SPLURGE: Analyzing American Consumer Spending in a Recession

Americans are notorious for spending large amounts of money on material, and often superfluous goods. As of the writing of this essay, America has the largest capitalist, consumer economy in the world. Its citizens’ spending habits have been groomed for the better part of a century. ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ deals, creative arithmetic, and more fine print than anyone cares to read are all standard operating procedure in this highly competitive society. 2010 is coming to a close and America’s last two years have been some of the worst economically since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Unemployment is staggering at 10 percent, and the U.S. national public debt is 13.85 trillion dollars and increasing (“US Debt Clock”). Middle class Americans have been the recession’s primary target and are quietly disappearing. It may be a full decade before the world recovers from this recession.

Although the economic outlook illustrated above appears grave and meek, it would not appear that way to an individual observing Americans’ current spending statistics. Spending is already on the rise, and with the exception of new car purchases, spending on goods and services are higher than they were before the economic meltdown. Additional research suggests that people have increased spending regardless of whether they can afford to or not. Savings accounts have increased substantially when the recession hit, but are quickly declining. And even at its peak, Americans’ savings were far short of their European counterparts (Thiel). This all seems incredibly counter-intuitive–and it is. Stefan Thiel, in a Newsweek article titled “Urge to Splurge” outlines a number of explanations for America’s flourishing consumer lifestyle in this recession:

The truth is that spending may be hard to contain. Entire generations of consumers have grown up with the idea of instant gratification and the credit culture that comes with it. Ever since Henry Ford popularized the installment loan to sell his newly mass-produced cars, the idea of saving to buy something has nearly disappeared from the American financial vocabulary (Thiel).

The above quote is significant because it suggests that these spending habits were not born overnight, but have been festering in Americans for decades (Thiel).

Wealthy Americans are buying new cars, electing for plastic surgery, and purchasing expensive items, while the lower and middle income class are returning to the mall. The commonality between them is that spending is entertainment. Being thrifty is the same as being boring. This point is elucidated by a Floridian resident named Hope Good, who found a new job whose salary is $40,000 per year. Good exclaims, “I have been so frugal last year. I’m sure if I wanted to save, I could, but I feel like I am making more so let’s have some fun.” A market-research analyst, Marshal Cohen, aptly states that, “People are going through frugality fatigue.” America is a society based on instant-gratification (Thiel). It is no longer enough to be employed at the bottom and climb the corporate ladder. That is the way of the past. Students today are swinging for the fences immediately out of college. Classmates of this essay’s author have computer programming jobs awaiting them after graduation at Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google, with six figure salaries.

Midnight, on November 26th, 2010 began what is known as ‘Black Friday’. Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving when the ‘best’ sales of the year are offered on many high priced items. Hoards of people line the walls of department stores, hoping to reach the items before they are sold out. In some cases, people are trampled causing serious bodily harm. Although this year had been relatively mild and congenial, fights still broke out where tensions were high. Regretfully, this author’s mother, Esther, and sister, Jocelyn, were among the wide-eyed midnight drones who wandered from store to store, gleefully saving hundreds of dollars on new designer boots, jeans, and jackets. When they returned home from their spending spree, they joyously declared how much money they had saved. More specifically, Jocelyn, said, “We bought a pair of $1200 boots for $400. We saved $800!” What Esther and Jocelyn failed to realize (and still refuse to acknowledge) is that they, in fact, did not save $800. Instead, they spent $400. Esther and Jocelyn readily admit that they would never have purchased the boots at $1200, and hence, if they had never been put on sale, the two of them would never own the boots to begin with. Esther and Jocelyn did not save $800 because they were never going to buy the boots at $1200 anyway. If they were never going to buy the boots at their original price, then what is the harm in never getting the boots at all? In the end, they purchased boots for $400. The author and his father, David, tried to convey this concept to Esther and Jocelyn, but were summarily dismissed as being ‘men’ and simply could not possibly understand. This much is true. The author has considerable difficulty assuming the roles of Esther and Jocelyn, but some sociological analysis could shed light on why they think the way they do.

The theory of structural functionalism states that societal functions operate in sync to obtain a state of equilibrium. Within structural functionalism exists a notable concept–View of the Individual. This concept describes human beings as advanced, social creatures who typically seek interaction with others. People are predictable in the sense that they desire friendships, love, affection, and relationships. Hermits are often considered out of the norm, strange, or even defective (in terms of being human). One has to be socialized in order to feel valued and purposeful. Individuals, or actors, can take action. Action is a key element of the View of the Individual because it puts motive and behavior into a larger social context. The notion of action is best described by Talcott Parsons in The Social System (1951) as behavior which is motivated by the longing for gratification and desire to be ‘higher’ class. These actors and their subsequent actions are linked together in a framework of roles and status. People obtain a position within the framework and, through socializing, learn the behavior that people expect that role to perform. This framework of actions, behavior, and actors, are an essential factor to structural functionalism as a whole and can be tangentially linked to Goal Attainment where decisions are made as a reaction to desires (rather than demands or actual necessity) (Lengermann and Brantley). Thiel’s Newsweek article states:

Habits of spending, saving, and credit are all about incentives, says Carmen Reinhart, a University of Maryland specialist on debt and financial crises. “When easy credit is given, it is usually taken,” she says. Many of the practices that got Americans into trouble either don’t exist or are expressly outlawed in most other countries, she says, including the home-equity loan, the zero-down mortgage, and the little-documented subprime mortgages that were targeted specifically at the poor.

Ordinary middle and lower income citizens were provided opportunities to own homes, new cars, and, most importantly, increase their position within the social system. Their desire to become ‘higher’ class contributed to excessive spending. These unsuspecting victims were lured in by ‘deals of a lifetime’ and other seemingly impressive incentives. In America, a sale, or a deal is seen as saving money, not spending money, and must be seized before the deal is gone ‘forever’. Hope, Esther, Jocelyn, and others like them are all prey to this line of thinking. They are shoppers seeking goods and services, and are expected to find the best deal possible, all in the name of satisfying their desire to have designer clothing. This ‘status-role’ and ‘consumer-incentive’ relationship suits the corporate structure immensely, whom surely look forward towards Black Friday every year. Although, Black Friday is not unique. There always appears to be some ‘impossible’ deal or ‘great’ sale for some goods on every day of the year. Coincidence? The View of the Individual concept functions very well in terms of consumerism–driving spending and debt to support the capitalist structure of America.

From an interpretive perspective, Ethnomethodology considers the situations of ordinary people and the basis from which decisions are made. People try to make sense of their actions, or the actions of others based on their view of the world. An interesting factor in Ethnomethodology is the idea that when a person refers to accepted social norms to explain some type of circumstance, they are actually “constructing a social reality.” There are three points that elucidate this thought. The first, doing, which describes the act of creating a position, or role for one’s self by drawing from society’s unwritten rules of what that role expects of them. An account is an explanation put forth by an individual to explain or justify an action. And lastly, accounting practices refers to how others accept or reject peoples’ accounts, often based on common sense and trustworthiness of the accounter. These points are part of a broader context of assumptions, reasoning, and general understandings. Some elements in society may become so obvious and self-explanatory that to inquire would be strange or even considered rude. For example, if someone is vomiting, it would be odd to ask them if they are feeling ill. However, some components that appear ‘obvious’ are only due to cultural or societal customs (Brantly, and Lengermann). The Newsweek article mentioned above contains the following passage:

“No interest until 2014,” read the massive red sign outside Big’s Furniture in Henderson, Nev. It beckoned Diane Lewis to the store’s year-end liquidation sale. “I had to pull in,” she said as her sons frolicked on mattresses nearby. “We really need to get us a new bedroom set; their old one is kinda beat up. If we can get that financing deal, we can make it work. I mean, 2014 is a long way off, you know?” (Thiel).

Diane Lewis has fallen on tough economic times after her husband was laid off from his job. The liquidation sale and strong incentive baited her into the store. Like many before her, she fell into the trap of believing how much she would save, rather than how much she was spending. Her son’s bedroom set is old, and ‘kinda’ beat up, but can it not wait until there is more financial stability within the home? If one searches hard enough, there will be another deal just like the one she found at another furniture store. It is important to revisit the idea that Americans’ perspective on consumerism is based on how much one saves on a purchase rather than how much one spends. The end result is that in many cases, Americans spend money they simply do not have. The mentality that 2014 is ‘a long way off’ does not change the fact the money was not there to begin with. Diane Lewis, Esther, and Jocelyn are essentially doing shopping, American style. They are shoppers, or rather consumers, who seek out the highest quality item for the best possible price, regardless of whether or not they actually need the item. By now, the account is apparent–the claim is that incentives are money, so it is egregious to pass up such an enticing offer. Incentives are a social norm in any consumerist society and therefore the explanation appears reasonable. The truth, however, is that the account is an excuse for spending money, not an explanation for saving money. Corporate advertisers do an exceptional job of promoting deals as major money-savers and building trust with consumers. There is a secondary argument found in accounting practices. The general society accepts these incentives as genuinely beneficial to the spender despite whether or not they can actually afford the item in the long term. Consumers “construct their own social realities,” believing they landed the deal of a life time, when in fact, they would not have spent that much money (if any) on the item (or a home, or a car) to begin with.

Critical theory is a broad, derivative theory of Marxism. It is a social critique of one or several class structures dominating over others. The pathology of hyper-rationality is a concept within Critical theory that, as Michael Mendis of Bigthink.com describes, “the unquestioning faith in the efficacy of reason,” (Mendis). Reason serves as an absolute power to hyper-rationalists, to such an extreme that it becomes absurd. A particular society’s version of reason dominates the society itself without objection. The culture’s hyper-rationality, in a sense, has a God-like quality. Mendis exclaims:

It is important to remember that one can be under the tyranny of “reason” just as much as one can be under the tyranny of a God…The fact that [hyper-rationalists] are taking refuge in rationality would suggest that they are fleeing from a recognition of their own irrationality—or rather, the irrational aspects of themselves (Mendis).

When combining this notion of tyranny under “reason” with other concepts from Critical theory such as administered society, the effects on consumerism, spending, and incentives are profound. In administered society, a nation state provides an illusion of choice, and is often executed in concert with the corporate structure. Again, in the Newsweek article, Thiel states:

America’s tax code has massively promoted consumption and debt while punishing savings and investment. For most governments around the world, the biggest source of revenues is the consumption tax, while America puts a heavier burden on income. The home-mortgage-interest deduction, which most other countries have abandoned without damaging the rate of home ownership, literally rewards Americans for accumulating outsize debt. If some of these incentives aren’t changed, then frugality will last only as long as the memory of the crisis (Thiel).

The above quote is astonishing, but true. And recently we have seen a blatant example of the government coordinating efforts with private industry through an incentive program known as “Cash for Clunkers.” Consumers were encouraged to turn in their old vehicles by purchasing new ones in an unbeatable deal. This simply increased the debt of our citizens who may not have been financially stable to purchase a new car and increased the revenues for the automobile industry. Although administered society provides a framework for how splurging can happen in America, hyper-rationality explains why it happens. People are so convinced that deals are beneficial to them, they will take on more debt in the process. Remember what Diane Lewis said? “I know I probably ought to wait a little longer, but this is a pretty good sale, so I think we might buy something if they’ll approve us,” (Thiel). Spending money now in order to save money later is a very reasonable idea. But this has become a fact in our capitalist society, and to such an extreme, that people will incur serious amounts of debt to believe in it. And in some cases, they find that they never needed to purchase the item anyway–like those $400 pair of boots. The author apologizes–$1200 pair of boots that cost $400. This is true hyper-rationality.

The natural progression for this paper is to discuss George Ritzer’s McDonaldization. McDonaldization is the transition from a now outdated ideal of best quality, and engaging service to a scientific, impersonal, and high throughput methodology. Quantity over quality is one of four features that Ritzer argues contributes to the McDonaldization of society. The idea is that more of a product, in a shorter amount of time, and at lower cost, is more desirable than the converse. Another key objective of McDonaldization is the Irrationality of Rationality. Ritzer states in his book, The McDonaldization of Society (1993):

…irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them (Ritzer).

High throughput systems, which are rational to the extreme, have no room for humanity. It is essentially a machine, or computer program with no feelings. It is a set of instructions to be carried out in a repeated, predictable manner. Mechanical process (in the methodological sense) contribute quantity over quality. But as stated earlier, this is a line of thinking that predates McDonalds, and can be traced back to Henry Ford’s assembly line. Henry Ford famously said, “People can have the Model T in any color, so long as it’s black.” Quantity over quality of service. The assembly line is a revolutionary algorithm. A computer can perform the same list of operations, and in fact they now do. Factories of machines, not manual labor, are constructing today’s vehicles. This describes Ritzer’s control argument–the replacement of human labor with modern technology. The McDonaldization and Fordization of America are only one factor of a larger sociological context. Emphasis on efficient and quantifiable solutions stem from the desire for instant-gratification. More for less! Humans are being replaced by machines. This does not suggest a ‘Skynet’ or artificial intelligence apocalypse is upon us anytime soon, but it does contribute to an overall shift of labor. There is a widening gap between intellectuals and those people without technological expertise or higher level education. What remains is the value meal and the dollar menu. McDonalds, although grotesque, offers great prices and quick turnaround. Every day, millions of Americans are saving money by getting the cheap breakfast, or Happy Meal for their child. If only the individual thought about how much they were spending in the long term through health-care costs, obesity, and its subsequent emotional anguish, rather than how much they saved by getting the $1 Junior Bacon Cheeseburger. Thankfully, Esther did not take her son to McDonalds that often.

Of the various concepts and theories discusses throughout this essay, the author is inclined to agree most with the interpretive, commitment to science perspective. The author generally supports theories that deal specifically on a personal level, rather than grander, abstract theories. One can critique capitalism as a whole in regards to this “Urge to Splurge”, but the real answers lie within the minds of ordinary Americans like Esther and Jocelyn. Americans (and their own government) will continue to splurge throughout this recession and beyond. If the toughest economic period since the Great Depression does not serve as a wake-up call, what will? The truth is, no single event, such as this recession, will change anything. It can only change if America’s society has a ‘shift of consciousness’ from the ‘spend now, save later’ mindset. Unfortunately, this would likely take another century to take affect. The author could not convince his mother and sister otherwise. After all, Black Friday offers the greatest sales of the year! How can one resist?

“U.S. National Debt Clock.” US Debt Clock. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec 2010. .

Thiel, Stefan. “Urge to Splurge.” Newsweek 29 Nov 2010: n. pag. Web. 13 Dec 2010.

Brantly, Jill, and Patricia Lengermann. “Class Notes.” Contemporary Sociological Theory. GWU, n.d. Web. 13 Dec 2010.

Mendis, Michael. “Hyper-rationality.” Big Think 09 APR 2009: n. pag. Web. 14 Dec 2010.

The Internet and the First Amendment

The principle of free speech is not concerned with the content of a man’s speech and does not protect only the expression of good ideas, but all ideas. If it were otherwise, who would determine which ideas are good and where forbidden? The government? -Ayn Rand

Within the First Amendment of the United States Constitution lies one of the most basic American core values–Freedom of Speech. Arguably the most essential portion of the Constitution, the irrevocable freedom to express one’s self freely clearly exemplifies the resistance to an authoritarian government. Likewise, the freedom of the press is an inalienable civil liberty–a bulwark to oppression.

The capacity to voice one’s opinion is a right that many Americans take for granted. Unfortunately, in today’s world there are still a vast number of nations that have abusive laws repressing dissent. China, Iran, North Korea, and many Middle Eastern countries quickly come to mind. These governments fear their own citizenry, and therefore shutdown protests and criticisms in all forms. These nations have, on occasion, liberalized some of their restrictive policies, but in many cases revert back to their totalitarian ways. It is vital to remember that when government functionaries bestow rights to their citizens, those same rights can ultimately be rescinded when they feel it is necessary. In actuality, those are not rights at all, but merely concessions by the ruling authority. Thomas Jefferson explicitly noted in the Declaration of Independence that elemental rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, do not come from government, but rather are endowed by their Creator. These fundamental rights supersede any government. The government cannot take away these rights, because it is not “they” who granted them initially. Therefore, nobody must be beholden or indebted to any ruling party or government bureaucrat.

The newspaper has long reigned supreme as the basic unit of free speech for hundreds of years. A newspaper could be distributed to millions of people. However, newspapers are only as powerful as the extent of that particular nation’s freedom of expression. If the citizens of a country lacked this civil liberty, the newspaper and other forms of press are likely owned or controlled by the state, and hence not free at all. As a result, the Internet has proven to be an invaluable tool for free speech activists. Netizens from all around the world can share ideas, spread news, and communicate with like-minded individuals. With the advent of the Internet, anyone can publish their own writings on blogs (web logs) anonymously or openly. It has been a monumental task for oppressive regimes to locate and arrest human rights activists who post their work online, although arrests still frequently occur. Regardless, the relative ease of setting up a website has helped spawn a new medium for freedom of expression. Websites such as Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report and Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post have enormous audiences. Social networks on the web, such as Twitter have revolutionized the way news permeates across the globe. Where a newspaper can only print news once a day to a limited number of individuals, anyone can disseminate their views to 3 billion Internet users in real-time. The following paper details the significance of the Internet in its role for promoting free press and a tool to fight repressive regimes.

The John Peter Zenger trial in August 1734 is considered to be the birth of the American free press. Zenger, the editor of the New York Weekly Journal, was brought to trial on charges of “seditious libel” related to articles that had been published in that paper. The articles were acutely critical of the policies of New York governor William Crosby. Although seditious libel under English common law merely constituted communication, Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued that the writings had to be untrue in order to be libel. A New York jury agreed and the Zenger case became a precedent for freedom of the press (Streich).

During the the time frame between the end of the French and Indian War and the outbreak of the Revolution, there were numerous, mostly failed, attempts at censorship. This period produced an abundance of attempts to influence public opinion toward secession from Britain. Historian Arthur Schlesinger states that, “Not until the rise of troubles with Britain did the editor come to think of himself as a maker of opinion as well as a transmitter of news and literary offerings,” (Streich).

Newspapers and pamphlets published the political speeches and debates so that the public at large could understand and have access to the issues. Political cartoons and depictions, such as Paul Revere’s lithograph of the Boston Massacre, helped galvanize support for independence, although very often the facts were incorrect and served the purpose of mass propaganda (Streich).

The newly formed United States began its long journey of freedom with a tradition of a free press. Referring to the Zenger precedent, historian Sidney Kobre wrote that, “The newspaper had won a greater liberty to publish critical material directed against the government,” (Streich).

The free press has always been the cornerstone of the free exchange of ideas and the protection of liberties. Guaranteed by the First Amendment, freedom of the press has ensured that the American people were well informed of the issues. At times, the press exposed gross corruption and government scandal such as the Washington Post’s expose of Watergate.

Yet there have been times in the history of the nation when the free press came under attack by government-sponsored censorship. During the John Adams administration, relations with France deteriorated. France had undergone nearly a decade of internal strife that began with the 1789 French Revolution and ended with the Reign of Terror under Robespierre. Federalists, identifying more with Britain than France, feared that these events might affect the political and social processes in the United States (Cody).

Section Two of “An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes Against the United States,” enacted July 14, 1798, made it a crime to “write, print, utter or publish…any false, scandalous and malicious writing…against the government.” The Act specifically identified Congress and the President. Consequently, any writings against government policy could be prosecuted as defamation. Thomas Jefferson and his opposition party, the Republicans, decried the act as unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment. Indeed, public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so intense that Jefferson, was elected to the presidency in 1800. Once in office, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest (“Early America”).

Americans need to understand why our founding fathers demanded passage of the First Amendment, which restrains Congress from infringing on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Our forefathers surmised that omitting this prohibition, would inevitably lead to the curtailing of these rights, such as the above mentioned foreign nations do. The Chinese communist regime is one of the most mighty governments in history. Its political suppression on the Chinese citizenry is virtually complete. There are no free elections. Free speech is banned. The press is controlled by those in power. Even the Internet is censored. The Internet, where ideas right or wrong, absurd or brilliant flow freely from one’s fingertips are now viewed as a threat to their national security. Much of this is true for other countries as well, such as Iran. What could possibly be the reason why Iranian and Chinese officials fear permitting freedom of expression so intensely? It is precisely because they realize the power and desire individuals have for liberty. The ability to question authority and express ones thoughts without fear of retribution is an inalienable right. The ruling class in these regimes, inherently understand these rights are so compelling that they can arouse people to overthrow even the most powerful, vengeful dominions.

The emergence of the Internet over the past decade has altered the landscape for both freedom of speech and freedom of the press. New boundaries and questions arise everyday. The Founders strongly believed, that an educated republic was vital to the guardianship of our freedoms. Hence, the creation of the First Amendment. The Internet provides for those objectives in a way that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison could never have imagined. Instantaneously there are potentially millions of journalists, or rather opinion makers. Even in the United States, the debate has begun. Should there be certain limitations on what can be posted? Many times there are anonymous and vitriolic attacks upon individuals. Cyber-bullying is now at the forefront of concerns facing communities across America. It is inevitable that issues revolving around our fundamental rights and the Internet will be wrestled with for years to come, and ultimately decided upon by the courts. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union brought an Internet censorship case to the United States Supreme Court. The court decided, in Reno v. ACLU, the Internet to be a free speech zone, deserving First Amendment protection as that accorded to traditional print sources like newspapers, books and magazines. The Supreme Court declared that the government, can no more restrict a person’s access to words or images on the Internet than it could be allowed to take a book away from someone in the library, or attempt to cover up an exhibition of a nude statue in a museum (“Internet Censorship”).

The First Amendment only puts limits on the government’s ability to restrict speech. A private individual or entity, can limit your freedom of speech within their own purview, providing it does not come under some type of regulation. For a recent example, the firing of analyst Juan Williams by NPR for his comments on Fox News does not constitute a First Amendment issue. Private enterprises, organizations and even some government entities can create their own policy and terminate someone for making statements that are in variance with their stated goals. Internet Service Providers (ISP) can exercise an immense amount of oversight when it comes to Internet pronouncements. These ISPs can monitor their clienteles’ narratives and abrogate language that contravene the corporations’ guidelines. ISP’s also have the capability to prohibit their patrons access to the Internet though their portals. Their have been several failed First Amendment lawsuits against the ISP’s brought before the courts in recent years. The Courts have maintained the State Action Doctrine applies to these cases (Hudson).

The State Action Doctrine General Rule states “The protection of the Bill of Rights protects individuals from constitutional violations by governments (State and Federal) but not by private actors,” (“MSLaw”). Therefore, the First Amendment legal challenges to the ISP’s have failed because the Courts have decreed that the ISP’s are private corporations, and not government entities.

In Noah v. America Online (2003), a federal district court in Virginia rejected the First Amendment claim of a subscriber who said AOL had violated his free-speech rights by censoring his pro-Islamic statements. The court wrote:

Yet, even assuming the truth of plaintiff’s allegations, the First Amendment is of no avail to him in these circumstances; it does not protect against actions taken by private entities, rather it is a guarantee only against abridgment by government, state or federal (Hudson).

Another example of an unsuccessful legal claim against an Internet Service Provider occurred in a federal district court in Delaware. The case of Langdon v. Google, 474 F. Supp. 2d 622 (D. Del. 2007) strengthened the standard that the First Amendment protection is not applicable to ISP’s. The court declared:
Defendants (Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft) are private, for profit companies, not subject to constitutional free speech guarantees … . Plaintiff’s position that Google is a state actor because it works with state universities is specious. (Hudson).

The court went further in remarking that the ISP’s themselves had First Amendment interests. The plaintiff, Langdon, commenced the legal action against the ISP’s because they denied his petition to run certain advertisements on his Web sites. Google contended that being compelled to run the ads would oblige them to communicate in a form considered suitable by Langdon and would preclude Google from communicating in methods Langdon disapproved. The court concurred that forcing the defendants to run the ads would encroach on their First Amendment rights. It stated, “The First Amendment guarantees an individual the right to free speech, a term necessarily comprising the decision of both what to say and what not to say,” (Hudson).
The recent release of hundreds of thousands pages of classified United States government documents by Wikileaks exemplifies both the power and danger of the Internet. It also raises additional questions on whether their should be further limitations of Freedom of Speech. The battle lines have already been formed. The argument cross over traditional political allies and foes. Republican Congressman Peter King has called for Wikileaks to be designated a “foreign terrorist organization.” King further stated that Wikileaks “posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” (Kennedy).

Representative King also wants to prosecute the Austrian Founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange, under the Espionage Act. In an appearance on WCBS 880 King said:

“The Attorney General and I don’t always agree on different issues. But I believe on this one, he and I strongly agree that there should be a criminal prosecution,” (“CBS New York”).

Attorney General Eric Holder has indeed indicated he does intend to prosecute Julian Assange. The Justice Department certainly will have an uphill battle here, as there has never been a favorable prosecution against a media organization for distributing leaked information. Additionally, Assange most probably will claim that posting documents concerning American foreign policy for universal examination is a political act. The preponderance of extradition treaties usually exempt ”political offenses” from extradition. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has generally refrained in the past from indicting the traditional media. That is why there is no apparent intent or enthusiasm to investigate the New York Times nor the Washington Post newspapers. Both of these entities have been at the forefront in publishing voluminous descriptions of the leaked classified information. Baruch Weiss writes in the December 5th, 2010 issue of the Washington Post that there is no clearly defined statute that makes the disclosure of classified information illegal, especially by individuals or journalists. Also, classified information does not automatically upend First Amendment protections. Former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. explained that the government would have to prove that there was an immediate and dangerous threat akin to “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” A Herculean task to overcome. However, the DOJ may find it more palatable to pursue Wikileaks because it is not the traditional media like the New York Times or Washington Post. Julian Assange most undoubtedly will depend and have confidence on First Amendment protection, similar to other media organizations (Weiss).

The First Amendment, of course, protects both freedom of the press (yes, WikiLeaks is the press) and freedom of expression. That is one reason Holder is not investigating this newspaper or the New York Times, even though both are publishing extensive details from the cables; It is the Justice Department’s practice to refrain from bringing leak indictments against traditional media outlets.

Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul weighed in on the controversy through his Twitter account defending Wikileaks:

In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it…This is media, isn’t it? I mean, why don’t we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this? (Ron Paul).

During an interview with Fox News, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, declared that the administration is “not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop.” Gibbs added that “Our foreign policy and our country is stronger than one guy with one website. We should never be afraid of one guy who plopped down $35 and bought a web address. … Let’s not be scared of one guy with a laptop,” (“Fox News”). However, the truth is that one man in his pajamas with a laptop and a website can cause at the very least embarrassment and upheaval for our State Department as they scramble to deal with the fallout of these leaks on our foreign relations.
Along those lines, it is interesting to ponder how the reaction of a repressive regime such as China or Iran would react to a Wikileaks style release of classified information in their own country. It is possible that we may find out sooner rather than later as Wikileaks founder Assange, recently stated that he would like to disclose state secrets from both China and Russia (Branigan).

China has been at a virtual war with Internet sites such as Twitter, Google, and others. They are currently experimenting new controls on home grown local sites similar to Twitter and Facebook. Both Twitter and Facebook were blocked in China last year. The major Internet portals of China such as QQ and Sina have explained that there Twitter style sites are still in testing mode. By developing and growing these internal sites the Chinese government is hoping to control and monitor the dissemination of information that is posted. Beijing has permitted blogging on “reliable” indigenous sites. These domestic sites are closely watched to ensure they enforce the dictates and wishes of the Chinese authorities. Government officials are alert to the peril of state adversaries who would capitalize social networking sites to tarnish the government by manipulating public opinion. The chief editor at Sina, Chen Tong recognized at a recent symposium that managing subject matter was a “very big headache.”

There are over 400 million Internet users in China. Most of them are well aware of the on-going comprehensive censorship that encompasses China’s Internet community. Blogs have been shutdown, web access curtailed, and links filtered for content. According to Hu Yong, a communications expert at the University of Peking:

All along, there have been problems netizens discuss and news they spread that the government doesn’t like. So for the government to ramp up management of microblogs is completely predictable (Ansfield).

However, it will be a constant challenge for the Chinese government to continuously be able to curb freedom of expression over the net, even with the deployment of new monitoring technologies. There are over 230 million mobile phone users in China, many potentially can become “microbloggers” (Kitazume). Increasing ranks of Internet users have organized by creating communities on social networking sites and last year some of them resorted to physical action in real life to express their discontent, he said.

The largest civilian protest since the Tiananmen Square uprising occurred in 1989, happened in the city of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in November of 2009. Over 1000 citizens protested the construction of a garbage incineration building. It was reported that bloggers were the major force for rallying and coordinating the protests.

The authorities attempted to restrict the reporting of the events in Guangzhou, however defiant journalists disregarded the order, using blogs that they created, to disseminate the news (Kitazume). It has become increasingly more difficult for Chinese officials to stem the tide for the control of information. Although tightening of censorship will continue, the reality is that the Chinese must recognize the inevitable changing landscape when it comes to the spread of freedom of expression for its society (Kitazume).

The Islamic Republic of Iran is second only to China in its development of technologies that sanitize the Internet. According to Clothilde Le Coz, Director of Internet research for Reporters Without Borders asserts that the Iranian government has freely boasted of their censorship capabilities. “The Iranian government said last year that it was blocking 5 million websites,” Le Coz continues in an interview “They brag about what they can do, perhaps to intimidate their opponents,” (Abate).
Iran is also the sole country on the planet to require its Internet Service Providers to cap the Internet access speeds for households. The obvious goal of this order which was issued on October 11, 2006 by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was to stifle subscribers’ ability to download music and films from abroad, along with hampering coordinated political dissent (“OpenNet Initiative”). Despite the extreme measures that Iran implemented to curtail freedom of speech and expression over the Internet, Twitter still was able to convey over 2 million succinct messages detailing events from inside Iran. This occurred during a tumultuous 18-day period in the summer of 2009 following a highly controversial and divisive election process and result, according to Nart Villeneuve, a research fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk Center for International Studies. Villeneuve also reported that Iranian officials attempted to restrict the communique deluge by obstructing access to the Twitter site. However, many Iranians were savvy in their ability to circumvent the government actions utilizing unencumbered alternative servers. The failure of the Iranian government to control the information stream shows just how problematic it is to thwart the progress of the Internet with its emerging innovations (Abate).
Twitter makes the ideal medium for a quick widespread civil unrest operation. It is both free and easy to use, hard to curb, and can be accessed via computers or cell phones. During the 2009 Iranian protests, Twitter was able to deliver messages across the world as events occurred in real time. This was happening simultaneously as the Iranian government was censoring both print and broadcast media. Below are some examples of tweets during the Iranian protests:

Woman says ppl knocking on her door 2 AM saying they were intelligence agents, took her daughter
Ashora platoons now moving from valiasr toward National Tv staion. mousavi’s supporters are already there. my father is out there!
we hear 1dead in shiraz, livefire used in other cities RT

Of course a main concern, when it comes to twitter and other Internet websites, is the veracity and accuracy of the information.

The civil unrest in Iran was not initiated by Twitter. However, it did give the demonstrators confidence and hope that they are not alone in their struggle. Twitter enabled the world community to become engaged in the daily protests. In the end, the government did prevail, but not before the repressive totalitarian regime was exposed to the world (Grossman).
While the American government is not able to restrain free speech, individuals are still responsible for anything that they say and the subsequent fallout from such statements. Cyber-bullying, libelous declarations, indecent material and privacy issues are all part of today’s Internet environment. The free speech issues are still being sorted out, with increasing demand for limitations on free speech in many of these instances.
The advancement of the Internet as a worldwide, free and open asset is a continual pursuit. The vigorous and decentralized feature of the Internet proposes cutting edge possibilities for information exchange and free expression, as well as new dangers. Governments across the globe are attempting to control this communication expansion, while individuals utilizing digital media to advocate transformation are becoming more and more complex and strategic, as they encounter each other.
Free speech has never been as powerful as it is today with the existence of the Internet. People yearn to be free, and resist being stifled or controlled. The Internet has provided a new voice and a new medium to share thoughts and beliefs. The World Wide Web is still young, and still coming into its own. As the Internet continues to grow, new avenues for information exchange will open up. Ideas and freedom are the greatest tools to fight oppression. The Internet, despite many of its dangers and shortfalls, has connected the world in a way that has never been seen before in human history. Along those connections–those cables, wires, and satellite signals, is speech. Free speech.


Abate, Tom. “Iran stocks up censorship tools.” Global Post 07 Jul 2009: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.
“Alien and Sedition Acts.” Early America. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec 2010. .
“Analysis of State Action Doctrine.” MSLaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec 2010. .
Ansfield, Jonathan. “China Tests New Controls on Twitter-Style Services.” New York Times 16 July 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.
Branigan, Tania. “Chinese news sites steer clear of Chinese-related WikiLeaks cables.” Guardian UK05 Dec 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.
Cody, David. “French Revolution.” Victorian Web. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec 2010. .
“Gibbs Downplays: We’re Not Scared of One Guy with a Laptop.” Fox News 01 Dec 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.
Grossman, Lev. “Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement.” Time Magazine 17 Jun 2009: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.
Hudson Jr., David. “Internet and First Amendment.” First Amendment Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec 2010. .
“Internet Censorship.” ACLU. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec 2010. .
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Kitazume, Takashi. “China Struggles with Internet Reality.” Japan Times 12 Feb 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.
Kennedy, Helen. “WikiLeaks should be designated a terrorist organization. Rep King fumes.” NY Daily News 28 Nov 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010
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Ron Paul Tweet. <https://twitter.com/repronpaul/status/10716266021003264>.
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Weiss, Baruch. “Prosecuting WikiLeaks? Good Luck.”Washington Post 05 Dec 2010: n. pag. Web. 5 Dec 2010.

Masters of Deception Book Review

Masters of Deception

Michelle Slatalla, Masters of Deception: The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace (New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers, 1995). Pp. 225

The thirst for more knowledge and understanding is a human concept. For some, it is about exploring the stars and galaxies. For others, it might be to learn molecular biology. However, for three New York City teenagers in 1987, it was the telephone system. Their names were Mark, Eli, and Paul–or Phiber Optik, Acid Phreak, and Scorpion respectively. Michelle Slatalla, a New York Times reporter and author, details in her book, The Masters of Deception: The Gang that Ruled Cyberspace, the lives and pinnacle events of these individuals who formed the notorious hacking group MoD. The Masters of Deception were seemingly unstoppable. They used their modems to hack into the New York Telephone Company in their never-ending quest for a new ‘challenge’. Their intrusions steadily escalated over time, which inevitably led to run-ins with the law. Arrogance, ignorance, and youthful immaturity developed rivalries and enemies within the underground world of hacking. The implications of MoD’s escapades for the law, hacker ethics, and information policy were significant. The theme of ‘hacking for educational value only’ is prevalent throughout the book. The author’s message serves as a cautionary tail for those who find themselves in places they ought not to be. The following report summarizes the content of the book and provides analysis on the various information policy aspects that arise.

The hackers in the 1980s communicated with each other through what is known as the Bulletin Board System, or BBS for short. It consisted of one person setting up the Bulletin Board from their home or an outside server that other people would ‘call-in’ to connect. A BBS is analogous to a modern day forum, where people chat and leave messages. Each hacking group had several Bulletin Boards, both open to the public as well as their own private system. Hackers would leave ‘philes’ on these BBSes. Philes are simply documentation or advice on how to hack various computers or phone systems. Other philes contain calling card numbers or stolen credit cards. The hacker underground lived in these Bulletin Boards. People would not use their real names, and instead used handles. An important aspect to note is that Bulletin Boards were often locally based. Since people accessed the Internet via the phone lines, it would be too costly to make out-of-date, long distance connections. However, it was not uncommon for individuals who were friends on a BBS and lived in close proximity to each other, to never know their real name–let alone meet face to face. The hackers soon learned how to make free long distance phone calls.
Mark Abene, also known as Phiber Optik, was a seventeen year old who grew up in Queens, NY. Mark had an innate capacity to understand computer programming, beginning at the the age of ten, and it was not long before he started cracking into games. Eventually, cracking games became too simple. Mark searched for a more inspiring challenge. As he became acquainted with some popular Bulletin Boards in the local area, Mark’s attention focused on the New York Telephone Company. Mark was especially interested in the philes regarding how to hack the telephone system. He spent countless hours absorbing how the phone system worked, and wrote extensive philes on terms, definitions, and methods of hacking. Soon, Phiber Optik became one of the most renowned ‘Phreakers’ (someone who hacks telephones) in the hacker underground.However, Mark still did not belong to any specific hacking group. In a world where laws were more regarded as guidelines, he saw the importance of aligning himself with the best hackers. He started posting philes for hacking the phone system on the BBS for “Legions of Doom”, one of the most popular hacking groups at the time. The LoD members were impressed with Phiber Optik’s knowledge about the telephone networks and quickly inducted him. Phiber Optik was known for having an arrogant reputation. He would repeatedly raid other BBSes and criticize their philes as being incorrect or outdated. He would ‘crush’ other hackers whom he determined as weak or posers, and who did not possess the knowledge that he had. Eventually things went south with LoD as Mark became embroiled in a feud with the leader of LoD, Chris, over the exchange of some access codes. LoD felt that Mark failed to live up to his end of the deal, and was subsequently voted out of LoD–unanimously.

Mark, and his two friends Eli and Paul, set out to create their own hacking group–the Masters of Deception. The acronym, MoD, was a jab at LoD, since M is one letter up from L in the alphabet. The MoD ranks grew quickly. The three teenagers recruited hackers who each had their own specialty, but the phone system remained their primary objective. They accessed local switching nodes, which let them create their own phone numbers, add features to their subscriptions, change pay phones into free phones and home phones into pay phones. They became experts. The more they learned, the more cavalier they became. One hacker by the name of Zod became a target of MoD. Apparently, Phiber Optik disliked their BBS and their philes, which disseminated poor information. MoD found out that Zod’s phone subscription was accessible through one of the local switches they hacked into previously. They set up call-forwarding on Zod’s phone number. Whenever someone tried to call into Zod’s BBS, they were rerouted to Eli’s house. Eli answered the phone, pretending to be Zod, and asked for the caller’s username and password because ‘the BBS was down and he needed everyone’s credentials to reboot’. Zod found out, called his own house while visiting his grandmother in New Jersey. Eli answered the phone and Zod asked him who he was and why he was in his house. He had not known that they rerouted all the calls. Eli responded, “This is the FBI. You’ve been raided.”

MoD, however, was not invincible. The telephone company was aware that there were intruders in their networks and were closely monitoring their activities, logging every action, and every command a hacker would carry out. One of the men responsible for monitoring the hackers was named Tom Kaiser. Tom was in a very precarious position. He had to risk that the hackers would not make a mistake, and accidentally tear down the entire phone system for the northeast. He was resolved to gather as much evidence and data of their activities, hoping to find some clue as to who may be behind this surreptitious enterprise. Tom had no idea that the people cruising through his networks were teenagers. As far as he was concerned, they could be terrorists or an espionage operation. Tom contacts the FBI for their assistance, who were largely unresponsive, due to the fact that nothing was being damaged or destroyed. Tom was not deterred, in fact he became more relentless, working as much as sixteen hour days to track the intruders.

Phiber Optik’s hacker ethics was, “search, not destroy”. This motto was challenged when someone in MoD denied service to the Learning Link system, a PBS supported network that assisted teachers in exchanging materials. Now that a large system has been compromised, the FBI finally accorded more time and resources to find the hackers. Tom provided them with all evidence he has collected, and the FBI raided the homes of Mark, Eli, and Paul. They seized all their computers, disks, and other hardware that these three have collected over the years. Mark pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge, but Eli and Paul are never charged. Even though they were not charged, the FBI never returned their belongings. This spooked Paul, who halted his hacking activities. But for Mark and Eli, they were just getting started. The FBI raid brought them ‘street cred’. Phiber Optik and Acid Phreak were larger than life.

Fans of the Grateful Dead, also known as Deadheads, used the BBS system to distribute information, set-lists, and concert information about the Grateful Dead. John Perry Barlow, a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, learned of the BBS system. He explored it for himself and subsequently became fascinated with the hacker underground. Barlow hosted a ‘gathering of minds’ on a BBS in San Francisco to discuss the ethics of hacking. Mark and Eli, joined the discussion, uninvited. Barlow and the MoD members fought furiously over what is morally justifiable for what hackers could do. Eli argued that if anyone leaves their system unsecured, they deserve to get hacked. Eli has adopted a ‘blame the victim’ perspective. Barlow, on the other hand, said that if someone leaves their door to their home open, that does not give someone the right to walk inside. Mark decided to post Barlow’s credit history, social security address, and private information on the Bulletin Board System. The National Enquirer reported on the story. The teenagers were famous, and now nationally known.

MoD’s exploits only became more nefarious. “Search, not destroy”, still held by Phiber Optik, was disregarded by the rest of the members. The MoD member, John Lee, had hacked into the Tymnet system which connected the networks of the NSA, Information America, various Bell Telephone switches, credit card companies, and countless other large scale companies. One member of LoD used a racial slur to describe John Lee, and a war ensued. Chris of LoD had retreated from his hacking activities and created a computer security firm. However, John Lee still held him accountable, and wrote programs to repeatedly call Chris 24 hours a day. This drove Chris to his breaking point and he called the Secret Service. John did not stop there. He was able to eavesdrop on Chris’s phone conversations and proceeded to harass Chris.

MoD’s downfall occurred in 1994 when John Lee sold access to Information America accounts for $700. Mark, Eli, John Lee, Julio, and even Paul (who had not been hacking for two years at this point), were arrested. They each plead guilty to a variety of crimes, including wire-tapping, fraud, and invasion of privacy, for leniency in exchange. Mark and John Lee each served one year prison terms, while the others served six months or probation.

The FBI and Secret Service competed over jurisdiction for the case. These types of crimes were quite new, and there was doubt and confusion as to whether the current laws would allow for prosecution. Each agency argued that they were the frontier for defending the nation against technological threats. The case cost millions of dollars and thousands of man hours to investigate. Acquiring phone taps were simple, but they also wanted a ‘data tap’ to monitor the data that went through each hacker’s connections. These were new concepts at the time–expanding a rapidly growing trend of computer related crimes. At the dawn of the World Wide Web, it was clear that the implications for information policy were extensive. Jurisdiction had to be established, rules, regulations, and laws needed to catch up to the new forms of communication. Something had to be done about seizing the property and computers without charging the individual. New processes had to be implemented to protect the civil rights of the citizens.

The general public also became more aware of computers’ vulnerabilities. People realized that their private information could be stolen relatively easily, and began to institute new policies to protect their data. Companies banned the use of simple passwords, or required passwords to be changed every 60 days. The public was more alarmed than ever about their security and privacy. John Barlow’s fear is adequately represented here as stated by the author, “I’ve been in redneck bars wearing shoulder-length curls, police custody while on acid, and Harlem after midnight, but no one has ever put the spook in me quite as Phiber Optik did…” (Slatalla, 103).

As the World Wide Web erupted, the Bulletin Board System was no longer needed. With a brand new concept, comes new and exciting challenges for hackers. As the Internet grew, so did the laws that attempted to regulate it. There is a constant battle between hackers and the law. We are living in the Information Age and hackers like MoD and LoD still exist, just in different forms. As a society, we must continue to evolve, improve, and perfect how we approach computer crimes and the policies designed to protect us.

Irish Emigration in the 1950s

On October 21st, Mr. Lemass declared in the Dail that the whole objective of the Government’s economic and social policy was to create such conditions in this country as would lead to the stopping of emigration. This statement is a measure of the gravity of our emigration problem. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that, at present, emigration is quite the gravest social problem which with the country is faced.1

The above quote, written by Michael Connolly in December of 1951, depicts the sobering concerns that Irish citizens had about mass emigration. However, population issues have plagued the Emerald Island in the past. Ireland had been struggling to maintain its population levels for nearly seventy years prior under a complex range of challenges. The 1950’s, however, was a new era—the second World War was over and a substantial international community had formed. Ireland, unfortunately, did not benefit significantly in the 1950’s, if at all, and emigration persisted throughout the remainder of the decade. Ireland’s economy in the 1950’s remained largely stagnant in comparison to the more prospering economies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United States. It is during this time that emigration continued to beset Ireland, whose citizens had become disaffected with their government and believed they could pursue happiness elsewhere. There is considerable dissent among historians and social scientists as to the primary reason for emigration after World War II. Some attribute mass migration to the poor economic conditions and lack of technological progress. Others are not convinced that the economy is the main cause, and suggest that the Irish attitude is to blame. This essay explores a variety of opinions and statistics in an attempt to answer the question, “Why did so many people emigrate from Ireland in the 1950’s?”

The total population of Ireland declined by 4.9% between 1951 and 1961 despite having a comparatively high birthrate. An analysis of migration trends reveals that almost all of the depopulation took place in rural areas2. This was particularly disturbing because Ireland’s economy was still heavily dependent on agriculture at the time. Many children of small farmers found they had no choice but to move to larger, more populated cities and towns in order to find meaningful employment. Young people who were already residing in cities had left the country altogether to find work abroad². A depreciating younger workforce only created additional strain to the Irish economy. This is the pattern of migration that has been the status quo for years. John Kelleher, a journalist, describes the Irish emigration problem as a “self-operating social mechanism, governed by its own laws and not amenable to any of the usual remedies3.” Those Irish nationals who had left Ireland commonly settled in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the northeastern region of the United States.
After World War II, Ireland’s government spending increased extensively, especially on the country’s infrastructure and social services. New schools, hospitals, and homes were built, and government provided assistance were enhanced. It would be natural to assume that Irish citizens were in good spirits, but this was not the case. In 1950, net emigration reached 40,000 and the apparent economic progress was short-lived³. The nation fell into a deep recession in 1951. The resulting emigration over the next seven years was double that of the entire period since Ireland declared independence4.
On the surface, it may appear that the economy is at fault for Ireland’s long standing social problem. However, further introspection reveals that there are other root causes. An article written in the Furrow in 1952 by Timothy Manning states that the English language, the love of liberty, and the Christian faith played a large role in why Irish emigrants left for the United States5. This view is not shared by all, however. An analyst, C.F Carter, exclaims that the lack of competent management and technological progress is a legitimate reason why people are leaving their home country. Carter suggests that significant capital can be attained by simply working hard, along with market research and development of technical skills6. He continues in detail:

I doubt if Irish workers are naturally particularly idle; but I think that their work is often managed so that they waste their time. Bad management and technical backwardness seem to me to be the essential troubles6.

Carter states that Ireland’s attitude needs to change, and that it should welcome foreign businesses and learn from their methodology. He argues that the disdain towards foreign industry, and the United Kingdom in particular, is only perpetuating the poor economic cycle, contributing to emigration6. Carter contends that if Irish businesses adopted foreign business models, it could turn the economy around and halt emigration.

John Kelleher paints a slightly different perspective on emigration—that emigration and the economy are independent of each other. His article titled “Ireland…Where Does She Stand?”, written in April of 1957, is quite pessimistic and discontented. Kelleher asserts that:

The people emigrate because they do not like what they are offered and because they do not expect to be offered anything else. They go out too, in a pretty sour frame of mind, as is evidenced by persistent reports from England that between 60 and 80 percent of new Irish immigrants cease to communicate as Catholics within one year of their arrival. That also is a comment on what they leave behind.3

Kelleher’s disheartening rant continues on to state that the emigrants were offered and subsequently rejected the idea of paternalism and that there is a “desire to escape those of their neighbors, probably a majority, who have no great complaints against things as they are and who neither desire nor will assist substantial change.” He suggests that the Church leaders and politicians simply accept emigration as an insolvable problem. Instead, the Irish government and religious authorities have the responsibility to educate and train their citizens so when they do vacate the country, they will be able to compete with Englishmen and Americans abroad3. Kelleher concludes that if an adequate education system is established in Ireland, the young generation may decide to stay, but in a way that would horrify the ‘fatherly rulers’.

Although Kelleher provides an intriguing and sensational context of the Irish emigration problem, his views are in the minority. A vast number of authors lay blame to the sluggish economy, lack of social amenities, and increased opportunities abroad. Cornelius Lucy was a fervent believer in Irish agricultural production7. In his own words:

Without a radical change in public policy, there can be no stopping emigration, or rather depopulation, for we have passed the stage of simple emigration. The present policy is to look for population increase through the development of industry. That policy stands condemned by its results. To me, the neglect of agriculture for industry in recent decades is not only economically indefensible but has proved demographically disastrous as well7.

This is a very powerful sentiment by Cornelius that reflects many people’s opinions that agriculture was still very much the driving force behind Ireland’s economy in the 1950’s. The “Report on Emigration and Population Problems” by the Irish government in 1954 was uncharacteristically blunt and accurate. It cites that a variety of factors had contributed to the emigration issue. One reason often glossed over by journalists, but nevertheless just as significant is “Emigration of some members of the family has almost become part of the established custom of the people in certain areas—a part of the generally accepted pattern of life8.” Emigration had become a psychological problem.

The problem of Irish emigration in the 1950’s cannot be explained by any one issue by itself. The truth is, it is an amalgamation of all the concerns illustrated by the authors represented in this essay. Opportunities in England and the United States, a sagging economy and education system, and a pessimistic attitude towards progress in Ireland have all contributed to mass emigration. People had been leaving Ireland long before the 1950’s. It had become the norm. However, in subsequent years, Ireland has seemingly mitigated or reversed the trends of emigration. Foreign industry and immigration are at the forefront of Irish economic discussions in present time. However, Ireland’s population levels need to be closely monitored in the years ahead, as their history has proved those levels are tenuous at best.Bibliography

C.F. Carter, Hugh Beaver, Patrick Lynch, and C.A. Smith, ‘The Irish Economy Viewed from Without’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 46, no. 182 (Summer, 1957), pp. 137-149.

Cornelius Lucy, ‘The Problem of Emigration’, University Review 1, no. 12 (Spring, 1957), pp. 3-10.

James Johnson, ‘Population Changes in Ireland’, The Geographic Journal 129, no. 2 (Jun. 1963), pp. 167-174.

John Kelleher, ‘Ireland…Where Does She Stand?’, Foreign Affairs 35, no. 3 (Apr. 1957), pp. 485-495.

Kieran Kennedy, Thomas Giblin and Deirdre McHugh, The Economic Development of Ireland in the Twentieth Century, (New York, 1988).

Michael Connelly, ‘Rural Depopulation’, The Irish Monthly 79, no. 942 (Dec. 1951), pp. 514-517.

‘Report on Emigration and Population Problems’, http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/eich_02/eich_02_00567.html, accessed 26 February, 2010.

Timothy Manning, ‘Currents of Irish Influence in the United States’, The Furrow 3, no. 12 (Dec. 1952), pp. 627-638.

Sharia Law and Islamic Women

The Prophet said, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal half of that of a man?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is because of the deficiency of the woman’s mind.” (Bukhari, 48:826).

Sharia, literally meaning the “path”, shapes all aspects of Muslim society. Sharia law has a profound effect; from the legal code in many Muslim countries, to life’s daily routines, personal relationships and financial transactions (Vriens). Sharia’s sway over the Muslim way of life has become quite contentious. Varying elucidations have provided for some to validate harsh sentences that could lead to physical harm, disfigurement, and even death. Disparate judgments against women in the areas of finance, appropriate attire, and individuality are prevalent. The controversy of Sharia law continues to escalate, as it appears it is headed for a collision with the modern and secular world.

Sharia was formed as the Islamic empire was advancing, especially in North Africa in the west, and to China in the east. Sharia law draws from both the Quran and the customs and teachings (the Sunnah) of the Prophet Mohammed. The populace requested that the Prophet render direction on a range of matters, and he would assert his findings. Many issues concerning individual behavior, community and family associations, civic concerns, etc. were attended to during the era of the Prophet, and inscribed. The Sunnah illuminates particulars of what is declared broadly in the Quran. Islamic academics, clerics and scholars utilize prior authoritative edicts, reasoning and analogies to tackle contemporary matters of contention. The general will and consensus of the Muslim community also plays a significant role in defining Sharia law (Vriens). This quaternary blending— the Quran, the Sunnah, analogical reasoning and consensus formed the underpinnings for the jurisprudence process.

The Prophet Mohammed is recognized as the most devout of all. His approach to life became the ideal for all other Muslims to try to emulate. The Prophet’s customs and practices were compiled by sages into what has become acknowledged as the Hadith. Eventually, divergent philosophies developed as varying regions merged parochial rituals and Islam. Over the course of several generations, experts or scholars became the overseers of the law. The Hadith evolved into two basic belief systems—the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s. Within the Sunni tradition, there are four Schools of Law today. They are referred by the names of their founders. These four schools are the Hanafi School, the Maliki School, the Shafi’i School and the Hanbali School.

The Hanafi school is generally regarded as the one that has accorded the most latitude for the individual opinions of legal scholars. It is considered a moderate form of Islam, calibrated on rationale and analogy. The Hanafi school is established in India, Pakistan, Egypt and Central Asia (Vriens). The founder of the Shafi’i school is normally associated as the one who initiated the process of structuring the legal system. The Malikis tend to place a great emphasis on the significance of Hadith. The Hanbali school is considered to espouse the most doctrinaire type of Islam. It is widely accepted in Saudi Arabia, also in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan controlled by the Taliban. The Shiite School of law is known as Ja’fari. In Iran, where the Shiite Muslims are the majority, the Ja’fari school is preeminent.

The focus of this research paper will be concentrated on the most conservative or radical form of Islam, the Hanbali school. Henceforth, the propensity of our examinations will fixate on the impact of Sharia on Islamic culture in Saudi Arabia, and where the Taliban influence is substantial, most notably Afghanistan and the Swat Valley region in Pakistan.

The onset of Taliban extremists in Pakistan’s Swat valley has kindled a swift deterioration of civil liberties, by imposing their Hanbali school brand of Sharia law. Adversaries have been executed, music has been forbidden and schools have been closed down. Thousands have escaped to safer locations of the country. The Swat valley was once a booming vacation destination; citizens from all over Pakistan came to see the majestic mountains and clear running streams. It was a peaceful locale, but that was prior to August 2007, when the Taliban took over (Nair). The Swat valley was renowned for cultivating gifted artists and performers. One year ago, a female entertainer called Shabana, who had resisted Taliban laws to continue performing at weddings and public events, was killed. Her remains were dumped in town square, along with her CD’s and photographs. This was an obvious warning to all not to disobey the Taliban on their prohibited activities. Hair salons have been shut down, and women are forced to keep covered up by their burqas without regard to their freedom of choice (Nair).

At first, many Pakistanis of the Swat welcomed the arrival of the Taliban, and their implementation of Sharia law. After hundreds of years of relative autonomy, Pakistan’s laws were finally and formally extended to the region in 1969. However, corruption and incompetence beleaguered the legal system and the government. Ineffectual leadership destined the government to lose credibility with the citizenry. In fact, during the 1990’s, before the Taliban entered Pakistan, there was a lobbying effort to bring some facets of Sharia to the courts. Today, it would be only a small minority that would like to continue with the current situation under the Taliban. However, it is obvious that when a system is chaotic and devoid of honesty, the people will settle for order (Zakaria).

It was the sad case of The Girl from Qatif that brought the Saudi Arabian legal system into the world’s consciousness. This 19 year old was brutally raped by seven men, all who signed a confession when they were initially arrested. Three men had also raped her male friend who was in the car with her, when they were assaulted. When the trial had ended, the men received anywhere between 1 to 5 years, along with 80 to 1,000 lashes. The prosecutor had asked for the death penalty. The big shock came when the Judge handed down a verdict of 90 lashes to the girl for being alone with a man at the time of the attack (Abou-Alsamh).

Under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than their male relatives. The sentence was substantially increased to 200 lashes and six months in prison after her husband objected to the initial punishment. Saudi Arabia ordered a judicial review, after outcry from the international community and human rights organizations. However, the Saudi Justice Ministry asserted that the decree was legal and followed the “the book of God and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad” (Levy).

Eventually Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah did pardon the Girl from Oatif. Saudi Justice Minister Abdullah bin Muhammed al-Sheik told al-Jazirah newspaper that the pardon does not mean the king doubted the country’s judges, but instead acted in the ”interests of the people.”

The king always looks into alleviating the suffering of the citizens when he becomes sure that these verdicts will leave psychological effects on the convicted people, though he is convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair (Abou-Alsamh).

This case initiated questions about Saudi Arabia’s jurisprudence, in which judges have broad discretion in sentencing defendants. In many cases no defense attorneys are present. These include one in which a group of men got heavier sentences for simply harassing women, than the men in the Girl of Qatif rape case (Abou-Alsamh).

Saudi Arabia justice is carried out by a system of religious courts according to the stringent understanding of Islamic Sharia law. The courts have sole discretion to set punishment. The exception is when Sharia defines a sentence, as in the case of capital offenses. That means no two judges would be apt to hand down the same verdict for comparable crimes. It is quite feasible, that a rapist, could receive the death sentence or no sentence at all, contingent upon who is adjudicating the case (Abou-Alsamh).

There are two main groupings in Islamic law for evidentiary qualifications, when the crime of rape is alleged. They are eyewitness accounts and oath taking. If eyewitness evidence is available, four male eyewitnesses must emerge and must have seen the act of penetration itself “like a well-rope in a well.” for eyewitness evidence to suffice. The evidence requirements are tremendously inflexible in these cases, making it quite burdensome to ascertain guilt, especially since rape often takes place in isolated areas. In the pre-modern Islamic legal system oath taking was an opportunity for prevailing proof in the court, and from time to time rape victims would avail oath taking for redress. A witness, who sore by God, in the presence of a judge, whether a crime had taken place or not, was listened to quite intently. Sometimes midwives would testify in court as an attestation to the physical condition of the rape victim as it would apply to forced entry (“Rape”).

Rape has progressively developed as a topic of dispute as modern codes of law have presented loopholes for rapists to escape harsh disciplinary action. In current times, laws have made it more difficult for women to prosecute their attackers. In some instances, mostly in Egypt, the courts have even encouraged victims to marry their attackers. The reasoning behind this practice was that it was hoped this would prevent women from being kidnapped. During the early modern period, the directives promoted sentencing such as castration and imprisonment. Many times however, the rapist just had to pay “compensation” to the victim. A widespread legal ploy that is often used by rape offenders is the women who are “asking for it” defense. Several cases in Pakistan show that females who are employed, especially those women who work at night, are often considered of low moral character, are frequently targets of a sexual assault (“Rape”).

Westernized women are portrayed as “prostitutes”. These were women who smoked cigarettes, wore jeans or attained employment. Rape and throat slashing were often the techniques used to penalize these women. Leaving home without a proper chaperone is also considered to violate Islamic moral code. The 1992 gang rape of a young Egyptian woman illustrates a most distressing event. The woman was attacked in a crowded bus station in Cairo. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence, despite the overwhelming number of witnesses. Public sentiment did not seem like it was on the victim’s side. Even the Egyptian media chastised the family for permitting their daughter to leave the home unattended. As a direct result of this case a law was submitted to the Egyptian National Assembly that put the blame on the families of rape victims, for allowing their daughters out of the home. The law did not pass the assembly (“Rape”).

The prosecution of rape in several Muslim countries in the recent past has been mired for two basic reasons. First, the belief that women are the standard bearers of morality and henceforth, are liable for the dereliction of decency such as rape. The injured party turns out to be the evildoer. The second reason is the accepted wisdom in many strict and fundamentalist Islamic thought, is that only women are to serve punishment for any sexual indiscretion, including rape. This interpretation of Sharia law supports male superiority, at the expense of women in those Muslim countries that advance this viewpoint (“Rape”).

The Sharia doctrine that is observed in Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Iran has directly influenced their civil codes when it comes to marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance. It places women in a decidedly detrimental place in the community (“Domestic Violence”).

In the Hanbali school, as well as the Ja’fari school of Islamic law, the meting out of punishment is claimed exclusively by the male gender. Although beating a woman is not sanctioned, some men feel the need to subjugate women, even if that includes violence. The response of clerics to a question on domestic violence is:

Islam does not recommend men to beat their wives, nevertheless, if a wife is not compliant, they are authorized to beat her. A woman is called ‘untamed’ if she refuses to satisfy the desires of her husband. Husband’s sexual satisfaction being part of tampkin, the rape of a wife cannot be considered as an assault! Thereafter, punishing her becomes a right for men (Ardalan and Khaksar 1994).

Even in the realm of crime the supremacy of men is blatant. Islamic criminal law states a woman’s life is equal to half that of a man, a state of affairs that habitually ensures that men can avoid retribution after perpetrating offenses against women (“Domestic Violence”).

The most noteworthy portions of Sharia concern marriage and divorce, but the penal code is the most hotly debated. In Sharia there are certain crimes that the Quran stipulates explicit sentencing. These are known as Hadd punishments. There are five Hadd offenses: illegal sexual intercourse (outside of marriage), unlawful accusations of illegal sex, the drinking of alcohol, theft and highway robbery. Hadd punishments are resolved in an “eye for an eye” circumstance at the judge’s discretion (Vriens). Flogging, stoning, amputation and even execution are all punishments for Hadd crimes. Even though these sentences are fairly rare in most Muslim countries, they do draw a considerable amount of attention, especially in the world press. Ali Mazrui, of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies states:

In reality, most Muslim countries do not use traditional classical Islamic punishments, but there are exceptions – such as Sudan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. These countries use the criminal provisions of Sharia that may lead to amputation for stealing or flogging for adultery. While infrequently used, these punishments make headlines – and alarm even some Muslims (Vriens).

In spite of a disinclination to apply Hadd punishments, many in the citizenry still think it is just to take the law into their own hands. Honor killings are executions that are administered in revenge for bringing shame on one’s family. Honor killing is an extreme form of gender-based violence, often involving women murdered by their own family members. This type of violence is usually committed by fathers and brothers, rather than the woman’s spouse or boyfriend (Miller). This is an issue that crosses over globally in the Muslim community. However, it is specifically condoned by the Taliban leadership. While precise statistics are scarce, the UN estimates thousands of women are killed annually in the name of family honor (Mayell). In Pakistan it has been estimated that one in five murders are honor killings. T. Kumar, advocacy director for the Asia and Pacific region at Amnesty International comments:

One of the biggest challenges in trying to halt honor killings is their long tradition of being seen as a way of upholding the moral values of society. Any lasting shift in how honor killings are viewed would have to come from the community itself. The pressure to maintain the practice is so great that in some instances, family members may feel they have no other options, despite not wanting to harm their child or sister, their respect in the community was tarnished by that family member so they want to regain that, If you don’t do it then you have been laughed upon (Miller).

The carrying out of honor killings is unlawful, and is deemed as murder under Pakistan’s legal system. However, it is rare when a perpetrator receives the full punishment for the act. The family of the victim is permitted to pardon someone found guilty of the crime. The obvious issue is in the practice of honor killings, the one charged with the crime is typically part of that family (Miller).

Greatly complicating the subject of honor killings is the support it has from many women in the communities, and even in the family where it has occurred (Mayell). It is viewed as a private matter for the family to deal with, and not a matter for the courts to interfere with. Zaynab Nawaz, a program assistant for women’s human rights at Amnesty International says:

Females in the family—mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, and cousins—frequently support the attacks. It’s a community mentality (Mayell).

Tahira Shahid Khan, a professor specializing in women’s issues at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan, wrote in Chained to Custom, a review of honor killings published in 1999.

There is nothing in the Koran, the book of basic Islamic teachings, that permits or sanctions honor killings. However, the view of women as property with no rights of their own is deeply rooted in Islamic culture. Women are considered the property of the males in their family irrespective of their class, ethnic, or religious group. The owner of the property has the right to decide its fate. The concept of ownership has turned women into a commodity which can be exchanged, bought and sold (Mayell).

Women accused of bringing dishonor to their families are hardly ever afforded the occasion to establish their innocence. In many countries where the practice is sanctioned or at least disregarded, there are only a small amount of shelters and insufficient official security. According to Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, if a Jordanian woman is in fear for her life from her family, she can check herself into a local jail. However, she will not be able to leave unless a male relative retrieves her. Often times that could be the same person who poses the threat (Mayell).

Honor killings are committed for a broad array of transgressions. Matrimonial infidelity, pre-marital sex, flirting, or even failing to prepare a meal in a timely manner, can all be regarded as casting doubt on the integrity of the family (Mayell).

Many feel that progress on this issue will be quite gradual, as in the areas where honor killings occur, it does have wide acceptance within those communities. However as more awareness is given to this topic, and the world awakens there is hope that the number of honor killings will decline in the future. The real change has to come within the Islamic people and within traditional and religious leadership circles to condemn, and not condone this brutal practice. Kumar, again:

Progress on this issue will be slow. It boils down to what’s the definition of honor and changing that (Miller).

Further rituals that are put forth into the Sharia controversy, such as female genital mutilation, adolescent marriages, polygamy, and gender-biased inheritance rules, provoke as much debate. There is widespread disagreement over what the Quran instructs and what practices were culled from tribal traditions and antecede Islam. Those that seek to abolish or alter these contentious rituals refer to the holy precept of tajdid. The notion is one of revitalization, where the Islamic social order must be transformed continuously to maintain it, in its wholesome form. Dr. Abdul Fatah Idris, head of the comparative jurisprudence department at Al-Azhar University in Cairo states:

With the passage of time and changing circumstances since traditional classical jurisprudence was founded, people’s problems have changed and conversely, there must be new thought to address these changes and event (Vriens).

Though a preponderance of academics concur with this consideration, there are those who regard the purest form of Islam to be the one observed 1,300 years ago.

As it was stated earlier in regards to honor killings, it would be a misnomer to assume that an overwhelming majority of Muslim women are opposed to Sharia law. According to an article published on October 8th, 2009 in the UK Telegraph by Andrew Gilligan and Alex Spillius chronicled statements made by Dalia Mogahed who was appointed by President Barack Obama as an advisor on Muslim affairs. Miss Mogahed is quoted as saying that:

The Western view of Sharia was oversimplified” and “The majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with Sharia compliance. I think the reason so many women support Sharia is because they have a very different understanding of Sharia than the common perception in Western media (Feldman).

Dalia Mogahed described one of her main functions, is to provide insight for the Obama administration on the desires of the Muslim people. Miss Mogahed is also Executive Director for Muslim studies for Gallup, which scientifically polls public opinion in Islamic society.

Many Muslim women would argue that the Quran granted women economic and social rights long before they were achieved by Western women. Under Islam, a woman is called upon to behave modestly in public and, as in the West until recently, is commonly expected to give a full commitment to making a family home, a home within which, she possesses a paramount position.

Such an outlook is markedly dissimilar from those views now generally thought of by women in the West, just as the steadfastness of family existence and the security of women in Islamic society differ noticeably from the circumstances which women now face in Western culture.

From the commencement of Islam, women have been lawfully permitted to inherit and bestow possessions, holding their wealth in their own names even after marriage, without compulsion to confer those assets to their husband or their family.

In Saudi Arabia, girls benefit from a higher level of educational prospects than ever before. It is accurate that women are still limited in vocational opportunities but even here the case is amplified. Advancement is no longer insurmountable, as women now have leadership positions in business and even in the state run Oil Company. Even so, there is a major distinction amid the composition of the suitable role for females in Islam and that established in Western culture.

The quote below from Dalia Mogahed explains the sentiments that Muslims have that the answers to their problems can be found within Islam, and its values. This would seemingly support the notion that imposing Western ideals on Muslim society would never succeed.

What Muslims around the world tell us they believe is that the key to progress is attachment to their spiritual and moral values. They really do see, many of them, that Islam offers a solution for their problems and they see Islam as their society’s greatest asset. When we asked people what they admired most about the Muslim world, what they tell us is their attachment to Islam, Islamic values, value of hospitality, the value of family. So I think that whereas people around the world do feel that the problems are diverse, many of them do mention Islam as a part of that solution, and when we ask people what can Muslims do to help themselves, one of the most frequent responses is for them to unify and another is for them to follow Islam and make it a greater and more authentic part of their lives (Stillwell).

Muslims would point to the many social ills that befall the West. Although one can never pinpoint exactly the causes of social upheaval, the breakdown of the family structure would seemingly play a pivotal role. When Muslims view the West they see increases in crime, materialism and an erosion of moral values. In both European and American cities many women and many of the elderly live in fear, and are afraid of being assaulted on their sidewalks. Single parent families reliant on governmental assistance battle just to try to provide the bare necessities for their children. These sets of circumstances would certainly not convince Muslims that the West has the better solution.

There is a sharp divide between the Western and Muslim societies and thus wide debate over Sharia. Noah Feldman is a law professor at Harvard University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations has written extensively on this subject. Feldman conjectures that Sharia is totally misunderstood and perverted in the West. Feldman writes:

In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Sharia for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, for example, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act (Feldman).

While Feldman here correctly states the relative historical contribution Sharia has had through the ages, he does neglect a differing viewpoint, when he writes about the “high standards of proof”. As discussed earlier, obtaining a rape conviction is extremely hard given the four male witness rule, and as far as an adultery conviction goes, the chance of the courts rather than the family meting out “corrective measures” is slim indeed.

According to Feldman, the West has never truly understood what the word Sharia means to the believer. For Muslims it is more than a set of legalisms to adhere to. Sharia, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. It suggests a way of life that is blessed with the divinity. Fundamentally, Sharia embodies the ideal that all people, and all human governments, are subject to justice under the law (Feldman). Feldman does strike at the heart of the controversy with this analysis of how Sharia is viewed differently. The West certainly cannot understand the metaphysical qualities that Sharia has on the Muslim people. This is the crux of this great divide.

The paradoxical question that must be asked is, “can Sharia and Democracy coexist?” This is a subject of intense discussion. Some hard line Muslims squabble that democracy is entirely a Western model forced upon Islamic nations. Others believe Islam compels a democratic arrangement and that democracy has a foundation in the Quran since “mutual consultation” among the people is commended (42:38 Quran) (Esposito, and Voll). Noah Feldman agues that the full incorporation of Islamic law is viewed as:

Creating a path to just and legitimate government in much of the Muslim world.” It places duplicitous rulers alongside their constituents under the rule of God. “For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for [Sharia] is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law (Feldman).

Other Muslim academics oppose the inclusion of Islamic law. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im a professor of law at Emory University and author of a book on the future of Sharia states that secular government is the best way to observe Sharia.

Enforcing a [Sharia] through coercive power of the state negates its religious nature, because Muslims would be observing the law of the state and not freely performing their religious obligation as Muslims (Esposito, and Voll).

The role of women in Islamic society, and in particular the countries with strong fundamentalist ties such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan is a complex and regularly misunderstood issue. It is certainly true that Muslim and Western views of the role of women show striking cultural differences.

The discourse on Sharia law inside and outside of the Islamic community could last for generations. The most likely scenario for success will be a gradual mixture of secularism combined with Islamic reinforcement. Those who will embrace the gradual approach, with all its perils and snares, must possess the ambition to revive traditional meanings of the code of law, at the same time acceding with current factors. This is most challenging and inspiring, and it may be the last, best hope for a durable and evenhanded government that would enhance the lives of Muslim women and men, and the world community as a whole.


Abou-Alsamh, Rasheed. “Ruling Jolts Even Saudis: 200 Lashes for Rape Victim.” New York Times 16 November 2007: n. pag. Web. 10 Dec 2009.

“Domestic Violence.” Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. 2. Brill Online, Web.

Esposito, John, and John Voll. “Islam and Democracy.” Humanities. 22. 2001. Web.

Feldman, Noah. “Why Sharia?.” New York Times 16 March 2008: n. pag. Web. 11 Dec 2009.

Levy, Megan. “Saudi Arabia Defends Sentence for Rape Victim.” Telegraph 25 November 2007: n. pag. Web. 11 Dec 2009.

Mayell, Hillary. “Honor Killings.” National Geographic 12 February 2002: n. pag. Web. 14 Dec 2009.

Miller, Talea. “Sharia.” PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer 6 April 2009: n. pag. Web. 10 Dec 2009.

Nair, Rajen. “Swat Valley: Life Under Sharia.” Guardian Weekly 12 March 2009: n. pag. Web. 10 Dec 2009.

“Rape.” Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. 2. Brill Online, Web.

Stillwell, Cinnamon. “Does Sharia Law Promote Women’s Rights?.” Front Page Mag October 2009: n. pag. Web. 11 Dec 2009.

Vriens, Lauren. “Islam: Governing Under Sharia.”Council on Foreign Relations (2009): n. pag. Web. 10 Dec 2009.

Zakaria, Fareed. “Learning to Live with Radical Islam.” Newsweek 28 February 2009: n. pag. Web. 14 Dec 2009.

Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream

As a witness to many defining moments in our nation’s history, I am immensely proud of Sen. Barack Obama’s historic achievements. He is the candidate of principle and optimism and is committed to restoring a sense of national community. I’m delighted to be counted among millions of Americans in support of his candidacy for president.—Rachel Robinson (Powell, 2008).

January 20th, 2009 will be a monumental day in American history. On that day Barack Obama will be inaugurated as our 44th President. He will be the country’s first African-American President. The magnitude of this cannot be underestimated, as its ramifications will reverberate across the globe. This is a mammoth blow to racism, although racism is not dead, even with the election of a black President. Racism persists and the struggle will continue. Throughout our history, there have been many individuals who have overcome the barriers of race in our society, which lead to the November 4th election victory of Barack Obama. However, it is Jackie Robinson who first created the achievable from the unattainable. Jackie Robinson had prevailed over astounding adversity, immeasurable intimidation and pressure to shatter our national pastime’s race barrier. Especially in his first year, every time Jackie laced up his cleats, he had an entire nation judging not only him, but his race. With the election of Barack Obama as our next President, there should be another RBI added to Jackie Robinson’s totals. Without Jackie Robinson, it could be assured that Barack Obama would never have even been on the ballot. Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments go way past what he did on a baseball diamond. His continued influence and profound effect on society culminated on November 4th, 2008, some sixty one years after he debuted for the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson’s impact on the integration of Major League Baseball is undeniable. However, that is only a small part of the Jackie Robinson story. Robinson helped integrate America. In classrooms, universities, physician’s offices and Wall Street there are now millions of African Americans, where before Jackie, there was barely a trickle. He made America acknowledge that given an equal chance, blacks are just as eligible and qualified as anyone else. Jackie Robinson transcended baseball. He helped knock down the prejudices that have kept us apart. The election of Barack Obama is truly an event of epic proportions. All Americans, regardless if you supported Senator Obama or not, owe a debt of gratitude to Jackie Robinson who led the way at a time in our history, when our society was not open to change of this magnitude. The fruits of his labor will have never been more realized than on January 20th, 2009.

Jackie Robinson was not known for turning the other cheek when it came to racial insults, slurs or discrimination. He stood up for his rights, and if that meant it came to fisticuffs, Jackie would not back down. Restraint was not in Jackie’s DNA.

However, when Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers President, chose Robinson to be the first black to cross the Major League’s color barrier, restraint was exactly what he had in mind. Branch Rickey knew this would not be an easy task. There would be alienation, outright bigotry, threats to his physical safety. And it would be coming from all directions. Opposing players, owners, fans and even some teammates were all guilty of intolerance.

Conceivably, the exchange sited below between Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson may have been the most significant in sports history.

Rickey: “I know you’re a good ballplayer. What I don’t know is whether you have the guts.”

Robinson: “Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?”

Rickey, exploding: “Robinson, I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back” (Schwartz).

Branch Rickey’s foresight in regards to the racism that Jackie would encounter became a reality. As Sports Illustrated‘s Bill Nack wrote: “Robinson was the target of racial epithets and flying cleats, of hate letters and death threats, of pitchers throwing at his head and legs, and catchers spitting on his shoes” (Schwartz).

Somehow through it all Jackie Robinson abided by his promise to exercise self-control. He kept his cool and his silence while undergoing enormous anxiety and stress.By doing so, he earned the respect of those he played with and against. Jackie Robinson showed the world that he would not let racism bring him down. He could take it and he could still excel and overcome.

A few years later, Robinson was free from the shackles of restraint. He had already proved to all that he could play this game. He could play at such a high level in fact that only a handful could match. White or black. The fiery Jackie was back, and injustice was no longer to stand intact.

Brooklyn was the prime location for Jackie Robinson to break into the Major Leagues. Unlike most of the nation, Brooklyn was, and still is, a collection of a variety of cultures and races. Even so, barely any Black Americans would attend a Dodger game at Ebbets Field before 1947. Instead, they would support the popular Negro Leagues. However, with Robinson’s arrival to the Majors, Ebbets Field would be packed with both whites and African-Americans alike. The Dodgers attracted 1.8 million fans in 1947. This was a new season record. In fact, four other National League teams set attendance records in 1947. Announcer Red Barber stated that “wherever Jackie played, he drew large crowds. He became the biggest attraction in baseball since Babe Ruth. Robinson put serious money into the pockets of every National League owner” (Fitter). By simply playing a sport like baseball, Jackie essentially brought the two races together who joined for a common goal—success for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Baseball was the most popular sport in America throughout the first half of the 20th century. It was a sport that all Americans could relate to, but it was not exempt from the deep rooted prejudice of the “gentleman’s club” and the “separate but equal” clause. Although there was no influx of black players into the Major Leagues after Jackie, the floodgates did open for a new African-American fan base. Black Americans all around the nation became instant fans of the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson’s prominence was not limited to Brooklyn by any means.

It is difficult to perceive how our society would be today if it was not for the integration of our national pastime. Pee Wee Reese, a white Dodger teammate, would never have had the opportunity to put his arms on Robinson’s shoulders while Robinson was being heckled by opposing fans. Millions of baseball fans would not have witnessed that blacks are just as proficient as whites both on and off the field. Black and white fans would not have come together in unison to cheer on their favorite teams. These are the images that have left an indelible imprint upon the consciousness of the American people.It is possible that the Supreme Court still would have ordered school desegregation. It is possible that Jim Crow statutes still would be outlawed in the 1960’s. It is possible that the 1965 Voting Rights Act still would have passed Congress. It is possible that Martin Luther King still would have widespread support amongst both blacks and whites. All of the above are possible, but all of the above are highly unlikely, especially for the times in which they occurred. It would be safe to assume that our social norms, our worldview and the pathways our lives have taken would be completely different if not for Jackie Robinson being the first to breakthrough the color barrier of Major League baseball.

Jackie Robinson always charted his own course, satisfying his own set of beliefs. There were many times throughout his life that others complained about his predilections. His choices in the political arena were no different. He did prove that no one political entity could take his support for granted either.

I guess you’d call me an independent, since I’ve never identified myself with one party or another in politics. I always decide my vote by taking as careful a look as I can at the actual candidates and issues themselves, no matter what the party label. –Jackie Robinson (Robinson, Jackie Robinson Quotes).

Although in the above quote, Jackie states that he is an independent, a closer look at his political involvement reveals that Jackie could be considered a moderate or “Rockefeller Republican”. Jackie Robinson was a passionate capitalist, with a strong aversion to Communism. He often stated that hard work and self reliance was the most effective way to advance the cause of racial equality:

How much more effective our demands for a piece of the action would be if we were negotiating from the strength of our own self reliance rather than stating our case in the role of a beggar or someone out for charity. We live in a materialistic society in which money doesn’t only talk — it screams (Robinson, I Never Had It Made, 1995).

Jackie Robinson observed a nation that had to defeat racial discrimination. His strong belief in equality and fairness was the trademark of his life. Long before he became a dominant and inspiring personality, he refused to sit at the back of the Army bus at Fort Hood, despite the risk of severe personal repercussions. This happened eleven years before Rosa Park’s famous refusal to move to the back of the bus in Alabama in 1955. Jackie possessed the inner fortitude, conviction and mettle to protest wrongs that were prevalent in American culture, before he ever had an at bat for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson was subsequently court-martialed for his action on the bus, however he was acquitted. Jackie Robinson could have retired and rested on his laurels—just another name hanging on a plaque in Cooperstown. A name to be quickly glanced over by future generations with a historical footnote, but instead he took advantage of his baseball fame. After retirement, he continued to utilize the press to make a difference from outside the stadium.

In later years, Jackie’s greatest gift was that he understood how he could use the power of his celebrity to advance the cause of Civil Rights. It surely would have been easier, less controversial to just show up at promotional events and sign autographs. This however, was not the Jackie Robinson way. He wanted to make a difference. After his retirement from baseball he became politically active. He was in communication with every President from Eisenhower to Nixon until he died in 1972. As stated earlier, Jackie Robinson did champion moderate Republicans, such as New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller, in turn, named Robinson Special Assistant for Community Affairs in 1966, with the task of improving the governor’s standing among black residents of New York. Robinson answered disapproval of his association with the Republican Party as a means for the black outlook on issues to be heard. However, Robinson did not shy away from supporting any candidate regardless of party affiliation, especially if they were espousing clear and resolute policies on civil rights issues. He was at the forefront supporting Republicans for Lyndon B. Johnson candidacy against Barry Goldwater, the conservative Republican nominee in the 1964 Presidential election(Rampersad, 1997).

Bill Keefe, sports editor of the Times-Picayune of New Orleans wrote an editorial blaming Jackie Robinson’s insolent behavior for a law passed in Louisiana that criminalized interracial sports. Robinson quickly responded in a letter dated July 23, 1956, and stated:

We ask for nothing special, we ask only that we be permitted to live as you live, and as our nation’s Constitution provides. We ask only, in sports, that we be permitted to compete on an even basis and, if we are not worthy, then the competition, per se shall eliminate us (Long, 2007).

He was a staunch believer that success on the field, or in the work place or classroom be earned. Jackie only demanded that parity be given in all cases. However, this yearning to realize equal opportunity through traditional methods put him at odds with the more extreme elements of the civil rights struggle. As the civil rights movement progressed, Some of Robinson’s positions caused some black leaders to label him an “Uncle Tom”
Jackie was ridiculed in some parts of the black community for expressing sentiments such as “Stokely Carmichael’s version of Black Power, can only get us more George Wallaces elected to office” (Rampersad, 1997).

Even though he respected Malcolm X and his pronouncements of optimism, he had contempt on his viewpoint of hatred. He feuded with Malcolm X him for describing blacks like Ralph Bunche, the U.N. Ambassador, for selling out to white people, saying, “Malcolm is very militant on Harlem street corners where militancy is not dangerous,” but that he lacked “one-twentieth of the integrity and leadership” of a man like Bunche(Fabrizio, 2007).

Jackie deeply admired Martin Luther King Jr., and certainly promoted his vision of equality, although he did have a stark difference on the war in Southeast Asia. Robinson did lead in fund-raising efforts for the churches that were intentionally burned to the ground in Georgia. In regards to the Vietnam War, they did hold opposing views.Jackie felt that Martin Luther King’s anti-war stance would actually have a backlash that would make it more difficult to advance the civil rights movement. Robinson queried his friend King saying, “Why is it, Martin, that you seem to ignore the blood which is upon [Communist] hands and to speak only of the ‘guilt’ of the United States?” (Long, 2007).

Robinson and King did discuss their differences, with neither able to alter the other’s position. Jackie was able to understand King’s position on the war, given his non-violence philosophy.

Perhaps Jackie’s most infamous row was with the actor, singer and political activist Paul Robeson. Robeson was a well known devotee of Josef Stalin, which earned him the Stalin Peace Prize in 1952. Before a Parisian left leaning audience in 1949 he affirmed:

It is unthinkable that American Negroes would go to war on behalf of those who have oppressed us for generations against a country [the Soviet Union] which in one generation has raised our people to the full dignity of mankind.—Paul Robeson (International Activism).

Throughout his life, Paul Robeson refused to ever criticize the Soviet Union, even after presented with credible evidence of atrocities. He did not refrain from such criticism of the United States.

In 1949 the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed Jackie Robinson to refute Paul Robeson’s assertion that African Americans would not fight for America in a war with the Soviet Union. Jackie Robinson testified that blacks would, “do their best to help their country win the war — against Russia or any other enemy that threatened us” (Long, 2007).

At the same hearing Robinson continued:

I can’t speak for any 15,000,000 people any more than any other one person can, but I know that I’ve got too much invested for my wife and child and myself in the future of this country, and I and other Americans of many races and faiths have too much invested in our country’s welfare, for any of us to throw it away because of a siren song sung in bass.

Robinson closed his testimony with:

But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop fighting race discrimination in this country until we’ve got it licked. It means that we’re going to fight it all the harder because our stake in the future is so big. We can win our fight without the Communists and we don’t want their help. (Smith, 1979).

It should be noted that in his autobiography I Never Had It Made Jackie Robinson offered a gentler understanding of Robeson, as one who sacrificed and suffered for his people. Jackie did not recant his remarks he made before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

When Jackie Robinson retired from baseball, he did not go quietly into the night. Jackie was able to use his celebrity that he gained from being a ballplayer to advance the causes most dear to his heart. The New York City restaurant chain Chock Full O’Nuts hired him as Director of Personnel. He worked tirelessly to further the aspirations of the Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC) and the B’nai Brith organizations. In Harlem, Jackie was a community activist playing a pivotal role with the Harlem YMCA, and other social organizations. Robinson was a central figure in the founding of the minority owned and controlled Freedom Bank in Harlem. He served as their chairman from 1964 until 1972. In 1970 Jackie established the Jackie Robinson Construction Company. The aim and focus of both the bank and construction venture was to further improve the lives of inner city blacks (The Jackie Robinson Foundation).

Robinson also joined in frequent demonstrations opposing intolerance. Jackie had organized a march on Washington D.C. to integrate the schools. Due to his fame and stature he was able to help attract tens of thousands for the event. Robinson was elected to the board of directors for the NAACP. Eventually Jackie grew disenchanted with the NAACP and resigned in 1967. He felt that they were failing to adequately listen and heed the concerns of black youth and their reformist ideas. Jackie stated:

I believe they have not done enough to gain the confidence of the little man in the street. The average person is waiting to see the leaders take an aggressive stand (Robinson and the NAACP).

Jackie never totally abandoned the organization. Despite his opposition with their leadership, Jackie continued to serve the NAACP, throughout his life.

Jackie Robinson refused to participate at an Old Timer’s Day event held at Yankee Stadium in 1969, in protest of baseball’s failure to hire black managers and front office personnel. In 1975, the Frank Robinson (no relation) became the nation’s first African American Major League Baseball manager. Jackie Robinson did not live to see it, but he certainly set the foundation in place to make it possible. Jackie’s influence and groundbreaking achievements was not lost on Frank Robinson. Frank’s concern was that the young players were not as aware of Jackie Robinson’s contributions and struggle as they should be.

I want them to be sure about what he did, not only on the field … I think what Jackie Robinson did off the field was even more significant. I think he brought a country together with his play on the field. He showed the people that blacks should be treated equal, be just as good if not better than the white players (Frank Robinson on Jackie Robinson’s legacy, 2007).

Sports in general and baseball in particular are very much a part of the social ethos of this country. Athletes are tremendous role models, especially for our youth. Many sports figures will deny, or even reject that status. However, the overwhelming evidence is certainly supported. One can just read a magazine or turn on the television and see the multitude of endorsements and commercials that sports figures avail themselves to. Companies such as Nike, Home Depot and Kellogg’s would not spend millions of dollars on ad campaigns, if they were not receiving a positive return on their investment. The reality is that most people are more familiar with the back pages of the newspaper rather than the front pages. The impact of sports on our nation is not always in a positive light. Just within the past few months, star athletes have been accused of drug use, illegal weapons possession, illegitimate gambling and cheating. The former star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons is serving prison time on dog fighting charges. In 2004, there was a brawl at a basketball game involving players and spectators that made the headlines across America. It is impossible to think these images, are not emulated by the most impressionable amongst our population, our young people. If one was to attend a youth hockey game, there would be a fair chance that you could be a witness to an on-ice altercation. They could be as young as nine or ten. This could only be learned behavior by watching their hero’s playing in the NHL. The trash talking of the NBA has trickled down to the playgrounds of our cities. Parents and friends attending these youth events also have been known to go way past appropriate behavior. Sports in America are serious business. Either at the major league level or the pee wee level. This is why Jackie Robinson is so special. People took him seriously. They took his actions seriously. For sure at the beginning of his career, the talk around the water cooler was all about his race, but eventually the chat turned to how he stole home in the game the night before. Today, you never hear of Derek Jeter’s race, just his performance. Jackie used his stature and popularity to help bring about social change. Jackie Robinson as a Hall of Fame athlete was able to have a potent influence on our culture. Jackie Robinson, the successful brick layer surely would have had a bit less influence. The impact of sports, for good or bad, should not be underestimated.

The societal implication of the signing of Jackie Robinson to be the first African American Major League Baseball player has had a profound and lasting affect not only on blacks, but on the entire American culture and the American psyche. Robinson’s ascension to the Major Leagues did spawn jubilation among black Americans and that is obvious. For some, the burdens of the past were at long last relieved after years beset with inequality. Jackie Robinson was a Hall of Fame baseball player, however none of his exploits on the field measures up to the civil rights breakthrough he had, and its effect on all Americans. President- elect Barack Obama has stated that he is studying Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, to learn from those administrations. It certainly would be wise counsel for the President-elect to read up on Jackie Robinson, the trailblazer for minorities of all races to prove that given an equal opportunity, they could stand toe to toe with whites and excel in all areas. The lessons Barack Obama can learn from Jackie Robinson would be invaluable in his journey to lead America during these challenging times.


(n.d.). Retrieved December 2008, from The Jackie Robinson Foundation: http://www.jackierobinson.org/jackie/

Fabrizio, L. (2007, 4 11). An American Hero. Retrieved November 2008, from The American Spectator: http://spectator.org/archives/2007/04/11/an-american-hero

Fitter, H. (n.d.). Jackie Robinson. Retrieved December 2008, from Google Book Search: http://books.google.com/books?id=yR8-35MjEyoC&pg=PA185&lpg=PA185&dq=attendance+ebbets+field+jackie+robinson&source=bl&ots=Axj5QVhS4L&sig=UMS2TUlPNvqKmpOejBg2FPPeavM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA183,M1

Frank Robinson and Jackie Robinson’s legacy. (2007, April 13). Retrieved December 2008, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9561056

International Activism. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2008, from CNMLT Wiki: http://socialjustice.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/index.php/International_Activism

Long, M. (2007). First Class Citizenship. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Mack. (n.d.). Jackie Robinson and American Culture. Retrieved November 2008

Powell, S. (2008, November 3). Jackie Robinson paved way for Obam. Retrieved

November 2008, from NewsDay: http://www.newsday.com/sports/ny-sppow1104-col,0,4929951.column

Rampersad, A. (1997). Jackie Robinson: A Biography. New York: Random House Publishing Group.

Robinson and the NAACP. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2008, from Learn to Question: http://www.learntoquestion.com/seevak/groups/2000/sites/Robinson/NEWVERSION/rob


Robinson, J. (1995). I Never Had It Made. New York: HarperCollins.

Robinson, J. (n.d.). Jackie Robinson Quotes. Retrieved November 2008, from

BrainyQuote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jackie_robinson.html

Schwartz, L. (n.d.). Jackie changed face of sports. Retrieved December 2008, from

ESPN: http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016431.html

Smith, R. (1979, Summer). Journal of Sports History , pp. Vol. 6, No. 2.

Japan’s Aging Populace and its Effects as a Social Problem

The Japanese people have the longest life expectancy on Earth. This is an admirable accomplishment and there is no doubt that Japan is proud of this statistic. However, a predicament materializes when other statistics are published as well. Japan has the oldest population on the planet and its birthrate is well below the replacement level. There have been many published essays and reports on Japan’s future demographic and its projected impact on the socioeconomic foundation. Essayist Phil Mullan believes that the aging population is an imaginary social problem, while others, such as Paul Hewitt, harbor a more pessimistic view (Hewitt 2003). This synopsis concurs with Hewitt; social problems emerging from this crisis are taking an immediate effect. The economy has been severely impacted by a rapidly shrinking labor force. The lack of any legitimate social security system is crippling the nation’s corporations (Hewitt 2003). In order to dissect this issue appropriately, this research paper will analyze causes and effects of the problem, sociological theories, and recommend adjustments to policy. In light of the evidence, it is clear that Japan must take the necessary corrective action in order to mollify the effects of an aged populace, combined with a declining birthrate. Failure to confront this issue will lead to disastrous consequences.

It is important to note that Japan’s abnormally large elderly population is not a social problem by itself. There are many factors that contribute to the dilemma. According to one study, less than a tenth of Japanese mothers actually enjoy taking care of children compared to other nations that hold statistics of forty to seventy percent. This exacerbates Japan’s low replacement level which is less than two-thirds of where it should be (Hewitt 2003). It is reasonable to attribute these dismal statistics to the recent trend in Japanese culture. Women are becoming more independent, breaking away from the traditional patriarchal roles that were so prevalent in Japanese ancestry. Asians in general are a very determined and hard-working people. Many women now see motherhood as an unnecessary hindrance that will interrupt their careers.

The Japanese people, unlike many Americans, respect their elders. American senior citizens are typically shunned away and are forced to retire by businesses in order to make room for young, fresh college graduates. Despite how insensitive this might be, it is actually necessary for the survival of capitalism. Japan has reversed this logical course of employment. Japan’s government is stuck in an infinite loop with what they call “the lifetime employment” act. Instead of having a government-run social security policy, it is the responsibility of the employers to keep elders on the payroll even if the work they perform is of little or no value. It is estimated that there are 17 million “non-working workers”. Aggravating this problem is that young, valuable workers are comparably underpaid, while old and ineffectual workers are overpaid (Hewitt 2003). The unbearable high cost that corporations must pay out is invariably passed on to consumers. And now that Japan has become increasingly more involved with international markets over the last few decades, the competition has increased as well. Many of those corporations could not avoid dropping their prices—straining their ability to support their elderly non-workers even more.

One of the more pressing points is how to lighten the strain of probable increased taxes on a shrinking workforce that needs to support an ever growing elderly population. Japan’s economy is currently hitting deficits of 130 to 140 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Dejevsky 2006). Its pension system is in dire need of substantial correction, which makes higher taxes inevitable in order to offer satisfactory social security benefits. This puts Japanese politicians in a quandary that affects US politicians as well. Do they support higher taxes or potentially draconian cuts to beneficiaries? In either case, it is a political nightmare for current officeholders (Dejevsky 2006).

The life cycle theory of economics can explain another way that the elderly in Japan are leeching off the economy. Middle-aged and seniors do not spend nearly as much money as younger adults do. In typical industrial nations, the elders’ under-consumption is offset by the young consumers. However, with Japan’s sizeable elderly population, this is obviously a significant economic bottleneck (Economy Professor).

Another problem that is arising is the need for Japan to accept widespread immigration that is sorely needed to augment its shrinking labor pool. Japan for most of its history has been an insular society, disdainful of foreigners. This will directly affect the sociological underpinnings that have defined Japanese culture for centuries (French 2003). Japan has never been foreigner friendly; in fact their treatment of them shows that there are far-reaching, entrenched intolerance towards foreigners, especially against fellow Asians. A prime example of this prejudice is the circumscribed civil rights accorded to Korean Japanese, who were born in Japan but not naturalized. It is an arduous process for immigrants who have lived in the country for many years and have learned the language and customs to be completely accepted in this closed society, since foreigners are hardly ever thought of as true Japanese (French 2003).

Demographers speculate that by the middle of this century, Japan will have one million centenarians, with thirty percent less people. The population will decline at a rate of about 800,000 per year, with the present population decreased by one-half by the century’s close (French 2003).

A UN report recently forecast that to maintain the size of its working population, Japan would need 17 million new immigrants by 2050, which would represent 18 percent of the Japanese population compared to today’s one percent (United Nations). Hiroshi Komai, a population expert at Tsukuba University elaborates,

The kinds of figures the demographers talk about are unimaginable for Japan. In a quarter-century we have only absorbed one million immigrants. (French 2003)

With Japan clinging to widely held conservative ideas regarding their “homogenous” state; it is difficult to foresee any appreciable influx of immigrants to alleviate the coming shortfall in the Japanese workforce. However, it is imperative for Japan to address this issue head on if it plans to remain an economic force on the world’s stage in the years to come.

A sociologist may look at the social problem and feel compelled to apply the conflict theory which suggests that one group has dominance over another in a society (Macionis 2007). Conflict theory may appear reasonable at first glance; the only ones benefiting from this social problem are the elderly themselves. The seniors also have incredible political power and continuously vote for laws that suite their best interest. But the conflict theory can not be applied to this problem because seniors in all democratic nations contain those characteristics. There is nothing wrong with voting for one’s self-interest—that is what any rational human being would do anyway. Therefore, conflict theory would be ill-suited to correctly illustrate the problem of the aging populace in Japan. The acceptable theory to be applied here is the social constructionist theory (Macionis 2007). The Japanese society’s attitude towards its elderly is certainly that of respect, admiration, and veneration. This notion, as beautiful as it sounds, has been socially constructed throughout the ages of Japanese ancestry. This aptly explains why new immigration laws are so difficult to pass. Japanese elderly want this tradition and all other Japanese norms to survive. There is no doubt that these customs would be compromised if 20% of the nation’s population were immigrants. Until these social constructs fall, the likelihood of any real, significant change is quite low.

In addition to increasing immigration, government officials and economists have suggested a myriad of possible solutions to combat the impact of the graying of Japan. Outsourcing of labor to other countries has been tried with mixed reviews. The high quality that has been associated with Japanese products since the seventies could be at risk, since much of the outsourced work is considered substandard when compared to “normal” Japanese levels (French 2003).

Another option and a more elemental approach would be to entice more men to work past the normal retirement age while promoting women to join the workforce. As compared to other societies, Japanese women are an abundant, yet underutilized asset when it comes to employment (Dejevsky 2006). Convincing more women to re-enter the job market after bearing children, would be a critical step in solving the scarcity of the labor pool. According to Dr. Kuniko Inoguchi, the Minister for gender equality and social affairs states that contrary to popular opinion, Japanese women have a strong presence in the work force. Dr. Inoguchi explains the true issue is that after child birth, women are expected to be stay at home moms, as was the case in Britain and the United States during the 1950’s (Dejevsky 2006). There are also consequences for more women attaining jobs. Childcare is not as readily available in Japan as in other industrialized societies. Also, the caring for elderly by their daughters will dramatically decline as well. However, solving the latter two problems is much less onerous than having a shortfall in the labor market with decreased productivity, and the extreme negative impact that would leave on Japanese society.

There also is current debate on providing various incentives for bearing children. They include tax credits and grants. The hope is that increased benefits will reverse the declining birth rates in Japan. Dr. Inoguchi cautions that this solution alone will not stem that tide. She contends that Japanese morals, beliefs and attitudes need to be reformed for any significant change to be realized (Dejevsky 2006). A mere two percent of babies are born out of wedlock, and yet the social shame one has to endure remains pervasive. Japanese women have been getting married at later ages and more women than ever are never getting married. According to Dr. Inoguchi, unless more single women decide to have children, the prospect of increasing the birthrate will be dim (Dejevsky 2006).

Some analysts have taken up a more optimistic view of Japan’s age demographics. They point out the health and longevity of the population, especially when contrasted to other industrialized nations. They also argue that Japan has been a technological leader, and therefore will be able to discover and apply hi-tech solutions. There feeling is that Japan will be able to prosper, even with an aging population and a declining birthrate (Hewitt 2003). Unfortunately, a closer introspection reveals the opposite.

American society can learn from the Japanese culture and way of life—especially when it pertains to elders. However, Japan’s increasingly aged population is a social problem that will not dissipate by itself. The only way to approach the problem is to assault it at various angles—increasing the birthrate, increasing immigration, and an effective social security policy, while at the same time preventing the labor force from shrinking too rapidly. Radical change in laws and social constructs of Japan must take place soon because an economic collapse may be imminent.


Dejevsky, Mary. 2006. “Japan: A Country in Crisis.” The Independent, August 26. Retrieved December 10, 2007 (http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article1221544.ece)

Economy Professor. “Life-cycle Hypothesis.” Retrieved December 10, 2007.

French, Howard. 2003. “Insular Japan Needs, But Resists, Immigration.” New York Times, July 24. Retrieved December 10, 2007. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9507E7D9153FF937A15754C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1)

Hewitt, Paul S. 2003. “The Gray Roots of Japan’s Crisis.” The Demographic Dilemma: Japan’s Aging Society. Retrieved December 10, 2007. (http://wwics.si.edu/events/docs/ACFE9.pdf)

Macionis, John. 2007. Social Problems. 3rd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

United Nations. Population Division. 1998. Replacement Migration: Japan (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/migration/japan.pdf)

Guantanamo Bay: More than Just a Few Good Men

During the past year, it was called the “Gulag of Our Times” by Amnesty International. United States Senator Richard Durbin agreed, but added the comparisons of Nazi Germany and the regime of the Cambodian mass murderer, Pol Pot. (Durbin, Richard). United Nation’s Secretary General Kofi Annan, former President Jimmy Carter, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the New York Times have called for it to be closed. This is not a prison run by the Serbs in the Balkans, nor a sleazy jail somewhere in Central America. We are referring to the United States Detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, commonly referred to as Gitmo.It is imperative that American policy on the war on terror not be directed by global organizations such as the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The United States course of action for Gitmo should only be stipulated by the executive and legislative branches of the United States. The facility at Guantanamo Bay was created to detain and interrogate al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters on our war on terror. It is a vital piece to our success in that effort. A determination to shutdown Gitmo would weaken America’s security. It would also play into the hands of our enemies and provide a propaganda triumph for Osama bin Laden and his followers. Furthermore, Gitmo has been severely criticized in the media for its harsh and “illegal” treatment of the detainees. The truth is that the detainees are treated humanely and legal in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Convention (McCarthy, Andrew). Amnesty International, the media, the ICRC, and all the rest of the people who are so concerned about these suspected terrorists, need to understand this is not a band of poorly behaved Cub Scouts, but rather the most vile, debased and evil creatures that the world has to offer. The concern should be for our protection, not theirs.One of the more popular untruths regarding Gitmo is that they are being illegally and indefinitely detained in defiance of the Geneva Convention and “settled” international law. The threat that militant Islam poses today was not envisioned by the framers of Hague Convention, the Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The intentions of these compacts are to foster the humane treatment of captured combatants, to limit civilian casualties during armed conflict and to standardize the laws of war. Andrew C. McCarthy a former federal prosecutor in a July 14th, 2004 article in Commentary Magazine exclaims:

The Third Geneva Convention affords specific protections to prisoners of war: that is, lawful or privileged combatants who have been captured while taking part in hostilities. POW status is generally limited to two categories: members of the armed forces of nations that are parties to the conflict, and members of militias and organized resistance movements that belong to a nation that is a party to the conflict, provided they fulfill other conditions such as being part of a formal chain of command, wearing uniforms, etc.). (Crawford, Michael)

The al-Qaeda members do not qualify for POW status as they clearly do not meet the prerequisites set forth in both the Hague and Geneva Conventions. They do not belong to a nation-state, they do not have recognizable uniforms, and they do not have a formal chain of command. The al-Qaeda members purposefully, routinely and indiscriminately target the innocent civilian population around the world. The Bush administration is correct in not affording these suspected terrorists the privileged and honorable status that is accorded to Prisoners of War. They have been deemed illegal combatants and as such, they are not entitled to all the protections that are outlined in the Geneva Convention for POW’s (Fleischer, Ari).

There have been approximately 750 detainees held at Guantanamo (Coughlin, Con). There have been outcries around the world denouncing the indefinite timetable that we have been incarcerating these individuals. However, it is important to note that almost one third have already been released to their native countries. It is stupefying to believe that we should have a set date on when we plan on setting any detainee free. The Geneva Convention states that even POW’s do not have to be freed until all hostilities cease. The reason for this is clear. Captives who are released before the end of armed conflict are likely to rejoin the battle, therefore extending the war. For instance, about a dozen of those released from Gitmo, have either been killed or recaptured in our war on terror (Deroy, Murdock). However, the International Committee of the Red Cross have asserted that conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention center are “tantamount to torture” stating that indefinite detention is stressful. Furthermore, it is quite obvious the ICRC has lost any semblance of its principles of neutrality, with its numerous and unwarranted anti-American positions. The ICRC has also promulgated the abstraction that the United States is in violation of International Law by not granting the same rights and privileges to the terrorists as we would to a prisoners of war. They specifically point to Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention which was added June 8th, 1977. The ICRC is correct that Protocol 1 does grant protections to non-state militias, which arguably categorize al-Qaeda members. The only problem with this line of reasoning is that the United States declined to be a signatory to Protocol 1. Even though many of our European allies and most notably England have signed onto Protocol 1, the fact remains America did not, and are not bound to its requirements (McCarthy, Andrew). Many on the left have tried to argue that the law has become customary or settled and the U.S. should abide by it. Again, America should not subjugate itself to positions taken by supra-national organizations or non governmental organizations (NGO’s) whether they lean to the left or right politically. The United States Senate took the appropriate action in not ratifying Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.

The war on terror is unlike any war our country has faced in our history. We are fighting an unseen enemy-an enemy that can be found in all parts of the globe. This shadowy enemy has no conscience and undoubtedly would kill thousands (they already have) or perhaps millions of our countrymen if they could acquire the weapons or the methodology to achieve their evil goals. This makes our acquisition of intelligence extremely crucial in thwarting their efforts. Intelligence gathering comes in many forms; It could be from spies on the ground, satellite intercepts, reconnaissance photos and interrogation. Once again, the media and many on the left will jump at attacking America in one of our best avenues to defeating al-Qaeda’s attempts at destruction. It seems that they outstrip us of our abilities to properly conduct intelligence procurement. The distortions and exaggerations continue on a daily basis, only to assist the enemy. The recent publicizing of classified activities of the National Security Agency’s wiretapping without warrants could have only helped al-Qaeda and hurt our efforts. This is true whether you believe the actions taken were either legal or not. One of the more practicable attributes of Gitmo is our adeptness at extracting valuable information during interrogation sessions with the detainees. Expectedly, this has now caught the scrutiny and ire of the world community and many on the left in this country who immediately pounce on this opportunity to cry “torture and abuse” at Gitmo. We realize that we are imperfect and that abuses have occurred. For instance, the notorious abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison are well documented and have hurt our image abroad. The actions taken by American service personnel at Abu Ghraib were wrong and many have been severely punished, including the commanding officer of the prison. What many Americans do not realize is that the military had started investigations and disciplinary measures well before the abuses were known to the public. In fact, the Pentagon did issue a press release concerning Abu Ghraib abuses in January 2004, almost four months before the huge outcry took place (Department of Defense Statement on Seymour Hersh Book). How many other countries would have issued a press release documenting potential abuses by its military? Probably none, except us. It is important to understand I am not advocating torture. The United States is a signatory to the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture, which includes all in captivity whether they are legal or illegal combatants (McCarthy, Andrew). There is also a question to the veracity of the intelligence received by torture. However, there is a huge difference between what is torture versus what are aggressive interrogation techniques-which have proved very useful in attaining valuable intelligence. Nonetheless, the clamor regarding the use of torture at Gitmo is heard in many circles. From the media to the United States Senate to the dinner tables of America, the discussion of torture committed by American military personnel has taken place. The following excerpt was copied from the Human Rights Watch website:

The interrogation techniques used by U.S. personnel on detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba remain shrouded in mystery. While U.S. policy is that the detainees be treated “humanely,” the Department of Defense has never revealed publicly how the detainees have been interrogated. Journalists who have visited Guantanamo have not been permitted to talk to detainees, and less than three dozen of the 147 detainees who have been released thus far—none of them “high value” detainees—have commented publicly on their treatment. (Interrogation Techniques of Guantanamo Detainees)

For instance, the most perfunctory of readers will be horrified by the secrecy shown by the DOD, and inevitably come to the conclusion that the suspected terrorists are being brutally tortured. However, further introspection should reveal the obvious. Why would the Department of Defense reveal the nature of its interrogation program? This is exactly what our enemies would prefer! They could then use that information and incorporate them into their “playbook” on how to respond to the different coercive tactics that we would employ. Why should journalists have unfettered access to these nefarious individuals? The al-Qaeda captives are well schooled to cry torture every chance they get. A June 29, 2005 article by Donna Miles in the American Forces Press Service, exemplifies this point. An al-Qaeda follower who is apprehended should avoid revealing information at all costs, and should claim mistreatment and torture during their incarceration. This coaching is directly from an official al-Qaeda training pamphlet. According to Miles, officials at Guantanamo Bay state that it is obvious that the detainees are well trained with those policies (Miles, Donna). The journalists would just be spewing their propaganda to the delight of the bin Ladens and al Zarqawis of this world. Regardless, of the complaint regarding the mystery of our interrogation techniques, Human Rights Watch did manage to have a compilation of our methods listed on their site. It is not specified how they obtained this information. I will list a few of the techniques being used. (Interrogation Techniques of Guantanamo Detainees)

  • Yelling at detainees
  • Continually repeating of same questions
  • Staring at detainee to encourage discomfort
  • Use of stress positions (must be approved by the Secretary of Defense)
  • Sensory deprivation (must be approved by the Secretary of Defense)
  • Prolonged interrogations e.g. 20 hours (must be approved by the Secretary of Defense)
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Grabbing, Poking (must be approved by the Secretary of Defense)

While forging ahead with the assumption that this list is fairly accurate, it seems a bit on the mild side, especially for potential terrorists that might be planning unfathomable deadly attacks on our citizens or our soldiers. This register of interrogation certainly falls short of any reasonable definition of what might be considered torture. It certainly falls short of kidnappings, indiscriminate bombings and beheadings of innocent civilians, all of which are in play for al-Qaeda. By what our media churns out, one would be lead to believe that Gitmo interrogators mimic Jack Bauer, the central character of the television show “24”. Bauer, who portrays a U.S. counter terrorism agent, uses all means he deems necessary to obtain information, regardless if it is considered torture or not. Jack Bauer’s world is the fantasy land of Hollywood. We live in the real world where American policy is set by the Secretary of Defense and the President to treat all prisoners humanely. Those who do not follow those rules face punishment, which may include imprisonment. There have been thirty two reported incidents of abuse during interrogations at Gitmo. Ten soldiers have been disciplined for not upholding the proper standards of conduct, although in a majority of those situations, the soldier stated that they had been antagonized by the detainee. The military has conducted over 24,000 interrogations and only a small fraction has resulted in a legitimate finding of abuse. There are currently over 10,000 troops stationed at Guantanamo Bay (Hutchison, Harold).

The charges involving the mishandling of the Koran have been the most incendiary. An article in Newsweek magazine incriminated an American serviceman of flushing a Koran down a toilet. The disclosure of this event came from a May 9th, 2005 Newsweek article written by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. The publication of this Koran abuse sparked riots in many Muslim countries throughout the world. The resulting violence during these anti-American protests left sixteen people dead and scores more injured. The story was later proved false. Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker issued an apology on May 15th, 2005. However, the damage was done, and people lost their lives (Kurtz, Howard). In all probability, the article further endangered U.S and coalition forces. In a May 26th, 2005 pentagon press briefing Brigadier General Jay Hood reported that there were thirteen allegations of Koran abuse, five were deemed credible, of which two were most likely accidental. Just to point out a frame of reference, mishandling could be construed as U.S. Muslim personnel using only one hand or not donning gloves when touching the Koran. Military police are barred from touching the Koran, and if the Koran needs to be moved, there are a set of stringent rules, which must be obeyed. Any infraction of these rules would be considered non-compliance and hence abuse of the Koran. This is not exactly on the same scope as flying a jetliner into a building. The interesting piece here is that Korans are provided for all Gitmo detainees. To put things in context, when Bibles are destroyed in Saudi Arabia, and Torah’s are burned in Turkey or Tunisia, there is hardly a word of it in the mainstream media. The Department of Defense has no other directives other than that for the Koran on the proper care of holy books from other religions. Nevertheless, the Koran certainly deserves respect, and the Pentagon has gone to great lengths to educate their troops on its proper handling (Wright, Robin).

One of the major sticking points for the American left is the lack of due process for the Gitmo detainees. This really borders on the ludicrous because there is no provision in the law of war that would force a detaining power from charging enemy combatants with crimes or provide them with legal counsel. They have no rights to challenge their imprisonment in the courts. The detaining power does reserve the right to try detainees with military tribunals. The Geneva Conventions clearly recognize this element. It also has precedent in this country and numerous other nations. The Geneva Convention also does not provide the above rights to individuals who have attained POW status-and in past wars Prisoners of War have not been granted these rights (White House Press Secretary). In spite of the fact that there is no requirement to give due process to the Gitmo captives, the Department of Defense has created review tribunals and review boards for the detainees. The Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) and the Administration Review Board (ARB) are provided for the illegal combatants to afford their case an opportunity for review. (White House Press Secretary).

Highlights of Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT):

  • A one-time administrative review for each detainee
  • Allows each detainee to be heard in front of a panel of three neutral U.S military officers.
  • Unclassified portions are open to media and ICRC observation

Highlights of Administrative Review Board (ARB):

  • Annual DOD administrative review to determine each detainees status
  • Outcome based on threat assessment and intelligence value of each detainee
  • Unclassified portions are open to media and ICRC observation

(Processes for Guantanamo Bay Detainees)

Jameel Jaffa, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney has severely criticized the Combatant Status Review Tribunal in late 2004 as not providing proper due process. He did admit that the CSRT was working as it was intended. At that time the CSRT had reviewed approximately 200 detainee’s cases, but only recommended one for release (Jaffer, Jameel). Maybe it was the results Mr. Jaffa did not approve of. It is apparent that many individuals, such as Jemeel Jaffa, would prefer to grant these detainees the same rights that American citizens enjoy, with the full protection of the law. It appears that a good percentage of the liberal left would just as well try these global terrorists as if they were shop lifters or tax cheats. And as fighters in a cause eager and willing to target civilian populations, the detainees certainly cannot be treated as mere criminals. This would bottleneck our legal system and make a mockery of our country. The recent trial of Zaccarias Moussoaui exemplifies this point. Moussoaui used the courtroom as his stage to rant on and on, and spew his hateful message to the world. Imagine five hundred of these trials or perhaps five thousand, as our war on terror drags on. This would most likely be the result. The terrorists also know that in American courts the prosecution would need to divulge information that could harm our national security. The liberal media establishment, along with its supra-national partners has admonished the Bush administration on its failure to impart due process for the captives, yet not a whimper could be heard from them about the potentially devastating effect it will have on our national security or our justice system.

Detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention center receive excellent healthcare. An article by Kathleen T. Rehm in American Forces Press Service provides a glimpse into the exact type of care the Gitmo inmates are eligible for. They can access the identical medical care available to American service personnel. Medical service members have helped detainees recover from substantial battlefield wounds. The twenty eight bed medical center comes with a rehabilitation area, dental clinic, pharmacy, radiology department, and an operating room. Complicated procedures and operations are performed at the Guantanamo Bay naval hospital, which also has an intensive care unit (Rehm, Kathleen). Rehm quotes Capt. Barry Barendse, the deputy command surgeon for JTF Guantanamo. He stated “The standard of care here is the best possible standard of care they [the detainees] could get,” Barendse explained that Navy medical personnel take great pride on the quality of care they provide to the detainees and that humane treatment is “second nature” for the medical staff. Healthcare personnel are continually subjected to abuse and threats of physical harm to themselves and their loved ones by their “patients”. According to Captain Barendse, medical personnel have been warned by the detainees that “”they would kill them if they had the chance and go after the rest of their family if they could.” And still, the standard of care never wavers, he said. Artificial limbs, cancer operations and immunizations are just some examples of the types of care that has been administered (Rehm, Kathleen). It can be accurately stated that in many instances the medical treatment the suspected terrorists have received at Gitmo would not have been available to them in their native lands.

As far as the culinary delights are concerned, the detainees eat the same food as the troops. However, they only receive culturally appropriate meals. This may explain the disparity in the food rotation. U.S. service personnel are on a five week rotation, while the illegal combatants must settle for a two week rotation. Each day they are prepared two hot meals and one meal ready to eat (MRE). Some of the menu examples include orange-glazed chicken, crepes, rice pilaf and peas and mushrooms. A menu review board has been formed. It convenes every three months to confer on nutritional policy concerning the detainees. The review board consists of the commander and logistics officer of the Joint Detention Operations Group, the Joint Task Fore Guantanamo food service officer, a nutritionist, a preventive medicine specialist, and the contract galley manager (Rehm, Kathleen). We have all heard about the “freshmen 15” for college students. Now there is the “Gitmo 13”. Inmates who have been released on average have had a weight gain of thirteen pounds if they have been incarcerated for longer than fourteen months. I am not suggesting that Gitmo is the equivalent of Le Cirque, but it certainly must be on par with what they were eating in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan.

After the initial interrogation and vetting process, the captives are put into one of three categories. It is based on their willingness to accept and abide by the rules of their incarceration. The majority are put into the “compliant” category. The “compliant” are housed in air-conditioned, steel-framed cells, in the vast network of five prison camps that make up Camp Delta, which replaced Camp X-Ray. Each cell has an arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca to enable them to conduct their daily prayer rituals (Coughlin, Con). An interesting note is that many news organizations continue to use old photos of Camp X-Ray, which was only intended as a temporary shelter; Camp X-Ray was closed in April, 2002 (Hutchison, Harold). The second category of captives is still considered “compliant” enjoy most of the same privileges as the first category, with the exception being that they live in communal groups rather than individual cells. Both groups are allowed two hours of exercise daily. However, the third category is the non-compliant detainees. They represent only a small minority of the inmate population at Gitmo. The American military has deemed them to be the greatest threat. For instance, most of these detainees are intractable followers of Osama bin Laden. These al-Qaeda fighters refuse to adhere to the rules of their imprisonment. They believe it is a calling from Allah, to kill or maim the “infidel” Americans. The prison guards are routinely attacked. The guards are also subjected to have feces and urine tossed at them (Coughlin, Con). It is almost inhuman to think that they would not retaliate. It is a true testament to our men and women in uniform, that there have been so few cases of abuse by our military.

The civil libertarian groups, human rights organizations, partisan politicians and others based in this country and abroad need a reality check. The time and effort spent on bashing America for abuses at the Guantanamo Bay Detention facility is reminiscent of a modern day witch hunt. I do not mind overseers or watchdog groups because they serve an important and necessary role. But when objectivity gets thrown to the wolves, and outrageous statements go unchallenged by a bias media, it effectually renders these groups useless and even dangerous. To compare Gitmo to Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Gulags are inexcusable, and an affront to the members of our military, all who freely volunteered to serve our nation. Another thing that it does, perhaps unwittingly, is it tends to trivialize those horrific atrocities by drawing a parallel to Gitmo. Worst of all, it flames the fanatical passions in militant Islamic sects across the world, putting our national security at further risk. The detainees at Guantanamo are being held according to the 1949 Geneva Convention. They are not being tortured. Some measure of due process has been put in place, even though we are not required to do so under any treaty that has been ratified by the United States. The suspected terrorists receive three meals a day and have healthcare (for free) that exceeds what is available to many Americans, and most certainly better than what they had in their home countries. We are at war with an evil enemy, who will stop at nothing to achieve their misguided aims. The killing of innocents is an everyday occurrence for our terrorist enemies. The bombings of buses, trains and crowded markets have become an accepted practice of warfare for them. They seek nothing less than to tear down our way of life, our freedoms and our religions. Anyone who does not submit to their brand of extremist Islam is considered an infidel. Our society is not without blemishes, and Gitmo is reflective of our society. However, Gitmo will continue to evolve, improve and perfect its operations, just as our society has over the past two hundred and thirty years.

Ari, Fleischer. “White House Press Release.” 7 May 2003. 14 Apr. 2006 <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/20030507-18.html>.

Coughlin, Con. “Controversial Gitmo Is Different Now.” Feb 2006. 15 Apr. 2006 <http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060226/news_mz1e26coughl.html>.

Crawford, Michael. “Interrogation versus Torture In The War on Terror.” 16 Apr. 2006 <http://www.milnet.com/mid-east-news/The-Mideast-07.html>.

“Department Of Defense Statement on Seymour Hersh Book.” 10 Aug 2004. Department Of Defense. 15 Apr. 2006 <http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2004/nr20040910-1240.html>.

Deroy, Murdock. 8 Dec 2005. 17 Apr. 2006 <http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=home>.

Durbin, Richard. 14 Jun 2005. 17 Apr. 2006 <http://www.senate.gov/~durbin/gitmo.cfm>.

Wright, Robin. “US Long Had Memo On Handling of Koran.” 17 May 2005. 16 Apr. 2006 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/16/AR2005051601320.html>.

Hutchison, Harold. “Distorting Guantanamo Bay.” 30 Nov 2005. 15 Apr. 2006 <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20051130.aspx>.

“Interrogation Techniques for Guantanamo Detainees.” Human Rights Watch. 17 Apr. 2006 <http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/19/usdom9248.htm>.

Jaffer, Jameel. “Dispatches From Guantanamo.” 4 Nov 2005. ACLU. 16 Apr. 2006 <http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/18738prs20041104.html>.

Kurtz, Howard. “Newsweek Apologizes.” Washington Post. 15 Apr. 2006 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/15/AR2005051500605_pf.html>.

McCarthy, Andrew. “Torture: Thinking about the Unthinkable.” Commentary Magazine 14 Jul 2004. 16 Apr 2006 <http://www.commentarymagazine.com/Archive/digitalarchive.aspx>.

Miles, Donna. “New Guantanamo Camp to Pave Way for Detainees.” 16 Apr. 2006 <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2005/20050628_1890.html>.

“Processes for Guantanamo Bay Detainees.” 15 Apr. 2006 <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2006/d20060215detaineeprocesses.pdf>.

Rehm, Kathleen. “Guantanamo Detainees Receive First-Rate medical care.” 18 Feb 2005. 17 Apr. 2006 <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2005/n02182005_2005021807.html>.

Rehm, Kathleen. “Task Force Tends to Detainees’ Dietary Needs During Ramadan.” 21 Oct 2005. 15 Apr. 2006 <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2005/20051021_3126.html>.

“The Legal Basis for Detaining al-Qaeda and Taliban combatants.” White House Press Release. 16 Apr. 2006 <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2006/d20060215legalbasis.pdf>.

36 Days: The Presidential Election of 2000

“The American people have spoken,” said President Bill Clinton shortly after Election Day. “It’s too bad it’s going to take a little while to determine what it was they had to say.” (BBC News)

On the morning of November 8, 2000, Americans across the country awoke to reports that there was no apparent winner of the Presidential election held the day before. Vice President Al Gore and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman headed the Democratic ticket. Texas Governor George Bush and former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney headed the slate for the Republicans. In the final days leading up to the election, polls showed Bush and Gore running neck and neck, too close to call. Confounding the situation was the attractiveness of third party candidates such as Ralph Nader of the Green Party and Patrick Buchanan’s Reform Party. The outcome from election night certainly promised to be quite riveting. And they were. For weeks after the election, the question of who would be the next President of the United States was uncertain. The 2000 presidential election resulted in the strangest and most mystifying vote count in American history. The election’s closeness, combined with the aftermath of bitter partisan politics has left a legacy of controversy. At the center of the dispute was the state of Florida, and most notably Palm Beach County. After more than a month of recounts, lawsuits, and court decisions, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on December 12 that ended the process of vote recounting and brought the election, but not the debate, to a close. The following report details and analyzes several key events that transpired over the thirty-six days since the American public went to the voting booth in the presidential election of 2000.

The networks and cable news outlets started forecasting winners of individual states by7pm Eastern Standard Time. Vermont was first, with the exit polls showing the state securely being for Gore. Other states were rapidly called for one side or the other, including Florida into Gore’s camp. As always, the news outlets had promised, not to call an election until all of the polls in a certain state had all closed – one problem in Florida is that part of the panhandle is in the Central time zone, and when Florida was called, some polls were still open (Sammon). John R. Lott, Jr., a senior research scholar at Yale University Law School stated, “By prematurely declaring Gore the winner shortly before polls had closed in Florida’s conservative western panhandle, the media ended up suppressing the Republican vote”. Lott concluded Bush’s loss at a “conservative estimate of 10,000 votes”. (Sammon). As the night wore on, the networks started to equivocate on Florida – though polling stats showed Gore ahead, actual returns were beginning to show George Bush with the advantage. The networks that had originally called Florida in Gore’s favor now recalled their early decision, and moved it back into the undecided column by 10:00 PM. The electoral count was all even at 242 votes apiece. Only Florida’s 25 electoral votes were still undecided. Finally, at 2:15 AM, seemingly the Florida vote had swung in Bush’s direction. All the networks and cable stations declared Bush the winner of Florida, and the next President of theUnited States! Shortly after this, Vice- President Al Gore spoke with George Bush and conceded the election to him. However, before Gore publicly gave his concession speech, Bush’s lead began to wane, at one point down to only 200 votes. Gore’s advisors told him that it was too close, and Gore had to call Bush to rescind his concession. Once again, the news stations flip-flopped; taking Florida out of Bush’s column and placing it back into the undecided group (US Constitution Online).

Out of almost six million people who had cast their ballots, Bush ended up with an advantage of 1700 votes. Results that are that close in margin are subjected to a recount byFlorida state law. (US Constitution Online)

The Democrats decided to pursue the courts to mandate vote recounts in counties where aberrations in ballot counting was alleged. Expressly, the Democrats were concerned about the failure to count votes where ballots were punched halfway through to indicate a candidate choice, hence the infamous “hanging chads”. Democrats also grumbled that perplexity over the “butterfly ballot” used in Palm Beach and Dade Counties caused many Gore-Lieberman supporters to mistakenly vote in the wrong column due to the confusing ballot layout. It should be noted that Theresa LePore, a Democrat, designed the “butterfly ballot” (NNDB) (See Figure 1). It was also approved by leaders from both political parties. Sample ballots were both mailed to registered voters and appeared in various Palm Beach County newspapers. This so-called butterfly ballot design was the source of complaints by many, mostly seniors, that the ballot was confusing and charges that the design caused an abnormally high number of votes for Buchanan in Palm BeachCounty (Sammon). It is interesting to note that Pat Buchanan received approximately 8,000 votes in the 1996 Presidential election in Palm Beach County, compared to the 3400 votes he received in 2000 (Butterfly Ballot Cost Gore the Whitehouse).

Swift recounts promptly followed Election Day, and in doing so the final vote tally changed from a surplus of over 1700 votes for Bush to one of just over 300 votes. In Palm BeachCounty, 19,000 ballots were found to be flawed and were rejected. There was a call for a revote by many Floridians (US Constitution Online). A revote in Florida, however, would be detrimental to our nation’s democracy. Such an unprecedented event would produce instability and would undermine the electoral process. A chain reaction can erupt; state after state issuing re-votes due to voter irregularities. Intimidation at the ballot box would be ever more prevalent. Citizens would be rushing to the polls and those that knew the holes in the system had the ability to circumvent proper identification, illegally voting multiple times. It would have been reminiscent of a modern day “Bleeding Kansas.” But on November 20, 2000, the motion for a revote was denied. The Gore campaign began to demand court hearings on the issue of allowing the manual recount of votes to commence. Gore declared he wanted every vote cast to be counted. (American Presidency Project)

As the recounts activated, the nation watched and waited. With such a small margin of victory, anything could happen. Different balloting methods were examined and called into question, including one done by punching perforated holes out of ballot cards.

The Florida controversy sparked interest in other states that began presenting incongruities. For example, election managers in New Mexico uncovered a programming glitch that launched Bush into the lead. The margins were so slight that a recount had been ordered. At times, only four votes separated the two candidates until another glitch had been discovered assuring Gore’s victory of New Mexico. Both camps kept close watch on other states that might warrant recounts such as Oregon and Ohio-crucial states that could turn the tide of the election to either candidate (US Constitution Online).

One key component that overwhelmed the Florida controversy had been the irregularities over the absentee ballots. Overseas absentee ballots suddenly became supremely important and contentious. Florida, by law, did not finish counting them until November 17. With several thousand ballots sent out, and more coming back all the time, they could make for a decisive win one way or the other. Gore’s camp sought to invalidate over 25,000 absentee ballots in counties that were held heavily by Republicans. Gore’s lawyers claimed that many of the absentee ballot forms were incorrectly filled out and had been illegally completed by election managers. Two separate lawsuits developed—one in Martin County and the other in Seminole county (Kasindorf).After several failures in lower courts, Gore appealed and the Florida Supreme Court accepted the cases. However, the state Supreme Court dealt the final blow by supporting Circuit Judge Terry Lewis who was quoted saying:

Despite the irregularities, the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the election were not affected. (Kasindorf)

Both the Martin and Seminole County lawsuits had been defeated, posing a large threat to the success of Gore’s campaign (Kasindorf). The valiant behind the scenes efforts by Al Gore and his advisors to suppress the military vote because a postmaster failed to adequately postmark their ballots seems highly hypocritical of his pronunciations that he wanted every vote to count. In aNovember 27, 2000 speech, Gore declared, “ignoring votes means ignoring democracy”. Gore’s aspiration to sound righteous and magnanimous may have scored some points with his most ardent supporters. His partisan followers enthusiastically accepted his charge that George W. Bush was afraid of a straightforward recount. But Gore’s relentless attempts to keep the military votes from being counted render his argument as somewhat specious. A five-page memo from the Gore organization spelled out specific directions to Democrats in every Florida county on how to protest military ballots on technicalities (NewsMax). Then they dispatched attorneys to the counting courts around the state to challenge each vote with the sole and deliberate intent of disenfranchising as many as possible of our young men and women in uniform.

Gore often stated that it is the intent of the voter that is important. Yet in the case of the overseas military ballots, in which there is very little question about the intent of the voters, he insisted they were illegitimate if they lacked a postmark, even though the armed forces mail does not require postage and is often not postmarked (NewsMax).

Disenfranchisement of Black voters became a heated issue during the 36 day melee. Gore’s campaign, backed by black leaders such as Jesse Jackson, spouted accusations that a million African Americans were stripped of their right to vote in Florida. Other allegations included voter intimidation and harassment. The Republicans responded calling the accusations outrageous and irrational. Gore attempted to counteract opposing arguments by stating that there had been an increase of “spoiled” or “tainted” ballots (Kirsanow). However, by examining statistics of previous elections, the obvious is revealed—there is no anomaly among the number of spoiled votes. In fact, the percent of invalidated ballots nationwide is between two and three percent;Florida had three percent—no surprise there. Only four years earlier, it had been 2.5 percent. Furthermore, the entire state of Florida contained 125,000 discounted votes while the city ofChicago mustered 174,000. A six month investigation undertaken by the US Commission of Civil Rights discovered no evidence whatsoever of any unusual or unexpected violations of the 15thamendment (Kirsanow). Yet again, Gore was shut down and forced to seek other avenues to win the Sunshine state.

The Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris bolstered by a Florida Supreme Court ruling insisted all certified election returns must be in to her office by 5:00 PM on November 14, 2000 (by Florida statute, one week following the election). In the certified returns, Bush held a 300-vote lead (US Constitution Online).

The controversy however continued to simmer around two crucial points in Florida. The first issue centered on the legality of some counties performing a manual recount of ballots. The second point was in regards to the legality of the Florida Secretary of State to reject the recount totals after the statutory deadline had passed. Several counties were counting ballots by hand, aided by a brief ruling from the Florida Supreme Court that said they could proceed (US Constitution Online). However, the left-leaning Florida Supreme Court failed to acknowledge the issue regarding the rejection of recount numbers that missed the deadline. Bush’s lawyers worked fervently to establish their point of view; manual recounts were prone to human error and deliberate tampering. The Democrats replied by stating that hand recounts were the only way to ensure accurate numbers. Despite the fact that the Florida Supreme court ruled in favor of the Democrats, Bush’s lead increased to 930 votes statewide, essentially due to his commanding advantage in overseas absentee ballots. Regardless, many counties pressed on with their manual recounts (US Constitution Online).

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified George W. Bush the winner ofFlorida’s 25 electoral votes on November 26th. Palm Beach County failed to finish counting ballots before the deadline and tried to send in partial recounts while pleading for additional time. Secretary Harris denied both the partial recounts and the request for more time. Palm BeachCounty’s previous recount submission was used in its place. The Florida statewide vote 2,912,790 for Bush to 2,912,253 for Gore, or a difference of 537 votes was certified (CBS Election Results Chart) (See Figure 3).

The Bush camp was elated, while the Gore camp was angered, mostly on the subject of the disallowing of the Palm Beach recounts. They were not quite ready to throw in the towel. After several more failed attempts in various county courts to continue the recounts, it now came down to the Florida Supreme Court. It was now Friday, December 8th and the fateful day of December 12th was looming on the horizon. That is the date set by United States law for electors to be appointed from each state. Most legal experts agreed that the date was inflexible. The Florida Legislature prepared arrangements to conduct a special session to select those electors if the situation was not resolved by the deadline (US Constitution Online).

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments from both the Bush and Gore organizations on November 20th. The Gore side hammered away that there is no rush to the certification of the election, since US law states that electors do not need to be appointed until December 12 giving the counties that desired to do recounts plenty of time for their completion. The Bush side contended that the more time that goes by, the greater the probability for fraud in the recount system. They also contended that the deadlines for counts and recounts are purposely laid out inFlorida statutes; and that the courts cannot trample on the inherent rights and responsibilities of the executive branch to carry out the certification of the election complying with the law that was approved by the legislature (US Constitution Online). For nearly two days, the Court considered the matter. The Court did rule on November 21st ordering the Florida Secretary of State to receive returns from counties doing recounts, however a deadline of no later than 5 p.m. on November 26th was put in place. The Court did not address the important issue of the countability of the ballots. The date chosen by the Court was designed to allow ample time for manual recounts to be finished, and to allow ample time for either candidate to protest the results under Florida law, and still meet the December 12th date set in US law for the appointment of electors.

In an astonishing decision, the Florida Supreme Court with a 4-3 split vote, ruled that all undervotes in the entire state would have to be recounted. The recount was to begin immediately. However Gore’s victory came to a screeching halt the very next day as the United States Supreme Court stepped in and stopped all recounts with a 5-4 ruling. They called for hearings to be held on December 11th, on the constitutionality of the Florida Supreme Court’s ordering of the recount. The U.S. Supreme Court convened on the morning of the 11th. Bush’s attorneys requested the court to uphold its stay of the recounts. It called the Florida Supreme Court’s recounting scheme “arbitrary, capricious, unequal, and standardless,” and a violation of the Article 2 powers of the state legislature to decide how electors are to be chosen. The Gore camp reiterated that the Florida Court was following the laws granted by the Florida legislature, and pressed the U.S. Supreme Court to decide quickly so that counting could be finished before the December 12th deadline for selection of electors (The United States Supreme Court).

On December 12th, the Florida legislature could wait no longer. The house voted 79-41 to affirm the Bush slate of electors to ensure that Florida was to be represented in the Electoral College (US Constitution Online).

At 10 PM, the United States Supreme Court rendered what were to be the final decisions on the 2000 Presidential election. The first ruling was a 7-2 vote that stated the Florida Supreme Court had erred when it called for a statewide manual recount. In a close but hardly unusual 5-4 vote, it declared that the counting of the undervotes only amounted to a violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause (The United States Supreme Court). It did state that Gore could utilize other remedies, but it could not include a recount. Essentially that meant the election battle was finally over. The next day Al Gore addressed the nation, accepted the decision of the US Supreme Court, and pleaded with the country to unite behind our next President-George Bush.

A close look at the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States reveals the incisiveness of the ruling. The Supreme Court noted that 2% of persons voting in Presidential election across the nation did not register vote for President, either deliberately or by a voter error. The Court did specifically state in their opinion of the ruling:

In certifying election results, the votes eligible for inclusion in the certification are the votes meeting the properly established legal requirements. (The United States Supreme Court)

It is evident that the Court was clearly referring to the process of the Punch Card ballot machine that may reject incomplete or incorrectly punched ballots. The Supreme Court’s decision predominantly centered on the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The Court correctly viewed the Florida Supreme Court as having set new standards for resolving Presidential contests. Specifically, they chastised the State Supreme Court in a multitude of ways, all leading to violation of the Equal Protection Clause. They cited the fact that the State Supreme Court allowed votes to be recounted with varying standards to determine what a legal vote is. In fact,Broward County had a much more lenient standard of acceptance of a tainted ballot than that ofPalm Beach County. This would result in an uneven voting process certainly violating the Equal Protection Clause (The United States Supreme Court).

In addition, The Florida Supreme Court’s decision provided no guarantee that the recounts included in a final certification must be complete. The acceptance of partial recounts being included was a problem for the US Supreme Court:

The press of time does not diminish the constitutional concern. A desire for speed is not a general excuse for ignoring equal protection guarantees. (TheUnited States Supreme Court)

Once again, The Supreme Court issued a correct ruling in not permitting partial vote tallies from counties to be certified. Furthermore, The US Supreme Court had a problem with actually who would perform the recounting of the votes. They were concerned that ad hoc teams of judges with no specific training in analyzing ballots would be interpreting the ballots. They also had issues that while some judges would be there from an observer status, they did not have the right to object to the proceeding. It is clear that the process ordered by the Florida Supreme Court does not meet the necessary minimal requirements to protect the individual voter in this extraordinary statewide recount (The United States Supreme Court).

The most compelling portion of the United States Supreme Court ruling focuses on interpreting the intent of the voter. Since much of the controversy surrounded the ballot cards, the interpretation to discern the true intent of the voter punching the ballot needed to be performed. The Florida Supreme Court had ordered the intent of those ballots be ascertained. Again, the US Supreme Court precisely shot down the lower Court’s ruling by stating:

The problem inheres in the absence of specific standards to ensure its equal application. The formulation of uniform rules to determine intent based on these recurring circumstances is practicable and, we conclude, necessary. (United States Supreme Court)

As we know, there were no specific standards in place and certainly, there was not nearly enough time to agree on a statewide basis to implement new standards. Also, as earlier stated the lack of time does not trump constitutional guarantees. Without the necessary standards, the Supreme Court had many issues on potentially unqualified individuals making determinations on voter intent by looking at scratches and holes on a cardboard piece of paper. The Court further went on to explain that the lack of uniform rules could produce variances in not only from one county to another, but indeed from within the same county as well. They provided an example of a witness who testified that he saw three members from the Miami-Dade canvassing board applying three different standards in recounting the votes. Also, in Palm Beach County they had started with a 1990 standard used for recounting, then changed that guideline, only to go back to the 1990 standard again and finally abandoning any true standard. It is obvious that the United States Supreme Court’s problems with the violations of the Equal Protection Clause are valid. The Court declared:

The right to vote is protected in more than the initial allocation of the franchise. Equal protection applies as well to the manner of its exercise. Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another. (United StatesSupreme Court)

The Court found that the State did not have in place the “necessary safeguards” to ensure equal protection. The United States Supreme Court found that the State Supreme Court in ordering a statewide remedy did not provide assurance that “rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied.” Thus, the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court was reversed.

The US Supreme Court’s overturning the State Court’s ruling amounted to a judicial spanking. The entire makeup of the Florida Supreme Court consisted of Democrat judges. Throughout the entire 36-day controversy, it is quite clear that they had acted more out of partisan motives than providing constitutional protections. It is argued that the US Supreme Court also voted in a partisan block. However, the preciseness of their well thought out conclusion, repudiates that argument. The United States Supreme Court is made up of conservatives, liberals and moderates. It is important to remember that the US Supreme Court voted 7-2 that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court ruling. The closer 5-4 vote was in the decision to halt the recount, because there was not sufficient time to put into place the necessary procedures to ensure the constitutionality of the recounts.

The presidential Election of 2000 has taught us valuable lessons for future contests. This election produced the rarity that George Bush, the declared winner, actually received a lower popular vote tally than his adversary, Al Gore. However, the “rules of the game” state that the next President is based on receiving a minimum of 270 electoral votes. There has been much contention from the left regarding this issue. But the rules cannot be changed once the game starts or when it is over. This argument has no substance whatsoever. Furthermore, it is quite interesting that although Bush did lose the popular vote, he overwhelmingly won the plurality of counties throughout the country (See Figure 2). Evidently, there were major tribulations with this election, and there is plenty of blame to allocate. A good portion of the blame goes to an overzealous media whose main concern is to beat out the competition, regardless of the facts. Partisan hacks on all sides, who routinely ignore right and wrong for the sake of winning. This was no longer about campaigning; it was about whom won the election, yet partisan supporters discounted what was fair and right. State legislatures nationwide need to analyze ways to improve the mechanisms and machinery for voting. When people who hold death certificates vote on Election Day, it is obvious that there is something wrong with the system. It is imperative that universal ballot standards be implemented throughout the country and national identification cards be issued. These two measures alone can substantially reduce voter fraud and confusion. Opponents to these two proposals need a reality check. Voting methods must evolve and improve in order to prevent another fiasco like the one we experienced six years ago. Yes, this was a fiasco, but it also showed that with all the flaws that we have detailed, our system still works.The founding fathers would be proud that the checks and balances they put in place have succeeded in ways that they may even have envisioned. Of course, we have a bunch of tweaking and perfecting to do, and if we are on the right track, we still will need some tweaking and perfecting two centuries from now.

Figure 3 (CBS Election Results Chart)

Presidential Candidate Vote Total Pct Party
George W. Bush (W) 2,912,790 48.850 Republican
Al Gore 2,912,253 48.841 Democratic
Ralph Nader 97,421 1.633 Green
Patrick J. Buchanan 17,412 0.292 Reform
Harry Browne 16,102 0.270 Libertarian
John Hagelin 2,274 0.038 Natural Law/Reform
Howard Phillips 1,378 0.023 Constitution
Other 3,027 0.051
Total 5,962,657 100.00
Source: CBS News State Results for Election 2000


American Presidency Project. Gore on NBC’s “Today” Show. 29 November 2000. 2 June 2006<http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/showflorida2000.php?fileid=gore11-29>

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