ensure that the Japanese empire would be safe from its enemies (mainly China) during this time, the Japanese legislature decided to enter the Tripartite Pact. The pact, signed between the three major world powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan, ensured that each would be there to protect each other if they were to be attacked by a non-pact nation. “The Pact also recognized the two spheres of influence. Japan acknowledged the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe, while Japan was granted lordship over Greater East Asia” (This Day in History, September 27th 1940, history.com). In other words, while Italy and Germany were busy conquering the rest of the Europe, Japan would begin the acquisition of East Asia. The Tripartite Pact was responsible for officially entering Japan into World War 2 in 1940.
World War 2 was a disastrous time for Japan. Even after the defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the European front, Japan continued to battle the allied forces in the East Asian front. Imperial Japan was officially defeated in 1945, when two atomic bombs were dropped on the major Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With these bombs, the Japanese were given an ultimatum: surrender, or the rest of the archipelago would be destroyed. The emperor at the time, Hirohito, surrendered on the strict, non-negotiable terms of the allied forces. This is where the greatest legislative transformation in Japanese history took place.
The conditioning of Japan’s surrender was written in a document known as the Potsdam Declaration. This document was collaboratively drafted by the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. The requirements stated in the Potsdam Declaration, while seemingly simple, would completely transform Japan as a nation. Japan was to end all forms of imperialism. In other words, the nation was required to give up all of the territory that it conquered during its time as an empire. The territory that made up Japan was limited to the four largest islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Specific smaller islands were also allowed to remain under Japanese rule. This created the borders that define modern day Japan. To further prevent the threat of imperialism, the emperor was stripped of all of his power, and the title was reduced to a ceremonial status, similar to that of the queen in England. In other words, the emperor no longer had any political power. The allied forces were also allowed permanent military occupation in designated areas, in order to ensure Japan wouldn’t fall back into its imperialistic tendencies. The Japanese military was to be disbanded, and restructured on the terms of the allied forces. All Japanese industry and economics were allowed to continue, and actually encouraged, in order to foster capitalism. If not evident by the previous requirements, Japan was required to become a full-fledged democracy. The government was to promote freedom of speech, religion, and thought; something that was previously unheard of in the nation. However, what is pivotal to this discussion is the restructuring of every key political institution in the Japanese government; including the legislature
The modern Japanese legislature, while operating on a similar basis as its imperial predecessor, was ultimately transformed by the Potsdam Declaration. Japan has maintained this legislative system to date. Replacing the emperor, the legislative branch currently holds the largest amount of power in the Japanese government. The current legislature, located in the capital of Tokyo, was renamed from the Imperial Diet to the National Diet. The maintained bicameralism of the legislature is present in its division between an upper and lower house. The lower house is called the House of Representatives, while the upper house is called the House of Councillors.
The House of Representatives is made up of 480 members, who serve four year terms, unless removed from their positions earlier. However, not all of these members are elected in the same manner. House of Representatives elections are conducted in two ways. 300 representatives are elected through a single-member plurality, or first past the post, electoral system. The other 180, however, are selected via party-list proportional representation. In other words, each political party composes a list of potential candidates. As Japan has an open list electoral system, individual representatives are specifically chosen off of these lists based on popularity.
The House of Councillors is made up of 242 members, roughly half the amount of the House of Representatives. While half serve three year terms, the other half serve four. 146 are chosen through single non-transferable votes. These elections take place within each of the 47 prefectures that make up Japan. In other words, you can only vote for a representative in the prefecture that you reside in. The other 96, however, are selected proportionally. Since Japan uses an open list system, councillors are are individually chosen by the people, as opposed to the people voting for a party as a whole, who then decides on members for them. Councillors are voted upon off of a national list. In other words, if a person is not on this list, they can not be voted upon to occupy one of the 96 seats available.
Perhaps the most drastic institutional change with regards to the Japanese legislature is in power. As an imperial nation, the emperor had ultimate power. He had the final and strongest say over statute, as well as any other matters of the nation. However, as the Potsdam Declaration stripped the emperor down to a purely ceremonial position, the legislature is currently the most powerful institution in the Japanese government. The reduction of the power of the emperor position also allowed the legislature to be the only political institution in the nation able to pass statute, or make laws.
The legislature of Japan gained other prominent powers with the implementation of Potsdam reformations. The National Diet currently controls both the budget and international treaties of the nation. They also have the ability to investigate both specific members of government, as well as governmental institutions as a whole, if they begin to sense corruption or wrongdoing. To further this power, the Diet has the ability to impeach any government official, including the Prime Minister, if they are deemed unfit to serve. As many other legislatures do, they are also able to ratify the constitution, if necessary.
Both chambers of the legislature are required to have a single annual meeting, but are permitted to meet multiple times a year if necessary. In order for a meeting to count as legitimate, at least ⅓ of the members of each respective house must be present. Meetings are ceremonially begun and concluded by the emperor, regardless of his lack of ability to participate in said meetings.
The House of Representatives has more legislative power than the House of Councillors. However, to combat any unfair balance, the House of Councillors is able to postpone any budget or treaty decisions made by the House of Representatives. Regardless of this legislative structure, any bill must still be voted upon in both chambers, and must be given final approval by the emperor. However, unlike in imperial Japan, the emperor is required to approve every bill, making the action a tradition, rather than a legitimate political act.
Evidently, Japan has undergone multiple legislative transformations throughout its history as a nation. From isolationist, to imperial, to democratic; Japan’s legislature has been restructured to fit each period of the country’s history. With the fall of imperial Japan at the end of World War 2 came the transformation of Japan from an empire to a democracy. This major political transformation reshaped the legislature of the nation into the format it currently operates under today. As Japan is currently one of the most prominent world democracies, this legislative change is anything but unimportant.
- The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions (Edited By: R. A. W. Rhodes, Sarah A. Binder and Bert A. Rockman)
- Lecture Slides (Constructed By: Professor Kreppel)
- Websites Used
Alberto Martinez could only think of one thing as he exited the highway into Gainesville. He had only been here once before, to visit a friend. Although the UCF student could only think about what the convention would have in store for him, he did not realize that it would turn out to be what he considered one of the best weekends he had in a long time.
He was one of the roughly 3,000 people who attended 5th annual Swamp Con. The convention was for fans of a variety of popular media.
21-year-old Derek Delago, one of the organizers, said Swamp Con prides itself in being an inclusive, multi-genre convention. He said that whether you’re a fan of anime, science fiction, tabletop gaming, or video games; the convention will have something for you.
Jennifer Andersen-Peters, 20, found something for her at Swamp Con. She said she was extremely excited to meet the YouTube video game reviewer Dookieshed, having been a fan of the convention guest of honor for over three years.
“This was the first famous person I ever met,” said Andersen-Peters. “It was surreal, I never really thought I would meet him.”
However, as the weekend came to a close, she said she realized that this was not the true highlight. It was meeting new people and experiencing Swamp Con with them that she said she will remember the most about her first convention.
Martinez said he had a similar experience. He said that Dookieshed’s appearance was one of the main reasons why he took the trip from Orlando. However, spending time with new friends was what he said he will remember most.
Roughly 1,000 people went to the first Swamp Con in 2012. This year welcomed a record 3,000. According to Delago, one of the contributing factors to this high turnout is not only quality, but price.
Since its inception, Swamp Con has been free.
“We take a lot of pride in being an inclusive con, and the free price reflects that.”
He said that being a non-profit allows the convention coordinators to use properties that are trademarked for events. Examples include a talent show based around the video game Undertale, and a fan show for Japanese computer characters known as Vocaloids.
“For a free con, it was very well put together, I think it can only get better next year,” said Martinez.
Both Andersen-Peters and Martinez said they were unhappy with the structuring of the schedule, and that it could be made more clear where and when events were being held. However, this complaint didn’t stop either of them from saying they planned to come back next year.
“If you have hesitations about going, just go, for the experience,” said Andersen-Peters. She proceeded to recite the Shia LeBouff quote, “just do it.”