The Weiner Component #116 – The U.S. & the Federal Reserve

In 1935, Cret designed the Seal of the Board o...

English: Janet Yellen being sworn in by Fed Ch...

English: Janet Yellen being sworn in by Fed Chair Ben Bernanke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Friday January 9, 1915, the Federal Reserve had turned over $98.7 billion to the Treasury for the year 2014. In 2013 it was $79.6 billion and in 2012 it was $88.4 billion. All of this was the interest on the National Debt bonds, much of which the Federal Reserve had purchased since 2009.

In 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration, the country faced the explosion of the Real Estate Bubble that had been gradually building over the prior thirty years. The big banks had been going crazy with denial in 2007 with their abuses when the oncoming failure became obvious. In essence every dollar in circulation suddenly dropped in value to about a dime. The Obama Administration did two major things in 2009 and 2010. They were able to avoid through rapid action an economic crash potentially larger than the Great Depression of 1929 and they passed Affordable Health Care (Obamacare). In 2010 the country elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and thereafter nothing was done by the House to alleviate conditions caused by the Real Estate Bust. In fact Congress passed laws to exacerbate the negative conditions.

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It should be noted that the Federal Government has two major tools to deal with downturns in the economy. One, used by the Federal Reserve, is Monetary Policy and the other, used by Congress and the President, is Fiscal Policy. This is Macroeconomics.

Fiscal Policy has to do with Congress passing bills that add money to the economy. Keep in mind that all currency has nothing behind it other than the word of the National Government. All money is now a means of exchanging something of value for something else of value, goods and services for goods and services.

In 2011 or 2012 President Obama proposed a bill that would create jobs by updating the infrastructure of the United States. The electric grid across the U.S. is well over fifty years old, much of it predating World War II, and parts of it are in constant danger of breaking down. It has not dealt with the changes in demography or increases in population that have occurred over that period. The country has come close to power outages because of cold weather conditions or for other reasons. Many of the bridges throughout the nation are also well over fifty years old. A number have collapsed; many are still waiting to be refurbished.  Also many schools, some of which were built over one hundred years ago, also need refurbishing or replacement throughout the country. Many of the sewers in cities are well over one hundred years old; a few have collapsed in parts.

All of these and many other projects will have to be done at some point in the future. Maintenance is required to keep all aspects of society properly functioning. From 2011 on the House of Representatives with its Republican majority has tended to squeeze the society, downsizing government and adding to unemployment, in fact at one point it closed down the Federal Government by refusing to fund it. The present is an ideal time to do a lot of these fiscal projects as interest rates are at just barely above 0.

Monetary Policy is a tool of the Federal Reserve. It can be used to increase or decrease the amount of money in circulation. Ordinarily the Fed adjusts the money flow in the economy by increasing or decreasing the amount of money it borrows through the sale of bonds. What happens is decided by the rate or non-rate of inflation. The Fed is always cashing out and selling bonds. There are short term, medium term, and long term bonds, lasting from a few months to a number of years. The rate of sale is determined by the level in interest paid on these bonds. The higher the interest the greater the sale and the lower the interest the less the sale. These interest rates are determined by the level of inflation in the country. The higher the inflation the higher the interest. Here money is taken out of the national cash flow so that there is less available to be spent, thus gradually forcing down the rate of inflation. If the opposite is true then the Fed will sell less bonds than it cashes out and continually add currency to the national cash flow.

With no help from Congress during a period of recession or depression the Fed under the chairmanship of Ben Bernanke had to be quite innovative to pull the nation out of the Real Estate Debacle. This was done by the Fed buying $85 billion worth of bonds each month for well over two years: $45 billion in mortgage paper and $40 billion in government bonds. The effect of these two actions was to add well over a trillion dollars to the national cash flow per year; and also to essentially resolve the big banks activity in splitting up individual mortgages into well over one hundred parts. By my estimate it would have taken well over twenty years to straighten out the housing mess if the Fed had left it alone. The Fed did it in a relatively short time by buying most of the pieces. We again have new construction and older houses are being resold.

What is interesting to note here is that 40 billion was utilized on traditional monetary policy while 45 billion dollars was used to purchase mortgage paper from the assorted hedge funds which each owned fractional pieces of mortgages in each of their funds that had been very sloppily catalogued. For the Fed to collect or foreclose on any of these properties it would have to set up a table of all the homes on which it held mortgages within the 50 states and gradually build up its portfolio to the point where it owned over fifty percent of each particular mortgage. The cost of setting up this information bank would have been prohibitive even for the Federal government. The probability is that the Fed did nothing with this paper and a percentage of the population ended up living in their homes for nothing, in essence the government forgave these loans.

Of course the people living in these houses still had to pay property tax. If they did not the municipality would eventually foreclose on the property and sell it for back taxes. These people would suddenly have a lot of disposable income, which many of them spent freely, and they could not claim any home interest payments on their income taxes. This, in turn, added billions of dollars circulating in the National Cash Flow throughout the country.

The practice of adding money to the economy was ended in October of 2014. Janet Yellen, the new Fed chair left the ending of the policy tentative. It could be started up again if the need arose.

Interest rates had also been dropped to a fraction of one percent, practically giving the banks free money from all the savers and checking accounts which they could lend out at a decent rate of interest. Currently the Fed is considering when to raise interest rates. Meanwhile most of the larger banks have announced large profits for 2014.

What is interesting here is that the Federal Reserve used part of the National Debt as a means of positively controlling the amount within and the flow of national currency. They actually increased over time the flow of money by trillions of dollars and, in this way, diminished the effects of the Real Estate Debacle caused recession.

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What Bernanke did was to use part of the National Debt as a means of getting the country out of a serious recession. Since Congress would not act he used the Debt itself as the tool by which a large percentage of recovery was gradually brought about.

The National Debt is divided into two parts: public debt which the government owns and private debt which is held by private countries and by individuals. For example the two largest holders of U.S. debt are China which as of November 2014 held 1.25 trillion and Japan had 1.24 trillion.

All foreign holdings at that time were 6.11 trillion dollars. It should be noted that the National Debt currently is 18 plus trillion dollars. Who owns the balance? Private individuals and companies within the United States and elsewhere would hold at least another trillion dollars. The balance would then be held by the U.S. government and its agencies. For example Social Security has well over 2 1/2 trillion in government debt. All this means that the Federal Government holds well over 50 percent of its own debt and pays the interest on that debt to the U.S. Treasury.

It should be noted that Treasury securities are seen as one of the world’s safest investments. This has been the situation in the world and will, in all probability, remain so.

The 114 Congress, which recently met for the first time and has a Republican majority in both Houses, shows no indication that it is even slightly interested in fiscal policy. While unemployment is down to 5 plus percent for the first time in the nation since the 2008 Debacle it still could be a lot lower with fiscal policy.

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Another factor of importance here is population; it is always gradually increasing. According to the Census Bureau’s Population Clock: there is one birth every 8 seconds, one death every 12 seconds, and one international migration every 33 seconds. The result of all this is a net gain of one person every 16 seconds.

That is an increase in the population of the United States of 3.75 people per minute, 225 per hour, 5,400 persons per day, and 1,965,600 people per year, if we count each month as 30 days and do not allow for each leap year. The current overall number of people in the country is in excess of 350 million people.

Most of these new settlers will reside along either of the coastal areas. In order for standards of living to not decrease with this additional population the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has to increase one or two points yearly. If it stays at exactly the same point or decreases slightly then the overall standard of living has dropped for the bulk of Americans.

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What will happen with this new Congress should be interesting and economically uninspiring. From now until July 2016 when the Republicans hold their Presidential Convention there will be a lot of jockeying for the lead position in the Republican Party. The major issues like immigration, fiscal policy, job creation, plus whatever else comes up will be largely ignored. They will try forms of blackmail with the President in order to achieve some of their goals. This will be done by attaching riders that he will not approve of to necessary bills. That means that President Obama will probably have to veto the necessary legislation causing all sorts of economic and other problems. The question there is who will take the blame for causing all these disasters?

The Republicans will certainly not be creating any new jobs. Janet Yellen, the current chair of the Federal Reserve may have to restart the program of buying bonds for economic recovery to continue since the Republicans will be doing their dandiest to constrict the economy and inadvertently increase unemployment. What will probably occur between the present and the next presidential election is two years that the future historians will in all likelihood essentially ignore.

Description: Newspaper clipping USA, Woodrow W...

Description: Newspaper clipping USA, Woodrow Wilson signs creation of the Federal Reserve. Source: Date: 24 December 1913 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #115 – The Keystone XL Pipeline

 

Now that Congress has a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress they are sure to push through a Keystone XL Pipeline bill. In fact, the new 114th House of Representatives on its first day of meeting, without any committee meetings or anything else, passed such a bill 266 to 153 with 28 Democrats also voting for the bill. That is still not a 2/3ds super majority

Mitch McConnell, the new leader in the Senate, has stated that he will push the bill through that House as soon as he can. He also does not have a 2/3d majority and the Democrats can filibuster the bill.

If perchance the bill were to pass in both Houses the President has stated that he would veto the bill.   Happenings should be interesting.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is to go from south central Canada south 3,000 miles through the heartland of the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline would carry oil tar, a highly toxic plastic-like substance from which leakage could poison the water table of the central United States. The pipeline was first proposed six years ago when oil sold for over $100 a barrel.

Much of the pipeline has already been built by enterprising Republican entrepreneurs, who in all probability have made innumerable large contributions to the Republican Party and expect to get a massive return on their investment. It always struck me as odd that political contributions which buy influence in Congress with one or the other political party are never legally considered a bribe, which they are.

A great deal has been written about the Keystone Pipeline over the last six years. But in the last two or three years I’ve read nothing about oil leaks polluting the soil and poisoning the water table. One or more massive leaks of these oil tars, which after all is a plastic-like guck, could destroy large areas of farmland and poison the underground water table permanently. Somehow this consideration has disappeared.

The Koch Brothers of Kansas, among numerous other things, operate about 4,000 miles of pipeline throughout Kansas, the United States and Canada which transports oil, natural gas, and chemicals. They have and are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines at many different times for damages done through leaks in their pipelines. There are currently about four or five leaking oil lines going under and polluting the Yellowstone River.

The earth is not a solid core. It consists of plates of rock and soil over hot volcanic substances. These plates move at times almost imperceptibly and cause earthquakes. The areas where two or more plates meet are called faults and there seems to be quite a bit of movement at many faults. The movement generally is not extreme but it exists.

For example there was a tile counter spread out the full length of the kitchen in my California house. About 2/3ds of the way from the outside wall toward the interior of the room a hairline crack occurred in the counter. The pressure of the movement of the earth had caused this hairline crack, probably it was hundreds or more pounds of pressure pushing in two directions. Lately I also noticed that there is a minor crack in a few sections of the ceiling, particularly on the stairwell going up to the second story.

In laying the XL pipeline, I believe, there is a choice of either plastic or ceramic pipe. The plastic will probably dissolve in certain chemicals so the probability is that they will use ceramic pipe. To also install sensing equipment and automatic shutoff systems would be very expensive. The probability is that the pipeline is and has been installed as cheaply as possible. The earth moves; the pipes do not. Do the assorted owners who expect massive return from the pipeline have the funds available to pay the fines and clean up their messes? I doubt it. Can the messes be properly cleaned? They haven’t been up to now.

If it’s argued by our Republican Congressmen that none of this will happen then consider why don’t they build the pipeline completely in Canada west to the Pacific Ocean. The problem there, from what I understand, is that short areas of pipeline have been built in Canada and there have been some horrendous leaks. The Canadian Government will not allow this to occur in their country but are perfectly alright with building it across the United States.

There is also a major note of irony here. Six years ago, when the project was first envisioned, oil was over $100 dollars a barrel and going up, now it is around $50. Is oil tar worth processing at that price? I believe a barrel is 54 or 55 gallons of oil. How much oil tar would be required to generate a barrel of oil? If it cost around $50 or close to that amount is it worth even bothering with? It is very possible that if the pipeline were to be approved that it would not be used. That would be an interesting note of irony in this longtime struggle.

Consider also that the price of oil is dependent upon its supply and demand. If not enough gasoline is being produced in the world then the price will be bid up. But if too much is being produced, there is more than is wanted available. The various nations producing oil like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico to name some of the major ones have planned their yearly budget on receiving over $100 a barrel. Oil is now under or about $50 a barrel and could still drop in price. Mostly these nations are increasing their production in order to try to make up the difference. In doing this they are further adding to the surplus amount of oil available and bringing additional pressure for the price to drop further.

Of course the people who have already put in sections of the pipeline, if they don’t make any profit, might try to sue the Federal Government for not allowing them to make their profit from their endeavors. Or they might try to get the Republicans in Congress to pass a law reimbursing them their losses. After all they did contribute large amounts of money to the Republican Party.

Irony is a wonderful entity. The probability is that the use of the Keystone XL pipeline if it is completed and used will further depress the international price of oil. How far can it drop? That is another interesting question. I can remember buying gasoline over a decade ago at slightly under one dollar a gallon.

Another interesting effect of the oil price drop is that rich oil Sunni Muslim nations like Iran that have had their national income drop by half or more are now extremely limited in their contributions to such terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. One of the effects of these low oil prices may be to limit terrorist activities in the Middle East and in other parts of the world.

The irony is fascinating. On the one hand lower oil prices effect the stock market in a negative fashion and on the other hand, at the same time, they indirectly lessen terrorist activity by supplying less money to radical causes. And, of course, in the middle of this is the Keystone XL pipeline which may be eventually carried out six years too late and prove worthless.

It should be noted that the price of gasoline in February of 2015 has started going up again. This has been caused not by a shortage of oil but instead by a strike at several oil processing plants. A labor dispute in the United States is causing this price rise. At some point the strike will end and the price of gasoline will drop again. It’s a further note of irony.

During the second week of February, 2015 both Houses of Congress have passed a similar bill to authorize the building of the Keystone XL pipeline (which incidentally is already mostly built). There are still some disputes about putting it through certain areas of privately owned land which are currently being dealt with in the courts. There is the question of public domain. Private land, whose owners don’t want the pipeline, have to have sections of their land condemned by the particular state, in order for the pipe companies to be able to use it. These cases are now in state courts.

President Obama has earlier stated that he will veto the bill. It does not have a 2/3 majority in either house. The veto will stop it from being enacted. Some Republican legislators in both Houses of Congress have stated that they will pass the bill again and again after each veto. Others said that they want to attach the bill to every other bill they pass until the President signs it. Still others only want to attach it to important bills that the President has to sign. It’s an interesting or strange situation that can lead to total gridlock and stop all or much of the legislation being passed.

What makes it doubly interesting is the fact that a similar situation is going on with the Homeland Security Bill. The House Republicans have attached a section to this bill that would defund all monies that need to be used to carry out President Obama’s executive order to legally keep illegal immigrants in the country who were brought to the United States as babies or young children and give them a road to citizenship.

The House of Representatives passed this bill and have refused to take any further action on it. The Senate, it seems, would like some sort of compromise so that the Home Security Bill can pass. Funding for this current law ends at the end of February. It should be interesting to see what happens. This is particularly true if Homeland Security ends on February 28 and there is some terrorist activity within the United States afterwards. Who will be responsible? The Congress with its attempt to blackmail the Administration or the President for not buckling under the will of the Republicans or the President for giving in to the Republican demands?

In any event will the Keystone XL pipeline be another situation waiting to see who will blink first? It will be interesting to see if many of the Republicans in their rage act like tantruming five year olds or if they can deal with the problem like adults.

 

English: A map showing aquifer thickness of th...

Responding To Your Enquiries

Deutsch: Screenshot vom Blog-System WordPress.

English: Blogs on JoopeA

You must forgive me for not responding to the many enquiries I receive from you. Generally I get from 300 to 500 or more responses to my blogs every day, with about 200 to 300 being specific messages and the rest being ads or spam. Of the messages probably at least 50 or more are requesting some sort of reply. If I answered all of them I wouldn’t have time to write a blog. My purpose here is to respond to most of your enquiries.

The blog system I am using is WordPress. Several years ago I finished an Ebook that is currently available on “Amazon.com” for a small fee. Some of you have berated the fact that I do not have a contribution box on my blog. If anyone wishes to contribute some money to me or if they are just curious they can download my book, “Economics in the 21st Century.” It is priced under $10.00 and it is an analysis of economic conditions and possibilities in the 21st Century.

Many of you have asked if I do a newsletter. The answer is no. I publish generally one blog a week, usually on Sunday. If anyone wishes to get in touch with me my email address is: “bernardweiner@att.net.” As much as possible I will attempt to answer your emails but I cannot guarantee how soon this will be as writing a blog takes quite a bit of time and energy. Making an article look simple and natural requires quite a bit of revising.

Occasionally I get comments that there are numerous spelling errors in the blog. The articles when published have none. If they do exist then hackers have gotten into the article. I am also continually asked about spam, how to get rid of it. Within the last month advertisers seem to have largely dropped me. I would suspect that eventually if you persist with your blogs most advertisers will get tired of sending you their ads.

I am not overly sophisticated in computer technology. After I had completed my Ebook I hired someone for a moderate fee to prepare and publish the book on Amazon.com and to set me up with a blog. If you wish to set up your own blog or otherwise need technical aid he can be reached at: ”author19@gmail.com.” For a reasonable fee he can set you up with your own blog or whatever.

Some of you have commented that the blog loads quickly and a few have stated that it does this slowly. I would assume that in the latter case it has to do with whatever program you’re down loading onto. I’ve also gotten a number of comments that it loads badly onto Internet Explorer, running off the page. I would recommend that you use other programs.

Some of you have asked about a plug-in which you would like to use to avoid hackers. If anyone finds one I’m sure he can sell it for a great deal of money to Sony and probably also to the U.S. Government. If you’ve lost text or whatever on your blogs I would suggest you initially use a program like “word” and then copy it onto your blog. That way you always have a copy of what you’ve produced.

I have received at least several hundred offers to either guest write blogs or offers from those who would like to guest write articles for my blog. While, I’m sure, these are well intended it would take too much time to deal with. Also I am not an editor but an author. I write about with what strikes me as pertinent at any particular time.

Some of you have complained that when requesting an Email you get four similar responses. I have had the same problem in other instances. I am not technically savvy to know how to solve it.

I understand my blog can be found on Google, Yahoo News, Twitter, and other services. I assume these people pick up and transmit articles they believe will be of use to their readers.

I can always be contacted through the “Comment Section” at the bottom of the blog. WordPress lists all Comments and I also receive the message as an Email.

You should easily be able to get to my blogs by typing in: “bernardweiner.com”. A number of Bernard Weiners will come up. I am the one that’s listed as: author, historian, and economist. That should bring up my latest blog. If you then click “Home” toward the top of the page you will go to the current article followed by a number of recent blogs that can be read at the same time.

On the top of the first page there is a short biography in the “About Me” section and a quick synopsis of my book, “Economics in the 21st Century.” In the “My Book” section in addition there are a number of recent blogs listed. At this point I’ve published well over100 articles during the last three years. The last ten are listed in reverse order on this page.

A number of enquiries ask for permission to quote articles or sections of articles. Nothing here is copyrighted. The articles are written to present my interpretation of much of society. Feel free to use any blog(s) or part(s) of any blog that you feel would be useful to you or your friends.

Writing is work. It requires thought and time. The article must be written and generally revised. I find the process very worthwhile because it requires thinking a subject through from different aspects. It generally gives the author a level of understanding that he did not have before he wrote the article.

I generally tend to be about two or three weeks ahead with my blog articles and usually publish them in the order in which they are written.

I have been asked about Message Boards where numerous people can respond to a particular issue. If any of you is interested he/she can start one up. I’m sure the person I’ve listed above can set one up for you.

Many people have complained that the articles are too short and would like me to write more on the topic. If anyone wants more information on any particular topic they can easily look it up on the internet. There is here endless information that can be picked up.

An occasional comment mentions videos that some of the blogs contain. I have never included any videos in my blogs. These would be the result of hackers who are attempting to improve or do otherwise to a blog.

I have been asked numerous times if I could recommend other similar blogs. I am sure there are some out there but I have not spent any time looking. Most of my information come from synthesizing information from the local news media and from some research on the internet. Lot of information is out there but in many cases it has to be pieced together.

Next week we will deal with the Keystone XL pipeline issue.

The Weiner Component 113 – Cuba & The United States

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly before Christmas 2014 President Barak Obama reestablished a relationship with Cuba. This comes 50+ years after we severed contact with them in 1960. The Congressional Republicans and some Democrats seem to be adamantly opposed to this move. The President says he will ease economic and travel restrictions with Cuba and work with Congress to end the trade embargo.

The island of Cuba is 760 miles long and varies in width from 25 to 125 miles and has a population smaller than that of the city of Los Angeles. It was conquered by Spain in 1511. With the exception of the year 1762, when it was captured by the British, it had been a Spanish possession. From the end of the Spanish American War in 1898, Cuba became a protectorate of the United States, actually a colony in everything but name. For one reason or another the U.S. sent troops in numerous times until 1933 when it finally granted the country full independence during a popular insurrection which took total control of the government in the name of the people of the country.

Thereafter there were elections of presidents. Fulgencio Batista seized power in 1952 in an almost bloodless coup. Compared to other South and Central American countries Cuba had a high standard of living but this was not so when it compared itself to the United States. The rural areas had problems. There were large income disparities due to the extensive privileges that Cuba’s union workers had. These privileges were mainly at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants, causing economic stagnation.

Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led an attack upon the Moncada barracks near Santiago de Cuba in July 1953. The attack failed and the Castro brothers were taken prisoner and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. They were released in 1955 when a general amnesty was given to many political prisoners. They went in exile in Mexico. There with help they organized the 26th of July Movement with the intent of overthrowing Batista. Castro began a guerilla campaign against the Batista government. Eventually a sort of stalemate was reached; neither side was able to destroy the other. In addition there were numerous other revolutionary groups vying for power. The United States imposed trade restrictions on the Batista administration and attempted to get Batista to leave the country. On January 9, 1959 Batista fled the country and Castro took over. He then moved to consolidate his power by imprisoning and executing opponents and dissident former opponents. As the revolution became more radical, continuing its persecution of those who did not agree with its philosophy, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled to the United States forming a large exile community opposed to the Castro government.

The Castro government had considerable opposition from militant groups within Cuba and from the United States which had close economic ties with Cuba. By the end of 1960 all opposition newspapers had been closed down and all radio stations were under government control. Until 1965 militant anti-Castro groups funded by exiles and by the U.S. CIA were totally subdued. On October 3, 1965 Cuba officially became a Communist country. In 1976 a national referendum ratified a new constitution which made the Communist Party the major organization governing Cuba with Fidel Castro as the First Secretary

Six months after Castro took control of Cuba the Eisenhower administration began to work toward his ouster from leadership of the revolution. The U.S. began to support elements in the country opposed to Castro. Relations between the two countries deteriorated rapidly. The Eisenhower administration promoted a boycott of Cuba by oil companies. Cuba responded by nationalizing the refineries in August of 1960. The Cuban government expropriated U.S. owned properties and distributed the land to small farmers. On January 3, 1960 the U.S. severed diplomatic relations and ordered a trade embargo. The Kennedy administration extended this ban and forbad U.S. citizens to travel to or conduct business with Cuba.

About four months later, under the Kennedy administration, the CIA conducted a plan that had been developed during the Eisenhower period known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. The object of this operation was to overthrow the Communist regime and establish a democratic government that would be friends with the United States. It was carried out by a CIA sponsored paramilitary group of over 1,400 Cuban exiles. Arriving by boat from Guatemala on April 15, 1961 the small army landed on Cuban territory. By April 20th they surrendered and were sent back to the U.S.

Apparently President Kennedy had been convinced by the CIA leadership that the bulk of the Cubans would flock to support these invaders. Kennedy publically assumed full responsibility for this failure. He had refused to send in military reinforcements during the operation. The result of the invasion was to build popular support in Cuba for the Castro government.

After this the CIA began Operation Mongoose, a campaign arming militant groups, sabotage of the Cuban infrastructure, and plots to assassinate Castro. This set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Chairman of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, saw Castro and Cuba as a little brother. He secretly installed atomic missiles there. These sites were discovered by U2 reconnaissance photos. Khrushchev’s comment in Russia was that Kennedy, like the Russian peasant who had to take his smelly cow into his house to live with his family during the winter, would get used to the smell. He would do this with the missile sites rather than risk an atomic war.

President Kennedy called for a quarantine of ships being allowed to go to Cuba. Finally the Russians agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for an agreement that the U.S. would not invade Cuba. There was also a secret agreement that the U.S. would remove its remove its missile sites in Turkey six months after the agreement was signed.

Neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev were willing to go to an atomic war. The agreement seemed to give Kennedy a political win and probably helped significantly in Khrushchev’s removal from office the following year. But Kennedy had also given orders that if the Soviet Union did not back down that he would openly add the removal of the Turkish missile sites to the agreement, giving Khrushchev the political win.

Essentially the United States has kept hands-off Cuba since that time with the trade embargo persisting. Cuba has gotten involved in other areas of the world aiding revolutionary groups in Africa, Central America, and Asia. There have been periods of emigration from that country, mostly by the upper and middle classes to the United States and elsewhere. It’s estimated that between 1959 and 1993 1.2 million Cubans left the island for the United States and other places. This is approximately ten percent of the total population of that country.

By 1982, Cuba possessed one of the largest military forces in Latin America but she still has a problem feeding her population, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In December of 2014, after a highly publicized exchange of political prisoners between the United States and Cuba President Barak Obama announced plans to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba after over fifty years of separation. Under the guidance of the Pope, secret negotiations had been going on for about a year. The U.S. President stated that his country would establish an embassy in Cuba and improve economic opportunities between the two countries.

The embargo was put into effect by Congressional action. It will take a law to bring about trade between the nations.  Ending it will take an act by Congress.

Is it about time to begin open relations with Cuba again? Fifty-five years have passed since the embargo was instituted. The generation of Cubans who first came to the United States have grown old and died. Some of their children who came with them may still remember but they are in their sixties or older. Do we still have animosity toward them? Do we still resent the fact that they refuse to be within the American sphere of influence? Do we still hate and fear communist nations so that we will have nothing to do with them?

And if that is so then why are we trading with China which still has a communist government? For that matter why have we even attempted to negotiate with North Korea? They have a communist dictatorial government.

It strikes me odd that Bain Capital and Mitt Romney can set up and move American factories to Communist China to avoid paying U.S. taxes and acquiring cheap labor but we have an embargo with Cuba. It would be much easier for them to do this with Cuba and their profits would be greater because Cuba is closer to the U.S. and they would have the same tax and cheap labor benefits they have with communist China.

The issue of the embargo is nonsense. If the 2015 Republican Congress refuses to deal realistically with this problem they are just giving in to their emotional fears and prejudices. It’s time for a little reality now that we are in the 21st Century.

Fidel Castro embracing Soviet Premier Nikita K...

Fidel Castro embracing Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a r...

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John F. Kennedy

The Weiner Component #112A – How the United States Government Works

During the Grand Jury examination of the August 8, 2014 shooting of 6’4” eighteen year old Michael Brown by the 6’4” police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri the question was asked by one of the jurors as to which predominated, the state laws or the Federal laws. The Assistant District Attorney never really answered that question for the Ferguson Grand Jury. The Constitution gives that power to the Federal Government and the issue was ultimately resolved by the Civil War which solidly placed power in the hands of the Central Government of all the states.

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The basic document for the organization of the Federal Government is the Constitution of the United States which defines all aspects of our government. Initially, during and directly after the American Revolution, this country was ruled by the Articles of Confederation of the 13 states with most of the power resting within the governments of each of the 13 states. The central government was run by a Congress of the States and had very little direct power. Any measure that it passed had to be agreed upon by all the states involved. It had to no power to tax and had to rely on the states for anything it needed. To fill its monetary needs it had request funds from the states which would simply and individually send money or not.

For these and other reasons this system of government did not work well. A meeting was called to have elected representatives come to Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, from May 25 until September 17. Its purpose was to amend the Articles of Confederation. This assembly occurred nine years after the start of the new nation. Not all the states sent representatives and not all the representatives stayed the full hot summer to work upon the reform.

George Washington, probably the most trusted man in the new nation, was elected chairman. They met during a very hot Philadelphia summer and had to be done when the meeting place would again be used by the state legislature. It was early determined to keep no record of the meetings and to keep the results secret until they were done.

They very early concluded that the Articles of Confederation were completely inadequate and could not be reformed to form a proper government. They determined that they had to start from scratch and develop a totally new government with the power to run the new nation. What emerged at the end of the summer was the United States Constitution. It required 9 of the 13 states to vote approval for the document to come into being. Not all the states initially voted to join.

Interestingly the one issue never resolved at this time was where did the ultimate power rest, with the states or with the new Federal Government? That issue was not resolved until the end of the Civil War. The power rests with the Federal Government.

Virtually everyone has heard of the Constitution but many people don’t quite know what is contains or how it works. They have not read it or remember what they learned in school about it. This lack of knowledge has caused all sorts of confusion and, at times, a lack of voting.

The Constitution begins with a statement of its purpose: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”. This statement is highly important; it explains the reason for the government.

The document itself contained seven articles. The first establishes the government’s legislative powers, establishing a bicameral law making body, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House was to be elected directly by the People for a period of two years while the Senate was to be elected for a six year term at the rate of 1/3d of the Senate reelected every two years by the state legislatures. The House represented the people directly and the Senate represented the States. The minimum age for the House was 25 and the Senate, 30. House representatives were apportioned by population with each state having a minimum of at least one, while each state had two Senators. The Vice President headed the Senate with no vote except in cases of a tie with the second in command being the President pro tempore, the leader of the majority party. The House had to sole power of impeachment while the Senate served as the jury in such cases. All tax bills were to originate in the House of Representatives allowing the people to indirectly tax themselves.

Every bill after being passed in both Houses of Congress had to be signed by the President in order to become law. The President can sign the bill, veto the bill, or ignore it. After ten days an unsigned bill automatically becomes law.

Article 1 also enumerates the powers of Congress: lay and collect taxes, regulate commerce, coin money, declare war, raise and support a military, and establish the primacy of the Federal Government over the states.

It is important to keep in mind that only Congress can pass laws. The President can issue executive orders but generally they last only during his tenure in office. Another president can cancel them by a stroke of the pen.

Article 2 deals with the executive power, establishing a President and Vice-President for a four year period. The means of election is stated, requiring that the individual be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years of age. The people vote for electors whose total number equals that of all the Senators and members of the House of Representatives. Upon the removal of the President by death or for any other reason the Vice-President succeeds him.

The specific oath of office is stated. He is commander and chief of the military and can grant pardons. His appointments and treaties require the advice and consent of the Senate. He is to give Congress the State of the Union information and recommendations from time to time. The President can be removed from office on Impeachment for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

From what has been stated the overall powers of the President have been specifically defined over the years by the way the men who have held that position have acted.

Article 3 deals with the judicial power of the United States. It requires a Supreme Court and such other Federal Courts that Congress establishes. It sets the judges tenure as lifetime and the Constitution as the basis for all court decisions. The document defines the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the specifics and structure of the Supreme Court and the entire court system is left to be defined by Congress.

Article 4 deals with citizens and state’s rights throughout the nation and with new states coming into the Union.

Article Five has to do with amending the Constitution.

Article Six Pertains to business contracts, the supremacy of Federal law over state law, and having all elected and judicial officials taking an oath to support the Constitution.

Article Seven deals with ratification of the Constitution. It required nine states to ratify the Constitution for it to come into being.

While the process of ratification was going on some of the states complained that there was no Bill of Rights within the document. The founders promised to add one after the Constitution was ratified.

James Madison wrote twelve Amendments to the Constitution. Following Article Five, it required a 2/3d vote for the Amendment to become part of the Constitution. Twelve states had ratified the Constitution. Nine states approved ten of Madison’s twelve Amendments and they became the first ten Amendments to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Seventeen additional Amendments have been added to the Constitution since its inception making the total present number 27.

In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

In 1868 the 14th Amendment was passed. It extended civil rights making all people equal.

In 1870 the 15th Amendment specifically extended Black suffrage.

In 1913 the 16th Amendment legalized the income tax.

In 1913 the 17th Amendment authorized the direct election of Senators by the people.

In 1913 the 18th Amendment authorized the prohibition of liquor and the 21 Amendment in 1933 repealed prohibition.

In 1919 the 19th Amendment gave women the vote throughout the United States.

In 1951 the 22nd Amendment limited future Presidents to two terms.

In 1965 the 24th Amendment made poll taxes illegal for anyone to vote.

In 1971 the 26th Amendment moved initial voting from 21 years of age to 18.

The Constitution of the United States is, with some exceptions, a general document. The interpretation of what it means has shifted over the years as the country has gone from a rural nation with some cities to an industrial one with some agriculture. It is a flexible document whose interpretation has been largely defined by the way it was run and by the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, which has the final say upon what it means. And what it means has changed over the years.

By being flexible the Constitution remains as valid today as it did in 1789 when it was first put into existence.

This document was originally set up with a system of checks and balances. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives serve as a check upon each other since both have to pass the exact same bill in order for it to become law. The President by signing or vetoing the bill serves as a check upon the Congress. The President is essentially an administrator and can only suggest that certain bills be passed by Congress. The Supreme Court has, among other things, the power of judicial review which was created by its third chief justice, John Marshall, in the case of Marboro v. Madison and has functioned ever since. Also the Supreme Court can make the final decision about what a law or any part of a law means.

In addition it is important to remember that only Congress can make and pass a law. The President is the Chief Administrator in the government. He can issue an Executive Order but he cannot make laws only Congress or the People can do that.  Congress by passing a law and the People through Amending the Constitution.

 

 

The 1.1Trillion Dollar Spending Bill

On Thursday, 12/11/14 the House of Representatives passed, what was essentially but not completely a 1,603 page bipartisan 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill that will allows the Federal Government to continue to function until September 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year. The bill adheres to strict caps negotiated earlier between the White House and the deficit-conscious Republicans. It is also salted through with GOP proposals which are actually Christmas giveaways to individuals and companies and have nothing to do with the spending budget. The bill should have been passed months earlier but it was convenient for the GOP to keep it hanging as a potential form of blackmail against President Barak Obama until the last possible moment when it had to be passed or its absence would cause a government shutdown.

When Ronald Reagan was governor of California he had a line-item veto over all bills passed by the State Legislature. He could veto any section or group of sections that he thought was or were inappropriate and sign the document for the rest of the bill to become law.  But as President of the United States he could either sign a bill, veto it, or do nothing for ten days and allow it to become law. Reagan was not too happy with this limitation but he had to accept it. It would require an amendment to the Constitution to change this practice.

Not only does every bill have to be passed by both the House and Senate but both versions have to be identical. If a word or punctuation is different, then the two versions are not the same. Actually what happens is that the bill goes to a Committee of Congressmen dealing with that particular subject, they discuss the bill, usually modify it, and then send it to the legislative to which they belong with their recommendations. If it is passed then that version goes to the other legislative body, where it follows the same procedure. In practically all cases the two versions are at least slightly different. At that point the bill goes to a Conference Committee made up of members of the two Houses where a final version is then hammered out. This goes back to both Houses of Congress and it then has to be voted upon and repasses by the two Houses. If the bill passes it then goes to the President. After he signs it the bill becomes law. This process generally takes a number of days.

The 1.1 Trillion Dollar Spending Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, December 11. The Congress was slated to end its session on Friday, December 12th. This meant that the bill had to be accepted exactly as it was if the government was not to shut down the following week when it ran out of money. In fact a short a short extension was also passed in case a few more days were needed to pass the bill.

Keep in mind that according to the Constitution only the House of Representatives can initiate a money bill since initially they were the only group directly elected by the People. The Founders felt that taxes should be authorized by the direct representatives of the People so that the People are, in a sense, taxing themselves.

Also note that there are no rules about what a bill is supposed to contain. It can deal with one subject or any number of subjects. This finance bill dealt with innumerable subjects, many of which had nothing to do with financing the government.

Because of the catastrophe caused by a government shutdown President Obama urged the Senate to pass the bill even though it had numerous amendments that were harmful to individuals or groups within the country.

One of these amendments cancelled a section of the Dodd Frank Act that had been passed in 2010 as a reform measure after the 2008 Bank-Real Estate Collapse to avoid such occurrences in the future and to keep banks from exploiting their depositors and the taxpayers. Presumably the lobbyists for Citibank wrote the measure and it was secretly inserted the night before the bill came up for a vote in the House of Representatives. The insertion rolls back regulations that limit banks from using federal deposit insurance to cover high-risk financial investments. There had been no notice given or debate on this Amendment. Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House, strongly opposed this insertion as did Senator Elizabeth Warren who called upon the Democratic majority in the Senate to oppose the entire bill if this Amendment was left in.

Another interesting Amendment was trading land with an Indian tribe. A sacred mountain containing a burial ground was to be traded for another piece of land. The sacred mountain was wanted by a company for a copper mine.

Another last minute Amendment dealt with campaign finance, it was extended for individuals. It went from $32,400 to $324,000. Republicans got a 60 million dollar cut at the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) reducing their workforce to the level they had been at in 1989.

Not all Republicans in the House supported the bill. Many of the Tea Party wanted to defund President Obama’s immigration executive order. This issue was left out of the House bill.

In both the House and Senate the bill required the votes of both Democrats and Republicans to pass. In the House 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voted for the bill. 139 Democrats and 67 Republicans were against the spending bill. In the Senate there were 31 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and 1 Independent who voted for the bill and 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and 1 Independent who were against it. In both Houses of Congress it required the votes of both major political parties in order to pass.

Interestingly the far right and the far left both opposed this bill, both for different reasons. On the far right, Ted Cruz wanted a section added that would limit or eradicate President Obama’s executive order dealing with illegal immigrants whose children had been born in the United States. And on the far left, the Congressmen wanted to remove many of the giveaways that had nothing to do with the spending bill. Cruz, in a procedural vote extended the Senatorial Session into the weekend. He did not get his Amendment to the bill passed. Harry Reed, the majority leader in the Senate, used the additional time to get a large number of Obama appointees approved beginning with the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who had been opposed by the NRA because he had suggested earlier that guns were a disease since they killed a large number of people. By the end of the session, Tuesday, December 15th, the Senate had approved a total of 69 controversial presidential appointments.

The Senate passed the Spending Bill on Saturday and President Obama quietly signed it on Tuesday. Congress adjourned around midnight of Tuesday, December 16th and the new Congress, which will have Republican majorities in both Houses, will meet in January of next year, after the holidays.

It is interesting to note that all that is required for the government to keep functioning is a one sentence bill that states that the Federal Government shall be properly funded for the fiscal year. The 1,603 page bill detailing all the expenditures over the fiscal year is ridiculous. In this bill every item that is to be funded has to be mentioned in detail. For example: Vice President, Joe Biden’s and other top officials in the government’s salaries are frozen. There is no automatic raise for them that was put into law several years earlier but the members of Congress will get their cost of living raise, raising the pay to over $140,000 each.

What happened originally was that several years ago Congress voted itself a raise. The press got hold of the news and published it. People were indignant over Congress giving itself an increase in salary when everyone else was hurting financially. There was a protest and the increase was rescinded. Thereafter Congress passed a law making pay increases for Congress and government officials automatic. From then on there was no protest or even public knowledge that this was occurring. In 2014 Congress has voted through its 1603 page bill not to freeze its own salary but to do so to the Vice President and other high government officials in the Administration. How petty can they get?

Further the bill once again bans funding for abortions. It doesn’t provide any new funding for the health-care law and maintains the current levels for Medicare. The Department of Homeland Security is cut by 336 million dollars in funding. There is an additional 85.2 billion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan, a 2 billion dollar cut from 2013 due to ongoing troop reductions. The bill includes 10.8 billion dollars for Customs and Border Protection. 6.55 billion dollars are set aside for disaster funding. There is 224 million less for embassy security, maintenance and construction than was spent in 2013. The Democrats successfully blocked attempts to limit the EPA, but its budget was somewhat cut. The bill bans the Obama Administration from transferring detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to facilities within the United States. There are several issues regarding weapon control. The bill prohibits any funding that requires that federal contractors disclose campaign contributions. There is a boost for Head start and preschool programs. The bill contains 2.8 billion dollars for detention programs operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill bars funding to enforce new light bulb standards for lower wattage usage. Military and civilian government employees pay is increased by one percent. They agreed to restore a cut in the cost-of-living adjustments to the pensions of disabled working-aged veterans. The bill bars postal officials from ending Saturday mail deliveries. It provides 157 million dollars for the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention programs. There is 5.3 billion dollars for weather reporting. 5.6 billion dollars is provided for school lunches for about 32.1 million eligible schoolchildren.

This is just the flavor of what the bill contains; there is, of course, much more in 1,603 pages.

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #111 – Dick Cheney & Torture

George W. Bush

Cover of George W. Bush

Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States.

Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 9, 2014 the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 500 page summary of a 6,000 page investigation done over a six year period of enhanced interrogation or torture used by the CIA to elicit information from prisoners during the Administration of George W. Bush. This process began directly after the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City by suicide squads of Al-Qaeda terrorists under the leadership of Osama bin Laden on September 11, 2001.

It was important to Senator Diane Feinstein, the chairperson of this committee, to get this information out before the December 2014 Congressional session ended. The following year the Republicans will have a majority in the Senate and Republicans will chair all committees. She felt that the report would never see the light next year, that the Republicans would in all probability suppress it. And apparently she felt that the American people should know what was done during the Bush years.

When I was a young lad during the days and years of World War II in the early 1940s I remember hearing about how the Nazis and Japs used torture on their prisoners to get information from them. At that time the U.S. Military trained their men, if they were taken prisoner, to give only their name, rank, and serial number, but the Japs and the Nazis did all sorts of pain inflicting things to them to find out what they wanted to know. Years later I learned that the Japanese taught their people the same thing about the Americans. I imagine a certain amount of force was intermittently used by both sides. Did it work? That’s another question.

As I understood the issue from childhood on, the United States always represented the good side of every issue. We were always honest and fair with everyone. We never engaged in any type of skullduggery. Somehow I grew up believing this.

John Brennan, the Director of the CIA, for the first time in the history of the agency, in an unprecedented news conference from CIA headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, admitted that some officers had engaged in “abhorrent” conduct in their questioning of terrorism suspects. After he finished his presentation he took questions from a group of reporters.

In general terms he seemed to largely agree with the Intelligence Committee’s summary, stating that some of the information gotten from the “enhanced interrogation” did help in the fight against the terror groups. He spoke very generally, giving no specifics about how it helped. What he did not mention was that private contractors were hired to enforce this torture.

Listening to him one felt that he didn’t want to totally invalidate anything the agency did. Torture was something that had emerged from the fears engendered after 9/11 and which the agency gave up with the ascension of Barak Obama to the Presidency in 2009.

No one accepted or was given the responsibility for beginning the process of torture. Interestingly the CIA had no direct knowledge of “enhanced interrogation,” consequently private contractors were hired, at what turned out to be a cost of 81 million dollars, to apply this operation. These people, while they had no experience with any methods of interrogation, did have some background in psychology. They were given total freedom to invent their system of torture. The impression from the summary was that they followed what they believed the Japanese did in World War II.

How effective were they? That’s another interesting question. It would seem that if one is undergoing intense pain or discomfort then one would do whatever is required to lessen this misery. If one was being questioned he would say whatever he believed the interrogator wanted him to say. Truth would not be important here; lessening the pain would be primary. Outside of the beliefs of the interrogator how valid would any of this information be? I would imagine that John Brennan was saving face in his statement about the sometime value of enhanced interrogation.

Interestingly Senator John McCain was a naval aviator who was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 during the Vietnam War. He was a prisoner of war until 1973 and went through episodes of torture. He has stated more than once that torture as a means of gaining valid information is of no real value.

Claims have been made, such as some of this information helped to locate Osama bin Laden who was killed by Navy Seals on May 2, 2011. I would wonder how torture which ended in 2008 elicited information that allowed Navy Seals to raid bin Laden’s compound in May of 2011, two and a half years after torture as a means of gathering information from prisoners ended.

President George W. Bush’s comment about “enhanced interrogation” was that he didn’t want to know about it because he might accidentally mention it in a public speech. In essence what you don’t know you can deny as Bush did and go through your presidency innocent of any negative implications.

Dick Cheney when interviewed about this investigation on Fox News stated that even though he had never looked at the 6,000 page study or its 520 page summery he knew it was flawed. To him enhanced interrogation (torture) was a sure way of receiving accurate information. He said that given a choice he would do it again, “I’d do it again in a minute”. He stated on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, December 14, 2014, that “enhanced interrogation” was not torture.

When asked by Chuck Todd if “involuntary rectal feeding” detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committees report as being done to numerous individuals met the legal definition of torture, Cheney stated that “What was done here apparently certainly was not one of the techniques that was approved. I believe it was done for medical reasons.” Cheney has no problem believing what he wants to believe regardless of any evidence that exists.

Cheney’s definition of torture is “an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four daughters shortly before he is burned to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York on 9/11.”

Anything short of that according to our former Vice President is not torture. He refuses to call the enhanced interrogation, authorized for and used by the CIA, torture. “We were very careful to stop short of torture”. Apparently water boarding, having an individual physically feel he was drowning or forcing someone to stand in an awkward and highly uncomfortable position for 14 hours, or any other device used in the interrogation was not torture according to Dick Cheney’s definition.

Watching or reading a transcript of the Cheney interview on “Meet the Press” leaves one wondering what sort of individual the ex-Vice President is. He came out with regal statements many of which made no sense. There were no examples of anything given, just pronouncements of what he considers absolute truth, regardless of any evidence.

Dick Cheney seemed to work from a base of absolute knowledge that didn’t necessarily relate to the real world or to be based upon any factual knowledge. In essence he knows what he knows and anything or anyone who disagrees with him is flawed or just plain wrong. My impression of this is that he is amoral, there is no right or wrong behavior, just what works.

This is the man who was second in command of this nation, followed by a leader, George W. Bush, who didn’t want to know much of what was happening around him. With men like these running the country it amazing that we’re still here. There must be many aspects of this nation that function despite the level of the leadership. Apparently Will Rogers, the cowboy philosopher of the 1920s and early 1930s, was right in his comments about the government. During the Calvin Coolidge Administration he stated during his one man lecture tours that Congress and the President were like a bunch of children in a China shop with hammers. You just hoped they didn’t do too much damage. It would seem that the same can be said about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. You hoped they didn’t do too much damage in the eight years they ran the government.

This seems to be particularly true since Bush told the American Public that his Higher Father (God) told or inspired him to go to war with Iraq and destroy their weapons of mass destruction (which didn’t exist) and the fact that Dick Cheney considers that the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11/02 was torture for everyone who died in the tragedy but that none of the enhanced interrogation done to our Muslim prisoners was torture. He considers all the evidence, none of which he has examined, flawed and inaccurate.

We should be thankful that our government seems to work despite the people who occasionally run it and the nonsense often passed by Congress.

I remember, over the years, hearing the term: The American way. I always understood that term to mean the right way, the honest way, the most honorable and fair way. This is what I was taught this country stands for. For what is best for everyone. Bush and Cheney attempted to change that, to bring us to a level of dishonor. Hopefully this was a phase that is now gone and will never return in the future.

The Weiner Component #110 – Killing of Two Policemen: The Price of a Human Life

Most of the news media have recently wrapped up examining the murder of two policemen last year on the morning of December 21st   in Brooklyn. No one considers this act lightly but former mayor Of New York City, Rudy Giuliani and Patrick Lynch, current president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association both stated that there was “blood on the hands” of demonstrators and elected officials who criticized police tactics. Apparently they saw the response to the killing of 18 year old unarmed Michael Brown and the suffocation Eric Garner, in addition to the constant killing of essentially black teenagers and young adults, as well as a twelve year old playing in a park near his home, as the cause of this murder.

I have a problem with these idiot comments by men like the two above who should know better but insist upon taking a simplistic and political approach to life, going ballistic over an unfortunate event and attempting to gain political points for themselves in the process.

The murder of the two police officers in Brooklyn, New York by a lone assailant, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who happened to be a black man that had a history of mental illness and police arrests going back over a number of years; who after he shot the police officers ran a block to a subway station and there shot himself through the head. If we ask why he did it? The answer would put him on a level with Giuliani and Lynch except that his reasoning was dark and irrational while the other two thinking would be aimed at political gain for themselves.

There is a protest movement going on in the United States about the killing of unarmed young black males by police and others. This currently seems to be at least a weekly event, if not more often, and in practically all cases is ruled, generally by a Grand Jury or District Attorney, as justifiable homicide. Strangely, in a society that is mostly white, I don’t find any cases of young white males or Caucasian children, while playing with toy guns, being shot by officials or others justifiably when unarmed. Something seems to be out of kilter.

The protest movement temporarily quieted down while the memorial and funeral for these two police officers was taking place. Meanwhile a number of policemen are going ballistic in frustration denouncing anyone who refused to absolutely blame the protest movement and any liberals like the President and Attorney General for this heinous crime. One of the leading Fox commentators, who likes to make God-like comments which have no basis in reality, Bill Reilly, has called upon the major of New York City, Bill de Blasio, to resign. I’m surprised he didn’t call upon the President and Attorney General to do likewise.

None of these officials or the police seems to be concerned with the endless number of deaths of unarmed black men caused in many cases by armed policemen. They don’t seem to matter compared to two murdered police officers.

In Milwaukee a policeman who killed an black man in a confrontation  on April 30, 2014 will not have to face charges. The District Attorney called the case “justified self-defense.” The police officer, Christopher Manney, encountered the black man while he was sleeping in a park. He patted him down. The man, Dontre Hamilton, awoke. A physical encounter occurred. Hamilton got hold of Manney’s baton and began beating the officer with it. Manney fired 14 times killing Hamilton with shots to the chest. Hamilton was 31 years old; his family stated that he suffered from mental illness. The police officer was later fired for treating Hamilton as a criminal when he had known he had mental problems.

The issue that emerges here is firing 14 bullets. One shot should have been sufficient to stop him. Firing 14 times indicates a man who has lost control of himself and is blindly responding. In Ferguson the police officer fired even more shots at the18 year old, unarmed Michael Brown. Before the Grand Jury the police officer spoke of seeing the teenager at a living demon. The issue here is: Who hires these people? They seem to have a secret fear of all black males. They certainly don’t have enough emotional stability to be police officers. Isn’t there or shouldn’t there be a battery of tests, written and otherwise, that can at least determine if the individual is stable enough to be a police officer.

The issue here deals with the value of a human life, of all human beings. Are the police officers lives worth that much more than the black youngsters that are killed? Is the implication in the United States that white lives are very valuable but black ones are almost without any real value? What is happening throughout the country would seem to indicate this. And if this is true it is a definite breach of the Constitution which states that all men are equal. The whole system of values seems to be out of kilter.

A human life is a wondrous thing. Each and every individual has a potential for some great achievements, if only within his family. To deprive anyone of his life goes against what this country stands for. Even the perpetrators who are taking these lives diminish themselves in the process. Whatever they feel they are accomplishing they are actually diminished by their act of mayhem, be it legally justified or not.

In the case of the two police officers who were virtually ambushed the question that comes up is: How did the shooter get hold of a gun? To my knowledge no one has asked this question. The man had a criminal record and was mentally disturbed.  By what process could he legally or otherwise acquire a pistol?

I understand that the National Rifle Association, with its influence in Congress and the state legislatures, scores every lawmaker continually on his position toward guns, their sale and use, and will financially support those who favor their position with contributions. I also understand that they are against gun checks of persons securing weapons as, I imagine, this would lessen the amount of pistols and ammunition sold. To what extent are they responsible for the current gun culture in the United States? There are more concealed weapons being carried around today than there were in the wildest days of the wild-west in this country.

Are guns so easy to acquire on the East Coast of the United States that anyone, regardless of his background, can get one at will?  Has the NRA been successful in making the laws so inept that anyone can easily and legally acquire a pistol?  There’s certainly something wrong with the laws on the East Coast of the United States when a crazy with a history of mental illness and a criminal record can show up at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and threaten to shoot himself and then shoot her the day before he goes to New York City and arbitrarily murders two policemen.

Just a few days ago a twenty-nine year old woman in Idaho was shot in the head in Walmart when her two year old son took her concealed pistol out of her handbag and fired it at his mother. I feel a great empathy for this baby who killed his mother; the act will haunt him from the time he reaches cognizance of what he had done to the end of his life.

If responsibility has to be placed at someone’s doorstep in these cases it should rest at the door of the NRA whose goal seems to be to put a weapon in the hands of everyone regardless of their mental state or their criminal history. Who is responsible for this outrage? Mostly the National Rifle Association and their continuing lobbying policies are. Unfortunately these episodes will play out otherwise.

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A tragic incident has occurred.  No one will question that.  Will we continue to have reenactments of these tragedies? Isn’t it time for legislation both on the state and federal levels to bring about sensible laws concerning gun culture in the United States for both the perpetrators of these tragedies and for their victims?

I am reminded of John Donne’s 17th Century poem which is as valid today as it was when it was first written.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod is washed away by the sea,

Europe is less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friends were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

Photograph taken at the Gay Pride Parade in Ne...

The Weiner Component #109 – Benghazi: The Question of Questioning

English: Photograph shows head-and-shoulders p...

English: Photograph shows head-and-shoulders portrait of Goldwater. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Late in November of 2014 the Seventh or Eighth GOP led House Intelligence Committee issued its report on the 2012 attack upon the Benghazi embassy. All these Republican investigating inquiries attempted to place blame upon the Democratic President and his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The impression that these committees initially gave was that the Benghazi attack occurred because the Administration and State Department were careless or irresponsible. The fact that the GOP led House of Representatives had earlier voted to decrease protective funding at U.S. embassies was never mentioned.  Also, in the House of Representative finance bill passed two days before the end of its final session embassy protection costs were further reduced.

From what I understand the attack upon Benghazi and a number of other places was generated by an anti-Islamic video made in the United States by a pastor of a fundamentalist church. It blatantly insulted the prophet and the Islamic religion. I wonder how this churchman would react to an Islamic video insulting Christ and the Christian religion.

Apparently the video was released on the internet and generated violent protests throughout the Islamic world, all aimed at the U.S. In Benghazi, Libya this protest was taken over by a terrorist group. They killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the embassy.

The Republicans in Congress, particularly those in the House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority, have been having a high time attempting to blame the Democratic Administration for the attack.

The question that emerges from all these investigations has been, what exactly were all these committees investigating over the two year period? The prospective on this issue kept changing. Basically the Republicans have looked at the issue from every possible direction in attempting to place the blame upon the President and his Administration.

According to the final committee report the Obama Administration was absolved from any responsibility in mishandling or covering up any aspect of the deadly 2012 attack upon the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The report was released by the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and had the support of all Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

The senior GOP senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, who was not on the Intelligence Committee, a few days after it was issued, called the report “garbage.” He said the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own. Apparently Graham holds the House investigating committee responsible for not finding anything wrong with the actions of the Obama Administration. He seems to know innately that the Obama Administration misacted and that the Republicans didn’t probe enough to find the evidence.

Graham’s reaction reminded me of the time Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. The slogan for Goldwater was “In your heart you know he’s right.” It seemed at that time that the Republican hope was that people would ignore logic and sensibility and just go by their feelings which would cause them to vote for the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. Somehow it didn’t work in 1964, Goldwater lost.

The issue that emerges is why have all these investigations over a two year period? They took a lot of time that could have been used for better purposes.

What are they, the Republicans, really investigating? The answer, of course, is obvious. They are investigating the Obama Administration, trying to find something wrong with it, something possibly illegal, trying to blame Obama for Benghazi. And while all this is going on they are ignoring the basic needs of this country, particularly the need for legislative relief. Among other things they have even been too busy to declare war on ISIS. Although in their last minute bill to finance the government the Republicans included a section which funded the air raids upon ISIS troops.

By his statement on CNN’s “State of the Nation” on Sunday November 13, 2014 Lindsey Graham seems to feel, in his heart, that there is a need for another Benghazi investigation and if that one fails then still another and another and so on until the evidence of wrong doing emerges. They are to continue until what he knows to be the truth comes out, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are guilty for the attack in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

It must be wonderful to absolutely know the truth about something that happened thousands of miles away from you. He must be precognitive, able to automatically know about everything or anything. And that is amazing because he was presumably trained as an attorney, not as a seer.

The majority of the Republicans, both on and off the House Intelligence Committee apparently feel it’s time to move on and leave the Benghazi debate behind. The report, as we’ve seen, was released by the Republican chairman of the committee and had the support of all its members, both Republican and Democratic. It was designed to be the definitive word on who was responsible for Benghazi. Everyone in the government was cleared of any blame or responsibility.

Actually it’s a good time for this final testament. A new Congress, with a Republican majority in both Houses, will be meeting after January of 2015. They will be facing all sorts of executive actions and vetoes by President Obama. In the 2014 Midterm Election campaign the Republicans have promised to block President Obama and also, at the same time, to ease Washington legislative gridlock. Probably one of their first actions will be to pass in both Houses, if they can avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill which President Obama will veto. The Tea Party segment of the Republican Party wants to do completely away with Obamacare but has no alternative plan. Any bill that weakens the EPA or increases pollution will be certainly vetoed. The country still needs a declaration of war to legally continue its fight against ISIS.

Somehow the impression is that the 2015 Congress will be even more gridlocked than that of 2013-2014. That Congress holds the record for the least legislation passed in the entire history of the United States. Also, keep in mind that the current Congress between vacation days meets twelve months of the year. In the 19th Century or eighteen hundreds Congress only met for three or four months during the year. It was a part time job and they passed far more legislation than the 2013-2014 Congressional body.

Presumably Benghazi is behind us unless there is another investigation by the new House of Representatives but new screaming and frustration sessions will soon come into being. The House may even shut down the government again by refusing to pass an appropriation bill when it comes up in September unless the Administration does what they want. It should be an interesting and depressing two years!

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #108 – What Do the Republicans Stand For?

Breakdown of political party representation in...

Breakdown of political party representation in the United States Senate during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican Light Blue: Independent (caucused with Democrats) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 2014 Midterm Election there was a 37% turnout of voters, the smallest since 1942. People made a statement by not voting. It seems that the statement made was a negative one. The majority of voters were very unhappy with both major political parties. The Republicans denounced virtually everything and the Democrats gutlessly distanced themselves from the President and everything he’s done. The 113th Congress for the 2012 to 2014 period had accomplished less than any other Congress in the entire history of the United States. The people were disgusted with their government.

Even though the election was a denunciation of the current political system in Washington and many of the state governments, the election, with the low vote, favored the Republicans. They achieved a majority in both Houses of Congress. Many of their leaders announced mistakenly or stupidly that this election was a referendum on their policies.

If in their minds they acted as though the election were a referendum on their positions, then what do they stand for?

Numerous members of the Tea Party have been elected since 2010. These people constitute a fair percentage but not the majority of the Republicans in Congress. Their goals seem to be the smaller the government the better. Their basic attitude seems to be anti-scientific; they do not believe in science, at least not in the fact that carbon emissions can effect climate conditions, that people by their poor uses of resources are changing weather conditions.

They also, with the evangelicals, are against abortion. Many of them oppose it in all cases, including rape and incest; some of them even oppose contraception use as a form of abortion. They are ready to force women to have unwanted children but do not see any point in helping raise these unwanted youngsters with financial or any other type of help.

They want to get rid of Obamacare (Affordable Health Care). If they were capable of doing this it would bring immediate hardship to millions of Americans who have benefited significantly from this law. Ironically this law was first designed by a far right think tank, Citizens United and applied by former Republican governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. It uses private enterprise as the base in establishing universal health care for the people of the state. The Democrats chose it to satisfy the Republicans. Obviously it did not.

The majority of advantages from this law apply mostly but not completely to those who didn’t have any health care. The Act was designed to reduce overall health care costs by making services available to those 32 million who did not have any medical coverage. Preventive services are included which lowers health care costs by treating diseases before they become serious. The government pays for people who can’t afford health insurance. Insurance companies that now get a lot more business cannot deny children or adults coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies can no longer drop anyone from coverage once they get sick. Parents can put their children up to age 28 on their health policies. The Act lowers the budget deficit by 143 billion over the next decade. Because of this plan the increase in medical costs are about 4% for the 2014-2015 year rather than the usual 10 or 11% yearly.

If the Republicans were to be successful in canceling Obamacare there would be a lot of people in the country who would suddenly lose their family health care for themselves and their adult children who generally would be in college. This would not help those who would find their policies changed because of a family member with a prior condition. They would be extremely upset if they had to pay more for less coverage. There’s no question but this would seriously affect their votes in the next major election in 2016.

The Republicans are very good at being against things, but very poor at being for anything. What would they offer the people in place of Obamacare? They have mentioned nothing positive. The few things that they tend to be for are lowering the tax rate for the upper 10 or 15% of the population. These people currently pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the rest of the public. They are also for the Keystone XL Pipeline and protecting our southern border. There is no problem with protecting our northern border.

Their overall desire seems to be to go back historically to France before the Revolution when the rich and nobility paid no taxes; all taxes were paid by the poor. After all John Boehner has numerous times called the rich the “job creators.” Congress, according to the Republicans, doesn’t want to tax the “job creators.” Of course the question could be raised: “Where are the jobs these people are creating?” Boehner likes to make meaningless comments.

The question on immigration is an interesting one. The system is essentially broken in the United States. Families are constantly being broken, parents are deported but their children are citizens because they were born here. Young men and women going to college are not citizens because they were brought here as small children. The entire system is not functioning in a sane manner. Approximately a year and a half ago, five hundred and some days earlier the Senate, working with both Democrats and Republicans, painfully developed an immigration bill and passed it. Even though it had enough support from both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, refused to bring it up before the House. It seems that a minority of the Republicans, the far right opposed the bill. It appears that Boehner felt that he would lose the Speakership if he brought up the bill. Because of John Boehner’s ego needs the immigration bill did not become law and President Obama has taken executive action which the Republicans loudly denounced before going home for Thanksgiving. They have threatened a law suit, shutting down the government by not funding it, and impeachment. In the end they just left Washington, D.C. quickly for the holiday.

It should also be noted that immigration reform is popular with the general public. In essence here the will of the people is being thwarted by a reactionary minority and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

They also go ballistic over protecting our borders, particularly our southern border with Mexico and South America. This, I understand, is included in the immigration bill that the Republicans have refused to take up in the House of Representatives. The immigration policy will not go as far as electrifying the fences, which, I understand, some Republicans would like to do.

Historically the Republicans freed the slaves with the Civil War and have always favored business growth. They still favor business growth by wanting to reduce the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and lowering taxes for corporations.

Also they traditionally want to increase the military and lower all entitlement programs. In essence they support the rich at the expense of the rest of the society. Their attitude does go back to France as it was organized before the late 19th Century Revolu

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

tion.

Can we trust this political party with all their negative imagery to run the United States? If you weren’t among the top 10 or 15% what would you expect to gain from them. Their anti-abortion and contraceptive programs could well rapidly increase the population; but their decrease in entitlements and anti-Obamacare possible legislation could cause a lot of these youngsters to die prematurely.