The Weiner Component #104 – Obama & the New Republican Congress

English: U.S. President Barack Obama meets wit...

The day after the 2014 Midterm Elections President Obama and the two Republican leaders of Congress were sitting down together, smiling at each other, and discussing how they could get along and get necessary legislation passed. This era of good feeling lasted for one day.

On the subject of climate change both the United States and China are the two greatest polluters in the world today. It is estimated that these two nations produce the bulk of the carbon emissions of all the countries that pollute the atmosphere. During a recent visit to China both President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed to lower CO2 emissions by 2025 for the first time and also to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Will the respective countries succeed in doing that? Obviously we’ll have to wait and see. But this brings pressure on other industrial nations like India to act in a similar way.

Almost immediately after the announcement was made both Republican members of the current two Houses of the U.S. Congress and those who will become members in January came out with irate announcements denouncing Obama for daring to use what they consider the false promise of Climate Change to justify limiting business growth in the United States. Some apparently threatened to shut down the government rather than let this happen. It should be interesting to see what happens. Fox news in its non-intellectual fashion suggested possible impeachment. I hadn’t realized that this act by President Obama constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

On the subject of immigration, President Obama is at the point has issued executive orders attempting, as much as he can, without the aid of Congress, to reform the system.

He returned Sunday, November 16, from his eight day trip to China, Myanmar, and Australia. His declaration with China’s president has upset the Republicans. President Obama has promised to take action on immigration before the end of 2014. This he has now done.  Just prior to the trip his senior aides gave him a list of all the potential actions he could order in regards to immigration without congressional approval. He will receive their final recommendation on Tuesday, November 18 and will unveil his executive order any time after that.

One probable reform would be to allow the parents of children born in the United States who are citizens to have some sort of legal status rather than being subject to deportation while their children stay in the U.S. This, I understand, will affect about three and a half million people of the estimated ten million illegal aliens in the country. There are numerous other possibilities of what the President might do.

It should be interesting because the House Speaker has stated that “We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern.” Other Republicans have come out with more vicious messages about what they will do. Senator Jeff Sessions (Republican, Alabama) has threatened to defund any executive action of immigration. Sessions will be the new head of the Senate Budget Committee in January of 2015.

President Obama’s comment to the Republicans in Congress is that if they don’t like his actions then they should pass an immigration bill to supersede them. Approximately a year and a half ago the Senate passed an immigration bill. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has refused to bring this bill up for debate and to be voted on. It is believed that both Democrats and enough Republicans would vote for this bill and pass it. The Far Right or extremist Republicans are against this bill and apparently they have been able to force Boehner to not act on it. The immigration crisis exists because of the will of a minority within the Republican controlled House.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 the House of Representatives by largely a strict party vote again passed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill allowing Canadian Oil Companies to ship oil slag from Canada south through the central United States to the Gulf of Mexico where it will be sent overseas to be processed. The bill came up the following week in the Senate where the Democrats currently have the majority until the end of December. It did not pass.  What will happen there in January is unknown. However the Republicans will be able to pass it in both Houses of Congress next year, when they have a majority there but the President will probably veto it.

The pipeline opens up all sorts of possibilities that can contaminate the water table in the areas under it. President Obama has stated that the United States will not benefit from the pipeline because the oil-muck will be processed overseas where the gasoline will be used. What happens should be interesting. Particularly the President probably will veto the bill causing inordinate levels of rage among the Tea Party Republicans as well as those who have already installed parts of the pipeline.

As I understand it the major problem with the Keystone Pipeline is leaks. Even in Canada where there are short stretches of pipeline there have been innumerable leaks and the oil containing muck that flows through these pipes is highly toxic, virtually contaminating the land upon which it leaks, poisoning the water table if it gets into it. The pipeline through the U.S. has been built by assorted entrepreneurs who see a quick profit if it is used and a loss if it is not used. It has been built as cheaply as possible with few, if any shut off valves in case of leaks. These people have contributed to the Republican Party campaigns and expect a return for the investments.

There is also the question of responsibility if or when a leak occurs. Is it the company in Canada that is shipping this toxic muck with the consistency of toothpaste or is it the owner of that particular section of pipeline that is responsible for the damage caused by the leak? I have the feeling that everyone will be blaming everyone else and that the local or federal government will end up being responsible for whatever possible repairs that can be applied. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will apply for bankruptcy. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take responsibility for their decision. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will have disappeared. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take any responsibility for their decision. Or to put it more simply it is the taxpayer who will in the last analysis foot the bill for whatever can be done to bring conditions back to where they were before the leaks.

—————————————–

What I visualize from all this is a basic feeling of spite that a goodly section of the Republican Party has for Barak Obama. It and the rage that accompanies it is a bit psychotic. They blindly hate the President and strongly feel that anything he does or wants is wrong for no other reason than he desires it. Their opposition is based upon hate. How dare a black man oppose them since they now control the Congress! It will be fascinating watching the next two years unfold. Unfortunately a goodly percentage of the population will suffer needlessly.

There will be other issues over the next two years. The Republicans mostly will meet them with fury and frustration. In fact if they get incensed enough they may again shut the government down by refusing to fund it or they may actively try to impeach the President.

By November of 2016 I’m sure the general public will have had a stomach full of Republican gridlock. The 2010 Congress passed the least legislation in the entire history of the existence of the United States Congress. Even far less than when the Congress used to meet in the 19th Century for three or four months a year. The 2012 Congress, not only shut down the government costing the Federal Government several billion dollars but they also passed a fraction of the legislation that the 2010 Congress passed. How much legislation will the new Congress pass. From some of the statements made by Republican congressmen the implication is that the Congress will spend the next two years investigating actions by the Democrats to ascertain if they have broken the law. We would seem to be in for two years of investigating committees all chaired by Republicans.

There is also the issue of the Internet: President Obama backs rules that would force broadband providers to treat all Internet Data the same, regardless of who produces it. The Republicans favor the opposite position. The President also in terms of immigration has agreed with the Chinese president to extend the length of current visas for businessmen, students, and tourists currently in the U.S.

Obama returned to the United States on Monday, November 17. To quote former President Harry S. Truman, “The manure will hit the fan” at that time and continue for the next two years. It should be interesting or horrible to watch.

The Weiner Component #103 – Is the United States Moving to Become an Autocracy?

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the last decade many articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and there have also been many comments made on TV about the disparity in salaries, increasing exponentially for the rich and wages being essentially static or barely going up for everyone else; that the economic upper class’s incomes have risen significantly while everyone one else’s have stayed largely frozen. This has been not just within the United States but also in the entire industrial world. If this continues throughout this century all these nations could end up at some point becoming autocracies with a small percentage of the population, the rich, ruling everyone else, and ruling them for their own benefit.

We could, in a sense, be going back in time to when the European states were ruled by autocrats, that is rule by the nobility. The nobility in the United States today are the very rich, the upper ten percent and the assorted companies and corporations that they control.

It is interesting to note that the United States in the post-Civil War period, from 1865 until the early 20th Century underwent a rapid industrial growth, essentially the Industrial Revolution. A number of small businessmen became multi-millionaires. This was the period of the “robber barons:” Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, J.P. Morgan and many others; the so-called “400.” They had their hands in both the states and federal legislatures, freely using bribery, having or not having laws passed that benefited themselves. The Senate, which at that time was elected by the state legislatures, was considered a millionaire’s club, each major company, through bribery or otherwise, having its own man in that body. The U.S. was then largely ruled by the wealthy upper mercantile class for their own benefit.

What changed this was the Progressive Movement and the muckrakers. Initially there had been no laws regulating industry or urban growth. No regulations about employment of women and children, the length of the working day, safety rules at worksites, employer responsibility or sanitary or any other conditions in the rapidly growing cities. This was the time of the growth of urban centers from small towns to megalopolis.

The nation had gone from a rural country with relatively small cities to a society of giant urban areas and factories. Everything by the owners of industry was aimed at profit, nothing else seemed to matter. Wages were low, hours were long for six days a week, women and children worked these hours and days, slums abounded in these new cities, in many cases sanitary conditions were non-existent, and overall misery and disease abounded, particularly in summer seasons.

Gradually over several decades, up until World War I, laws and regulations were gradually passed regulating slum conditions, factory employment, and food production. The many monopolies and oligopolies were mostly broken up and became regulated by the government. Autocratic control by the wealthy became limited. The Constitution was amended and the Senate became elected directly by the voters.

It should be noted the every single health and safety law was passed because of abuses. The ages and hours for working children and women became limited, safety rules were introduced into both the factories and slum housing making the owners responsible for mishaps, and working hours became eventually limited to 40 and days to five. The list goes on and on.

By 1914 the United States had become mostly an urban nation. We had a small upper class, a growing middle class and a large lower class. The upper class, the autocrats still exercised a large amount of influence in the running of the country.

————————————-

Today we are again in a period of autocratic growth with the wealthy getting richer and everyone else’s income being frozen or shrinking in the face of a very slow inflation. For the last decade or more compensation for executives and successful entrepreneurs have at least doubled or trebled while wages for middle class workers have remained static or shrunk. For the lower class, essentially unskilled worker the minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour for the last seven years. CEO’s salaries are in the millions while at the bottom of the economic scale a worker takes home $290 before withholdings.

Inflation has generally been below 2%; but over a decade that is well over a 10% increase in the cost of living. The result is that even though most people are earning as much or slightly more than they did earlier the money is buying a lot less. It cost considerably more to live in terms of food, housing, and transportation. This has actually caused a slowing down of the GDP. People buy less because they have less.

————————————–

While people like the Koch Brothers of Kansas, whose holdings mostly in the oil industry is over 41 billion dollars each, spend well over 200 million dollars a year on causes enhancing their businesses and their far-right beliefs. They are just two of a host of billionaires or corporations that are spending billions each year to sensitize the public to their largely self-interested causes.

Through the use of money the billionaires and their Republican allies by limiting the voting franchise, particularly to Blacks, Latinos, college students, and other minorities in states where the Republicans control the governorship and legislatures they have been able to successfully espouse their agendas.

In Texas for the 2014 Midterm Election the Republican legislature and the Republican governor have been able to require certain types of identification that many registered poor Blacks and Hispanics do not have. There is a cost to getting these IDs which according to a Supreme Court Justice is tantamount to paying a pole tax in order to vote. This excluded over 500,000 registered Democrats, about six percent of the voting population, from being able to cast their ballot in the November Midterm Election.

The candidates to the governorships and state and federal legislatures need endless amounts of money to both run their campaigns and stay in office. It is in this fashion that the wealthy gain and maintain control of the government. The Koch Brothers, for example, who control oil pipe lines, oil refining, and oil wells, have themselves and through legislators they have funded and control, attempted to get laws passed making use of the green energies illegal. They seem to see the nation as existing for their benefit.

It is into this milieu that the wealthy have and are gaining more and more control over Congress and the means of communication. Millions of dollars are coming into important state elections which strongly help determine who the governors and senators will be, what initiatives and referendums will pass. The Republicans feel they will retain, with the current gerrymandering of electoral districts, control of the House of Representatives and that they will also gain control of the Senate by adding six additional Republican Senators. The origins of much of this out of state money does not have to be disclosed. This has happened.

What we are seeing is an ever-rising level of autocratic control of our government. What we are moving toward is a concept of: Even though all men are created equal, some Men are created ever more equal than the rest. This has been the result of the 2014 Midterm Election. Will it continue in 2016, the next Presidential Election?

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

The Weiner Component #102 – American Greed

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

One of my wife’s favorite TV programs, which is on CNBC practically every day when the stock market reports are over, is American Greed. The programs are generally similar in that some individual has devised a scheme to get naïve and greedy small time investors to buy shares of whatever he is selling and has raised several to numerous millions of dollars that has enabled him to live well until he is caught by some government agency. After that justice is served by sending him to jail and returning what little is left of the funds that were invested to the original investors. My wife tends to record these and watch them at her leisure.

My wife has asked me numerous times to watch the programs with her. My response has always been that I can’t take the program seriously since the major perpetrators of American Greed never appear in any of those programs. These are the banks, particularly the larger ones in the United States.

On Monday, August 21, 2014, the Bank of America agreed to pay 16.65 billion dollars in cash and consumer aid as a penalty to the Department of Justice, certain federal agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and six states. This was for selling flawed mortgage securities to government agencies and others in the run-up to the Real Estate Crash of 2008. This is presumably the last of the penalties that Bank of America will have had to pay. She had previously been fined for a number of illegal activities in the billions of dollars.

To be fair other major banks had broken the law and have had, also, to pay massive fines; but not as massive as those of Bank of America. In November of 2013 JP Morgan Chase, the biggest bank in the United States, paid a 13 billion dollar settlement to the Justice Department over a string of investigations into home loan bonds between 2005 and 2008. The CEO, Jamie Dimon, felt it was unfair because the settlement dealt mostly with Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, banks that JP Morgan Chase had taken over. But the same point can be made for the Bank of America. In 2008 it took over Countrywide Financial Corporation, once the largest mortgage lender in the country, and six months later incorporated Merrill Lynch & Company.

In June of 2014, France’s biggest bank, BNP Paribas, paid 8.97 billion dollars to U.S. authorities for violating sanctions against Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. In June of 2014 Citigroup was labeled “egregious” by the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, following an agreement to pay 7 billion to settle an investigation into toxic mortgage products the bank sold up to 2008. In May 2014 Credit Suisse admitted that it illegally helped Americans evade paying taxes and it paid a fine of 2.6 billion dollars. In December of 2013 Deutsche Bank settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency for 1.9 billion dollars over mortgaged backed securities. In December 2012 HSBC was found guilty by U.S. prosecutors of “blatant failure” to implement anti-money laundering controls and flouting U.S. sanctions. The bank paid 1.9 billion to settle allegations it allowed terrorists to move money around the financial system. In February of 2014 Morgan Stanley agreed to pay 1.25 billion dollars to settle claims that it sold faulty mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In June of 2014 Atlanta based Sun Trust Banks paid 968 million dollars in fines after settling allegations of abusive mortgage practices. In July of 2014 UBS paid 885 million dollars in a settlement with U.S. regulators that the Swiss bank misrepresented mortgage backed bonds. In January 2013 ten banks and financial institutions, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, agreed to settle claims of foreclosure abuses for 8.5 billion dollars. In 2014 Wells Fargo faced a number of class action lawsuits about abusive overdraft charges.

There are, of course, innumerable other settlement and cases that have gone through the courts and some that are still working their way through the judicial system. Examples are Wells Fargo agreed on settlement with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and also into a decriminalization settlement against Blacks and Hispanics. On July 25, 2014 Citigroup settled mortgage inquiry for 7 billion dollars. These and other settlements are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

What struck me in 2009, during the period of the bank bailouts by the Obama Administration was that Kenneth Lewis, the then CEO of Bank of American vociferously complained that President Obama would not let the banks use U.S. Government bailout money for executive bonuses. In effect he said that the Bank of America would pay off its loans quickly so that the bank could again have complete control over its actions.

No doubt he felt that he deserved several additional millions of dollars in compensation for bringing the bank to the state it was in. The value of their stock has dropped considerably from what it was prior to the 2008 Crash. B of A then paid a dividend of four cents per share per year, that’s a penny a share for each quarter. Today it pays six cents per share a year, that’s a penny and-a-half each quarter.Since paying the U.S. Government back it has again been giving large bonuses to it executives.

On all these settlements large fines and penalties were paid by the offending institutions but no one went to prison. In the American Greed series the guilty perpetrator after scamming assorted millions from his hopeful but unsuspecting victims is always discovered, tried, heavily fined and sent to prison. This, so far, has not happened in any of these banking frauds which almost totally destroyed the American economy.

Will all these financial institutions and their executives continue these practices, paying high fines when they are caught? An interesting question! If money is the only penalty and the banks and their executives continue with millions and billions of dollars in profit after the fines are paid then why should they ever stop these practices?

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is currently preparing a civil fraud case against the former CEO, Angelo Mozilo, of Countrywide Financial, the largest former mortgage lender in the United States, which is now part of Bank of America. He formally paid a settlement of 67.5 million dollars to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Twenty million of that was paid by the Bank of America and Mozilo paid the rest. That left him with well over one hundred million dollars. He could be the first of the criminals sent to jail.

What emerges here is that this for profit banking system of the U.S. engenders phenomenal American greed among its executive class. In fact this greed exists on an international level. Anyone placed in a position where he controls part of or all of the money system of a country it seems will take advantage of his situation.

The banking system in the U.S. almost destroyed the American economy in 2008. The major banking institutions of the nation gradually went berserk in their race for profits, mostly driving themselves to the point of bankruptcy. If the U.S. government had not stepped in with massive loans many of the banks would have gone under and the entire money system of the country would have been slowed to a trickle, creating a system far worse that the Great Depression of 1929. We probably would have hit over 50% unemployment and the country would have gone to a semi-subsistence level.

This type of situation can be avoided in the future by properly enforcing the laws and sending a large number of these perpetrators to prison. It can also be avoided by changing the banking system from one that exists for profit to one that exists for the public good. This can be done by changing the laws to allow the Federal Reserve to operate directly with the public. The twelve Federal Reserve Districts need to be able to open federal lending and commercial banks within their areas. This may take a bit of time to get organized but it will create a safe banking system within the nation and create a milieu where major recessions and depressions can be avoided by government financial action and control.

Bank of America Tower

Bank of America Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #101 – Democracy & The Vote

English: Logo of the Democratic Party of the U...

On Tuesday, November 4th the people of the United States will vote in the Midterm Election of 2014. What they, as a majority, decide in each state will determine what happens in the country over the next two years and even possibly beyond that time.

The Founding Fathers, when they established the United States set aside the funds from a section of all government land sold to be used to set up public schools. They believed that an educated electorate would vote intelligently and elect the best possible people for public office. Unfortunately over the years life and politics have gotten quite complicated and many people do not have the time and inclination to delve into the issues and vote intelligently. As a result of this we have the thirty second or less adds on TV, both being generally a fountain of misinformation and also telling people how to vote.

Today we have two major parties and a number of minor ones that may or may not exist in all 50 states. The largest political party is the Democratic Party. It has the most members but is not as aggressive as the Republican Party which also is better financed and represents mainly the upper echelon of the country. The Republican Party includes a good percentage of the top 20% of the population and also tends to contain the evangelical element within the society. They can be at any economic level going from poverty to super-rich. Together they are well less than 50% of the population, probably from 30 to 40%.

In the states where the Republicans have been successful, controlling both the legislature and the governorship they have both gerrymandered the voting districts in 2010 and attempted also to pass voter restriction laws to limit the voting of non-Republicans. They have been partly successful. The probability is that if the electoral process had been truly democratic President Obama would have gotten a much larger vote in 2012. As it was, in that year, the Democrats cast 125,000 more votes than Republicans for members of the House of Representatives but the Republicans were able to win the majority in the House through gerrymandering, adjusting the voter districts in the states they controlled so they would come out ahead.

The third largest group is the independents; people belonging to no political party. These people don’t trust any of the political parties. Then, but not necessarily in order of size, there are the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party. There are also the American Elect Party and the American Independent Party. We probably have a few more that are limited to a small number of states.

Not all political parties are represented in all 50 states. In the United States we have 50 plus separate elections. One in each state and in the territories and other areas the Federal Government controls. Each state sets its own general rules for the elections. They are not always fair and reasonable.

People vote for candidates and referendums and initiatives. The candidates are easy. One votes either by party or for the candidate he or she prefers. The referendums are propositions passed by the state legislature, whereby the legislators want the people to assume responsibility for particular measures or for amendments to the state or Federal Constitution. Initiatives are potential laws that have been issued after a voter signing process. They are done by individuals or groups. An example in California would be Proposition 13, passed in 1979, which lowered all property taxes in the state. This was put through essentially by a landlord’s association.

The meanings of these referendums and initiatives is another matter entirely. In many cases one has to take time reading them to fully understand them. Sometimes a No vote can mean yes or a yes vote can mean no. One has to be careful and read them thoroughly.

The ballots tend to be long, particularly on Presidential Election Years. For example: being a Midterm Election the current California ballot is only five pages. It contains thirty-nine items. The first ten deal with political party entries, starting with the governor and ending with who will be a Member of the State Assembly. Here the political party each person belongs to is listed with their name. Nonpartisan offices follow. There are twenty-four of these, going from different levels of judges through the Director of the Municipal Water District. We have the Governing Board of the local school district and the City Council of the local city. After that comes the referendums and the initiatives. On this ballot there are six of them, two referendums and three initiatives. There is also one Legislative Constitutional Amendment. The last three items deal with county issues.

The Referendums often deal with long term financing and taxing issues. The legislatures wants the public to approve state financing and their own tax increases. The initiatives deal with issues deemed important by specific groups.

There is a pamphlet that was sent to the voters explaining Proposition 1: State of California Water Bond, Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects. It explains the referendum and ends with an argument for the proposition and one against it. These pamphlets are sent out several weeks before the election with a sample of the ballot.

Proposition 2 is a Legislative Amendment to the State Constitution: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. This referendum requires the state to set up a reserve fund in good financial years that can be used in lean times. This has been a pet project of Governor Brown since he was elected to office.

Proposition 45 is an initiative statue: HealthCare Insurance Rate Changes. This will require among other things approval from the Insurance Commissioner for insurance companies to facilitate rate increases. It gives state officials the authority to deal with the issue.

Proposition 46 is also an initiative which deals with drug and alcohol testing of doctors and raising the current fixed rate in medical negligence lawsuits to $250,000.

Proposition 47 is an initiative that deals with Criminal Sentences and Misdemeanor Penalties. My position on this initiative is expressed in The Weiner Component #92 – The American Prison System.

Proposition 48 is an Indian Gaming Compact. A   Referendum that requires the approval of the voters of California. It allows two tribes whose reservations are on unusable land to open their own casinos outside of the reservation. The legislature has approved the referendum; the voters have to make the final decision by a yes or no vote.

There are also local city and county matters that need to be voted on.

Registering to vote can be done online with the online form Register to Vote.(list your state abbreviation).gov). Voter registration applications are also available at most post offices, public libraries, city and county government offices, and from the State Secretary of State’s office. In order to receive the voter literature a person should be registered at least a month prior to the election.

A democracy is supposed to be a society where the will of the majority determines what the government does. Each vote should be, more or less, equal. This has not happened over a number of years. The wealthy have been able to predominate. It is time for the government to again become the instrument of the majority.

VOTE.

The Weiner Component #100 – Elections USA

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the Federal Government from restricting political independent expenditures by billionaires, corporations, associations, and labor unions. Money could now be limitlessly spend by these entities because money is now just another expression of free speech even though every other Democratic power in the world limits political expenditures.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

It was in this Amendment to the Constitution that a majority of members of the Supreme Court suddenly discovered that the expenditure of money was simply an expression of free speech.

Under this principle the more money you have and are willing to spend the freer and more equal is your speech.

Every other Democratic country strongly limits the amount of money that can be spent on elections but in the United States it is now almost limitless.

Interestingly, The Federalist Papers, was a series of eighty-five short essays, published in 1787 – 1788 explaining the Constitution and written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay prior to the vote on it in the colony of New York. These documents are considered the basic definition of the Constitution by men who participated in writing it. Nowhere in any of these essays is freedom equated with money. This discovery is solely that of the current five conservative members of the present day Supreme Court.

Of the original purposes of the United States Constitution the fifth one is to “promote the general Welfare” of the people. The issue of how this is done becomes extremely fascinating.

Congress makes the laws, the President administers them, and the Supreme Court defines both the laws and the Constitution. Nine Justices make up the body of this court; and they are each appointed by the sitting President, when a vacancy occurs through death or retirement, with the “advice and consent” of the Senate, for life.

Since its inception in 1788 there have been two approaches to ascertaining the meaning of the Constitution. One has been a strict interpretation of what it specifically says and the other is a loose interpretation of its intent.

For example: Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution but when the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, offered to sell him the territory of Louisiana, which would double the size of the new United States, for the sum of 15 million dollars he instantly approved it even though he felt there was no authority in the Constitution to do this. Later the Supreme Court decided that the President had that authority through the treaty provision in the Constitution.

To Jefferson, time was of essence if the deal was to be made that would allow yeoman farmers to be able to have land to freely settle upon for well over the next hundred years and he had to act quickly. Practicality won out over principle.

Of the nine justices on the Supreme Court currently five are conservative and traditionally taking a strict interpretation of the Constitution and four are considered liberal and their reading of the document tends to be loose, dealing more with intent than the specific word.

In the 2009 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the role of the nine justices have been reversed with the conservative judges taking a loose interpretation and the liberal ones supporting a strict view of the Constitution. If one conservative vote were changed the decision would be the opposite of what it is.

In the 2013 case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which was decided in early April of 2014, the Court by a five to four vote invalidated aggregate contribution limits as violating the First Amendment. The Court found no merit in arguments calling for a level playing field or to evening the financial resources available to candidates. It concluded that “The First Amendment prohibits such legislative attempts to fine-tune the electoral process, no matter how well intentioned.”

The five conservative justices have taken a paternalistic view, apparently figuring that the wealthy have a larger stake in the country than ordinary people and ought to have more influence in making societal decisions. They have actually abrogated a good part of the concept of democracy allowing the rich far more influence than everyone else. And all this by one vote on the Supreme Court.

Of the five conservative judges who voted in McCutcheon v. FEC, one, Clarence Thomas, concurred but wrote a separate decision. He wanted all restrictions upon financial contributions done away with.

A separate argument can be made to limit financial political contributions based upon the police power of the state. No right that any individual or group has is unlimited, the basic principle here is providing for the common welfare; that is, essentially leveling the field for all.

Currently two of the conservative justices are over seventy years of age, one liberal justice is over eighty. Within at least the next decade one or more of these judges will retire or become deceased. If the sitting president is Democratic a liberal justice will be appointed. If it is a Republican president the judge will be conservative.

Also if the Senate is to support a Democratic president they must have a majority of 60 or more votes. Otherwise, the probability is that the Republicans will filibuster all Democratic candidates for the Supreme Court, leaving one or more vacancies regardless of who the Democratic chosen candidate is.

What emerges here is if you disagree with the above decision then it is imperative to vote in all the oncoming elections, both presidential and midterm.

It should also be noted that every Hispanic, or for that matter anyone who usually votes and does not in the 2014 Midterm Election, is indirectly casting a vote for the Republican Party and weakening the Democratic position. These votes can strongly affect the Supreme Court if the then president is a Republican.

Many Latinos are disgusted with both major political parties feeling that President Obama has not carried through on his promises to solve the immigration problem. The President can issue executive orders but he cannot make laws. This is done by Congress. President Obama has issued a positive executive order concerning Hispanic children who were brought to this country as youngsters. He has issued none about other immigration issues. What he can do is Constitutionally limited. No doubt the President is waiting to see the result of the 2014 Election.

In many of the states like Georgia, which has a hot Senate and gubernatorial race with both sides running neck in neck in the poles, every Democratic vote is important. This is also true in states like California, Nevada, and Colorado, as well as many other states in the United States.

Remember every person who does not bother to vote is actually casting a ballot for the opposite party.

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

English: First page of Constitution of the United States Česky: První strana originálu Ústavy Spojených států amerických Español: La página primera de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos de América (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #99 – Stealing the Vote

During most of the 19th Century the United States was a Caucasian country with a Black slave minority and a very small Black free population. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution on January 31st 1865 freed the slaves and the U.S. suddenly had a mixed population with the Whites still in the majority but with all male adults legally able to vote. This continued until 1876 when the Northern armies withdrew their military forces from the Southern states that had rebelled against the Union and brought about the Civil War. From this point in time on the Southern Whites regained control of their states by a series of legal and illegal acts. Two popular ones were lynchings and the pole tax. The first instilled fear in all Blacks and the second, a requirement to pay a small tax in order to vote, was retroactive, the tax kept increasing with every election. In order to vote a man had to pay for every election that he had missed. Systematically Southern blacks tended to lose the right to vote. In the Northern ghettos this was done in other ways such as literacy tests.

In 1965 the Voting Rights Bill was finally passed after numerous earlier attempts had failed. This bill finally gave everyone the right to vote, both male and female, did away with the pole tax and literacy tests. This did not mean that everyone voted, one still had to register and many people didn’t bother or it was made very difficult for certain groups. The legislation was passed at that time as a sort of memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy who also had it on his agenda before his assassination. Versions of this bill had been attempted since the Administration of Eisenhower and had always died or been watered down with amendments to make them meaningless, mostly by Southern Democrats. It was passed in 1965 by votes of both Democrats and Republicans. The Southern Democrats adamantly had opposed it.

———————————-

Initially the country had been populated by immigrants from Western Europe with indentured servants who had to serve for a period of time: five to seven or ten years before becoming free. These were mostly Western Europeans and some Blacks. Eventually the Western European disappeared as indentured servants and the Blacks became slaves, who served for life.

The influx of immigrants throughout the 19th Century came from Western Europe. By the early 20th Century a larger and larger percentage came from Southern and Eastern Europe. From the 1920s through the end of World War II immigration was based up a quota system, with unlimited numbers able to come from Western Europe and small quotas from Southern and Eastern Europe. Chinese and Japanese had been needed for labor but were not allowed citizenship. Their children, however, were born in this country and were automatically citizens.

Throughout this period the WASPs: White, Anglo, Saxon, Protestants made up the bulk of the American population. They largely controlled most of the levels of government, particularly the upper level of the Federal Government. In fact, the first and only non-Protestant, a Catholic, elected to the presidency was John F. Kennedy.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s led to the replacement of the ethnic quotas with per country limits. From that point the number of first-generation immigrants had quadrupled. The numbers went from 38 million in 1970 to approximately 38 million in 2007. Nearly 14 million entered the country from 2000 to 2010. In point of fact according to the Census Bureau’s population clock, counting births, deaths, and immigration, an additional individual enters the U.S. every 11 seconds.

Most of the immigrants entering the United States since 1965 have been from Latin America and Asia changing the overall makeup of the citizenry. Initially, as we’ve seen, the majority of the population was Caucasian, white. With this new influx these statistics have changed. The Caucasian population is no longer the majority. It is now one of the minorities. No one race or ethnic group today represents 50% or more of the population. And this is very troublesome to the former majority. Many of them now feel themselves threatened by the rest of the population.

The current majority on the Supreme Court consist of five conservative male Caucasians. Their recent decisions on voting rights and the level of expenditures on political campaigns and issues have tended to strengthen their group within the society.

The Republican or conservative political party within the nation appears now to be the party of the White male minority. They are spending far more money on elections of both candidates and issues than the Democratic Party can afford and they are far more aggressive. Also they refuse to accept responsibility for anything and they blame everything, including, it seems, Ebola, upon the Democrats.

The Republican Party is actually the minority party within the United States. They have since 2011 controlled the Congress by controlling the House of Representatives. They have extended the 2008 Recession, which they engendered, blaming it on the Democrats. They have made the current Congress the least popular in the entire history of the United States. In essence they are a minority attempting the position of the majority and refusing to compromise for the good of the country on virtually any issue.

Eventually in two or six or ten or more years they will change or be voted out of existence; but in this time period a goodly percentage of the population will undergo all sort of economic and other miseries. The irony of this situation is that many of the people undergoing these negative conditions belong to their group.

With the 2014 Midterm Election coming up they are and have been engaged in a myriad of ways to reduce the Democratic vote. The Republican Secretary of State in Kansas is claiming that 22,000 new voters did not properly register to vote. In Georgia 50,000 new registration applications somehow got lost. The Republican Secretary of State, after being sued, seems to have located them and is insisting that they were never lost. However the court case is continuing and will be heard on Friday October 31st, trick or treat day. In both these states the poling is essentially tied for the leading state positions.

In Texas the cost of getting the proper identification to register to vote was defined by a Federal judge as the equivalent of a pole tax and declared unconstitutional. However the Supreme Court, at practically the last minute, overturned this voter ID decision. The Court has denied emergency requests from the Obama Administration and other groups who said that this law harmed voting rights. On Saturday, October 18th, just two weeks before the Midterm Election the Supreme Court by a 6 to 3 vote declared the law constitutional. It is estimated that this law will prevent up to 5% of the state’s registered voters, or about 600,000 people from casting a vote. The majority of the disenfranchised will be Blacks and Hispanics who generally tend to vote for the Democratic Party.

In Florida and some other Republican controlled states thousands of people have been arbitrarily removed from the voting list as being dead or having moved without any documentation that this is true. Registration has been made very difficult in these Republican dominated states. College students in some of these voting districts now can only vote in their parent’s place of residence. This will limit those who are away at college and generally tend to vote Democratic. Virtually anything they could think up the Republicans have attempted to use to limit the vote

This is all the attempt of a minority trying to control the majority and bend them to their will. It certainly is not how a democracy is supposed to function. How much longer will the country tolerate it? There is no excuse for any group trying to steal the vote.

The Weiner Component #98 – Income Inequality

Income inequality and mortality in 282 metropo...

Income inequality and mortality in 282 metropolitan areas of the United States. Mortality is correlated with both income and inequality. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States and, for that matter, most industrial nations are today facing numerous major problems, economic and otherwise, that can and will definitely affect their futures negatively if they are not, more or less, solved in the near future.

According to the World Economic Forum: the gap between the rich and the poor is one of the major global risks we face today. The upper ten percent of most of these countries are expeditiously getting richer while the rest of the populations are either maintaining their level of income or finding it continually decreasing. How long can these conditions continue until the consumer base can no longer purchase the goods and services needed to reasonably survive and violence erupts from the level of subsistence more and more people find themselves living. The 21st Century could be bloodier than the 20th Century. The coming depressions could be deeper and far bitterer than that of 1929, the Great Depression of the 20th Century.

Over the last year or so in the United States many food prices have risen significantly, particularly the cost of many protein products have gone up 20 to 45 percent. Meanwhile the minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour and has been at that level for the last five years. Someone with a family earning that much and working a full forty hour week needs government aid to survive. This is true even if his wife is also earning that much.

In order for this family to survive it has to be subsidized by federal and state entitlement programs which the taxpayers subsidize. One can say that a percentage of companies like Walmart’s profits, are indirectly supplied by the taxpayers.

Rand Paul, a hopeful presidential candidate for 2016, who like his father, is essentially a libertarian, in a recent interview, stated that to raise the minimum wage would be to increase the level of unemployment in the United States. Here someone who is opposed to government interference in the marketplace is supporting a system that is ultimately socialistic, with the government paying the difference between the family earnings and what is needed for survival.

Of course the overall Republican attitude toward all entitlement programs, like payments to the unemployed and aid to dependent children, is to reduce these government programs. They seem to want to bring about more privation than already exists.

I fail to understand the thinking here. These people are loudly and dramatically supporting a system that they adamantly oppose, indirect government support of the marketplace. It would seem that the Republicans are totally ignorant of some of the basic principles of economics; they cannot think far enough ahead to realize that they are espousing socialism, having the government provide for people, by their definition of a free marketplace. Wouldn’t it be easier to raise the minimum wage to a level where people can earn enough to pay for their family’s basic needs without needing to apply for government help?

Another interesting area pertains to student college loans. It is estimated that student loan debt has surpassed one trillion dollars.   Approximately three of every five college students have taken out student loans in order to pay for their tuition and books. These loans are strung out over their university career and have to be paid back after they graduate. The average college graduate has over $26,000 in student loan debt at graduation.

Many students can end up owing many more thousands of dollars at a good rate of interest which they generally have to begin paying back six months after graduation. It can, in many cases, take a decade or more to repay these loans and the interest charged on them, in some cases it can be even longer. Even if the ex-student declares bankruptcy it is practically impossible to have the college loan removed from his/her record.

People like Senator Elizabeth Warren have tried to reduce the interest rates but Republicans have refused to go along and support such legislation. I remember one such legislator commenting publically that the interest rate can’t be reduced because the government needs the money. This, of course, is pure idiocy because it means that whole generations of former college graduates have to wait years before they can afford to marry or otherwise start their lives. They have to spend their early work years for a decade or more paying back their college loans. But even more than that it also means that these young people will not really contribute to the economic growth of the nation unit they have freed themselves from debt.

There is in economics a principle called the multiplier effect. This means that money spent in the society tends to be spent numerous times. The amount, for example, that I spend at the supermarket is spent again as salaries or for the purchase of more goods, which, in turn, is spent as rent or a mortgage payment by the employee who receives it. It can then pay for the bank’s utilities or be used as salaries, and so on. The money is spent over and over again until it becomes part of the natural flow of currency creating for the GDP up to six or eight times the original amount. This principle also works in the reverse, negatively, on monies not spent. Dormant or non-spent funds can subtract six to eight times their initial amount from the GDP. All the ex-student payments to their college loans have this effect on the GDP, not allowing it to grow as it would if these people did not have this debt. The overall effect of the payment of these loans actually shrinks the GDP.

From comments made by a House of Representatives Republican and by the minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the young college graduates rather than the upper 10 or 20% of the population are needed to help fund the government. Their paying the interest on their college loan debts will importantly help the government financially. The concept is inane. Interest on the debt should be mostly reduced or completely done away with. Having the ex-students spend their earnings on goods and services that will allow them to live in a positive and normal fashion will most aid the nation by adding to the GDP. Their welfare adds to everyone’s welfare and the monies they pay in taxes will exceed what they have to pay on their college loans.

By succeeding in completing college they put themselves on an earning level far greater than they would earn as high school graduates. The government has actually invested in them and the return over their lifetimes will be far greater than the cost of their education. This is a good argument for actually forgiving the loans. People invest their money to make a profit; so does government in its population with the use of taxes.

To get back where we started, the ever increasing gap between rich and poor is one of the biggest problems currently existing within the United States. The Congress is largely at a state of gridlock with the Republicans actually continuously trying to pass legislation to expand the economic space between the two groups. And, of course, many of the conditions causing this problem already exist in law. The conservative right in Congress will allow no reform of archaic legislation, some of which was passed during World War II to encourage oil production. Unless there is change this country will eventually find itself a second rate nation with a largely growing unemployed poor not able to afford the basic needs of survival.

The oncoming Midterm Election can help or worsen already negative conditions. The people of the United States will decide our immediate future. If they don’t vote or do vote for the conservative Republicans they will be asking for continued gridlock in Washington and continued misery for many of themselves and the rest of the population. It will be interesting to see what happens!

The Weiner Component #97 – Legislative Gridlock: The Non-Functioning of the United States Congress

Traditionally over the 200 and some year old history of the United States there have been two major political parties; sometimes for a short period of time there has been a third or even a fourth one. There has even been two very short periods when there was only one political party.   Interestingly the founding fathers never visualized such a thing.

These political parties have served as a check upon each other, sometimes working together and sometimes against each other. Their purpose has been to further the growth of the United States.

Today we are facing a strange situation, two major political parties, but so far apart on the political spectrum that they cannot even communicate one with the other.

The Republicans are controlled by the far right element (the Tea Party) and by the evangelicals, people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. To them compromise consists of the other side giving in. Recently one of their members in the House of Representatives stated on conservative talk radio about there being a “War Against Whites” by the President, Blacks, and all other minorities. Even the conservative woman who was hosting the program was shocked by the statement.

It would seem that once a member of the far right gets elected to political office he becomes directly inspired by God. Without any awareness of economics or how the Federal Government works he has instant inspiration on what should or shouldn’t be done. Innately he knows he is right and everyone else is wrong. His idea of compromise is having the other side, generally the Democrats, accept his position.

How do you reason with a person like this? He will see a doctor and largely follow his directions but he is anti-scientific, knowing the scientists are wrong about most of their discoveries. He is also anti-intellectual, knowing what is right; reason and logic to him are instruments of the devil, used to trick honest people.

An example of scientific knowledge would be the beliefs of former Congressman, Todd Akin who believed that rape cannot lead to pregnancy. He stated that the body of a raped woman shut down during the act and she couldn’t conceive. Then following his fallacious reasoning: any woman who became pregnant during a forced sexual encounter had not been legitimately raped. Or one can follow the beliefs of another former Congressman, Richard Murdock, who knew that in a case of rape in which the woman conceived, God wanted her to have the child. To me and I suspect to a large percentage of the population, it is rather presumptuous for anyone to deliver direct messages from God.

The modern day far-right Republicans, or for that matter it would seem, the entire Republican Party seem to hold to these levels of non-intellectualism. The current House of Representatives and filibustering Senate, the 112th Congress, has done less to serve the needs of the country than any other Congress in the history of the United States.

If one looks at the placards held up by many members of the Tea Party, one of their major statements deals with the concept of the less government the better. One of their major goals since 2011, when they gained control of the House of Representatives, has been to shrink the Federal Government. And in this they have been largely successful. They are very good at not taking action on needed problems like bringing the early 20th Century infrastructure into the 21st Century, unemployment, the immigration problem, the young refugee dilemma, and climate change, to name just some of the problems this country needs that Congress should fix. Incidentally this also includes filibustering necessary presidential appointments like ambassadors to Russia and other important nations that do not presently have ambassadors.

If the House of Representatives were to authorize the President to utilize fiscal policy; that is, just begin the process of modernizing the infrastructure of the United States, we would end the unemployment problem throughout the country and stop having emergences whenever a part of the system fails. This happened recently in Los Angeles where a hundred year old system of underground water pipes collapsed causing extensive damage. We also faced a situation in the winter of 2013-2014 where extreme cold froze coal reserves so that they could not be used to generate electricity over part of the central United States. Luckily they were able to shift power from other parts of the grid. They may not be that lucky next time.

According to the majority of economists this country could reach a high level of prosperity for practically all of its population throughout the 21st Century. The poor could earn enough to live properly, the middle class could grow and increase their level of prosperity, and the rich could get richer. All it would take for this to happen is for Congress, particularly the House of Representatives to properly exercise their responsibilities. Will this occur? That depends upon the Midterm Election of 2014. If the Republicans maintain control of the House and they maintain 41 or more votes in the Senate the gridlock will remain for at least two more years. It will take an overwhelming majority of Districts voting for the Democratic candidates and a small number of additional Democratic Senators for the legislature to be able to pass progressive laws that would turn this country around.

——————————————————-

In 1944 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected for the fourth time as President of the United States. Within a year he was dead and Harry S. Truman, his Vice-President, had succeeded him as the 33rd President of the United States. In 1948 Truman ran for the presidency on his own. He was perceived by many as a loser. The Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, was expected by all the experts and pole-takers to easily beat Truman. Many Republicans announced that they expected to do away with most of the remnants of the New Deal shortly after the election.

Prior to the election President Truman recalled Congress, which had adjourned earlier, to a special session in order to pass legislation that he felt was badly needed by the country. The returning Congress did essentially nothing; and President Truman named them “The Do Nothing Congress.” He and the Democrats ran their campaign against the “Do Nothing Congress.”

The presidential election of 1948 is considered by many historians as the greatest election upset in American history. Just about every prediction and poll indicated that the incumbent President, Harry S. Truman, would be defeated by the Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey. Truman won. Both Houses of Congress acquired Democratic majorities.

While the 2014 Election is not a presidential one, it still represents a similar opportunity to the 1948 Election. In fact, the 2014 Congress has passed far less bills than that of the 1948 Congress. If the President and the Democrats in both Houses of Congress were to propose a series of needed reform legislation in September when the vacationing Republicans return to Congress and continually verbally challenge the Republicans they could get similar results with 1948. However shortly after returning from their September vacation and doing almost nothing, except authorize the President to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the House voted to take another break until after the November election.

One of the major problems faced by this Congress was the fact that the President and the Democrats in Congress proposed legislation and then when it was filibustered in the Senate and not even considered in the House. Also the Republicans never ceased verbally attacking both the President and the Democrats largely for problems they themselves caused.

What the Republican House of Representatives has done in September, when their members returned to Congress, was to again take up the issue of Benghazi for the fourth or fifth time in order to again attempt to discredit President Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. This led nowhere and did nothing. They ignored issues like war against ISIS, but did approve bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They are now busy, back on vacation, trying to get reelected so that for two more years they can continue the gridlock and blame it on President Obama and the Democrats. The Republicans approved the first step in a war against a terrorist group but avoided approving a declaration of war.

The country is currently in a sad state. We are engaged in the first stage of a war without Congressional approval, the infrastructure of the United States is continually getting older and less efficient and there are enumerable social and economic problems that need to be resolved. The inept Republican members of the House and Senate are campaigning to get reelected. The country is in deep trouble.

 

The Weiner Component #96 – Obama’s Dilemma or the Dilemma of the Middle East

Official photographic portrait of US President...

English: Major ethno-religious groups in Iraq ...

English: Major ethno-religious groups in Iraq Shiite Arabs Sunni Arabs Kurds Assyrians Yazidis Turkmen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Islamic Caliphate State or ISIS or ISIL, which seized large sections of Syria and Iraq, is currently advertising on the internet for female recruits. They need people to cook and have babies, apparently to supply future generations of militants.

ISIS is a group that was expelled from al-Qaida, an organization that makes full use of suicide bombers, for being too extreme. They have publically beheaded captured reporters from the United States and England, as well as a large number of captured Shiite Muslims. ISIS, the Sunnite group, functions by terror and mayhem in the regions they have conquered. Their goal seems to be turning the entire Middle East into a Sunnite Caliphate.

The major question that emerges at this time is whose problem are they? Is it a Free World issue, requiring the Free World under the leadership of the United States, to come in and get rid of them? Of course there is also the question of oil in this fuel rich area. Are they a threat to the Shiite nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran? What about the more liberal Sunni countries in the Middle East? Is it also their problem?

ISIS is an ultra-conservative Sunni group that believes in their way or no way. The people in the areas they conquer have to follow their interpretation of the Sunni Muslim religion or die as non-believers. Arabia in the time of Mohamed was not as extreme as they currently are.

The current situation in the Middle East is a no win situation for the President of the United States. With the beheading of two U.S. reporters it would seem that the country feels a need to get even. Apparently President Barak Obama and a good percentage of the American people have taken the beheadings of the two American reporters as a personal challenge. But what is the reality of this situation?

Beheading seems to be a standard method of execution in the Middle East. The fact that it was advertised on the internet was a direct challenge to the United States. It was the equivalent of holding up a symbolic middle finger to the U.S.

Currently the U.S. is bombing ISIS military positions in Iran and, as of Monday, September 22 has, with a coalition of Arab and European states, begun to bomb similar positions in Syria. France has also begun dropping bombs on ISIS in Iran and Great Britain will be following shortly. The comment has been made by most people interviewed on TV that bombing itself will not wipe the group out, that this will require boots on the ground, a physical invasion by one or all of these nations. This is what President Obama has sworn countless times not to do. Under no conditions, he has stated, will we send troops into Iraq or Syria. What we will do is to train and arm moderate Muslim forces to successfully take over.   We will prepare Syrian and Iraqi forces to successfully fight ISIS in their country.

The problem here is that the United States is so far removed from the Middle East, that our thinking in no way parallels theirs. We would like to set up democratic nations similar to ours in both Iraq and Syria. This was tried three years ago in Iraq and Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite, took control of the country. Iraq is mostly a Shiite country with a fair percentage of Sunni Muslims in some of its sections. There is also a Kurd population in one area of the country. All were initially represented in the new government but gradually the Sunnis and the Kurds found themselves out of the government with many in jail.

Under U.S. urging Prime Minister Maliki reluctantly gave up his position and a new Prime Minister was elected who is in the process of setting up, once again, a more democratic government. This was the United States requirement in order to help. Will it continue in the same fashion or will it, once foreign help is no longer needed, return to where it was in early 2014. I find this question fascinating, particularly since the United States, one of the world’s great democracies, still has all sorts of problems with its minorities, particularly its Black minority. Legally slavery ended 150 years ago in 1865; but Blacks constitute the greatest majority in U.S. prisons and police seemingly can arbitrarily shoot Blacks as in Ferguson, Missouri. If the U.S. cannot maintain ethnic fairness in its own country how can it ask other nations to do so in their nations? An interesting question!

Will Iraq eventually become more democratic that the United States or will the same issues that made it vulnerable to ISIS come back eventually again?

—————————————–

In terms of Syria, what can happen there? Syria is currently and has been for the last three years engaged in a civil war. There is the old government headed by President Assad and the protagonists fighting his dictatorship. His protagonists in this war are not just one or two groups; they are innumerable rebelling individual groups that are generally fighting Assad and numerous other rebelling groups. ISIS has evolved from this morass and is probably one of the strongest groups of rebels. From Assad and other rebel groups they have gained control of a large section of southern Syria. They have also moved into Iraq and gained control of a large area of land there. These they have claimed as their Sunni Islamic state; and are attempting to enlarge their holdings in both countries as a Sunni Muslim Caliphate claiming that they will ultimately unify the entire Middle East.

While bombing ISIS in Syria presumably weakens them it also makes the land they are holding vulnerable to attack. Since the bombing is not being followed up by military attacks it leaves those area vulnerable to being taken over by President Assad’s military, the original ruler of the area against whom the civil war is being fought.

When the Civil War began three years ago President Obama publically issued a declaration asking Assad to step down and allow the people of Syria to choose new leaders and a new government. This request was ignored and a multi-civil war continues there.

There are obvious advantages and disadvantages in bombing ISIS in Syria, but it would seem to be a no-win situation for the U.S. and the Western powers. We have very successfully and expensively begun the bombing but to what is this leading? There is no eventual exit plan for the U.S. and the Western Powers. Presumably the bombing will continue until ISIS is destroyed but then what? Presumably, then the Syrians, who are mostly Sunnis, will, with encouragement from their Arab neighbors, form a modern democratic state under the auspices of the United Nations?

In fact, if the Middle Eastern nations do not get involved in destroying ISIS on the ground are we going to send our troops in to do the job? At this point there seems to have been no real planning outside of the bombing and building the coalition against ISIS. In what direction are we going in the Middle East? How long do we intend to stay there? At present we have more questions than possible answers.

 

The Weiner Component #95 – The Ferguson, Missouri Fiasco

On Saturday, August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, a 6’3” Black youth eighteen years of age who had recently graduated from high school was stopped while walking in the street by a patrolling police officer in an official vehicle. He was unarmed but shot six times, with one bullet entering the top of his head, and killed. Another bullet was removed from the wall of a nearby house. There may have been other rounds fired.

The police officer, Darren Wilson by name, wrote up no report on the shooting, presumably on the advice of his attorney. He is currently on administrative leave with pay awaiting the outcome of this occurrence. Even though he has made no official statement about the shooting over $234,000 has been collected for his defense.

A report was issued about a week later, because it was demanded by the Freedom of Information Act, which had been put out by the Ferguson Police Department stating that a homicide had been committed on August 9th without stating who had been shot or who did the shooting.

A Grand Jury which meets once a week has been empowered to hear the evidence about the killing. Presumably Wilson has been invited to testify before this group. To my knowledge this is an unheard of event since he is the one being investigated.

The Ferguson police captain in his initial statement gave out no information about the shooting but stated that Brown was suspected of stealing cigars at a convenience store. When asked by a reporter if this had anything to do with the shooting he answered emphatically that it did not.

The next day some unknown individual, presumably on the police force, stated that evidence of marijuana was found in the autopsy. This was neither confirmed nor denied. It would seem that the police position is to support their man without finding our why the police officer emptied his revolver into an eighteen year old teenager.

I was somehow reminded of the United States in the 1950s when we were in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Dwight David Eisenhower was president and John Foster Dulles was his Secretary of State. Dulles’ policy with the Soviet Union was one he called “Brinksmanship.” Whenever the Soviet Union did something the U.S. did not like he would threaten to drop an atomic bomb in order to solve the problem. Unfortunately the use of an atomic bomb was too much force for a minor infraction.

At the time a Las Vegas bookie would have given very low odds against the U.S. getting involved with W.W.III. Hollywood made films dealing with the world after an atomic war. Fortunately there was no atomic war. We came close at times, particularly in the early 1960s with the Cuban Missile Crisis but there was never a hot war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. We may not now be friends with Russia or approve of everything she does but we are not about to go to war with that nation. Somehow all problems were eventually solved diplomatically; war is not an option.

Why did police officer Darren Wilson kill Michael Brown? Had he been around in the 1950s and acted as precipitously the world would not today be as it is.

From what we know Brown had been jay-walking in the street? Did the policeman say something overly sarcastic to him and did Brown respond in an overly negative fashion to him? Did the White police officer feel he was being disrespected by a Black who was far down the pecking order from him? Was the effect of this to put the officer into an emotional rage and did he draw his pistol and leave the car at this point emptying his gun into the teenager who had raised his hands in surrender? Would he have done as much with a white youngster? If it had been a Black policeman and a White youngster would the officer been put on administrative leave with pay? The issue here is totally crazy. Would a defense fund been contributed to a Black police officer?

———————————————-

Ferguson is a former “Sundown Town” with a population that is 63% Black. What does this mean?

When I was in the military, stationed at an installation, near Aiken, South Caroling in the mid-1950s I remember going to town in the evenings and seeing elderly Blacks walking in the street. While it was no longer necessary this had been required prior to W.W.II and the Civil Rights Movement. The elderly Blacks still did it from force of habit or remembered fear.

A “sundown town” did not even do this; the place was closed to all Blacks after sundown. No Blacks were allowed out on the streets at that time.

This is the tradition in Ferguson of which, no doubt, all its Black citizens are cognizant.

There are in the city three Black police officers on the Ferguson police force. The overwhelming majority is White. The White police chief, by his actions, does not seem particularly sensitive to his community or overly bright.

The killing brought out the citizens of Ferguson who continued protesting and marching throughout the day and night. The police were present during that night and others with military gear and weapons so that they could keep order. They used canned smoke and tear gas upon crowds that were not disorderly. They claimed that shots had been fired and Molotov Cocktails had been thrown. Fortunately for them the bullets were so badly aimed that they did not hit anyone and the Molotov Cocktails also did no damage. The probability is that both of these claims were a fiction by the police to justify their behavior.

The governor of the state took the policing of the city away from the local police and gave it to the Highway Patrol which was headed by a Black man and brought sanity to the situation. However the protests still continue and tear gas and smoke were again used in the city.

What is the point of all this? In addition to the murder of Michael Brown and wanting justice for his death, against what is the purpose of the protest?

What is the value of a Black life against that of a White person? Statistically one of every three Black males will spend some time incarcerated. Is this because they are criminally bent or because a basic prejudice and fear exists against Black males. Statistically they are just as innocent or guilty as White males. Slavery may have ended in 1865 with the 15th Amendment to the Constitution but the feelings it engendered are still with us. Isn’t it time the United States became a country where all its population is treated equally?