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The Worldwide Conundrum of Values

      A Poem

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Our values are what often bring us together

Or separate us in any social, moral or political endeavor

The ultimate value of a value one cannot easily determine

Be their origin from society, family, or even a sermon

 

Values can be instrumental to achieve an ultimate end-state

 Like dating and love in order to find that one special soul mate 

Our values can be esthetic, personal, moral or political

Causing us at times to be the subject of some ridicule

 

It’s true one’s values can at times cause others much pain

Leaving friendship and relationships to often feel the strain 

But alas we can always try to do our best to get along

Despite deeply held values that are often right or perhaps wrong

 

There comes a time when we all need to accept

A principled value that should always be kept

This value stands out above all of the rest

From our minds and our hearts everyone should address 

                     

 We must understand that this value applies to us too

 “Always do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

                    

We must be tenacious, strong and follow the right route

To protect our values day in and day out

Knowing full well that some values we really can tout

Even when others can’t tell what you’re really about

 

With dignity and purpose we all can soon see

That helping others is the only way one ought to be

The Universal Human Rights we  all should embrace

Across all nations, divisions, ethnicity and race

 

But the world is more complex than a discussion among friends

Especially international conflicts with all of their trends

                     

One never realizes that values are only agreed upon opinion

A force of the many against the few by increasing dominion

And values are as much a product or creation of the rule-makers

As they are among the social outcasts we often call rule-breakers

                     

We keep looking for absolutes when we know there are none

Leaving us with life’s complexities and under the gun

 

 We try getting clarity making decisions based on rational facts

 Instead we look at others’ beliefs and values that really may lack 

Insight requires stamina, hard work, and ringing that school bell

 Instead of seeking insight by believing in a heaven or a hell

 

In order to soothe the savage beast and calm everyone better

We need a plan to bring values much closer together

Diplomacy may be the best weapon to make the world calm

Unfortunately some nations would rather choose a bomb

It’s not unlike many nations trying to avoid rejection

Especially when their political values foster repression

It’s an inescapable fact that people from different nations

Have differing values affecting their political inclinations

In reality our values can pose as undesirable beliefs

Influencing or masking the actions of presidents as well as caliphs

Poem Postscript

The worldwide conundrum of values will continue to plague us as we make our way through life’s many uncertainties, complexities and their existential impact. The essence of all this uncertainty of values is that the individual must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without aby certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad. Values are, in the final analysis, value judgments.

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A Few New Ideas for the Immigration Policy Debate

[A Two-part Series]

Part 1

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

These lines above are from the poem, “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. They appear on the Statute of Liberty.

 

Introduction

It is an historical fact that since immigrants have tried to assimilate in America, it has always been the case that the “new kid on the block” has the most trouble or difficulty trying to fit in with their old country cultural norms, names and languages. And every group had their small number of bad “apples.” Sometimes the barrel of apples was quite large.

For example, the Five Points Gang in New York at the end of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century was a large criminal organization, primarily of Irish-Americans from the sixth ward (the five points of Manhattan, New York). There were many other immigrants that came to America, formed gangs, and proceeded to organize along race/ethnicity lines among the various neighborhoods in New York.

Considering the current state of politics under the Trump administration, the notion of a hypocritical nation jumps right out at you. The irony is so thick one could slice it with a butcher knife. Given the plurality of ethic and many Caucasian gangs at the turn of the twentieth century, the government nonetheless wasn’t proposing a policy to ban the Irish, Catholics, Polish people, Germans, Scottish, Italians, or later blacks.

Today’s target appears to fall on Hispanics and those of the Muslim faith. Every generation of Americans who were originally immigrants from other nations always fears the next generation coming to America. However, by the time all of these ethnic and religious groups become second and third generation citizens, low and behold, they tend to become fully assimilated true Americans. Why? It may sound like an overly used cliché, but America is still the land of opportunity, and the world knows it.

Values versus Facts Regarding Immigration

Ultimately, the pushes and pulls of political and social forces will determine what the Country’s immigration policy will be. This in turn will be determined by the “value judgments, preferences, biases, and conceptual framework” dictated by those in positions of power.

But please, make no mistake about it—there is no such thing as absolute truth or absolute right or wrong values. All values are relative, and our notions of what is truth are based on only one thing i.e., truth is only what we agree it is—nothing more, and nothing less.

But whether “agreed upon truth” has any relevance in the real world, there is but one arbiter who stands above the fray of conflicting value judgments and notions of truth. And that arbiter is not ultimate truth, but Facts.

Facts are a piece of information used as evidence, or as part of a report or news article. It is a thing that is indisputably the case. Consequently, Part I of this Blog will present facts on immigrants. I will do this by answering two questions a lot of citizens have about immigrants, and therefore, albeit, immigration policy.

In Part II, I will answer the question of how much crime is connected to immigration. I will also present a few ideas that are different from the original amnesty proposals, as well as the current White House administration that uses race and religion for purposes of supporting an extremist ideology that is the antithesis of American values as reflected in democratic institutions and the United States Constitution.

Of course, neither liberals nor conservatives can ever escape making value judgments. Values do underlie a lot of human choices. But values from any political identity that is devoid of knowledge, or are impervious to facts, does everyone a great disservice. We all need in our decision-making ability to be guided by facts, not ideology or religious extremism whether from the Left or the Right.

Questions about Immigrants

There are three questions I’d like to address in Part I and II: (1) should there be limits to immigration? (2) Why do we need more immigrants? And (3) Do immigrants (legal or illegal) commit a lot of crime? Part I will answer the first two questions; Part II will address the question of crime and immigration.

These are the types of questions that most citizens want answered. Facts may be able to dispel a lot of false assumptions made by a sizeable number of these citizens. The facts may dispel or contradict our notions of reality. This is why research rather than rhetoric should inform public policy on immigration.  

     Finally, in Part II I will present a new proposal for a humanitarian approach to Immigration policy, including the specifics on how to achieve such a policy. There will be a final comments section at the end of each blog.

Should there be Limits to Immigration?

The answer to this question is primarily a value judgment.  However, one way to create a logical and reasonable, data-driven way to address the issue of how many immigrants to allow in the United States each year is to consider how many taxpayer citizens die each year.

First, there is one birth every seven seconds in the United States, and one death every ten seconds. This amounts to approximately less than one percent (.77) increase in the population each year. However, newborns this year won’t be ready to pay taxes (generally speaking) for another 18 years.

We know that there are approximately 122,000,000 taxpayers who pay federal income taxes each year. Depending on how many die each year would give one an approximate estimate of how many taxpayers are needed for replacement. New immigrants might be able to pick up the slack as contributing taxpayers.

The increase in population due to the annual birth rate (which does exceed the number who die) won’t help the nation’s coffers. As said above, this is because, generally speaking, the newly born won’t be prepared to pay taxes until they are at least 18 years of age.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not obtain this type of data, i.e.,  (taxpayer deaths).

For the sake of argument, let’s assume this: There were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States in 2014. The United States had a total population of 317,000,000 in 2014. The percent of taxpayers represent about 317,000,000 / 122,000,000 or 39.2 percent of the total U.S. population.

Thirty-nine point two percent of the number of deaths would equal approximately 1,024,303 deaths of taxpayers. However, since 23.3 percent of the population is 18 or under, a fair guess would be that the actual number of taxpayer deaths in 2014 would be closer to 1,024,303 minus 238,662 or 785,641 taxpayers. All of this is based on assumptions. And, as we all know too well, “assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups.” However, for the sake of argument, let’s proceed further into this analysis.

One article I reviewed on this topic was titled, “Refugees and Asylees in the United States” dated October 28, 2015, by Jie Jong and Jeanne Batalova. They reported that:

“The United States is the world’s top resettlement country for refugees. For people living in repressive, autocratic, or conflict-embroiled nations, or those who are members of vulnerable social groups in countries around the world, migration is often a means of survival and—for those most at risk—resettlement is key to safety. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people.

By the end of 2014, as wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide continued to unfold, the number of people displaced within their country or having fled internationally reached 59.5 million, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—the highest level ever recorded.

And by mid-2014 there were more than 1.2 million asylum seekers worldwide. Ongoing war in Syria alone has led more than 4.1 million people to seek refuge in neighboring countries and beyond and to the internal displacement of more than 7.6 million Syrians.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration proposed to significantly increase the number of refugees the United States accepts each year—from 70,000 in FY 2015 to 85,000 in FY 2016 and 110,000 in FY 2017—and scale up the number of Syrian refugees admitted to at least 10,000 for the current fiscal year, which began October 1.

The United States offers humanitarian protection to refugees through two channels: refugee resettlement and asylum status. Using the most recent data available, including 2015 refugee arrival figures from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s 2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, and administrative data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, this spotlight examines characteristics of the U.S. refugee and asylees population including the admissions ceiling, top countries of origin, and U.S. states with the highest resettlement.

It also explores the number of refugees and asylees who have become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), followed by an explanation of the admissions process.”

Summary Viewpoint:

     Immigration involves more than refugees from war-torn countries and asylees. It involves people escaping poverty, poor governmental response to poverty, crime in the neighborhoods, social injustice involving organized crime such as terrorist acts committed by drug cartels in Mexico and several South American countries.

  Simply put, based on my earlier analysis, the multi-faceted problem of immigration is not keeping up the pace with the country’s annual death rate, thus putting the nation at risk for fewer and fewer tax dollars for future federal budgets.

     We should be admitting somewhere around 785, 641 immigrants each year into the United States at the same time we are creating Amnesty for those illegals who settled in the U.S. in prior years. If one accepts the notion of amnesty and replacement of taxpayers who die each year, I think a perfectly reasonable upper limit of immigration could be set at 1million per year.

Why do we need more Immigrants?

     The answer to this question is best represented in an Obama Administration White House blog posted on July, 12, 2012 by Jason Furman and Danielle Gray. The title of the Blog was, “Ten Ways Immigrants Help Build and Strengthen Our Economy.

“Summary: Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe.

America is a nation of immigrants. Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe. It is helpful to take a moment to reflect on the important contributions by the generations of immigrants who have helped us build our economy and made America the economic engine of the world.

How do immigrants strengthen the U.S. economy? Below is our top 10 list for ways immigrants help to grow the American economy.

Immigrants start businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants.

Immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and according to the latest estimates, these small businesses generated more than $776 billion annually.

Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent of the foreign born are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.

Immigrants develop cutting-edge technologies and companies.  According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started 25 percent of public U.S. companies that were backed by venture capital investors. This list includes Google, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Intel.

Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists.

Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011 foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.

Immigration boosts earnings for American workers. Increased immigration to the United States has increased the earnings of Americans with more than a high school degree.

Between 1990 and 2004, increased immigration was correlated with increasing earnings of Americans by 0.7 percent and is expected to contribute to an increase of 1.8 percent over the long-term, according to a study by the University of California at Davis.

Immigrants boost demand for local consumer goods. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that the purchasing power of Latinos and Asians, many of whom are immigrants, alone will reach $1.5 trillion and $775 billion, respectively, by 2015.

Immigration reform legislation like the DREAM Act reduces the deficit.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, under the 2010 House-passed version of the DREAM Act, the federal deficit would be reduced by $2.2 billion over ten years because of increased tax revenues.

Comprehensive immigration reform would create jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform could support and create up to 900,000 new jobs within three years of reform from the increase in consumer spending, according to the Center for American Progress.

Comprehensive immigration reform would increase America’s GDP. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that even under low investment assumptions, comprehensive immigration reform would increase GDP by between 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent from 2012 to 2016.

As a nation of immigrants, we must remember that generations of immigrants have helped lay the railroads and build our cities, pioneer new industries and fuel our Information Age, from Google to the iPhone.  As President Obama said at naturalization ceremony held at the White House last week:

The lesson of these 236 years is clear – immigration makes America stronger.  Immigration makes us more prosperous. And immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century.  And these young men and women are testaments to that. No other nation in the world welcomes so many new arrivals.

No other nation constantly renews itself, refreshes itself with the hopes, and the drive, and the optimism, and the dynamism of each new generation of immigrants. You are all one of the reasons that America is exceptional. You’re one of the reasons why, even after two centuries, America is always young, always looking to the future, always confident that our greatest days are still to come.

We celebrate the contributions of all Americans to building our nation and its economy, including the generations of immigrants.”

Comments

Ha! So there you have it. How do we make America great again assuming this slogan has any real meaning in a country that is already great? It’s to bring in more (not fewer) immigrants each year.

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Rush to Judgment in America: The Issue of Gun Control

[An Ultra-Liberal Looks at Gun Control]

 

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

 

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

 

Number of Guns and Gun Owners in USA

 

Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun (that’s about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million.

 

Facts about Gun Ownership in America

Pew Research Center Data

According to Rich Morin in an article reported in FACTANK (July 15, 2014) titled, “The Demographics and Politics of Gun-Owning Households:

“Guns among Americans with young children in their home are just as likely as other adults to have a gun in their household, according to newly released survey data from the Pew Research Center.

“Overall, about a third of all Americans with children under 18 at home have a gun in their household, including 34% of families with children younger than 12. That’s nearly identical to the share of childless adults or those with older children who have a firearm at home.

“The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).

“To examine the demographic and political characteristics of gun-owners and their households, we examined data from the new Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 3,243 adults conducted April 29-May 27, including 1,196 who said they or someone in their household owned a gun, pistol or rifle.

“All respondents in the nationally representative panel had been interviewed in an earlier Pew Research poll and agreed to participate in future surveys. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points and plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for results based only on those in gun-owning households.

Survey Results

“The survey results also would appear to challenge the conventional wisdom that gun ownership is far more prevalent in the South. According to the survey, southerners are just about as likely as those living in the Midwest or the West to have a gun at home (38% vs. 35% and 34%, respectively). The regional exception: Households in the northeastern United States, where gun prevalence is significantly lower (27%) than in other parts of the country.

“But regional differences emerge when race is factored into the analysis. White southerners are significantly more likely to have a gun at home (47%) than whites in other regions. But because blacks disproportionately live in the South and are only half as likely to have a gun at home as whites the overall rate for the southern region falls to 38%.

“Other longstanding beliefs about the makeup of America’s gun-owning households are confirmed by these data. For example, rural residents and older adults are disproportionately more likely than other Americans to have a gun at home.

“Americans with a gun at home also differ politically from other adults. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be members of a gun-owning household. Political independents also are more likely than Democrats to have a firearm in their homes.

“As a group, Americans who have a gun at home see themselves differently than do other adults. According to the survey, adults in gun-owning households are more likely to think of themselves as an “outdoor person” (68% vs. 51%) or “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%), and to say “honor and duty are my core values” (59% vs. 48%).

“About six-in-ten gun household members (64%) say they “often feel proud to be American.” In contrast, about half (51%) of other adults say this.

“Not surprisingly, members of gun-owning households are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as a “hunter, fisher or sportsman” (37% vs. 16%).

“But on other dimensions tested in the survey, those with a gun at home differ little from other Americans. For example, they are as focused on health and fitness as those in non-gun owning households and are about equally likely to say they think of themselves as compassionate or as a trusting person.”

Sociological Background for Understanding Gun Control

It is an inescapable fact of modern life that “normal” or “deviant behavior” is relative to the culture one lives in. Any sociologist worth his salt should tell you that deviance, legally defined, is as much the product of the “rule makers” as it is the “rule breakers.”

The great American sociologist Howard S. Becker in his book Outsiders (1963) wrote the following:

“All social groups make rules and attempt, at some times and under some circumstances, to enforce them. Social rules define situations and the kinds of behavior appropriate to them, specifying some actions as “right” and forbidding others as “wrong.” When a rule is enforced, the person who is supposed to have broken it may be seen as a special kind of person, one who cannot be trusted to live by the rules agreed on by the group. He is regarded as an outsider.

But the person who is thus labeled an outsider may have a different view of the matter. He may not accept the rule by which he is being judged and may not regard those who judge him as either competent or legitimately entitled to do so. Hence, a second meaning of the term emerges: the rule-breaker may feel his judges are outsiders.

The above description of Labeling Theory is the social context today that underlies the highly emotional and explosive social issue known as gun control. And “value judgments” dominate the thinnest landscape of analysis among those on both sides of this issue.

 

While governments can create rules that create classes of deviants, very few individuals realize that some motivations of governmental actions are deviant acts themselves. By that I mean governments, from a sociological point of view, sometimes encourage deviance, particularly when it concerns money and a politician’s career.

 

If you don’t think government agencies aren’t creating or encouraging deviant acts just consider what local city governments and townships have done for decades.

Intentions really matter, especially with governments. For example, parking fines on the surface are intended to deter people from parking beyond a certain amount of time. This is supposed to deter people; the reality is government agencies want parking fines and thus inadvertently or otherwise, they want to add revenues to their coffers. If everyone stopped breaking the rules, local governments would be very unhappy because of a lost revenue flow. Deviance in this sense is encouraged as they want rule breakers to break the rules.

 

What makes this type of social phenomena even more suspicious and aggravating, is not just the questioning of moral relevance, or absence thereof, but the fact that many local city governments and townships actually encourage deviant behavior. They do this by creating more metered parking spots in more and more neighborhoods or outlying areas. When this happens, the “rule makers” are creating more deviant acts, not to stem them, but to increase them for purposes of extortion and increased cash flow. Notions of “right” or “wrong” disappear when the “rule makers” by their own actions create deviance through increasing the number of “rule breakers.”

 

The Growing Gun Control Issue    

Why is there so much dissension over the issue of gun control? In a nutshell it’s all about fear of what’s happening with terrorist attacks or mass-shootings here at home or abroad. Gun control existed prior to these events but current events around violence, particularly gun violence, have made gun control such a hotly debated issue.

One of the basic facts of translating such underlying fear into public policy is that there has been a “rush” to judgment to solve a social problem; that is, strategies to curtail gun ownership have not been well thought out or researched, and there seems to be both a lack of basic logic and a great deal of hypocrisy in the process.

Let’s assume for the moment that saving lives is the motivation behind gun control. If saving human life is the ultimate goal behind the issue of gun control, there doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence that gun-free zones, restricting either types of firearms or types of ammo or reducing magazine capacity, has any relationship to preventing firearm deaths or future acts of violence involving a firearm.

Back in April, 2013 Mother Jones reported: “True security in our schools and other designated gun-free places may require more. Forbidding firearms alone clearly won’t keep violence away—not least because of how easily bad guys can get their hands on guns. Nearly 80 percent of the mass shooters we documented obtained their weapons legally.” They also went on to say that loading up gun free zones with more armed protection may not lessen the violence either.

If one assumes that 80 percent of mass shooters got their guns legally, it does suggest that tightening loopholes and requiring stringent background checks would help. However, even here it’s not foolproof since at times it’s been known that girlfriends with no prior criminal record can and do buy guns for their gang member boyfriends, and there are many other occasions where a gun is bought for another person. Plus, there may be illegal gun brokers operating in every city. In this regard law enforcement has their jobs cut out for them.

Simply restricting and being punitive toward gun ownership among honest, responsible gun owners is no answer at all. It also raises the question of civil rights violations by government agencies. It’s really not about the guns—it’s about the people who commit anti-social crimes, the mental state of mass shooters and the warped ideology of radicalized individuals. And religiously radicalized Muslims are only part of the problem as there are many right-wing fanatics who pose an equal danger to society. This includes hate groups such as the Ku Klux Clan, white nationalists and others of similar ilk.

Concealed-Carry Weapons Issue

There are many states that allow open-carry weapons. Some states allow open-carry and concealed weapons as legal in their state. Some states don’t allow open-carry but do allow concealed-carry weapons by permit.

Most states that do allow concealed-carry permits require safety training, and extensive training in use of a firearm as well as requiring an extensive background check before a permit is ever signed by the proper authorities, usually a county sheriff.

In my opinion any attempt to restrict or deny concealed-carry permits to gun owner citizens may in fact have the opposite effect of actually increasing deaths when the “bad guys” start shooting in a mall, nightclub, airport, or similar location where large groups of people amass, irrespective of whether an attack occurs in a gun free zone or not.

As we all know from news reports, police often show up after the carnage has occurred, not before. A fully vetted, background-checked citizen trained to use a handgun may find him/herself  in the right place at the right time to save lives by catching the “bad” guys unaware of their presence. This is different from arming school security guards or teachers as the media makes this known to the public as newsworthy information.

However, the “bad guys” read newspapers and watch TV like anyone else. They know in advance who is likely to be armed or not. Concealed-carry individuals aren’t so easy to identify. If these individuals, often better trained and better shots than police officers, numbered one out of every 10 or 20 citizens, it might result over time in reducing such carnage among mass shooters in shopping malls, airports, nightclubs or elsewhere. While it might be impossible to save every life, at least a good number might be saved. At the very least this is a viable hypothesis.

So far the idea of deputizing all CCW (Concealed-Carry Weapon) citizens nationwide to be a kind of “first responder” has not occurred. But this is the kind of research idea that could be tested experimentally. While SWAT teams are very important to law enforcement operations, like patrolmen they too show up after the carnage has been carried out, not before.

The idea of deputizing good citizens during a critical law enforcement emergency is not unknown in American history. However, gun control without research to support it is like putting the cart before the horse. That’s why I’ve characterized this issue of gun control as a “rush to judgment.” In addition, it appears to me that politicians want to give the appearance or impression they are doing something to address a very serious social problem. And they do this even if their ideas are untested and they violate the civil rights of millions upon millions of our citizens.

The Politics of Fear 

The irony of many social issues today is that, politically speaking, people on both sides of an issue (e.g., a strong military, terrorism, job creation, a balanced budget, and clean air and water) often agree on the goals of an issue, but nevertheless vehemently disagree regarding the method(s) to achieve such goals. Besides debate of this hot issue what underlies it is fear. And, because of this fear the anti-gun supporters are using it to play politics with a fearful public. While some of this fear is irrational, some of it is not.

One serious factor that has contributed more than any other to the gun control debate, has been the occurrences of savage attacks by either lone-wolf assailants in the United States who are troubled psychologically, impaired individuals (such as the offender at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Umpqua College in Oregon, or Dallas, Texas) or individuals inspired by radical jihadist ideology (like the type of offender at Fort Hood (13 dead and many injured), San Bernardino, California (14 dead and many injured), and Orlando, Florida in July, 2016 where (49 people were murdered and scores injured).

By implication, there is also fear creation among Americans even when there have been large numbers of Jihadist attacks overseas, The attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, and Iraq have all contributed to the fear people here in the United States feel. Because of such fear, rational or otherwise, there seems to be a demand that action be taken immediately to stop or prevent such mass-shootings and terrorist attacks.

Gun laws, of course, vary from state to state. At the present time California is one of the most restrictive states for guns and ammunition. The rules however are selective. They generally apply to citizen gun owners (or the general public) but not the police or military personnel. People on the right complain that the Second Amendment is under attack; those people on the left say it is the fault of having too many guns in society and not enough is being done. People line up on either side of this issue claiming the other side is either incompetent or illegitimate. Because of this, many issues surrounding the 2nd Amendment end up in our court system whether it is within federal, state or local jurisdictions.

How to Assess the Gun Control Issue

There are really two ways to think about gun control: (1) the legal system which attempts to make decisions on the basis of case law and/or statutory law, and (2) a more sociological type of analysis that makes use of logic, reason, data, analysis, and finally, objective conclusions. Both ways of looking at gun control, it must be recognized, may be fraught with politics and the rendering of non-objective criteria based on individual and collective “value judgments.”

 

In addition, even correlational data can be misleading. What is needed is experimental research, where correlational data is still useful in at least generating hypotheses to be evaluated using the gold standard—experimental research.

But there is a caveat even with respect to the quality of experimental research (in fact, all scientific research or methods employed). Many lay people think that ultimately scientific explanations determine truth. However, whether one is discussing meta-physical or religious claims of truth, or the best science has to offer as an explanation, there is no absolute truth. What is truth? Truth is what we agree it is at a particular point in time, nothing more and nothing less. And often what is perceived as truth is masked by underlying assumptions, beliefs and biased “value judgments” long before scientific explanations are even offered.

 

Nevertheless, scientific research is still the closest one is ever going to get to a kind of “social truth” where data, reason and logic prevail. Consensus that fosters unanimity of agreement is the closest one will ever get to the imperfect notion of “truth”. I say this only to make one aware and cautious when taking a political stand on this or any other issue.

 

Let’s take the two approaches in order. Let’s start with the major legal decisions of the United States Supreme Court related to the 2nd Amendment. This will be followed by a more sociological way of looking at the issue of gun control.

 

Major Supreme Court Decisions

 

The following material was obtained online from The Law Library of Congress.

 

     “On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. It also ruled that two District of Columbia provisions, one that banned handguns and one that required lawful firearms in the home to be disassembled or trigger-locked, violate this right.

 

“The Second Amendment, one of the ten amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights, states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The meaning of this sentence is not self-evident, and has given rise to much commentary but relatively few Supreme Court decisions.

 

“In cases in the 19th Century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment does not bar state regulation of firearms.  For example, in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 (1875), the Court stated that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government,” and in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886), the Court reiterated that the Second Amendment “is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the States.” Although most of the rights in the Bill of Rights have been selectively incorporated (PDF) into the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and thus cannot be impaired by state governments, the Second Amendment has never been so incorporated. [UPDATE: In McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court addressed this issue, ruling that Second Amendment rights are applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment.]

 

“Prior to District of Columbia v. Heller, the last time the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment was in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).  In that case, Jack Miller and one other person were indicted for transporting an unregistered sawed-off shotgun across state lines in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934.  Miller argued, among other things, that the section of the National Firearms Act regulating the interstate transport of certain firearms violated the Second Amendment.

 

“The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas agreed with Miller.  The case was appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which reversed the district court.  The Supreme Court read the Second Amendment in conjunction with the Militia Clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, and concluded that “[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a [sawed-off] shotgun . . . has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument, 307 U.S. at 178.”  The Court concluded that the district court erred in holding the National Firearms Act provisions unconstitutional.

 

“Since United States v. Miller, most federal court decisions considering the Second Amendment have interpreted it as preserving the authority of the states to maintain militias.  Several of the post-Miller lower court opinions are discussed here (PDF).

 

“The Supreme Court’s consideration of the Second Amendment this term was precipitated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision in Parker v. District of Columbia (PDF), 478 F.3d 370 (D.C. App. 2007).  There, the D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that three District of Columbia laws regarding private gun ownership – namely a ban on new registration of handguns, a ban on carrying a pistol without a license, and a requirement that firearms be kept unloaded and locked – violated the Second Amendment.  The court held that individuals have a right under the Second Amendment to own handguns for their own personal protection and keep them in their home without placing a trigger lock on them.  This is the first decision since the Supreme Court decided Miller in which a federal court overturned a law regulating firearms based on the Second Amendment.

 

“Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision not to rehear the case, the District of Columbia Government filed a petition for certiorari for review of the decision by the Supreme Court.  The documents before the Supreme Court at the petition for certiorari stage have been collected here.

 

“On November 20, 2007, the Supreme Court granted (PDF) the petition for certiorari.  The Court framed the question for which it granted review as follows: “Whether the following provisions – D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 – violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

 

“The briefs on the merits by the District of Columbia and respondent Dick Anthony Heller, as well as amicus briefs by some 67 “friends of the court,” have been collected here.

 

“In its June 26 decision, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the D.C. provisions banning handguns and requiring firearms in the home disassembled or locked violate this right.

 

“In the majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court first conducted a textual analysis of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Court found that this language guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons. The Court examined historical evidence that it found consistent with its textual analysis. The Court then considered the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause, “[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and determined that while this clause announces a purpose for recognizing an individual right to keep and bear arms, it does not limit the operative clause. The Court found that analogous contemporaneous provisions in state constitutions, the Second Amendment’s drafting history, and post-ratification interpretations were consistent with its interpretation of the amendment. The Court asserted that its prior precedent was not inconsistent with its interpretation.

 

“The Court stated that the right to keep and bear arms is subject to regulation, such as concealed weapons prohibitions, limits on the rights of felons and the mentally ill, laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in certain locations, laws imposing conditions on commercial sales, and prohibitions on the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. It stated that this was not an exhaustive list of the regulatory measures that would be presumptively permissible under the Second Amendment.

 

“The Court found that the D.C. ban on handgun possession violated the Second Amendment right because it prohibited an entire class of arms favored for the lawful purpose of self-defense in the home. It similarly found that the requirement that lawful firearms be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock made it impossible for citizens to effectively use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense, and therefore violated the Second Amendment right.      The Court said it was unnecessary to address the constitutionality of the D.C. licensing requirement.

 

“Four Justices dissented, each of which signed both of two dissenting opinions. One, by Justice Stevens, examined historical evidence on the meaning of the Second Amendment to conclude that the amendment protects militia-related interests. A second dissenting opinion, by Justice Breyer, stated that even if the Second Amendment protects a separate interest in individual self-defense, the District of Columbia provisions at issue are permissible forms of regulation.

 

“The outcome of D.C. v. Heller left some issues unanswered, including whether the Second Amendment restricts state regulation of firearms, and the standard for evaluating the constitutionality of other laws and regulations that impact the Second Amendment right.

 

“These issues will be the subject of future litigation. [Update: As noted above, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller applies not only to the Federal Government, but also to states and municipalities.”

 

Despite all the court cases of relevance, legislators in California are leading the nation in the “rush to judgment” approach to solving a social problem.

 

California Gun-Related Laws Going into Effect in 2017

 

Despite the violation of the civil rights of millions of gun owners in California several laws are about to go into effect on January 1, 2017. They include:

 

GUN BILLS SIGNED BY GOV. JERRY BROWN

 

There is Senate Bill 1446, authored by Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which bans possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

 

SB 1235, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, requires background checks for purchase of ammunition.

SB 880, authored by Senator Isidore Hall, D-South Bay, and Assembly Bill 1135, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, ban “bullet buttons,” which make it easy to detach magazines.

 

There is also Assembly Bill 1511, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, which limits the lending of guns to family members who have not completed background checks.

 

Another bill is AB 1695, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which blocks people who have knowingly make false reports on the loss or theft of a gun from possessing firearms for 10 years.

 

AB 857, authored by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, requires anyone who manufactures or assembles a homemade firearm to get a serial number from the state Department of Justice.

 

A Sociological Look at Gun Control

 

Gun Control: Logic, Reason, and Hypocrisy

In this section I will describe why I think there is a serious lack of logic and reason in today’s gun control issue. When looking at the supposed goal of limiting guns as a solution to savings lives, I find a tremendous amount of hypocrisy by both the general public and legislators (federal, state and local).

If one believes the goal of the anti-gun lobby is saving lives—think again! Hypocrisy, unfortunately, plays a major role in their thinking. What is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is defined as the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.  

I think controlling guns is really a smokescreen for failure to do what is really needed by society i.e., the ability to create programs and strategies to alter or deter the anti-social behavior of groups and individuals. And this failure applies regardless of whether the subject matter is general crime, mass-shootings or terrorist attacks.

Recently, it was reported in the national news that, “Chicago is on pace to see as many as 650 or 700 murders this year, more than any year since the early 2000s, and likely more than the total murders in New York and Los Angeles combined.”

This is very telling because, you see, the City of Chicago has some of the most draconian restrictions on guns. Restricting law-abiding citizens from having guns won’t get the job done. Back on May 29, 2013 an article appeared in the New York Times titled, “Strict Gun Laws in Chicago Can’t Stem Fatal Shots.” According to the article,

“CHICAGO — not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.

And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.

To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. ‘The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,’ said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. To gun control proponents, the struggles here underscore the opposite — a need for strict, uniform national gun laws to eliminate the current patchwork of state and local rules that allow guns to flow into this city from outside.

Young black men in the inner city of Chicago are disproportionately more likely to commit acts of gun violence, but also disproportionately more likely to be the victim of gun violence. So despite highly restrictive gun laws, violence is at a peak this year in Chicago. It would seem logical to me that there needs to be in Chicago a program to tackle guns that are illegally obtained from those guns that are legal for self-defense.”

Self-defense is an absolute legal right under the 2nd Amendment as described earlier in this blog. There is no need to unwittingly deny guns to law-abiding individuals.

Hypocrisy about Guns

Disarming gun owners and making unwarranted attacks on the Second Amendment is not a viable solution to ending violence.  After all, guns don’t kill people with intent, people kill people with intent. Intent is motivation by individuals to commit acts. Guns are simply pieces of metal cleverly crafted; pieces of metal don’t possess intent. People do.

Logic would suggest that butcher knives we all have in our homes are a much greater threat to children or adults than an empty handgun that is locked away in a gun safe with a safety on and secured with a trigger lock, and ammunition for that gun that is stored elsewhere in a locked safe. This is what responsible gun owners do.  How many people who own butcher knives or other knives lock them away in a safe?

When our children were growing up, how many of us put locks on our medicine cabinets or made sure when our kids visited other homes with young children, that those homes did not have guns, knives, or medicine cabinets that were unlocked? When one looks at states with highly restrictive guns laws, why is it these states have higher overall violent crime rates (like California) than those states (like Arizona) that have more liberal policies on guns such as open- carry gun laws, concealed-carry permits, and no restrictions on types of guns or types of ammunition?

Could it be that states that are more liberal with respect to gun ownership make potential offenders think twice about committing a crime? Maybe the answer is yes, or maybe the answer is no. We do not know this definitively one way or the other, but it does suggest the possibility that states with highly restrictive gun laws are neither preventing terrorist acts, mass shootings nor crime in general.

Another aspect of government hypocrisy on gun control is the selectivity or target of these laws. If saving lives is the real goal of gun control, then why does society or government politicians take a “blind eye” to the fact that every year cops in America kill or murder more people than all the country’s terrorists or mass-shooters combined? Why not take away all guns from police officers around the country? But, as we all know, then only the “bad” guys would have guns, putting police officers at greater risk. Society does not want to put the police at undue risk, and neither do I. Police have a right to protect themselves from attack.

But if society wants to give protection to police officers by allowing them to carry weapons in public, why then are legislators in particular so unwilling to deny the average citizen the same right to carry weapons for their own protection as police do? Why are they so unwilling to help protect the average citizen and why are they so willing to violate the civil rights of gun owners?

Hypocrisy runs rampant and logic is nowhere to be found if saving lives should be the “real” goal underlying gun control.

In 2014, 32,675 individuals were fatalities in car crashes and accidents. Millions of people have been killed in car crashes and accidents since 1900. Because of this self-created misery, has taking away the automobile ever been proposed by a legislative body? The answer is no—saving lives has always taken a back seat to economic interests and greedy politicians (remember—we have the best politicians money can buy).

With respect to deaths involving drunk drivers consider these facts:

  • In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

There are some programs out there to help the problem of drinking among drunk drivers. But regardless of the harm they do, no one has suggested a new prohibition of alcohol or eliminating cars altogether. Driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal but no one wants to consider totally outlawing marijuana anymore.

In the same vein, consider how many people die every year due to smoking. “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Yet, no legislative body ever recommends doing away with the cause—cigarettes and other tobacco products. It’s the same reason, economics and greedy politicians. The phoniness and hypocrisy of political action is all too clear.

If millions upon millions of gun owners don’t comply with regulations to control guns, a new class of “deviant rule breakers” is created because of the implementation of arbitrary, capricious rules having no relationship at all to protecting the public from harm. Obviously, it isn’t based on wanting to save lives. It seems more to be based on the appearance of “solving a social problem.”  An underlying reason is that government can raise their revenues and rip-off gun owners by charging them “administrative” fees.

In California it is called D.R.O.S. (Dealer’s Record of Sale) in which a $25 fee is charged every time anyone buys a gun. When SB 1235 goes into effect in January, 2017 background checks will be required every time someone buys ammunition. And the state will require a fee to be paid by the gun owner as he (she) makes that purchase. Can anyone really blame the NRA when they get involved in politics? They are simply trying to protect the rights of gun owners under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Granted, the United States Supreme Court does give the right to the states to regulate firearms. However, it went too far in the District of Columbia case, and was reversed in 2010 in the City of Chicago that had restricted all guns in the city.

Final Comments

While people often give lip service to their support for the U.S. Constitution in general, there is nonetheless no such unequivocal support when it comes to specifics. Everyone wants their own interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to apply to any issue. People want the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to follow their own judgmental notions, beliefs and values. And when it doesn’t people want to cry foul.

I am old enough to remember how contentious the battle was for civil rights across the nation during the 1950s and 60s. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was one of the most important statutory pieces of legislation since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan 1, 1863 (and later outlawed slavery by Congress on Jan 31, 1865).

Now in the 21st Century we have another civil rights issue affecting millions of Americans. That issue is about the civil rights issue over gun control. Such disagreement on specifics tends to create lack of unanimity on gun control. On the legal side, it is clear that a balancing act is occurring between the rights of the individual to bear arms and the rights of the states to regulate firearms.

 

An earlier blog of mine outlined the various approaches to legal analysis that Supreme Court justices go through in reaching a decision. I refer you back to that blog titled, “Principled Constitutionalism and Gay Marriage,” July 2015.

Whether one looks at the 1400 year history of the Muslim faith or growing up in a ghetto, barrio, or impoverished white communities, one thing they all have in common. It is the systemic problems of poverty; lack of a good education and resources, and often being early in life the victims of discrimination. Where discrimination was concerned, it was the repression of followers of Islam by their own Sharia Law, and in the United States it was the repression of citizens by police violence and racial discrimination, and a larger society that remained in a perpetual state of denial. Love your neighbor is a great concept (my value judgment), but the reality is few people want to expend the effort to really help others.

The lone mass shooter is a different problem all together. Mental health services may help lots of people but predicting who is going to commit mass murder is near-impossible to predict. And, in this country one doesn’t lock up people just because they score high on some form suggesting an anti-social personality.

One cannot charge or arrest someone for what they might do; they can only be charged or arrested for what they actually do. This results in one of the most difficult of societal problems.  And, once again, it is about making value judgments on a major level. That is, is it more important to protect the liberty of all our citizens, or is it more important to lock up sizeable numbers of citizens based on what they might do?  This type of decision defies an easy solution. Why? Two major reasons: (1) It violates the very U.S. Constitution we all value as the guiding light for a free country, and (2) there is no test that can be devised that won’t result in both false-positives and false-negatives. Society would lock up some people who have no real interest in committing a serious crime and such a test will miss people who really would commit a crime. This applies not only to paper and pencil tests, but also to psychologist or psychiatric opinion about clients or patients. No test or opinion is ever foolproof.        

     At a macro-level efforts to effectively deal with systemic problems like poverty, poor education, lack of resources, and lack of opportunity in the inner cities, and police racism and violence, have all gone by the wayside. Why? Because systemic causes of violence described above would take a real commitment of resources to solve or reverse them. People may argue this point but my suspicion as a social scientist is that with population growth everywhere, no government on earth has anywhere near the resources to deal effectively with such social problems, much less eliminate them.

We all want to solve social and economic problems, so it’s very hard to accept a “bitter pill” that the most caring country in the world—the United States—is unable to solve all systemic causes of violence. The bottom line: some social problems may be simply beyond our reach. It’s tough to accept, but it may be reality. If my assumption is wrong, then governments still have a moral and ethical responsibility to save lives and to tackle these problems with some insight.

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The Upcoming 2016 Presidential Election:

Implications from the Primary Season Just Finished

The United States has just gone through the primary season for both Republicans and Democrats. One can think of the approximately 29,408,240 votes cast for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as an extremely large sample of voters who have already made their choice between the two candidates. More votes were cast of course in the primaries and  caucuses but favored other non-successful candidates from both parties. But Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are now the presumptive candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties.

While the turnout in the general election will hopefully be larger (in excess of 130 million votes), the primaries and caucuses data are showing a definite trend or pattern as to who might be elected in 2016.

Underlying this pattern is the knowledge that favorability ratings of the candidates have already been accounted for or factored in among those who voted during the primary season. Unless something unusual happens between now and November, choices already made during primary season may mimic what is ahead in the general election. While many independents may or may not have voted during the primaries, historically independents in general elections tend to split the vote, some leaning left and some leaning right.

One must remember that the Electoral College determines who wins. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win a presidential election.

Reality Check

The number of Electoral College votes is tied to the size of the population in each respective state based on the last census. But the awarding of Electoral College votes are themselves based on who wins the most votes by registered voters in a particular state. The candidate who will win this election in 2016 will win in the larger states like California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Florida. Why? Because these states have larger populations and thus a larger number of Electoral College votes.

The candidate who will win in 2016 will probably win a fair number of mid-range sized states in the South. Less populated more rural states will have little effect on the presidential outcome in 2016.

Obviously, the candidate who pulls more popular votes than his rival in each state will likely win that state in the general election. Some shifting of the vote may occur (changing party loyalties, changing candidate loyalties, higher or lower favorability ratings between now and November) but, by and large, voters are not likely to change their vote once their initial gut-level reaction takes place be it early or late in the election cycle. But since people seldom change their core values after the age of 25, it is unlikely that voter assessment of individual candidate favorability will likely change either.

Voter Composition

In the United States in 2016 there are 201.5 million people who are 18 years of age or older. I will tell you up front that there will be 169 million registered voters in the upcoming election. Of these approximately 55 million are Republicans likely to vote in the general election; however, there are 72 million Democrats likely to cast a vote in the general election. There are also approximately 42 million independents. However, not all registered voters in fact vote, i.e., some stay home on election day.

The shortfall of the Republican Party to the Democratic Party is 17,000,000 voters. What this means on average is that each state will have approximately 340,000 more Democrats than Republicans in the voting tally on Election Day.

However, candidate votes will vary by state giving rise to the previous political discussion about “red states” versus “dark blue states.” The pink, light blue states lean more toward one party than another. However, such leaning states are basically irrelevant as a predictor since primary voters in all leaning states already casted their votes for who they wanted.

What this means is that a republican candidate will succeed in some states while a democratic candidate will win in other states. This is why Electoral College votes are so important to analyze on a state-by-state basis. Taking into consideration the above information I will analyze the data as presented below.

The Approach to Analysis

I have compiled all of the raw votes in the primary/caucus states and compared the votes given to two candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I will then tally the votes and determine who had the most during the primary season overall, and by state.

I will then tally the number of Electoral College votes by state, and by a particular candidate, to determine who will win the 2016 election. Despite how close the popular vote is, the Electoral College votes may be quite different from the popular vote based on differing populations from state to state.

For example, during the 2012 presidential election President Obama garnered 51.1percent (65,915,796) of the vote compared to Romney’s 47.2 percent (60,933,500).

However, based on which state each candidate won, President Obama ended up with 332 Electoral College votes compared to Romney’s 206. President Obama received 61.1 percent more Electoral College votes than Romney but received just a 3.9 percent greater number of popular votes. Why? President Obama captured the bigger populated states. This pattern just described is the most likely scenario for the 2016 election (candidate who takes the larger states wins). You have to know that, in general, conservatives tend to capture small rural states while liberals/progressives tend to capture large liberal/progressive states. The real influence in an election is demographic; meaning population size by state really matters.

The Results

                                          Hillary Clinton                                 Donald Trump

                   Raw Votes/Elec Coll Votes   

Alabama

 309,928  0 371,735

 9

Alaska

 2,146  0  7,346

 3

Arizona

 235,697  0  249,916

 11

Arkansas

 144,580  6  133,144  0
California  1,940,580  55  1,174,829

 0

Colorado

 2,784 9  1,542  0
Connecticut  170,085 7  123,367

 0

Delaware

 55,956 3  42,472

 0

Florida

1,097,400  29  1,077,221  0

Georgia

 543,008  16  501,707  0

Hawaii

 10, 125  4  5,677

 0

Idaho  5,065  0  62,425

 4

Illinois  1,017,066  20  556,916

0

Indiana

 303,202 0 590,460

 11

Iowa  *

 *

   

Kansas

 12,593  0  17,062

6

Kentucky 212, 550  8  82,493

0

Louisiana

221,615  8  124,518 0
Maine  1,232  0  6,070

4

Maryland

533,247  11 236,623 0
Massachusetts  603,784  11  311,313

0

Michigan

 576,795  16  483,751 0
Minnesota 118,135  10  24,684

0

Mississippi

 182,447  0 192,755  6
Missouri  310,602  0 382,093

10

Montana

55,194  0 114,056 3
Nebraska 14,340  0  121,287

 5

Nevada

 6,309  0  34,531  6
New Hampshire  95,252  0  100,406

 4

New Jersey

 554,237  14  356,697  0
New Mexico  110,451    5 73,530

 0

New York

 1,054,083  29  524, 932  0
North Carolina 616,383  15 458,151

 0

North Dakota

 **  **    
Ohio 679,266  0  727,585

 18

Oklahoma

 174,054  7  130,141  0
Oregon  251,739  7  240, 804

 0

Pennsylvania

 918, 689  20  892, 702 0
Rhode Island  54,887 4 40, 020

0

South Carolina

271, 514 9 239, 851 0
South Dakota 27,046  0  44,866

 3

Tennessee

245,304  0  332,702  11
Texas  935, 080  38 757,618

 0

Utah

 15,666  0  24,864  6
Vermont 18,335  0  19,968

3

Virginia

 503,358  13 355,960  0
Washington 380,760 0 403,603

 12

West Virginia

85,351  0 156,245 5
Wisconsin  432, 767 10 386,370

 0

Wyoming

 124  3  70  0
District of Columbia***  *** ***  

 

Grand Totals  

387

 

140

*Not a valid comparison—Iowa Caucus process different for Republicans and Democrats

** Not a valid comparison—North Dakota Republicans don’t hold a presidential primary vote. All 28 delegates remain unpledged.

***Not a valid comparison. Republicans had a convention within one precinct voting (like a caucus) while the democrats had 143 precincts voting, (more like a primary).

 

Results of the Analysis

Based on the popular vote Hillary Clinton received 16,110,811 votes; by comparison, Donald Trump received 13,297,429 primary and caucus votes. Among these two presumptive nominees some 29.4 million votes were cast. It must be remembered that her actual votes were less than they might have been expected because she was running against a very strong competitor—Bernie Sanders. He took a very high percentage of the popular vote beating her, in fact, in 23 states (she won 27 states). He was very close in the vote count even in states she won.

Donald Trump, by comparison, ran much stronger all the time than his competitors, sometimes with percentages of the vote that were more than all of the others combined. Yet, despite this difference in who her competitor was, Hillary Clinton still managed to receive nearly 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump in the primaries and caucuses. People who voted during the primary season of 2016 already factored in the favorability/un-favorability of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Many different factors go into an individual’s choice for president, but common sense should indicate likeability is crucial.

Importance of Electoral College

This election is shaping up to be what one might consider to be an Electoral College slaughter. I evaluated how each presumptive nominee did in the primaries and caucuses against one another as to whom will likely win in each of the 50 states. What will be important more than anything else are the Electoral College votes for each candidate who wins a particular state. I added up all the Electoral College votes in states where Hillary won in the primary over Donald Trump, and vice-versa. As we know it takes 270 Electoral College votes to win a presidential election.

People might suspect that what happens in a general election is fundamentally different from what takes place in the primaries. However, the primaries do more than simply help one candidate over another to win their party’s nomination. The voters in each party, in whatever state they reside, are expressing their personal opinion and assessment of who they like. Such mindsets and preferences seldom change from primary to the general election. What does change following the primaries are the number of voters who didn’t vote earlier. One cannot know for sure but only estimate the number of people, who will show up at the polls in November, 2016. Anecdotal evidence from the media suggests that the voter turnout this presidential year will be “huge.”

Two things remain in this Blog to answer: (1) who will win the election and (2) why.

Who Will Win the Election and Why

Based on my analysis of the 2016 primary and caucus voting just concluded I predict and estimate that Hillary Clinton will become President of the United States on Election Day November 8, 2016. The Electoral College shoot-out will result in 387 Electoral College votes for Hillary Clinton and 140 for Donald Trump.

If Hillary Clinton takes a lot of Bernie Sanders voters, I suspect she will, contrary to the primary data, take Ohio’s 18 Electoral College votes making her total on November 8 some 405 Electoral College votes. Correspondingly, Donald Trump will end the night downtrodden with only 122 Electoral College votes. Hillary Clinton will emerge on Election night as an exhilarated winner (not a loser with low energy). And, indeed, her win will be, as you guessed it—“Huge.”

There is irony here. Remember, Donald Trump engaged in Ad Hominin arguments criticizing Mitt Romney as a loser because he lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama. But if Donald Trump only garners 122 Electoral College votes on Election Day 2016, Donald Trump will be an even bigger loser. Why?  Because Mitt Romney, although losing the 2012 election, will still surpass Donald Trump by having 69% more Electoral College votes than Donald Trump is likely to have in 2016.

Final Comments

Let’s not forget the Trump voter. Their anger is real and partially justified. The Republican Party has had a facelift since the 2010 mid-term elections. That election ushered in the era of ultra-conservative Tea Party members.

In the 2014 mid-term election the Congress acquired republican majorities in both houses. The Republicans at that point became the “Do Nothing” party leaving all their own voters out in the cold to fend for own interests. Such republican voters took note of this and chose in 2016 to support an outsider like Donald Trump.  The republican politicians both before and after the 2014 mid-term elections engaged in a never-ending uncompromising, recalcitrant posture of congressional gridlock. By voting for Tea Party members back then, Trump supporters had basically shot themselves in the foot by creating the political environment in the first place which caused them to be “screwed” in the end. They created their own misfortunes in the first place by voting Tea Party members back into Congress in 2014. This was, of course, incredibly naïve.

If Trump supporters want to have their economic needs looked after in the future, they need to vote for non-Tea Party congressional and senatorial candidates during election, 2016.

Given a recent poll showing Donald Trump is beginning to lose support from white-male voters, it is not outside the realm of possibility that political history will be made in 2016. That is, zero states will go republican this fall.

 

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The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominantly Christian Country

[A five-part series]

Part IV

 

Introduction

I will present information and data on the Muslim Brotherhood. The basic question of Part IV of this five-part series is as follows: Has the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated America with the goal of transforming the United States into an Islamic State? The answer, of course, is yes.

Earlier in this series I described the reality of the extant concept of “Civilization Jihad,” or how Radical Islam is subverting America without guns or bombs. If one is really interested in learning this in more detail, I’d like to direct your attention to four very good sources: (1) a DVD from 2012 titled, Jihad in America: The Grand Deception, and three books, (2) Stealth Jihad—How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs by Robert Spencer, (3) United States of Jihad by Peter Bergen and (4) While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer.

What follows is: (1) a brief history of the Muslim Brotherhood, (2) description of the revealed plot to Islamitize America, and finally (3) what individuals and organizations are involved.

Brief History of the Muslim Brotherhood

The Society of the Muslim Brothers, also known as the Muslim Brotherhood, is a transnational Sunni Islamist organization founded in Egypt by Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928. The organization gained supporters throughout the Arab world and influenced other Islamist groups such as Hamas with its “model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work,” and in 2012 sponsored the elected political party in Egypt after the January Revolution in 2011.

 

However, it suffered from periodic government crackdowns for alleged terrorist activities, and as of 2015 is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

 

The Plot to Destroy America

 

The following material came from an online un-authored document of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, titled “FBI: Muslim Brotherhood deeply rooted inside U.S.” dated 2/21/2011.

 

According to the report, back in 2011 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that the Muslim Brotherhood is deeply rooted inside the U.S. Accordingly, the House and Senate intelligence committees said they were probing the domestic security threat posed by the radical Muslim Brotherhood and, specifically, whether the Muslim Brotherhood operatives have penetrated the U.S. government.

As it turns out, federal court documents reveal that virtually every major Muslim organization in America is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. Such documents also showed that its U.S. network has raised millions of dollars for Hamas, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. According to veteran FBI agent John Guandolo, “The most important Islamic organizations in the United States are all controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. Department of Justice has identified no fewer than 61 Muslim Brotherhood figures and entities operating within the U.S.”

 

How the Plot Became Known

 

“In August of 2004, an alert Maryland Transportation Authority Police officer observed a woman wearing traditional Islamic garb videotaping the support structures of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and conducted a traffic stop. The driver was Ismail Elbarasse, and he was detained on an outstanding material witness warrant issued in Chicago in connection with fundraising for Hamas.

 

The FBI’s Washington Field Office subsequently executed a search warrant on Elbarasse’s residence in Annandale, Virginia. In the basement of his home a hidden sub-basement was found; it revealed over 80 banker boxes of the archives of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America.

 

One of the most important of these documents made public to date was entered into evidence during the Holy Land Foundation trial. It amounted to the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategic plan for the United States and was entitled, “An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” The Explanatory Memorandum was written in 1991 by a member of the Board of Directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America and a senior Hamas leader named, Mohammed Akram.

 

It had been approved by the Brotherhood’s Shura Council and Organizational Conference and was meant for internal review by the Brothers’ leadership in Egypt. It was certainly not intended for public consumption, particularly in the targeted society: the United States. For these reasons, the memo constitutes a Rosetta stone for the Muslim Brotherhood, its goals, modus operandi and infrastructure in America.

 

It is arguably the single most important vehicle for understanding a secretive organization and should, therefore, be considered required reading for policy-makers and the public, alike.”

 

What Individuals and Organizations are involved in the Plot?

 

According to the FBI report, “American Muslim activists deny the Muslim Brotherhood operates inside America. Even Muslims who have attached themselves to the Republican Party have pooh-poohed the internal threat.” Many of the following organizations regularly use Islamophobia as their defense against any accusations that the following organizations are a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the FBI has overwhelming evidence of the underlying conspiracy to Islamize America.

 

Who Are These Organizations?

 

They include The Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, the umbrella

Organization for most of the Muslim Groups in the U.S. and Canada; The North American Islamic Trust, or NAIT, which holds title to most of the major mosques in America, including one in the Washington suburbs attended by both the Fort Hood terrorist and some of the 911 hijackers; and The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the largest Muslim-rights group in the country. All are funded by wealthy patrons in Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations, according to sensitive embassy cables, tax records, bank wire transfers and other documents cited in the book, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” an expose of the Muslim Brotherhood and its American Front groups.

 

“Their names were entered into evidence as ‘co-conspirators during a federal trial which ended in 2008 with the convictions of several Muslim Brotherhood leaders on terrorism charges. The ‘list of un-indicted co-conspirators’ implicated these otherwise mainstream Muslim groups in a criminal scheme to funnel millions of dollars to Palestinian terrorists under the guise of charity.”

 

     According to the report by the FBI, “One secret document found during the raid of Elbarasse’s home laid bare the Brotherhood’s ambitious plans for a U.S. takeover that would replace the U.S. Constitution with Shariah, or Islamic law.”

 

In the document in 1991 by another agent, Mohammed Akram Adlouni, the strategy paper described the group’s long-term goal of ‘sabotaging’ the U.S. system. It’s a blueprint for a stealth ‘grand jihad.’ Under the heading, ‘The role of the Muslim brother in North America,’ it states:

 

   “The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within, and ‘sabotaging its miserable house by the hands of the believer’s, so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

 

     Besides the few organizational fronts mentioned above there are many more Muslim organizations in America that are subversive and criminally dangerous. In addition to ISNA, NAIT and CAIR’s forerunner IAP, they include:

 

The International Institute for Islamic Thought, or IIIT, the largest Islamic think tank in America; The Muslims Students Association, or MSA, which actively recruits on college campuses across the country; The Figh Council of North America, which renders religious rulings, or fatwahs, based on Islamic law for Muslim Americans; and, The Islamic Circle of North America, or ICNA, which recently merged with the Muslim American Society, or MAS, another Brotherhood front organization based in the Washington suburbs. For years, politicians and journalists have described these organizations as “moderate.” Investigators now warn they are U.S. franchises of the radical Brotherhood, established with a markedly different purpose than what they publicly claim.

 

 

Overview of Organizations to be prosecuted

 

The most notorious Muslim Brotherhood front group in the United States was the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation (HLF), formerly the largest Muslim charity in the country. In late 2008, HLF and its officers were convicted of financing Hamas and sentenced for up to 65 years in prison.

The alphabet soup below is a partial list of the Muslim Brotherhood front organizations and affiliates in the United States. The major ones are in bold-face. Those on the prosecutor’s list of unindicted co-conspirators of HLF to be prosecuted next are highlighted in yellow:

  • American Muslim Council (AMC) •  American Trust Publications (ATP) •  Americans for Constructive Engagement (AMCE) •  Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE) •  Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS) •  Audio-Visual Center (AVC) •  Baitul Mal, Inc. (BMI) •  Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) •  Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) •  Foundation for International Development (FID) •  Holy Land Foundation (HLF) •  Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) •  Islamic Book Service (IBS) •  Islamic Centers Division (ICD) •  Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) •  Islamic Education Department (IED) •  Islamic Free Market Institute (IFMI) •  Islamic Housing Cooperative (IHC) •  Islamic Information Center (IIC). •  Islamic Medical Association (IMA) •  Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) •  Islamic Teaching Center (ITC) •  International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) •  Malaysian Islamic Study Group (MISG) •  Mercy International Association (MIA) •  Muslim American Society (MAS) •  Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) •  Muslim Businessmen Association (MBA) •  Muslim Communities Association (MCA) •  Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) •  Muslim Student Association (MSA) •  Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) •  North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) •  Occupied Land Fund (OLF) •  United Association for Studies and Research (UASR)

 

 

Other Documented Material

 

 

Here are some comments on the threats posed by the Muslim Brotherhood overseas as well as here in America.

 

In the book, While Europe Slept—How Radical Islam is destroying the West from Within, Bruce Bawer wrote that, “The struggle for the soul of Europe today is every bit as dire and consequential as it was in the 1930s. Then, in Weimar, Germany, the center did not hold, and the light of civilization nearly went out. Today the Continent has entered yet another ‘Weimar moment.’ Will Europeans rise to the challenge posed by Radical Islam, or will they cave in once again to the extremists?”

 

As it turns out, “As an American living in Europe since 1998, Bruce Bawer has seen this problem up close. Across the Continent—in Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and Stockholm—he encountered large, rapidly expanding Muslim enclaves in which women were oppressed and abused, homosexuals persecuted and killed, ‘infidels’ threatened and vilified, Jews demonized and attacked, barbaric traditions (such as stoning and forced marriage) widely practiced, and freedom of speech and religion firmly repudiated.”

 

Another author, Peter Bergen, in his book (United States of Jihad—Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists) took a panoramic look at “homegrown Islamist Terrorism from 9/11 to the present.” Among the perpetrators are Anwar al-Awlaki, the New-Mexico born radical cleric who became the first American citizen killed by a CIA drone and who mentored the Charlie Hebdo shooters; Samir Khan, whose Inspire website has rallied terrorists around the world, including the Tsarnaev brothers; and Omar Hammami, an Alabama native and hip-hop fan who became a fixture in al-Shabaab’s propaganda videos until fatally displeasing his superiors.”

 

The final set of comments I want to report on comes from Robert Spencer who wrote the book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs.

 

He says, “In this book, I offer evidence for the proposition that terror attacks involving bombings and shootings are not the sum total of terrorist aspirations, but are just one component of a larger initiative. The goal of that initiative is the imposition of Jihadists’ ideology over the world—over their fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike. That ideology may be summed up by the phrase “radical Islam,” although the term is used in many different ways. Some use it to suggest that the core teachings of Islam are essentially peaceful and that it is only radicals—those who distort those teachings into “radical Islam”—who are responsible for violence committed in Islam’s name.

 

I am not using the phrase in that way. Rather, I have long contended that Islam is unique among the major world religions in having a developed doctrine, theology, and legal system mandating warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. There is no orthodox sect or school of Islam that teaches that Muslims must co-exist peacefully as equals with non-Muslims on an indefinite basis. I use the term “radical Islam” merely to distinguish those Muslims who are actively working to advance this subjugation from the many millions who are not, as well as to emphasize that the stealth jihad program is truly radical; it aims at nothing less than the transformation of American society and the imposition of Islamic law here, subjugating women and non-Muslims to the status of legal inferiors.

 

Those who are working to advance the subjugation of non-Muslims are not doing it solely by violent means. The common distinction between “radical” and “moderate” Muslims has generally been made between those who are engaged in blowing things up or are plotting to do so, and those who are not. However, the evidence presented in this book shows that the distinction ought to be placed elsewhere: between those Muslims who believe that Islamic law is the perfect system for human society and who are working by whatever means to impose that Islamic law, and those Muslims who support Western pluralistic governments and seek to live with non-Muslims as equals, under secular law, on an indefinite basis.

 

Those who are working to advance the hegemony of Islamic law do so in innumerable ways, including by introducing it, bit by bit, into American society and demanding that Americans accommodate it; by shouting down any and all who dare to discuss the supremacist impulse within traditional and mainstream Islam; and by engaging in efforts to transform and control Western economics.

 

The West today faces the threat of stealth jihadists. By using this term, I am not implying that they operate in secret; to the contrary, one of the key characteristics distinguishing them from their violent counterparts is that they carry out their business openly, carefully constructing a façade of moderation.

 

What is stealth about these operatives is their ultimate agenda—they are not seeking to protect Muslims’ “civil-rights” from the rampant “Islamophobia” that ostensibly plagues Western societies, as they claim. Rather, they are leading a full-scale effort to transform pluralistic societies into Islamic states, and to sweep away Western notions of legal equality, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and more.

 

The stealth jihadists have already made significant inroads into American life. They are well-funded, well-organized, and persistent. They will not be pacified by

negotiations, compromises, or concessions; they cannot be bought off. And every day they are advancing their agenda—while most Americans don’t even know they exist.

 

In his controversial book American Alone, Mark Steyn suggests that Europe is falling to the Islamic jihad and that only America will be left as a bulwark against Islamization. But it is unclear how much of a bulwark we will be if we allow our freedoms and way of life to be eroded in the name of “getting along.” That is exactly what is happening today. The stealth jihadists are working energetically to wear away the very fabric of American culture. It is happening right now under our noses.”

 

 

Final Comments

 

     I said before that ‘generally’ I really don’t put much stock in “conspiracy theories.” This is because conspiracy requires a lot of simultaneous effort on the part of a lot of people to keep nefarious activities secret or hidden. It also requires incredible effort to control people from talking or making secret activities public.

 

However, the conspiracy I’ve just described is for real. The evidence is far too overwhelming, and the intelligence community has been on this for more than a decade. And, as things go, the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood are clandestine, sinister, and pose a major threat to the safety and security of the United States. This is no joke; it is reality at its worst.

 

In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS continues to be the most visible threat globally. And on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 terrorism struck again, this time in Brussels. And today, Easter Sunday, 2016 a bomb exploded in a park in Pakistan that killed dozens of people, mostly women and children, and injured scores more. This latest terrorist attack was by an off-shoot of al-Qaeda.

The attack in Brussels was caused by ISIS. CNN news reported this story in the following way:

“ISIS claimed to strike yet again on European soil Tuesday, saying its “fighters” launched attacks on the airport and a subway station in Belgium’s capital that killed at least 31 people and wounded about 230 more.”

While jarring, the carnage wasn’t altogether surprising. Belgium has been going after terrorist threats for months, as illustrated by last week’s capture of Europe’s most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam, in a bloody raid in Brussels.”

“We feared terrorist attacks,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters Tuesday. “And that has now happened.”

“A Belgian government representative told CNN that 20 people died at the Maelbeek metro station and 130 were wounded, plus 10 more were killed and 100 wounded at Brussels’ international airport.”

The “working assumption” is that the attackers came from the same network behind November’s massacres in Paris, which left 130 dead, Belgian security sources said, while cautioning it is very early in the latest investigation.

“After Tuesday’s attacks, Belgian state broadcaster RTBF reported that Belgian authorities carried out midday raids in a search for people linked to the attacks. Several witnesses told CNN they’d seen police Special Forces combing through the northeast Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek, cordoning off a train station there.”

“Belgian authorities have given their U.S. counterparts pictures of three possible attack suspects, a U.S. law enforcement official said. None of the men who were shown pushing luggage carts has been identified by name, nor was it immediately known if any attackers are at large.” Subsequent to this report, six more arrests have occurred and a dragnet is underway to capture one of the bombers who got away.

I’d like to point out that Bruce Bawers’ book, “While Europe Slept—How Radical Islam is destroying the West from Within,” was published ten years ago in 2006. Although Bruce Bawer wasn’t trying to be an Edgar Cayce, isn’t it amazing how Bawer’s book is all coming true in 2016?

I nevertheless think the Islamic world has underestimated what people are willing to do to crush both ISIS and any sympathizing “civilization jihadists.” France, for example, has closed three Islamic mosques and actively now patrols Islamic communities. And that is only the beginning; Europe is beginning to finally wake up from its long sleep and take notice.

In Part V ahead, I will describe the steps I think the United States should take to eradicate the threat at home and a few suggestions as to what America can do in the Middle East and Africa to more forcefully eradicate and terminate the cancer known as ISIS and other malignant groups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominately Christian Country

 [A five-part series]

Part II

In Part II, I will answer the questions of what it means to be an American, and how well do Muslim Americans identify with being an American? The majority of Muslim Americans are moderates—as the Pew research data will show. However, it is also true from their survey data that a small minority of particularly younger Muslims and native-born African Muslims may put the country at risk by adopting an extremist jihadist viewpoint.

These latter groups may need to be under local, state and national surveillance in order to prevent another Paris or San Bernardino violent attack. Under normal circumstances, such surveillance might be characterized as racial, ethnic, or religious profiling.

However, we are no longer living under normal circumstances. The threats that have been perpetrated on the home front are too many. The nation cannot and will not ignore these threats. There will always be a need to balance civil or legal rights on the one hand, with the need to protect our citizens from harm on the other.

Now we move on to answering the first question above. A good starting point in answering the first question is to discuss what it means to be an American. One standard that’s been around for 109 years comes from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.

What it means to be an American

In 1907, one of our greatest presidents laid out what it means for immigrants of any origin to come to America and be an American. Nothing less than that will suffice. The standard set by Teddy Roosevelt was indeed high, as it should be.

Whether most groups of immigrants coming to America today are meeting this standard has yet to be determined. So what is this high standard set by President Theodore Roosevelt? In my estimation it is all about value judgments and that translates to where one’s sincere loyalty lies.

The Standard for Being an American

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American … There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag … We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”                                                                                    Theodore Roosevelt, 1907

In one of the previous Republican debates Senator Rick Santorum made the statement that “not all Muslims are jihadist, but all jihadists are Muslim.” Because of the open-ended suspicion generated by that statement, fear of Muslims overseas and Muslims here at home is causing increased tension between the Muslim world and those of non-Muslim populations worldwide. At the same time on the Home front, Islamophobia is running rampant here in the United States. This is very similar to the reaction against Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. That, of course, led to the round-up and incarceration of Japanese American citizens in internment camps based on nothing more than race. Individuality, loyalty, or proven disloyal conduct were never part of the equation to incarcerate American citizens who were presumably as protected by the U.S. Constitution as any other citizen. History has showed that such hypocrisy subsequently brought shame and dishonor to the country that presumably ignored what Theodore had said about immigrants coming to this country. But these were not immigrants—they were American citizens.

Muslims in America

What is needed is a fresh factual look at the Muslim community, particularly a comprehensive review of their demographic characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, education and income levels, identity, assimilation and community, political and social values, attitudes toward foreign policy, terrorism and concerns about extremism.

First up is a summary from Pew Research’s 2007 study. Here are their findings: In a 2007 survey titled Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, the Pew Research Center found Muslim Americans to be “largely integrated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”

However, forty-seven percent of respondents said they considered themselves Muslims first and Americans second. However, this was compared to 81% of British Muslims and 69% of German Muslims, when asked the equivalent question. A similar disparity exists in income; the percentage of American Muslims living in poverty is 2% higher than the general population, compared to an 18% disparity for French Muslims and 29% difference for Spanish Muslims.

Interestingly, Pew Research in 2007 found that 42% of Christians see themselves as Christians first, and as Americans second. An additional 7% of Christians see themselves as both equally.

Politically, American Muslims were both pro-larger government and socially conservative. For example, 70% of respondents preferred a bigger government providing more services, while 61% stated that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Despite their social conservatism, 71% of American Muslims expressed a preference for the Democratic Party. The Pew Research survey also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents believed that American society rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background.

The same poll also reported that 40% of U.S. Muslims believe that Arab Muslims carried out the 9/11 attacks. Another 28% didn’t believe it, and 32% said they had no opinion. Among 28% who doubted that Arab Muslims were behind the conspiracy, one-fourth of that claim the U.S. government or President George W. Bush was responsible. Only 26% of American Muslims believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to root out international terrorism. Only 5% of those surveyed had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Only 35% of American Muslims stated that the decision for military action in Afghanistan was the right one and just 12% supported the use of military force in Iraq.

In 2011, a Gallop poll found that 93% of Muslim Americans considered themselves loyal to the United States.

The 2011 Pew Research Survey

Like Christians and non-Christians alike, religious and secular populations are very diverse. Between groups and within groups people are quite different. The Pew research below demonstrates such diversity among American Muslims. The following (It was written by Michael Lipka) is a precise and detailed summary of the Pew Research from 2011. Below are its major findings:

Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the World

By Michael Lipka

“Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries.

Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – say they know little or nothing about Islam.

Here are answers to some key questions about Muslims, compiled from several Pew Research Center reports published in recent years:

How many Muslims are there? Where do they live?

There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010 – roughly 23% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.

Although many countries in the Middle East-North Africa region where the religion originated in the seventh century are heavily Muslim, the region is home to only about 20% of the world’s Muslims. A majority of the Muslims globally (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific region, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population. With more than 300 million Muslims, Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects that India will have that distinction by the year 2050.

The Muslim population in Europe also is growing; it is projected that 10% of all Europeans will be Muslims by 2050.

How many Muslims are there in the United States?

According to estimates, Muslims make up just less than 1% of the U.S. adult population. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study (conducted in English and Spanish) found that 0.9% of U.S. adults identifies as Muslims. A 2011 survey of Muslim Americans, which was conducted in English as well as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, estimated that there were 1.8 million Muslim adults (and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages) in the country. That survey also found that a majority of U.S. Muslims (63%) are immigrants.

Pew research estimates that Muslims will make up 2.1% of the U.S. population by the year 2050, surpassing people who identify as Jewish, on the basis of religion as the second-largest faith group in the country (not including people who say they have no religion).

A recent Pew Research Center report estimated that the Muslim share of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) increased from about 5% in 1992 to roughly 10% in 2012, representing about 100,000 immigrants in that year.

Why is the global Muslim population growing?

There are two major factors behind the rapid projected growth of Islam, and both involve simple demographics. For one, Muslims have more children than members of other religious groups. Around the world, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 for all other groups combined.

Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 23 years old in 2010) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. As a result, a larger share of Muslims already is, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.

While it does not change the global population, migration is helping to increase the Muslim population in some regions, including North America and Europe.

What do Muslims around the world believe?

Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely.

Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support Sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of Sharia law.

How do Muslims feel about groups like ISIS?

Recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS, including virtually all respondents in Lebanon and 94% in Jordan. Relatively small shares say they see ISIS favorably. In some countries, considerable portions of the population do not offer an opinion about ISIS, including a majority (62%) of Pakistanis.

Favorable views of ISIS are somewhat higher in Nigeria (14%) than most other nations. Among Nigerian Muslims, 20% say they see ISIS favorably (compared with 7% of Nigerian Christians). The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, has sworn allegiance to ISIS.

More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq.

In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified. An additional 7% says suicide bombings are sometimes justified and 1% says they are often justified in these circumstances.

In a few countries, a quarter or more of Muslims say that these acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 40% in the Palestinian territories, 39% in Afghanistan, 29% in Egypt and 26% in Bangladesh.

In many cases, people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years. About two-thirds of people in Nigeria (68%) and Lebanon (67%) said earlier this year they are very concerned about Islamic extremism in their country, both up significantly since 2013.

What do American Muslims believe?

Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other nations to have many non-Muslim friends. Only about half (48%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.

Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their lives. Virtually all (96%) say they believe in God, nearly two-thirds (65%) report praying at least daily and nearly half (47%) say they attend religious services at least weekly. By all of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.

When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (70%) than the Republican Party (11%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (68%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (21%).

As of 2011, U.S. Muslims were somewhat split between those who said homosexuality should be accepted by society (39%) and those who said it should be discouraged (45%), although the group had grown considerably more accepting of homosexuality since a similar survey was conducted in 2007.

What is the difference between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims?

Sunnis and Shias are two subgroups of Islam, just as Catholics and Protestants are two subgroups within Christianity. The Sunni-Shia divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. While the two groups agree on some core tenets of Islam, there are differences in belief or practices, and in some cases Sunnis do not consider Shias to be Muslims.

With the exception of a few countries, including Iran (which is majority Shia) as well as Iraq and Lebanon (which are split), most nations with a large number of Muslims have more Sunnis than Shias. In the U.S., 65% identify as Sunnis and 11% as Shias (with the rest identifying with neither group, including some who say they are “just a Muslim”).

How do Americans and Europeans perceive Muslims?

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 asked Americans to rate members of eight religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating. Overall, Americans rated Muslims rather coolly – an average of 40, which was comparable to the average rating they gave atheists (41). Americans view the six other religious groups mentioned in the survey (Jews, Catholics, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons) more warmly.

Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party gave Muslims an average rating of 33, considerably cooler than Democrats’ rating toward Muslims (47).

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say they are very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world (83% vs. 53%) and in the U.S. (65% vs. 38%), according to a December 2015 survey. That survey also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (68% vs. 30% of Democrats) and that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than people of other religions (49% vs. 20%). Overall, most Americans (61%) say Muslims should not be subject to additional scrutiny solely because of their religion, while U.S. adults are closely divided on the question of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. (Note: This paragraph was updated Dec. 17 to reflect a new survey.)

In spring 2015, we asked residents of some European countries a different question– whether they view Muslims favorably or unfavorably. Perceptions at that time varied across European nations, from a largely favorable view in France (76%) and the United Kingdom (72%) to a less favorable view in Italy (31%) and Poland (30%).

How do Muslims and Westerners perceive each other?

In a 2011 survey, majorities of respondents in a few Western European countries, including 62% in France and 61% in Germany, said that relations between Muslims and Westerners were bad, while about half of Americans (48%) agreed. Similarly, most Muslims in several Muslim-majority nations – including Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan – agreed that relations were bad, although fewer Muslims in Pakistan (45%) and Indonesia (41%) had this view.

The same survey also asked about characteristics the two groups may associate with one another. Across the seven Muslim-majority countries and territories surveyed, a median of 68% of Muslims said they view Westerners as selfish. Considerable shares also called Westerners other negative adjectives, including violent (median of 66%), greedy (64%) and immoral (61%), while fewer attributed positive characteristics like “respectful of women” (44%), honest (33%) and tolerant (31%) to Westerners.

Westerners’ views of Muslims were more mixed. A median of 50% across four Western European countries, the U.S. and Russia called Muslims violent and a median of 58% called them “fanatical,” but fewer used negative words like greedy, immoral or selfish. A median of just 22% of Westerners said Muslims are respectful of women, but far more said Muslims are honest (median of 51%) and generous (41%).

Do American Muslims meet the Standard for American Citizenship?

This actually is a complicated question. If one uses the standard set in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, then it’s very clear American Muslims do not meet the American standard for citizenship. Forty-seven percent of Muslims surveyed see themselves as a Muslim first before identifying themselves as an American. However, the Pew Research Center found that in 2011 that 93% of Muslims considered themselves loyal to the United States. It appears from the Pew data that the lion’s shares of American Muslims (approximately 93% if we extrapolate from a sample to the entire population of Muslims) is not a threat to the country, and are supportive of the United States.

The data also showed that Muslim Americans by and large are no friend of either al-Qaeda or ISIS. People who target Muslims in general are engaging in Islamophobia of the worst kind, actual discrimination. The picture that emerges from the Pew data is that, by and large, Muslim Americans are a diverse group within the religion of Islam and identify with being an American reasonably well considering acts of mistreatment by the general public. The most poignant findings of the 2011 Pew research data are as follows.

Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated into American society and they are largely content with their lives. More than six-in-ten do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, and a similar number say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt an American way of life rather than remain distinctive from the larger society.

By overwhelming margins, Muslim Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives and rate their local communities as good places to live. And Muslim Americans are far more likely than the general public to express satisfaction with national conditions.

Assimilation and Identity

     A majority of Muslim Americans (56%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt American customs and ways of life. Far fewer (20%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. want to be distinct from the larger American society, with a similar number (16%) volunteering that Muslim immigrants want to do both. Native-born and foreign-born Muslims give similar answers to this question.

The U.S. public as a whole is less convinced that immigrant Muslims seek to assimilate. An April 2011 Pew research survey finds that just a third of American adults (33%) think that most Muslim immigrants want to adopt American ways, while about half (51%) think that Muslim immigrants mostly want to remain distinct from the larger culture.

National Identity

     When asked whether they think of themselves first as an American or first as a Muslim, about half of Muslims (49%) say they think of themselves first as a Muslim, compared with 26% who think of themselves first as American. Nearly one-in-five (18%) volunteer that they think of themselves as both Muslim and American.

A May survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that 46% of Christians in the United States think of themselves first as a Christian, while the same percentage says they consider them first as an American.

Among both Muslims and Christians, people who say religion is very important in their lives are far more likely to view themselves primarily as a member of their religion.

     Among Muslims who say that religion is very important in their lives, 59% say they think of themselves first as Muslims. Among those for whom religion is less important, only 28% identify first as Muslim. Similarly, among Christians who place great personal importance on religion, 62% say they are Christians first, compared with 19% among those who view religion as less important.

Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted this year found substantial differences in views of national identity across Muslim communities. Nearly all Pakistanis (94%) consider themselves first as Muslims rather than as Pakistanis. By contrast, just 28% of Muslims in Lebanon say they consider themselves Muslim first – far fewer than the number of U.S. Muslims expressing this view (49%).

Many Muslims report having friendship networks that extends beyond the Muslim community. About half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are Muslim; about as many say that some (36%), hardly any (14%) or none (1%) of their close friends are Muslim.

More women than men have a close circle of friends consisting mostly or entirely of other Muslims. And Muslim Americans who are highly committed to their religion are much more likely than those with medium or low commitment to say that all or most of their close friends are Muslims.

More than six-in-ten American Muslims (63%) see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, twice the number who do see such a conflict (31%).

A 2006 Pew Research survey found a nearly identical pattern among American Christians who were asked about a possible conflict between modernity and their own faith. Nearly two-thirds of Christians (64%) said there is no conflict between being a devout Christian and living in a modern society, compared with 31% who did perceive a conflict.

Muslims of all ages express similar views on this question. Similarly, there are only small differences between native-born Muslims and immigrants, as well as between those who are personally religiously observant and those who are less religious.

There are, however, sizable differences between men and women in views on this question. More than seven-in-ten men (71%) say there is no conflict between Islam and modernity, but fewer women (54%) agree. The view that there is no conflict between Islam and modernity is also much more common among college graduates than among those with less education.

 

Final Comments

The Pew Research organization has provided a valuable service to everyone in terms of good social research. There was lots of interesting data on Muslims living abroad and those living here in the United States.

Nevertheless, I detected many unanswered questions from the data they presented from their 2011 study that should be looked into. Such questions relate to degree of assimilation, legal questions regarding religious belief from religious practice, and finally, prejudice and discrimination among Muslim Americans.

Questions about Assimilation

The first question is what percentage of Muslim Americans wants Sharia Law in the United States rather than following our legal system of a U.S. Constitution as well as state constitutions and all other federal, state and local laws and regulations?

Related to this is the question of whether Muslim Americans prefer sending their children to Muslim schools instead of integrating them into the general educational system in the United States? While those who follow Catholicism have church schools in the U.S., by and large, the children from these schools are nonetheless highly integrated into a secular society. To what extent is this true for the Muslim American child population?

Another unanswered question not asked in the Pew data relates to inter-faith marriages and marriage itself. What proportion of Muslim Americans marries non-Muslims? Are such marriages forbidden by Islamic law, culture, or the scriptures of Islam as well? It has been reported that anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 of the American Muslim population (2008 estimate) engage in polygamy. Women under Islamic law are forbidden to have multiple husbands, but men are permitted to have two, three or four wives.

Questions about Religious Belief versus Religious Practice    

Another area for questions has to do with general differences between religious belief and religious practice. In the future will a legal brief dealing with Sharia Law be brought before United States Supreme Court as a violation of separation of church from state? Since Sharia Law is an integral part of Islam’s scriptures, will there be a separation of religious belief from its practice?

For example, the Mormon practice of having more than one spouse did separate belief from practice. Today, neither in Utah nor elsewhere in the United States is bigamy or polygamy allowed under the law. Was religious practice separated from religious belief in this case? Another example is where religious cults engage in human sacrifice. There is no doubt that belief is separated from practice in that case. Anyone can believe whatever they want; however, once belief crosses the line into actual behavior, American Law has something to say about that. Human sacrifice is viewed as murder, and is prohibited under all U.S. law.

The acceptability of foreign law (religious or otherwise) in the United States has yet to be decided by the United States Supreme Court. To my knowledge the U.S. Congress has yet to act against Sharia Law. Less clear is why?  Sixteen states have already passed state laws to forbid Sharia Law or foreign law. The legal issue, whether Muslims can be allowed to impose Sharia Law within the United States, a law that violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution that are concerned with the separation of church and State, is one the high court needs to address.

Questions about Prejudice and Discrimination

Islamophobia is real and has caused many Muslim Americans to complain about it. But what isn’t known are the racial, ethnic and religious prejudices held by Muslim Americans.

No group in society is immune from this aspect of life. Sociologists back in the 1950s found that there was as much prejudice and discrimination caused by minorities as there was among majorities in U.S. society. Its character was sometimes different, such as minorities’ prejudice and discrimination against other members of minorities. As then as it is now—nobody wants to confront this type of social phenomena.

Given that Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East have never been fond of the citizens of Israel, would such attitudes be prevalent among Muslim Americans living in the United States? Are there attitudes among the Muslim population that promote anti-Semitism and discriminatory behavior against people of the Jewish faith, or directed against Jews living here or abroad?

What’s needed is a comprehensive sociological study of racial, ethnic and religious attitudes (prejudices and discrimination) by Muslim Americans.

As one can see, many questions remain unanswered.

In Part III, I will discuss Sharia Law in more detail, and discuss if there is a plot underway to replace American Law with Sharia Law.

The most troubling aspect of all is that Sharia Law, as a religious practice, is a 7th Century set of religious rules that are barbaric, discriminatory, homophobic, misogynist, and intolerant of all non-believers, as well as those from other religions.

Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan had the dream of world domination. World domination by any group in the past failed, and will fail in the future. Any group that intends, surreptitiously or otherwise, to dominate the United States and convert it to a non-democratic country will ultimately experience the wrath of the American people. Any real threats from abroad will also experience the wrath of the most awesome military power on the face of the earth. We will be all over such threats “like a fly on you know what.”

Our values here in the United States reject Sharia Law as it is a serious threat to all civil and human rights. It is an extremist set of religious laws that are currently practiced in many (but not all) Muslim countries around the world. Stay tuned for Part III.

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The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominately Christian Country

 [A five-part series]

Part I

To be totally upfront with my cyberspace audience, it is important that you know where I stand politically. First, I am an ultra-liberal on civil rights and human rights. And, I am a card carrying member of Amnesty International. Second, when it comes to homeland security, national defense and the military, I am, by all measures, quite conservative. Part of the reason I suppose, is that I have a military background as a Vietnam combat war veteran. Nonetheless, as a social scientist I have a professional responsibility to present the facts that are data-driven, not bombastic rhetoric, political clichés, personal biases or hyperbole.

Every psychology book that talks about human needs (for example Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) describes the need to survive as our most important human need.

Right after Pearl Harbor, folks living in California, Oregon and Washington were very worried and anxious that Japan would invade the West Coast of the United States. Tremendous fear encompassed Americans throughout the nation. Reason and calm were in very short supply (as they are now) as Americans recoiled in the days and weeks that followed the attack on the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet, army and air bases stationed in Hawaii.

Today we have a similar situation with Islamic Jihadist attacks; on 9-1-1 that killed 3000 people and injured scores of others; the Boston Marathon Jihadist attack that killed 4 people and injured many others; the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood that killed 13 soldiers and wounded 30 others; the July 15, 2015 attack by a Jihadist at a military recruiting facility and naval center killing four marines and one sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the carnage that occurred with the death of 14 citizens and many more wounded, in San Bernardino, California; and, as recently as January 7, 2016, a professed jihadist tried to murder a Philadelphia police officer shooting the officer 11 times. Fortunately, the officer chased him, and then fired back wounding the assailant.

And, internationally, all of this was preceded in 2015 by Jihadist attacks in Paris, France that killed 130 people; Beirut Lebanon where 40 were killed and 200 others injured at a university; a hotel in Mali where 20 were killed; and the downing of a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai desert that murdered 224 passengers.

With all these attacks by radical jihadist Muslim extremists, fear has once again gripped the entire nation. But, so have anger and finally the willingness of a nation to put itself on a war-footing with our declared enemies, whether there is a formal declaration of war or not. If there was a formal declaration of war made by the United States Congress, the country would give the President the powers to engage the enemy with all its might, including strategic nuclear weapons.

Americans are not weaklings; Americans are tough, extremely resilient, persistent and strong-willed. As a nation we are protective of our people, our laws, institutions, and the supreme law of the land—the United States Constitution.

As Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “all we have done is awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a great resolve.” Guess what folks, the sleeping giant is awake again and angry as hell over the onslaught of murders and barbaric acts committed by ISIS and Jihadists everywhere.

Human rights and civil rights are not protected under Islamic law. Consequently, the world has condemned the brutality, torture, rape, slavery of women, gratuitous cruelty, beheadings, incineration and drowning of prisoners carried out by Islamic jihadists and terrorists who have committed war crimes.

It is incumbent upon all the nations to collectively re-institute a war crimes tribunal like the Nuremberg Trials in Germany in 1945-46. As presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently said, “She now believes the Islamic State group’s persecution of Christians, the Yazidi minority and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East should be defined as ‘genocide.’ ”

This is the background for what is happening. The questions Americans want answered and the things they want done are evaluated and reviewed below. However, only facts can guide the way to fully understand just what is going on, and what could be or should be done about it.

Conflict of Values

Right now there appears to be a growing conflict in the United States between Muslims and non-Muslims. Consequently, there are a number of questions that need to be answered that relate to this conflict. Such questions include: (1) historically, why is there a conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide? How did we get to this day and age where radical jihadists want to dominate the entire world? (2) What does it means to be an American, and how well do Muslim Americans identify as Americans? (3) Do Muslim Americans promote, foster and support, albeit as a hidden agenda, the replacement of American laws and the United States Constitution with Sharia law that is intimately interwoven within the religion of Islam? (4) Has the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated America with the goal of transforming the United States into an Islamic State, and (5) if so, what can be done about it? Each question above will correspond to each part of the five-part series.

Background of Religious Conflict

The conflict between Muslims and Christians is nothing new.  It dates back 1,400 years ago. The purpose of Part I is to give my cyber-space audience some historical perspective on the clash between Muslims and Christians.

The war against ISIS today gives the impression of a continuation of a religious war that is still unsettled, even after 1,400 years. There are approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world today. By comparison, there are now approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Together, both religions comprise almost half the people on the planet. Christianity is more than 2,000 years old while Islam didn’t come into existence until the 7th Century A.D. What both religions have in common is that both possess moderates and extremists. While moderates can live in harmony, extremists cannot.

In Part I of this series I will describe the historical basis of the conflict between Muslims and Christians.

In Part II, I will compare the standard established in 1907 for American citizenship set by our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt and see if Muslim Americans achieve that goal.

In Part III, I will address whether there is a plot underway whereby the Muslim world (here and abroad) is moving to replace American Laws (The United States Constitution and all federal, state and local laws) with a foreign set of Muslim religious laws known as Sharia Law. I personally don’t like conspiracy theories, but there is, unfortunately, some critical evidence to support this notion or idea that certain Muslim organizations have tried to do this.

In Part IV I will discuss whether the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to secretly infiltrate and replace the American government, our values of freedom and democracy, our legal system, our educational and cultural institutions, with an Islamic State that promotes only Islam and its religious-based legal system known as Sharia Law.

In Part V I will discuss what can be done about it, both on the Homefront and abroad.

All five parts comprise the nexus of concerns that non-Muslim Americans have today, including many moderate Muslim Americans as well. If America was ever taken over by the Islamic State, make no mistake about it—moderate Muslim Americans would be the first to die at the hand of jihadists.

Early History of Islam

The history of Islam concerns the political, economic, social, and cultural developments in the territories ruled by Muslims or otherwise substantially influenced by the religion of Islam.

Despite concerns about reliability of early sources, most historians believe that Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century. A century later, the Islamic empire extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus in the east.

Polities such as those ruled by the Umayyads (in the Middle East and later in Iberia), Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks were among the most influential powers in the world. The Islamic civilization gave rise to many centers of culture and science and produced notable astronomers, mathematicians, doctors and philosophers during the Golden Age of Islam. Technology flourished; there was investment in economic infrastructure such as irrigation systems and canals; and the importance of reading the Qur’an produced a comparatively high level of literacy in the general populace.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, destructive Mongol invasions from the East, along with the loss of population in the Black Death, greatly weakened the traditional centers of the Islamic world, stretching from Persia to Egypt, but in the Early Modern period, the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals were able to create new world powers again.

During the modern era, most parts of the Muslim world fell under influence or direct control of European great powers. Their efforts to win independence and build modern nation states over the course of the last two centuries continue to reverberate to the present day.

Historical Impact of the Crusades

From a sociological and historical point of view, the Christian Crusades had both intended and unintended consequences that could be either positive or negative. On the positive side, by the 14th Century the Papacy, which was once powerful, had become fragmented. But, in many ways, the development of modern nation states was well on its way in France, England, Burgundy, Portugal, Castile, and Aragon partly as a result of the dominance of the church at the beginning of the Crusading Era.

There was also an expansion of trade throughout Europe as a result of the Crusades. This occurred because there was a need to raise, transport, and supply large armies. Roads that had been unused since the days of Rome saw significant increases in traffic as local merchants began to expand their horizons. Much Islamic culture and thought, such as science, medicine, and architecture was transferred to the west during the crusades. “This also aided the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy, as various Italian-city states from the very beginning had important and profitable trading colonies in the crusader states, both in the Holy Land and later in captured Byzantine territory.”

On the negative side, Muslims found the Crusades to be cruel and savage onslaughts by European Christians. “In the 21st century, some in the Arab world, such as the Arab independence movement and Pan-Islamism movement, continue to call Western involvement in the Middle East a ‘Crusade.’”

However, early Islamic and Muslim forces from the ancient world can’t claim that they didn’t invade and plunder other nation states. There really was justification for wanting to rid Islamic Muslim armies from territories they, in fact, had invaded. And much of the violence perpetrated against innocent Christian and non-Christian peoples of the ancient world was the result of such invasions by Islamic invaders.

A true account of world history shows that Islam repeatedly attacked Christian lands, desecrated sanctuaries and tortured Christians who fought back without desecrating Mecca in return.  Jerusalem changed hands many times over the centuries.

During the seventh century this was particularly tumultuous when pagan Persians stormed the city in 614 A.D. Later the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius led Eastern Christians to reclaim it by 630 A.D.

However, within a few years Islamic forces had broken the Byzantine military and chased them out of Palestine. Jerusalem surrendered to a Muslim army in 638 A.D., and construction began soon thereafter on a mosque at the Temple Mount.

Accordingly, “After capturing Jerusalem, the Muslim armies poured through the eastern and southern provinces of the reeling Byzantine Empire. In the 640s Armenia in the north and Egypt in the south fell to Islam. In 655 A.D. the Muslims won a naval battle with the Byzantines and very nearly captured the Byzantine emperor.”

In 711 A.D. Muslims controlled all of northern Africa, and in 712 A.D. Muslims had penetrated deep into Christian Spain. At the battle of Toledo they defeated the Spanish and killed their king. Spain promptly collapsed.

Attempts were made by Muslims in the Middle East to push further into the Byzantine Empire. In 717 A.D. they landed in Southeastern Europe, and they besieged the Byzantine Capital, Constantinople. “In 846 A.D. Muslim raiders attacked the outlying areas of Rome, the center of western civilization. This act would be comparable to Christians sacking Mecca or Medina, something they have never done.”

Near the end of the ninth century, Muslim pirate havens were established along the coast of Southern France and northern Italy. These pirates threatened commerce, communication, and pilgrim traffic for a hundred years or more.

During the tenth century, however, the tide began to turn. In the East in the 950s and 960s, the Byzantines mounted a series of counterattacks. They eventually recovered the islands of Crete and Cyprus and a good bit of the territory in Asia Minor and northern Syria, including Antioch. They lacked the strength to retake Jerusalem, though they might have struggled harder had they known the terrors the city would soon face.

In 1000 A.D. much or most of the Holy Land was still populated by Christians. However, a local Muslim leader named Hakim persecuted Christians and Jews. In 1009 A.D. he ordered the destruction of the rebuilt church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. As a result, the Christian population began to shrink under Hakim’s tyrannical rule.

The Middle East was in for major changes that would change the balance of power of all the faiths. The major change was the invasion into the Middle East by the Seljuk Turks. These were pagan nomads who made steady inroads into the Muslim Arab world. In 1055 A.D. they invaded Baghdad and disrupted the stability of the Middle East.

The invasion of the Muslim Turks might well be thought of as the straw that broke the camels back as far as Western Christendom was concerned.

In 1071 A.D. Byzantine Emperor Diogenes confronted a Turkish invasion force in the far eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire. The two armies met at the village of Manzikert, near Lake Van, and the Byzantines were utterly destroyed.  As a result of this disaster, the Byzantines lost all the territory that they had recovered, painstakingly, in the ninth and tenth centuries. This included the entirety of Asia Minor, the breadbasket and recruiting ground of the empire.

What followed was a response to Muslim and Arab invasions of Christian holy sites, lands and property in the Middle East. Succeeding Byzantine emperors sent frantic calls to the West for aid, directing them primarily at the popes, who were generally seen as protectors of Western Christendom. Pope Gregory VII received these appeals first, and in 1074 A.D. he discussed leading a relief expedition to Byzantium himself. But this proved impractical, and no aid was offered. The Byzantines continued sending appeals, however, eventually finding an audience with Pope Urban II.

The rest as they say is history. In 1095 A.D. the West responded to the plight of Eastern Christians by mounting the First Crusade. In 1099 A.D. crusaders stormed Jerusalem.

It wasn’t long before a series of Muslim rulers wanted to retake Christian Holy lands. These rulers included Zengi, Nur-al Din, and the famous Saladin. They fought to reunite parts of the Islamic Middle East. These leaders initiated a jihad, a counter-crusade against the Christians of Jerusalem and the surrounding regions. A desire to reconquer the city figured more and more notably into Muslim writings. “By the end of the twelfth century, Saladin had re-conquered Jerusalem more or less permanently. The entire Holy Land was back under Islamic control by 1291.”

While many take the perspective that the crusades were their darkest hour, others might say that to a large extent there was much justification given the centuries of persecution of Christians and Jews by the Muslim world. It all points to the never-ending futility of nations at war over land and the willingness of many peoples of the world to fight in the name of (and to kill for) God.

Here we are in the 21st century and a Muslim Jihadist Holy War still exists and is casting its ominous threats over the entire world, including America.

Current Status of Religions Worldwide

Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.

At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.

A New Estimate of the U.S. Muslim Population

By Besheer  Mohamad

“Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015. This means that Muslims made up about 1% of the total U.S. population (about 322 million people in 2015), and we estimate that that share will double by 2050.

Our new estimate of Muslims and other faiths is based on a demographic projection that models growth in the American Muslim population since our 2011 estimate and includes both adults and children. The projection uses data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching drawn from multiple sources, including the 2011 survey of Muslim Americans.

According to our current estimate, there are fewer Muslims of all ages in the U.S. than there are Jews by religion (5.7 million) but more than there are Hindus (2.1 million) and many more than there are Sikhs.

In some cities Muslims comprise significantly more than 1% of the community. And even at the state level Muslims are not evenly distributed: Certain states, such as New Jersey, have two or three times as many Muslim adults per capita as the national average.

Recent political debates in the U.S. over Muslim immigration and related issues have prompted many to ask how many Muslims actually live in the United States. But coming up with an answer is not easy, in part because the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask questions about religion, meaning that there is no official government count of the U.S. Muslim population.

Since our first estimate of the size of the Muslim American population in 2007, we have seen a steady growth in both the number of Muslims in the U.S. and the percentage of the U.S. population that is Muslim.

In addition, our projections suggest the U.S. Muslim population will grow faster than the Hindu population, and much faster than the Jewish population in the coming decades. Indeed, even before 2040, Muslims are projected to become the second-largest religious group in the U.S., after Christians. By 2050, the American Muslim population is projected to reach 8.1 million people, or 2.1% of the total population.

Just over half of the projected growth of the American Muslim population from 2010 to 2015 is due to immigration. Over the last 20 years, there has been an increase in the number of Muslim Immigrants coming to the U.S. The number of Muslim immigrants currently represents about 10% of all legal immigrants arriving in the U.S., and a significantly smaller percentage of unauthorized immigrants.

The other main cause of Islam’s recent growth is natural increase. American Muslims tend to have more children than Americans of other religious faiths. Muslims also tend to be younger than the general public, so a larger share of Muslims will soon be at the point in their lives when people begin having children.

There has been little net change in the size of the American Muslim population in recent years due to conversion. About one-in-five American Muslim adults were raised in a different faith or none at all. At the same time, a similar number of people who were raised Muslim no longer identify with the faith. About as many Americans become Muslim as leave Islam.”

The Great Irony of Religious Wars

The great irony of all the bloodshed that has ever been spilled since the 7th century is that religions’ underpinnings, known as belief, promoted by endless “true Believers in Christianity and Islam,” may all be based on a false premise to begin with, i.e., that some supernatural entity (like the Christian God or Islam’s Allah) actually exists. Religious wars of course are not fought alone for anyone’s scriptures; war is more complicated than that.

Global and political reasons (stealing lands and plundering resources) underlie warring faction’s “real reasons” that lie at the heart of using religious belief as their justification. Nevertheless, people will resort to violence to get their own way and often use religion’s notion of faith in a God to justify their willingness to commit acts of violence and pursue the spoils of war.

All religions use faith as a substitute for reason; it is their justification for behavior including violence and harmful deviant acts. This is despite the fact they have the ultimate burden of proof of supernatural entities like a god.

The Burden of Proof

An agnostic may be defined as a person who believes that the existence of God, or a primal cause, can be neither proven nor unproven. The word agnostic comes from the Greek word meaning “unknown” or “unknowable.” The term agnostic needs to be contrasted with the term “Gnosis” or Gnostic where the later term means knowledge.

Another term used to refer to one’s position on God or primal causes is atheist. Atheists, as a group of nonbelievers, have certain disadvantages in their position taken. The first disadvantage is a verbal assertion about what is unknown, unknowable, supernatural, or invisible. That assertion is–that something does not exist. Such an assertion is patently “unscientific.”

By asserting that something does not exist one immediately clashes with what science has long held as its own limitation. That is, it is impossible to prove a negative hypothesis. Science doesn’t work that way, for what data would one collect (and data is the cornerstone of all science) in order to test one’s hypothesis that something does not exist? Put very simply–it is impossible to do that.

Ironically, to make an assertion about non-existence of a God is strikingly similar to the person who lives by faith that God does exist. Many people don’t realize it, but the religious zealot and the atheist share a common perspective, i.e., they are both trying to make a “leap of faith.” The believer and the nonbeliever share the same podium in that respect. Nevertheless, there is an important difference here that does favor the atheist over the theist or deist. And that difference is the burden of proof.

The burden of proof does not lie with the atheist or the scientist to prove something does not exist. Such proof technically lies with those who make claims of a supernatural nature; otherwise claims are only assertions of belief unsubstantiated and without the benefit of actual proof. What is different between the atheist and scientist on the one hand and the true believer or religious zealot on the other are their tools of measurement, willingness to measure, and the approach taken to such measurement.

Interestingly, the invisibility of the subject matter of religion or science isn’t even the issue. Why? Because even where invisibility of the subject matter is concerned, it is measurement, and a willingness to measure, that does matter. For example molecules, atoms, protons, electrons and even the elusive neutrino are invisible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, they can be measured for their proof of existence. God is alleged to be invisible to the naked eye, yet theologians and fundamentalist “true believers” of all types have yet to provide proof or a shred of evidence of existence through any kind of “measurement.”

Said simply, they have failed to provide the needed proof to substantiate their supernatural claims. It is interesting to note that the 20th century’s (greatest scientist) Albert Einstein never attributed bizarre supernatural forces as an explanation for the fundamental laws of the universe.

Why America is Turning More Secular

The data from the Barna survey done years ago strongly suggested that the slide toward syncretism may be responsible for the decline of Christianity in the 20th century. Evidently, the democratic trend toward freedom of religion and freedom from religion took heart in America. However, the net effect of these changes within and outside Christianity is the move toward a more secular society.

There are three basic reasons American society, in particular, is becoming more secular: (1) The religious right is trying to invade secular society, (2) scandals within the church have lowered its status in the eyes of the public, and (3) simultaneously, science education and technology have come to dominate the social landscape of our culture through laboratory research, and through educational programs on television and in the classroom.

It is also true that alienation produced by fundamentalists gone amuck with their disdain for liberal and mainstream Protestant denominations created an atmosphere where younger potential converts automatically looked askance at religious institutions altogether with contempt. Until mainstream and liberal churches gang up and fight fundamentalists politically and socially, Christianity will continue to lose adherents.

The same thing can be said about Islam, i.e., until moderates in the Islamic faith gang up on Islamic Jihadists extremists and do away with Sharia law, they will continue to lose potentially moderate adherents at home and abroad. Because of this loss they will suffer from the consequences of a right-wing extremist theocracy because of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

 Below is a very poignant article found on Eurweb (electronic Urban Report) that was written by the free-lance writer and blogger—Trevor Brookins. Its title is “The Socialist’s Journal: Theology vs. Theocracy.” It gets to the heart of the differences between a theology and a theocracy. Trevor Brookins is from Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called, This Seems Familiar.

“Theocracy is partly the source of the biggest problem today in that it is a perspective that produces religious fundamentalists. Contrarily theology is the biggest source of hope for ending conflict in the world. Ironically enough these two concepts are closely related and one grows out of the other.

In its most basic form theology is about understanding the nature of God and answering basic question about human existences, two of which tremendously influence our interactions with others. The question of ‘how ought we to behave?’ is the part of any religion that outlines ethics and there are many commonalities between faiths; the question of ‘where are we going’ address what happens after death and its answer contains fewer commonalities and therefore where the potential for conflict arises.

Given enough time a group of people will eventually make contact with another group of people who do not answer the afterlife question the way they do. When this contact is made these two groups can make the ethical question most important in which case they will attempt to live peacefully harmoniously alongside their new neighbors – this is the theological. Or the two groups can make the afterlife question most important in which case both groups perceive the other as heathen and attempt to eliminate the other religious perspective by converting their adversaries if not outright killing them – this is the theocratic response.

Historically we have documented many more cases of the second version of events following contact because of the wars that followed and the exchange of territory. But also of note is the correlation between religious wars and the institution of monarchy. Royal families that rely on hereditary rule and Divining Right to maintain their status are essentially claiming God wants them in charge. It is therefore an easy conclusion to reach that similarly God wants X so we do whatever it takes including war to attain/achieve X.

This path of logic has been used so frequently and with such success that is the reason behind every empire in Western civilization since Rome. And so convinced of this mindset are some in Western civilization that when a nation fails to achieve a goal or expand its territory an explanation offered is that the country must not be following God’s will.

However, in a world where monarchical rule has become obsolete in favor of democracy, the “God wants this” line of reasoning has also fallen out of favor. Religious fundamentalists ultimately are advocating turning back the clock and the adoption of God’s law as the operating principle for a country, but even within any given faith there is much debate on what God’s law is. Furthermore this theocratic perspective on life obscures the theological perspective that allows for groups to live peacefully that under theocracy might be at war.

Democracy can be said to be the opposite of theocracy and because of this it is impossible for a country to operate under both of these forms of government at the same time. On the other hand democracy and theology can coexist, and often do so to the benefit of both.

In the United States we obsess over Muslim fundamentalists and with good reason because there are many who seek to harm us. Equally dangerous though are the Christian fundamentalist principles that guide foreign policy. God wants Americans to have oil like God wanted Caucasians to expand across North America, that is to say not at all. God is being used to justify political and economic decisions.

Most people are moderate and used to making compromises. Even within our religious lives few of us follow all of the rules – ask the most devout Christian you know whether he/she really would not have a woman in leadership. What is at stake in that instance is simply another perspective on a topic. How much more then should we be willing to compromise when what is at stake are thousands of lives? Theocracy yields fundamentalism, conflict and death. Theology yields moderation, understanding and peace. Which will we choose?

As said earlier, in Part II, I will compare the standard established in 1907 for American citizenship set by our 26th president in order to see if Muslim Americans achieve that goal.

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children

Part III

Child Sex Trafficking

Bullying

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Introduction

Part III of this four-part series is about child sex trafficking, bullying, and corporal punishment in the schools.  All of these areas pertain to violence perpetrated against children in the United States. Some predators in this country are out there lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to harm children. Some of these predators are in plain sight like the classroom of many schools. Some of these are simply bullies on the playground, or who also use the internet as a proxy for bullying. Some predators are pragmatic, looking to lure or abduct children for sex trafficking.

School is supposed to be a safe haven for children where learning and educational growth takes place. Unfortunately, what the public believes about schools is not what really takes place there. Predators of all kinds are in waiting for your child to come to school. There are administrators and teachers who are sexual predators by molesting children under their charge. There are female teachers who have been added to state sex offender registration files following arrest and conviction for having sex with their students (usually teenage boys). There are male teachers and coaches who have also been arrested for molesting children (Does Pennsylvania State University and Sandusky come to mind?). School is supposed to be safe for children; sometimes it isn’t.

Child Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking is the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying or selling of a child through force, threats, fraud, deception, or coercion for the purposes of exploitation, prostitution, pornography, migrant work, sweat shops, domestic servitude, forced labor, bondage, peonage or involuntary servitude.

Child sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. UNICEF values the global market of child sex trafficking at over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. Trafficking children into the sex industry is done because there is a demand. Predators seek out vulnerable victims and lure them under false pretenses into situations they cannot escape. No matter the reason, children have become sexual commodities to be bought and sold for the pleasure of exploiters. These children are scarred for life and need help.

Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand.  Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Those committing sex trafficking frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry.

Child Trafficking Statistics

  • Child/Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Child/ human trafficking is the  world’s second largest criminal enterprise, after drugs. U.S. State Department
  • The global market of child trafficking is over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. UNICEF
  • As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the US. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • The average age of entry for children victimized by the sex trade industry is 12 years. U.S. Department of Justice
  • Approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50% are minors.  U.S.State Department
  • The average number of victims for non-incestuous pedophiles who molest girls is 20, for pedophiles who prefer boys 100! The Association For the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)
  • 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. U.S. Department of Justice
  • 600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. U.S. Department of State, 2004, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C.
  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • An average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Study
  • Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States right now.  Nationally, there has been a 2500% increase in arrests in 10 years. FBI
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helps to identify and locate children in pornography photos and videos, says its staff reviewed more than 10.5 million images in 2009 alone.
  • Reports of exploited children grow every year. In 2009, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children received more than 120,000 reports on its cyber tip line. In 2010, the number grew to over 160,000 with the vast majority being from child pornography.

Worldwide, 5.5 million children are victims of forced labor and child trafficking. They have been bought and sold, forced into prostitution, or made to work at grueling, dangerous jobs with little or no pay.

To Report Human Trafficking Crimes in Your Area:

For questions, referrals, resources or to report a tip in your area, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or email the organization at NHTRC@PolarisProject.org

 

Bullying

It has been a rather eye-opening experience writing this four-part series to realize sadly that people of all ages and persuasions in our society can really be quite unkind to one another. Bullying isn’t just about children on the playground at school. All throughout one’s life bullying can occur in a number of social contexts including: Cyber bullying, Disability bullying, Gay bullying, Legal bullying, Military bullying, Parental bullying, Prison bullying, School bullying, Sexual bullying, and even Workplace bullying in such areas as academia, blue collar jobs, information technology, medicine, nursing, and teaching.

Because of space limitations, and my emphasis on children, I’m only going to discuss definitions of bullying, psychological characteristics of those who bully, parental bullying, school bullying and discuss the effects of bullying.

In Part IV I will set forth a set of recommendations on how to more effectively take aim at this form of child abuse. Some of the ideas will be my own, but others will come from organizations that want to do something about it.

Definition of Bullying

Bullying is defined as the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target.” Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

Bullying is detrimental to students’ well-being and development. And, it can take many forms and occurs in many different contexts. A bullying culture can develop in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. For purposes of this Blog, emphasis will be placed on bullying within the school and its effect on children.

U.S. National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying can be classified into two categories:

  1. Direct bullying, and
  2. Indirect bullying (which is also known as social aggression).

Psychological Characteristics of Those Who Bully

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, bullies can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied. Some have argued that a bully reflects the environment of his home, repeating the model he learned from his parents. Sometimes kids who are dominated by their parents often transfer their anger and bully other kids at school or in the neighborhood.

Researchers have identified other risk factors such as depression and personality, as well as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others’ actions as hostile, concern with preserving self-image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions. A combination of these factors may also be causes of this behavior. In one recent study of youth, a combination of antisocial traits and depression was found to be the best predictor of youth violence, whereas video game violence and television violence exposure were not predictive of these behaviors.

According to some researchers, bullies may be inclined toward negativity and perform poorly academically. Dr. Cook says that “a typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically. He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward him or herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative, and is negatively influenced by peers.”

Parental Bullying

Parents who may displace their anger, insecurity, or a persistent need to dominate and control, upon their children in excessive ways have been proven to increase the likelihood that their own children will in turn become overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers.

The American Psychological Association advises on its website that parents who may suspect that their own children may be engaging in bullying activities amongst their peers, should carefully consider the examples which they themselves may be setting for their own children, regarding how they typically interact with their own peers, colleagues, and children.

Do the parents typically motivate their peers and their children with positive and self-confidence building incentives, or do they most often attempt to motivate their peers and children with certain “threats” of one form of “punishment” or “reprisal” or another (emotional or physical blackmail)?

Research indicates that adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be a particularly strong risk factor.

School Bullying

Bullying can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it may occur more frequently in physical education classes and activities, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and while waiting for buses, and in classes that require group work and/or after school activities.

One factor that is often overlooked is that the bully has an overall inferiority complex.  No matter what the social context, the bully often is actually a coward masquerading as a tough guy.

Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies may taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next victim.

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse such as passive aggression, humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.

Effects of Bullying on Those Who are Targets

Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, “There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide.” Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.

Bullying has also been shown to cause maladjustment in young children, and victims of bullying who were also bullies themselves exhibit even greater social difficulties. In the long term it can lead to posttraumatic stress syndrome and an inability to form relationships.

There is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 children commit suicide every year in the UK alone, because they are being bullied. Bullied students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Since then, bullying has been more closely linked to high school violence in general.

Serial killers were frequently bullied through direct and indirect methods as children or adolescents. Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer and diagnosed psychopath, said the ridicule and rejection he suffered as a child caused him to hate everyone. Kenneth Bianchi, a serial killer and member of the Hillside Stranglers, was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants and suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

Incidence of Corporal Punishment in the United States

In 2008, 223,190 students received corporal punishment in schools in the 20 remaining states that allow hitting or hurting students. The top ten states in administering corporal punishment included:

Texas (49,197)

Mississippi (38,131)

Alabama (33,716)

Arkansas (22,314)

Georgia (18,249)

Oklahoma (14,828)

Tennessee (14,568)

Louisiana (11,080)

Florida (7,185)

Missouri (5,159)

The top five states listed above accounted for 72.4% of the number of children who were victimized by corporal punishment. All five top states in corporal punishment in 2008 were Red States in the 2012 presidential election. Of the top 10 states in corporal punishment 9 out of 10 of these states were Red States in the 2012 election.

Impact of Corporal Punishment

One area of logical importance is to answer the question, what impact does Corporal Punishment have on academic success of students? On April 15, 2010 a joint HRW/ACLU statement was made in a hearing before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities. The title of their statement fits in very nicely with my question. The title of the statement was “Corporal Punishment in Schools and Its Effect on Academic Success.”

I. Introduction

Dear Chairperson McCarthy, Ranking Member Platts, and Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its over half a million members, countless additional supporters and activists, and fifty-three affiliates nationwide and Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, we applaud the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities for conducting a hearing concerning the ongoing corporal punishment of American public school children and its impact on their educational success.

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization working daily in courts, Congress, and communities to defend and preserve the civil rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.  For thirty years, Human Rights Watch has investigated human rights violations wherever they occur, including in the United States, exposed the perpetrators, and advocated for change. We are pleased to submit this written statement for the record on the issue of corporal punishment in public schools – a vitally important issue affecting children’s access to high-quality education and a safe and supportive learning atmosphere.

II. The Ongoing Use of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.[1]  Despite the many problems associated with the hitting or paddling of students, corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states.[2]  Of these, thirteen states have reported that corporal punishment was inflicted on over one thousand students[3] — and eight states reported its use against at least ten thousand students[4]— during the 2006-2007 school year. While significant, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  These statistics only reflect data which has been reported to the Department of Education and they only include the number of students who are subjected to corporal punishment during the school year, not the total number of times that an individual student has been hit over his or her educational career.[5]

Aside from the infliction of pain and the physical injuries which often result from the use of physical punishments, these violent disciplinary methods also impact students’ academic achievement and long-term well-being.[6]  Despite significant evidence that corporal punishment is detrimental to a productive learning environment, there is currently no federal prohibition on the use of physical discipline against children in public school.  In fact, children in some states receive greater protections against corporal punishment in detention facilities than they do in their public schools.[7]  For this reason and others, the ACLU and HRW are encouraged that this subcommittee is seeking to address the problems stemming from corporal punishment in schools.

III. The Disproportionate Use of Corporal Punishment

Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment, hampering their access to a supportive learning environment.  According to the Department of Education, while African Americans make up 17.1 percent of public school students nationwide, they accounted for 35.6 percent of those who were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year.[8] In A Violent Education and Impairing Education, two joint reports published by the ACLU and HRW detailing the effects of corporal punishment in public schools, interviewees noted the disproportionate application of corporal punishment:

  • One Mississippi high school student described the administration of corporal punishment in her school this way: “every time you walk down the hall you see a black kid getting whipped. I would say out of the whole school there are only about three white kids who have gotten paddled.”[9]
  • A Mississippi teacher also noted the racial disparity in the administration of corporal punishment: “I’ve heard this said at my school and at other schools: ‘this child should get less whips, it’ll leave marks.’ Students that are dark-skinned, it takes more to let their skin be bruised. Even with all black students, there is an imbalance: darker-skinned students get worse punishment. This really affected me, being a dark-skinned person myself.”[10]

Evidence shows that students with disabilities are also disproportionally subjected to corporal punishment. The Department of Education has reported that although students with disabilities constitute 13.7 percent of all public school students, they make up 18.8 percent of those who are subjected to corporal punishment.[11]  In many of these cases, students were punished for exhibiting behaviors related to their disabilities, such as autism or Tourette’s syndrome.[12]  The effects of corporal punishment on students with disabilities can dramatically impact their behavior and hamper their academic performance. In Impairing Education, parents and grandparents of students with disabilities noted the changes in behavior and barriers to educational achievement stemming from the use of corporal punishment:

  • A grandmother of a student who has Asperger’s syndrome withdrew him from his Oklahoma school in part because of the hostile environment stemming from frequent use of corporal punishment: “It made him much more introverted. He very much didn’t want to go to school . . . No one’s supposed to go to school to be tortured, school is supposed to be fun.” [13]
  • A mother of a student with autism reported that her son’s behavior changed after he was struck in his Florida school: “He’s an avoider by nature, before he was never aggressive. Now, he struggles with anger; right after the incidents he’d have anger explosions.”[14]

Hitting any student should be an unacceptable practice, but the disproportionate application of corporal punishment further undermines the educational environment for minority groups and students with disabilities.[15]  A federal prohibition on corporal punishment in public schools is necessary to protect students from the discriminatory impact and the academic harms which it brings.       

IV. The Impact of Corporal Punishment on Students’ Academic Performance

Harsh physical punishments do not improve students’ in-school behavior or academic performance.  In fact, one recent study found that in states where corporal punishment is frequently used, schools have performed worse academically than those in states that prohibit corporal punishment.[16]  While most states demonstrated improvements in their American College Testing (ACT) scores from 1994 to 2008, “as a group, states that paddled the most improved their scores the least.”[17] At the same time “the ten states with the longest histories of forbidding corporal punishment improved the most” with improvement rates three times higher than those states which reported frequent use of corporal punishment.[18]

Many children who have been subjected to hitting, paddling or other harsh disciplinary practices have reported subsequent problems with depression, fear and anger.[19]  These students frequently withdraw from school activities and disengage academically.[20] The Society for Adolescent Medicine has found that victims of corporal punishment often develop “deteriorating peer relationships, difficulty with concentration, lowered school achievement, antisocial behavior, intense dislike of authority, somatic complaints, a tendency for school avoidance and school drop-out, and other evidence of negative high-risk adolescent behavior.”[21]  One Mississippi student interviewed for A Violent Education described the effects of corporal punishment on his attitude towards school:

  • “[Y]ou could get a paddling for almost anything. I hated it. It was used as a way to degrade, embarrass students. . . I said I’d never take another paddling, it’s humiliating, and it’s degrading. Some teachers like to paddle students. Paddling causes you to lose respect for a person, stop listening to them.”[22]

Corporal punishment places parents and teachers in positions where they may have to choose between educational advancement and students’ physical well-being.  For instance, some parents who learn that their children are being struck at public school find themselves without recourse, unable to effectively opt-out from the practice, and unable to obtain legal or other redress when their children have been paddled against their wishes.  Ultimately some parents find that the only way they can protect their children from physical harm is to withdraw them from school altogether.[23]  Similarly, teachers who work in schools where corporal punishment is administered are often reluctant to send disruptive students out of the classroom because they are afraid the students will be beaten.[24]

Moreover, a public school’s use of corporal punishment affects every student in that school, including those who are not personally subjected to hitting or paddling.  The prevalent use of physical violence against students creates an overall threatening school atmosphere that impacts students’ ability to perform academically.[25]  Often, children who experience or witness physical violence will themselves develop disruptive and violent behaviors, further disturbing their classmates’ learning as well as their own.[26]

Corporal punishment is a destructive form of discipline that is ineffective in producing educational environments in which students can thrive. Rather than relying on harsh and threatening disciplinary tactics, schools and teachers should be encouraged to develop positive behavior supports (PBS), which have proven effective in reducing the need for harsh discipline while supporting a safe and productive learning environment.[27] The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 2597) would help states and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) create positive learning environments by allowing them to use Title I funds to develop PBS practices.  This bill would also require the Department of Education to provide assistance and support so that states may fully realize the potential of supportive and flexible behavior discipline practices. By abandoning ineffective and brutal disciplinary practices, and by encouraging the adoption of PBS methods, our nation can provide opportunities for all students to achieve academic success in a supportive and safe school environment.

V. Recommendations

In order to prevent the continued use of violence against children in our schools, we recommend that Congress:

  • Introduce and pass federal legislation prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in public schools, conditioned on the receipt of federal funding.
  • Define corporal punishment as any punishment by which physical force is used with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.
  • Promote the use of positive behavioral supports by passing H.R. 2597, and provide teachers and school administrators with the tools and resources necessary to develop safe and effective methods for encouraging positive student behavior
  • Provide students and their families with a private right of action to enforce their rights to be free from physical punishment and to a safe and supportive learning environment in administrative or judicial actions.
  • Require all schools and LEAs to report all instances where corporal punishment is used, not just the number of students who are punished in a given year. This data should be collected and disaggregated by student subgroups to assess disproportionate application.
  • Provide funding to those states which implement PBS practices so that teachers may be effectively trained to create safe and supportive school discipline plans.

VI. Conclusion

The use of violence against students is never an acceptable means of punishment – it harms students physically, psychologically and academically.  The use of corporal punishment in schools is interfering with students’ right to be treated with dignity and, as a result, is interfering with their right to a quality education.  By prohibiting the use of corporal punishment and helping states to develop safe and effective behavioral practices, this Congress could help to ensure that our nation’s children are able to achieve their full educational potential in a supportive learning environment.

Research Findings on Youth Violence

There are many reasons why violence and corporal punishment is psychologically and sociologically connected in American society. This and the next section will clarify what that connection is. Sadly, the data will show that there is even a correlation between corporal punishment and school shootings. What follows are some highlights of these connections based on a review of the research literature.  Numerous reports in the popular media have speculated on plausible causes for such extreme youth violence—guns were too available; parents were not involved; boys are socialized to repress emotion; violence permeates the culture; and children are desensitized to the effects of violence by television, movies, and videogames. Causal factors have been suspected across all of the nested systems that Bronfenbrenner (1979) described as composing the ecology of child development and all aspects of what Super and Harkness (1986) have termed the developmental niche. However, there have been relatively few empirical investigations of the cultural contributions to youth violence.

In one such study, Lynch and Cicchetti (1998) examined neighborhood influences in the development and functioning of 7- to 12-year-olds. They found that children displayed more externalizing problems when they had a history of abuse and also lived in neighborhoods characterized by high levels of violence. Said another way, aspects of children’s direct experience (abuse) and the larger environment in which it occurred (violence in the neighborhood, not necessarily involving the child or family directly) interacted to predict levels of externalizing or “acting out” behavior.

Regionally based differences in the cultural sanctioning of violence are evident within the United States. Cohen and colleagues, for example, found Southerners to be more accepting of interpersonal violence in certain circumstances. Compared to students from the North, college students from southern states were more likely to respond with physiologic arousal (increased cortisol and testosterone levels and aggression) to insults and perceived threats to their honor [Cohen et al., 1996].

Southern white males, in particular, tended to endorse the use of violence for protection, defense, and the socialization of children (Cohen and Nisbett, 1994).

 

Research on Corporal Punishment

Of particular relevance to this Blog is the alleged socialization of children by violent means such as corporal punishment, i.e., the intentional infliction of physical pain in the service of discipline. The application of corporal punishment in schools by individuals serving in loco parentis is described. The research on corporal punishment by parents or other caretakers was described in Part II on child abuse. The practice in schools varies regionally.

Physical punishment has been an integral part of American education since its earliest days (Hyman and Wise, 1979). As recently as 1976, only Massachusetts and New Jersey prohibited school officials from using corporal punishment to discipline students. Currently, school corporal punishment is banned in 30 states and permitted in 20.

The practice is widely allowed by state statute or local district policy in 13 states (AL, AR, CO, ID, IN, KE, LA, MS, MO, NM, SC, TN, TX). Although it is permitted in 10 states, the majority of students attend school in districts that have adopted a ban on corporal punishment (AZ, DE, FL, GA, KS, NC, OH, OK, PA, WY) (National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in the Schools [NCACPS], 1997).

Southern states are overrepresented among permitting states (62% compared with 32% of total), and northeast states among the prohibiting (30% compared with 18% of total).

Several sources of evidence suggest that this policy may be linked to violence at school and beyond.

Hyman (1995) argued persuasively that the infliction of corporal punishment on children in schools is part of a larger web of punitiveness and authoritarian beliefs in American society. Not only does this cultural dependency on punitive measures for societal control mitigate against efforts to ban corporal punishment from the schools nationally, it may also amplify negative consequences for children who are so punished. Strauss (1994) described this phenomenon as a “cultural spillover,” arguing that the spillover of violence from one cultural domain to others accounted for observations that statewide homicide rates and assault rates by children in schools varied with the level of school corporal punishment allowed by the state.

Additional empirical evidence has linked corporal punishment to child abuse and extreme punishment. Maltreatment rates in countries such as Sweden, where corporal punishment of children in any setting is legally banned, as well as in countries such as Finland, China, and Japan, where the practice is rare, are significantly lower than in the United States (Belsky, 1980;Strauss, 1994; Zigler and Hall, 1989).

Within the United States, higher rates of child abuse fatalities occur in states that permit corporal punishment in the schools (Arcus and Ryan, 1999). Finally, Streib [cited in Hyman, 1995] found that states reporting the 10 highest rates of school paddlings were also those with the greatest number of youths awaiting capital punishment in the state judicial system.

Although the correlational nature of these data limits causal inference, critics of school corporal punishment have argued that it encourages aggression by (1) promoting the merits of applying violent responses to children’s behavior, (2) framing violence as an acceptable phenomenon, and (3) modeling its use by authority figures (e.g., American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997; Hyman and Perone, 1998; Society for Adolescent Medicine, 1992).

The chief rebuttal criticism hinges on the complexity of the issue and numerous confounding factors. Three major correlates of the endorsement and use of corporal punishment—poverty, religious views, and geographic region—are also interwoven with each other and with aggression and violence.

The southern region of the United States, overrepresented among states permittingschool corporal punishment and often referred to as the “Bible belt,” has historically been associated with low per capita income and a high prevalence of fundamentalist religious denominations.

The chronic stresses of impoverishment may exacerbate aggressive tendencies in individuals living under such conditions. Poverty in families has been associated with authoritarian parenting and the physical and emotional neglect of children (Tonge et al., 1975). Additionally, families in poverty in which there are also several young children, male children, and drug or alcohol problems, are among those with the highest rates of physical child abuse (Wolfner and Gelles, 1993).

Poverty is also related to religious affiliation. Fundamentalist or conservative Christian denominations are overrepresented among the poor (McDowell and Friedman, 1979), and these religious traditions promote punitive childrearing strategies that endorse the use of corporal punishment (Ellison et al., 1996; Grasmick and McGill, 1994; Greven, 1991; Kilbourne, 1999).

Prevailing fundamentalist childrearing philosophies may also influence public school education, and they have been used as a basis for opposition to reform initiatives stemming from constructivist (e.g., Piagetian) learning models (Berliner, 1997). Hence, any investigation of the association between school corporal punishment and school violence needs to account for at least these correlated factors.

 

Opposition to Corporal Punishment

People reading this Blog should seriously ask this question: Would you want your children or grandchildren enrolled in a school where they run the risk of being hit or hurt? Even as long ago as 230 years, people felt this was a very bad idea and highly unacceptable. Poland in 1783 was the first country in the world to abolish corporal punishment.

In the United States New Jersey outlawed corporal punishment in 1867. Our southern and mid-western states appear, in the 21st Century, to be a “Wee-bit-slow” to get rid of corporal punishment.

At the current time a majority of thirty out of 50 states (60%) have abolished corporal punishment in their schools. What is it about our predominantly southern and mid-western bible-belt conservative states that cause them to tenaciously hold on to school policies that foster and promote child abuse?  Corporal punishment is often described by psychologists as “sloppy behaviorism” and, as an educational policy or tool, has neither scientific merit nor educational value.

Important prestigious national organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA) are unanimous in opposing corporal punishment and institutionalized child abuse in the schools.

Here is an excerpt from the April 14, 2010 NEA letter to the House Education and Labor Committee on Corporal Punishment in schools. According to the NEA, “On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we write to express our position on corporal punishment and effective school safety strategies, in advance of this week’s Education and Labor Committee hearing on Corporal Punishment in Schools and its Effect on School Success…NEA believes that all educators and students have the right to work and learn in a safe school environment. Educators know that a positive, effective learning environment leads to successful student outcomes. We also know that there is no evidence to support the use of corporal punishment in schools as a strategy that leads to positive student engagement and learning. NEA categorically opposes the use of corporal punishment as a school discipline technique. It is more than ineffective – it is harmful.”

Another letter comes from the United Nations to end the corporal punishment of children. Because of its global importance, I have elected to present it in its entirety.

Statement by the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, at the event on Ending Corporal Punishment of Children

Geneva, Palais des Nations – Room XXII
 22 January 2013

Dear Ambassador,
Permanent Representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honored and delighted to join you in this discussion on how to end the corporal punishment of children.  I thank the Permanent Missions of Finland, Tunisia and Uruguay for organizing this event. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the work undertaken by civil society to bring this issue close to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, and particularly the efforts by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

We have come a long way since the publication of the UN Study on Violence against Children in 2006, produced by Professor Pinheiro with the support of OHCHR, UNICEF and WHO. As we all know, the UN Study brought to light the tragic reality and magnitude of the problem posed by violence against children, confirming that it exists in every country and takes place in different settings, including the family, the school, institutions and the community.  While six years have passed since then, most of the findings and recommendations of the Study remain valid today. UNICEF’s report on “Child Disciplinary Practices at Home” confirms that violent disciplinary measures are extremely common and that more work is needed to fight violence against children, including corporal punishment, all over the world.

Certainly efforts have been made in a number of regions and countries to implement the UN Study recommendations, and we need to celebrate some of the positive steps. Six years ago, there were only 11 States that had prohibited corporal punishment in all settings. Today, more than 30 States have done so, and 18 others have made public commitments to follow suit.

The UN Study urged States to prohibit all forms of violence against children, in all settings, including all corporal punishment, harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and so-called honor crimes, sexual violence, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment, as required by international treaties, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The recently adopted General Comment No. 13 of the CRC, on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, reinforces this recommendation.

In addition, this same recommendation has been reiterated by OHCHR in its different reports on child rights to the Human Rights Council. I would like to describe in more detail some references to corporal punishment that feature in our reports, and reflect OHCHR’s position on the matter.

In our latest report, which will be presented to the Council this March, on the right of the child to health, we stress that the burden of mortality and morbidity of children that is attributable to violence is high, particularly during early childhood and adolescence. The report also states that in light of the impact of corporal punishment on children’s health, including fatal and non-fatal injury, as well as psychological and emotional consequences, corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishments in all settings should be prohibited and eliminated.

We also recommend that States review national laws and policies and that comprehensive prohibition of all forms of violence against children be included in legislation. Given the interdependence and indivisibility of rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the child, the realization of the right to health is indispensable for the enjoyment of all other rights, and achieving the right to health is likewise dependent on the realization of many of the other rights contained in the Convention.   Thus, if the right of the child to be free from violence (article 19 of the Convention) is not realized, there will be an immediate and negative impact on the child’s right to health.

Similarly in our report on the rights of children in street situations we recommended prohibition of all forms of violence against children living and/or working on the street and implementation of the recommendations made by the UN Study on Violence against children.

Furthermore, in our joint report with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and UNODC on the prevention of violence in the juvenile justice system, we indicated that children in detention are frequently subjected to violence as a punishment for minor offences. We acknowledged that 116 countries have abolished corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions (a positive increase of 10 countries since the UN Study was finalized), but also noted that, despite abolition, violent practices in the juvenile justice system are found in both developed and developing countries. Apart from the use of caning and whipping, children may be punished through confinement in cells for lengthy periods, solitary confinement, food rationing or physical restraints.

Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a violation of the rights of the child. It conflicts with the child’s human dignity and the right of the child to physical integrity. It also prevents children from reaching their full potential, by putting at risk their right to health, survival and development. The best interests of the child can never be used to justify such practice.  Eliminating violence against children is not only a human rights imperative, but also a means to bring about social changes and attitudes. While appropriate legal frameworks are needed, little will be achieved if we do not work hand in hand to transform attitudes that condone and normalize violence against children, including corporal punishment. The need to promote the values of non-violence and awareness-raising among all those working with children is essential if we want this situation to come to an end.

Let me finish by reinforcing one of the main messages of the UN Study which, without a doubt, we will hear repeated many times today:  violence against children can never be justified and all such violence is preventable.

Many thanks

Connecting Corporal Punishment to Student Deaths in the United States

In 2002 a study was published in the Journal of Aggressive Behavior (28:173–183). Student deaths from school shootings were examined across all 50 states according to the state’s policy on the use of corporal punishment in schools. There was significantly more school shooting deaths found in states allowing school corporal punishment compared with those that do not. The odds of fatal involvement in a school shooting were greatest in states permitting school corporal punishment compared with those prohibiting it (odds ratio, 2.04) or restricting it to districts serving less than half the student population (odds ratio, 1.77). Moreover, the rate of school corporal punishment was moderately correlated with the rate of fatal school shootings both across all states and within the South, the region in which endorsement of school corporal punishment is most prevalent.

The study found evidence that the sanctioning of corporal punishment in the schools is linked with elevated levels of child-directed violence, even when accounting for associated differences in poverty and prevailing conservative Christian ideology both in the United States as a whole and within the Southern region.

Of significance was the finding that children and youths are more likely to die in school shootings in states permitting schools to practice corporal punishment than in states in which the practice has been prohibited. The more physically punitive discipline is practiced in the schools, the more likely students are likely to die in school shootings.

I had to ask myself: why is corporal punishment policy related to school shootings and student murders. The reasons pertain to the fact that corporal punishment policy is a by-product of a historically greater “culture of violence.” This culture of violence (a learned and socially transmitted set of beliefs and behavior from one generation to the next) permeates the social fabric of life in many southern and mid-western states. Any social environment that is more accepting of violence toward children, such as corporal punishment, produces a community over time that reflects deviant cultural norms. Give any profession a free pass to control and/or hurt your child and you open the door directly to exploitation and harm.

In California, prior to that state’s outlawing of corporal punishment, a former student reported that the only thing he learned from the experience of being paddled was to loathe the teacher who did it. Any educational system that reinforces hatred of authority, loathing and fear is highly suspect as not being ready for the all-important mission of education; namely, creating a positive, safe, sound, and valuable educational environment for learning and development.

 

Why Corporal Punishment?

Beyond poverty, backward fundamentalist attitudes, and specific regions of the country, what nexus of influential factors seem to precipitate or connect all the dots that link the philosophy of the region, and aggregate level variables associated with abuse, with those variables that cause teachers and administrators to commit acts of violence against children? What connects the larger structural characteristics of culture with individual acts of violence such as corporal punishment? Well, below is the answer.

There appears to this Blogger to be four major factors that cause teachers and administrators in southern and mid-western states to find corporal punishment rewarding where students are hit or hurt. These factors include: (1) Deviant Cultural Values, (2) History of the South, (3) Professional and Social Incompetence, and (4) Predators in School Settings. Some of the reasons relate to deviant social values reflected in these regions of the United States; other reasons pertain to the tainted philosophies of bible-belt religions (spare the rod and spoil the child and other antiquated nonsense).

Closer to the level of teachers and administrators there is professional and social incompetence (how they interact with young children and students). Finally, lack of school and district wide screening for predators, including sexual predators who wield a paddle, whip, or belt for sadistic or sexual stimulation and satisfaction. Given things like boring holes in paddles so as to increase pain, blistering, and longer-lasting suffering, it is clear that these degenerates are falling through the cracks. Screeners don’t suffer, children do.

Deviant Cultural Values

Institutionalized violence like corporal punishment often mask underlying deviant cultural values in predominantly southern and mid-western states. Corporal punishment has been outlawed in the nation’s prisons, jails, and adult and youth correctional facilities for decades (Supreme Court and District Court rulings). It is ironic in the 21st Century that children in school settings are deemed less important and possess less value for protection from harm— than do our offender populations. This goes back to the phenomena of cognitive dissonance discussed in Part I of this series. The decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1977 to allow corporal punishment in the schools as legal under the U.S. Constitution would be a lot different now. Given the disproportionate administration of corporal punishment to black students and disabled students, and the sexually deviant motivations of degenerate teachers and administrators who enjoy hurting children, it is very likely a Federal District Court or the U.S. Supreme Court would now invoke the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to end corporal punishment. And, the courts would create remedies of criminal indictment in federal courts for all violators subsequent to their ruling.

One may wonder why do school districts in southern and mid-western states condone violence against children at all? Why do they continue to be an embarrassment before the rest of the nation? Are they really that uncaring, or simply not too bright? Why do they take an on-purpose “blind eye” to all the relevant educational and psychological knowledge available to them? What role have deviant cultural norms motivated school districts in the south and mid-west to deny scientific knowledge that corporal punishment has short and long term effects that are deleterious to a child’s health and well-being? What would cause some educators to bury their head in the sand where corporal punishment is concerned?

Social History of the South

Perhaps the most major reason of all for continuation of deviant cultural values, into the modern era, is rooted in their past. During the racism of “Jim Crow” there was a legacy of extreme violence over others where the murder, beating and whipping blacks occurred during slavery, but also continued in the Post-Construction era following the Civil War with the criminal acts of the Klu Klux Klan. The era of “Jim Crow” is dead, but its legacy lives on, evidently well into the 21st Century.

When the Civil Rights Movement began to exert its powerful influence in the 1960s, reinforced by the Courts, southerners began to feel impotent, lost status nationally and had to come to grips with the dishonor and shame of their past. Faced with the lasting taint of racism these communities and school districts found a way to have control in social life and continue their legacy of human dominance over others. This legacy still portends a disdain for liberalism, civil and human rights.

In southern and mid-western school districts that practice corporal punishment, it would be very instructive to know the race/ethnicity of students victimized by corporal punishment. Are blacks and Hispanics more likely to be victimized by corporal punishment than white students?

Professional and Social Incompetence

One might wonder why it is school districts that prohibit corporal punishment have much higher educational achievement levels on standardized tests than do school districts authorizing violence with corporal punishment.

These differences reflect more than student natural ability. It’s more about the schools involved and their ability (or lack thereof) to use the best teaching and motivational strategies that would achieve higher student scores. One might also wonder what is about the 20 states in the US that condone violence against children, why they fail to heed the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment is sloppy behaviorism and lacks not even a scintilla of evidence to support it.

Predators in School Settings

At the current time the news headlines are filled with all sorts of school district scandals involving racketeering, corruption, and theft. In addition, it is no secret that teachers have committed serious moral and professional violations, and criminal acts that relate to sex scandals with students. All of this raises the issue of screening. Although not foolproof, this is an important role for school districts to carry out. The greatest failure of school districts around the country is inadequate screening of teachers and administrators or other employees before someone is hired. Screening of educational credentials for teachers is very common at a job interview. Seldom do school districts require psychiatric evaluation prior to someone being hired. This applies to coaching positions as well. Because of this lack of critical screening, sexual predators can find their way into the classroom.

Too many times in the last two decades students have had to endure the unwanted sexual advances of predatory teachers and administrators. Often these predators seek out their victims by going into professions where they can control and dominate their victims. These ready-made work environments include, but are not limited to, professions like teaching, nursing, or the military.

Positions where they can administer corporal punishment to students may also be linked to sexual predation as well, as mentioned above. Hitting and physically harming children in an institutional setting is as much to blame for the United States’ serious problem of child abuse as a parent is with inferior parenting skills. (See definition in Part II of what constitutes physical child abuse). Several states, including some among the 20 that allow it, have entered the names for life of individual teachers and administrators who commit corporal punishment onto their state’s Child Abuse Registry.

Post Script

Well, there are many factors collectively and individually that may be responsible for why corporal punishment still exists in these backward 20 states: (1) the possession of deviant cultural values, (2) a social history of racism and the need to dominate others, (3) lack of professionalism among the educational staff, or simply professional incompetence by failing to read and understand their own profession’s accumulated knowledge about successful student/teacher interaction and good teaching methods, and (4) teachers and administrators who derive pleasure hurting children and may derive sexual satisfaction or be sexually stimulated from hurting children (sadistic impulses). These latter individuals don’t deserve to be employed anywhere, much less in a profession as important as teaching our children. Finally, the surrounding local community or culture may possess or foster bible-belt religious philosophies that are repugnant to a modern culturally mature larger society.

Even in the 21st Century these backward pockets of extreme conservatism often culturally mask an underlying political outlook that is hidden, yet fraught with a lingering veil of racism and deviant values that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of all other Americans. Such a veil still continues to bring lasting shame to these areas of the country.

In Part IV I will report on what is known about the crime of kidnapping children. In addition, a full set of recommendations will be made to address Sex Trafficking, Bullying, and Corporal Punishment in the schools. Where school districts that promote corporal punishment is concerned I am seriously thinking the federal government must eliminate any federal economic help to school districts that promote corporal punishment in the schools. On the other hand, schools districts that ban corporal punishment would receive additional economic support. Teachers and administrators who continue to hurt students will also face arrest and criminal indictment by federal authorities.

If any infant is attacked and brutalized by an adult, law enforcement would be all over the offender lake a “Fly on do-do.” If an adult is attacked on the street and physically harmed, law enforcement will seek out and arrest the offender. When a teacher or administrator beats a child the only difference is a person’s age (school age children). But the behavioral outcome is the same—someone is getting hurt. Very young and adults are protected by the law; school age children don’t seem to be in certain parts of the country. It’s long overdue for such hypocrisy to end. It’s time for the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to apply to all citizens, old and young alike.

 

HRW/ACLU NOTES

 

[1] During the 2006-2007 school year, at least 223,190 students in the U.S. were subjected to corporal punishment.  See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection 2006, http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx (last accessed April 1, 2010) [hereinafter Civil Rights Data Collection].

[2] Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas,  Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, Impairing Education 27 (2009), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights/impairing-education-corporal-punishment-students-disabilities-us-public-schools   [hereinafter Impairing Education].

[3] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee & Texas. See id. at 27.

[4] Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. See id, at 27.

[5] Many school districts may fail to report corporal punishment data to the Department of Education, and many incidents may not be recorded in the first place. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, A Violent Education 45-46 (2008), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights-racial-justice/violent-education-corporal-punishment-children-us-public-schools [hereinafter A Violent Education]; Impairing Education, at 30-31.

[6] See generally A Violent Education, at 57; Impairing Education, at 4-5.

[7] Corporal punishment of children in juvenile justice facilities has been prohibited by the Courts of Appeals in several Federal Circuits.  See Nelson v. Heyne, 491 F.2d 352 (7th Cir. 1974), cert. denied 417 U.S. 476 (paddling of children in juvenile detention was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment); Morales v. Turman, 562 F.2d 993, 998 (5th Cir. 1977) (corporal punishment and physical abuse in juvenile detention facilities subject to prohibition as a violation of Eighth Amendment), rev’d on other grounds, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976), rev’d and remanded, 430 U.S. 322 (1977).  See also, Santana v. Collazo, 533 F. Supp. 966 (D.P.R. 1982) (corporal punishment against juveniles in industrial schools and juvenile camps violates Eighth Amendment and is barred “for any reason”), aff’d in part and vacated in part, 714 F.2d 1172 (lst Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 974 (1984).  The American Correctional Association has also issued standards banning use of corporal punishment in juvenile facilities. See also Steven J. Martin, Staff Use of Force in United States Confinement Settings, 22 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 145 (2006).  In addition, corporal punishment and other harsh disciplinary practices are prohibited in publicly-funded non-medical substance abuse and long-term medical care facilities.  See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 290jj (banning corporal punishment in “non-medical community-based facilities for children and youth.”); 42 C.F.R. § 483.13 (banning corporal punishment in long-term medical care facilities).

[8] Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1. See also A Violent Education, at 5 (“In the same year [2006-2007], in the 13 states with the highest rates of paddling, 1.4 times as many African American students were paddled as might be expected given their percentage of the student population. Although girls of all races were paddled less than boys, African American girls were nonetheless physically punished at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts in those 13 states during this period”).

[9] A Violent Education, at 72 (interview with Abrea T., Dec. 10, 2007).

[10] A Violent Education, at 75-76 (interview with Catherine V., Nov. 7, 2007).

[11] In the 2006-2007 school year, 41,972 students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment during the 2006-2007 school year. See Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1.

[12] See Impairing Education, at 35-40.

[13] Impairing Education, at 44 (interview with Sarah P.  May 22, 2009).

[14] Impairing Education, at 43 (interview with Anna M., March 9, 2009).

[15] See A Violent Education, at 75.

[16] Michael Hickmon, Study: Paddling vs. ACT Scores and Civil Immunity Legislation (2008), available at http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=paddlingvsact.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 42-43.

[20] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 43-44.

[21] Society for Adolescent Medicine, Position Paper: Corporal Punishment in Schools, 32:5 J. Adolescent Health 385, 388 (2003).

[22] A Violent Education, at 55 (interview with Sean D., Dec. 14, 2007).

[23] See Impairing Education, at 6.

[24] See id. at 5.

[25] See A Violent Education, at 25-29.

[26]  This is often because students who have been subjected to corporal punishment have learned through their experiences that physical violence is an appropriate way to handle conflict. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that “corporal punishment may adversely affect a student’s self-image and school achievement and it may contribute to disruptive and violent behavior.” American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on School Health, Corporal Punishment in Schools, 106:2 Pediatrics 343 (2000), available at http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;106/2/343.

[27] See, e.g., Stephen P. Safran & Karen Oswald, Positive Behavior Supports: Can Schools Reshape Disciplinary Practices?, 69:3 Exceptional Child. 361 (2003), available at http://www.casenex.com/casenex/cecReadings/positiveBehavior.pdf.

 

 

 

 

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The Political, Social, and Economic Issues in 2012:

How Do the President and Mitt Romney Stack Up?

 

 

Introduction

There is perhaps no better way to clarify how you should vote in 2012 than to lay out the plan and beliefs of each candidate regarding the critical issues of our time. As we get closer to Election Day, I hope you keep these differences between the candidates in mind. Initially, I had planned to discuss the fine points and relative value of Supply Side Economics (Republican approach to the economy) versus Demand Side Economics (Democratic approach to the economy). Instead, I have decided to cover a broader set of issues.

Back in March 2012 I began writing a six part series on Election Year Politics and the Economy. There, in the broadest sense, I covered the basics of economics and I would encourage you to review them once again. We are told incessantly by the media and party leaders that the crucial issue in 2012 is the economy. However, many many other issues are important to various segments of the population, as well as important to the voting public as a whole.

Consequently, I have layed out how each candidate views a variety of social, political, and economic issues. In this way, the larger broader view of election year politics will be covered. With this broader view, coupled with the specifics of economic theory covered in the six part series, each reader should be adequately prepared with knowledge to vote for the candidate of his or her choice on November 6, 2012.

In a final Conclusions Section I will tell my cyberspace audience how I will vote this fall and my reasons for doing so.

 

Critical Issues of Our Time

 

 The following shows how Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues. This information comes mostly from the Associated Press but also from this Blogger.

 ABORTION & BIRTH CONTROL

OBAMA: Supports abortion rights Health care law that requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

ROMNEY: Opposes abortion rights. He previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

WAR

OBAMA: Ended the Iraq war. He increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. He approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. There are major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut $487 billion in military spending over a decade.

ROMNEY: Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. He would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016.

TERRORISM

OBAMA: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden and set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended later in George W. Bush’s presidency. He largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

ROMNEY: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, Romney refused to rule out use of waterboarding torture to interrogate terrorist suspects. Despite the fact the war crimes tribunal executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding following the ending of WWII, Mitt Romney in 2011, said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture. The fact that the United States itself strongly supported all of the Geneva Convention laws prior to the Bush administration, Mitt Romney ignores the fact that the use of torture by the Bush administration dishonored and disgraced our country. Evidently, Mitt Romney would do the same by ignoring both national and international laws that forbid it.

IMMIGRATION

OBAMA: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. He took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

ROMNEY: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence and opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. He opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Establish an immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire non-citizens who do not prove their legal status. He would end immigration caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.

GUNS

OBAMA: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. He voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. He previously backed stronger gun controls.

ROMNEY: Opposes stricter gun control laws. He suggested after the shooting in a Colorado theater that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, he vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.

FOREIGN POLICY

OBAMA: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. He declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition. Instead Obama seeks international pressure against the Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. He signed into law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

ROMNEY: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step. “Of course you take military action” if sanctions and internal opposition fail to dissuade Tehran from making a nuclear weapon, he has said. Has spoken in favor of covert action by the U.S. and regional allies in Syria but “the right course is not military” intervention by the U.S. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel and agreed with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the capital, disregarding the Palestinians’ claim to the eastern sector. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.

DEBT

OBAMA: Fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. He won approval to raise debt limit to avoid default. He calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. Central to Obama’s plan is to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000.

ROMNEY: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system’s collapse, but opposed the auto bailout. He would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of his first term, down from 23.5 percent now, with largely unspecified spending cuts. He favors a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

ECONOMY

OBAMA: Term marked by high unemployment, a deep recession that began in previous administration and has created a sustained gradual recovery. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan. Continued implementation of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts begun under George W. Bush. Proposes tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically or repatriating jobs from abroad, and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs.

ROMNEY: He advocates lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. He would replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. He proposes repeal of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector, and the law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals.

EDUCATION

OBAMA: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. “Race to the Top” competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports.

ROMNEY: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. He has said that student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition “make sense” although the federal government should have less control of education.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

 OBAMA: He ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but has pushed for more oil and gas drilling overall. He achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles.

He achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions.

ROMNEY: He supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska.

Wants to reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development, and accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers with good safety records. Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown.

GAY RIGHTS

 OBAMA: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. He opposed that recognition in his 2008 presidential campaign, and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. He achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. He has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. His administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

ROMNEY: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” He also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits —largely unspecified — as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.

HEALTH CARE

 OBAMA: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance.

Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid will expand.

ROMNEY: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured.

Proposes to guarantee that people who are “continuously covered” for a certain period be protected against losing insurance if they get sick, leave their job and need another policy. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.

SOCIAL SECURITY

OBAMA: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security’s long-term financial problems. In 2011, he proposed a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.

ROMNEY: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.

TAXES

 OBAMA: He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. He supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all.

He wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, he built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

ROMNEY: He would keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest.

He would end Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.

  

Conclusions

Mitt Romney as a Choice in 2012:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespear’s MacBeth

 

This fall I’m voting to re-elect President Barack Obama to a second term as our president. While Mitt Romney appears to be a good and decent man, he does not have the experience, attitudes, or mental acuity to convince me he is more qualified to be the President of the United States.

I don’t like President Obama’s 2011 measure to eliminate inflationary increases for Social Secuirty recipients, and I do like Mitt Romney’s plan to eliminate Capital Gains taxes on those making $200,000 or less. I also don’t think the President was aggressive enough on banning assault rifles, while Romney succeeded in getting assualt rifles banned in his state of Massachusetts.

That’s it folks. The President, on balance, is still the right choice this fall because of all his tremendous accomplishments while in office.

The Accomplishments of President Barack Obama

By some accounts (Florida Professor of American Studies Robert P. Watson of Lynn University) President Obama’s accomplishments now total 244 since he took office. Here are just a few of the significant accomplishments of the president during his first term in the White House.

  • Overhauled the food safety system;
  • Approved the Lily Ledbetter ”Equal Pay” for women rule;
  • Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” discrimination in the military;
  • Passed the Hate Crimes bill in Congress;
  • Saved the auto industry from bankruptcy which included General Motors and Chrysler;
  • Appointed two progressive women to the U.S. Supreme Court including the first Latina;
  • Pushed through the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, extending until age 26 health care coverage of children under parent’s plans, steps toward “Medicare for All;”
  • Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children. This helped to cover 4 million more lower-income children;
  • Pushed through a $789 Billion economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure;
  • Overhauled the credit card industry, making it more consumer friendly;
  • Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess appointment to keep it on track in the face of  GOP attempts to derail it;
  • Also outmaneuvered GOP in naming two members of the National Labor Relations Board blocked by the Republicans in their attempt to shut down the NLRB;
  • Won two extensions of the debt ceiling and extensions of unemployment compensation in the face of Republican threats to shut down the U.S. government;
  • Pulled troops out of Iraq and began drawing down of troops in Afghanistan;
  • Signed an omnibus public lands bill that allowed for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness. It added 1,000 miles designated for scenic rivers, and added lands for national trails;
  • Signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act;
  • Signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expanded the scope of AmeriCorps;
  • Signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research;
  • Created greater transparency in government by creation of White House visitor logs, a ban on lobbyist gifts, or allowing lobbyists from serving on advisory boards, and restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists.
  • Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated.
  • In 2011 President Barack Obama gave the order for Navy Seals commandos to take out Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 911. They were successful and Osama Bin Laden is dead.
  • President Barack Obama achieved, as of October 2012, the lowest unemployment rate (7.8%) since he took office. Remember folks, the unemployment rate during the recession, which the President inherited, reached a peak of (10.0%) on October, 2009. C’mon Man, give credit where credit is due! We’re now in an expansionary economic cycle. Guess what economic cycle comes after the expansinary one? That’s right genius—you guessed it—PROSPERITY!

At the value judgment level, I simply prefer the values of the democratic party than I do those of the Republican party. It seems to the objective observer that Republicans are always playing “catch-up” to the rest of society. Problem is “the Party of No” never really seems to catch-up. In addition,“Trickle Down (Supply Side Economics)” just doesn’t work because tax cuts for high income individuals, corporations, and large businesses don’t necessarily lead to economic expansion thereby creating jobs and lowering unemployment.

Why? Because there are other choices for using tax cut windfalls besides reinvestment in one’s business that might lead to job creation. One can simply save the money for a reserve or a rainy day. Or, one can invest their tax windfall in the stock market or other investments. Or, one can spend the tax windfall on hefty bonuses for executives, and salary increases for managers or staff, or one can actually plow the tax windfall back into the business.

Point is—there are many choices for what to do with a tax cut windfall. Current Republican rhetoric would have you believe that tax cuts always lead to job creation and lowering unemployment. It can, but what Republicans try to hide from the public and the voter is that, in reality, there are many other choices for spending a tax cut windfall, not just job creation.

For all these reasons around economics and taxes, as well as the President’ many other significant achievements while in office, I’m giving my support and vote in the coming election to the President of the United States—Barack Obama.

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Marital Relationships in the 21st Century:

A Few Modern Day Insights

 

Part II

This leads us to the core causes of much marital discord and dysfunction. My days as a social scientist are long over. However, a lifetime of study in psychology and sociology, and observation of the real world, has given me a few insights into the human condition.

All marriages have strengths and weaknesses. Metaphorically speaking, in my more cynical moments, I can think of marriage as a “Battlefield.” In my more playful or humorous moments I like to think of marriage as a “Playing Field.”  The Battlefield metaphor, of course, is about warring factions; the playing field metaphor connotes something more like a sporting event with winners and losers. A better metaphorical image (yet always a work in progress) of marriage—is the United Nations model, whereby cooperation and understanding is always promoted but can, at times, be imperfect in trying to bring about such cooperation and understanding.

In a marriage what tends to bring about cooperation and understanding is Mental and Emotional Maturity. What tends to create great difficulty for marriage partners is extreme selfishness and control freak behavior. Depending upon the psychological characteristics of the individuals, marriage is either an ongoing war or it is the personification of cooperation and understanding. What is your marriage all about?

Let’s take a look now at what these personality characteristics are all about.

Mental and Emotional Maturity in Marriage

All of us have social needs. Yet, the need to control our own destiny is also important. But in a marital relationship the needs and independence of our spouse is equally important. Nothing promotes the needs and independence of one’s spouse more than mental and emotional maturity. Because of the complexity of the concepts Mental and Emotional Maturity, I’ve opted to give readers the abbreviated explanation for these concepts.

When mentally mature partners in a marriage are dealing with marital conflict, there is often a proactive, sometimes insightful, assessment of the situation. Compromises may or may not be reached during such an assessment; nevertheless, mature individuals often take a step backwards for a moment and try to put themselves in their spouse’s position. Thus, mental and emotional maturity promotes empathy at its best. What does it mean to be mature? It means generally seven things. According to Krystal Kuehn, citing Merriam-Webster, “mature is defined as having completed natural growth and development. That is, being fully grown, complete, ready.” According to her, “I do not believe that we arrive at a state of complete emotional maturity with no further need for growth and development. Rather, emotional maturity is a life-long process. We continually grow in our experience of love, acceptance, stability, adaption, and so forth.”

Following is the list of Criteria of Emotional Maturity by William C. Menninger, psychiatrist and co-founder of the Menninger Clinic along with some of Ms. Kuehn’s thoughts and comments. “As we grow and develop in the following areas, we become more emotionally mature with greater mental and emotional stability, healthier relationships, and improved lives.”

The ability to deal constructively with reality

To deal with reality in a constructive manner, we must face truth, the facts, rather than deny them. Running from problems or hoping they do not exist does not make them go away. Regardless of how unpleasant they may be at times, facing the facts is the first step to dealing with any situation.

The capacity to adapt to change

Change is not always easy. It can turn our world upside down at times and cause a great deal of stress. Whether the change is minor, like having to change our plans for the day, or more significant, such as moving to a new home, changing jobs, getting married or divorced, adapting to change is to make necessary adjustments. Sometimes the most important adjustment is in our attitude. Change can annoy us as it disrupts our routine and expectations, but we can choose to accept it and allow ourselves time to get comfortable with change.

A relative freedom from symptoms that are produced by tensions and anxieties

The symptoms produced from tensions and anxieties can include physical distress (headaches, stomach problems, rapid heart rate) and emotional distress (worry, restlessness, panic). Anxiety is a major mental health problem affecting millions of people every day. To live free of its destructive symptoms and consequences is to cope with life stress in a healthy manner, learn to relax, release worries, and develop inner peace..

The capacity to find more satisfaction in giving than receiving

People who give of themselves–their time, attention, help, finances, or what they are able– are generally more fulfilled and happy than those who do not. People who are primarily takers are more likely to use others for their own personal gain and are often considered selfish, stingy, and/or greedy. Givers, on the other hand, want to contribute and make a positive difference in this world. It is healthy to give cheerfully and willingly as it contributes to our sense of purpose and helps us connect with others and our society.

The capacity to relate to other people in a consistent manner with mutual satisfaction and helpfulness

Like I always say, life is all about relationships. We relate to others every single day–whether it is a relative, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger, our lives are intertwined with others. Love and respect are two key factors to relating successfully to others. Unlike dysfunctional relationships, healthy relationships are stable and provide deep satisfaction and joy.

The capacity to sublimate, to direct one’s instinctive hostile energy into creative and constructive outlets

If we were to release all our frustrations and anger on the world, we would have a hostile existence. Instead, we can take that energy and direct it into something good and productive. It has long been said that sports is a great outlet of extra energy. Anything that is positive, constructive and creative can redirect our energies and put them to good use.

The capacity to love

Love is the greatest power in the world. As humans, we are born with the capacity to love. The greatest differences between us are how we communicate our love.

Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it. ~Karl Menninger

One does not fall in love; one grows into love, and love grows in him. ~Karl Menninger

Self-love is not opposed to the love of other people. You cannot really love yourself and do yourself a favor without doing people a favor, and vise versa. ~Karl Menninger

Experience is not what happens to you, it’s how you interpret what happens to you. ~Aldous Huxley

In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships. ~John Gottman (from Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child)

Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it. ~Vincent Van Gogh

 

Balancing Act

All of the characteristics of emotionally mature people are true and correct; the problem here is that, unfortunately, many of us do not manifest all or even most of these terrific characteristics all the time. To my way of thinking, the United Nations metaphor of marital relationships is a Balancing Act.

Sometimes when a person is highly irritated with their spouse, it becomes necessary to look beyond the surface to what is happening at that moment to your spouse. Put very simply—you need to ask yourself this very simple question, what’s bothering my spouse?

Is there something I can do to make his or her situation better? Mature, insightful individuals tend to ask these more reflective types of questions when dealing with marital problems. Now I have to say from personal experience it’s easier said than done. Often, it’s common to simply react negatively, to let emotions dictate one’s thoughts and reason. An all-giving individual is rare in this society; a more usual approach among individuals in a marriage is A Balancing Act.

Together as a couple you could negotiate a solution that either satisfies both of you or, more likely, takes care of one of you in a particular moment or situation. This creates an emotional I.O.U. for the sacrificing spouse. You’ll know you’re there if you can strike a balance between getting what you want and giving what is needed.

When you can defer to someone else without feeling powerless and without fearing emotional abandonment, you’re a grown-up. Savor it. Push yourself to use this cooperation model as often as possible.

Maintaining Balance with Misdirected Anger

Sometimes a spouse will take out all of his or her frustrations on you, when what’s bothering them, in fact, may have nothing whatsoever to do with you. It is incumbent upon the individual to not simply react all the time. Instead, try to understand what may be bothering your partner. If you love your spouse, you will and should give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes when a partner unloads on you, he or she may actually be showing just how comfortable they really are in your presence by being able to unload on you their anger and concerns in the first place.

Unloading on one’s children or others may get them into serious trouble real quick. Instead, you get elected as the recipient of his or her momentary emotional catharsis because they feel you will ultimately be supportive. Surprise! I bet you didn’t think about that. If you didn’t, that’s okay. Not many people do. It’s just a different way of looking at anger directed at you.

There are two psychological characteristics in oneself, or a spouse, that can counter the best of responses by a partner in a marriage. That is, extreme selfishness and having to control everything. Both characteristics in the extreme are related to personality disorders. And, not surprisingly, it may be your partner who is least able to see or understand this pattern in his or her own behavior.

Extreme selfishness is one of the symptoms—pursuing mainly selfish goals—tied to a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Selfishness is placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.) and the need to control everything can be related to an Obsessive Personality Disorder. Obsessive–Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. People experiencing OCPD generally perceive their behaviors as correct and desirable.

OCPD is a generally considered a chronic non-adaptive pattern of extreme perfectionism, preoccupation with neatness and detail, and a requirement or need for control or power over one’s environment that results in major suffering and stress, especially in areas of personal relationships.

Persons with OCPD are usually known to be inflexible and extremely controlling. They may find it hard to relax, and feel the need to plan out their activities down to the minute. OCPD occurs in about 1 percent of the general population. It is seen in 3–10 percent of psychiatric outpatients. It is twice as common in males as females.

Both of these psychological characteristics, when found in a marital relationship, can pose real problems and/or turn a spouse into a victim.

 

Psychological Origins of Selfish and Control Freak Behavior

What causes people to turn out extremely greedy, selfish and self absorbed more than others? By greediness I mean spending all of ones time on oneself and totally self-absorbed with one’s own activity. The spouse is treated as if he or she isn’t even there.

The irony of these characteristics is that sometimes a healthy mentally well adjusted individual needs to be a bit selfish with their time and activity, most likely because ones self esteem is built into leading a fulfilled and satisfying life that does require one to be a bit self-absorbed on occasion. Or, one needs to share their time and activities with significant others like family members, children, or friends in addition to one’s spouse.

What I’m trying to say in my own clumsy way is that selfishness in the extreme is what gets one in trouble, not that one is sometimes selfish. It is easy to misread “self-actualization or caring for others” as pure “selfishness.” However, there is a twist to these comparisons whereby the “selfish” and the “selfless” are sometimes hard to distinguish from one another. This is why human nature can be rather complex to understand in terms of only its face value.

Eric Hoffer, the late longshoreman, philosopher, newspaper columnist and author, said in The True Believer, “The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.”

Psychological Origin of Extreme Selfishness

Extreme selfishness is usually caused by low self esteem or some kind of childhood trauma. I believe it definitely has to do with psychological reasons especially if one is talking about having this quality at the “extreme” level.

The original source of such low self-esteem may be one’s own parents. Growing up in a family where one’s parents puts one down all the time and has to digest a constant diet of “you’re not good enough,” or you are constantly challenged by a parent that incessantly contradicts ones every word, insight, or knowledge, leads to a child manifesting a king-size inferiority complex later in life. That can spell trouble for one’s marriage later on as well.

Psychological Origin of Control Freak Behavior

In psychology-related slang, control freak is a derogatory term for a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. The phrase was first used in the late 1960s, an era when great stress was laid on the principle of ‘doing one’s own thing’ and letting others do the same.

Certainly, it’s natural to want to be in control of your own life. But when you have to be in control of the people around you as well, when you literally can’t rest until you get your way … you may have a personality disorder. Controlling the behavior of others is part of a cluster of behaviors that can be labeled as compulsive. It is generally characterized by perfectionism, orderliness, workaholic tendencies, an inability to make commitments, or to trust others, and a fear that one’s flaws will be exposed.

Deep down, these people are terrified of being vulnerable. They believe they can only protect themselves by staying in control of every aspect of their lives, including their relationships. Control freaks take the need and urge to control to new heights, causing others stress so they can maintain a sense of order. These people are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity, and anger. They’re very critical of themselves, their lover, and their friends, but underneath that perfectionist, controlling personality is a mountain of unhappiness. Let’s look at what makes control freaks tick.

A confirmed control freak is not interested in true discussion. It’s as if they have all the truth, and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. They feel no need to examine both sides of any issue and their mind is made up before they even hear that there is another side to an issue. They circle the wagons to protect their opinions and deny even an effort at clarification, balance, compromise or understanding, to say nothing of building community with people who do not see things exactly as they do (sort of sounds like a conservative Republican, don’t you think!).

Tips for Improving Your Marriage

I mentioned in Part I of this series that the greatest need people have is companionship. The earliest anthropological data on record verifies this truth in human nature. That is, we are basically social animals and need to share our life with others. A special form of that need to share with others is the one-to-one coupling known as marriage. Make use of this knowledge about companionship to improve your marriage. Sometimes when one reads tips on how to improve their marriage they seem all to obvious; at other times, they seem to border on over-simplified  platitudes of little use to anyone.

Improving your marriage need not necessarily involve huge changes, but even the cumulative effect of small changes can make a significant difference in the quality of a relationship. Here are some Tips for improving Marriage and avoiding relationship boredom.

I view valuable tips as falling into two categories: (1) strategies for creating a more workable marital relationship, and (2) creating modern day ideas for reinforcing the companionship need in a marriage.

Strategies

  1. Don’t take each other for granted.

It is a huge mistake to take your partner for granted always assuming they will be there for you. It is a kind of social dependency; our relationships don’t last forever but, while we have a marriage, it is important to work on it every day.

Take the time and make the effort to be kind, thoughtful, considerate, appreciative, supportive, and affirming toward your spouse. If you have a regular pattern of constantly disagreeing with your spouse, or contradicting his or her every word—you are not long going to remain in a relationship. Not taking your spouse for granted means three basic  things:

  • Be tuned in as to how your spouse feels and what your spouse thinks
  • Listen, don’t interupt your spouse when they’re trying to communicate with you
  • Show and tell your spouse that you love them, and do it often. I’m not kidding; this is important

2. Work Together to improve intimacy

I don’t care if an individual has passed his or her 110th birthday. Intimacy is important at every age and stage in life. Touching, caressing, holding hands, special smiling looks, and words all matter, as well as heart-pounding sexual intercourse.

No one expects sex at 70, 80, or 90 to be the same as it was at 20 or 30. But, in fact, often older couples can have just as satisfying sexual relations as their younger counterparts. And often older couples make up any loss of stamina with experience, creativity and skill. A 20’s something will possess greater sexual stamina, greater testosterone levels among men, and greater flexibility and natural lubrication among  women.

Take time to be alone together working on your intimacy. Schedule dates or romantic getaways. Some couples like date nights. Go out to dinner to your favorate restaurant. Activities outside the home can be really “cool” if well-planned.  Make out in the car; you’ll feel like 17 again. But, like every relationship, know when the timing is right and stay tuned to your partner’s moods and mental state at all times. What I’m saying is “be smart and thoughtful about this.”

Good sex however is as much mental as it is physical. It involves thinking about your partner’s needs as it does your own. When both partners are working in concert with one another, it increases the probabilty that both will achieve at the same time—you guessed it—“mental and/or physical orgasmic heaven.

3. Agree to Do Your Share of Chores Around Your Home

If you want peace, harmony and a clean, organized home, then the two of you need to work together to insure that household tasks such as keeping financial records, maintenance, shopping, yard work, planning, cleaning, cooking, child care, transportation, etc. are shared responsibilities.

Clutter around the house can create stress for both of you so talk about how both of you can routinely keep the clutter to a minimum. Partners really enjoy one another when they choose to work together.

4. Talk About Your Finances

When you have money it can come between the two of you if you haven’t talked about your financial goals, saving money, and spending money. If your budget is tight, money can create stress and division as you cope with bills and worry. Attend a financial workshop, talk with a financial planner, learn recommended ways of building a nest egg for emergencies and planning for your retirement. Discuss your finances so the two of you are on the same financial wave length.
5. Simplify Your Lives

Companionship is meaningless if it simply involves being in the same room or house as your spouse. It means doing things together in a very proactive way. For example, wisely budget your time. Think about the number of hours you each work, the amount of time you spend on hobbies or on home maintenance, and the time you want to spend with friends or extended family versus the amount of time you spend with one another.

Reevaluate how you both spend your time and consider how to simplify your lives whether you are newlyweds, a couple with children, or an empty nest couple. If you are over-worked, over extended, and over tired, you put your marriage at risk. The idea of downsizing involves more than moving to a smaller home. Downsizing is more about attitude than it is about space.

6. General Modes of Interaction
 

Not everyone is going to follow the following tips all the time. You’ll be successful in your relationship with your spouse if you can do the following most of the time:

Be totally honest.

Support one another’s goals and achievements.

Respect each other.

Take time to share dreams and goals on a regular basis with your spouse.

Respect each other’s alone or quiet time. Doing so will pay  many dividends of a psychological nature.

Shut the TV off sometimes. Life’s too short and interaction with your spouse directly is more difficult if you’re always off in TV land.

Laugh together (yes, even if it means at each other or yourself sometimes).

Fight fair.

Be willing to forgive.

Cultivate a great sense of humor (one of my favorite things to do)

Remember kindness towards each other is a wonderful gift. This can make up for a lot, especially if you’ve been rather busy lately.

Share your daily expectations. Say things, like I do right after getting up in the morning  (something very simple) such as “What are your plans today, dear?”

 

7. Children are Always Special

 

As parents you have a duty and responsibility to raise the self-esteem of your children throughout their lives. If you have children, agree on how to go about that task with your spouse to raise the self-esteem of your children. Be proactive and do it together. Having only one parent with this idea and the other always criticizing your children’s every thought or behavior is going to produce great stress, discontent, and simmering longterm anger in your relationship.

I’m not talking about disciplinary moments, but just general day-in and day-out social interaction with your children. Get smart folks! You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to know these things, and to actuate your responsibility in raising your children’s self-esteem. Why? Because the psychological health and well-being of your children depends on his or her self-esteem.

 

8.  Special Ideas

Here are a few modern day ideas and a few not-so-modern ideas for improving your relationship with your spouse (consistent with the idea that companionship is our greatest social need).

  •  Remove the TV from the bedroom
  • Play games together on your I-phones. This is a “together activity” that can be lots of fun besides the added feature that you’re doing something together.
  • Before you marry, and after you marry, there is something that is critical to your future. People’s values can change, but research has shown for decades that, by 25 years of age, a person’s values are usually set for life. Discuss honestly with your date or marriage partner what you value in life, what’s important to you. Even one’s politics can tell you a lot about them because political differences are at root—personal value differences.
  • Take up a hobby together, or if pursuing separate hobbies, attend each other’s shows, demonstrations, or award ceremonies. Praise your partner for their efforts no matter what.
  • Cook together at home when you can.
  • Go to a romantic environment and watch the sunset, waves at the seashore, or travel together in the mountains. Be alone together and relish that time—like no other.

Conclusions

This Blog is about marital relationships. Love each other and show it. Many years ago I asked myself an age old question, “What is love and how do you know you love someone?” Poets and philosophers have tried to answer those two questions for several centuries. The closest answer I‘ve ever been able to come up with is this: It involves two aspects of connection between you and others.

First, love is a feeling of intensity, or serene calmness, whereby you care or value your loved one’s internal feelings more than your own.

Second, there is a test for knowing when you love someone. It’s a simple test. All of us want to live life to the fullest and for as long as we can. But, if you are willing to sacrifice yourself (lose your life) and save your loved one(s) from death, you just figured out how to know you love someone. I’m not dead yet. But I know in my heart one thing is for sure. Whether I’m talking about my wife, children or grandchildren I’m more than willing to sacrifice my life for any or all those I love. Are you?

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