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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Essay on History of US Juvenile Justice System

The US Juvenile Justice System
            Prior to the creation of the juvenile courts, minors aged seven (7) and above who were found to have committed misdemeanor were imprisoned together with the adults.  Whatever law is imposed for the punishment of adult offenders was applied to minors.  Minors were treated as harshly as adult offenders.  In fact, in 1648, there was a law in Massachusetts which imposed death penalty for any child over 16 who shall commit the offense of cursing their natural father or mother. 

            However, later studies and research showed that the incarceration of juvenile offenders together with adult offenders does more harm than good not just to the juvenile offenders but to the society as well.  This happened during the early years of the 19th Century where political and social reformers successfully pushed for reforms and instituted several changes in the society such as right of suffrage among women, protection of children against labor, and the institution of eight-hour work day.  With the help of social and political reformers, several changes were introduced in the criminal justice system and reformers started to rehabilitate rather than punish minors.  Society began to have a paradigm shift insofar as their treatment of juvenile delinquents is concerned.  Thus, the Juvenile Justice System was created to reform US policies regarding juvenile offenders.  Thus, the New York Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents led the opening of the House of Refuge which was the country’s first reformatory.

The First Juvenile Court
            In 1899, the first juvenile court was established by Jane Adams in Chicago, Illinois.  Its establishment was an affirmation of the fundamental principle that children are developmentally different from adults (Shay Bilchik, 1999, p.1).  Minors are also considered to be more amenable to treatment and rehabilitation (Shay Bilchik, 1999, p.1).  Considering these fundamental behavioral differences between an adult and a minor, placing juvenile offenders in the same confinements and treating them in the same manner as adults shall not be good for their rehabilitation and transformation.   Thus, the juvenile justice system was created to utilize personal, individualized and treatment-focused approach as a long term solution to the problem of juvenile offenders (Patricia Allard and Malcolm Young, 2002, p.4). 

Barriers to the Effective Implementation of Juvenile Justice System
            Research shows, however, that there are certain barriers to making the juvenile justice system an effective tool for rehabilitation and treatment.  One of the reasons are the incidences of judges who abuse their discretion in incarcerating children for petty offenses without requiring the same standards of proof which the adult defendants are entitled.  Consider the case of In Re Gault where the United States Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling of conviction of a minor who allegedly made an obscene telephone call.  The Supreme Court ruled that minors who are charged with offenses in juvenile court were also entitled to basic due process: notice of the charge, a right to counsel, and elements of the right to trial including confronting witnesses as opposed to trial by hearsay (In Re Gault).
            In addition, denial of due process against juvenile offenders is a common occurrence.  In a 1993 survey conducted by the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center, they found that there are frequent incidents of questionable "waiver" of counsel; crushingly high defender caseloads; missed opportunities to interview, investigate and intervene when services might have helped a child (Patricia Allard and Malcolm Young, 2002, p4)  

            The lack of funding and adequate number of personnel add burden to the effective implementation of the principle and policy behind the juvenile justice system.  These are serious obstacles that affect the efficiency of the programs for rehabilitation and treatment of juvenile offenders. 

In addition, the main principles behind the juvenile justice system are being questioned.  The opponents of the juvenile justice system argue that they are not effective in controlling crime.  This is manifested by the fact that research has shown that murder by juveniles remained at a relatively constant level for the decade before 1985, but it underwent a large and disturbing annual increase.  In view of the failure of the juvenile justice system to control criminal behavior among juveniles, there are proposals coming from other sectors of the society to shift the legislative policy from rehabilitation of juvenile offender to punishment. 

Facing a dilemma - should the state concentrate its efforts on preventing crime or should it focus on rehabilitating offenders - the state has to choose between two options: Should the state use its resources to build more juvenile penitentiaries and incarcerate youthful offenders every time they violate the law as a means of punishment or should the state use its fund to help in parenting, recreational and mentoring programs that are geared towards the rehabilitation of the youth that are geared towards the rehabilitation of the youth. 

Case of In re Gault, 387 US 1 (1967)
            One of the main issues surrounding the juvenile justice system is that it is gradually integrating itself with the criminal justice system for the adults.  In principle, the juvenile justice system is supposed to be procedurally different from the criminal justice system for adults.  The intention was that the juvenile justice system was supposed to be akin to a civil proceeding as distinguished from criminal trials.  Since it is a civil proceeding the juvenile offenders were not afforded due process rights, a right which is guaranteed and protected for adults facing criminal trials.  Juvenile offenders were also not entitled to the right to trial by jury and the freedom against self-incrimination. 

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In view, however, of the decision in the case of In Re Gault substantial change in the procedural principle in the juvenile justice system took effect.  In the 1967 case of Gerald Francis Gault, he was placed in detention after he made an obscene call to a neighbor while under probation. The Supreme Court made a ruling that minors could not be incarcerated for committing petty offenses without requiring the same standards of proof which the defendants are entitled.  Thus, the Supreme Court declared that juvenile offenders are likewise entitled to due process of law and directed the juvenile courts to grant the juvenile offenders the following rights:  a) the right to receive notice of charges; b) the right to obtain legal counsel; c) the right to confrontation and cross-examination; d) the privilege against self-incrimination; e) the right to receive a transcript of the proceedings, and f) the right to appellate review.   In this case however, Justice Potter Steward wrote his dissenting opinion against the imposition of formal trials in juvenile courts.  He expressed concern that the juvenile court proceeding is being converted into an adult criminal court.  He emphasized that the purpose of juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate not to punish these youthful offenders thus the grant of the said rights does not serve the purpose and intent of the juvenile justice system.

Juvenile Transfer to Adult Courts
            In addition to the decision in the case of In Re Gault, several legislative measures have been passed which required the transfer of jurisdiction of juveniles to adult courts.  The most serious repercussions of these laws are that slowly the society is trying to once again make the juvenile offenders under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system.  It is as if the courts and the legislators are trying to slowly trying to reduce the powers of juvenile courts so that the juvenile offender and the adult offenders will once again be governed by the same principles.  These laws are a) prosecutorial discretion; b) statutory exclusion; c) lowered age limits; d) “once an adult always an adult” policy; e) judicial waiver.

Prosecutorial discretion is otherwise known as the direct file transfer since the prosecutors are given the complete authority to determine whether to file a case against a juvenile offender in juvenile courts or directly in criminal courts.  One of the criteria used in filing cases in criminal courts is the gravity of the crime.  This means that for a crime of murder committed by a minor it is possible that a prosecutor may choose to file a case in criminal courts. Another measure used to transfer jurisdiction is statutory exclusion.  Some states automatically grant jurisdiction to criminal courts on offenses committed by juvenile offenders depending on either the age or the nature of the offense charged.  In some states, the age limits are lowered so that regardless of the nature of the crime committed, the offender is tried as an adult.  Thus, the adult courts are automatically granted the authority to hear cases involving juvenile offenders if they have reached a certain age limit.   Thee are some states which adopt the “once an adult, always an adult” policy which treats a juvenile offender who has previously prosecuted as an adult in criminal courts as an adult for all subsequent cases.  In judicial waiver, the state or the prosecution files a motion before the juvenile court to transfer jurisdiction from juvenile courts to criminal court.  It is the judge who determines whether the transfer should be effected based on the judge’s sole discretion, or because certain well-defined criteria has been met or upon a probable cause determination for an offense for which the state has deemed that the waiver is appropriate. 

            There are many apprehensions about the increasing number of juvenile offenders being prosecuted as an adult in criminal courts and being placed in the same confinement as adults  Among the arguments raised are that it fails to address the special needs of the minors who at that tender age needs the protection and help of the society.  Also, it argued that transferring jurisdiction to criminal courts does not equip the minors of any learning necessary to reenter the communities.  Another argument is that the transfer fails to take into account the notion that violence is a learned behavior.  It must be stressed that most of the time these juvenile offenders were also victims of abuse or neglect. 

            The creation of the juvenile justice system in the 19th Century was a significant move towards social reform.  The reformers in the past have learned from the mistakes of the law makers and the judges before them.  It was indeed a sound judgment to create a separate court for juvenile offenders.  Yet, several centuries after the juvenile justice system was created it would seem that the courts and legislators are once again committing the mistake of the people before the 19th Century.  The laws providing for juvenile transfers to adult courts and the decision of the Supreme Court in In re Gault attest that society no longer believes in juvenile courts and would rather let adult courts handle juvenile offenders.  I disagree with this.  Juvenile offenders should be governed by a different justice system.  The criminal courts already have their hands full in handling adult offenders.  If jurisdiction over the juvenile offenders will be transferred to them a significant burden will be imposed upon criminal courts. Under criminal courts, the principle behind the creation of juvenile justice system will be put to waste.

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Essay on Juvenile Detainees - The Duties of Juvenile Corrections Officials

The Jets once sang these famous lyrics "We ain't no delinquents, we're misunderstood.  Deep down inside us, there is good!" Perhaps, this sums up the reason behind the establishment of the juvenile justice system.  It puts emphasis on the often neglected aspect of juvenile justice system which is to be able to find out something about the juvenile. 

Because of the avowed purpose of the juvenile justice system, the juvenile corrections officials are often placed in a unique situation.  In the performance of their duty, they have to keep in mind that not all juvenile delinquents are notoriously bad and incorrigible.  Juvenile corrections officials must always be reminded that there may also be some good in some juvenile detainees and offenders.  Unlike the adult criminal offenders, the juvenile justice system must be more understanding of the situation of the juvenile detainees or offenders.  The juvenile justice system must always be mindful that whatever the crime they have committed in the past or have been involved in they are still children.  As children they need love, care, and attention which they may have been deprived of by their parents or guardians.

It is because of this difference in situation which makes the job of juvenile corrections officers unique.  While they work for the state or the local government and while it is their duty to protect the public against the juvenile offenders who may have terrorized the streets and committed crimes in the past, it is also their duty to act like the juvenile’s second parents while they are serving their sentence.  They cannot act like an impartial and objective judge whose primary duty is to assess the guilt of the defendant and render the decision without regard for why the juvenile has committed a wrong.  They cannot be vindictive but instead they should be more understanding of the circumstances behind the commission of the crime by these offenders (“Analysis: Juvenile Detention Overused?”).  Instead, they should develop an alliance or bond with the juvenile detainees so that they will understand them more and learn to deal with them (Moore and Sales, 2005).

The juvenile corrections officials are in a unique situation because in the performance of their duty they also have to take into account the circumstances of the child.  Since their most important function is the rehabilitation and improvement of the child, their duty requires them to study the child’s development, background and history.  For instance, juvenile corrections officers are interested in knowing the child’s family background, community, friends, and scholastic performance.  Juvenile corrections officers use this information for them to devise the appropriate therapeutic treatment or programs necessary for the rehabilitation and treatment of the juvenile offender (Moore and Sales, 2005).  Upon knowing the background of juvenile offender or detainee, the juvenile corrections officers determine the proper treatment that should be given to the juvenile offenders.  Moreover, if in the course of the gathering of information about the juvenile offenders, the juvenile corrections officer found out that the child has certain skills then the juvenile corrections officers can make the appropriate recommendations so that these skills may be integrated into the therapeutic treatment.

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It must however be stressed that the juvenile justice system does not tolerate any act of wrongdoing on the part of the juvenile detainees or offenders.  The system exists not just to rehabilitate but also to punish juvenile offenders for the offense they may have committed.  They may not have reached the age of minority at the time of the commission of the offense but the point is that a law was violated and peace was disturbed.  For this reason, juvenile detainees or offenders need to be punished for their actions. 

Because of the offenses they have committed, juvenile corrections officers need to make sure that these juvenile detainees or offenders do not pose a danger to their fellow detainees or offenders.  They must make sure that these juvenile detainees or offenders will not hurt themselves or their fellow detainees.  Thus, it is also their task to supervise and monitor the activities of juvenile offenders.  Since they are more knowledgeable of the personal background of the juvenile offenders based on the data they gathered, they are the ones who are in the best position to know which inmates are most likely to cause trouble inside the detention facilities. 

One of the more important duties of juvenile correctional officers is to inspect the detention facilities of juveniles to ensure that violence is avoided.  It is also their task to ensure that no contraband like drugs or weapons like bladed instruments are brought in inside the detention facilities.  Thus, juvenile correctional officers ensure that juvenile offenders are protected from violence while inside the detention facilities. 

Another important rationale behind the juvenile justice system is that it seeks to deter the commission of other crimes in the future by juvenile detainee or offender.  Similar to the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system seeks to understand why crime happens, know why juvenile offenders commit crimes and prevent it from happening again in the future. 

            The unique situation among juvenile corrections officials in dealing with juvenile detainees and offenders is mainly brought about by the avowed purpose of the juvenile justice system.  Juvenile corrections officials must always be mindful that not all juvenile detainees and offenders are incorrigible offenders.  They can be rehabilitated and treated.  Their behavior may still be corrected.  The juvenile corrections officials must always realize that they play a special role in the rehabilitation and treatment of juvenile offenders.  

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Essay on Women's Right to Vote - Essay on Impact of Nineteenth Amendment

Until the early part of the 20th Century, it was socially acceptable to have a double standard of morality.  There was one set of standard applicable for men and another set of standard which was applicable only to women.  Most of the time, the double standard was always in favor of men and against the women.  Under this same standard, it was socially acceptable for men to cheat on his wife while it is an abomination for women to cheat on their husband.  Legally, men who shot their wife after seeing his wife in scandalous circumstance with her paramour can be cleared from any criminal liability while the same is not applicable for women who attempt to kill their husband.    

The double standard between men and women was the topic in the movie Adam’s Rib.  In the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Bonner found themselves at the opposite sides of the courtroom.  Mr. Bonner was the District Attorney who was tasked to prosecute the woman who shot her adulterous husband.  Mrs. Bonner, on the other hand, was hired to defend the case of the woman.  Mr. Bonner’s argument is that no person has the right to shoot any person indiscriminately no matter what his or her reason is.  It was his argument that shooting another person was wrong regardless of sex.  Mrs. Bonner’s argument, on the other hand, is that the legal principles which have exculpated men from criminal liability such as self-defense and defense of others should also be made applicable to women.  She theorized that if it was the husband who caught his wife in the presence of her paramour and shot his wife he can easily get the acquittal.  The same principle should be applied to the wife.  In the end, Mrs. Bonner was able to convince the court that the wife should get an acquittal.

The same double standard existing in the American society until 1920.  Women were denied their right of suffrage while men were allowed to vote.  It was not that the women did not want to participate in voting.  But despite their insistence to vote, they were consistently denied participation in voting stating that voting was entrusted by the constitution to men.  One of the reasons for the same is that the United States Constitution did not grant women the right to vote.  The Fourteenth Amendment also did not confer the right to vote to women.  Neither did the United States Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment make all citizens voters.  This was the Supreme Court decision in the case of Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875) where the it declared that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one, and that the constitutions and laws of the several States which commit that important trust to men alone are not necessarily void.”

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Despite the losses of the women’s suffrage movement in the Supreme Court and in the Congress, they did not lose hope.  They fought for the recognition and argued that they have the right to vote just as the men.  The feminist movement argued that if the United States proclaims itself to be a nation which upholds equality among all persons then there is no reason for the women to be denied the right to vote.  Since there is no substantial distinction between men and women there is no reason for the women to be denied the equal protection of the law.  Moreover, it is inconsistent with the principles of a democracy for the right to vote to be denied to certain segments of the population.  By definition, democracy is the rule of the majority.  Every person, men or women, is part of democracy and so men and women should therefore be allowed to vote.   

They decided to turn their attention to the individual states and seek for state constitutional amendments.  This strategy bore fruit as state-by-state reform started in 1867 in Kansas with a referendum.  While the referendum was defeated, victories were obtained in Wyoming and Utah which was considered as the first victories for the women suffrage movement (“Nineteenth Amendment” 1).

With the ratification, however, of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, 1920, things started to change for women’s suffrage movement.  The Nineteenth Amendment explicitly provides that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the other   restrictions on voting were also finally abolished. 

Today, it is already inconceivable for women to be denied any right which is accorded to men.  Women have proven that they too are capable of performing just as well as men in any field.  They have proven that their contributions can also vital in other professions such as Engineering, Information Technology and other major fields.  They have also proven that they can do almost anything that men can do.  

There are also laws which protect women against other forms of discrimination.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an evolution of the feminist movement.  This law prohibits any kind of discrimination on the basis of sex.  This law protects women from being denied the right to equal wages, opportunity for promotion, and other employment benefits. In the coming years, this will pave the way for more reforms and towards equality for both sexes.  With these changes, there will come a time when suits against companies because of discrimination will be dramatically reduced and sexual harassment cases shall be eliminated. 

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Essay on History of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

            The United Nations as of today does not have a single and universally accepted definition of Terrorism. As of this time, every country has its own definition of terrorism.  In the United States, terrorism is defined under the Code of Federal Regulations as the “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85) 

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as the “unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the US without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (“Congressional Testimony”, 2002, p.1) 

            A more recent definition of domestic terrorism is found under Section 802 of the USA Patriot Act which states that domestic terrorism are those acts which: "(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."

            Based on these definitions, it follows that there have been many acts of domestic terrorism and many domestic terrorist groups operating in the United States.  It is sad, however, that the only act of terrorism everybody is familiar of was the September 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  While the September 2001 attack was the biggest and the deadliest act of terrorism it is by no means the first.  Research shows that domestic terrorism has been the problem in the United States since the start of the 20th Century.  One of the earliest known acts of domestic terrorism was the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley. 

The September 2001 terror attack was also not the last.  According to the FBI, between 2002 and 2005, there were twenty-four (24) terrorist attacks in the United States which were all done by domestic extremist groups.  Since the time the FBI started tracking and gathering data about terrorists in the mid-1970s, the FBI has found that a total of 457 incidents of terrorism took place in the United States from 1980 to 1999 ((“Terrorism in the United States, 1999” p.10).  Out of the 457 incidences, there are 272 terrorist incidents while there were 55 suspected terrorist incident and 130 prevented acts of terrorism (“Terrorism in the United States, 1999” p.10).

Ku Klux Klan
            One of the more notorious domestic terrorist group is the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).  The KKK is a racist and anti-Semitic group committed to using extreme violence to achieve its goals of racial segregation and white supremacy.  In its several decades of existence, it has targeted not only African-Americans, the white Americans who defended the African-Americans, but also the reconstruction government which supported their rights.  They also considered as their enemies the Jews, Catholics, socialists, communists, homosexuals and the different groups of immigrants. 

            The KKK was formed in 1865 in the town of Pulaski, Tennessee.  Their initial activities included innocent and non-violent activities such as wearing of disguises and roaming the town after dark.  Their secret and elaborate rituals and their hideous costumes, triggered panic and fear among the African-Americans (“Ku Klux Klan, 1868”, 2006, p.1). Amused by the fact that their horseplay created fear among the people, they took advantage began to inflict fear particularly against African-Americans.  They soon developed a reputation of being white supremacist group.  Because Anti-African American sentiment was common, other groups imitating the Ku Klux Klan were formed in other parts of the country.   Its reign however was short-lived as the Congress in 1871 enacted the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 authorizing the use of federal troops to suppress the violence of the KKK leading to its death.

            After a few decades, the name, rituals and philosophy of the original KKK were adopted by a new organization in 1915.  Its leader, Colonel William Simmons made the new KKK open to native-born, white, Protestant males, at least 16 years of age.  The targets of this organization were the Roman Catholics, blacks and the Jews.  Later on, it has evolved into preaching white supremacy and attacking alien outsiders, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, which they believed to be threatening traditional American ways and values.  Among its notorious activities was the burning of crosses on hillsides and near the homes of the people they wanted to scare.  Masked KKK members also marched to the streets in many communities carrying placards threatening various persons with summary punishment and warning others to leave town.  They were also believed to have committed kidnapping, flogging, mutilation and murder.  Other criminal activities include those committed in 2000 involving six KKK members who engaged in illegal gun trading scheme to finance a plan to bomb a courthouse, the building of pipe bombs designed to blow up buses carrying migrant workers, and the use of hand grenades to attack abortion clinics. 

The Weather Underground
            The Weatherman or the Weather Underground is a radical terrorist organization during the 60s and the 70s whose goal was to revolutionary overthrow the US government.  Thinking that the US was an imperialist country that should be defeated by the Communists in Vietnam, the Weathermen launched massive campaign of violence to promote communism and to encourage the young American public to join them in their cause (“Weathermen”, 2008, p.1). Among these acts of violence was the demolition of a statute dedicated to the memory of eight policemen who were killed in a riot in 1886 (“Weatherman” 2005, p.1).  The Weatherman also pillaged the Chicago business district, smashed windows and destroyed automobiles.  One of the most dangerous activities was the accidental detonation of a bomb by Weathermen members which killed at least three of their members (“The Weather Underground”, 2009, p.1). 

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            A comparison of the activities of the Weatherman and the KKK reveals that both their acts are violent and are dangerous to human life and violates existing criminal laws.  KKK members kidnapped, flogged, mutilated and even murdered their targets while Weathermen members likewise engaged in acts of violence the most dangerous of which was the preparation of a bomb.  Their activities were also intended to coerce and intimidate the civilian population and to influence the policy of the government.  In the case of KKK, their activities were not random acts of violence but they were for the purpose of showing their opposition against the actions of the government which at the time was supporting the rights of the African-Americans.  In the case of Weathermen, their violent activities were used as a means of introducing social and political change, specifically change in the imperialistic policies of US and the promotion of communism.

Symbionese Liberation Army
            The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) got their name from the word symbiosis which also means interdependence of difference species.  It is a group composed of people from different races and classes who advocated the slogan "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people" (Chris Suellentrop, 2002, p.1).  One of the group’s more notorious acts include the murder of Dr. Marcus Foster whom the group condemned because of his plan to introduce identification card in Oakland schools which they considered as “Fascist.”  Other dangerous activities include the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of millionaire William Randolph Hearst.  According to the group, the Hearst Corp is the “corporate enemy of the people” and demanded that Hearst’s parents should distribute $6 million worth of food to the needy prior to her release (Chris Sullentrop, p.2). Their other crimes included murder, bank robbery and possession of explosives. 

New Black Panther Party
            The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) is a US based-black supremacist organization founded in Texas (“New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense”, 2005, p.1).  While its name is similar with the original Black Panther Party, the two organizations are independent from each other.  The NBPP advocated black empowerment, civil rights, and self-defense through confrontation.  Some of its known activities were the recruitment of members for racist purpose and the carrying of shotguns and riffles and marching the streets of Jasper, Texas to protect the black community.  Other activities include the act of its known leaders in organizing a series of confrontational protests in the Dallas area and in appearing in a radio station and urging the listeners to give money to NBPP. 
Jewish Defense League
            The Jewish Defense League (JDL) was a Jewish organization established for the purpose of protecting Jews against its enemies.  Founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meri Kahane, it aimed to protect the Jews from harassment.  Among the activities attributed to the JDL are: use of threat by mailing a note to a television reporter threatening vengeance against prominent Jewish critics and against those responsible for the murder of a Jewish leader.  Other criminal activities include the bombing outside the Syrian Mission to the United Nations and placing of bombs outside a New York building. 

            Similar with the New Black Panther Party, their violent and criminal activities were directed against those who opposed the Jews.  Though some of their actions involve bombings and have resulted to the death of several individuals, their criminal actions were motivated by their bias towards a specific group of persons who espouse a particular religion.  There was also no intention to threaten or coerce the entire civilian population or to influence the government to change its policy.  Thus, contrary to the other groups which also use bombs, the JDL is classified as a hate crime group because its activities are motivate by bias towards a particular group of people.  

Eric Rudolph and his Christian Identity Movement
            One of the more notorious individuals who performed acts of terrorism was Eric Rudolph and his Christian Identity Movement.  The Christian Identity is an extremist group whose religious ideology is popular in extreme right-wing circles. (Michael Barkun, 1997, p.3) The supporters of Christian Movement believe that the whites of European descents can be traced back to the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” They have a strong belief in God but they think that only they are God’s chosen people and the only ones who are right.  (Peter Ephross 2) They consider the Jews as the offspring of Eve and the Serpent while non-whites are created before Adam and Eve whom they call “mud people.”  The Christian Identity Movement is considered as extremely influential especially among the white supremacist and extreme anti-government movements. 

Rudolph was believed to be responsible for several bombings which were committed late in the 1990s.  The first of these bombings happed on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta Georgia.  It was the 9th day of the Summer Olympics.  Eric Rudolph placed a bomb near the main stage in the park.  When the bomb exploded, it killed Alice Hawthorne, a mother who went to Georgia together with her together to watch the Olympic Games, and Melih Uzonyol, a Turkish cameraman and injured more than one hundred people (Kristen Wyatt, 2005, p. 2). 

The Olympic Bombing was followed by two bombings in 1997.  The first of these two bombings were against an abortion clinic at the Sandy Springs Professional Building in Atlanta.  The target for this attack was the Northside Family Planning Service.  At the time of the bombing that abortion clinic was closed but there were personnel present in the clinic.  Rudolph targeted these employees and the facility itself.  The second of the two bombings in 1997 happened an hour after the first explosion.    According to Rudolph the target for this attack were the agents of the government who were the medical personnel, firefighters, police and other law enforcement officers.  The bomb injured four (4) people and injured more than fifty (50) people. 

The third bombing incident happened at a homosexual establishment called the Otherside Lounge.  In this attack, five people were injured.  The second explosive device did not cause damage as it was discovered before it exploded.  These bombings were followed by another bombing at the Birmingham, Alabama of the New Woman All Women Health Care.  The bomb killed Birmingham police officer Robert Sanderson who at the time was moonlighting as a security guard in the clinic and Emily Lyons, the clinic’s head nurse. 

            Domestic Terrorist groups and domestic terrorism are serious problems.  They have existed in the past and they will continue to exist in the future to sow fear and terror.  But more than the problem of violence that terrorism brings to our nation, is the problem of bias, hatred, prejudice.  What fuels the continued growth of the domestic terrorists are feelings of animosity towards other persons whom they feel are different from.   The reality is that terrorism cannot be stopped unless the reason why it exists is addressed.  Thus, instead of tracking terrorists and punishing them if they get caught, efforts should instead be devoted to creating establishing peace, fostering alliances and maintaining a discrimination-free nation.

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Essay on Improving the US Healthcare System - Healthcare Reform

            In a study conducted by the World Health Organization (2001), it found that France has the best overall health care system among the 191 countries surveyed while the United States placed only 37th (Paul V. Dutton, 2002, p.2).   One of the reasons for the ranking is that a large number of Americans still do not have health insurance which is estimated at 50 million.  The second reason is that despite the lack of coverage, the United States still spends the most on its health care at 13.7% of GDP (Paul V. Dutton, 2002, p.2).  Needless to say, it is a unanimous view that America’s health care system needs to be reformed.  What these changes will be and how will these changes be implemented is a matter of significant dissension among many lawmakers and other interest groups.

            Presently, there are three major bills that are being debated in the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Health Committee and the House Committee.  While there are significant differences, these three bills have the same objective of reforming America’s health care system.  One of the features of these bills is that they seek to make access to health insurance universal (“Reforming Health Care Reform,” 2008, p.1).  Access to a universal health care system has long been the dream of many Americans.  Many Americans have lobbied for it.  Under these bills nearly everyone are required to have health insurance that will protect them against rising cost of health care.  The rule is that everyone must have health insurance.  There is, however, a concern as to who are exempted from coverage.  The Senate Health Committee is proposing that when the premium cost at least 12.5% of their annual income or who are below 150% of the poverty level may be exempted from coverage (Anna Wilde Matthews, 2009, p.1).  The Senate Finance Committee, on the other hand, proposes the limit is 10% of the annual income and those who are earning below 133% poverty line (Anna Wilde Matthews, 2009, p.1).

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            Another feature under these bills is the penalty clause for those who fail to buy health insurance.  At present, there are already some states which impose penalty to those who fail to secure health insurance but are capable of paying for them.  If passed, the requirement will be made to apply to everyone regardless of which state he is in.  These bills recommend that those who fail to buy health insurance shall be fined by either $750 per person if his income is up to three times the poverty level or up to $950 if his income is more than three times the poverty level (Anna Wilde Matthews, 2009, p.1).  There are some who are in favor of the penalty clause.  However, there are also some who are against it. Those objecting to this proposal say that this is unjust and unfair to persons who could not afford to pay health insurance.  It is their argument that the persons who can least afford to pay health insurance will be penalized for their financial difficulties.  They say that the government should not transfer the buck to the people.  If the public could not afford to pay for their health insurance it only goes to show that the government has failed in making health insurance available to the public.

            One of the suggestions to make health insurance more accessible is for the government to provide subsidy by allowing tax credits to purchase insurance in the individual market.  Under the proposed bills, the government is willing to subsidize people who are making up to 400$ of the poverty level or around $73,000 for a family of three (Anna Wilde Matthews, 2009, p.1).  The bills however vary on the amount.  The Senate Health Committee bill requires that a family of three making $55,000 need to pay $4,300 while the Senate Finance Committee proposes $6,600.

            These proposed bills are in line with President Obama’s plan of making health insurance to those who already have it more secure and stable.  It is also President Obama’s goal to make health insurance accessible to those who still do not have it.  My concern however is that the penalty clause which is part of these bills imposing either $750 or $950 to those who will fail to buy health insurance can be considered a tax increase even if President Obama does not consider it as a tax.  This amounts to a middle class tax increase.  If this is a tax then it contradicts the promise made by President Obama during his campaign that he will not raise taxes on the middle class or those who earn less than $250,000 a year (Christopher Beam, 2009, p.3) 

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Persuasive Essay on the Future Combat System Program and the Reasons why it should be Suspended

            The Future Combat System Program is an ambitious multi billion dollar program which seeks to transform, modernize and develop the army (Andrew Feickert, 2006, p.1).  The program was first envisioned by the former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki for the purpose of empowering and enabling the army to react to overseas crises swiftly and effectively.  The principle behind it is that army units such as the M-1 Abrams tank and the M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle are quite heavy and take weeks for to be deployed.  In addition, these units require a complex system of logical support which is difficult to organize especially when time is of the essence.  Since these weapons will not be as effective in situations when there is a need to take immediate action there is need to modernize the army.  On the other hand, light units can be deployed immediately and require less logistical support.  Thus, the army sought to develop a new generation of combat units that are lighter than but as lethal as the bigger combat vehicles.

            Through the FCS Program, the army hoped that they can enhance the capability of its army vehicles and at the same time make them less reliant for support from other units.  Under this program, heavy army vehicles such as the M-1 Abrams tank and them-2 Bradley will be replaced by eight new types of armored vehicles, four classes of unmanned air vehicles, three types of unmanned ground vehicles, unattended ground sensors, a missile launcher, and improved munitions which will all be linked by advanced communications network under an interconnected and integrated system. 

            Under the FCS Program, the eight new types of vehicles will share a common chassis and engine.  They would also have new weapons, sensors, and different kinds of protection.  They are also more fuel efficient compared to the heavy armored vehicles.

            While the FCS Program may be an effective tool in fighting terrorism, I have several concerns which led me to the conclusion that this is not the right time for continuing with such program.  The first and most important is its cost.  According to J. Michael Gilmore (2006), Assistant Director, the research and development portion of the program alone is scheduled to extend through 2016 and require a total of $21 billion from 2007 to 2016 (p.4).   He added that with the planned purchase of 1.5 brigades per year to begin in 2015, the FCS program will require $8 billion to $10 billion annually starting 2015 and for as long as the program continues with the same yearly purchase rate (J Michael Gilmore, 2006, p.4).  Given the current situation of the United States - where people are losing their jobs, people are losing their home, people have no health care, companies in different industries are filing for bankruptcy, and people have no food on their table, I do not think it should be the United States to purchase weapons to be used for war.  The funds that will be spent for this program will go a long way when it is invested in some other program.  It can be used to rehabilitate the insurance industry or the car industry or the banking industry.  The billions of dollars that should be allocated will instead be very useful when it is used to pay off the people’s interest rates on their amortizations for their homes.  More people will in fact benefit when the money will be directly given to people who are directly affected by the economic crisis.  Again, this is not the time to spend on weapons.

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            The second concern is the technological readiness of the FCS program.  I find the goals and objectives of the FCS program very lofty but I do not think that at present technology is available for the program to actually be as effective as it is envisioned.  The most serious obstacle for the FCS program is how to develop a software program that will allow all of the new systems to communicate and share data with one another.  The development of this technology will require 34 million lines of software code.  J. Michael Gilmore estimates that this is around twice the amount necessary for the Joint Strike Fighter, the Department of Defense’s largest software development (p.6).

            The third issue is the safety of the soldiers manning the lightweight FCS vehicles.  The assumption is that the light armored vehicles will replace the heavy tanks the army currently has.  They say that these vehicles are equipped to survive on the battlefield since it has the technology to know the enemy’s whereabouts which will give them the opportunity to calculate the situation and find out whether an encounter with an enemy force will be advantageous or not.  This is however very idealistic.  Not everything goes according to plan in the battlefield.  Some guns malfunction.  Some bombs do not explode.  People die on the battlefield.  What if the sensors and the communications network do not work according to plan? What if they malfunction while the battle is going on? This will only place in danger the billions of dollars of investment on the FCS program. 

            Fourth, I do not think that going to war is the solution to anything.  Fighting force with another force does not work.  Though it will produce short term results, it does not however lead to long term solutions.  Instead of investing money to weapons and artilleries that aim to destroy lives and property, I think our country should instead invest its money on peace efforts.  United States should take a more active role in finding solution to important issues such as worldwide poverty.  I think one reason why people are encouraged to fight is because of poverty.  If the United States can help create jobs for these people in Third World countries them there is good reason for the combatants to drop their weapons.

            Fifth, I do not suggest that the Future Combat System Program be scrapped.  It is my proposal that at this point it be temporarily suspended.  It is not denied that the Future Combat System Program may in the future be needed against the enemy.  At this point, however, it is not a priority.  

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