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Solutions without Problems

What do the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, banning gay marriage, outlawing marijuana, the Salem Witch Trials, and Voter ID laws all have in common? Each is a “solution” designed to solve a non-existent problem, with disastrous consequences. This website will examine a variety of examples from politics and social policy, religion, medicine and other aspects of social life. We will discover a major source of misery in modern life–one that is sometimes intentional but one that can be avoided. My purpose is for us to work together to bring a halt to SoluProbs™: Solutions without Problems.

Here’s a preview of some of the topics covered elsewhere on this website. The “problem” of Saddam Hussein of Iraq planning to attack the USA with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) produced the “solution” of a 2003 American invasion of Iraq. In actuality, Saddam had no WMDs and no plans to attack the USA, but the “solution” lingers on, well into its second decade. The unprovoked attack on Iraq continues to cost American lives and dollars, and it fuels al-Qaeda and Daesh (aka ISIL) with the image and message that the USA is at war with all of Islam. Moreover, this view is openly voiced by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other American politicians.

The disastrous Iraq invasion is not the first time non-existing “problems” have produced “solutions” that generated terrible consequences. The American colonists in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, conducted Witch Trials to identify those evil witches who were ruining the crops and causing disease. Of course, there were no witches, but people were put to death as witches by the misguided “solution.” A few hundred years earlier, a similar “problem” of witches and their Satanic cats causing the Black Death in Europe led to the “solution” of killing witches and their cats. The eradication of cats was a special break for the rats, whose fleas were actually spreading the bubonic plague. Once again, the presumed problem was not real, but the solution caused the death of those accused as witches, not to mention the increased numbers who died of the plague itself.

Same-sex marriages were banned in America because of the “problem” that permitting gay couples to marry would presumably bring an end of marriage as an institution. Surprise! Now that same-sex marriages are legal throughout the United States, and gay and lesbian couples are tying the knot every day, the institution of marriage still seems to be with us. Even though some people are still fueling anti-gay bigotry, the “problem” used to justify their hatred was a lie. The “solution,” was real in the damage it caused to many innocent victims, however.

Solutions without problems are a lot like shooting at ghosts. You don’t hurt the ghosts, but you wreak havoc with anyone or anything in your line of fire.

The examples listed analyze a variety of Solutions without Problems in various aspects of life, and I welcome your comments on those and your suggestions of other examples. You will also find places on these pages to comment and to join the team.

Earl Babbie, Ph.D., Campbell Professor Emeritus in Behavioral Sciences, Chapman University

http://ebabbie.net        http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Earl_Babbie      Earl Babbie Research Center

More on the Concept of Solutions without Problems

 Solutions without Problems have the following elements:

  1.  A social problem is presumed to exist.
  2. A solution is devised and implemented to solve the problem.
  3. In fact, the problem did not exist.
  4. (Often) the solution causes problems that didn’t exist before.

This concept does not include ineffective solutions to real problems. For example, millions of dollars are still spent on Abstinence Only “sex education” (sic) in the nation’s schools as an attempt to solve the problem of teen pregnancies. All the evaluations of this “solution” indicate that it doesn’t work. Some analyses suggest it is actually harmful, leaving students uneducated about sex as their hormones begin to rage. However, Abstinence Only does NOT fit in the present project because the problem of teen pregnancy is real.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, establishing Prohibition, was one of our more dramatic failures as a nation–so bad that it was eventually repealed. I have not included Prohibition in this project–despite the many problems caused by that solution–because I think alcohol consumption can legitimately be seen as a problem: alcoholism, drunk driving, spousal abuse, etc. As a nation, we have decided the benefits outweigh the costs. By the same token, I have not included the War on Drugs, as miserable a failure as it has been, because I think it can reasonably be argued that the misuse of heroin, cocaine, meth and other hard drugs in problematic. I have included a unit on the outlawing of marijuana because the “Reefer Madness” views that prompted its ban were not true. And as legal marijuana becomes more and more available in the U. S., we are not seeing the problems warned against as justification for outlawing weed.

In other cases, we need to split hairs a bit. As you saw above, I’ve included the Salem Witch Trials as a Solution without a Problem, even though the failed crops and sickness were real. Had the colonists simply defined the problem as failed crops, they would have sought agricultural solutions. They would have looked for medical solutions to their health problems. Instead, the “problem” was framed as the “witches” who were harming crops and health, and that made the trials and executions logical responses. The witches were not real, however; hence the problem, so defined, did not exist.

I have two purposes in spelling out the organizing concept of this project. First, I want to make my choices more understandable. Second, and more important, this project aims to generate a proactive awareness of the SoluProbs™ that plague us. I hope you will join me in identifying and dealing with the very real problem of Solutions without Problems.

Please make this project your own and we can develop a proactive methodology for social change together. The following epilogue may move us in that direction.

A Sociologist’s Epilogue 

I’ve spent the past forty or so years writing college textbooks on the subject of social research methods, and there is one topic that is very germane to this project. It is called “evaluation research.” Here’s how it typically works.

  1. We feel there is a problem: juvenile delinquency, for example.
  2. We measure it to see how bad it is.
  3. We figure out a solution that might improve things.
  4. We implement the solution.
  5. Some time later, we re-measure the problem to see if the solution worked.

There’s a common disconnect in the application of this model, especially when public policy and politics are involved: often nobody goes to the trouble of re-measuring the problem to see if the “solution” actually worked. Rather, the vested interests built up around the “solution” keep it alive forever, whether it works or not.

This project has dealt with a different disconnect: Step #2 is skipped. As we will see, all too often, “solutions” are put in place before we’ve actually determined there is a problem to solve. Voter IDs offer a case in point. It would have been useful to measure the extent of the problem–which we’ll see is virtually nonexistent–before establishing costly and dysfunctional solutions. Every example in this project reflects a failure to undertake Step #2 properly.

Sometimes, measuring a problem can be tricky, as we’ll see in the case of Saddam’s alleged plans to nuke America. To be sure, a lot of evidence was collected for the purpose of assessing the problem: some suggested the threat might be real, some denied the threat. As we look back on the situation now, we can see the evidence was cherry-picked to justify a course of action already desired by the administration. Our costly actions were not based on an accurate measurement of the presumed problem.

Sometimes, the measurement of the problem is absolutely perverse. In the case of the Salem Witch Trials, measurements were devised for determining whether a suspect was actually a witch. Most notable was the “dunking chair.” A woman (it was almost always a woman) would be tied to a chair attached to a long pole. The chair would be lowered into a pool of water until she was completely submerged. After a set period of time, she would be raised from the water. If she survived the dunking, that was proof she was a witch and needed to be executed. If the woman drowned, that proved she was not a witch. She was exonerated. Dead but exonerated.

Evidence and measurement are key to determining the existence of an alleged problem. Some politicians and talk-show hosts, for example, might argue that the reduction of CO2 emissions is a solution without a problem, contending that anthropocentric climate change is not real. However, when 97% of climate scientists say it is real, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this website. Reducing CO2 is a solution for a real problem.

We can never be one hundred percent free of error in the measurement of problems that may need solving, but we can do much better than we have in the past. There are so many real and compelling problems that need solutions, we should focus our attention and resources on those. I hope the examples in this project will alert us to the bogus problems.

Acknowledgements:

I am especially grateful for the initial suggestions and guidance I have received from (alphabetically):

  • Aaron Babbie
  • Byron Callas
  • George Hozendorf
  • Jane Putch
  • Suzanne Babbie

 

 

+ - Banning Private Taxi Services

Student Soluprob by Grace Grammello
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Presumed Problem
Dec. 15, 2017

Using private taxi services (e.g., Uber, Lyft) is believed to be less safe than using public taxi services, as the drivers and organizational regulations of private taxi services result in crime and harm of clients more often than public taxi services, and therefore should not be trusted. There is allegedly a bigger risk to personal and financial safety when using private taxi services over public taxi services, along with the risk of personal information theft due to taxi privatization often being based through online applications.

Proposed Solution

The proposed solution is to ban private taxi services, and return to carpooling with known individuals or using publicly-regulated taxi services. Discouraging the use of private taxi services and restricting the connected applications that go along with the services would also curb the private taxi industry. If nothing else, the private taxi services should be regulated under national or state law to ensure the safety of the clients.

Evidence the Problem Doesn’t Exist

Uber claims to screen their drivers through “county, federal, and multi-state criminal background checks—and these checks typically go back seven years” (Hyde, 2015). Their background checks may exceed local taxi companies, and drivers are vetted through three private background-check firms (Hyde, 2015). Beyond this, most safety issues relating to taxis are homicides—and these are often results of cash transactions, which private companies often avoid and public companies employ. Also, private drivers have application access to passenger information, which may reduce passenger-to-driver attacks (Sobczak, 2016). In 2012, ridesharing policies began to correlate with installed government-regulated policies. For example, the California Public Utilities Commission required services such as Lyft and Uber to attain licensure from them and conduct criminal background checks, along with having a driver training program and a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol. They also must “maintain at least a $1 million per incident insurance coverage” (Rayle et. Al, 2014). The private taxi industry is adhering to the same guidelines that the public industry is, so if safety of private taxis is a concern, so should the safety of all taxi companies. For the most part, people are afraid that their private taxi drivers aren’t trustworthy or properly supervised, resulting in a lack of safety. Yet private taxi companies “use customer reviews to reflect a driver’s quality”, which works as a customer input and accountability method—and if the drivers don’t meet outlined conditions, they can be “deactivated” (Ross, 2015). A study commissioned by the City of Seattle resulted in public taxi services receiving 102 out of 105 negative comments in an industry-wide taxi poll (Ross, 2015). Perhaps public taxis are the less reliable, less safe option.

Background Narrative

The taxi industry was first subjected to regulation back in the Great Depression, when there was a call for regulation of taxi amounts and a concern of cash-based rides which “encouraged inexperienced operators to neglect good maintenance” (Posen, 2015). Recently, Private taxi services have undergone similar criticism from their public counterparts and government since their appearance around 2010, including lawsuits and arguments against their “lesser” regulations (Dong et al, 2014). Taxi lobbyists also argue that private services increase unfair competition (Posen, 2015). Though public drivers’ services undergo regulatory checks, lobbyists nitpick on the smallest background check details like “fingerprinting” in an attempt to strengthen the public taxi industry’s position (Ansari et al, 2015). Specific cases such as three rape cases in India, Chicago, and Boston, along with a San Francisco case in which a distracted Uber driver hit and killed a 6-year-old girl have been illuminated to harm private services’ reputations and raise concerns about the safety of private taxi services. In response, companies like Uber have established stronger regulations and checklists to ensure driver and rider safety. Also, insurance coverage discrepancies have been a large criticism of ridesharing; however, companies like Geico have been offering private ridesharing packages recently (Ansari et al, 2015). Furthermore, most of the proposed changes in regulation for private taxi companies center more around dispatch licensing and minimum fee charges than safety concerns, which are raised less (Posen, 2015).

Negative Consequences of the Solution

With rides being limited to public taxi services, there will be a decrease in the availability of transportation services and thus a longer wait time in large cities. Also, the healthy competition private services bring to public transportation increases the progress towards stronger safety regulations for both industries, decreases ride rates, and boosts awareness of public safety. Banning private taxi services may also increase client fear and dissatisfaction—a majority of private rideshare users report fear of alcohol use and physical harm in public taxi rides (Rayle et al, 2014). Conclusively, banning ridesharing could cost the general population time, money, and safety.

Sources:

 

+ - The Beauty Industry: Makeup

Student submission by Jamie Berends
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Presumed Problem
Dec. 12, 2017

There is a widespread belief in American society that a woman cannot be beautiful unless she possesses certain features, such as longer and fuller eyelashes, prominent cheek bones, rosy cheeks, full lips, blemish free skin, and fuller well-maintained eyebrows. Women who do not meet these standards can be defined as ‘unconventional’ and be looked at as less beautiful as compared to their fellow counterparts.

Solution

Create makeup brands to help accentuate certain features and hide blemishes. Promote makeup on media through the use of models with makeup done by professionals paired with photoshop.

Narrative

Makeup can be dated back to the times of the Egyptians. During that period, Egyptian women dolled themselves up to impress the Gods as their appearance was directly related to their spiritual worth. However, in modern society makeup is used to impress others and hide certain features, which in turn can accentuate others. Now, makeup application is a daily ritual that many women cannot leave the house without first ‘performing’. This application of makeup goes beyond just special occasions, it has gotten to the point where some women put a whole face on before even going to the gym, or just apply it to take photos while they have a ‘lazy day’ at home.

Today beauty revolves around make-up, skin care, and hair care. On average, the entirety of the cosmetic industry generates about 62.46 billion dollars (as of 2016) in the US alone.

Backlash at the cosmetics industry is becoming more widespread as society begins to realize that true beauty is what lies inside and is not completely based upon looks. As media continues to create more unrealistic notions of beauty that make it hard for the average person to recreate, psychological problems begin to rise in the psyche of the public.

Was the Problem Real?

Beauty standards are defined by the media, such as television, as well as peers, such as coworkers. While some may view makeup as a necessity to look more professional or groomed, in all realities makeup should not be an everyday standard. When applying for jobs and positions, those of whom who wear makeup are deemed as higher in the social anarchy because they attract more admiration from those around them. Thus, making appearances go a long way. Whereas those who do not wear makeup, to an interview for example, are viewed as less ‘put together’ than those who do, and tend to attract less positive attention.

In short, appearances in the modern world are what many base their first opinions from. Therefore, the way someone looks has become more meaningful than personality; makeup is no longer used for self-satisfaction but instead is used to seek the approval of those around them.

It is clear that in today’s society we need less makeup because the appreciation of true beauty is beginning to go less noticed. Beauty is without parameters, and allowing it to be contained to one’s outward appearance is a step in the wrong direction that society needs to go in.

Negative Consequences

Overall, there are many negative consequences associated with makeup use and the standards that society enforces unto women. By creating unrealistic standards and images of what beauty should be, women have developed psychological problems as well as unhappiness with their natural appearances.

Women now have issues with anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence. Those of whom who wear more makeup are shown to have higher levels of anxiety and low self-esteems and confidence. This is because they perceive themselves as less beautiful than others, and so they try to hide their insecurities with makeup. However, there are correlations between people and what they perceive as beauty; this is because everyone’s standard of beauty differs. Women tend to feel less valuable when they are not wearing makeup; instead of focusing on what is going on around them they are more focused on if the person next to them notices that their face might have large pores or is flushed.

Today makeup is viewed as a temporary fix to image issues resulting from societal beauty ‘norms’ that are placed upon women. A temporary fix never truly works because only more anxiety results in order to meet the beauty standards that have gotten out of hand with numerous products being sold to only further women’s insecurities.

Sources

Britton, Ann Marie, The Beauty Industry’s Influence on Women in Society (2012) Honors Theses and Capstones. 86. Received from: http://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1085&context=honors

Scott, Sarah, Influence of Cosmetics on the Confidence of College Women: An Exploratory Study (n.d.) Hanover College. Received from: http://psych.hanover.edu/research/Thesis07/ScottPaper.pdf

Silverio, Lauren, Makeup’s Effects on Self-Perception (2010).OTS Master’s Level Projects & Papers. 49. Received from: http://digitalcommons.odu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1048&context=ots_masters_projects

Brinegar, K. & Weddle, E., The Correlation Between Makeup Useage and Self-Esteem. (2014) Hanover College. Received from: http://vault.hanover.edu/~altermattw/courses/344/papers/2014/BrinegarWeddle.pdf

Jones, AL. Facial Cosmetics and Attractiveness: Comparing the Effect Sizes of Professionally-Applied Cosmetics and Identity. (2016) Kramer RSS. Received from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0164218

Narang, Devina, The Psychological Factors that Affect Makeup Usage and the Perception of Makeup in Different Situations (2013) Virginia Commonwealth University. Received from: file:///C:/Users/jamie/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/666-3495-1-PB.pdf

Korichi, R., Pelle-de-Queral, D., Gazona, G., Aubert, A. Why women use makeup: implication of psychological traits in makeup functions. (2008) PubMed. Received from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408870

+ - Ban Transgendered Military Personnel

Student Presenter:
Jessica L. Embrey, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Sept. 21, 2017

A Presumed Problem:
People worry that allowing transgender people to serve in the military would cause tremendous medical bills for the government. There is also the fear that people who are transgender are not mentally competent and cannot be in charge of making decisions. A smaller problem is that serving and living with transgender individuals will make people uncomfortable and cause a disruption.

A Solution to the Presumed Problem:
President Trump has placed a ban stating the any transgender persons are not allowed to serve in the military. They have also given the responsibility to Defense Secretary James Mattis the power to decide what will happen to those who are currently serving on a case by case basis.

Background Narrative/ Evidence that the problem does not exist:
Discussions and decisions on LGBTQ military personnel began back in the early 1990’s when there was a report put out by the General Accounting Office reporting the cost of banning LGBTQ members in the Military. After this report, President Clinton announced the don’t ask don’t tell policy. This policy, as many probably know, allowed members of the LGBT community to serve in the military as long as they didn’t tell their sexual orientation. It was officially signed into law in 1993. (Belkin, 2015) In 2008, there was a study conducted by the Palm Center of the University of California Santa Barbara. In this study, the researchers’ survey identified 827 transgender current and former transgender service members. (Kerrigan, 2012) It was noted that many transgender persons were extremely private about their experiences. The research also showed that out of the 827 individuals surveyed 660 of them Identified as transsexual. The majority of them transitioning after they left active duty. (Kerrigan, 2012)

During the Obama administration, don’t ask don’t tell was repealed. This repeal allows service men and women to be open with who they are. This did not come without backlash. Many people were very against it for varying reasons. The most popular was the cost of medical treatment, including gender reassignment surgeries. There are currently around 12,0000-15,0000 transgender people currently serving in the military. (Belkin, 2015) With that being said, the actual cost is projected to be much lower than predicted. Gender reassignment costs would only be about 22 cents per transgender member a month, this adds up to about $5.6 million annually. That hardly dents the $47.8 billion annual military health-care budget. (Belkin, 2015) Paying for transition-related care in the long run can actually save the military money. By paying for transitioning, this can reduce the costs from depression and suicide. In other words, by not paying for transition cost they could potentially spend more money on medical and psychological needs. (Belkin, 2015) Some also believe that transgender people are not capable of making life and death decisions. They feel that if they are wanting to completely change their gender they should not be considered mentally competent. (Levy, Parco, & Spears, 2015) I have found no evidence to support these fears, however.

Possible Negative Consequences to the “Solution”:
The ban on transgender individuals denies them equal opportunity in the military and in life. Just because someone feels that they were born the wrong gender does not mean they cannot perform to the same standards as other non-transgender individuals. I do believe that they should be held to the same standards of the gender that they believe they are (i.e., If they feel they are male then they need to be able to perform to the same standards as their male counterparts). You are also setting the precedent that transgender people do not have the same rights as everyone else and should be treated differently. The sets a bad example to many people who may be considering transitioning. There were so many steps in a positive direction and now it seems like we are reverting back to discrimination and separation. They cannot be as open as they used to be without being punished and/or hurt.

Sources:
  • Belkin, A. (2015). Caring for Our Transgender Troops: The Negligible Cost of Transition-Related Care. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373(12), 1089-1092. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/1713645747?pq-origsite=summon
  • Kerrigan, M. F. (2012). Transgender Discrimination in the Military: The New Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 18(3), 500-518. Retrieved from http://gu6sd4xu4r.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info%3Asid%2Fsummon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=Transgender+discrimination+
  • Levy, D. A., Parco, J. E., & Spears, S. R. (2015). Purple in a Black & White World: Self- Determination Theory and Transgender Militray Service. Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences, 11, 359-369.

 

+ - SoluProb™: Salem Witch Trials

SoluProb® Status
Apr. 24, 2017
Dr. Earl Babbie

It has been awhile since I posted a new soluprob® on this website. Instead, my energy has been directed to writing a book expanding on the subject. That book will cover the examples presented on this website and many more. At this point, I wanted to share some of the additional examples that have caught my attention. Since full examinations of all soluprobs® will soon be available in the book, I plan to present abbreviated previews here on the website.

As before, I welcome your suggestions of new candidates for inclusion. You can contact me directly at ebabbie@mac.com.

Presumed Problem: Witches were causing all kinds of problems in colonial Salem, Massachusetts: bewitching the children, causing illness, and ruining the crops. Solution: identify the witches and punish them.

Suspected witches (mostly women) per put on trial and ultimately 20 people were executed or died in prison. The Salem witch trials sometimes employed an ironic test of witchdom: the dunking chair. The suspect would be tied into a chair that was attached to the end of a long pole and suspended over a body of water. The suspect and chair were submerged for a number of minutes and then brought back up out of the water. If the victim survived, that was proof she was a witch and called for execution. If the victim died of drowning, she was vindicated. She was adjudged innocent–though dead, all the same.

This was not the first time in history that witches had been blamed when things went wrong. During the Black Death in Europe during the 14th Century, witches and their cats were blamed for bringing on the plague that killed as much as one-third of the European population. Both witches and their cats were killed, which was good news for the rats, whose fleas were actually the carriers of the plague.

In both of these cases, there were real problems: crop failures, illness, plague. However, defining these as the work of witches qualifies them as solutions without problems. And great suffering was caused by those “solutions.”

+ - SoluProb™: A Partisan Issue?

Dec. 26, 2016
Dr. Earl Babbie

This blog site went public the end of April, 2016, with an examination of VoterID laws as a solution without a problem. Since then, I’ve posted 25 additional examples. From time to time, I’ve mentioned the possibility of political partisanship at work. More bluntly, there is evidence in some cases that those pushing a particular “solution” didn’t necessarily believe the “problem” was real. The presumed problem was simply a justification for the “solution” that would bring political advantage to those pushing it. Voter ID laws, for example, have caused millions of eligible voters to be turned away from the polls–and that disenfranchisement has favored the Republican Party, which has been the sole proponent of such laws. And we’ve seen public pronouncements from Republican officials bragging that the passage of VoterID laws would bring them victory at the polls. It takes an open mind the size of the Grand Canyon to think they really believed there was a problem of impersonation at the polls.

In the case of the long string of Congressional hearings on Benghazi, once again, Republicans bragged they had achieved their purpose of bringing down Hillary Clinton’s popularity. Given the far worse record of attacks on foreign service facilities in previous administrations, it strains credulity to imagine the investigators truly believed there had been any punishable wrong-doing by Secretary Clinton. However, Benghazi eventually morphed into her email server, just as Whitewater morphed into Monica Lewinsky a couple of decades earlier.

As I have analyzed and presented the 26 soluprobs™ thus far, I have made a conscious effort to avoid the assumption of cynical motives by those pushing for solutions to bogus problems. This is not to say that media campaigns can’t convince a substantial portion of the American public that the “problem” is real, but I’ve grown less trusting in the honesty of the sponsors of the “solutions.”

At the same time, I want to acknowledge that most of the recent soluprobs™ have been perpetuated by members of the Republican Party. At first, I worried that I might be biased by my own, generally progressive, political orientations, and I strained to find examples that could be laid at the Democratic door. LBJ requested the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, but with broad, bipartisan support. James Madison was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party when he started the War of 1812, but it’s a stretch to blame either contemporary party for that boner. A number of the examples–dealing with abortion, drugs, gays, for example–have been dealt with as problems by members of both parties, but the Republican Party has maintained the resistance as Democrats have tended to move on.

So I pose this question to you: are solutions without problems an exclusively Republican strategy? Put somewhat differently, are there examples of Democrats committing this offense that I have overlooked. Please know these are not rhetorical questions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter, either in the Comment section below or in an email to me.

I think this is a serious question as we approach January 20th and the prospect of a Republican-controlled Congress, a Republican-dominated Supreme Court, and an arguably Republican President. Can we expect a flood of solutions without problems?

+ - SoluProb™: Vietnam Escalation by USA

Student Author
Andrew Calloway, Chapman University
Nov. 28, 2016

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at babbie@chapman.edu

ANOTHER NOTE: I posted an earlier piece on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and this student submission brings additional evidence to the discussion.

Background Narrative

After World War II, the United States was involved in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. The United States began to adopt the foreign policy of containment that was implemented throughout the 1940s-1960s. The containment policy was the effort in “trying to prevent the Soviet communism from expanding its empire.” (Rosati, Jerel A. & Scott, James M. 2014:29-32)

The containment policy was proposed in the Truman Doctrine in 1947 when containing communism in Greece and Turkey. Hodgson a political analyst described the Truman Doctrine as containing “the seeds of American of economic aid, economic or military, to more than one hundred countries; of mutual defense with more than forty of them…” (Hodgson 1976:32) Other academics believe the containment policy led to national security concerns influencing United States foreign policy for the entirety of the Cold War.

Presumed Problem

In the 1950s the United States began to worry after the creation of the People’s Republic of China and the beginning of communism in the Asian continent. This was also shown in the conflict in Korea during 1950-1953.

In February 1950, the National Security Council (NSC) passed NSC document 64 stating that Indochina was “a key area under immediate threat.” Again in 1952, the NSC passed another document on Indochina, NSC document 68. In 1954, President Eisenhower brought up the domino theory in one of his speeches, this belief was if Vietnam fell into communism, then neighboring countries in Southeast Asia will fall under communist rule as well, most particularly Laos and Cambodia. This idea brought a more militaristic approach in containing communism and increased United States involvement in Vietnam throughout the 1950s-1960s. (Kissinger, Henry 2003:13-20)

By the end of the Eisenhower administration in 1960, Eisenhower warned John F. Kennedy of the conflict of Vietnam as crucial. Eisenhower did not want the domino theory to become a reality. Under the Kennedy administration, stopping communism in Vietnam became a huge political interest, and would be considered a victory for the United States against the Soviet Union in political ideologies. According to Kissinger, by the time President Kennedy took office, there were 900 American military personnel in Vietnam, 3,164 in 1961, and almost tripled to 16,263 by 1963. (Kissinger 2003:34)

The escalation and political controversy in Vietnam began in August 1964 when news came back to the United States that North Vietnamese forces attacked the destroyer USS Maddox near the Gulf of Tonkin, this would later be called the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and led to a push for further military involvement in Vietnam by elected officials in Washington D.C. (Kissinger 2003: 35)

Solution to the Problem

The Gulf of Tonkin incident took place on August 2, 1964, two days later on August 4, President Johnson announced the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and it immediately passed on August 7, giving Johnson the authority to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The Tonkin Gulf resolution gave Johnson and Nixon legal basis for implementing military policies in Vietnam since the resolution was approved by the legislative branch of the U.S. government. The resolution was passed almost unanimously, the House vote was 416-0, and the Senate vote was 88-2. The two Senators who opposed the resolution were Democratic senators Wayne Morse of Oregon, and Ernest Gruening of Alaska. (Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964)

The solution to the Gulf of Tonkin incident would become a major setback for the United States in preventing communism, and a huge drop in public opinion regarding both the Vietnam War and approval of the United States government. The signing and approval from Congress expanded the powers of the Executive branch as stated in the resolution that the President as Commander in Chief should “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States.” The next two sections of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution addresses the U. S. national interest and bringing peace and security to Southeast Asia. This later became a problem when Congress lacked sufficient knowledge of the situation and was unable to affect the military policies passed by the President later into the conflict. (Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964)

Empirical Evidence that the Problem did not exist

According to Lieutenant Commander Pat Paterson of the U.S. Navy stated that some of the information of what happened at the Gulf of Tonkin was “cloaked” and not really explained in the decision making process between the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Johnson in 1964. Recent documents of classified information being released in 2005 and 2006 have revealed many facts of what really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin incident and have helped historians reconstruct the incident.

In one of the reports by the NSA it states the second attack did not happen at the night of August 2, 1964. But by 1965 President Johnson has issued air raids and bombing campaigns under the codename Rolling Thunder, the United States began to use as much force possible to end the war quickly. This proved to not be the case as much as 500,000-600,000 American troops were committed in the Vietnam War by 1969.

The war began to be costly as it became to be estimated as much $173 billion was spent, and about 58,220 Americans dead, and 1,643 missing. It is still a problem today with Vietnam war veterans suffering from PTSD. (Kissinger 2003: 36-38) (Naval History Magazine 2008: Volume 22 Number 1)

Consequences of the “Solution”

With the evidence provided, the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the increased involvement in the Vietnam War greatly changed the powers and policy making of the United States government. Near the end of the Vietnam War (1969-1973), public opinion towards the Vietnam War, along with the Civil Rights protests, led to a strong opposition and push for bringing American soldiers back to the United States. This led to Congress becoming more aggressive in its constitutional powers during times of war and conflict.

Congress became a more rational political actor during the Nixon administration, and began to analyze the cost and benefits of the Vietnam War as it was reaching its fourth US president being involved with the conflict. A hypothesis by Burstein, and Freudenburg stated that “Congress will respond to public opinion.” It must have been public opinion with its strong opposition that made Congress turn against the Vietnam War, and ignore the political decisions made back in 1964. (Burstein, Paul & Freudenburg, William 1978:99-122)

By 1969, the policy of “Vietnamization” was proposed by the Nixon administration, even though Nixon opposed the idea to an extent. Nixon feared the image of American troops withdrawing from Vietnam as a loss for the United States and a victory for the communist regimes. The resolution was passed and by 1973 almost all American troops had withdrawn from Vietnam, and that same year Congress passed the War Powers Resolution stating that the President should consult with Congress in regard to decisions that engage U.S. forces and military.

In conclusion, the Vietnam War did have its negative consequences in casualties and the cost of funding for almost two decades, but at the same time it did reinforce the Constitutional powers and limitations on both the legislative and executive branches. Public opinion also stepped in to have a say on the war with the peace protests, and how people began to pay more attention to the government and its decisions on the war as it was the first televised conflict, with live coverage.

The Vietnam War with its complexities changed the way the public and politicians view foreign intervention for the remainder of the Cold War and leading up to the 21st century. As quoted by General Fred C. Weyand in 1976, “When the Army is committed the American people are committed, when the American people lose their commitment it is futile to try to keep the Army committed.” (Summers, Harry G. 1995:11-15)

Bibliography:

  • Burstein, Paul & Freudenburg, William 1978. Changing Public Policy: The Impact of Public Opinion, Antiwar Demonstrations, and War Costs on Senate Voting on Vietnam War Motions The University of Chicago Press
  • Kissinger, Henry 2003. Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War Simon & Schuster Inc.
  • Moise, Edwin E. 1996. Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War University of North Carolina Press
  • Paterson, Pat 2008. Naval History Magazine: The Truth About Tonkin Volume 22, Number 1, U.S. Naval Institute
  • Rosati, Jerel A. & Scott, James M. 2014. The Politics of United States Foreign Policy Cengage Learning Inc.
  • Summers, Henry G. 1995. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War Presidio Press
  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution; Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964. General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives

 

+ - SoluProb™: Abortion Counseling

Presumed Problem
Women seeking an abortion don’t know what they are getting into.
Oct. 10, 2016

Solution

Drawn-out abortion counseling and waiting periods prior to being allowed to have an abortion.

Narrative

Various state laws require women desiring an abortion to submit to pre-abortion counseling. In some cases, the laws specify that the physician-counsellors give misleading or even inaccurate information crafted to dissuade the women from going through with an abortion. The “problem’ cited concerns the welfare of the women.

A common feature of laws relating to pre-abortion counseling is a waiting period between being counseled by a physician and actually having an abortion. In May, 2016, for example, Louisiana extended such a waiting period from 24 to 72 hours. A 72-hour waiting period was already in effect for Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah.

The National Partnership for Women and Families, examined a variety of anti-abortion restrictions and reported their findings in Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health Care. Here is a summary of what they found:

⦿ Requiring a health care provider to give — and a patient to receive — tests or procedures that are not supported by evidence, the provider’s medical judgment or the patient’s wishes.
⦿ Dictating the information that a health care provider must or must not
give to a patient, including requirements to provide biased or medically inaccurate information.

⦿ Forcing a health care provider to delay time-sensitive care regardless of the provider’s medical judgment or the patient’s needs.

⦿ Prohibiting a health care provider from prescribing medication using the best and most current evidence, medical protocols and methods.

⦿ Requiring a health care provider and/or medical facility to conform to burdensome licensing restrictions that are not based on scientific evidence and are contrary to modern medical practice.

Along the same lines, Alex Zeilinski reviewed what she regarded as the worst attempts to restrict abortions during 2015. In addition to “pretending women don’t think over their decision to have an abortion”—hence the extended waiting periods, here are some of the other techniques she highlighted:

Forcing abortion providers to try and change women’s minds

Telling women that abortion is dangerous and might send them to the hospital

Assuming women are getting tricked into having abortions

In relation to the last of these, Zeilinski reports that some abortion clinics are forced to display signage “No one can make you have an abortion against your will,” and women may be forced to sign a form asserting they were not coerced into getting an abortion.

In South Carolina, in April 2016, Democratic State Representative Mia McLeod sought to dramatize what she considered the inappropriate restrictions on women seeking abortion by introducing a “Viagra Bill,” described by The State thusly:

The legislation would restrict access to medicines to treat erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, by requiring:

▪  A sworn affidavit from a sexual partner detailing an incident of erectile dysfunction in the previous 90 days

▪  A report from a sexual therapist ruling out psychological conditions as the cause of the erectile dysfunction, and

▪  A cardiac stress test and report indicating the patient’s heart can handle sex.

The prescribing doctor also would have to provide a written statement explaining why the drug is necessary and notify the patient in writing about the risks of taking erectile dysfunction drugs.

Men also would have to wait 24 hours to get the drugs, just as women seeking an abortion must receive information and wait 24 hours to have the procedure.

The Viagra Bill was not expected to pass. Nor has it caused lawmakers to eliminate pre-abortion counseling measures.

Was the Problem Real?

Was the “problem” real? Every now and then we may hear anecdotal reports of women haunted by regret at having gotten an abortion. Given  the common experience of women entering or exiting family planning clinics, being called “baby killers” and accused of murdering their child, there are no doubt cases of subsequent regret. However, there is no evidence that women seeking an abortion are uninformed about what they are doing.

Negative Consequences

There have been numerous real problems caused by these “solutions.” Restrictive requirements for pre-abortion counseling is made more
difficult by efforts to close abortion clinics—to be discussed in the next chapter. With few clinics available in a state, women will be required to make a lengthy drive twice to obtain one procedure. This is a special hardship for single mothers of modest means. They may be working a couple of jobs to support their existing families. Ironically, those women least able to afford another mouth to feed are the least capable of jumping through additional bureaucratic hoops to avoid adding another baby.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

+ - SoluProb™: Benghazi Hearings

Aug. 15, 2016
Presumed Problem
Unusual government failures allowed a terrorist attack on the USA Foreign Service in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, which killed four Americans, including the Ambassador to Libya.

Solution

Conduct Congressional hearings to determine what went wrong and what could be done to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Narrative

On September 11, 2012, and eleventh anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, The American embassy in Cairo came under attack by a mob protesting an anti-Muslim film produced earlier in California. While the Cairo attack was underway, another mob attacked the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the latter attack.

Sadly, these attacks and deaths were not unique in the American Foreign Service. During the George W. Bush administration alone, American diplomatic facilities experienced the following attacks, as compiled by Polifact.com.

December 15, 2001: Kathmandu, Nepal

January 22, 2002: Calcutta, India

March 20, 2002: Lima, Peru

June 14, 2002: Karachi, Pakistan

November 9, 2002: Kathmandu, Nepal

May 12, 2003: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

July 30, 2004: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

October 24, 2004: Baghdad, Iraq

November 25, 2004: Baghdad, Iraq

December 7, 2004: Jedda, Saudi Arabia

January 29, 2005: Baghdad, Iraq

September 7, 2005: Basra, Iraq

March 2, 2006: Karachi, Pakistan

September 12, 2006: Damascus, Syria

July 8, 2007: Baghdad, Iraq

January 14, 2008: Beirut, Lebanon

March 18, 2008: Sanaa, Yemen

July 9, 2008: Istanbul, Turkey

September 17, 2008: Sanaa, Yemen

November 27, 2008: Kabul, Afghanistan

Altogether, these 13 attacks resulted in the deaths of 60 diplomatic personnel. Ten of those were given memorial plaques in the State Department. Foreign Service deaths hardly began with the Bush administration, however. Jane Mayer (2014) gives a first-person account of one of the most horrendous attacks in U. S. Foreign Service history.

Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen. The U.S. military command, which regarded the Marines’ presence as a non-combative, “peace-keeping mission,” had left a vehicle gate wide open, and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. The only real resistance the suicide bomber had encountered was a scrim of concertina wire. When I arrived on the scene a short while later to report on it for the Wall Street Journal, the Marine barracks were flattened. From beneath the dusty, smoking slabs of collapsed concrete, piteous American voices could be heard, begging for help. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Beirut was a hotbed of anti-American hostility during the Reagan administration. Earlier in the year, the U. S. Embassy was bombed; seventeen Americans and 46 others died. In March of the following year, the CIA station chief was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, with the terrorists providing a video tape of their actions.

These attacks led to a Congressional investigation and a report detailing the precautions needed to prevent future tragedies. However, that wasn’t the end of the story, as Mayer relates:

In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit. The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”

Mayer muses over how such an explanation would have been accepted by any of the Benghazi committees. While the Benghazi attack was hardly unique in Foreign Service history, the Congressional response was. The question is why?

The four diplomats killed in Benghazi in 2012 were the latest casualties in a long history of risks to Foreign Service personnel. While the Benghazi attack was still underway, it was assumed that it was another reaction to the anti-Islam film, which provoked the Cairo embassy attack. As time went on and more information surfaced, it appeared that the Benghazi was independently planned and unrelated to the film. In the process of discovery, mixed reports were issued by the administration, producing some initial confusion among the public.

Critics of the Obama administration contended that there was a conscious effort to tailor reports of the attack so as to avoid any responsibility by the President or his Secretary of State. Other charges indicated that Secretary Clinton had either purposely or ineptly failed to protect the embassy and mismanaged the response to the attack once it began. More radical critics even alleged Secretary Clinton knew about the attack in advance but kept it secret from the embassy staff–and when the Air Force wanted to help, she told them not to do so.

For the most part, these allegations appeared in social media with no substantiation. So, the Congress flew into action to get the facts. The Benghazi Research Committee provides a box score of the Congressional investigations so far. Here are a few of the facts.

10 Congressional Committees participated in Benghazi hearings

252 witnesses testified

62 hours of public hearings

13 published reports totaling 1,982 pages

This is not a report on a single investigation. Politifact.com detailed the various Congressional investigations into the Benghazi tragedy.

Investigation 1: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Investigation 2: The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs

Investigation 3: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Investigation 4: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Investigation 5: The House Committee on the Judiciary

Investigation 6: The House Committee on Armed Services

Investigation 7: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Ongoing Investigation 8: The House Select Committee on Benghazi

Why yet another investigation?  Leigh Ann Caldwell (2015) explains

In his opening statement, Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said his committee exists because the focus of the previous seven committees that investigated the attacks were “narrow in scope.” He said that his committee’s investigations are more comprehensive, including plans to interview a total of 70 people and review 50,000 “new” documents. New documents include nearly 8,000 emails sent by Ambassador Chris Stevens, whom Gowdy called a “prolific emailer.”

On October 22, 2015, former Secretary of State Clinton testified for eleven hours before the House Select Committee. At the conclusion of the hearing, Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy famously told reporters that nothing new had been learned.

Was the Problem Real?

While the official “problem” was to discover what when wrong at Benghazi as a means to preventing such tragedies in the future, there was good reason from the beginning to think the “problem” was something else.

None in the long list of investigations produced the condemnation of President Obama and Secretary Clinton some hoped for. There was some confusion in the fog of war as the attack was going on and early reports about the attack proved inaccurate, but there was never any evidence that misreporting was intentional or a coverup.

Responsible military reported that Secretary Clinton had no role in the immediate security response on the ground, nor did she have any authority to do so. Some claimed the administration was generally inadequate in providing embassy security at Benghazi and elsewhere. This charge was difficult back up, however, as Ronan Farrow reported in The Atlantic:

 In Fiscal Year 2011, House Republicans cut $128 million from the Obama Administration’s requests for embassy security funding; in 2012, they cut another $331 million. [Darrell] Issa once personally voted to cut almost 300 diplomatic security positions. In 2011, after one of many fruitless trips to the Hill to beg House Republicans for resources, an exhausted, prophetic Hillary Clinton warned that cuts to embassy spending “will be detrimental to America’s national security.”

Finally, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), being considered to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House, publicly announced the real problem the investigations were intended to solve. Challenged by a conservative interviewer to name anything the Congress had achieved, McCarthy replied:

Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.

No one was all that surprised to learn the “problem” the Benghazi Select Committee was created to solve was not the tragic death of four American Foreign Service workers but the “threat” of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. People were surprised to hear it bragged about on Fox News, however, and Kevin McCarthy did not become Speaker of the House.

Negative Consequences

A great deal of time and money were wasted in an unprecedented witch hunt. Those involved in the investigations might have been doing something constructive for the public good instead. Numerous public servants were attacked in the halls of Congress and maligned in the media.

Worst, perhaps, the memories of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and CIA agents, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were dishonored for the purpose of a political agenda.

Writing in Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald called the Benghazi hearings “One of America’s Worst Political Outrages.”

The Republicans’ unseemly delight in Benghazi has even spread to political fundraising. There is the Stop Hillary PAC, which broadcast an ad about Clinton and Benghazi. The Virginia GOP held a “Beyond Benghazi” fundraiser where donors had to pay $75 to attend and $5,000 to sponsor the event. A blog post before the 2014 election by the National Republican Senate Committee stated, “Americans deserve the truth about Benghazi, and it’s clear Democrats will not give it to them. Donate today and elect a Republican Senate majority.”

But by far the most egregious examples of Republicans trying to raise money on the backs of the dead was by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the official GOP group that works to elect Republicans to the House. In a blog post on its fundraising website, the NRCC told supporters, “House Republicans will make sure that no one will get away from Gowdy and the Select Committee.’’ The NRCC also sent out an email that contained a link that led to part of the NRCC’s site with a URL that ended with the words “Benghazicoverup-contribute.” That page directly sought money for the committee’s political efforts under the words “You’re now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let’s go after Obama and Hillary Clinton.” Beneath that, and directly next to the suggested contribution levels, was a photograph of Clinton and Obama surrounded by the sentences “Benghazi Was a Coverup. Demand Answers.”

A word of explanation is in order regarding my identifying the Benghazi hearings as a Solution without a Problem. The death of four diplomats at Benghazi was surely a tragedy but not a problem that could be solved after the fact. As to the problem of learning ways to better protect Foreign Service employees, that had been fully addressed by the early investigations. The endless line of Benghazi committees had no more to do with improving embassy security than Voter ID laws are really intended to prevent ineligible voters from impersonating eligible ones at polling stations. Both were designed for transparently partisan advantage.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - SoluProb™: War on Terror

Jul. 28, 2016
Presumed Problem
America is at risk of being invaded by Islamic terrorists who will impose Sharia Law.

Solution

We must make war on terrorists abroad and be willing to give up many of our freedoms to allow the authorities to fight terrorists here in America.

Narrative

Elsewhere on this website, I have suggested that President Bush made a tragic mistake by declaring the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as acts of war rather than crimes. Traditionally, wars are a conflict between nations, although Americans have been quick to declare a War of Poverty, a War on Drugs, and now, a War on Terror. We even speak of a War on Women and a War on Christmas. War seems never far from our minds, when war, in almost all cases, is the most costly, least constructive solution to the problems we all face.

Clearly, we have had some difficulty identifying our enemy in the War on Terror, since there is no Terror Republic or Union of Terror. So the War of Terror initially identified Iraq as the enemy even though they had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks, nor were they planning to make war on the USA.

Some in the USA were willing to shift the enemy to the Islamic religion, and some Muslims in the Middle East were willing to support that reframing, calling themselves the only True Islamic Caliphate.

Soon the world was confronted with a movement known in the Middle East and parts of Europe as Daesh–often translated as “to trample and crush.” It is intended as an insult and a denial of the nationhood suggested by the the term Islamic State in the abbreviations, ISIS or ISIL. Ironically, whenever we use the terms ISIS or ISIL, we are granting statehood to the terrorist movement known as Daesh by those more directly confronting it.

Was the Problem Real?

Terrorism is real, especially in the Middle East and less extensively in Europe. However, the chance that you will be killed by “Islamic terrorists” in the USA is dwarfed by the likelihood of your dying at the hands of “Christian terrorists,” drive-by shootings, drunk drivers, lightning, or prescription-drug overdoses. While the risk is above zero, it is tiny.

Negative Consequences

One of the early consequences of the declaration of war on terrorism was the Patriot Act, passed by Congress on October 26, 2001, with the official title of “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” It was and remains controversial. Here are just a few of the actions allowed by the Act.

The Patriot Act allows “sneak and peek” searches of homes and businesses without the knowledge, let alone permission, or those who live or work there. Libraries can be forced to tell government agents what books you have taken from the library–and they are prohibited for letting you know that happened. The Act provides for sophisticated monitoring of telephones and emails.

“Suspected” terrorists can be arrested and held without an attorney indefinitely. If such suspects are brought to trial, those trials can be held in secret military tribunals. There is no guarantee of a trial by jury, no right to examine evidence, and an absense of other rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Operation TIPS program initially encouraged Americans to report anyone they thought might be a terrorist, though that program has evidently been cancelled. However, this illustrates the paranoia and hysteria engendered by putting the defense of terrorism on a wartime footing.

Some law enforcenent officials say the provisions of the Patriot Act have allowed them to prevent some acts of terrorism. Obviously, I am not in a position to verify or deny such claims, but I would point out that criminal acts, even acts of terrorism, have been dealt with effectively prior to the Patriot Act. In an earlier post on the US Invasion of Iraq in 2003, I reminded us of the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In that instance, President Clinton chose to frame the attack as a crime, and the existing law enforcement agents went into action. Eventually, the attackers were identified, arrested, tried, and punished. No Constitutional rights were set aside in that instance.

No one wants us to be defenseless against foreign or domestic acts of terror, but framing that defense as a War on Terror creates more problems than it solves. Except for the creation of a War on Terrorism, there would been no justification for invading Iraq, no destruction of Saddam Hussein’s heavy-handed control of radicals there, and very likely no Daesh. Thousands of American deaths and countless thousands of Iraqi deaths would have been avoided. It is hard to fathom the amount of devastation that has resulted from the “War on Terror”–so far.

Sources:

 

Note: 

This post was initially entitled, Birth Dearth. However, my previous practice has been to name posts after the Solution without a Problem rather than the presumed problem. Hence the name change.

Presumed Problem

The reduced fertility rate in the USA will cause economic and other problems.

Solution

Encourage Americans to have more babies.

Narrative

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich and David Brower published The Population Bomb, which was the first serious warning about overpopulation since Thomas Malthus published several editions of An Essay on the Principle of Population between 1798 and 1826. The Population Bomb led to the formation of Zero Population Growth (now Population Connection) and other research and activist organizations. Overpopulation became a hot button issue. It was seen as the chief cause of world hunger, resource depletion, and pollution, as well as aggravating international conflict, public health problems, species extinctions, and a host of other problems.

Despite the widespread concern and activity since 1968, the world’s population has more than doubled from 3.5 billion to 7.4 billion. The UN now predicts world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. The population of the USA has increased by more than half since 1968 from 207 million to 32o million).

Though world and American population has continued growing at what many consider an alarming rate there have been some signs of progress. In fact, some developed nations have reduced their fertility rates to below replacement (2.1 births per woman). Currently, the average American woman bears 1.87 children; German women 1.44; British women 1.89; Japanese women 1.4; Taiwanese women 1.12; Russian women 1.61; Canadian women 1.59 to name just a few.

The decline in fertility rates in the USA and elsewhere has generated the term, “birth dearth,” suggesting there are too few babies being born, with the fear there will be too few young people entering the labor force to provide for the needs of growing elderly populations.

 

Was the Problem Real?

This is a complex matter. In the short term, some of the problems associated with the “birth dearth” are real. The American economy, and other capitalistic economies, are fundamentally dependent on population growth: ever more consumers and more workers. Perhaps no one is experiencing these problems more seriously than the Japan, who have been actually shrinking their population in recent decades.

In the long run, however, population growth is a huge problem, far overshadowing any short-term adjustment needs when populations stop growing. This is particularly obvious in the impoverished countries who cannot currently feed their populations–and their rapidly growing numbers make their problems all the more impossible. Burundi, in Central Africa, is on course to double their population in 22 years. Niger, in West Africa, with the highest fertility rate in the world (over 7 births per woman) could triple by 2050.

Population growth is also a problem in the more prosperous, developed nations. Even wealthy countries have an impoverished underclass, and population growth increases their numbers and their needs. Moreover wealthier individuals have a greater per capita impact on the natural and social environments. They eat more, drive more, and waste more. They have larger lawns to water, a problem debated during the recent California drought.

However, focussing on the “birth dearth” in the USA, we must conclude the problem is simply non-existent. Yes, fertility rates have declined, but when immigration is added to the formula, America’s population continues to grow.

2000: 282.16 million

2001: 284.97 million

2002: 287.63 million

2003: 290.11 million

2004: 292.81 million

2005: 295.52 million

2006: 298.38 million

2007: 301.23 million

2008: 304.09 million

2009: 306.77 million

2010: 308.11 million

2011: 310.50 million

2012: 312.86 million

2013: 315.18 million

2014: 317.68 million

2015: 320.22 million

2016: 322.48 million

Pretty clearly, we are not running out of Americans. Some white supremacists may worry about the composition of the American population, and we sometimes hear blatant calls for more white babies, but any increase to population is a bad idea, regardless of race.

Negative Consequences

Frantically increasing the American fertility rate, would cause many problems, as I’ve already indicated. While an increase in new babies would benefit some businesses (you know who you are, Gerbers and Huggies), it would also require the society at large to provide increased medical services, housing, schools, libraries, truant officers, juvenile detention facilities, shopping centers, highways, etc. By the way, many of those needed expansions would reduce the land available for growing food, and we would need lots more food.

And given the unusually high standard of living of Americans as a whole, increasing our numbers has a more substantial impact on the planet than similar increases in developing countries. Adding a million Ethiopians presents big problems for Ethiopia, but adding a million Americans presents big problems for the whole world.

 

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources

Population Media Center

Global Fertility Rates

USA Population 2000-2016

Population projection

Posted on July 25, 2016Categories Uncategorized2 Comments on SoluProb™: More Babies

SoluProb™: Stand Your Ground Laws

Special Announcement

Other the past two months, I have posted a number of examples of what I’ve been calling Solutions without Problems (soluprobs). One of my purposes has been to engage others in this effort, and I want to start addressing that aspect now.

This post addresses what some feel is a solution without a problem: Stand Your Ground Laws. Rather than presenting my own analysis of this issue, I invite you to join with me and other viewers of the website in developing an analysis together. You’ll see below that I’ve asked questions regarding each topic in the analysis, and you can contribute to the answer of those questions with the Comment space below this post or by using the link at the top of the page. You can respond to all the questions or just some of them.

See the thoughtful comment by William Wann below, for example.

Depending on the responses I receive, I would like to create a composite post on the topic, and I would like to acknowledge any contributions you make to the exercise. (If you would like to participate but not be acknowledged, just let me know.)

Thanks in advance for your interest and your participation.

Presumed Problem

Innocent, law-abiding citizens were defenseless against armed intruders.

Solution

Laws that permit citizens to arm themselves and use lethal force, if necessary, to protect themselves and their homes.

Narrative

What are some of the key events leading up to the creation of Stand Your Ground laws? Examples of different states’ laws?

Was the Problem Real?

Are there any data that would suggest the initial, presumed problem was not a real one, that no solution was needed?

Negative Consequences

What have been some of the negative results experienced in connection with Stand Your Ground laws?

+ - SoluProb™: Drug-test Welfare Recipients

Jun. 27, 2016
Presumed Problem

There is a belief among some that welfare recipients will spend their welfare payments on drugs instead of food, medicine, clothing, and the like. Hence tax-payer dollars are possibly going to support drug abuse instead of helping the disadvantaged obtain necessities.

Solution

Make welfare recipients submit to drug tests as a condition for receiving support and revoke their payments if they test positive for drug use. It was  believed this would result in substantial savings for the government.

Narrative

The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that there have been discussions about drug-use and public assistance for some time, but 2009-2011 saw and large number of programs proposed, several of which were enacted into law. As of March, 2016,

At least 15 states have passed legislation regarding drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.)

Some of the drug-testing programs were halted in federal courts as unconstitutional but a number have now been in effect for a number of years. We now have enough experience with such programs that we can assess both how big the problem was and how much money can be saved by throwing drug-users off the welfare rolls.

Was the Problem Real?

In 2015, Brian P. Kelly and Josh at Salon.com pulled together information to evaluate several state programs. For example, their review of the 2009 Arizona program produced this conclusion:

But in 2012, three years and 87,000 screenings later, only one person had failed a drug test. Total savings from denying that one person benefits? $560. Total benefits paid out in that time? $200 million….Arizona officials believed that testing could save the state $1.7 million a year.

Arizona was not the only program to demonstrate the “problem” was not what law-makers had assumed, not was it the only one denied the financial windfall they expected to enjoy as they threw drug-users off the welfare rolls.

In one year, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee collectively tested 74,320 welfare recipients. In some cases, only recipients they believed to be users were tested. In these six states, a total of 424 of those tested produced positive results, or 0.6 percent, without even proving that welfare payments were used for the purchase of drugs in those rare instances. (Some people trade sex for drugs or do other favors.) Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 7.5 percent of the general public over 12 years of age currently use illegal drugs–mostly marijuana. So the “drug problem” among welfare recipients is less than one tenth what exists in the general public.

We have no reliable data regarding drug use among those politicians who pass bills for drug-testing welfare recipients. Surely Representative Trey Radel (R-FL) was not typical of the Congress, but after voting to require the drug-testing of Food Stamp recipients, he was arrested for cocaine possession and resigned from the Congress.

Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post commented:

Rep. Trey Radel voted in favor of drug-testing the folks who get food stamps.

In that case, why don’t we drug-test all people who get federal money? Let’s start with members of Congress!…

Yup, in Radel’s version of Absurdistan, it’s totally okay for a guy in a suit to use coke and collect a government paycheck, but a single mom who needs help buying milk for her kids has to be drug-tested before she gets one government dime.

Negative Consequences

Poor people have enough problems without having an additional serving of humiliation, which the testing results indicate was unwarranted. Drug-testing is an inconvenience for people working one or more minimum-wage jobs, and in some cases, the recipients are required to pay the costs of testing, though they may be reimbursed if the results were negative.

The financial situation is complex. In 2014, Missouri reportedly spent $336,297 to identify 48 drug-users. Arizona, with 142,424 welfare recipients between 2010 and 2014 only tested 19 recipients for a cost of $499.06. There is no report on the cost of administering the program aside from actual drug testing.

Florida has presented an especially complex situation. Governor Rick Scott has been strongly committed to requiring drug-tests for all welfare recipients as well as a random sampling of state workers. However, resistance by the ACLU, unions, and other parties forced the termination of the program after 4 months in 2001. Governor Scott settled the flurry of law suits at a cost of $1.5 million according to the Miami Herald: hardly the big savings tax-payers had been promised.

A different controversy arose over Governor Scott’s $62 million personal investment in Solantic, a health-services corporation already doing substantial business with the Florida state government. Some argued that Solantic could benefit further from a required drug-testing program. Perhaps to counter such criticisms, Governor Scott transferred his shares in Solantic to his wife. In any event, drug-testing of welfare recipients in Florida is on hold at present.

Overall, drug-testing welfare recipients has proven to be another solution without a problem. And as we’ve seen other cases, that “solution” caused a set of problems that didn’t exist before.

Sources:

+ - SoluProb™: Resist Jade Helm 15 Invasion

May 2, 2016
Presumed Problem

In the summer of 2015, it was widely believed in Texas that they were about to be invaded by the United States Army in an operation labeled Jade Helm 15.

Solution

Governor Greg Abbot called upon the Texas National Guard to monitor the exercise and insure Texas was not under attack. Other public officials expressed concern.

Narrative

In fact, the Army did plan summer training exercises in a number of states: Texas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Utah. Some 1200 Green Berets and Navy Seals would participate in Jade Helm 15: some playing the part of an invading force and others playing the part of the resistance. Most of the action would occur in unoccupied, arid terrain, but where some small towns were involved, residents were briefed in advance. The purpose was to train the military in how to avoid an invasion of the USA by hostile forces.

Nonetheless, some feared the “exercise” was a ruse with darker motives. Jim Shea, reporting in the Hartford Courant, nicely summed up the key elements of the conspiracy theory.

That Jade Helm 15 is actually a psychological operation aimed at getting people used to seeing the military on the streets so they will not be tipped off when the invasion actually happens.

That Jade Helm 15 is an international operation (UN vehicles have been spotted) whose goal is to seize everyone’s guns.

That the military plans to round up political dissidents.

In addition to the rounding up of dissidents and political leaders, Shea adds one final element in the conspiracy theory.

That the military is secretly using recently closed Wal-Marts to stockpile supplies for Chinese troops who will be arriving to disarm Americans. (I have to say this is my personal favorite.)

One public opinion poll found a third of registered Republicans in Texas believed invasion was in the offing. This included half of those supporting the Tea Party. So, there was concern in the general public, but how about the public officials who could calm those fears?

On April 28, 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released the following letter:

To address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15.

During the Operation’s eight-week training period… I expect to receive regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.

During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed. By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Bloomberg News he had discussed Jade Helm 15 with the Pentagon and reached this conclusion:

We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.

Texas Congressman, Louie Gohmert, expressed his concerns this way:

Once I observed the map depicting ‘hostile,’ ‘permissive,’ and ‘uncertain’ states and locations, I was rather appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority, ‘cling to their guns and religion,’ and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution.

Former Governor Rick Perry tried to offer some reassurance to Texans. While saying there was every reason to question the civilian leadership of the nation, he had complete faith in the men and women making up the U. S. military.

Was the Problem Real?

No. There was no invasion of the Southwestern U. S., no American citizens were taken prisoner. It was simply an hysterical conspiracy theory, though there may be some in the Lone Star State who still believe the National Guard fought off the invaders.

Negative Consequences

I suppose a negative of the “Solution” would be the cost of engaging the National Guard and the disruption of Guardsmen’s lives. In addition, the reaction put Texas on the plate of humorists and comedians across the country. One T-shirt read: “I went to Texas to fight Jade Helm 15 and all I got was this tinfoil hat.” In addition to making the state look silly, the widespread conspiracy theory and the public officials who seemed to take it seriously fueled the existing political paranoia in Texas and across the nation. We seem to have survived Jade Helm 15.

But watch out for the zombie invasion.

Sources:

+ - SoluProb™: Outlaw Marijuana

Apr. 19, 2016
Presumed Problem

There has been a widespread fear that marijuana can drive people crazy, lead them to other drugs, initiate a life of crime, and possibly cause death. Those who have tried it tend to disagree with these horrific assessments.

Solution

Outlaw the use of marijuana, especially if it is used for pleasure.

Narrative

Marijuana (aka: cannabis, Mary Jane, grass, pot, weed, ganja, dope, herb, joint, pakalolo, tea, homegrown, doobie, and more) is illegal by federal law in the United States and, until recently, in all states of the union. This legal status dates back to the “Reefer Madness” caricature of the 1930s. Marijuana is officially classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with opium, LSD, morphine, heroin, and others. Cocaine, by contrast, is classified as a less dangerous drug: Schedule 2.

The outlawing of marijuana is now part of a broader “war on drugs,” a term first popularized during the Nixon administration. It is estimated that the current war on drugs in the USA costs some $51 billion a year.

The prohibition on marijuana has begun breaking down, however.  In Colorado (2012), Washington (2012), Oregon (2014), and Alaska (2014), possession of small amounts of marijuana became legal. In 2014, it was also legalized in the District of Columbia, though, as of this writing, some in the U. S. Congress are threatening to overturn that vote by District citizens.

Was the Problem Real?

At the outset, we reviewed some of the reasons given for outlawing marijuana in the first place: the “problem” for which banning grass was a “solution.”  We have now had enough experience with legalized marijuana use to begin evaluating whether there was a problem in the first place.

So far, there has still never been a recorded death due to marijuana: excluding someone getting stoned and falling off a cliff. There is ample evidence of deaths due to alcohol, tobacco, heroin, and other drugs, but none from marijuana.

How about marijuana as a gateway drug? There is no evidence to resolve this matter one way or the other, but some logic might be useful. When and where marijuana is illegal, users are required, by definition, to buy grass from criminals. Many of those criminals also sell other illegal drugs. It is reasonable to imagine that illegal drug-dealers will encourage marijuana purchasers to try something more potent (and with a higher profit margin for the seller).

Now consider the carefully scrutinized LEGAL merchants in, say, Colorado. How likely do you imagine it is that a pot store clerk will say, “I see you have a fondness for Acapulco Gold and Maui Wowie. Can I interest you in some meth, cocaine, or heroin?” And if logic isn’t enough, there has been no evidence of that gateway problem.

There is no solid evidence that marijuana is deadly by itself, nor, logically, would legal grass lead to harder drugs.

Negative Consequences

There is an inevitable comparison between the war on drugs and Prohibition from 1917 to 1933. The Volstead Act and the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution heralded a violently colorful saga in American history, with Carrie Nation, the Anti-saloon League, and the Women’s Christian Temperance League, on the one hand, and the bootleggers such as Al Capone, on the other hand. In between were millions of ordinary citizens who managed to keep drinking anyway.

The illegal status of alcohol generated a number of negative side-effects. There was violence in law enforcement attempts to shut down “speakeasies,” for example. But there was also violent competition among those violating the law—most dramatically evidenced in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Perhaps the biggest difference between the drive-by shootings of the Prohibition era and the current war on drugs is that the cars of the 1930s had running boards where machine-gunners could stand.

The violence generated by Prohibition came to an end in one day: December 5, 1933. On that day, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, and alcohol was once again legal. There was no longer a need for bootlegging nor the violent competition among bootleggers.

The most deadly side-effect of marijuana use is legal. In 2013, over 600,000 Americans were arrested for possession of marijuana. It has been estimated that more than 200,000 students have lost their federal financial aid eligibility due to drug convictions.

The total repeal of anti-manijuana laws would have an immediate impact on the imprisonment of young people guilty of lighting up a joint. Moreover, legalizing marijuana would automatically do away with the problems flowing from the illegal pot trade. There might very well be drive-by shootings and other violence associated with other drugs, but the most popular one would have been taken out of the equation.

Again, we see the the “problem” was not real, but the “solution” was disastrous.

Source:

http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-war-statistics, accessed July 14, 2015.

 

+ - SoluProb™: Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids

Apr. 19, 2016
Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids

Presumed Problem

It has been asserted that vaccinations, such as flu shots or children’s innoculations are more dangerous than the illnesses they are intended to prevent.

Solution

Stop vaccination programs, especially for kids.

Narrative

It would be impossible to estimate how many human lives have been saved thanks to the research and experimentation of Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur in their developing the idea and procedures for immunization against diseases through vaccination. When people contract a disease like smallpox or influenza, their bodies set to work creating anti-bodies to counteract the disease. If they are lucky enough to survive the disease, they are subsequently immune to it. Vaccination involves infecting the patient with a very small dose of the disease, leading the patient’s body to create those anti-bodies that will protect against the real thing should the patient later be exposed to it.

You are probably familiar with this process in two ways. First, children in modern societies are routinely vaccinated against such diseases as diphtheria, typhoid, measles, mumps, and rubella among other potential threats. If you are older, you may have formed the habit of getting an annual flu shot and a periodic pneumonia shot. These have become standard fixtures in modern life. (I haven’t had the flu in years.)

There has always been a small degree of resistance to the practice of vaccinations, especially for young children, but that has been a distinctly minority view. Beginning in 2011, however, this resistance gained political currency and some politicians were urging parents to avoid vaccinating their children. In one well-known instance, then-Congresswoman and Republican presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann reportedly was contacted by a supporter who said her child had developed autism subsequent to being vaccinated. Bachmann concluded from that story that vaccinations may cause autism, and the bandwagon began.

Two years earlier, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, another Republican candidate for President, had ordered that sixth-grade girls be vaccinated against human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. As the primary campaign heated up, Bachmann had an issue that distinguished her from Perry.

Soon, most politicians were being routinely asked where they stood on childhood vaccination. Many tried to evade the question, often taking the libertarian position that parents should decide for themselves. Senator Rand Paul, M.D., went a step further, reporting that in the Swine Flu scare of 2009, more people died of the shot than of the flu. However, he offered no numbers to flesh out that claim.

Was the Problem Real?

There are so many forms of vaccine used with so many different kinds of people in different situations that it would probably be foolhardy to make global generalizations. However, there has been enough research on the 2009 Swine Flu epidemic that we can test the assertion made by Rand Paul.

During the pandemic itself estimates of deaths varied widely, partly due to a varying quality of medical reporting in different countries. Other factors complicated the accounting. Let’s say you are an older person, coping with a chronic cardiovascular problem. As long as you watch your behavior and take your medication, you get by. However, the flu could very well push you over the edge and into cardiac arrest. The cause of death, then would probably be recorded as heart attack, even though the flu was what prompted your demise. For several years following the pandemic, it was commonly reported that the number of deaths was between 151,700 and 579,000—quite a range.

By 2013, an international group of scientists had evaluated and analyzed all the data available from around the world and concluded that as many as 203,000 people died of the swine flu. As large a number of deaths as that represented, Senator Paul asserted even more died of the flu shots.

Worldwide that year, it is estimated that fewer than 1500 people died of the flu shot, however. In short Dr. Paul’s report was off by more than a factor of more than 100 to 1. In case 1500 deaths worldwide still seems like a lot, it is worth noting that 22,000 Americans died that year due to reactions to presecribed drugs.

Clearly, people were better advised to get vaccinated than to avoid it. The problem he and his colleagues sought to “solve” didn’t exist. However, the “solution” had consequences of its own.

Negative Consequences

Many parents became so confused that they chose what they regarded as the conservative path and withheld vaccinating their children. One consequence was a widespread measles epidemic in California. Not only were schoolchildren suffering the preventable disease but vulnerable populations, such as the very elderly and very young were put at risk.

In the midst of this public health regression, another rumor began to spread. It was said that those who were vaccinated could infect those who were not. The medical community’s response was that (1) it was conceivable but would be extremely rare and (2) if it did happen, the unvaccinated party would “catch the vaccine,” not the disease itself. In other words, they would become vaccinated.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

+ - SoluProb™: Banning Sharia Law

Apr. 19, 2016
Presumed Problem

Muslims in America may arrange for Qu’ran-based Sharia Law to govern states or other political subdivisions.

Solution

Amendments to state constitutions that prohibit the imposition of Sharia Law.

Narrative

In 2010, Oklahomans worried that the hawks “makin’ lazy circles in the sky” might be Islamic terrorists about to establish Sharia Law in the Sooner State.

Probably most Americans have heard at least some mention of Sharia Law, a system of theocratic governance and laws in several predominantly-Muslim countries in the Middle East. Sharia Law is based on the Qu’ran, traditional commentaries on the Qu’ran, and traditions from Islamic culture over time. There is no single Sharia Law, and variations exist from country to country. Topics covered include religion, family, food, finances, crime and punishment, war and peace among others.

Some of the rules may seem harsh by contemporary Western standards. Pre-marital sex (Zina) may warrant 100 lashes. A thief may have his or her hand cut off. And a Muslim who leaves Islam for some other religion may face execution. Little wonder that the good folks of Oklahoma wanted no part of it. When it was placed on the ballot in 2010, the anti-Sharia-Law Constitutional Amendment was approved by 70% of the voters. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) both sued to have the measure revoked, and in 2012, the Circuit Court of Appeals did just that, saying it violated the U. S. Constitution.

While the courts struck down the Oklahoma Anti-Sharia-Law Amendment, that did not prevent Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Tennessee from following suit. In their defense it must be said that none of those states has been forced to submit to Sharia Law. Dodged the bullet on that one.

But why did this come about in the first place? The Ban Sharia Law website states the case this way, with a petition to be signed:

This petition is meant to create national awareness of  the “Creeping Sharia” threat to America, and to show all of our federal and state legislators that “We The People”, want the Constitution upheld and our American laws protected!

The “Creeping Sharia” threat is further detailed in three stages.

Islam is a totalitarian political system, usually introduced into western countries through three phases. The first phase introduces Islam as “tolerant” and peaceful, intentionally deceiving westerners, using“taqqiya,” Qur’an- sanctioned deceit.

The second phase uses “lawfare” to destroy a country from within using its own laws. And, by the time the third phase is implemented “no-go zones” and violence . . .

Much of the hysteria over creeping Sharia Law in America can be traced to an astounding National Report account of one example of Sharia Law becoming the law of the land in the USA.

In a surprise weekend vote, the city council of Dearborn, Michigan voted 4-3 to became the first US city to officially implement all aspects of Sharia Law.  The tough new law, slated to go into effect January 1st, addresses secular law including crime, politics and economics as well as personal matters such as sexual intercourse, fasting, prayer, diet and hygiene.

The new law could see citizens stoned for adultery or having a limb amputated for theft. Lesser offenses, such as drinking alcohol or abortion, could result in flogging and/or caning. In addition, the law imposes harsh laws with regards to women and allows for child marriage.

Was the Problem Real?

The above National Report story has fueled hysteria across the country. Several political office seekers have used it to support an anti-Muslim agenda. In branding the story False, the Snopes fact-checking service quotes the National Report’s own disclaimer page: “National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.” In other words, the story was intended as a joke, though there was obviously a pool of belief waiting for it.

On the same webpage as the Dearborn story was another in which Bristol Palin revealed that her mother never taught her to tell time. “I know it’s something about the big hand and the little hand. That’s as far as we got.” Another story proclaims, “ISIS Leaders Praise Kim Davis – First Female to Win ISIS Courage Award.”

Except in the worlds of satire or anti-Muslim fantasy, there seems to be no imminent threat of Sharia Law being established in the USA. It is estimated that one percent of the U. S. population is Muslim, making a forceful overthrow of the U. S. A. unlikely. The several Anti-Sharia-Law state constitutional amendments are another example of solutions without problems.

Negative Consequences

The primary consequence of these anti-Sharia measures is the stirring up of anti-Muslim hysteria among low-information citizens. Americans have long suffered from a takeover mentality. Only the culprits supposedly taking over has varied: Jews, Irish, Italians, Catholics, atheists, African-Americans, Mexicans, and others.

During the 2016 presidential campaigns, Donald Trump had no trouble heating up the pre-existing bigotry toward Muslims: saying he would refuse entry of any Muslims to the United States and even taking actions against those already living in America, including native born citizens. The threat to take actions against American Muslims, quite aside from moral and legal aspects, would need to confront the fact that Americans are never asked to record their religion when registering to vote, get a driver’s license, enroll in school, etc. However, logic was no match for hatred.

Once again, we find citizens and their governments moved to install “solutions” for which there is no problem. But the phony solution causes problems of its own.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - Group Punishment

Apr. 19, 2016
Dr. Earl Babbie

From time to time, I will present some thoughts on Solutions without Problems (soluprobs) as a general phenomenon. For example, they often take the form of “Group Punishment.”

When I have said elsewhere that a problem doesn’t exist, that is sometimes a slight exaggeration. For example, Voter ID laws are designed to prevent in-person election fraud: pretending to be someone else, someone who is eleigible to vote. All the studies of this problem conclude that it is extremely rare, but it does happen in a few cases.

Similarly, a Michigan legislator proposed forcing foster chlldren to purchase clothes from thrift shops as a way of preventing foster parents from spending the children’s clothing allowance on booze. (I was never clear on the logic of that.) He never offered evidence as to how much clothing allowance was being boozed away or whether the problem really existed at all. But let’s be momentarily cyncial and assume it happens sometimes.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume there were NO witches in Colonial Salem, but I think it’s fair to say that many of the other examples discussed on this website are solutions to problems that are RARE but may occur sometimes.

I would suggest there are two reasonable responses to problems that almost never happen.

Option One: ignore them. Life isn’t perfect. No matter how hard we try to prevent problems, a few slip through the cracks–and we survive.

Option Two: track down the specific instances of the rare problem and sanction them. If somebody tries to vote using someone else’s name, arrest them, try them, and put them in prison. If you discover foster parents spending the clothing allowance on booze, arrest them, try them, and put them in prison–at the very least, don’t let them be foster parents.

Make sense? Of course. More commonly, however, when we sense that a problem exists, we establish a “solution” that applies to everyone, the few wrongdoers and the great majority of straight arrows. Everyone has to get a Voter ID card, the vast majority of whom are eligible voters who have never cheated at the polls. What’s the likely impact of this group punishment?

Those who were doing nothing wrong are suddenly burdened with sanctions they don’t deserve. All those foster parents who spent the kids’ clothing allowance on, well, clothing for the kids now face limits on how to do their jobs. They probably have to fill out forms and jump through other hoops. Moreover, they will know that those in government assume they are misusing the funds, when they have been doing nothing but good.

How about those few wrong-doers? Do you think there’s any chance they’ll figure out a way to get around the new rules? Maybe they’ll forge receipts, find thrift store employees who’ll look the other way, etc. Officials who are busy applying the rules to all the innocent foster parents will probably miss the few bad apples.

All this can be avoided easily. Before taking action, measure the problem. See if it’s big enough to deserve a one-size-fits-all solution. If it’s not all that big a problem, ignore it or deal with the few cases that do exist. Don’t punish all the people who are playing by the rules.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

+ - SoluProb™: War of 1812

Apr 19, 2016
Presumed Problem

The British were boarding American vessels, taking sailors believed to be British, including some Americans, and forcing them into service in the British navy: a practice known as impressment.

Solution

Declare war on the world’s great naval power and make them stop impressing our seamen.

Narrative

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was not the first time the USA used war as the solution to a non-existent problem. For another example, we’ll look at one of America’s oddest wars, one that is little understood by Americans: the War of 1812.

At the opening of the 19th century, Britain was caught up in a long, expensive war with Napoleon Bonaparte and France. America was theoretically neutral, which offended both parties, but American merchantmen were actively supplying France much of the time. Matters were further complicated by divided loyalties among American citizens. For many, England was still felt as their cultural homeland, despite political independence. Others felt a special loyalty to the land of LaFayette for their support of the American fight for independence decades earlier. Still others saw an opportunity for money to be made.

American-British relations became more strained through the policy of impressment. As the French war dragged on, a number of British seamen had decided to desert the British Navy sign on with American ships for better pay and less danger. At the same time, Britain was feeling the pinch of diminishing resources–and the lack of able-bodied seamen was part of the problem. The British solution was to begin boarding American commercial ships at sea and capturing any crew members who seemed to be British–including some American citizens. The captured seamen were impressed into service on British ships of the line. American unhappiness with Britain also involved economic issues, but outrage at the impressment of American seamen was a powerful rallying cry.

The British policy of stopping American merchantmen at sea, which laid the grounding for inspecting the crews and seizing any believed to be British, was known as “Orders in Council,” first enacted on January 7, 1807. American official protests to Britain were to no avail, and the British continued stopping American commercial vessels at sea and impressing any seamen who looked and sounded British. President James Madison became convinced that more deliberate action was needed, and he lobbied Congress for a declaration of war against the most powerful nation on earth. Congress was reluctant, but Madison’s urging finally paid off with a divided vote in his favor, and he was able to sign a declaration of war on June 18, 1812.

The war that followed was not America’s most gallant. Initially, Britain ignored the declaration of war as something of a farce. America’s navy was hardly a threat to the British fleet. America decided to make the war more real through several invasions of Canada. All failed, despite a relative lack of support from Britain for the locals. Canadians celebrate the War of 1812 as their own War for Independence. Americans were the bad guys in that version of the war.

Once the British had defeated Napoleon’s troops in Europe, they were able to turn their attention to the annoying fuss across the pond. As you may recall, the British invaded Maryland, marched to the nation’s capital in Washington, trashed the city and burned the White House. You may have read about FLOTUS Dolly Madison’s heroism as she stayed in the White House until she was able to rescue important documents and paintings–fleeing the city just ahead of the British firebugs.

So, all things considered, the war wasn’t going really well for the Americans. But I’m sure you know of the one shining exception: thanks in large part to singer Johnny Horton. The Battle of New Orleans, culminating on January 8, 1815, was America’s finest engagement in the war. Overwhelming British forces under the command of the great British general, Edward Pakenham, faced off against General Andrew Jackson and a smaller, less professional, less experienced American force.

The final score sheet for the battle was as lopsided as such things can be. The British lost 2600 men: 700 of them died in battle, 1400 were wounded, and another 500 were taken prisoner. On the other side, 7 Americans died and another 6 were wounded.

Another oddity about the January 8th, 1815, battle had to do with timing. Being fought 167 years before the advent of the internet, 110 years before television, and 43 years before the transatlantic telegraph cable, the Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks after the Peace Treaty of Ghent ended the war.

Was the Problem Real?

What qualifies the War of 1812 for inclusion in this project? While the practice of impressment had been a “recruitment” policy for the British navy for centuries, American Independence saw treaty procedures for the return of any Americans falsely impressed in the belief that they were British. (The common language and lack of formal birth certificates made some degree of erroneous impressment inevitable.) John Deeben argues that the size of the problem was much less than commonly imagined. Moreover, he offers federal archival evidence that the United States was also impressing seamen into service and, like the British, made mistakes as regards the nationality of their new recruits.

In June, 1812, in response to American complaints, Britain repealed the “Orders in Council” that allowed them to board American ships at sea. Two days later, James Madison signed the declaration of war. Obviously the U. S. did not know about the suspension of the Orders until after war had been declared, but it was known before serious fighting began.

All historians seem to agree that the British stopped the practice of impressment altogether upon the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. Thus, the presumed cause of the war had completely disappeared prior to the invasion of Maryland, the burning of Washington, and the Battle of New Orleans. While impressment, real and imagined, may have been a key problem for which war was the intended solution, it ceased as a problem before the war commenced and was surely not a problem that could be solved by the most dramatic events of the war.

Negative Consequences

Well, let’s see: the British burned the White House and most of Washington. There was expense, destruction, and loss of life throughout the young nation.

While Britain may have learned to take the USA a little more seriously, Canada learned not to. Any visions the Americans had for annexing their northern neighbors were dashed in the War of 1812.

I mentioned earlier that President Madison had some trouble getting Congressional approval for the way, and the division of opinion was largely regional. New England was generally opposed, and the war’s conclusion left some bitter feelings on both sides of the issue. To some degree, the Southern hawks viewed Northern opposition as disloyalty to the nation.

The South suffered in another way. Prior to the war, they were able to maintain a view that their slaves were contented with their status. However, when the British offered freedom to any slaves who would join them, and many slaves deserted their masters and did precisely that. What must have been a disappointment to slaveholders was a preview to a similar disenchantment later on,  in the Civil War.

Compared to other American wars, the negative consequences of the War of 1812 were relatively mild, but we need to remember it was a solution to a problem that didn’t really exist.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

  • An excellent history of the War of 1812 is Troy Bickham’s The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Consequences of the War of 1812

+ - SoluProb™: TRAP Laws

Apr. 19. 2016
Presumed Problem

Women seeking abortions in abortion clinics face special risks to their health and safety.

Solution

Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws seek to remedy the presumed problem by requiring that clinics satisfy major physical-plant specifications and requiring that those physicians providing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Narrative

In 1973, the U. S. Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the nation in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. While that brought about profound changes for women’s reproductive rights, it probably changed very few minds on the topic. Resistance to abortion has persisted and numerous legislative actions have sought to chip away at women’s right to choose an abortion.

One form this resistance has taken is the TRAP laws that raise the bar to practice so high that few clinics can satisfy the requirements. The Guttmacher Institute provides an overview.

While all abortion regulations apply to abortion clinics, some go so far as to apply to physicians’ offices where abortions are performed or even to sites where only medication abortion is administered. Most requirements apply states’ standards for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, even though surgical centers tend to provide more invasive and risky procedures and use higher levels of sedation. These standards often include requirements for the physical plant, such as room size and corridor width, beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety in the event of an emergency. State standards, however, do vary, with the most burdensome standards in place in states such as Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

Prior to the institution of TRAP laws in Texas, the state’s women had access of 36 abortion providers scattered across the very large state. The website, Fund Texas Women, provides this update:

As of June 9, 2015, the Fifth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of HB2 except as applied to Whole Woman’s Health McAllen. This leaves 10 clinics. The only cities that have clinics now are Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, and McAllen.

Texas has not been alone in anti-abortion legislation. Bloomberg News offers a visual report on the number of anti-abortion measures in state legislatures over time. They are clearly on the increase.

Was the Problem Real?

There has evidently been a substantial concern for the safety of women getting an abortion. Has that concern and the resulting solutions been justified?

As the Center for Reproductive Rights reports:

Leading medical associations have gone on record opposing TRAP requirements. For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose a Texas law requiring abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical facilities requirements and physicians providing abortion services to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. In a court brief, those two leading medical associations argued that the Texas law “does not serve the health of women in Texas but instead jeopardizes women’s health by restricting access to abortion providers.”

While it is often argued that women’s safety requires that abortion clinics and abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals in the event that emergency medical care is needed. Actually, President Reagan and the U. S. Congress solved this problem in its Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986, requiring that emergency rooms treat patients in need–even if they aren’t citizens or are unable to pay. It doesn’t matter if their physician has admitting privileges or even if they have a physician.

The argument that TRAP laws have nothing to do with women’s safety and are merely an attempt to prevent them from getting abortions has been given additional support  by the pronouncements of various anti-abortion crusaders.

For example, in 2011, Ohio Right to Life executive director, Mike Gonidakis, said precisely that. NARAL has provided a transcript from the video recording:

We’re going to introduce a law in Ohio that any facility that performs… five abortions or more in a year have to meet the same standards as a hospital… to the point where they’re not going to be able to stay open…We’ve been chipping away and closing and closing and closing, and if we get this legislation we can close a whole heck of a lot more.

Mississippi Governor Bryant heralded the passage of his state’s TRAP laws as “the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on: to say that we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.” The law was later blocked by a federal judge, who pointed out that no case had been made regarding women’s health and safety.

Ironically, abortions can pose a threat to the health and safety of women, as this graph from the Guttmacher Institute dramatically shows.

In 1965, 200 women died of illegal abortions. Following the liberalization of state laws on abortion and, finally, the federal legalization of abortion by Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion mortality dropped off to virtually nothing. As long as abortion is legal, there is virtually no threat to women’s health and safety, while driving us back to earlier times would very likely start killing women again.

Negative Consequences

I’ve just alluded to a major problem flowing from the unnecessary TRAP laws: to the extent that shutting down legal abortion providers will force some women to seek truly dangerous alternatives. Thus alleged attempts to protect women will endanger them.

For women who try to adapt to the restrictive circumstances they now face, there will be necessary time and financial costs. Single mothers working low-paying jobs, for example, may need to take time off work to drive a hundred or so miles for consultation and then again, later, for treatment.

The clear effect of TRAP laws in Texas and elsewhere is to make it harder for women to obtain safe, legal abortions. A study by the University of Texas at Austin, summarized the logistical difficulty for Texas women this way:

Researchers analyzed surveys from 398 women seeking abortions at ten Texas abortion facilities between May and August 2014. The analysis shows that women whose nearest clinic had closed after HB2, which was the case for 38 percent of study participants, lived farther from open clinics and traveled longer distances to obtain services compared to women whose nearest clinic remained open. After HB2, the average one-way distance to the nearest abortion provider among women whose nearest clinic closed was 70 miles, compared to an average one-way distance to the nearest clinic of 17 miles before HB2 was passed. Some women confronted extreme travel burdens due to clinic closures, with 25 percent of women whose nearest clinic closed living more than 139 miles from the nearest facility and 10 percent living more than 256 miles away.

However, the Texas TRAP laws were not just inconvenient for women but expensive as well.

The study also documented increased out-of-pocket costs, overnight stays, and frustrated demand for medication abortion among women whose nearest clinic closed after HB2. Thirty-two percent of women whose nearest clinic closed reported spending more than $100 in out-of-pocket expenses beyond the cost of the abortion (i.e., lost wages, child care, transportation, or overnight costs) as opposed to 20 percent of women whose nearest clinic did not close. More than three times the number of women whose nearest clinic had closed reported needing to stay overnight (16 percent compared to 5 percent among those whose nearest clinic did not close). Thirty-seven percent of women whose nearest clinic closed did not get the medication abortion they wanted—instead scheduling a surgical procedure—as opposed to 22 percent of women whose nearest clinic did not close. Women themselves noted the burdens to obtaining care, with 36 percent of women whose nearest clinic closed reporting that obtaining an abortion was difficult, in comparison to 18 percent in the nearest-clinic-open group.

This is also a truly ironic negative consequence of many of the TRAP laws. Much of the anti-abortion anger has been focused specifically on one provider: Planned Parenthood. Discussions of this matter have revealed that abortions constitute three percent of PP’s services. Primarily they offer cancer screening and other medcal exams and treatments. As their name suggests, much of their work is in relation to family planning, offering a variety of contraceptive methods.

As Planned Parenthood clinics are closed by TRAP laws, women are denied contraceptive support. The lack of contraception results in more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. This means more women are in the market for abortions. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that publicly-funded family planning in the U. S. annually prevents nearly two million wanted pregnancies that would have resulted in 810,000 abortions.  Thus, closing family planning clinics will likely increase the number of abortions.

If one were to argue honestly that the real problem being addressed was women’s ability to obtain abortions as guaranteed by the Supreme Court, TRAP laws would be a logical though unlawful solution. However, the pretense that the problem involves risks to women’s safety in abortion clinics is plainly false.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - SoluProb™: Restrict Transgender Use of Bathrooms

Apr. 15, 2016
Presumed Problem

Transgender people will use public restrooms inconsistent with their biological sex, making others uncomfortable or fearful. Specifically, biologically-male trans women may molest little girls.

Solution

Laws, such as North Carolina’s HB2, requiring people to use public restrooms consistent with the sex originally recorded on their birth certificates.

Narrative

While this issue is in flux, anything I write now may be out of date by the time you read it. However, this is such a perfect example of a soluprob that I can’t let it go by unheralded.

I’ll admit it: things were simpler when I was growing up. Every school I attended had a “Boys Room” and a “Girls Room,” and nobody had any confusion over which to use, even though boys, girls, men, and women all used the same bathroom at home. Similarly, boys liked girls, and girls liked boys, except when the girls had cooties or the boys were doodoo heads. In recent decades, many of these old certainties have dissolved. It’s not so much that people have changed, but that we’ve begun acknowledging  and even accepting variations that were there all along.

Other posts on this website deal with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but the issue of transgender individuals is different. When I was young, some girls were labeled “tomboys,” meaning they engaged in the rough and tumble behavior more associated with boys. While parents might sometimes be concerned, it was generally felt that such girls would eventually “grown out of it,” that they were just “going through a phase.” That was often true.

Today we realize matters are more complex than earlier assumed. Some
boys feel in their bones that they should have been girls. They share the interests and desires more associated with girls, even though they are likely to suffer ridicule or worse if they play with dolls and wear dresses and make-up. And there are individuals born biologically female, who are certain they were meant to be male. And they are clear it is not a phase they are going through. It lasts well into adulthood.

In 2015, this issue was brought front and center when former athlete Bruce Jenner announced to the world that he/she was now Caitlyn. She was not gay, saying she still was sexually attracted to women rather than men, but she just felt more natural dressing and acting like a woman. Some transgender individuals carry their gender modification to the extent of surgery that converts them from one biological sex to another. These are transsexuals, but not all transgender individuals go that far.

As American society has grown generally more tolerant of human diversity in recent decades, the possibility of living a transgendered life without fuss has increased. It has become more feasible to operate in society with no one being the wiser. There is probably an analogy to be drawn to light-skinned African-Americans “passing” as white earlier in our history.

None of this means that everyone is comfortable with people choosing to change genders. The existing discomfort has focussed primarily on the use of gym facilities and public restrooms. We’ll examine the latter in this post. I think it’s fair to say that the issue is specifically one of concern over trans women using Women’s Rooms. Some women say the thought makes them uncomfortable or even fearful, and some men express concern that their daughters may be molested.

As I am writing this, the most notorious representation of this “problem” and its “solution” is North Carolina’s HB2 (Session Law 2016-3):

AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR SINGLE-SEX MULTIPLE OCCUPANCY BATHROOM AND CHANGING FACILITIES IN SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC AGENCIES AND TO CREATE STATEWIDE CONSISTENCY IN REGULATION OF EMPLOYMENT AND PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS.

The meat of the law specifies:

Public Agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.

The law also specifies that no one may bring suit against the law on the basis of discrimination, nor are municipalities permitted to institute non-discriminatory laws permitting transgender use of public toilets. At the same time the law reminds us that the State of North Carolina is wholly opposed to discrimination on the basis of biological sex.

The law was subsequently declared in violation of federal civil rights legislation, but the drama is not over. Before leaving the Republican presidential primary, Senator Ted Cruz expressed his whole-hearted opposition to transgender bathroom privileges, while Donald Trump initially seemed sympathetic to transgenders’ full bladders, but he quickly changed positions when attacked from the Right.

As I write these words, North Carolina and the Federal government are suing and counter-suing each other, respectively, and students are being advised to take pepper spray, looking for a problem to solve. It’s clear that this post will be revised more than once in the future, just as it’s clear that HB2 was a soluprob: A “Solution” without a “Problem.”

Was the Problem Real?

Specification of the presumed problem has pretty much lingered as a matter of “you know.” In comments online, some women have said they would feel uncomfortable if a “man” came into a Women’s Room while they were using it, but it’s difficult to pin the discomfort down further than that.

I am told that all public restrooms for women consist of enclosed stalls. Thus it seems unlikely that a trans woman using a Women’s Room would result in the display or viewing of opposite-sex genitalia. Apparently there’s something about just knowing that a biological man just entered the facility, but it seems unlikely that you would know. No woman is likely to call the police if her public facility is visited by the person to the right of this paragraph.

On the other hand, I could understand that reaction if this guy came breezing in. As you undoubtedly figured out, the person above is a trans woman, while the one to the left is a trans man. More to the point, I imagine that those women who say they would feel uncomfortable if a trans woman entered their Women’s Restroom, have already had that happen, more than once, but they didn’t know it. Hence, they weren’t uncomfortable after all.

Going a step beyond mere discomfort, as I’ve mentioned, there are some women, who are genuinely fearful. There’s no denying the very real problem of men abusing women, sexually and otherwise. However, I can find no record of a trans woman molesting women or girls in a public restroom.

A recent web poster points out that more Republican ministers have been arrested for sexual offenses in public restrooms. Without denying that the fears some women have are real for them, those fears are apparently groundless, like the fear of zombies or vampires. This is  clearly a “solution” without a “problem.” In fact, it could be argued that transgender use of public restrooms was not even seen as a problem until laws like HB2 drew attention to the matter and made it a political issue.

Negative Consequences

While a law discriminating against any particular group of people has negative consequences for members of that group, substantial public damage has been done to the Great State of North Carolina and its economy. Seeing the law as blatantly anti-LGBT, numerous individuals and organizations have retaliated against the state.

Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons, Ringo Starr, and other performers cancelled concerts scheduled in North Carolina. Others, like Jimmy Buffett and Greg Allman said they would keep scheduled concert dates, but they were very vocal in condemning the law. Cyndi Lauper said she would perform as scheduled but would donate all profits to efforts to repeal the law.

Prior to the law’s passage PayPal was planning to build a $3.6 million dollar operations center in Charlotte. Those planned were cancelled in protest of the law. Deutsche Bank had planned an expansion that would have provide 250 new jobs to the state. Plan cancelled.

The Center for Social Responsibility reported that nearly 1,700 companies were withdrawing from North Carolina in protest to the law.

On May 4, 2016, the U. S. Justice Department ruled HB2 in violation of the U. S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX. That circumstance would result in North Carolina losing all federal grants, totaling billions of dollars. As noted above, this issue is still in flux.

The issue may ultimately be resolved as suggested by comedian and social critic, Bill Maher: “If you look like a woman, use the women’s room, if you look like a man, use the men’s room. If you’re a bearded dude in a dress, just hold it until you get home.” When you think about it, Maher’s prescription is simply for a continuation of past practices.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - You Can Help End SoluProbs™

Apr. 14, 2016

Want to help make the fight against SoluProbs a reality? As this website  is being launched in late-April, 2016, it should be regarded as a Beta version of what it will become, and your help is needed for it to evolve. (I’m asking for your ideas, not your money.)

Welcome aboard. Here are ways to help. 

First, listed at the bottom of this page are some SoluProbs I am considering for future posts. Your observations, knowledge, and comments about any are encouraged and welcomed. Your input can make a difference helping to shape our articles and spread the word.

Second, I am especially interested in identifying SoluProbs that have escaped my attention. I know they are out there. I encourage you to suggest new SoluProbs with a Comment at the bottom of this page, or make a more structured suggestion, using the Join the SoluProbs Team section provided in the right column of this page.  Join our growing team and help spread the word. Your participation in this growing community makes a difference, and is welcomed.

Third, if you want to try your hand at drafting a SoluProbs article, or just provide the details to the degree you are aware of them, the outline to the right provides the format that helps pull it all together. Using the outline, remember the key elements of a SoluProb are:

A presumed problem, such as voter impersonation in polling places that, in truth, is not a real problem.

A solution to the presumed problem, such as Voter ID laws.

Empirical evidence that the “problem” does/did not exist, such as the several studies indicating voter impersonation in polling places almost never happens. Empirical evidence matters, a pillar of our principled approach to raising awareness.

A background narrative, that provides context, history, and  discussion of the presumed problem that led up to the “solution,” how, when, and where the “solution was implemented, and anything else that fleshes out the story to help readers make sense of it.  And finally…

Negative consequences of the “solution.” This is the meat that matters, why it is important for all of us to raise our cultural awareness that ultimately affects public policy decisions that can help or harm society. Identifying the true, often horrifying consequences to individuals and society is necessary to reach inside of people, have them care, and take action that brings forward more enlightened, constructive, and healing social policy.

Any Comments you make will be automatically posted. I will review your more extensive submissions and, as appropriate, post exactly what you submitted or ask if you are interested in co-authoring a more extensive treatment.

Subscription: If you would like to stay in touch with this discussion, please use the subscription form to sign up for periodic notices.

Working together, I am confident we can shame this lunacy into remission, help our society Stop Shooting at Ghosts, and bring about more enlightened, constructive public policy.   

If you have any questions, just ask. If you want to share your thoughts or throw yourself into a SoluProbs article, go for it. Welcome aboard and thank you for taking action. Tell your friends. 

So I invite your participation and partnership. For now, here are some of the SoluProbs I am considering and/or working on.

  • Presumed Problem: Vietnam attacked the American Navy at Tonkin Bay
  • SoluProb: Vietnam Escalation by USA
  • Presumed Problem:  Mexicans and others are pouring over our Southern border
  • SoluProb: The Trump Wall
  • Presumed Problem: If women enjoy sex, they will be promiscuous
  • SoluProb: Female Genital Mutilation
  • Presumed Problem: Terrorists will enter the USA pretending to be refugees
  • SoluProb: Block Syrian Refugees
  • Presumed Problem: Foster Parents use clothing allowances for drugs
  • SoluProb: Make Foster Kids use thrift shops
  • Presumed Problem: The Federal government is dictating what students should learn
  • SoluProb: Dump Common Core

 

Again, your thoughts and further participation with these soluprobs and any that I have not yet identified, are welcomed. Together, we can help our society and its public policy makers stop chasing ghosts and ease the enormous human suffering these misguided “solutions” cause.   

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

+ - SoluProb™: Outlaw IUDs

Apr. 7, 2016
Presumed Problem

Some fear that an Intra-uterine Devise (IUD) is an abortifacient, that it induces abortions.

Solution

Those opposed to abortion have argued that IUDs should be outlawed.

Narrative

Like many states–perhaps all–Colorado had a serious problem with unintended teen pregnancies. But unlike other states, Colorado had found a powerful solution.

Going into the 2014 elections, Colorado had made remarkable progress in lowering teen pregnancies: down 40% between 2009 and 2013. Caitlin Schmidt (2014) explained how they accomplished this feat:

Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative provided funding for 68 family clinics across the state to offer around 30,000 intrauterine devices and implants to young women at low or no cost. An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. They’re either wrapped in copper or contain hormones, which kill sperm and make the uterine lining too thin for egg implantation. Because IUDs stay in place for five to 10 years, they’re easier to comply with than taking daily birth control pills.

An anonymous donor funded the $23 million initiative, which also provided training, outreach and technical assistance to clinics statewide.

The reduction in teen pregnancies, of course, also meant a reduction in abortions. It seemed like a win-win situation. However, as the donor-funding was due to run out, Colorado politicians began debating whether the state should appropriate money to continue the remarkably successful program.

This is an appropriate time to mention a class of problems/solutions that do not qualify as soluprobs. There are any number of cases where the problem is real but the solution is a failure.Consider abstinence-only “sex education” programs in the nation’s schools. Despite the millions still being spent on programs that simply urge teens not to have sex, there is no peer-reviewed research indicating such programs have any positive effect. However, the problem of teen pregnancy was and is a real one, and the Colorado program of education and IUDs was a huge success.

Opposition to continuing the program did not seem primarily financial. Some anti-abortion groups objected to the use of IUDs in the program, linking the devices to abortion. As the debate heated up, the (unsuccessful) GOP candidate for governor, Bob Beauprez, famously said, IUDs were abortifacients, which raised the image of women as “walking abortion factories.” Since he and his supporters were dead set against abortion, it was clear that IUDs had to go. Ultimately, the anti-abortion faction was successful in blocking public funding for the program, though private funds were found to continue it. IUDs, per se, were not outlawed.

Kaiser Health News explained the last minute salvation of the program this way:

The rescue of the highly-touted program comes after Republican lawmakers earlier this year killed a bill that would have provided $5 million in public funding for IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraceptives for low-income teens and young women. Colorado health officials estimate that the IUDs and other devices have saved at least $79 million in Medicaid costs for unintended births, but some opponents claimed that IUDs are abortifacients and refused to approve funding in the Republican-controlled Senate.

This was the same logic used by Hobby Lobby in their refusal to let employees receive IUDs and some other contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. Being complicit in their employees using IUDs allegedly violated their corporate religious values. The U. S. Supreme Court majority agreed with that reasoning.

Was the Problem Real?

Thus the most effective contraceptive short of sterilization, first used in the 1900s and popularized from the 1950s on in the United States, is now under widespread attack. The medical community has been quick to respond, pointing out that IUDs prevent fertilization and implantation, so there is nothing to abort. In sum, the IUD is no more an abortion procedure than masturbation, a priest’s vow of celibacy, or “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

For the time being, the proposed “solution” to the imagined problem represented by IUDs has been averted in Colorado, but there is no telling what will happen when the private donations run out.

Negative Consequences

Since IUDs were not actually outlawed in this instance, the major, potential damage was avoided. Young women in Colorado are still allowed to avoid unintended pregnancies and the unprepared motherhood, end of school, or abortions that are common consequences of unsafe sex.

However, the campaign of misinformation about IUDs may well cause some young women to avoid this most effective contraceptive method. And an upsurge of anti-IUD actions somewhere down the road, based on the same misinformation, is always a haunting possibility. And if private funding eventually runs out, this award-winning program, which has prevented a great many abortions, may fall by the wayside.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

+ - SoluProb™: Banning Same-Sex Marriage

Feb. 12, 2016
Presumed Problem

If gays are allowed to marry, that will destroy the whole institution of marriage.

Conservative writer Phyllis Scholarly saw the threat of same-sex marriage as a threat to Western Civilization.

Knowing how at odds same-sex marriage is with our legal and cultural traditions, we should not be surprised that some homosexual activists are trying to get rid of marriage all together. Same-sex marriage isn’t about granting equality of human rights. Gays are not denied any human rights. Same-sex marriage is about getting rid of the traditional values and institutions that have guided the Western world, including America.


In the same vein, Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp said the ultimate goal of same-sex marriage was  to “destroy the institution of marriage altogether by diminishing it to whatever type of contract people sign on to. . .”

Solution

Limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

Narrative

I’ve been unable to find state laws limiting marriage to monogamous heterosexual couples; it would seem that gays knew better than to ask. However, in the mid-1990s, there was a flurry of state Constitutional Amendments that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Then, in 1996, the U. S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a federal prohibition of same-sex marriage. There was more than a little irony in the naming of the law. Certainly the institution of marriage has threats it might be defended against–divorce, adultery,
incest, desertion, and spousal abuse to name a few–but DOMA was not intended to address any of those marital problems. Representative Bob Barr (R-GA) was the author and primary manager of DOMA in the Congress. At the time, Barr was on his third marriage, and Washington insiders joked about which marriage the Congressman was defending.

DOMA, like the state amendments that preceded and followed it, had one intention: to guard against the specter of same-sex marriage.

The wide-spread prohibition of gay marriage began to unravel in 2000. Vermont broke the ice by instituting a new institution: the “civil union,” which would grant gay couples many of the same rights as heterosexual couples; it just wouldn’t be called marriage. In 2004, Massachusetts broke the ice further by legalizing same-sex marriage. Period. Other states followed suit. There were limits to how much individual state laws could achieve, however, since a marriage performed in one jurisdiction might very well not be recognized in others.

The federal restriction, DOMA, was increasingly challenged in court. In 2011, the Obama administration announced that they regarded DOMA as unconstitutional and said they would not defend it in court.

This all came to a head in 2013, when the U. S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of United States v. Windsor. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer had married in Canada in 2007 and subsequently lived in New York state. When Spyer died in 2009, her estate went to Windsor, her spouse. Had they been a heterosexual, married couple, Windsor would have enjoyed the federal tax exemption granted to a surviving spouse. Since they were not of different sexes and thus were not regarded as “married” by the U. S. federal government, Windsor was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal tax. Two federal courts ruled in Windsor’s favor, and the Supremes finally agreed as well. More specifically, five of the justices favored Windsor’s case and that was enough to overthrow the Defense of Marriage Act.

By the time of the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision in 2013, more and more states had legalized same-sex marriages, as legally no different from opposite-sex marriages.  Eventually, 37 states, the District of Columbia, and an assortment of counties welcomed same-sex marriages. It was difficult to calculate how many same-sex marriages have been formed, due to differences in the way the fifty states compile and report marriage statistics. However, in June 2013, the Pew Research Center gave a conservative estimate of over 70,000. It is certainly well beyond that number today.

This pattern of gradual change was dramatically altered on June 26, 2015, when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban same-sex marriage, and gay marriage became legal +, letting the USA join 20 other nations in that respect. To be precise, again, five of the nine justices ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, while the other four dissented with varying degrees of outrage.

Was the Problem Real?

We began with the expressed fear that legalizing same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of marriage altogether. By now, there have so many legal, gay marriages that we are in a position to assess the damages wrought by this dramatic social experiment with equality.

The most direct threat to the institution of marriage, ironically, has come from politicians and county clerks who were so deeply opposed to same sex marriage that they attempted to bring a halt to the issuance of any marriage licenses, regardless of the applicants’ sexual orientation. Thus far, those attempts have failed, and couples, both straight and gay, are still tying the knots.

My research allows me to provide the following list of heterosexual marriages that have been tragically destroyed by the legalization of same-sex marriage:

  1. ______________________?
    I should acknowledge the rumor about a baker who had to work so many late nights to meet the expanded demand for wedding cakes that his wife left him. I cannot confirm that story, however.

I think the best diagnosis of the perceived threat appeared on a web poster: “If your marriage is threatened by marriage equality, then one of you is gay.”

 

Negative Consequences

I’ve already touched on some of the negative consequences of the ban on gay marriage above. Loving couples committed to each other were denied the many benefits of marriage. Once they began requesting permission to formalize their relationships in marriage, the refusal was often served up with insults, hatred, and humiliation.

Even when gay identity became more common and marginally more acceptable, the citadel of marriage remained unavailable. Gay couples lived together and sometimes formed life-long commitments, but they were “significant others,” “partners,” “longtime companions,” or “special friends”—not spouses. Some degree of embarrassment over second-class citizenship was inevitable.

While same-sex couples could have public “commitment ceremonies” in front of family and friends to declare their lifelong devotion to each other,
they typically were denied benefits accruing to “married” couples. Such benefits included inheritance, coverage on a spouse’s health plan,
receiving death benefits, and other economic entitlements. In a medical emergency, they might be denied the right to visit an ailing partner in the hospital.

Although same-sex marriage is now the law of the land in America and many other countries, legality does not necessarily imply acceptance. Anti-homosexual prejudice is not susceptible to a Supreme Court ruling, but the Court’s action helps to erode the remaining disapproval and hate. Those couples first seeking same-sex marriages, ironically, were reminiscent of couples in earlier times who sought approval for mixed-religion or mixed-race marriages. One can only guess at what the exclusionary urge will forbid next.

 

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

 

Sources:

 

+ - SoluProb™: Invasion of Iraq, 2003

Feb. 12, 2016
Presumed Problem

Following the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, some feared that Saddam Hussein of Iraq was preparing to attack the US mainland with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Solution

Invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Narrative

Remember the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center? No, not that one, the one in 1993. Explosives planted in a parking basement of the

Arial view of WTC in March of 2001

north tower blew a hole through five stories of the building, with extensive damage to its infrastructure: electrical, sewage, etc. Six people were killed in the attack and about a thousands were injured. Tens of thousands were evacuated from the building.

The Clinton administration treated this attack as a crime and promised appropriate action. The FBI investigated, and eventually all but one of the criminals responsible were identified, arrested, tried, and sentenced to multiple life sentences. Without necessarily putting it in these words, President Bill Clinton chose the metaphor of crime to characterize the attack. It was dealt with as we deal with crimes. In the terms of this project, the problem was a crime in the World Trade Center; normal law enforcement procedures were the appropriate solution, and the solution worked.

Eight years later, a new set of attackers struck a more devastating blow to the World Trade Center towers, destroying them, with much more loss of
life. As we know, the 2001 attack was masterminded by a wealthy Saudi—Osama bin Laden—and the suicide flyers were 15 Saudis, one Egyptian, two from the United Arab Emirates, and one from Lebanon.

Unlike President Clinton in 1993, President George W. Bush chose the metaphor of war instead of crime. That difference in metaphor laid the groundwork for a disastrous solution without a problem. As the “problem” evolved over the months and years following 9/11/01, it was framed as an act of war against the United States, demanding a warlike response. Law enforcement need not apply.

So the problem was not just the attack on 9/11 but the imminent threat of an even worse attack, such as a nuclear attack on American soil. However, if Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda cohorts had possessed nukes, why didn’t they use them on 9/11? Moreover, wars are fought between nations, and no one regarded Osama or even al Qaeda as being an actual nation. While 15 of the 19 hijackers were, like Osama, from Saudi Arabia, no one suggested we had been attacked by the House of Saud.

Through a politically masterful legerdemain, it was argued that Iraq was really responsible for the 9/11 attack, despite no Iraqis being on the
attacking planes. Nor did it matter that Saddam Hussein had refused to let al Qaeda operate in Iraq, and al Qaeda, in turn, viewed Saddam as a “secular Satan.” Close enough, as opinion polls soon found the American public blaming Saddam and Iraq for the attacks on 9/11.

Over time, the 9/11 dimension faded a bit and was simply replaced by the “problem” of Saddam planning an imminent, nuclear attack on America. All Americans became familiar with the abbreviation WMD—Weapons of Mass Destruction—and an argument ensued over whether Saddam and Iraq had any. Some cynics pointed out a proof in the matter: the Reagan administration had given Saddam WMDs in the 1980s for his war against Iran. So he had WMDs at one point. He used some against Iran and used some against dissidents in his own country.

The administration assumed that he still had a WMD arsenal that he was preparing to use on the USA.

Was the Problem Real?

When some in Congress questioned the reality of Saddam’s threat, they asked, “Where’s the smoking gun?” NSA Director Condoleezza Rice replied “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” That seemed a  sufficient answer for some.

Nevertheless, American and international inspectors were granted access to Iraq and searched for evidence of nuclear, chemical, or biological WMDs. They found none. The U. S. invaded Iraq anyway and the search for WMDs continued until eventually President Bush would joke about it, looking beneath his podium before speaking and reporting, “No WMDs there.”

Few people thought highly of Saddam Hussein, who was eventually captured and executed, but there was never any evidence of a plan or preparations to attack America. The invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam was clearly a “solution” without a problem. But it was also a “solution” that caused real problems.

Negative Consequences

Let’s focus on some of the problems this solution created for the United States. As of July 13, 2015, the Defense Department reported 4,424 American casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom
—roughly double the number killed on 9/11. The number of non-Americans, especially Iraqis, killed is vastly larger, though the estimates vary widely, from tens of thousands to over a million. The same Defense Department report counted 31,951 Americans wounded in action, creating an as-yet insoluble problem for the Veterans Administration and civilian health care facilities. Many feel the nation has effectively turned its back on the returning wounded—except on Memorial Day, when politicians and others proclaim gratitude and respect all around.

At this writing, the economic cost of the war is estimated at around three to four trillion dollars. Since the Bush administration chose not to raise taxes to pay for the war, the cost has been met through an escalation of the national debt and cutbacks in domestic programs such as transportion, education, and health care.

Perhaps the worst problem is that the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Iraq by the United States, with the immense death and suffering by Iraqis, fueled the view that America was at war with Islam, at war with all Muslims everywhere. While that was surely not the administration’s intention, a compelling case could and was made for it. The disruption of order in Iraq has spread through the area, most notably to Syria. Today, the Daesh (aka ISIL) have little trouble convincing young Muslims that America is set on destroying Islam, while, ironically, most of Daesh’s victims are fellow Muslims.

The refugee crisis caused by civilians fleeing Syria and neighboring areas has provided an opportunity for “Christian charity,” but the answer to that request has found many Americans arguing loudly against aiding any of Daesh’s victims. Several leading political figures, most notably, Donald Trump, have urged that we refuse entry to any Muslims and possibly crack down on native-born Americas who happen to be Muslims. Daesh finds it easier and easier to claim that America is at war with Islam.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - oluProb™: Anti-Sodomy Laws

Feb. 9, 2016
Presumed Problem

Some believe that the acceptance of homosexuals as worthy members of society will spell the downfall of Western Civilization, Culture and Values.

Solution

Anti-sodomy laws, outlawing oral and anal sex, have been intended as an indirect method of outlawing homosexuality.

Narrative

Technically, sodomy refers to oral sex, anal sex, and bestiality–all of which are outlawed by anti-sodomy laws. The first of the trio would apply to gays, lesbians, and heterosexual couples. The second pretty much exempts lesbians, and the third doesn’t usually figure into the attempt to prohibit homosexuality.

Some have feared that the open acceptance of homosexuality will lead to its spread, especially through the indoctrination of youth, and will destroy “everything we hold dear.” However, the problem has often been expressed in terms of sexual practices rather than sexual orientation. Those defending Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law called sodomy “dangerous, unhealthy, and immoral,” illustrating the mixture of concerns.

While many opponents of same-sex relations often claim a Christian basis for their actions and concerns, the specific justifications are elusive. Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality as far as we know, and the few Old Testament condemnations of homosexuality are outnumbered by the justifications of slavery, polygamy, and the mistreatment of women. In the New Testament, we find the Apostle Paul speaking against homosexuality at times, but he was equally concerned with wives surrendering to the authority of their husbands. In other words, while it is possible to find Biblical injunctions against homosexuality, it’s not a major theme. It didn’t make the Ten Commandments, for example, though adultery did.

In pursuing this issue, it is useful to distinguish between having homosexual sex and identification as being a homosexual. The former has been reasonably common throughout history. In both Greek and Roman societies, for example, wealthy men could claim the right to have sex with young boys to augment the sex they had with their wives and their concubines. No one called them names or questioned their masculinity.

In some societies, same-sex sexual encounters have been ritualized as rites of passage. Some societies mark passage to male adulthood with a ritual deflowering of boys by older men. When I was a university professor, one of my female students introduced me to the term, LUG: Lesbian Until Graduation. The number of people having same-sex sexual encounters has always exceeded the number being identified or self-identifying as solely homosexual or even bisexual.

All states in the United States have had anti-sodomy laws in the past, but
in 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional. Today, 12 states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, but they are rarely, if ever, enforced. As of this writing, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kansas have anti-sodomy laws prohibiting oral sex, but necrophilia—sex with a corpse—is legal. (Between consenting adults, presumably.)

Was the Problem Real?     

Let’s examine some of the “problems” that led to the “solution” of anti-sodomy laws. First, let’s consider oral sex.

In December 2013 the National Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL)
survey announced that in all age groups except the over-65s, the majority of people now say that they have oral sex sometimes.

For instance, 71 per cent of young adults (age 16 to 24) reported that they’d had oral sex in the last year. And 80 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds said the same thing.

So this is hardly the behavior of a tiny, perverted minority. It’s certainly
not limited to gays. As to being “unhealthy,” experts do not completely agree, but the general conclusion is that oral sex is safer than vaginal or anal sex when it comes to the transmission of disease. Moreover, the risk of pregnancy is, well, pretty slim.

Most would regard vaginal and anal sex as more disease-risky, particularly when tissue lesions occur. (The same would be true of oral sex, but it’s much less likely.) And in all cases, the risks of disease are radically reduced by the use of condoms. There is no agreement that anal sex is more dangerous than vaginal sex.

Since morality is in the eye of the condemner, I’ll leave the question of whether oral and anal sex are “immoral” to the moralists. However, I think we can gauge the danger of homosexuality taking over in America. Not really. If it seems as though there are more gays than there used to be, that is probably because it is safer for them to “come out.”

But has the growing acceptance of homosexuality in America produced the feared breakdown of Western Civilization, Culture, and Values? To answer, we need to specify what is meant by that august phrase. Here’s one statement:

The great ideas of the West—rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, equality before the law, freedom of conscience and expression, human rights, liberal democracy—together constitute quite an achievement, surely, for any civilization. This set of principles remains the best and perhaps the only means for all people, no matter what race or creed, to live in freedom and reach their full potential.

The above quotation is from Ibn Warraq, a self-described “Muslim Apostate,” challenged in a London debate to describe Western Values in no more than eight minutes. This excerpt is how he began. It is worth noting that his full presentation largely contrasted Western Values with those of other societies around the world, including those operating under Sharia Law.

Warraq’s description would fit well with the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in the U. S. Constitution. Whether we reflect on the development of “Western Civilization” broadly or limit our view to the United States, I would suggest the civilizing process rests fundamentally on (1) replacing brutality with civility in social relations and (2) broadening the definition of who is a worthy member of society.

When the American Founders declared that “all men were created equal,” they actually meant men. It was too obvious. perhaps, for them to specify that they meant all white men. Over time, however, we have seen the definition of equal Americans to include people of color and women. The process has often been slow and sometimes violent, but the direction of change has been steadily toward inclusiveness.

Ironically, the exclusion of homosexuals from full membership in American society is a reflection of the older exclusivity that once barred women and racial minorities. The anti-sodomy laws were actually a challenge to our fundamental values rather than a protection. The greater acceptance of homosexuals represents a further realization of those fundamental values.

Negative Consequences

Gays and lesbians have suffered everything from humiliation and discrimination to arrest and imprisonment and even violence and death. The early Commonwealth of Virginia prescribed death as the maximum penalty for homosexuality. Thomas Jefferson, evidently thinking that too harsh, proposed in 1779 that the maximum punishment be changed to castration. However, the state legislature refused that bleeding-heart, liberal proposal, preferring to keep death on the table.

While the official sanctioning of death for homosexuality is a thing of the past in the USA, things are grimmer for gays elsewhere in the world. Homosexual acts can be punished by death in:

Yemen
Iran
Iraq
Mauritania
Nigeria
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
Sudan
United Arab Emirates

You may notice a pattern in this list of countries: they are all African or Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim. In several cases, outlawing homosexual relations is a part of that country’s version of sharia law. There is a special irony in this, since I would assert (without hard data) that those Americans most opposed to homosexuality are also the most worried about the prospects for sharia law in the USA, a topic addressed elsewhere in this website.

As we’ve seen, there are still places in the world where people can be executed simply because they are gay. They have not stolen from or assaulted anyone. They haven’t revealed state secrets or yelled “fire” in a crowded theater. They can be officially executed for no ‘crime’ but their sexual orientation.

Even where homosexuals are not being executed by the government, even today, they may be killed by extra-legal actions. Matthew Shephard is a name that should never be forgotten. On October 6, 1998, the young University of Wyoming student was at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, when two other young men pretended to be gay and lured him outside with the intention of robbing him. Once outside, their greed turned to rage and they began beating and torturing Shephard. Eventually, they tied their comatose victim crucifixion-style to a fence and left him there to die. He was discovered 18 hours after his beating and was taken to a hospital where he died six days later.

Matthew Shephard’s brutal murder was so ugly that it attracted wide attention from the media and the public. Almost everyone who learned of the murder was horrified, though some celebrated it as God’s will. And Matthew Shepard was not the first nor the last gay to be killed by homophobic thugs in America.

On June 11, 2016, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the filled with merriment as a gathering of over 300 predominantly Hispanic gays and lesbians enjoyed each others’ company. Then, in the early morning hours of the 12th, a lone gunman, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic pistol, entered the club and opened fire. By the time he finished, 49 were dead and another 53 wounded. Wikipedia summed it up thusly:

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Death is perhaps the most dramatic negative consequence of the “solution” of stamping out homosexuality. Gays have been and still are discriminated against in a variety of ways: in employment, commercial service, and just about anywhere people interact with one another in society. The persisting reflection of the anti-sodomy mentality still treats gays as second-class citizens, somewhat similar to the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

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+ - SoluProb™: Voter ID Laws

Feb. 6, 2016
Presumed Problem

People who are not eligible to vote are casting votes by pretending to be people who are eligible.

Solution

Require all voters to present specified photo identification at the polling place.

Narrative

“This simple action … will appropriately help maintain the integrity and fairness of our electoral systemhere in the Lone Star State,”
then-Governor Rick Perry said at the signing ceremony. The law requires voters to present a state or federal photo identification, like a driver’s license, military ID card, passport, concealed handgun license or a voter card provided by the state. It does not include student IDs as a valid form of photo identification. It also requires voters who were forced to cast a provisional ballot to produce a valid piece of identification within six days of the election in which they hope to vote.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures
, the first Voter ID law was passed in South Carolina in 1950. It was another 20 years before Hawaii enacted a similar law, and the practice grew from there. At this writing, some 37 states have such laws, varying in requirements, but all requiring some form of identification to be presented at polling places.

In April, 2012, Fox News reported a poll in which, “Overall, 70 percent of Americans say voter ID laws are needed to stop illegal voting.”
 They noted more Republicans (87%) supported voter ID laws than Democrats, but even a majority of the latter (52%) agreed. Obviously, concern for fair and honest elections is not a trivial matter.

Was the Problem Real?

There have been a number of studies seeking to estimate the extent of this problem. Recently Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor specializing in elections, took on the task of identifying “credible allegations” of in-person voter fraud in the USA between 2000 and 2014. He was careful to point out that he was not limiting the search to convictions or even indictments, but he included any allegation of fraud that he judged reasonably likely to have occurred. In that 15-year period, he identified 31 credible allegations—out of around one billion ballots cast. He judged that these 31 cases would have been prevented by Vote ID laws.

In another study, Brad Friedman reported 10 cases of in-person voter fraud since 2000. The website voterfraudfacts.com provides a context for judging the size of the problem. Examining government crime statistics, they contrasted the 9 possible cases of voter impersonation between 2002 and 2005 with 352 cases of death due to lightning and 32,299 reports of UFO sightings.

News21 did an independent assessment of voter fraud, sending “thousands of requests to election officers” and they, also, concluded that while election fraud might be a problem, in-person fraud was rare.

“The fraud that matters is the fraud that is organized. That’s why voter impersonation is practically non-existent because it is difficult to do and it is difficult to pull people into conspiracies to do it,” said Lorraine Minnite, professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University.

In short, in-person voter frauds to be the smallest crime category in America. It is hardly worth any effort to prevent it–and “solutions” to this mini-problem causes huge problems of its own.

It could be argued, in fact, that the drive to implement Voter ID Laws is a fraud in and of itself, that it is intended to suppress the voting by specific
demographic groups, such as minorities. In 2015, in Alabama, for example, a Voter ID Law was introduced and citizens were assured they could easily obtain an official ID at any Department of Motor Vehicle office. Shortly thereafter, the Republican governor announced plans to shut down all the DMV offices in eight of ten counties with predominantly African American residents–known as Alabama’s Black Belt–also known  for a strong tendency to vote Democratic. The governor rescinded his plan in response to strong negative publicity.

In Pennsylvania, with a Voter ID Law instituted prior to the 2012 Presidential Election, a Republican Party official proclaimed that the new law would guarantee a Pennsylvania victory for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.By the same token, Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Gotham, a Ted Cruz supporter in the 2016 presidential race, said:

I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well…

You don’t need to be cynical to suspect that honest elections have not been the real reason for Voter ID Laws. Rather than eliminating fraud, the Voter ID Laws are an example of election fraud.

Negative Consequences

Where a driver’s license would suffice, non-drivers are disadvantaged. If a concealed weapons permit would qualify people to vote, those not packing heat are at a disadvantage. Where voters must obtain the necessary ID from a state office, it is likely that elderly, poor, disabled, and rural citizens will have special difficulties getting to the designated office within official hours of operation. Whatever the nature of the requirements, it is easy to see that some eligible voters will experience more of a hardship than others. When Pennsylvania passed their 2012 Voter ID law, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Commonwealth estimated that some three-quarters of a million eligible voters lacked the required identification.

A judge blocked enforcement of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law just prior to the 2012 election but not before the state had mailed 758,000 letters to eligible voters, warning that they lacked the necessary identification to vote. Despite the judge’s action, a post-election study by the AFL-CIO concluded that 35,000 eligible voters were deterred from voting by the warning anyway. They were convinced they would be turned away from the polls.

Looking at the issue more broadly, the Brennan Center for Justice concluded: “Studies show that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID. That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students. Many citizens find it hard to get government photo IDs, because the underlying documentation like birth certificates (the ID one often needs to get a government ID) is often difficult or expensive to come by.”

The difficulties in complying with state’s Voter ID laws have often produced dramatic stories. Consider the 90-year-old Texan, who had let his driver’s license lapse and found his identification card as a Texas Christian University faculty member would no longer legitimize him as a legal citizen-voter in the Lone Star state. Ironically, the suspicious would-be voter was Jim Wright, who served 34 years as a U. S. Congressman from Texas, and from 1987 to 1989, was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Still, you can’t be too careful.

The negative side-effects of Voter ID requirements not only weigh on the voting public, however. Such laws can be very expensive for the jurisdictions requiring such identification.

When Georgia enacted its Voter ID in 2005, they initially required voters to pay a fee for the government ID, but that was thrown out by the courts as constituting a poll tax. The consequence of that ruling was that the state would have to bear the cost of providing the IDs without charge. Other states have experienced similar costs.

Karen Shanton and Wendy Underhill report that between 2007 and 2010, Indiana spent over $10 million on the production of the free Voter ID
cards. In 2010 alone, Indiana spent $600,000 on voter education and outreach to insure that voters understood the new requirements.

There is more fraud in absentee ballots and voter registration than any other categories. The analysis shows 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud

Ironically, then, Voter ID laws may cause more people to seek absentee ballots—which makes cheating much easier. Imagine if you and I went to a polling place, and I explained to the poll workers that you had paid for the privilege of casting my ballot. Chances are, I’d still be in jail. On the other hand, there would be nothing to stop me from selling you my blank absentee ballot. Or you could hold a gun to my head while dictating how I should vote—a practice frowned on in most polling places. Or maybe you are just voting the way someone tells you to.

The various studies of in-person voter fraud indicate two things. First, we will never know the exact number of times it occurs, due to differences in definitions and data collection methods. Second, however you measure it, in-person voter fraud is a minuscule problem. Voter ID laws represent a clear case of a solution without a problem. It is a “solution” with disastrous consequences, moreover. It is a source of real problems rather than the solution to a make-believe problem. There should be no more phony “solutions” and we should undo the existing ones.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

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+ - SoluProb™: Prohibit lane-splitting

Aug. 6, 2016

Acknowledgement:

To Byron Callas for suggesting this SoluProb™

Presumed Problem

In slow-to-standstill traffic, motorcycles sometimes move down the space between lanes of cars, thereby creating a hazard.

Solution

Prohibit the practice of motorcycles “lane splitting,” also known as lane sharing or filtering.

Narrative

Lane splitting is illegal in 49 states in the USA and in all of Canada, though it is a common practice in much of the world. In August, 2016, California made the practice officially legal, though it had been informally tolerated previously unless it was done recklessly. As the LA Times Reported (2016):

California is expected to become the first state in the nation to formalize the practice of lane splitting after state Assembly members on Thursday passed a bill authorizing the California Highway Patrol to establish guidelines for motorcyclists on how to do it safely.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), passed Thursday with a 69-0 vote. It now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. On the floor, Quirk said the proposed law had many positives, including reducing traffic congestion and promoting safety.

Was the Problem Real?

Research on motorcycle accidents over the years have failed to identify lane splitting as hazardous. Indeed, when California (allowing lane splitting) was compared with Florida and Texas (disallowing it), California had 30 percent fewer motorcycle fatalities due to rear end collisions. Motorcycles running into opening car doors is rare.

In 2010. Myra Sperley Amanda Joy Pietz at the Oregon Department of Transportation Research Section did a major review of the literature relevant to this topic in the USA and Europe. They concluded, in part,

A review of literature relevant to lane-sharing revealed that research on the topic is limited. No studies were found that primarily focused on the benefits or safety concerns of the practice. Benefits were often cited in motorcyclist advocacy publications and enthusiast articles. Quantitative data were limited and more generally related to capacity and emission benefits of motorcycles relative to cars.

Relevant to the safety implications of lane-sharing, motorcycle crash causation studies provided the most direct information on lane-sharing. Studies, such as the 1981 Hurt report and the 2009 MAIDS report, considered lane-sharing as a causation factor. Statistics from these and other publications showed that lane-sharing was a factor in <1% to 5% of motorcycle accidents. Because studies incorporating lane-sharing as a potential causation factor are limited, the range presented above should be considered with caution.

They further conclude by saying “more research is needed,” the mantra for the Researcher Full Employment Plan. (Disclosure: I have spent a long career as a social researcher.) Levity aside, we clearly don’t know the full story about the potential dangers of lane splitting by motorcycles, but everything we do know suggests the risks are minimal. This is especially true when we compare lane-splitting accidents with motorcycles being rear-ended in the middle of lanes.

Negative Consequences

Banning lane splitting and enforcing such laws has had the consequence of slowing traffic for both cars and motorcycles. The longer motor vehicles sit idling in traffic, the greater the air pollution. We could imagine that drivers suffering through traffic congestion may suffer increased cardio-vascular problems and may be more likely to abuse their spouses and children–though that may be a stretch.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

+ - SoluProb™: Sex Offender Registry

Aug. 10, 2016
Sex Offender Registry
Guest Author: John Sloan, University of Alabama (Birmingham)

In establishing this project, it has been my intention to encourage others to identify and expose Solutions without Problems. This report by Professor John Sloan is the first such response to that intention, and I am delighted to share it with you. Dr. Sloan has been willing to open up a topic marked by profound emotions and identify an aspect of that topic that truly qualifies as a soluprob.      –Earl Babbie

Presumed Problem

Convicted sex offenders pose a major threat to communities of reoffending once released from prison.

Solution

Pass laws that require states (and the federal government) to monitor sex offenders via registration and community notification, and involuntarily commit sex offenders to psychiatric hospitals after end of sentence.

Introduction

“Public opinion reinforced by portrayals in the media and in popular culture, suggests that sex offenders will almost always repeat their predatory acts in the future and that all treatments for perpetrators are ineffective. The truth is not so cut and dried.” – Scientific American

Few crimes cause greater public outrage and concern than do so-called “sex crimes,” especially the rape or molestation of children. Many women – and more than a few men – have, themselves, been victims or have friends or relatives who have experienced sexual victimization at the hands of people they knew: priests, teachers, public officials, colleagues and supervisors at work, and family members. Women and girls experience extraordinarily high levels of sexual victimization at the hands of men and boys, many (if not most) who are known to them. Because sexual victimization has touched so many people and generated so much attention and emotion, public attitudes toward sex crime offenders tends to boil down to fear of them and extreme punitiveness toward them.

In 2015, over 740,000 people in the United States were registered “sex offenders” (see Table 1) –more people than live in the Cities of San Francisco, Baltimore, or Boston. What this means is that all of these people had, since the 1990s when registration first began occurring, either served time in jail or prison or been placed on probation for a dizzying array of sex-related offenses ranging from urinating in public to violent rape of children and were, as a result, required to register with the local authorities as a sex offender.

Recent cases involving sexual misconduct by Jared Fogel (former Subway spokesperson), Jerry Sandusky (former football coach at Penn State), and actor Bill Cosby have generated a great deal of attention. At the same time, legislators have been busy proposing ever more enhanced punishments for sex offenders. Headlines such as “Alabama legislator wants to castrate sex offenders who abuse kids” or “Guam passes legislation to chemically castrate sex offenders” grab our attention and show a widely held orientation toward dealing with sex offenders. Other headlines such as “When predators are women” and “MANHUNT: Convicted sex offender allegedly lured 14-year-old girl from home” both titillate and terrify readers.

 

Table 1. Sex Offender Statistics (September, 2015)

Total number of registered sex offenders nationwide in the U.S.

747,408

Percent of sentence actually served (on average) by sex offenders

44

Percent of boys sexually molested by someone they knew

93

Percent of girls sexually molested by someone they knew

80

Percent of children sexually abused who become abusers later in life

30

Percent of sexual assaults that occur between 6:00 pm and 12:00 am

43

Source: Statistics Brain

 

Clearly, the sexual abuse of another person – adult or child – is a serious crime warranting serious punishment. However, when it comes to these types of offenses, the public and policy makers have worked hard to create a solution for a problem that does not exist.

The Mythology of Sex Offenders in America

Consider the following:

Women and children are in great danger in American society because serious sex crimes are very prevalent and are increasing more rapidly than any other type of crime.

Practically all serious sex crimes are committed by “degenerates,” “sex fiends,” or “sexual psychopaths.”

Sexual psychopaths continue to commit serious sex crimes throughout life because they have no control over their impulses.

Sexual psychopaths can be identified with a high degree of precision even before they have committed any sex crimes.

A society which punishes sex criminals, even with severe penalties, and then releases them to prey again upon women and children is failing in its duty.

Laws should be enacted to segregate such persons, preferably before but at least after their sex crimes, and to keep them confined as irresponsible patients until their malady has been completely and permanently cured.

Since sexual psychopathy is a mental malady, the professional advice as to the diagnosis, the treatment, and the release of patients as cured should come exclusively from psychiatrists.

Do these sentiments sound familiar? That the words were written by the great American criminologist Edwin Sutherland in 1950 in a famous article titled “The Sexual Psychopath Laws” should give all of us pause. What should also give us pause is what Sutherland writes next: “All of these propositions, which are implicit in the laws and explicit in the popular literature, are either false or questionable (emphasis added)” (Sutherland, 1950, p. 543). When it comes to sex offenders, indeed, “everything old is new again.” A number of scholars, including Marcus Galeste and his colleagues, have examined – and debunked – various myths about sex offenders that are often presented, repeated, and perpetuated by media, law enforcement, and state legislators. These myths, in turn, have strongly influenced policy responses to sex offenders.

One of the biggest myths about sex offenders that led directly to policies like offender registration lists and community notification requirements is that sex offenders have very high rates of recidivism. The empirical evidence, however, says otherwise. For example, Matthew R. Durose, Patrick A. Langan, Erica L. Schmitt of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report in 2003 that tracked patterns of rearrest, reconviction, and reimprisonment of 9,691 male sex offenders, or two-thirds of all male sex offenders released from prisons in 15 states in 1994, including 3,115 rapists, 6,576 sexual assaulters, 4,295 child molesters, and 443 statutory rapists tracked for 3 years after their release. Compared to non-sex offenders, sex offenders had a lower overall re-arrest rate. When rearrests for any type of crime (not just sex crimes) were counted, the study found that 43% (4,163 of 9,691) of the 9,691 released sex offenders were rearrested but 68% of the remaining offenders (179,391 of 262,420) were rearrested. Among sex offenders, just 3.5% were reconvicted of a sex crime within three years of being released from prison. R. Carl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of the results of 110 published and unpublished studies of sex offender recidivism covering the period 1972 through 2008, that included 118 unique samples containing 45,398 offenders from 16 countries. Their study included three outcome measures: (a) any sexual recidivism vs. no recidivism or only nonsexual recidivism; (b) any sexual or violent recidivism vs. no recidivism or only nonviolent recidivism; and (c) any recidivism vs. no recidivism. They found that the sexual recidivism rate was 11.5%, the sexual or violent recidivism rate was 19.5%, and the general (any) recidivism rate was 33.2% over an average follow-up period of 70 months

A second myth about sex offenders is that treatment – however defined – doesn’t work (or, more strongly, “nothing works” with these offenders). Mass media, including police procedurals on TV like Law & Order SVU and news outlets, commonly portray sex offenders as being incapable of benefitting from any form of rehabilitation and therefore solutions such as chemical or actual castration, or locking offenders away for life in prison or a psychiatric hospital are the only viable solutions. Evidence however, shows a different story. Several studies have demonstrated that cognitive-behavioral therapy and multisystemic treatment can be successful in reducing recidivism by sex offenders.

A third commonly believed myth about sex offenders is that most victims fall prey to strangers, thus the popular mantra “Stranger Danger.” Again, the empirical evidence shows otherwise: most victims of rape, sexual assault, child molestation and many other sex offenses know their offenders. In one study, 3 out of 4 molested children were victimized by people they knew. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012 among female rape victims, perpetrators were reported to be intimate partners (51.1%), family members (12.5%), or acquaintances (40.8%) (these figure exceed 100% because respondents may have experienced more than one victimization by offenders falling into two or more categories).

Homogeneity is a fourth commonly held belief about sex offenders. That is, “all sex offenders are the same” and as a result many of the responses to them take a “one size fits all” approach. The reality is that sex offenders vary greatly in the causes of their behavior, in the types of crimes they commit, in the length of their careers, and whom they victimize. One size fits all may work for items like gloves, but not sex offender programs.

Sex Offenders Across Historical Eras

History can often prove useful for understanding how solutions to non-existent problems develop. Derek Logue (2012) has identified four historical eras that shaped government responses to sex offenders. The first era is what he calls the Construction/ Progressive Era (1880-1935), during which advances in sociology and psychology created the first stereotypes of sex offenders. The Sexual Psychopath Era (1930-1955) was important because during this period early national media sensationalized child abduction and murder cases, including the Lindbergh baby case and the Leopold and Loeb child murder case, which created public perception of an “epidemic” of these kind of cases occurring and gave rise to new laws including castration of sex offenders, involuntary civil commitment, and the first attempts at creating registries for offenders. This period also saw the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, make sex crimes a national focus and spread the “Stranger Danger” refrain that remains popular today. This period also saw J. Paul DeRiver establish the nation’s first “Sex Offender Bureau” in 1937 and create casebooks used to train law enforcement that emphasized sex offenders as “monsters.” Finally, this second era, marked by waves of predator panic, saw the rise of psychiatric influences on policy-making concerning sex offenders. The Rehabilitative/ Liberal Era (1950-1980) was marked by experimentation with sex offender policies, by dialogue outside the dominant “monster” view of sex offenders, distrust of law enforcement and psychiatry, and a growing social acceptance of certain “deviant” sexual behaviors. The final era, what Logue calls the Containment Era (1980-Present) has been marked by unparalleled punitive responses to sex crimes, the rebirth of old ideas about sex offenders while implementing newer, more novel ideas.

Despite differences within the four eras, Logue (2012) argues that depictions of sex offenders as “monsters” is a consistent theme and that various stereotypes of them – rather than empirical evidence – shaped legislative responses to them across the four eras.

Policies Targeting Sex Offenders

Faced with public pressure to “do something” about the perceived epidemic of sex offenders molesting innocent children, policy makers responded by creating laws requiring (1) sex offenders to register their addresses with local authorities, (2) local authorities to notify the community that a sex offender had taken up residence, and (3) commitment to psychiatric  hospitals for sex offenders deemed “too dangerous” to be released back into the community. Table 2 presents a state-by-state list of policies relating to sex offenders.

Table 2. State Sex Offender Laws

Source: The Council of State Governments

Registration and notification. Registries of sex offenders exist at the federal and state level. Their purpose is to assemble information about people deemed “sex offenders” who are required to register by law based on their conviction offense. This information is then made available for consumption by both the public and law enforcement. Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government maintain registries that are open to the public and can be searched via web portals; in some states, certain information about offenders is only available to  law enforcement. In these cases, a trial judge is typically barred from considering mitigating factors with respect to registration requirements. Importantly, requirements for who must register as a “sex offender” vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another. The length of time which the offender is required to maintain his or her registration also varies by offense and jurisdiction. In some instances, offenders may be required to maintain their registration for life.

Registration typically involves the offender sharing with law enforcement their full name and any aliases, their current address, place of employment, telephone number(s), and email address(es). Offenders are typically photographed and fingerprinted by law enforcement, and in some cases DNA information is collected and stored. Additionally, thirty states subject registrants to restrictions that prohibit them from living or working within a defined distance of a school, public parks, and other “common areas” of the community where children may gather.

Mandatory registration of sex offenders came about because of three laws. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994 was enacted as a part of the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994 and established guidelines for states to track sex offenders by confirming their residence annually for 10 years after release into the community or quarterly for the rest of their lives if the offender had been convicted of a violent crime like rape.

“Megan’s Law” refers to the requirement that all states and the federal government notify communities that sex offenders are living in them. The law is named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey native who was brutally raped and murdered in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who was a neighbor. Since few states required registration prior to her death, the law refers to an amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Act that requires both registration and community notification of sex offenders.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006  is a federal statute that organized sex offenders into three tiers according to the crime committed. The law mandates that certain offenders (Tier 3 offenders) update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements. Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every six months for 25 years, and Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year for 15 years. The law makes failing to register a federal offense. States are required to publicly disclose information of Tier 2 and Tier 3 offenders, at minimum. It also contains civil commitment provisions for sexually dangerous people. The Act created a standard for sex offender registries whereby each state and territory applies identical criteria for posting offender data to their registries. Empirical evaluations of sex offender registration, such as that completed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2013, indicate that registration creates more work for law enforcement, may lead to retaliation against offenders by members of the larger community, and negatively affects housing and employment opportunities. There is also no evidence that registration has a significant effect on recidivism.

Rachel Bandy (2011) evaluated the claim that sex offender notification is positively correlated with the public’s adoption of protective behavior; this study found no statistically significant relationship between receiving notification about a high-risk sex offender and the adoption of self-protective behaviors, controlling for differences in sociodemographics and neighborhood type. Her results undermine basic assumptions on which registration and notification have been built.  Her results also indicate that notification does not support the claim the public is safer from sex offenders as a result of notification laws.

Civil commitment after end of sentence (EOS). Twenty-one states and the federal government currently allow civil commitment for sex offenders after they have completed their term of sentence. What these schemes allow is for the state to petition the court to commit the offender to a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite term because the offender poses a significant threat of reoffending. In 2010, in the landmark case United States v Comstock (560 U.S. 126), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld these schemes as constitutional.

These schemes have generally survived constitutional scrutiny on the grounds they are not a second prison sentence, but rather serve the non-criminal ends of protecting society and helping rehabilitate violent sex offenders. Legislation underlying these schemes often confirms the treatment objective by explicating statutory guidelines for sex offender treatment programs.

However, Jeslyn Miller has argued that while treatment is guaranteed by various statutes, legislation, case law, and the Constitution, the guarantee of treatment is an empty promise. Offender participation in post-incarceration treatment, in fact, harms him or her because he or she must discuss his or her fantasies and past behavior as part of the treatment plan. Prosecutors in turn can then use this information to secure further confinement. This “treatment paradox” may result in offenders electing not to seek treatment and effectively denies them “the opportunity to heal and obtain release from commitment through treatment.” Christina Mancini and Daniel Mears have likewise observed that various appeals courts have repeatedly upheld policies relating to sex offenders, despite scientific evidence calling them into question.

 

Is the Problem Real?

Recall that sex offender registration and notification and civil commitment after EOS are intended to prevent “monsters” from further victimizing members of the community. The question is whether the problem of sex offenders recidivating warrants the policies that have been put into place by both the federal government and the states.

Clearly, most people would agree that some sex offenders – recidivist pedophiles or rapists come to mind – are dangerous, deserve significant punishment, and probably should be monitored closely. However, among the 700,000+ registered sex offenders, how many of them fit into those particular categories? Likely very few since career pedophiles and rapists typically end up incarcerated for life.

The problem is that over the past 30 years or so, we’ve literally lumped ALL sex offenders together and our policies treat them the same. For example, we more or less treat the 17-year-old high school student who “sexts” a nude picture of himself or an erotic message to his 16-year-old girlfriend (or vice-versa) or the young woman who urinates in public after a “night on the town” the same as someone who exposed himself to a group of school children while masturbating or sexually assaulted a woman while at a party. In the case of sexting, some overzealous prosecutors have even pursued child pornography charges against the person sending the nude image(s). In most states, all of these folks would end up on a sex offender registry and the community would receive notification these people are living there.

Who’s On Sex Offender Registries?

While one may think this would be an easy question to answer, the truth is it’s not. According to Arlissa Ackerman and her colleagues (2011), “. . . limited research has been done to shed light on the characteristics of registered sex offenders, such as their demographics, the types of offenses they have committed, their victim preferences, and the risk they may pose for future criminal behavior.” They continue by arguing that “Such analyses have been complicated by the decentralized nature of publicly available registry data and the general lack of availability of these data to researchers” despite the recent creation of a national sex offender registry. In fact, according to Ackerman and colleagues (2011) “no national database exists by which researchers can draw data from multiple states. Therefore, the few studies that have included descriptive data of samples from registered sex offenders have been conducted in individual states, and there is no standardization or uniformity to the types of characteristics described in various studies.”

One large-scale attempt to answer the above question was undertaken by Alissa Ackerman and her colleagues (2011) when they created a national profile of the registered sex offender (RSO) population, drawn from an analysis of data on 445,127 RSOs obtained from the public registries of 49 states (Michigan was not included for various technical reasons), Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and Guam between July and December of 2010. While these data are somewhat dated and there are many limitations with them (acknowledged by Ackerman and her colleagues), we have not found any similar published studies using national-level RSO data.

Below, is a summary table of their results:

Table 3. National Snapshot of Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) (2010)

Age (mean)

45

Age (median)

44

Age Range

12-99

% white

66

% male

98

% with victims < 14

70

% designated as high risk or Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs) (number of states reporting)a

13

(25)

% designated specifically as absconded

5

% specifically designated as homeless/transient (number of states reporting)

6

(43)

% specifically designated as living in community (not reported as deceased, deported, or institutionalized)

88%

a Percentage does not include those listed as sexually violent or sexually dangerous. When those individuals are accounted for, the summary of those designated as SVP changed slightly to 14%.

Ackerman and her colleagues discussed their results as follows (emphasis added):

Substantial differences in state registry variables produced challenges in developing standardized measures by which to conduct data analyses. These limitations are instructive to understanding the significant operational and definitional challenges facing the nation’s Sex Offender Registry Notification (SORN) systems, which are particularly germane to current policy deliberations occurring at national, state, and tribal jurisdictional levels concerning the future of registration and notification policy and practice.

The sample of sex offenders in this study comprised only those contained on publicly accessible state registries; offenders not subject to public disclosure (approximately 37% of the nation’s registered sex offenders) are ostensibly rated as lower risk and therefore the current sample reflects a higher risk group (emphasis added)

Registered sex offenders are overwhelmingly male and white although African Americans are overrepresented (22%) based on their share of the population (~13%) and are especially overrepresented in several states.

Individuals of all ages are found on the nation’s registries, but the average RSO is in his mid-forties. This is noteworthy, because as more people are placed on registries for long durations (or life) with little attrition, the mean age will continue to grow older and include a growing proportion of aging or elderly individuals who probably pose lower risk for reoffending (emphasis added)

Considerable numbers of RSOs do not reside in the community (emphasis added). Public Internet-based registries were designed to alert citizens to the presence of sex offenders living nearby so that action can be taken to potentially prevent victimization. It is unclear why deported or deceased offenders remain on public registries, as the public safety value of this information seems dubious

Despite reports that over 100,000 sex offenders are missing or noncompliant, the public registries analyzed in this study provide little direct evidence to support this assertion

Approximately 37% of RSOs are not on public registries which means over one-third of the nation’s sex offenders have been assessed by their state’s sex offender management procedure as posing a low risk for future offending. Even among those found on public registries, a wide distribution of risk exists, with a minority designated in most states as high risk, predator, or sexually violent

Among their conclusions (emphasis added):

Painting a national picture of RSOs remains elusive and is confounded by the fragmented nature of the nation’s sex offender registry system

The rules seeking to impose jurisdictional uniformity are far more likely to obscure important differences among registered offenders than to shed more light on them

The considerable obstacles encountered reflect fundamental structural issues that potentially may be exacerbated rather than ameliorated by the rules

We found considerable heterogeneity in the RSO population across multiple dimensions, contrasting the stereotypical views of sex offenders that permeate public perception. Offense titles as defined by the Adam Walsh Act are insufficient to determine an individual’s relative threat to a community or to adequately inform law enforcement officers responsible for supervision and monitoring.

Discussion

Where does all this leave us? Rejecting out-of-hand the emotional and physical scars left by sex offenders on their victims cannot – nor should it – be ignored, shrugged off, or lessened. Clearly, children and adults who experience sexual victimizations are scarred, sometimes for life. At the same time, the issue is whether current solutions address real problems associated with sex offenders, specifically with their recidivism. Does registering sex offenders reduce future offending and make communities safer? Does community notification affect steps taken by prospective victims to reduce the likelihood of victimization? Does civil commitment post EOS really incapacitate those most deserving?

When one gets past the stereotypes and the emotion, policies relating to sex offenders have created solutions for a problem that does not exist. First, there are a host of problems with registries created to track sex offenders. About one-third of offenders are not even included in publicly available registries. Registries fail to adequately differentiate among offenders’ risk for reoffending. Rules put into place in an effort to standardize registry information have seemingly made the situation worse.

Second, there is little empirical evidence indicating that sex offenders recidivate at a rate that warrants the kind of monitoring they receive. While consensus does not exist among researchers, there is reasonable evidence showing that sex offenders reoffend at levels that are often lower than non-sex offenders and do not necessarily commit another sex crime. A related aspect here is wide variability in the accuracy of predictive tools to assess sex offenders risk for recidivism. For example, a recent national-level study of high risk offenders found systematic variability in the rate of sexual recidivism based on structured risk assessment instruments. By itself, being classified as “high risk” for recidivism could not generate with any confidence the particular probability of repeat sexual offending by any one offender.

Third, and people rarely want to discuss this, are the problems created from being labeled a “sex offender” including difficulties in finding housing or employment, difficulties in developing and keeping relationships with other people, barriers to parenting (e.g., attending school-sponsored events), and backlash from neighbors. According to Frenzel and colleagues (2012) “Sex offenders, unlike other offenders, are not only punished by the sentencing sanction, but also by the stigmatization of the public registration process and community members’ knowledge of them being on the registry. As previous research has found, community notification and registration efforts have created collateral consequences for registrants as well as their families.”

Finally, there’s also an issue of fairness as well. Is it fair that our 17-year-old “sexter” should be forced to register annually for upwards of 10 years while career burglars who likely pose a much greater danger to the community once released from prison are “free” to live out their lives with far less interference from the state?

Conclusion

Sex offenders are stereotypically viewed as “monsters” from whom the state is obligated to protect its citizens. As a result, policies deemed a solution to the problem of sex offenders have been freely adopted by all levels of government despite scientific evidence indicating that the theories upon which they are based are flawed and specific policies like registration, notification, and civil commitment have unintended and gravely negative consequences for offenders that may actually cause them to engage in further criminality.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Further Reading

Garland, D. (2002). The culture of control. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jenkins, P. (1998). Moral panic: Changing concepts of the child molester in modern America. New Haven, Ct: Yale University Press.

Leon, C. (2011). Sex fiends, perverts, and pedophiles: Understanding sex crime policy in America. New York: New York University Press.

Zilney, L. & Zilney, L. (2009). Perverts and predators. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

+ - SoluProb™: Stand Your Ground Laws

Jul. 5, 2016

Special Announcement

Other the past two months, I have posted a number of examples of what I’ve been calling Solutions without Problems (soluprobs). One of my purposes has been to engage others in this effort, and I want to start addressing that aspect now.

This post addresses what some feel is a solution without a problem: Stand Your Ground Laws. Rather than presenting my own analysis of this issue, I invite you to join with me and other viewers of the website in developing an analysis together. You’ll see below that I’ve asked questions regarding each topic in the analysis, and you can contribute to the answer of those questions with the Comment space below this post or by using the link at the top of the page. You can respond to all the questions or just some of them.

See the thoughtful comment by William Wann below, for example.

Depending on the responses I receive, I would like to create a composite post on the topic, and I would like to acknowledge any contributions you make to the exercise. (If you would like to participate but not be acknowledged, just let me know.)

Thanks in advance for your interest and your participation.

Presumed Problem

Innocent, law-abiding citizens were defenseless against armed intruders.

Solution

Laws that permit citizens to arm themselves and use lethal force, if necessary, to protect themselves and their homes.

Narrative

What are some of the key events leading up to the creation of Stand Your Ground laws? Examples of different states’ laws?

Was the Problem Real?

Are there any data that would suggest the initial, presumed problem was not a real one, that no solution was needed?

Negative Consequences

What have been some of the negative results experienced in connection with Stand Your Ground laws?

Sources:

What are the sources you used in creating your responses?
© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved Terms of Service/Privacy

+ - SoluProb™: More Babies

Jul. 25, 2016

Note: 

This post was initially entitled, Birth Dearth. However, my previous practice has been to name posts after the Solution without a Problem rather than the presumed problem. Hence the name change.

Presumed Problem

The reduced fertility rate in the USA will cause economic and other problems.

Solution

Encourage Americans to have more babies.

Narrative

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich and David Brower published The Population Bomb, which was the first serious warning about overpopulation since Thomas Malthus published several editions of An Essay on the Principle of Population between 1798 and 1826. The Population Bomb led to the formation of Zero Population Growth (now Population Connection) and other research and activist organizations. Overpopulation became a hot button issue. It was seen as the chief cause of world hunger, resource depletion, and pollution, as well as aggravating international conflict, public health problems, species extinctions, and a host of other problems.

Despite the widespread concern and activity since 1968, the world’s population has more than doubled from 3.5 billion to 7.4 billion. The UN now predicts world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. The population of the USA has increased by more than half since 1968 from 207 million to 32o million).

Though world and American population has continued growing at what many consider an alarming rate there have been some signs of progress. In fact, some developed nations have reduced their fertility rates to below replacement (2.1 births per woman). Currently, the average American woman bears 1.87 children; German women 1.44; British women 1.89; Japanese women 1.4; Taiwanese women 1.12; Russian women 1.61; Canadian women 1.59 to name just a few.

The decline in fertility rates in the USA and elsewhere has generated the term, “birth dearth,” suggesting there are too few babies being born, with the fear there will be too few young people entering the labor force to provide for the needs of growing elderly populations.

Was the Problem Real?

This is a complex matter. In the short term, some of the problems associated with the “birth dearth” are real. The American economy, and other capitalistic economies, are fundamentally dependent on population growth: ever more consumers and more workers. Perhaps no one is experiencing these problems more seriously than the Japan, who have been actually shrinking their population in recent decades.

In the long run, however, population growth is a huge problem, far overshadowing any short-term adjustment needs when populations stop growing. This is particularly obvious in the impoverished countries who cannot currently feed their populations–and their rapidly growing numbers make their problems all the more impossible. Burundi, in Central Africa, is on course to double their population in 22 years. Niger, in West Africa, with the highest fertility rate in the world (over 7 births per woman) could triple by 2050.

Population growth is also a problem in the more prosperous, developed nations. Even wealthy countries have an impoverished underclass, and population growth increases their numbers and their needs. Moreover wealthier individuals have a greater per capita impact on the natural and social environments. They eat more, drive more, and waste more. They have larger lawns to water, a problem debated during the recent California drought.

However, focussing on the “birth dearth” in the USA, we must conclude the problem is simply non-existent. Yes, fertility rates have declined, but when immigration is added to the formula, America’s population continues to grow.

2000: 282.16 million

2001: 284.97 million

2002: 287.63 million

2003: 290.11 million

2004: 292.81 million

2005: 295.52 million

2006: 298.38 million

2007: 301.23 million

2008: 304.09 million

2009: 306.77 million

2010: 308.11 million

2011: 310.50 million

2012: 312.86 million

2013: 315.18 million

2014: 317.68 million

2015: 320.22 million

2016: 322.48 million

Pretty clearly, we are not running out of Americans. Some white supremacists may worry about the composition of the American population, and we sometimes hear blatant calls for more white babies, but any increase to population is a bad idea, regardless of race.

Negative Consequences

Frantically increasing the American fertility rate, would cause many problems, as I’ve already indicated. While an increase in new babies would benefit some businesses (you know who you are, Gerbers and Huggies), it would also require the society at large to provide increased medical services, housing, schools, libraries, truant officers, juvenile detention facilities, shopping centers, highways, etc. By the way, many of those needed expansions would reduce the land available for growing food, and we would need lots more food.

And given the unusually high standard of living of Americans as a whole, increasing our numbers has a more substantial impact on the planet than similar increases in developing countries. Adding a million Ethiopians presents big problems for Ethiopia, but adding a million Americans presents big problems for the whole world.

 

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - SoluProb™: Block Syrian Refugees

Nov. 16, 2016
Student Author

Annika Ford, Chapman University

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at babbie@chapman.edu

Presumed Issue:

Granting access to Syrian refugees is a security threat to the United States because terrorists or so-called Islamic militants could gain access to the U.S. by posing as refugees. We do not have enough information about the refugees who are being settled here, and we cannot possibly screen them all.

Solution:

Allow state officials to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states.

Narrative:

In September 2015, President Obama announced a plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. by September the following year. In August 2016, one month ahead of schedule, the United States welcomed its 10,000th refugee. However, in the months after President Obama’s announcement, governors from 30 states across the U.S. voiced strong objections to Syrian resettlement in their states, stating publicly that they would attempt to halt such actions. Some officials only expressed opposition, while state officials in Texas, Alabama, and Indiana filed lawsuits against the federal government. In Texas, state agencies argued that they had not been adequately consulted about placing refugees in their state. Officials even filed a temporary restraining order to block refugee arrival, though it was quickly overturned. In Indiana Governor Mike Pence filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, and also attempted to hinder resettlement by interfering with federal funds allotted for Syrian refugees in the state. In response, a federal appeals court countered that Governor Pence had broken the law by accepting the federal money and subsequently declining to use it for resettlement purposes.

Although the lawsuits were struck down, they reflect a wider sentiment shared by many since President Obama’s announcement. There is a nationwide feeling that the acceptance of refugees escaping a five-year civil war is “opening the doors” of our country to Islamic militants. Additionally, this narrative has been perpetuated by President-elect Donald Trump, who has described the wave of refugees as a “Trojan Horse,”calling the acceptance of Syrians into the country a potential catastrophe. This characterization is reinforced by fears spurred after recent terrorist attacks in the West, including those in France and Brussels. For example, Governor Pence’s lawyers stated that the Governor was fulfilling his responsibility to protect the safety of Indiana residents. They cited federal officials who have acknowledged that terrorists are trying to infiltrate Western nations.

Is the Problem Real?

According to Evan Bonsall in the Harvard Political Review, the assumption that Syrian refugee resettlement is a national security threat ignores the facts. Entering the country as a refugee is already a stringent process and one of the hardest ways to enter the United States. Bonsall cites Jana Mason of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who reported that those attempting to enter the U.S. under refugee status are the single most heavily screened and vetted category of persons. The process requires referrals and background checks by multiple government agencies, including the National Terrorism Center. In addition, Syrian refugees must go through added screening, with face-to-face interviews. All gathered information is extensively fact-checked and privately investigated. The Department of Homeland Security goes through every individual case, and approves or rejects each one accordingly.

Such measures have proved highly effective in regards to blocking potential terrorists from entering the country. In 2015, the Cato Institute released a report stating that of the 859,629 refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. since 2001, three were convicted of planning an attack. In addition,

There are many differences between Europe’s vetting of asylum seekers from Syria and how the United States screens refugees. The geographic distance between the United States and Syria allows our government to better vet those seeking to come here, while large numbers of Syrians who try to go to Europe are less carefully vetted. A lax security situation there does not imply a lax security situation here (Nowrasteh, 2015).

Such differences are important to note because recent fears of terrorist attacks in the United States have been stirred in large part by attacks that occurred in Europe. The report concludes that in the U.S., the threat of terrorist attacks by way of Syrian refugees is widely over-exaggerated because our vetting system is so thorough.

Negative Consequences

While the use of fear, exaggeration, and misinformation is certainly a negative consequence of the proposals to ban Syrian refugees, worst still is the added fuel to the anti-Muslim hysteria that already plagues this country. Meanwhile, the safety of Muslims who are living this country is increasingly threatened by violence, bigotry, and over-generalizations.

Sources:

  • Bonsall, E. (2015). Are Syrian Refugees Really a Security Risk? – Harvard Political Review. Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/syrian-refugees-really-security-risk/
  • Nowrasteh, A. (2015, November 18). Syrian Refugees Don’t Pose a Serious Security Threat. Retrieved from https://www.cato.org/blog/syrian-refugees-dont-pose-serious-security-threat
  • U.S. Is On Target To Accept And Resettle 10,000 Syrian Refugees. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/05/488896247/u-s-is-on-target-to-accept-and-resettle-10-000-syrian-refugees
  • Federal Court Blocks Gov. Pence’s Attempt To Bar Syrian Refugees From Indiana. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2016/10/03/496466007/federal-court-blocks-gov-pences-attempt-to-block-syrian-refugees-from-indiana
  • Court Dismisses Texas Lawsuit To Block Syrian Refugees. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/06/16/482342990/court-dismisses-texas-lawsuit-to-block-syrian-refugees
  • Gershman, J. (2016). Appeals Court Skeptical of Pence’s Anti-Syrian Refugee Directive. Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/09/15/appeals-court-skeptical-of-pences-anti-syrian-refugee-directive/

 

+ - SoluProb™: Trump Wall

Student Author
Natalie Gallardo, Chapman University
Dec. 6, 2016

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at babbie@chapman.edu

The “Problem”

During his presidential announcement speech, Donald Trump claimed that Mexicans are “…bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Furthermore, Trump has argued that American citizens have lost their lives due to the criminal activities of immigrants who cross the border illegally. Through numerous campaign speeches as well as his official position on immigration, Trump describes illegal immigrants as lower-skilled, less educated people who are a threat to American job security (Immigration 2016).

The “Solution”

As part of his platform, Trump has presented the idea of an enhanced wall between the Southwestern United States and Mexico border. The wall is intended to prevent migration from Mexico, and has been met with considerable support from individuals who express similar concerns about Mexican immigrants.  Listed on Trump’s website is a 10-point plan to limit immigration into the U.S. Main points of his vision is the prioritization of jobs and security for Americans, as well as immigration controls that would prevent uncontrolled foreign worker admissions.  The first point in his plan is to work on an “Impenetrable” wall on the border that Mexico would pay for and would be implemented on the first day of his presidency. His tenth point calls for immigration reform that would keep immigration levels “within historic norms” (Immigration 2016).

The Problem That Does Not Exist

Results from a Pew Research Center Report from November of 2015 have concluded that more Mexicans are leaving the United States than are entering.  The study utilized census data from both Mexico and the United States from 2009 to 2014 and showed that more than a million Mexicans and their families left the United States while only 870, 000 entered. In 2014, the number of illegal crossings caught dropped to the lowest since 1971. While previous research has shown that border enforcement enacted in 1986 has not been successful (Cooper and O’Neil 2005), factors within the United States have been the cause for the decrease of immigration into the United States. Economic issues, specifically the 2008 recession, caused many Mexicans to lose jobs in lower paying markets such as construction and leave the country. More restrictive border control under President Obama as well has tremendously helped minimize illegal immigration from Mexico (Preston 2015).

These Mexican immigrants and immigrants as a whole are not more inclined to commit crimes than a natural born citizen (Becerra, et al. 115), contrary to Trump’s remarks that portray a majority of Mexican immigrants as criminals.

Negative Consequences of the Solution

A Bernstein Research report conducted earlier this year concluded that the wall could range anywhere from 15 to 25 billion dollars; higher than Trump’s estimate of 10 billion dollars. The southwestern border across the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas spans about 1,989 miles, but natural borders such as the Rio Grande provide less of a physical border to construct, and a 1,000 mile border was used to calculate costs of the Trump Wall. Costs of maintaining and protecting the wall are unknown. Donald Trump has also claimed that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, in which the Mexican president has replied that they will not. In result, payment of such a wall is unknown and is essentially left up in the air to figure out after Trump is inaugurated. (The Data Team 2016)

Trump’s wall would be disastrous economically and socially. Financial costs of immigration policies and unnecessary walls put a strain on financial resources while socially creating a hostile environment for Mexicans. The real problem about the Trump wall is the social repercussions and negative rhetoric regarding Mexicans that makes them seem like harmful people. Trumps proposal of said wall is destructive because it perpetuates the idea that there is an issue regarding migration into the United States while recent patterns of migration prove otherwise. Building this wall would cause far more issues than it was intended to solve.

Works Cited:

+ - SoluProb™: Conversion Therapy

Aug. 1, 2016
Presumed Problem

People are choosing to become homosexual when they should choose heterosexuality.

Solution

Religious and secular programs of Conversion Therapy (aka Reparative Therapy) aim to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals.

Narrative

Homosexuality has been viewed variously in different societies and at different times in history, but it has been viewed negatively through most of American history. That negative view has been accompanied by a variety of punishments. In colonial Virginia, death was a possible punishment for being gay. Thomas Jefferson sought to replace that punishment with castration, but he was unsuccessful.

By comparison, Conversion Therapy or Reparative Therapy might seem a gentler solution: help gays switch to being straight. A variety of religious and secular programs were popular during the second half of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st. In some cases. individuals voluntarily sought conversion as an escape from the stigma of being gay. And in other cases the impetus came from the parents of gays.

The methods used in the attempt to change sexual orientations included “pray away the gay,” the use of prostitutes, electric shocks, hormones, and a long list of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic techniques. During much of this period, homosexuality was officially regarded as a mental illness by many medical and psychological associations.

Was the Problem Real?

In 2001, the U. S. Surgeon General reported that there was no evidence supporting the possibility that sexual orientation can be changed, but that conclusion was contradicted by a psychoanalytic study by Dr. Robert Spitzer. The latter study was based on interviews with some 200 participants in conversion therapy programs, and Spitzer took their comments as evidence that sexual conversion was, in fact, possible. Ten years later, however, Dr. Spitzer retracted his conclusions and apologized to any gay people who had been hurt by his earlier, widely publicized, study. He acknowledged problems in his methodology and rejected his earlier findings.

It is now almost universally agreed within the medical and psychological communities that sexual orientation is no more a matter of choice than being right-handed or left-handed.( Interestingly, some lefties recall their parents trying to force them to switch to being right-handed. And that was about as successful as converting gays to straights.)

The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a list of some of the professional associations who have denied the efficacy of conversion therapy.

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

American College of Physicians

American Counseling Association

American Medical Association

American Psychiatric Association

American Psychoanalytic Association

American Psychological Association

American School Counselor Association

American School Health Association

National Association of Social Workers

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization

Just the Facts Coalition

At the same time, former leaders of conversion therapy programs have publicly renounced such attempts to get the gay out. Nine such ex-leaders prepared a formal apology to the gay community. Time Magazine described the experience of one of the former leaders.

Yvette Schneider spent a little over a decade as an active participant and a leader in the gay conversion therapy movement. In other words, she spent years working to convince men and women that they could stop being gay, lesbian, or bisexual through suppression and therapy.

But in 2010 she began to see things differently. At the time, Schneider did not share her feelings with her colleagues, but that same year, she was let go from her position as the director of the women’s ministry at Exodus International— a leading sexual orientation conversion organization that closed in 2013.

“I realized that no one was actually saying, ‘I’m straight,” she explains, referring to the post-treatment disposition of the Exodus clients she saw. “You can go through years of therapy and what are you left with—shame?”

Here’s the bottom line. If you are secular in such matters, biology makes some people heterosexual and others homosexual. If you are religious, then God made that choice. Conversion therapy is a solution without a problem.

Negative Consequences

In their letter apology, the nine former conversion therapy leaders nicely summed up the kind of damage done by this unnecessary “solution.”

Conversion therapy reinforces internalized homophobia, anxiety, guilt and depression. It leads to self-loathing and emotional and psychological harm when change doesn’t happen,” the letter reads. “We now stand united in our conviction that conversion therapy is not “therapy,” but is instead both ineffective and harmful.

Not only has conversion therapy damage those who were subjected to it, but it perpetuates the view that homosexuality is wrong, evil, sinful, and unnatural. That is the view supports actions like those of the thugs who murdered Matthew Shephard, the Orlando 49, or countless others who have been shamed, beaten, or killed for the sexual orientation they were dealt at birth.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

 

+ - Solutions without Problems SoluProb™: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Nov. 16, 2016
Student Author
Kunal Sharma, Chapman University

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at babbie@chapman.edu

The Presumed Problem

This paper will examine the fundamental reasoning of opposition many Americans and legislators had towards gays serving in the military, and whether those notions had any basis whatsoever. While one can simply guess whether personal ideals or even political affiliation plays a role in one’s opinions towards the issue, the official reasoning according to Title 10 of the United States Code (which has since been repealed) concluded that homosexuals “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability”.

Solution to the Presumed Problem

Many times taxpayer money has been wasted funding policy proposals that claim to “fix” a supposed but nonexistent problem. Many times these solutions have done more damage than good. In an effort to block homosexuals from assimilating into our armed forces, the Clinton Administration enacted the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which mandated that openly homosexual citizens were barred from enlisting while those who remained closeted were able to serve contingent that they keep their orientation private. Reasoning behind this inequitable act included undocumented perceptions on gays lacking the ability to work and interact productively with others (straight or gay) in the military. Relying on analyses from multiple scholarly journals, this paper aims to scrutinize original research prompting the policy, as well as any ramifications resulting from it. Granted while President Bill Clinton expressed the DADT as a “major step forward” from previous enlistment requirements, the corollary that followed 1994 could have been avoided if the initial presumed perceptions of homosexuals had been debunked.

Evidence the Problem Doesn’t Exist

But do homosexuals provide an “unacceptable risk” to our armed forces?

According to the American Psychological Association, they do not. The organization’s official stance on the policy was that: “Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention.” Furthermore, revoking the right to be honest of one’s sexual orientation can actually foster harmful results as there are many proven benefits from disclosing this information (Kavanagh, 1995). The military had expressed concerns of “unit cohesion”, implying that heterosexuals will find difficulty integrating with open homosexuals, and may even refuse to work with them. However, one in three American adults know an uncloseted homosexual, and those with continuing relationships with gays tend to express positive attitudes towards gay people as a group (Herek, 1988). In his research, Dr. Gregory Herek also concluded that “ongoing interpersonal contact in a supportive environment where common goals are emphasized and prejudice is clearly unacceptable is likely to foster positive feelings toward gay men and lesbians.”

The policy also fails to be representative of public opinion, with polls showing almost 8/10 Americans supporting openly gay citizens to serve in the military (CNN, 2010). Public polls conducted from more conservative outlets produced similar results, with over 60% in favor of openly gay people enlisting in the armed forces (Fox, 2003). In addition, maintaining a favorable public opinion of military is vital for recruitment and public backing behind critical and controversial operations. By integrating open homosexuals into the military, public opinion of our armed forces does not decline in the slightest way (Belkin, 2007). Many misconceptions surrounding homosexuality have dominated outlooks towards their community. Contrary to (some) popular beliefs, there is no evidence to support claims that homosexuals are less able to control their sexual desires and inhibit higher frequencies of sexual activity. In fact, homosexual men and their heterosexual counterparts have virtually identical sexual patterns in regards to regularity of sexual activity (National Defense Research Institute, 1993).

Consequences of the Solution

Implementation of the policy overwhelmingly fostered more unfavorable consequences than good. Externalities such as higher military costs, lower retention rates, less favorable opinions on the military, etc. all played a role in Congress’ decision to repeal the DADT in 2010.

Shortages in enlistment is no new phenomenon, but following the DADT’s implementation, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported spending over $95.1 million in attempts to train replacements for discharged soldiers from 1994-2003. Recruiting costs also exceeded over $95.4 million during this period. Yet, the United States Military Academy (USMA) and University of California Blue Ribbon Commission concluded these numbers were extremely conservative of the actual repercussions. The true estimates of departure costs following the DADT exceeded over $363 million, which includes recruiting, separation, and training costs (USATODAY, 2016).

In attempts to recruit, the military also lost over 4,000 LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) members annually following the policy. Furthermore, 19.6% of LGB separations can be attributed to their inability to be open about sexual orientation (Gates, 2007). Loss in personnel had repercussions that weren’t simply costs. The U.S. military’s enlistment of convicted felons approximately doubled from 2004-2006 when the Department of Defense announced their goals to enlist over 92,000 men and women to the armed forces (Boucai, 2007). Lowering their standards was an expected consequence, as with the departure of openly gay soldiers led to shortages in Arabic and Persian speaking departments (which were already shorthanded), as well as the loss of highly trained LGB personnel (Benjamin 2007).

Considering its public presence, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell garnered little to no favorable media exposure and left the military vulnerable to open criticism for following a policy that did not align with commonly held beliefs by the American public (Belkin 2007).

Following the overwhelming literature in favor of overturning the policy, public discussion over the issue grew. President Barack Obama, upon a 65-31 senate vote to repeal DADT, officially signed the repeal into law in late 2010. Finally, after over 15 years of shooting ghosts, our government adhered to documented research to overturn an unjustified law.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources:

  • Belkin, A. (2007). ” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Does the Gay Ban Undermine the Military’s Reputation?. Armed Forces & Society.
  • Benjamin, S. (2007, June 8). Don’t Ask, Don’t Translate – The New York Times.
  • Boucai, Michael. 2007. ‘Balancing “Your Strengths against Your Felonies”: Considerations for Military Recruitment of Ex-Offenders.’ The Michael D. Palm Center, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/rel8bt6.pdf (CNN Poll)
  • http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/02/12/fox-news-poll-voters-say-allow-gays-serve-openly.html (Fox Poll)
  • Gates, G. J. (2007). Effects of” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Retention Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Military Personnel.
  • Herek, G. M. (1988). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25(4), 451-477.
  • Kavanagh, K. (1995). Don’t ask, don’t tell: Deception required, disclosure denied. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 1(1), 142.
  • National Defense Research Institute (US), United States. Department of Defense, & Rand Corporation. (1993). Sexual Orientation and US Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment (Vol. 323). Minnesota Historical Society.
  • USATODAY – Report: ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ costs $363M. (n.d.). February 14, 2006.

 

+ - SoluProb™: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Beginning in 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina, U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and again in 1962. U.S. involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft, which was followed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the U.S. president authorization to increase U.S. military presence. 1

So the American tentative involvement in the North/South civil war in Vietnam was radically changed by the events of August 2, 1964, at the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam, near the Chinese border. As reported at the time, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats from the 135th Torpedo Squadron attacked American destroyer, USS Maddox. The Maddox was unharmed, but Navy fighters claimed to have damaged the torpedo boats.

Two days later, it was reported that North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy. As a consequence of the attacks on American naval vessels, the U. S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson “for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia.”

In 1964, 23,300 Americans were serving in Vietnam. Following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, those numbers increased.

1964: > 23,300

1965: > 184,300

1966: > 385,300

1967: > 485,600

1968: > 536,1002

American casualties in Vietnam increased as well, and there are no dependable figures as to the number of Vietnamese military and civilians killed during the escalated war. By the time the war ended, over 57 thousand Americans had given up their lives.

How does this story rate coverage as a SoluProb: a Solution without a Problem? Declassified NSA documents now provide a detailed view of the two attacks in August, 1964, in the Gulf of Tonkin.3

AUGUST 2

A.M. The President is informed that North Vietnamese PT boats have attacked the destroyer USS Maddox in international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. 

P.M. The President consults with his advisors, and decides not to retaliate against North Vietnam. He issues instructions:
(l) to prepare a protest note to be sent to the North Vietnamese regime and (2) to strengthen the Tonkin patrol force and to counter attack and destroy any force attempting to repeat the attacks. 4

Here we see a measured response by President Johnson and his advisors. This changed two days later.

AUGUST 4 

9:12 A.M. The President is informed that North Vietnamese PT boats have launched a second attack in the Gulf of Tonkin against the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy.

Noon The President meets with the National Security Council 

1:00 P.M. The’ President has a luncheon meeting with Rusk, McNamara, McCone, Bundy and Vance. The decision is made to retaliate. 

6:15 P.M. The President reviews his decision with the National Security Council. All agree. 

6:45 P.M. The President reviews his decision with the Congressional leadership at a White House meeting. All agree. The President indicated that he will ask the Congress for a Joint Resolution on Southeast Asia.5

The Congress passed the Joint Resolution on August 7th, and the President signed it on August 10th. Thus the die was cast for what would become the longest war in American history—later surpassed in length by American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Having noted that the Tonkin Resolution was not controversial among the general public, Robert Hanyok continues:

However, within the government, the events of 4 August were never that clear. Even as the last flare fizzled in the dark waters of the South China Sea on that August night, there were conflicting narratives and interpretations of what had happened. James Stockdale, then a navy pilot at the scene, who had “the best seat in the house from which to detect boats,” saw nothing. “No boats,” he would later write, “no boat wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes – nothing but black sea and American fire- power.” 6

The Maddox and Turner Joy crews had been prepared for trouble on August 4th. Marines at Phu Bai sent a warning of pending attack, naming the North Vietnamese vessels that would be involved. But, as Hanyok reports:

Three hours later, at almost the same moment that the American destroyers opened fire on the approaching radar return, Phu Bai issued another report which stated that the specific boats, which had been identified as being readied for an attack, in reality, were to be towed to Haiphong for repairs.

Over the years, there has evolved a near consensus that the North Vietnamese “attack” was actually sonar blips misidentified as torpedoes, an explanation confirmed by Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense at the time of the attack. As an alternative explanation, Robert Hanyok quotes President Johnson as saying, ”Hell, those damn, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish.”

Thus the escalation of the American war effort in Vietnam was the “solution” to the “problem” of North Vietnam escalating the conflict. Except that escalation had not occurred.

In terms of lives lost, money spent, and America’s international reputation tarnished, this was a very expensive solution without a problem.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

1 http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Vietnam_War

2 https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/seventies/resources/vietnam-war-military-statistics

3 Mr. Marshall Wright and Mr. Sven F. Kraemer, “PRESIDENTIAL DECISIONS

THE GULF OF TONKIN ATTACKS OF AUGUST 1964,” Vietnam Information Group November I, 1968,

https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/declassified-documents/gulf-of-tonkin/chronologies/assets/files/release-2/rel2_wright_kraemer.pdf

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

6 Robert J.Hanyok, “Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964,” a declassified top secret article from Cryptologic Quarterly, https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/declassified-documents/gulf-of-tonkin/articles/assets/files/release-1/rel1_skunks_bogies.pdf