President Obama Using the Internet to Diversify the American Political System

Lee Thornton, who has served as the Dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and who also during the Ford and Carter administrations covered the White House for CBS News, writes in a recent academic journal that President Obama was able to effectively alter the tradition operation of the American political system by using technology to educate and mobilize American voters.  More specifically, Thornton argues that What the American political system witnessed this time around was a perfect collision of technology with a generation ready to rise up and embrace a cause. Candidate Obama understood those things in a way that his opposition obviously did not  HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod5033652158(Thornton, 2008, p. 2).  The article strongly suggests that the integration of technology and political campaigns has transformed the American political system by granting Americans new types of access to candidates and by creating a sort of voter enthusiasm that deviates from traditional media contacts with political candidates.
Thornton notes that politicians have frequently made use of the media and cites Lyndon B. Johnson as an American president who devised deliberate strategies to influence public opinion through the news media.  In terms of examining the American political system, within the context of political campaigns, there have been few changes in how the media has been defined and used since President Johnson.  President Obama, much younger and much more technologically-aware than his predecessors, demonstrated through his internet efforts that the internet is a powerful new type of media and that success in the American political system may become increasingly dependent on savvy internet campaigns.  Surprisingly, given the deeply-entrenched role of the broadcast news media in national elections, Thornton notes that this may encourage future candidates in the American political system to  try to sidestep the traditional media HYPERLINK httpwww.questiaschool.comPM.qstaod5033652158(Thornton, 2008, p. 2). 

This relates to class discussions because it illustrates how special interests such as the mainstream news media can be perceived as being unduly influential and sometimes biases President Obama, seek to free himself of some of these powerful interests and effectively addressed himself more directly to the American people.  This is, in my opinion, a positive development because it bridges the gap between political candidates and voters by squeezing out to a certain extant information brokers such as media organizations owned and controlled by powerful financial interests.  The Internet is more transparent and diverse, though care has to be taken to determine whether information is factually correct, and it is probably a good thing to sidestep the broadcast news media in the name of transparency. 

Political Campaigns

Negative campaigning or mudslinging has long been considered as part of American political culture. As a means to securing an electoral seat, it is considered the norm in politics and is as they say as American as Mississippi mud (Goodman, 1996, p. 13). As a result of excesses in candidate-centered campaign contributions, political advertising is often mean-spirited and foul, focusing not on candidates platform but on character. Because candidates are essentially engaged in a political contest, it might seem completely normal for them to discredit opponents through deceit, manipulation, and character assassination. I do not believe this should be the norm in a supposedly robust and mature two-party democracy like the United States. However unbelievable it might be, the US constitution could be regarded as the promoter of such negative political campaigning.

The Communication Act of 1934 and the 1976 Federal Election Campaign Act (as amended) resulted to the protection of corporate-sponsored political commercials insofar as restricting them would be, as the decision in Buckely v. Valeo indicates infringes on the right to free speech (1976). To counter the effects of negative political advertisements, public opinion is crucial. Interest groups are helpful in exposing and educating the American public on political messages, rather than personalities, of a particular party. In this manner, they help in providing alternative opinion especially to low-income and marginalized homes which are found to be most vulnerable and most inclined to believe in negative campaign (Chang, Park,  Shim, 1998).

Soft money also reduces candidate-centered politics because it funds for advocacy of the party as a whole. I think that party-centered politics reflects a democracy in its mature form, but the personality-centered campaign is without a doubt, the more sellable strategy to win a political contest. While candidate-centeredness of political campaigns may be inevitable, resorting to dirty tactics and deceitful propaganda does more harm than good in the long run. It weakens confidence in government and respect for elected leaders.

Foreign Service and Traditional Diplomacy

When one thinks of the foreign service, embassy and diplomats come into mind.  In the world of the foreign service of the diplomatic corps, negotiation is the most important function or tool in diplomacy (Berridge200520).  The reason why the diplomatic service exists is to help facilitate cordial relations among nations and this also includes resolving problems and issues in a peaceful way rather than resorting to war or precipitate any turmoil in the world.

Diplomats have been in the forefront of any matter that requires foreign intervention in lieu of a military one which entails using force.  Diplomats are always the first to go and work out a peaceful agreement with a foreign host, whether they are state or non-state actors such as the case of the earthquake in Haiti that struck in January 10, 2010.  The non-governmental organization (NGO), Bread for Haiti went to the stricken island nation to help alleviate the people who are suffering from hunger following the calamity.

During the course of their mercy mission, the convoy was stopped by a local militia group, called Blanc et Rouge, demanding that the the workers relinquish their supplies.  It was apparent that they would not allow the relief workers through unless concessions were made.  The leaders of the Bread for Haiti convoy have refused to yield, and this resulted in a standoff that had run for several hours now. 

The services of Dr. Toma, a local physician and well-respected local leader from a town called Belladere, came after being told of the standoff.  Dr. Toma s clinic was one of the destinations where the supplies were earmarked because the clinic is considered neutral ground.  For many years, Dr. Toma has established a reputation of being fair and trustworthy, and has been successful in coming up with compromises between competing political factions in the local area, thereby keeping the peace.  A three-party conversation has begun to find a solution to the impasse.  This also involves the representatives from Bread from Haiti and the militia representatives.

In this case, it would be easy to make threats in order to assert ones will.  But in a situation like this, it would be counterproductive.  The militias can still seize the goods and block further aid using force.  Since the NGO is not associated with any government agency, they could not enlist the services of the peacekeeping forces in the area and time was of the essence and the aid needs to be delivered.  In the light of this development, a compromise is struck.  Dr. Tomas clinic would be the collection point.  The Blanc et Rouge would not dare interfere for it may attract the attention of rival militias who might challenge them.

In this scenario, diplomatic solutions are preferable to armed confrontations.  The problem is they are not easy to attain if the circumstances are complex and this requires very careful handling by skilled negotiators who know how to play the strengths and weaknesses of the parties involved.

Why do young people not vote

Democratic elections are supposed to propel into political and civil office leaders who have a clear vision of the future. Only such a visionary leadership can guarantee the strengthening of social and political institutions for the prosperity of future generations. Because of this fact, young adults between the ages of 18 and twenty four would be expected to be the most enthusiastic voters but this has not been the case. Less than 50 percent of those below 25 responded in the affirmative if asked if they would vote.

The main reason behind this is that parents and the society have overlooked their responsibility of teaching their children the political system and the essence of voting. Secondly, politicians have shown little interest in addressing the matters affecting this population group. The main policy suggestions during campaigns are revolve around the interests of the working class without paying due attention to youth matters in a manner that would suggest they are actually the future of this country.

In assessing the candidates running for office, I look at the suggestions they make in the media about how they would make life for all Americans in their targeted group better. If a candidate has sound policy, he or she will have the support of the majority. The media also plays a big part in the decision as they decrypt most of the rhetoric and jargon used by campaign camps while asking for votes.

However, to increase the levels of voter turnout especially among the youth, the media should take more responsibility not just in reporting campaign stories and developments but deeply interpreting the contentious issues for everyone and also in educating the public on the importance of participating in the electioneering process.


The term democracy refers a system of governance where the people are actively involved in the election of leaders who serve in the government.  The political government within a democracy is facilitated by representative democracy or direct democracy. A constitution facilitates the protection of the freedom of citizens, civil rights, liberty and legitimized rights. The term constitution refers to a body of fundamental rules and principles in a nation that determines the power and duties of the government .In addition, the constitution guarantees certain rights to the people (Denvir, pg.1).  In the US, many citizens venerate the constitution and believe that it is a good model for democracy.  However, the question of how democratic the US constitution is has triggered critical analysis and debates of the constitution.  According to Robert Dahl in his book How Democratic is the American Constitution, there are several undemocratic elements in the constitution (Dahl, pg.3) .Although majority of Americans believe that the American constitution and its principles uphold democratic values, citizens should take a critical analysis of the constitution to determine whether there is need make amendments in the document.

The legitimacy of the US constitution emanates from its utility as a tool of democratic governance (Jordan, pg.31).  However, the incorporation of antidemocratic elements in the constitution can be attributed to the context within which it was established One major factor that has been considered to contribute to this drawback in the document is the fact that numerous aspects of the US political system were integrated in the constitution as a result of the Framers last minute compromise or short-sightedness. Furthermore, the Framers of the constitution may have lacked a democratic political system upon which to model a government.  The most unusual and potentially undemocratic elements in the American constitution include the bicameral legislature, Electoral College system, the federal system, judicial review and the presidential system. Because the Framers incorporated features in the political system that go against significant democratic reforms, the American citizens have been challenged to have a critical analysis of Americans political system in order to identify opportunities that can create a democratic society.

One of the reasons why the American constitutional system is viewed as undemocratic and inefficient is the strong bicameral legislature which has a highly unequal representation in the upper chamber, an executive branch and independent in the upper chamber, an extensive judicial review of the federal legislative enactments and an electoral system where coalition governments and third parties are ruled out (Levinson, pg 27). The American presidential system which is supported by the constitution is related to the Electoral College and the Senate which have undemocratic elements .The Senate and the Electoral College tie the electoral vote to geography instead of the population. This makes the two to have the political power lean towards the establishment of coalitions of smaller states whose interests may not necessarily go hand in hand with the interests of a nation.  The American constitutional system was modeled during a transitional stage when democratic evolution period experienced in England during the eighteenth century. Although the presidential system in the US has not led to political instability, the formula of separation of powers in many third world countries has given rise to leadership problems. The collapse of presidential rgimes in these countries is an indication of the problems that may also arise within the US presidential system. The US presidentialism allows division of powers into the executive, legislature and judicial branches. Although this is expected to provide a system of checks and balances, it can lead to leadership problems when the various branches of governance fail to agree on vital issues.

Some political analysts have asserted that as compared to presidentialism, parliamentalism is more compatible with stable democracy. The presidential democracy often introduces immobilism and rigidity in the political system (Linz and Valenzuela, pg.91). In some countries where proportional representation results to coalition governments or multiparty states, it is easy to attain stable democracy and equality. In the US government, there are distinctive roles for the head of government and head of state. Furthermore, the elected head of government also serves as the head of state. The system has the President and the Congress elected for a fixed term in office. This demands that for the Congress to be effective, it needs to cope with a vast agenda. In a scenario where there are a vast number of complex issues to be addressed, it becomes difficult for the legislators to reach collective agreement on important issues   that relate to governance. When an overloaded congress becomes too compliant with the President, turns into the Presidents rubber stamp.However, if the Congress fails to put into considerations critical issues in the agenda or habitually rejects proposals by the goverment, the process of governance can be brought to a halt. This no doubt puts the future of a country at jeopardy. On the other hand, an ineffectual President may not be discharged from office unless heshe is implicated in criminal acts. Lack of impeachment ensures that president remains in office for a fixed term .The constitution protects the president from removal from office due to maladministration until the term in office is over. Citizens therefore may be unable to discharge the president from office because the constitution prevents re-election of a president until the fixed term in office expires. In case the candidate wins the elections, the running mate becomes the vice president. This is viewed as a flaw in the presidential selection process (Rose, pg.79).

The one year campaigning witnessed in the US before the general elections gives rise to undemocratic practices in the electoral system. Studies indicate that only one third of eligible voters participate in Congressional elections while only a half vote during presidential elections (Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, pg 9). For instance, the presidential caucuses demand that participants to spend a lot of time in political discussions. Individuals who cannot fin enough time are unable to participate. Presidential candidates are nominated through primary elections and caucuses.Traditionally, primaries are first held in states with small populations such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Despite the fact that primary elections are first held these states as compared to other states such as California which has a large population, the outcome of the election in these states is very influential in the election of the presidential party nominee. This has made populous states such as New York, Florida, Texas and New York to  call for a change in  the schedule of primary elections  where  the elections held in states with small populations  give more weight to the outcome of the presidential nominee .It is due to this reason that primaries held in Iowa and New Hampshire are considered vital in the nomination process of the presidential nominees.Furthermore,the system gives more power to some voters in certain states than those in others. A good example is whereby millions of voters including the undecided voters get ignored by political candidates during the campaigns if they live in states where the majority is expected to support one side.

The Electoral votes play an important role in US presidential elections and the creation of an Electoral College by the constitution enables all states to have an equal number of senators and representatives. All states provide electors who then elect the president (Mayer, pg.228). This has made less populous states assigned greater importance during the presidential primaries. Another problem that arises from the Electoral College is that the system results to confusion when a President is elected without a majority of the popular vote. The candidate may on the other hand win the electoral votes.Initially, there lacked an element of popular votes in during the elections. However, the birth of two-party system in the early 19th Century increased the need for elections to move towards increased democracy. This led to the incorporation of   the principle of one person, one vote. The Electoral College has been maintained to  ensure that all states are given equal importance during the elections .Despite the positive intention of the system, presidential elections where the winning candidate fails to secure majority votes undermines democracy because the electoral college gives victory to the individual who loses the the popular vote .For instance, during the 2000 US Presidential elections, the Republican George W. Bush won the elections through majority  electoral college votes against Al Gore who got the popular vote. The electors within the Electoral College system have the responsibility to vote directly for the president. The electors comprise of the states US senators and representatives of the population.Currently, 538 members (435 representatives, 100 senators and 3 electoral votes for Washington D.C) form the Electoral College. A candidate who is elected as president needs to receive majority of the electoral votes (at least 270). However, the proponents of the Electoral College are convinced that the system to some degree encourage trans-regional appeal for the presidential candidates because they campaign in many states including those with smaller populations. This   reduces political polarization .One of the founding fathers who questioned the constitution was Thomas Jefferson. He recognized the important role of the Framers of the constitution in America but he asserted that the Framers might have lacked the experience of the present. He therefore advocated for the rethinking of the constitution. He advocated against radical move to abolish the Electoral College. Instead, making a detailed plan for reforms to avoid the repetition of the 2000 presidential elections fiasco where George W.Bush won the lections by electoral votes but lost to Al Gore by majority votes is important (Posner, pg. 92). Apart from the selection process of a president through the primaries, the issue of selecting a vice-president in the US has received criticism. The means through which the vice-president is selected has been the focus of scholarly debate for a long time. The procedure of selecting the vice-president has always been an issue of controversy during the presidential selection process because the tradition allows presidential nominees to exercise unilateral power when choosing a running mate.Furthermore,the elections require great funding and that may attract funding from pressure groups and corporate groups which may undermine democracy(American Political System,np).

Critics of the Electoral College system emphasize that the presidential election outcome should be based more on the national popular vote than the electoral votes. After 1968, the presidential elections primaries became the means through which presidential nominees were appointed. The presidential candidates during the primaries seek majority of delegates in the national convention in the Electoral College system (Steed and Moreland, pg.23). During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, deciding the outcome of presidential elections based on national popular vote was considered to be inadequate because the public was not familiar with candidates across the country.  This made the public lack sufficient information about candidates in various states.  Although the objective of using Electoral College votes to elect the president was good for democracy 200 years ago, the system currently seems to undermine the will of the people when the popular vote is nullified by the results of the Electoral College votes.  The democratic value of every citizens vote is equally important.  Despite the increasing demands to have the Electoral College eliminated, it enjoys support for its benefits.  For instance, the Electoral College ensures that the political tradition of honoring state rights in the US is maintained. The system therefore makes sure that presidential candidates do not ignore states with small populations. Another advantage is that the Electoral College system is important in maintaining a stable political party system because electoral votes are allocated on winner take all basis.  Although there have been strong support for direct election of US president by the voters, there are several challenges to this.  One major challenge is that making a constitutional amendment that can abolish the Electoral College can be difficult to enact because a constitutional amendment needs to be approved by a two thirds majority in the Congress. Though calls for reforms in the system continue to be witnessed, changes in the system have been experienced progressively (Benett, pg.46).

The American political system is defined by the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the US Constitution.   The Separation of powers principle is the heart of the US constitution which ensures that power is divided amongst the legislature, the executive and the judiciary (US Senate, np).  The principle aims at ensuring there are checks and balances .Despite the fact that   power is counter-balanced and spread in a presidential system, the presidential system makes a government complicated, slow and legalistic.  This is a disadvantage in a world where rapid economic and political development is being witnessed.  The Framers of the constitution intended to reduce the excessive power of leadership experienced in monarchial systems.  However, the expansion of US Federal bureaucracy has provided more power and greater role to the president in a political system.  The presidential system has the president serving as the commander in chief of the military hence heshe has power over the federal government executive branch and the military.  The executive branch provides the president with constitutional powers to manage national matters and to give executive orders in matters relating to internal policies. The bicameral legislature is the other important branch in government The House of Representatives forms the lower Chamber of the Congress. The Senate is the upper chamber of the bicameral legislature. The Framers of the constitution intended the Senate to be a regulatory group.  Currently, it has become the dominant chamber and the powerful upper house of the US legislature body.

The constitution supports an undemocratic legislative process where the Senate has great control over important matters in the state (Levisnon, pg.25).Some criticism about the US bicameral legislature relates to the composition of the Senate. The constitution requires that every state regardless of its population produce two senators to serve for a fixed term in office. This is considered to undermine the democratic principle of one person, one vote. Some states such as California have a population of about 35 million people while other such as Wyoming have a population of about half a million people. This means that states with smaller population are viewed as equal to those with huge populations.Consequently, nearly a quarter of the Senate is comprised of representatives whose population account for less than five per cent of the nations total population (about 14 million people).For example, in 2004, Barbara Boxer managed to retain her seat when she received about six million votes in California while in South Dakota, John Thune who defeated Tom Daschle received about 198,000 votes. This raises concern on how democratic the process of election is in the states. In the House of Representatives, the principle of one person, one vote is upheld because the representatives of the states are appointed based on the total population of the states. This does not translate to good representation because the Senate can stop the passing of legislation. As a result, a large national majority that intends to enact legislation may be prevented by a small minority within the Senate. This scenario has been attributed to the US government redistribution of resources from the highly populated states to the lowly populated states. Furthermore, the Senate composition has promoted disproportionate representation of racial minorities and this departs from democratic ideals. Based on its nature, the bicameral legislature makes it difficult for any legislation to be enacted. This is because legislation measures   can be easily defeated whenever one House is not willing to approve the measure. Another objection to bicameralism legislature is that it provides for many veto points (Rhodes, pg.480). This often allows democratic will to be undermined. Since the Constitution was framed more than two centuries ago, the presidents rarely exercised the veto power and in cases where they did, the president believed that the relevant legislation was unconstitutional. Over time, this has changed. The president may veto legislation if based on policy he fails to favor the legislation. Although some critics of the constitution point out presidential veto power as undermining democracy, the veto power is considered a benefit to the nation when it increases consensus before legislation is passed. For instance, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is viewed as a veto-happy president and one of Americas most popular presidents.

Finally, the difficulty of having the president removed from the office has been viewed as the US constitutions provision of great power to the presidency. When an electorate votes a party out of power in a decisive manner, it expresses its lack of confidence and trust in the party and its administration (Schantz, pg.89).The supporters of the constitution argue that the Framers of the Constitution were right to make it difficult to remove a sitting president from office by forbidding the impeachment of a president due to maladministration. They therefore intended to preserve a system of checks and balances by protecting the president against legislative reprisal. This is a great advantage to the country because it decreases the possibility of having the country destabilized when the presidents relative independence is undermined. In addition, negative impact of partisan efforts to remove the president from power is prevented.

The US Constitution is considered to be one of the most fundamental documents in governance and leadership. The document which was produced more than two centuries ago has been questioned on how it expresses the will of the current American citizens. The standard by which the constitution serve people well and meet democratic standards has attracted   debate and critical analysis of the document. This has had a wide range of views presented to support or oppose the argument that the American Constitution is undemocratic. Competitive elections in a democracy should be procedural and fair.  For citizens to be actively involved in governance issues, freedom of speech, freedom of political expression and freedom of the press are vital.

A Discourse On My Understanding and Experience of James Loewens Sundown Towns

Sundown Towns, by James Loewen, describes the historical, economic and social factors which created the phenomenon of towns all across America where African Americans and other minorities are shunned by the explicit or implicit message that they are not welcome after sundown. Minorities in these towns occupy an extremely small percentage of the population or, in some cases, none at all. Loewens title refers to an example of the message which caused this exodus or extermination of the minority populations NIGGER, DONT LET THE SUN SET ON YOU HERE. (Loewen 65)

The expression Sundown Town was coined to refer to a particular phenomenon of racial segregation which is responsible for all-white and nearly all-white towns across the U.S. Yet this information has largely flown under the radar of American youth, who are taught in history class that our nation has always been getting better, in everything from transportation to race relations. (24) This is an untruth, and Loewen argues that race relations have gotten progressively worse since the abolition of slavery, only starting to improve in the 1970s after the civil rights movement. He points out that in some ways, the North proceeded to treat African Americans worse than the South (36) after Reconstruction.  Between the years 1890 to roughly the 1970, racism was enjoying a great resurgence.  In 1856 the Dred Scott decision--which held that African Americans were regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect (20)became one of the pieces of bedrock upon which sundown towns were built. In 1896, in Plessy vs. Fergusen, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregation was legal, (33) which reinforced the already-entrenched view of African Americans as inferior beings. This black mark on U.S. history illustrates the extent to which race relations had disintegrated in this country, especially so between the years of 1890 to 1930.

Sundown towns boast of their all-white populations, although the means which they use to achieve that dubious distinction are the embodiment of hatred and prejudice--surely not something to be proud of. Some of the mechanisms for creating sundown towns are as follows through violence, where race-riots, lynching and ethnic cleanses (92) effectively served to either eliminate minority populations through murder, or by causing a mass fleeing of the persecuted population through threat, whereby the threat of violence, such as spectacle lynching (97), was used to send a message to the entire minority community that they were not wanted and by the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, whose presence was instrumental in driving the blacks away, (99). The Klan would draw thousands of supporters and galvanize those already inclined towards racism to act on these prejudices, giving whites a sense of power, and usually succeeding in unleashing anger and violence on the minority communities. Other methods of creating Sundown Towns are by ordinance, where (illegal) segregation laws were informally passed by the community to prohibit African Americans from being within the corporate limits of the town after sundown and to forbid selling or renting property to them (99) by government action, where municipalities drove out or kept out African Americans by formal policy, (103) and by freeze-out, where no specific act of violence or formal policy was required (106) to white-wash a town. Minorities were simply made unwelcome,(106) and jobs, real estate, services, common courtesy and county protection were suddenly withheld.

When I look to the census of my hometown, Los Altos Hills, California, for evidence of the Sundown phenomenon, I expect to find that our population makeup is similar that of a Sundown Town. When compared to the national averages for population breakdown, it is impossible to ignore the great disparity between the average ratio of blacks to whites, and the average in my town. Los Altos Hills total population is 7,902, of which 5,922 (75) are identified as white, and 47 (.6) are identified as black. There are 2,572 owner-occupied dwellings, which account for 93.9 of the population, and there are 168 renter-occupied dwellings, which account for 6.1 of the population. 52 families (2.2) are listed as below the poverty level, and 311 individuals (3.9) are listed as below the poverty level. The national averages are as follows Whites average 74.3 of the population, and African Americans average 12.3. While I have never heard of any outright racism in my town, although my schools were nearly all-white, and I rarely saw black people in my neighborhood, I never thought much about race while I was growing up. Yet perhaps that is because I never had to--when there is only one color, one tends not to think about other colors. It never occurred to me that minorities had probably been on the receiving end of segregation, violence, ordinances, and freeze-outs such that they moved elsewhere. I never believed that blacks were not welcome in my town, but perhaps the fact that there were hardly any blacks was all the proof that I needed. People--at least i myself--do not go where they are not wanted.

Judging from the census data, I would say that it is likely that the 47 blacks who live in my town are renters, not owners. I would not want to own property in an area which is filled with persons who are completely different from me. And perhaps therein lies some of my prejudice I assume that blacks are completely different from me. Perhaps the deadliest element of the sundown phenomenon is that it inculcates the feeling of difference, so that before there is prejudice or racism, there is the innate understanding of otherness. And otherness is usually perceived as initially scary, since it is a threat to what is known, to sameness, to the safety of the known. I was unaware of my internal prejudice until I started to examine this subject. Were I to hypothesize, I would say that my town became a sundown town due to freeze-outs and unwritten law (aka official government action condoned by our town officials). Our town has a large real estate and rental and leasing industry, and it occurs to me that perhaps this is indicative of the fact that individuals do not trust blacks  Since we are in California, there is close proximity to the technology industry, which is notoriously white. Perhaps there was a hiring freeze on minorities in my town, although this is but a conjecture.

I assumed that the census data for Harlem, in NYC, would be the opposite of my town. I was correct there are approximately 2,626 whites (8.6) in Harlem, and 22,612 African Americans (74.4). It seems that this is one of the destinations African Americans retreated to after other areas carried out successful Sundown Town campaigns.  The other town I was curious to learn more about was Albany, New York. I assumed that Albany would be racially integrated because it is the state capital, as well as where many of the government offices are located. I had heard that Albany is a very run-down city, and that there is a great deal of poverty. I was very surprised to learn that 83.2 (245,060 persons) of Albany is white, and 11.1 (32,624 persons) is black. And then I realized the source of my surprise. I was basing my expectations on the handful of times I had been in the largely-African American-employed Albany bus station, and on my few experience of walking around Albany late at night and feeling unsafe because it was an unknown place. My unconscious mind connected those two experiences because of an ingrained racism I have. What if the bus station had been all-white Would I still have made the connection that Albany is an all-white county Would I have felt safer at night, knowing that my own people were around I am ashamed to say that I am almost sure the answer is yes.

New census data is currently being collected, and I am curious as to whether the demographics of any of these areas will have changed. With the election of President Obama, I wonder whether former Sundown Towns are on their last legs. It has seemed to me, judging from my understanding that the Ku Klux Klan is the model for those who work for white supremacy, that white supremacy is closely linked to patriotism. This association is rendered incompatible now that we have a black president, so unless the Klan challenges the same electoral system which has until now put white men in the most powerful seat of America, they have no legs to stand on. Yet ignorance has always been a hallmark of racism, and racism knows no incompatibilities. The Klan may well think it completely reconcilable that they are patriotic, yet hate our president hatred is without logic, and operates from a primal fear for ones safety. Perhaps I am completely off base, but it seems that Sundown Towns do not operate on the premise that whites are fundamentally better and more worthy than blacksbut on the premise that blacks are capable of just the same generation of commerce, society and power as whites. Thus, the fear-based thinking goes, if blacks and whites co-exist, there is the chance that blacks will become more powerful and take over the town. This theory makes sense in small towns where there are few resources to go around, however it does not hold when translated to more successful and economically stable towns and cities. My answer to this is to assume that this fear is so deep that it is unconscious, and has been passed on over generations so that, regardless of ones wealth or social standing, there exists an illogical fear that everything can be taken away if racism is formally as well as informally, repealed. 

Sundown Towns was illuminating as well as disturbing, as all worthwhile sociological texts should be. It was challenging to my sense of self to acknowledge that the logic I naturally employed when making an educated guess was derived from an illogical and racist attitude. I am fortunate to be aware at a young age of the operations of my unconscious, so that I can be one less unwitting member of a sundown town, and possibly an instrument of change.
Communal conventions have always been an indispensable element of administrative performance in East Asia. Communal conventions successfully reflected the cultural specificity of Asian communities and were used by them to promote stability and sustained administrative order. Specific patterns of community and administrative development in East Asia varied across countries. China, Vietnam, and Japan all pursued different self-management paths. Yet, it would be fair to say that communal conventions in East Asia continue to reflect the dominant principles of self-management and self-government and represent a critical component of continuous cultural stability in rural regions.

Communal conventions are the sets of norms and standards, which Asian communities and administrative units follow and use as a successful tool of self-government. Communal conventions represent an effective link between the cultural and geographical specificity of rural territories and the laws and regulations created by the state. Communal conventions are a definitive feature of the administrative culture in East Asia (Doan 190), but the forms through which they operate are increasingly diverse. China had its first communal convention created long time ago the latter was called Huong toc and was represented by a set of conventions which the rural community in China had to observe (Doan 190). However, under the pressure of changeable trade and industrial practices, communal conventions in China gradually became obsolete and gave place to the regulations established by hamlets and guilds (Doan 190). The period between 1949 and the end of the Cultural Revolution in China was marked with the continuous transformation of the former guilds and hamlets into production brigades, and communal conventions in the form they had been accepted before went into oblivion. It was not before the end of the 1980s that China, for the second time in its history, came to recognize the relevance and significance of communal conventions as an effective tool of self-management and self-regulation (Doan 191). Today, communal conventions in China exemplify a unique form of integrating self-management with the basic principles of Chinese administrative culture communal conventions represent a regulatory framework for all rural communitys activities they are based on the peoples council, state policies and laws, defined by peoples congress, and executed by the peoples council itself (Doan 191). Communal conventions provide China with a unique opportunity to adjust standard administrative procedures to the specific needs of particular localities, and to meet the needs of hamlets and communities through effective self-management and decision-making.

China was, probably, the only country in East Asia to have temporarily sacrificed the benefits of communal conventions for the sake of the rules and regulations imposed by hamlets (Doan 191). In Japan, for example, communal conventions represent a long-standing cultural and administrative tradition, and even after the Meiji restoration, communal conventions in Japan were retained (Doan 191). The self-management mechanism in Japan is uniquely combined with the power of the village and or hamlet administration (Doan 191). In 1947, self-management and self-government in Japan were endorsed by the Japanese Diet (Doan 191). It goes without saying, that communal conventions in Japan, in China and in Vietnam reflect the cultural specificity of the region, for which they are created. In Japan, as well as in China, communal conventions are recognized by the state and communities use them to maintain the stability of the administrative order in their territories.

The situation is somewhat different in Vietnam, where the difference between laws and practices is more distinct, compared with Japan and China practices represent the category of ancestral customs that mirror peoples national culture with specific local and historical characteristics (Doan 193). Laws and practices are different in the power on which they rely while the former rely on the power of the state, the latter rest on the community traditions and customs (Doan 193). Communal conventions regularly change to reflect the non-static nature of administrative development in rural communities, but that they are often sketchy and are limited to cultural principles is a fact (Doan 194). Nevertheless, it is at least incorrect to say that communal conventions in Vietnam do not serve their administrative purpose in reality, communal conventions are institutionalized to the extent, which holds every household as a unit of execution and helps state authorities translate their regulations into reality of rural life (Doan 195). Hamlets and provinces successfully utilize communal conventions to self-manage their natural resources and to protect their territories from devastation, and provincial authorities are held responsible for coordinating and complying with the communal conventions (Doan 196-7). In the context of modern East Asia, communal conventions are important in several ways.

Communal conventions in East Asia have already turned into the most effective, widely acceptable, and universally recognized instrument of self-management. That communal conventions are universally recognized by rural communities means that the latter will follow and keep to the norms and principles imposed on them by provincial authorities and  or rural councils. Communal conventions serve an effective means of preserving and promoting cultural practices that are characteristic of different cultural regions in East Asia. Communal conventions help rural communities to preserve their cultural specificity and, simultaneously, support communities in their striving to meet their cultural, social, and administrative needs. Communal conventions are still the most effective link between rural communities and the word of law. Rural communities use communal conventions to protect their interests and to meet their cultural and social needs. At times, communal conventions seem to reside in the realms undefined by the law itself (Doan 197), but it is an erroneous perception. Rather, it is due to communal conventions that communities and states in East Asia were able to preserve their social stability and sustain their cultural successes in the long run.

Communal conventions in East Asia exemplify a unique link between the cultural specificity of the rural communities and the word of law. Communal conventions represent a long-standing tradition of self-government and self-management in East Asia. Specific patterns of administrative order vary across Asian communities Japan, China, and Vietnam all chose to pursue different administrative paths, but there is a universal perception that communal conventions regulate the areas undefined by the law. In reality, these are communal conventions that gave East Asia a unique opportunity to preserve the dominance of self-government principles as the key to continuous social stability.

For Kin or Country Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War

Nationalism is a hard to define phenomenon. Manu experts have theorized that humans organized as societies from needs of physical security first, to which were later added religious and cultural affinities that served to further bind them together as a nation. The Westphalian construct transformed this concept of nation into a nation-state with fixed geographical boundaries wherein sovereignty of that nation-state became a prime driving factor for the rise of what is called as nationalism. This book report examines the book, For Kin or Country Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War by Stephen M. Saideman and William R Ayers to understand the authors take on the larger dynamics of nationalism and its linkages with other aspects of state to state relationships and internal societal interactions.

Saideman and Ayers begin their argument by stating that countries try and change boundaries through aggressive means to reunite lost kin which is known as irredentism (Saideman and Ayres 1). Irredentism leading to territorial claims based on ethnic ties is one of the ways in which political leaders try and generate nationalistic feelings amongst their populace. This tactic is generally a negative approach where resort to war is the most likely outcome leading to widespread destruction and loss of life. Why some states such as Armenia, Croatia and Serbia adopted an inherently risky course of action with its obvious disadvantages is a question that the authors try to explain in this book. The author also analyze why other states such as Hungary, Romania and Russia have not have not resorted to irredentist wars to further their national interests to provide a holistic understanding of the phenomenon. The authors theorize that the course of action that a country adopts largely depends upon that countrys domestic politics and its interplay with foreign policy issues. Here the authors claim that domestic politics more often than not have resorted to xenophobia, the fear or hatred of all things foreign to act as a rallying force. The belief that hatred may actually produce peace (Saideman and Ayres 2) is considered as a viable option by political leaders using xenophobia for their own gains. The authors argue that it is important to study irredentism because practically such a policy can be extremely destructive and that it has broader political implications (Saideman and Ayres 3).  According to the authors, irredentism was the prime factor that led to the First and Second World Wars and that fascism was built on irredentist ideology. Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Bosnian war all are unsuccessful examples of instability created by irredentism while Armenia stands out as a successful example of irredentism having won the war against Azerbaijan to establish a de facto control over Nagorno-Karabakh (Saideman and Ayres 5).  Pakistani irredentism is one of the factors for the continued stand-off between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir region. Here, the Pakistanis claim that Kashmir, a Muslim dominated province rightfully belongs to Pakistan because of shared religious identity. Similarly, the fear of greater Afghanistan comprising of dominant Pakhtuns of Afghanistan and large parts of Pakistan is a source of irredentist tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At the theoretical level, the authors claim that irredentism challenges commonly held concepts of deterrence. Irredentism is also an excuse to divert domestic attention away from the leaderships domestic follies. The authors hypothesis concentrates on the question that domestic politics and the complex of interactions between the mother state and its ethnic kin abroad drive irredentist decision (Saideman and Ayres 8). This could help scholars understand why some states resort to such policies and others do not. The authors also examine whether economic interdependence lessens the chances of irredentism. The authors also pursue the theme that their study helps counterbalance the widely held notion that international organizations constrain national foreign policies. The authors use both rationalist and constructivist principles in parts to examine the issues of irredentism. The authors have also striven to contribute to the study of comparative politics on minority rights in new democracies and their appeal to kin abroad. By coursing through such a track, the authors then try to explain what national identity means arriving at the final conclusion that irredentism causes war and what are the conditions that lead to war. 

To explain the reason why countries resort to irredentist policies even if the costs calculated may be extravagant, the authors take a few assumptions. Their first assumption is that the political leadership prefers to use all means necessary to remain in power than worry about the effects of their irredentist policies on their kin or the country. Power at all costs is the possible driving factor in such cases. Their second assumption revolves on the composition of the domestic audience and the type of political system where irredentism may be required. The authors contend that irredentism is far more likely if the lost territories are inhabited by ethnic brethren who are relevant politically in the homeland (Saideman and Ayres 23) and how the kin are being treated by the occupying country. The authors then examine the approaches adopted by other political theorists how international organizations constrain irredentist behavior.  They outline the views of other political theorist largely supporting the belief that the NATO and the EU have had a strong moderating influence in reducing irredentism in the continent.
The authors examine Croatia and Serbia in detail to arrive at some conclusions on the importance of irredentism in determining a nations future trajectory. In the case of both the countries, the effort was to create a Greater Serbia uniting all Serbs and Greater Croatia for all Croats (Saideman and Ayres 52) in the erstwhile Yugoslavia. These actions led to a direct clash of interest as large sets of each ethnic group lived in the other country and its surrounding provinces. The result was a horrific chain reaction of ethnic cleansing in a First World setting. The important finding in the case of Serbia and Croatia was that not only the irredentist approach of the leaders was strident and well planned, but the domestic audience too whole heartedly believed in this brand of ethno-centrism. Since such sentiments of ethnic exclusivity ran so high, ethnic cleansing was a natural corollary where even the overwhelming presence of the NATO was not a sufficient leverage to constrain the irredentist behavior.

In the case of Armenia, the position taken by the Armenians that they would never surrender under any circumstances (Saideman and Ayres 78) their predominantly Christian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh because it was a holy duty to support their kin who were unjustly clubbed with Muslim Azerbaijan. The war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh was won by the Armenians because the feeling of kinship and kinship identity amongst the Nagorno-Karabakh residents ran high and they, any case, formed the majority population. In this case, both the political resolve and the resolve of the target populace matched making it easier for Armenian leadership to press home their de facto victory over the Azerbaijanis. According to the authors, the image of martyrdom, the belief in antiquity and the relationship to territory (Saideman and Ayres 94) have been the three key factors for the success of Armenian irredentist policies in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Hungarian example according to the authors provides a good reasoning why irredentism was not resorted to by the state. In this case the state decided to use international norms such as bilateral treaties with neighbors to resolve boundary issues and in return sought assurances of good treatment of the Hungarian minorities (Saideman and Ayres 115). Thereafter Hungary has not resorted to aggression, which the authors point supports the argument that boundary norms can constrain irredentist behavior (Saideman and Ayres 131).  Similar situation was found to exist in the case of Romania (Saideman and Ayres 166) and thus the hypothesis that interstate boundaries limit irredentism (Saideman and Ayres 197) is a truism. As a corollary, the authors claim that irredentism occurs across intrastate boundaries as was the case with the former Soviet Union.  However, once the Soviet Union broke up, Russia has not resorted to aggressive irredentism with regards to its Russian kin in the former Soviet republic. Even in the case of Russian intervention in the Tajik civil war, in Chechnya, and to a lesser extent in Moldova and Georgia (Saideman and Ayres 181), the considerations were different. Russian nationalism, it seems played very little part in these Russian interventions. Here the authors reflect on power politics and the dominance of Russia over its former republics as being sufficient guarantor for Russia not to indulge in irredentist policies. 

International norms and pressures have not been adequate tools to prevent irredentist conflicts. A case in point is the clash between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus and the Pakistani irredentist wars with India over Kashmir. In both these cases the international community has not exerted adequate pressure (Saideman and Ayres 229). In the case of Cyprus, the geographical isolation of both the mother countries from the island makes strident irredentism more difficult. In fact, the authors call the Turkish support for self determination its kin in Cyprus quasi-irredentism (Saideman and Ayres 219) as Turkish internal domestic compulsions, and its quest for EU membership prevent it from going the whole hog on the Cypriot question. The authors theorize that geographical proximity to the target audience makes it easier for nation-states to employ irredentist policies. 

Having studied the histories of numerous European countries in detail and some Asian countries in brief, the authors provide an analysis of what could be the policy implications of the study of irredentism. The finding that Kin outside the country are close to the group inside but not always identical (Saideman and Ayres 241) provides policy makers with options to deal with violence or threat of war. The very fact that Ireland did not resort to irredentism over the Northern Ireland issue shows that despite being same kin and in proximate positions, the Irish identified differently with their Northern brethren. They took a pragmatic view of their relationship with Britain and also realized that those on the outside were too many to be easily absorbed into the Irish fold and that Ireland had more to lose if it followed the IRAs agenda. Irelands economic growth and it ties to the EU mattered more (Saideman and Ayres 211) than any foggy notions of independence for Northern Ireland.

The authors analysis of Pakistans Kashmir policy is faulty and not based on deep study of the complexities of the problem in the Indian Subcontinent. The authors contention that the Punjab province of Pakistan being closest to Kashmir has a shared blood relationship and feelings of kinship (Saideman and Ayres 223) is completely wrong. It shows that the authors have no knowledge of the ethnic make-up of the Punjabis and the Kashmiris. The Pakistani Punjabis are the feudal landlords and the ruling elite of Pakistan who have little real sympathy for the Kashmiri cause. This is borne out by the fact that even the part of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan has seen no development whatsoever despite being in possession of that region for over sixty years. The reasons for Pakistani aggressions lie much deeper. The genesis of Pakistans Kashmir view lies in its two-nation theory which posits that Muslims of the Indian subcontinent cannot co-exist in the same country as Hindus and therefore require a separate state. This theory led to the partition of India but did not lead to all Muslims of independent India moving to Pakistan. In fact, to the chagrin of the Pakistani leaders, a large population stayed back and today India has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia with Pakistan coming third. In the Kashmir region Muslim domination is only in the Kashmir valley with Jammu being predominantly Hindu and Ladakh predominantly Buddhist. Even amongst the valley Muslims, the predominant mood is independence from both India and Pakistan. Pakistans Kashmir policy has less to do with any irredentism and more to the ideological incompatibility that Kashmir represents. Its continuance as an Indian province strikes at the very heart of the idea of Pakistan and hence the single-minded pursuit of the ruling elite to wrest it from Indian control.   The authors though later on in the book hit upon the right reason for the so-called irredentism when they state that Pakistani leaders need to develop a cohesive national identity focused on something more than antipathy to India and nursing off old wounds (Saideman and Ayres 227).

Another important region the authors completely neglect is the Middle East. It is obvious that their theory of irredentism does not apply to the Middle East because after two bouts of irredentist Arab-Israeli wars, the Arabs have generally desisted from taking on Israel for the real and perceived mistreatment of its kin, the Palestinians. Obviously, realism, power politics, the military might of Israel and the unstinted support of America to Israel are reasons sufficient to dissuade Arab states from embarking upon irredentism. This is an angle that has not been sufficiently developed by the authors. The authors have only once discussed realism while explaining Russian behavior as to why they have not resorted to irredentism (Saideman and Ayres 178) even when all the possible factors existed in the erstwhile soviet republics.   

The book is important because it provides a dissenting view to some popularly held beliefs. One such belief is that ethno-nationalism is always violent and that minorities are always treated with disdain by the majority. Contrary to popular belief that xenophobia usually leads to war, the authors offer that xenophobia has in fact helped stop a number state to state conflicts that could have taken place after the fall of the Soviet Union. Irredentism in Post Soviet Union Europe did not happen on a wide scale but was only limited to a few countries like Serbia, Croatia and Armenia. The authors findings point out that nationalistic content mattered more than irredentism especially in multi-ethnic empires such as Hungary and Russia where both the Hungarians and the Russians were used to living in far flung areas and had not been really affected when their empires broke down. Even in their far flung homes away from mother country, Hungarians and Russians lived in relative prosperity without really suffering inequities in the hands of the new majority. When the Soviet Union broke up, Russian xenophobia was more concerned with the enemy within rather than imaginary or real plight of their kin in the erstwhile Soviet republics.

In contrast, Armenian irredentism was due to their relative inexperience of having ruled as an independent state, the preponderance of homogeneity in its populace. Also, Armenian Diaspora held prominent positions in the Azerbaijan government, where they tended to highlight the plight of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Irredentism in post-Soviet Europe was also muted by xenophobic fear of immigrants swamping the prosperous neighbors. Thus a territory full of poor ethnicity belonging to an erstwhile Soviet republic was better given off rather than shoulder the burden themselves.  This finding has important policy implications.   

The authors findings are quite succinctly put where they identify the relevance of borders in deciding irredentist behavior. This is largely true. Their next finding that democracies are more peaceful (Saideman and Ayres 227) sounds more like western triumphalism on the lines of Francis Fukuyamas End of History. Any political theorist can easily argue that democracies are far from peaceful. One just has to look at U.S. behavior from the end of the Second World War till to date where in the name of democracy the U.S. has assassinated world leaders, invaded countries, and killed thousands of innocent civilians in the Vietnam War, Iraq and other regions of the world for the sake of an ideology. This democratic triumphalism is perhaps the weakest part of Saideman and Ayress book.   The findings that membership of international organizations may not be enough to stop irredentism is largely correct as the example of Greece and Turkey, both being members of NATO still fighting over Cyprus shows.

Lack of relative power also does not explain Croat and Pakistani actions thereby correctly refuting deterrence theorists is in part a correct finding but the reasons for Pakistan do not lie in irredentism but in deeper problems of national identity. The finding that kinship is not a necessary ingredient for irredentist behavior has been convincingly argued by the authors.  Mother countries may or may not exhibit irredentist behavior on behalf of their oppressed kin is a truism. Thus irredentist behavior is more rooted in domestic political compulsions of the mother country is yet again convincingly argued by the authors which supports their main thesis.

In conclusion, it can be reiterated that Saideman and Ayres do break new grounds in explaining certain aspects of international relations that combines mainstream rationalist and constructive principles. The authors description of European geopolitics in terms of irredentism and the primacy of internal domestic compulsions are largely correct while they err considerably when applying the same theoretical principles to the Indian subcontinent where the reasons are much deeper than just irredentism. Overall, the book provides readers of IR and policy makers numerous options to formulate innovative approaches to future state-state relations.

Lobbyists Impact on U.S. Healthcare Debate

The current healthcare debate in Congress has every side fighting to have their positions heard. President Barack Obama thinks his health care plan will help people without insurance receive much-needed access. Opponents argue that his plan will cost taxpayers too much and will not solve the problems of spiraling out-of-control health care expenses. Whichever side one subscribes to understands that there are other groups who believe in them. Those groups are called lobbyists, and their job is to convince lawmakers that they should vote for their position.

Millions of dollars have already been spent on lobbyists attempting to influence every politicians vote. They share their positions with millions of other people. Lobbyists represent all sides of the equationthe pharmaceutical companies who are looking at their bottom line business owners who watch their profit margins to make sure they can afford health care for their employees. The physicians, who must provide quality care to their patients and to the American people who are footing the bill. All of them have a vested interest in the well-being of the issue. How that plays out will be forthcoming when the final vote on universal healthcare is taken soon. (Smith, 2009)

Jim Smith wrote recently about the cost of healthcare, while a quarter of a trillion dollars was spent lobbying for (and against modifying) healthcare, tens of thousands of people died from lack of health insurance. (Smith, 2009) Smith contends that while legislators continue arguing over the merits of healthcare overhaul, there are many people who cannot afford a hospital trip because it costs too much. Worse, if the patients are a sick child, then they are being denied access to shots and vaccinations that would keep them healthy. The author contends that the loss of human lives are the real cost of this debate. (Smith, 2009)

Speaking of costs, companies who employ lobbyists have no trouble spending money for their side. According to the Center for Responsible Politics, almost 550 million was spent on healthcare issues and used more than 3,400 lobbyists in 2009. That represents a 50 million increase in the amount spend on lobbying in 2008. (Center for Responsible Politics, 2010) In fact, the cost of healthcare has risen every year since 1998 (CRP, 2009). 

A recent article by Michael Beckel sustains this issue. The number of clients working to defeat the comprehensive healthcare legislation grew to more than 1,500 lobbyists in 2009. (Beckel, 2010) That figure is more than 100 lobbyists registered in the year before (2008). What that means is more companies are gearing up to block President Obamas healthcare initiative for fear it will negatively affect their own businesses. (Beckel, 2010)

The companies lobbying on the bill are as diverse as the issue itself. Drug and pharmaceutical companies are at the top of the list. Companies ranging from American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) have poured in hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of the proposal. The latter group is concerned about the costs of prescription medications for its members and access to doctors visits and hospital stays (for either inpatient or outpatient services). (Beckel, 2010) The latter group not only uses its lobbyists to influence elected officials but its millions of members through letter-writing campaigns and telephone campaigns. The group tries to makes its case heard from their members point of view, as would other groups.

Among the companies that also joined the fray include McDonalds, which spend nearly 500,000 on this issue last year. That was a significant jump from the previous year, when they spent more than 300K in 2008. One might not believe that the fast-food restaurant chain would enter this debate. However, with thousands of locations worldwide and millions of employees working for them, McDonalds has a real, vested interest in how this issue plays out in Washington, D.C. (Beckel, 2010)

Hewlett-Packard and Pfizer are other companies that were involved in the debate. The fact that a pharmaceutical company is on the list is unsurprising. The fact that other companies are joining the debate is because of the millions of uninsured people who are clinging to the decision made on Capitol Hill. Beckel said this means there are many sides to the issue and the lobbyists are being paid well to have their voices heard.

Pfizer has spoken out against the bill for several years. They do not feel that companies should be able to foot the entire bill for employee health care. They would rather see a health spending account where employees deposit a set amount from their checks into an account that employees can access for co-payments, office visits and medications for themselves and their family. (Edwards, 2009)

Health Care 4
That is interesting because while their lobbyists are fighting against changes to the system, their executives are set for their healthcare coverage. Pfizer offers its top executives healthcare coverage for two years should they receive pink slips. Employees are able to use COBRA if they are laid-off from their jobsat their own expense. In the Pfizer case, the company takes care of its management employees who are downsized. (Edwards, 2009)

That seems to conflict with their position of change. Why would you pay for one group and not for another It does not make sense because money is being allocated for healthcare. It sends the wrong message for the company to come out against health care changes that will help many people and then turn around and take care of a few management employees (similar to a golden parachute for executives or expensive buyouts). Pfizer wants to have it both ways, but it cannot because the money must come from somewhere. Are people are going to feel comfortable knowing that a few people are getting the majority of coverage while the masses are being denied coverage The answer is not going to be a happy one for the pharmaceutical giant.

President Obama wants a modest change to the overall status of healthcare in America. He asks companies to pay for a majority of the employees health care expenses while having workers absorb the rest. Lobbyists have been working on both sides to develop ways to sway votes in either direction. Those favoring the presidents proposal argue that having some change is better than the current plan, which is unacceptable. Opponents say the bill is too costly and will reduce jobs and access more than embrace the idea. (Woodward, 2010)

What has been mentioned so far is these groups are attempting to move the debate toward either side. Lobbyists have argued on both sides what they believe to be the truth. 

Pharmaceutical companies believe that people should pay their own way for health coverage workers and labor unions think it should be paid for by the companies that employ the workers. While the debate drives toward the final votes in Congress, groups on both sides of the issue are hammering out their side of the argument in hopes of getting the key votes needed for victory. (Woodward, 2010)

Doing so would mean a chance people without health insurance can see a doctor without first mortgaging their home. It means caring for a sick loved one without incurring the costly fees from insurance companies. That is what President Obama hopes to accomplish with his plan. Whether it comes to fruition remains to be seen.

What is known now is why the lobbyists are working hard on both sides. According to a recent Gallop Poll survey, more than 1,000 Americans surveyed were just as divided as the politicians are. Of those surveyed, 45 percent favored the Obama plan while 48 percent opposed it in its current form. (Gallop, 2010) Many people surveyed said they want to see a new version of the health care overhaul instead of the one being debated in Congress now. Respondents felt that people need health insurance now and the way it is conceived will not work. (Gallop, 2010)

While the need to help those without health insurance is great, the Gallop Poll numbers suggests a different reason for change. In the six month before, September 2009, 36 percent said that a health care bill should pass because too many people were uninsured. That number dropped to 28 percent in March. Conversely, the number of respondents who said there is a moral obligation to help those in need doubled during the same six-month period (6 percent in September 2009 compared with 12 percent in March 2010). This means more people would like to help others in need, but think there are better ways to do it than just overhauling the current system. (Gallop, 2010)

Those who are opposed to the presidents plan thought it would raise premiums for employees. Roughly 20 percent of those polled said this would be the case if the plan went through. The poll also noted that healthcare foes content the bill would not adequately address the issues surrounding the system. During the six-month period, 19 percent of those surveyed in March said they agreed with this statement, up from 10 percent in September. (Gallop, 2010)

So, whether you are in favor or oppose to the presidents idea to overhaul the health care system to make it accessible to most Americans depends on your point of view. Lobbyists have spent countless hours and resources (read money) to influence the members of the House and Senate for years in trying to get this legislation voted on. They have powerful cases on both sides and the lawmakers must listen to every storyfrom the medical institutions that cry poverty to the family that cannot afford prescription drugs for either themselves or their elderly parentsand decide what is in the best interest of the country.

There is no right or wrong answer on this topicjust what someone feels in their heart is the right thing to do. Gallop found that people wants to change the current healthcare system. They just have different ideas on how to fix the problem. That is where lobbyists can come in a try making sense of the issue for their side. The hope is the legislature will take the time to get it done right so that the people can prosper without wondering if they can afford to see their physician.

Humanitarian intervention in international society

In his book, Wheeler undertakes an assessment of the situational changes that the humanitarian intervention environment and the global contribution it achieves. He underscores the basis for legitimizing humanitarian intervention and further responds to skeptics who believe that humanitarian intervention is basically a tool for power politics that powerful nations use to achieve their geopolitical pursuits. He uses the case studies of Indias invasion of East Pakistan (1971), Tanzanias use of force in Uganda (1979) and the Vietnams overthrow of Pol pot regime of Cambodia in 1979. He cites the reluctance of the UN Security Council to pursue legitimacy aspect of humanitarian intervention up until the end of the second world and subsequently the Iraq, Somalia and Bosnian interventions (Wheeler, 2002). Through his article the concerns of the constructivist internationals relation scholars is adequately addressed by expounding on the understanding of the international norms and their development. He mainly advances the concept of international society rather than the realists belief that concentration of power is the international relations defining force or the utopian demands for revolution of the state based international systems (Wheeler, 2002). He rather takes the approach that state interaction patterns be embodied in rules that express common interests and values formulated through historical and contemporary processes study. 

His emphasis on a society build on a variety of states that are conscious of common interest and values binds them to rules that help them in relating to each other is enormous. He stresses the need of these state societies to intervene in cases where both state and non-state actors disregard international laws and thus put human survival in danger. Wheeler takes the English schools solidarism approach in dealing with the issue. In this approach, the international societys legitimacy in its commitment to justice is strengthened. It asserts that the society cannot let order and justice to remain locked in perennial tension but instead should look at possibilities of overcoming the conflict that resulted to the disorder (Wheeler, 2002). While I am obliged to agree that international society must be willing to formulate international laws and policies that allow intervention in cases of humanitarian situations that result from state actors, I disagree that intervention should be applied in general to non state actors. Instead international law should be legally binding to states to act on such non state causes of humanitarian crisis and only in such cases where the state fails to do so, should intervention of the international society be employed. However, state actors must not be allowed to move even an inch deep with their transgressions as the impacts of such has been witnessed historically.

The Rwandan genocide is a clear reflection of the impact of late intervention. While realist inclined international scholars have argued that international laws are not proper laws as they lack the authority that may not bind states, Wheeler argues otherwise and I agree (Wheeler, 2002). In his perspective Wheeler, views the law as the interlocking amidst power and authority. The cases cited in the book represent the success of intervention to save humanitarian crisis even where its in conflict with international. The book cites collapsed states where human rights violation had become an order of the day experience a great turn around upon intervention. The intervening states had to exercise both military and political power in its intervention (Wheeler, 2002). His assertion that instead of blanket condemnation of intervention acts, what is important is creation of a distinction between dominationforce based power and legitimate power based on moral principles, is rather in line with upholding of humanity (Wheeler, 2002).

Wheelers rejection of the international principles of sovereignty and non-intervention is indeed justified. It raises the question of whether moral principles should be ignored in a bid to steer by the international rules that allow human rights to be violated in the name of sovereignty and non-intervention policies.

The world international scholars must ask themselves questions from history could lives have been saved if Tanzania had not waited too long to intervene Could Rwandan crisis have turned to genocide if not for the long term blind eye the world gave it, in the name of international laws, what of Cambodia, Vietnam and other states Wheeler adequately addresses this situations and he says that,
I acknowledge that situations can arise where an alternative moral practice develops that secures approval but that breaks the existing law (Wheeler, 2002).

This perspective asserts that moral values far surpass international laws as they are the basis for formulation of the laws. There exist need therefore that international laws legalize intervention in cases of humanitarian emergency arise. A similar argument was previously put forth by Thomas Franck and Nigel Rodney that,
Unilateral humanitarian intervention belongs in the realm not of law but of moral choice (Wheeler, 2002).

A good example is the case of Kosovo. While the intervention that took place then, was illegal but then it held moral standing within the society. Wheelers acknowledgement that moral justification of an intervention that contravenes international law undermines the whole structure of international obligations broadens the perspective on the need for international law scholars to fine tune the international laws to cover existing universal moral obligations. Should one be allowed to kill another on the pretext of non-intervention law The answer is obviously no. the laws should be fine tuned to allow prevention of such acts within the society. However, wheelers blanket general provision for intervention has limitations. In cases where non-state actors engage in humanitarian abuses, international laws, rather than be quick to allow external intervention should provide time limit for the affected state to respond before allowing intervention. This would bar greedy and power hungry states from taking slight misdoing to their political and power quest advantage.

Wheeler recommends that state actions in reactions to humanitarian conditions should be constrained if they lack justification and plausible legitimate reasoning (Wheeler, 2002). He addresses the fear that state proclaimed humanitarian justifications may be insincere and bear selfish, motives but then he further asserts that the humanitarian justifications and results should provide the legal and moral justification for the actions (Wheeler, 2002). While it has been argued that both the Clinton and the Bush administration had applied humanitarian grounds to justify Kosovo intervention yet they bore ulterior motives, subsequently they had to address the humanitarian concerns that existed in the situation. The international laws should be structured to ensure that once a state invokes humanitarian grounds as its reason for intervention, it must be bound to abide by the humanitarian grounds it invoked.

In conclusion, its important to cite that Wheeler offers four requirements for humanitarian intervention, which are that there must exist a supreme humanitarian emergency, application of force and military might should always be the last resort, the force used be proportional to the situation and there must be a high probability that a positive humanitarian outcome. While I am in agreement with these four requirements, they need to incorporate some principles which allow intervention only in instances where the state in question is guilty of the humanitarian crisis or has displayed inability to avert the crisis. Additionally, a maximum time limit before intervention should be set taking regard of the intensity of the humanitarian crisis in question. Wheelers writing can therefore be conclusively regarded as a master piece that addresses key questions to future humanitarian interventions with regard to historical injustices to humanity. With a little fine tuning, the document is probably a complete guide to formulation of international laws on intervention on cases of humanitarian situations. Its no longer a question of how far a society can support the cause for minimum standard of humanity but how the society can achieve the highest respect for humanity from both state and non-state actors.

Political Morality and Utilitarianism

Morality can defined as a set of principles that are perceived by the society as virtuous. Morality can be viewed from three different angles, that is, normative, descriptive, and also from an ethical point of view (Wren, 1991, p.18). Morality, defined from its normative logic, refers to good or bad deeds, irrespective of what the society thinks. Basically, it is the perfect moral person in a given scenario.
Morality from its descriptive view refers to an individuals cultural standards, affiliations or social backgrounds that distinguish between good and bad in the human society. This definition is not objective rather, it only portrays what the society considers as either good or bad.

Morality from an ethical point of view refers to what combines the above two definitions and other definitions within a methodical philosophical approach of the ethical realm. Ethics tackle issues like how a moral result can be attained in a given scenario, how to determine moral standards, and so on (Leiter, 2002, p.78).

Political morality may be defined as a set of moral ideologies together with moral equality and how it is expressed by the state through equal treatment (Harris). Political morality, from the principle of universality viewpoint can be taken to mean that if a deed is good or bad to other people, it is good or bad for us. The most basic form of moral principles is that of universality, that is, if something is okay with one person, it is okay with another as well (Alasdair, 2005, p.240).

Utilitarianism is based on the suggestion that the moral value of an act is based exclusively with respect to its utility in providing happiness to mankind. Utilitarianism can be distinguished with the deontological philosophy, different   varieties of consequentialism, as well as with virtue ethics (Scarre, 2002, p.1).
The aim of this paper is to discuss political morality, utilitarianism and the question as to whether utilitarianism is an attractive theory of political morality.

Whether utilitarianism is an attractive principle to political theory is highly subjective, debatable, ambiguous and dependent on numerous factors.  These factors are made up of the main features of utilitarianism, the forms of utilitarianism, and on how utilitarianism is viewed by two significant personalities in relationship to this topic.

The two forms of utilitarianism are act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism
Act utilitarianism judges the right or wrong of an action in accordance with the consequences of the action in a given situation.  Thus, an act is good in a given situation if it amplifies the happiness of the certain people in that situation and it is bad if it does otherwise.

Rule utilitarianism is said to advocate for rules that if applied in some cases, may decrease happiness. For instance, not killing another human being is a good rule, but then it becomes quite tricky if it is applied as case in self defence. Advocates of rule utilitarianism argue that there are exceptional rules that permit the breach of other rules if breach of such rules would amount to happiness, a typical example being as mentioned, self-defence (West, 2004, p.74).

The main features of utilitarianism include
There is the principle of utility This feature focuses on maximizing good deeds and minimizing on the bad.

The theory of value This theory depicts the standard of goodness, based on happiness or pleasure, satisfaction of desires and goals, and the accomplishment of such conditions of affairs as independence, understanding, and various kinds of functioning, achievement, and deep personal relationships.

Consequentialism A deed is justifiably good or bad based on its outcome,
Impartiality One persons happiness is equally as good as the others and vice versa (Beuchamp  Bowie, 2004, p.17).

Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher, legal, and social reformer, was a significant figure with respect to utilitarianism, from his school of thought, he argued that the right deed was that which would bring the greatest joy for the greatest number of people, also referred to as the greatest happiness principle. He also recommended a technique of estimating the moral status of a deed, known as the hedonistic school of ethics. Benthams ideologies on legislation revolve around the principle of utility and how the tie into legislative practices. His theory of utility views good as that which creates the greatest amount of happiness, and minimizes pain and evil as that which creates the most pain without happiness (Bentham, 1890).

John Stuart Mills, another philosopher, also contributed considerably to the utilitarianism ideology. His famous philosophy of utilitarianism is referred to as the greatest-happiness principle. It states that one must act so as to create maximum pleasure for the maximum number of people, within reason. Mills key contribution to utilitarianism is his argument that happiness ought to be separated qualitatively. Whereas Bentham takes all forms of pleasure as equal, Mill is of the opinion that moral happiness is superior to physical forms of happiness. Mill claims that there is a difference between pleasure and contentment he claims that the former is of greater value than the latter. In addition, he distinguishes between the greater and lower forms of pleasure with the theory that those who experience both often have a preference over one than the other. This is parallel to Benthams school of thought (Mill, 1871).
As the discussion proceeds, it is imperative to get familiar with certain terminology with respect to this topic as highlighted next.

Hedonism  is derived from a Greek word hdonismos, which means happiness.  Basically hedonism points out that the only fundamental good is happiness. The different types of hedonism are motivational, egoistic and altruistic. Motivational hedonism stresses that only joy and suffering inspire people to either do or not do things. According to normative hedonism, it is only happiness and all forms of joy have value, whereas it is only pain and forms of pain that have no value. Egoistic hedonists are of the opinion that the happiness of a person is important, hence altruistic hedonists believe that the happiness of everyone is important (McLaughlin  Muncie, 2006).

Deontology is also a derivative of Greek words, deon and logos, that means the study of duty this school of thought. It is based on the concept that people have the obligation to abide by moral rules, irrespective of any positive consequences that can be derived from breaking them (Garett, 1996, p.23).
Advocates of deontology ethics are of the opinion that it is valuable to people since it offers them the opportunity to put the welfare of their families above others. They also deem it to be flexible as compared to consequentialism, which can support an individual to hurt their family if it would produce a positive outcome for others. Critics are of the opinion that deontological values can cause people to be degenerate and lack sympathy and that the school of thought is unfounded.

Virtue ethics is an approach to ethics which emphasizes the character of the moral agent, rather than rules or consequences, as the key element of ethical thinking (Hursthouse, 1999, p.1).

Consequentialism, has already been pointed above as one of the aspects of utilitarianism.  It refers to those moral assumptions which argue that the consequences of a given action form the argument for any viable moral judgment with respect to that action.

The universality principle, is a principle that argues that a wrong or right  committed by one individual towards his people or country, is a wrong or right committed to all and sundry  irrespective of where one comes from.

Therefore, the terminologies highlighted above together with the features of utilitarianism will form the argument as to whether utilitarianism is an attractive theory with respect political morality or not.
The universality principle on political morality is based on the view that a deed committed against some people, irrespective of whether it is good or bad, applies to all. Thus, the argument formed is that the application of justice ought to be standard. Nevertheless, justice is what individuals perceive it to be, it is subjective. Therefore the question as to whether utilitarianism is a considerable theory when it comes to political morality is a matter of perception.  It largely depends on the school of thought from which it emanates. 

For instance, from a consequentialist school of thought, there are standards preceding morality, a consequentialist is of the belief that affliction and pain are bad things and that no one should experience them ( Darwall,2003, p.1). But conflict arises when morality is justified according to some of the standards applied to achieve (Kumises, 2006, p.3). Thus, from a consequentialist point of view, judgment on morality should be based purely on the consequences of an action the action applied in order to achieve a happy state of affairs in this case is totally irrelevant.

From a deontologists viewpoint, people are charged with the obligation of conforming by moral rules regardless of morality achieved from infringement of these rules. For instance, during war, it is morally unacceptable to murder innocent civilians as a result of bombing a military target, even if the act would result to eliminating an oppressive government. This school of thought totally opposes one of consequentialism (Darwall, 2003, p.3).
To interprate from the best consequences out of a particular action  to the moral action applied regardless of the consequences is not only confined within their respective school of thought  alone, but is also dependent to a large extent  on what lies within a persons discretion.What a majority find most attractive in the utilitarian theory is its simple form and rational nature. After all, it is only obvious that an individuals moral duty be aimed at opposing pain and endorsing happiness. To establish which precise deed is moral, all that someone needs to do is to establish that one deed which would create the maximum amount of joy and the minimum amount of pain (Mill, 1871).

Act-utilitarians, when deciding on the course of action to take, should reflect on only the consequences of their deeds they dont need to consult the modern theoretical social perception of morality, nor the confusing religious interpretations. The long and short of it, deeds are considered moral or immoral on a step by step basis with respect to the mount of happiness that particular deed will create in that specific situation.

A particular deed does not contain any inherent moral quality independent of its outcome in a particular circumstance. The consequences of an action alone are what gives it a moral worth and those consequences are all someone needs in evaluating to establish that significance and eventually, what course of action one will prefer to take.

Gone is the concept of the total moral rule the act-utilitarian does not need to consider what they think to be outdated, ill-supported, and intangible conceptions of ethical worth. For these reasons, act-utilitarianism continues to have a highly attractive feature to it. It seems the most fundamental moral principle that one ought to choose to uphold pleasure and prevent pain.

Morality must dictate that deeds consequential to moral duty eventually promote the social wellbeing. Pleasure would thus appear to be the ultimate stop point to morality given that the social wellbeing must include, and can perhaps be described exclusively as happiness.

Utilitarianism seems a unanimously generous theory of morality where self-destructive moral rules never exist. After all why would the society desire to support moral doctrines which dont have beneficial results except for the accomplishment of what frequently appear to be moral abstracts aimed more at superstition than reason Contemporary utilitarians more often than not deem anti-utilitarian moral concepts to be non-generous due to their deficiency in consideration of happiness and the general welfare (Bentham, 1890).

Though apparently an attractive theory, utilitarianism faces a lot of disapproval, as it seems to exaggerate the moral worth of pleasure while contradicting some of the societys most fundamental moral standards. Act-utilitarianism emphasize that in every situation, the moral thing to do is that deed which will maximize happiness. But arent there situations where people can experience pleasure as a consequence of immoral deeds, not simply one person or a small group of persons but the majority

Act-utilitarianism, when placed under scrutiny, often can give what the society by and large perceives of as the incorrect answer. Act-utilitarianism in its single-minded search of happiness, can more likely lead one to take no notice of basic human freedoms and basic moral concepts. It  is based on the view that the end justifies the means, and that any deed, irrespective of its non-utilitarian explanation, will be good so long as it supports the general happiness more than any other deed.

Is it not true that an action can find sense in itself, that it has its own inherent moral value which is independent of its expected results Consider now, the results themselves - what justifies the ends themselves our desire to seek those ends An action justifies itself because it has its own independent moral worth. Then it might it  be true  that a means may find meaning in itself other than from its ends that deeds can have their own inherent moral character.

In view of the above, the argument that utilitarianism can be deemed as an attractive theory with respect to political theory has its answer in both yes and no. Incidentally, it depends on the school of thought that one comes from. Additionally, it is a matter of rationality, for instance, a consequentialist would argue that it is common knowledge that in most cases one has to experience some pain to achieve happiness, better still joy. This totally justifies a consequentialists argument. But then, to attain joy irrespective of the actions behind it is totally irrational, more so if the actions behind the attained state of joy are detrimental and destructive to the joy and peace of others. Therefore, if utilitarianism is based on its consequentialism feature, then it is not an attractive theory to political morality.

But there is another twist to it, an interesting one. There is a possibility that aspect of consequentialism in utilitarianism can be watered down. According to Kants theory or Kantianism, individuals should do everything possible to bring out the best possible results. Kant emphasizes on the dignity of persons and consequentialism with its commendable view that, people should strive as much as possible to do what is good and righteous. Kants moral principle properly interpreted creates consequentialist normative principle. This is known Kantian consequentialism principle, with respect to the Kantian consequential principle, and then it is right to argue that utilitarianism is an attractive theory to political morality (Cummiskey, 1996, p.3).

Utilitarianism is based on several concepts pain, suffering, pleasure, utility happiness, consequentialism, and hedonism. Thus, the argument should be based on the above factors. But one can argue that consequentialism is an acceptable feature if and only if it is based on Kantialism and other positive factors. My point ultimately is that utilitarianism can be an attractive feature to political theory depending on ones school of thought. My emphasis is on the school of thought.