2017 Editorial Board

Editor-in-Chief

Matthew Zipf

Publisher

Anamaria lopez

 

Design editor

Theresa yang 

Marketing Director

Huhe yaN

arts editors

michelle huang

charly voelkel

lead web editor

poorvi bellur

Managing Editors

amanda kam

dimitrius keeler

shambhavi Tiwari 

karen yuan

Copy Chief

Maggie Toner

Senior Editors

vivian casillas

audrey deGuerrera

brian gao

belle harris

melissa ho

jahan nanji

sheena qiao

bani sapra

nina zweig

Copy Editors

sahana narayanan

song rhee

Interview with President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Interview with President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves

INTERVIEW-11.jpg

Estonia, nestled in northern Europe, is a small nation with a population of only 1,300,000, the size of the city of San Diego. Estonia’s small size prevents it from giving rise to such global industrial powerhouses as BMW from Germany, Samsung from Korea, and Sony from Japan, with the natural consequence that international name recognition remains an elusive aspiration for Estonia. Yet Estonia, in less than 25 years, has become a global player in all but name, despite emerging from the Soviet Union in 1991 with an economy in a state of collapse. Estonia went from a planned economy to a free market economy at lightening speed, becoming a front-runner in democracy, and a shining symbol of what is possible. Estonia is today recognized as the leader for Internet Freedom, ranked as first in the world by Freedom House. On the Heritage Foundation’s and Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom, Estonia is ranked 8th, ahead of the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. On the Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, Estonia ranks 11th, ahead of the United Kingdom and United States. Economically, Estonia’s GDP, based on purchasing power parity, already ranks a middling 42nd in the world. In nominal terms, by 2012 Estonia had a GNP per capita that placed it ahead of the Latin dynamo, Chile, as well as natural resource rich-Malaysia and the global financial service center Mauritius. Estonia’s economic success was truly a remarkable achievement given its weak economic starting position in 1991.

But rankings do not tell the human side of the story. Estonia is a land of ideas, and of people that give life and meaning to ideas. Estonian developers created Skype, which makes it possible for the world and all of its people to speak to each other for free. Estonia has even creatively rebranded itself as E-stonia.

And a leader in this remarkable transformation of Estonia from a Soviet state to a world leader is Toomas Ilves, the President of Estonia. Ilves started his career with Radio Free Europe and has served his country as Ambassador to the US, as Foreign Minister and now as President. He is a proponent of internet freedom as a human right and has been honored as co-chair of the World Bank Development Report on IT. Ilves credits his education at Columbia, in particular its renowned Core Curriculum, with its focus on values, morals, and culture, for inspiring him to make a difference and to lead in a humanistic way.

Jenik Radon, Esq., Adj. Professor, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, and advisor to Estonia during its independence movement and its in post-Soviet privatization period. Radon, still during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, reclaimed the premises of the US Embassy from Komsomol (the Soviet Communist Youth League) and was the first to officially raise the US flag in Estonia since the Soviet invasion in 1940.

 

On Education and Civil Society:

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: The further away from Columbia I get, the more I appreciate it. But I also come from the class that’s probably donated the least. Don Hood, my advisor, said, “The classes of ’75 and ’76 are the most meager donors, because that was the nadir of the College.” That was when Ford said to New York City, “Drop dead.” Columbia did nothing for its undergraduates back then. When you look at it now, you go, “Wow, what a campus.” Back then it was just a big mud field.

Sophie Wilkowske: But you liked it?

THI: You know, it’s only later on—especially because I’ve spent the last thirty-five years dealing with Eastern Europe—that the value of CC [Contemporary Civilization] and the Core more generally becomes clear. Every year, I realize it more and more. I tried, twenty years ago, to get CC into my country, but it didn’t really work, it didn’t take.

SW: How so?

THI: At the time, at least, undergraduate education took a very Germanic approach: you don’t have discussions on books, you have lectures on books, and you don’t even read the books, you’re told what they mean and what they are… Which is so antithetical to my whole sort of understanding. As ambassador, I managed to get a Fulbright for two philosophy professors to come to Columbia and do CC. After the whole thing was done, I went to the West End, which I suppose doesn’t exist anymore, but that was where, in 1944, 1945, Kerouac and Ginsberg used to hang out. We went there, and they started yelling at me. “What a stupid, stupid way of teaching,” “It’s ridiculous!” And I asked, how do you do it? “You tell them what the book is about, and they write it down.” And you test them on that? “Of course!”

More broadly, I think one of the big problems today, with Snowden, or more precisely Snowden’s revelations, is the problem described in C.P. Snow’s 1959 essay “The Two Cultures.” C.P. Snow was a British writer, but he was also a professor of physical chemistry at Oxford. He wrote his essay about how, at the faculty club, there would be a table with the physicists and the chemists, and another table with the poets, novelists, and Shakespeare scholars. The only person who could traverse the distance—I mean, go and physically sit with one or the other—was C.P. Snow. “The Two Cultures” is really about academia, more than anything else, in 1959. But today the group we have is geeks. They look around and say, “Oh boy, look what we can do! We can sneak in and do this, or that, and that…” Then you have sort of the liberal arts people who don’t understand what it is that they’re doing, and moreover think anything IT related is bad.

Aside from Columbia, where every engineering student has to take CC, these people don’t have a clue, and they don’t really understand the Enlightenment basis of a democratic society. They don’t understand that we live in societies—I hope my country does, especially—in which there is this Lockean social contract between the governed and the government. You have a sense of what’s allowed and what’s not. I would demand that every geek take CC, and in fact Columbia’s the only place that actually does that.

The problem is that today, far more than in C.P. Snow’s time or in my time, societies are becoming so much more technological than they were.

SW: So, what do you think its important for young people today to learn?

THI: I would say both, these days. I was in the European Parliament a couple of years ago, and I was vice-chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I remember talking about a lot of technology. Most recently I visited them to talk about some legislation that we need in Europe. These people were all very concerned about Snowden, and the US, and the NSA, and as a result have a completely Luddite view of anything technological. I asked how many of them knew what Moore’s Law was. Do you know what Moore’s Law is?

SW: No.

THI: It is that the power of a computer chip, at the same price, doubles every 1.5 years. Moore came up with his law in 1965—he predicted it would hold true for about fifteen years, but it still holds true. So I’m talking with these men and women, they had just been elected. I say to them, your next election is in 4.5 years. That means there will be three iterations of Moore’s law between now and then, which means that, by the time you are being reelected, computers will be two-to-the-third times more powerful. And of course they look around and whisper, “What’s two to the third?” And I say, “Eight!”

SW: [Laughter]

Image by Lucy Jakub

THI: And then you have the same sort of problems with the geeks, where they don’t understand what liberal democracy is, and they don’t understand that you can’t go snooping into people’s lives. There are cases where you probably have to snoop into things, to avoid New York City being blown up. But, the fact that we are doing this in this massive way is something that we have to be very careful about, so that we do not undermine the foundations of liberal democracy as we’ve known it.

So your question, what should people learn. Number one, engineers should take CC. I have a friend, he’s a very high-tech person, and we were both in the honors psychology program together. We both think that the really important thing from Columbia, despite our major, despite everything we’ve done, has actually been CC and Humanities. The Iliad, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics… that’s what really matters.

And what I realized, especially when this whole east European revolution started in ’89, was that obviously everyone, any normal person, was against totalitarian government. But it became quite clear, in what people were saying, that they have this sort of German Romanticist view of things, based on Herder and people like him. This is part of the German Counter-Enlightenment. It was all about das Volk, the people. The traditions in our country and in the universities in Central Europe were very much based on that, were based on a reaction to the Enlightenment concepts of individual liberty, where it was the Volk that matters, not the individual.

SW: I read an interview that you did a couple of years ago, where you said that Nabokov was important to read because he was an anti-totalitarian artist. Do you think that art has a role to play in shaping civil consciousness?

THI: I think that Nabokov is important because he is one of the very few liberal voices—liberal not in the US sense, but in the more European sense—in Russian culture, which is all very heavy. I mean, it makes the German stuff look like whipped cream. Very heavy emphasis on folk, people, nation, Orthodoxy… And Nabokov is one of the very few people in Russian literature that really focused not only on the individual, but also on the impermissibility of the state imposing its will on people. Not to mention that he’s just such a brilliant writer. The political side is quaternary in terms of what he writes. His sentences are magnificent, his puns are amazing; all of that stuff is just great. But part of it, which is often lost in the complexity of his language, is this incessant message on the primacy of the individual, on a person’s right to think as he wishes or she wishes, to say anything he or she wants.

But anyway. Art. I mean, who knows. No one reads anymore, so what difference does it make? Movies, maybe. But people don’t read books, they don’t read literature, in general, anymore. This is one of the reasons I like Estonia. A bestselling poetry book in a country of 1.3 million people sold, in absolute numbers, more copies than a best-selling poetry book in the United States. People here read poetry. And I thought, wow, this is really cool. Because I read poetry, and I thought I was a weirdo. Who reads poetry? And I find out, this is important in our culture, people go around quoting poetry.

 

On Technology and Security:

SW: I wanted to ask about technology. I know that technology has done a lot for Estonia, obviously.

THI: In 1993, Mosaic had just been invented. Estonia was a very, very poor, post-Soviet country with very little infrastructure development, where nothing had really been done since 1939—the Soviets came in 1940. We despaired as to how we would overcome this enormous gap in development. I thought, “Well, we’re on a level playing field when it comes to technology.” We have a lot of smart people, we’re really good in math—we’re at the top in Europe on math skills, we and the Finns. The level playing field was very important, because in every other aspect, the West under liberal democracy went through multiple iterations of growth, whereas we were just stuck. We had a 1938 telephone exchange system, a rotary system.

Then I read a neo-Luddite, neo-Marxist book called The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin. He was completely against new technology. He used the example of a Kentucky steel plant that was automatized and computerized, and they could make exactly the same millions of tons of steel per year with 120 employees as they did with 12,000. From his point of view, this was an example of how terrible automatization and computerization would be. But of course, coming from a very tiny country, you go, “Wow, that’s great. This is exactly what we need.” We want to automatize everything, to liberate people from doing things that machines can do, so that people can do things that only people can do. Now, 25 years later, with Moore’s Law and all this, it may become problematic. At the time, though, it was great. It allowed us massively to increase the functional size of the economy and of the country, just by having everyone do things with computers. That was the idea, at least.

Today it’s a little more problematic; you start thinking about self-driving cars and what that will do for the taxi industry, what that will do for trucking in the United States. A couple weeks ago there was an article about a car driving by itself from Mountain View, California to New York City. We do have to start thinking about what we do in terms of education. We have to dramatically increase the amount of math and science, of STEM subjects. Everyone is going to have to know some of that, unless they’re going to make a living as poet. Which is perfectly fine. But unless you know some of that technology… You know, we have the first Law and IT degree program in the world, because in the future, lawsuits are going to be about intellectual property and ownership of software. You can even think about the laws of a society being the software of a society. I think these two things will merge—law and software will become one and the same, ultimately.

SW: Thats interesting.

THI: I don’t know if it’s interesting. It’s interesting to see where it’s going to go. What are laws? They are the algorithms of behavior in a society. Can’t do that, can do that, yes, no, yes, no. Everything will become like that.

We also have the first, and hitherto only, degree in e-governance, which is a joint program in IT and public administration. Today, if you do it right, you don’t need to do all the stuff that you currently do with paper. We have a once-only law in Estonia, which means the government may never ask you anything it already knows, which comes out of the architecture of our IT system. Filling out your tax returns, or anything requiring information like your address, et cetera—you don’t have to do that. We do it online; it already knows who you are, you don’t have to write your address or anything like that. We do almost everything online these days, in terms of the citizens’ relationship to the government. It just needs a lot of safeguards.

SW: So, what are the safeguards? Is cyber-security a big concern?

THI: It’s a very big concern, but it’s quite complicated. We were the first country to have major cyber-attacks, but no one actually ever went into the system, all they did was block access to it. That’s just keeping you out, and there are ways to remedy that. Far more dangerous is when someone gets inside. We just have an architecture that makes that very difficult to do. If you do get inside, you don’t get anywhere else, and you can only actually access one person. At this point, it’s virtually impossible to get inside, but maybe you can do it. Getting into a large databank with lots of people is at this point architecturally not possible, you cannot do that.

The government, of course, requires a fair bit of trust. But so far it’s worked. When there have been abuses, they’ve immediately been flagged, because everything is logged. If something inappropriate shows up, it’s immediately detected.

SW: Do you think that other countries are doing enough about cyber-security? Could a digitization project work in other countries the same way its worked in Estonia?

THI: I’m in Washington this weekend to co-chair the World Bank’s report on development and IT. Typically the World Bank is concerned with irrigation projects, hospitals, anti-malaria programs, et cetera. Now they have begun to get so many requests for money to do things with IT that they’ve said, “Okay, what’s the deal here?” They looked at who’s doing what, and they found that the most advanced countries are Finland, Estonia, South Korea, and Singapore. Of those four, the only one to start off poor was Estonia. The other ones started out developing their IT societies already rich, which is a no-brainer. It’s not hard to digitize a society, or at least make the first steps, if you have a lot of money to burn. We had none.

Now, can other countries do it? Yes. But paradoxically and perhaps even ironically, the countries most opposed to having a digital identity are the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Which, aside from being Winston Churchill’s English-speaking peoples, are the “Five Eyes”—the countries that seriously share intelligence information among themselves.

Basically, it comes down to this: you cannot have a secure system without a secure online identity. There’s a famous cartoon from about 1994 in the New Yorker, of two dogs; one’s on a chair in front of a computer, and he says to the other, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” That is precisely the problem of the internet. Unless you have a secure online identity, you don’t know who is trying to access something, or whether someone else is using your password. So what we have, and what very secure systems everywhere must have, is a two-factor system. You have a chip, and then you have something else. It could be your iris, a fingerprint, a code. But unless you have a two-factor ID, there’s no security. And on top of that, we use a kind of encryption, which is called PKI, Public Key Infrastructure, a logical encryption system with public and private keys.

Of course, in the United States, and Canada, and the UK, there’s the old “I will take an ID when they push it into my cold, dead fingers!” sort of attitude. So all you can do is say, okay, you don’t have to take an ID—but then you must know: you can’t use anything on the internet securely. To pursue the metaphor invented by Al Gore, who calls the internet the information superhighway, the problem is that everyone is driving on the highway without a license plate. So, okay, you can do that. But imagine driving down 495, or in LA on a twelve-lane highway, with no license plates. You get what you get, and you can imagine what you would get on the highway. Of course, you don’t need that secure identity for everything. You can read the newspaper online without putting in an ID. But if you want to have your health records online, you want to make sure that you have secure access.

I also think we’ve become completely obsessed with the issue of privacy. Rightfully so—but there are worse issues than privacy, worse threats. You or anyone else would object to someone seeing your medical records online. On the other hand, far worse would be if someone changes your medical data. Regarding the issue of privacy, I would say, yeah, it’s offensive. As offensive as a violation of privacy can be, violations of data integrity can be lethal, or completely ruinous financially. It’s one thing if someone can see your bank account. But if someone changes your bank account, it can be devastating. These are the problems that we have to worry about in this increasingly digitized world, because more and more things are going to be online. Paper is less and less important. Who trusts paper, anyway? You can change paper, too.

SW: Do you see data integrity and privacy, then, as opposing? Or can they be complementary aims?

THI: No, no. It’s just that everyone is focused on privacy. They’re not opposed at all. In fact, they’re highly related. The point is that we are forgetting that it is not simply privacy; it is data integrity also. Privacy is difficult, but you can deal with that. Data integrity creates this existential angst: are these data real or not? When you think about the US financial system, of course, this is very important. You think about people’s health records and blood type—you change it from RH negative to RH positive and it’s lethal.

 

On Russia and European Politics:

SW: Why do you think that Russia seems so particularly aggressive toward Estonia?

THI: I don’t think it’s more aggressive toward us than it is toward others. One of the reasons I think they started earlier with us is that, in many ways, we’re an intellectual and historical threat. If your argument is—and it is—that the standard Western liberal-democratic model is not appropriate for a post-communist world, that we have different values, and we are against the gay, decadent West; and then you have this little country next door that is in fact number one or two in the world in internet freedom, is by far the highest ranked in press freedom of any post-communist country, has the lowest level of corruption of any post-communist state. So then if your argument is, “we former communist countries are different”—then there’s Estonia. Our success is one of the things that really irk them. Estonia has adopted a completely different model—I would argue the Columbia-CC-model.

This is been my message in all of my speeches. My last National Day speech was about epistemology—sort of a strange speech to give on the equivalent of the Fourth of July, I suppose. It was about multiple truths, Karl Popper, that sort of thing. I’m primarily opposed to this postmodernist interpretation of multiple truths. I believe in empirical truth and Popperian falsification. I think one of the things that threatens us today is a totalitarian or authoritarian appropriation of Heidegger and Derrida, where there are multiple truths allowed. “It was a Buk that shot down MH17,” “No, it was a Ukrainian fighter,” “No, there were three hundred dead bodies on the plane already and it was blown up over Ukraine!”—which was something that was said. When you claim that all truths are equal, and apply this to a state ideology, then we are in trouble… A book came out last year, by Peter Pomerantsev, called Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. It’s about Russian TV, but the title of the book really sums up what the Russian message is today. When you say “question more,” which is the slogan of Russia Today, it isn’t really “question more”—it’s “question truth.” This is why I’ve always been an empiricist. What you see is what you get, or something like that. I’m really into the British empiricists, to this day, ever since I read Locke and Berkeley in CC.

SW: What do you think that the United States and Europe should be doing about Russia? Are they doing the right things, are they doing enough?

THI: The United States is doing more than Europe is doing. In Europe, mercantile self-interest dominates, in many cases, over morality or ethics. You see horrible things being done someplace in Russia, but you still would rather make more money, and so you don’t want to really stand up against those things. That’s what’s worrisome.

One the problems with the post-Cold War era is the decline of moral clarity. And so you have people making deals with Gazprom while in office, and getting a senior position. You have cases, in the United States, of people who are mid-level officials on a procurement committee at the Department of Defense, and then they go get a job with the company with which they made a DoD deal, and then they go to jail. Now, imagine the leader of a country, of the largest and richest countries in Europe, making a deal with the Russians and then going to work for them. That undermines the fundamental underpinnings of a liberal democratic society. So, to sum up the difference between the US and Europe at this point, regarding Russia: here, if you do that, even at a low level, you go to jail. There, you just get rich. And there are a number of other people who’ve done similar things, who’ve left politics and then have gotten paid for things they’ve done while in government. That is very disheartening to me.

But, on the other hand, in Europe, you still have governments with nonviolent political change. With authoritarian governments, who knows? They’re there until they kick off.

SW: Is Estonia responding, and if so, how, to Russias belligerent rhetoric about Russian minority populations in former Soviet states?

THI: One of the big flaws in their whole argument is that, sure, you can look at the percentage of Russians in Estonia, in the Donbas, whatever—the difference is that the income of a Russian living in Estonia is so much higher. They’ll say, we have Russian miners in Estonia, Russian miners in the Donbas. The difference is that they make 150 Euros a month in the Donbas and they make 1,500 or 2,500 Euros a month in Estonia.

There’s this kind of alliterative fixation with a city we have, called Narva, which is right across the river from Russia. Journalists are always asking, “Is Narva Next?” So these journalists will go to Narva and people there scream at them—they’ll ask, “Are you next?” and the people say, “What are you, crazy!?” The people who live there go over the river all the time, because everything on the Russian side is so cheap (of course, nothing works). If you’re living in Narva, you can go work or live anywhere in Europe. People do. There’s no irredentist desire in Estonia, no “I want to live in Russia, life there is so much better.” It’s not like that.

SW: It seems like youre not interested in talking about Russia. Not that I wanted to ask anything more, but I sense a distaste for the topic.

THI: No, no. I mean, it’s not what I think about; it’s what I have to deal with. There are issues you have to deal with, as president. I do. I follow the news, all the news all the time, because it’s a matter of national security. I find it intellectually utterly boring. I really do.

SW: What do you find intellectually exciting?

THI: All the stuff I talked about before! Someone asked me, “When are you going to write your memoirs?” Why bother? That’s already gone, that’s the past. I’m interested in where things are going. I want to influence where things are going. My thing as president has been pressing people to develop civil society, liberal democracy, freedom of speech—fundamental freedoms being the core basis of society. Okay, now we’ve gotten there. I’ve been talking about it ad nauseam for about twenty-five years. I guess through constantly hearing this from me, people have said, “Okay, maybe he’s got a point.”

But I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in where things are going, I want to influence where things are going. That’s interesting—making societies function better, reducing inequality, increasing people’s participation in governance. That’s interesting to me. Not Russia, especially because what is coming out of there is so awfully dull and boring and tedious, and we’ve seen it all before. We saw it with Nicolas I. Orthodoxy, autocracy, derzhava [power], natsionalnost [nationality]… This is not interesting. Aside from the fact that it keeps repeating.

SW: That in itself is interesting.

THI: It is. But on the other hand… I find it awful, but I don’t find it interesting. I don’t want to read any more Berdyaev or anything like that.

What I do find interesting—I don’t know if you’ve read him, but it’s Carl Schmitt, who was probably the smartest Nazi that ever lived. His book, The Concept of the Political, is probably the most intellectually cogent argument against liberal democracy. He argues that politics defines “us,” and thereby “them”—which made me think of Nashi [Russian political youth organization sponsored by the ruling party]. There’s a very influential man in Russia, named Aleksandr Dugin, who basically has taken over Carl Schmitt wholesale. He even published Schmitt’s complete works in Russian. Carl Schmitt is the intellectual godfather of serious authoritarian ideology. It’s nothing to do with democracy, nothing to do with compromise, nothing to do with votes. It’s us versus them, the enemy. Goebbels sort of picked up on that, with his famous quote, “What must we do? We must create an image of the enemy.”

This is what Russia’s doing, if you look at the intellectual basis of it. You think of this group Nashi, “Ours,” Krym Nash [Our Crimea], it’s all this emphasis on “us,” all the time; everything we do is a priori good, and everything they do is bad. It’s all very Nietzschean. If you think of The Genealogy of Morals, which you read in CC, I hope, still…

SW: Yes, we do. My class read it last week.

THI: You did, okay, good. Well, if you want to read slave morality, as defined by Nietzsche, as hatred toward anyone not like you, I think this is the way to understand Russian political thinking right now. I have this embarrassing copy of The Genealogy of Morals. It’s from CC. I read it about every ten years, maybe eight. I’ve got my original CC scribblings, and then my thirty-year-old scribblings, my forty-two-year-old scribblings, my fifty-three-year-old scribblings… It’s deeply embarrassing, seeing this marginalia from when I was eighteen or nineteen. I think, “What a dummy. You didn’t get it at all.” But on the other hand, it is fun to read. I keep finding stuff there that I didn’t capture before. One of the things that has interested me in the last couple of years is in chapter two—he uses a French word, because there’s nothing in German for it, which is ressentiment. This is more than resentment. It’s a kind of hatred of whenever people do better. I find a lot of populist politics to be based on this idea of ressentiment. Nietzsche was a wacko, but he really had amazing insights. I’m not a Nietzschean, I don’t believe in what he thought—although I don’t really think he believed in it, either. What he observes, though, is so true. He has amazing insights into behavior and attitudes. Which I only realized reading him a third time.

That’s why I think CC is important. I never, ever would have read The Genealogy of Morals if it had not been for CC.

 

In Conclusion:

SW: Whats next for you?

THI: My term runs out. The presidential term is limited in Estonia, and I wouldn’t want to ever run again anyway.

SW: What are you planning to do next?

THI: I have no plans.

SW: No plans? No ideas?

THI: Oh, I have all kinds of ideas. I’d like to give a lecture every once in a while, at SIPA, for example. That would be fine. I like Columbia, really, a lot. It’s pretty self-evident. As I’ve said, I come from the generation with the worst undergraduate experience at Columbia. But, at the same time, what I got out of it was simply amazing. One of the fantasies I’ve had for much of the last twenty years was that when I’m no longer president, I’ll teach CC at the national university. But then I figure, ach, come on… I don’t know.

SW: That would be so cool, though.

THI: Yeah, but… People would not take the course for the right reasons. They would think, “Oh, we get to take a course with the president!” Which is not the same as, “I really want to know this stuff.” It would be a celebrity course as opposed to a serious course. Of course, I probably would winnow the class membership down to about three just by the first couple of reading assignments. A lot of people do stuff for the wrong reasons. One of the wrong reasons is this celebrity stuff, which I find kind of…

SW: Distasteful?

THI: Yeah—tedious, annoying, all of that.

SW: How did you become president?

THI: Because three parties came to me and said, “We really want you to run. Don’t worry, you won’t win anyway.”

SW: They were pulling your leg.

THI: No, they really didn’t know; none of us thought I would win. I was hoping I wouldn’t win, because I’d go bankrupt—and here I am, bankrupt. But anyways, I said, “Okay, I’ll run.” I had the center-left, the center-right, and the economic liberals saying they wanted to put up a good fight; they didn’t want it to be a complete slaughter… And then, against all odds, I won. And then I said, “Oh, s---. Now what do I do?” Then I was president for five years, and then I was reelected. So, now it’s over. All my jobs, for the last thirty years, I’ve been recruited for all of them, because I’m nuts. It all comes back to Columbia—it ruined my life. I would’ve been a pre-med student somewhere else. I would have been pre-med and probably a doctor by now, but instead I ended up taking CC, and it ruined my life. •

Kyotastrophe - the Kyoto Protocol’s Inequitable Failure

Kyotastrophe - the Kyoto Protocol’s Inequitable Failure

Events 05/04-05/08

Events 05/04-05/08