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.

The Weiner Component #107 – The Issue of Hospitalization and Care for the Homeless or Near Homeless

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the ...

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A homeless man in New York with the A...

English: A homeless man in New York with the American flag in the background. Français : Un homme sans domicile fixe à New York. Un drapeau des États-Unis est visible en arrière plan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social Security, Affordable Health Care, and assorted other health plans all have lapses in them dealing with certain medical problems. These lapses can cause severe problems for the individuals involved and for their families, if they have one.

In most families today both parents work, their children go to school; their house is empty for a good part of the day. If they are forced to have an elderly parent or parents living with them that person(s) stays at the home all day generally by themselves. This is particularly true if they can no longer drive and are no longer ambulatory.

Many elderly adults will eventually lose some control over their bodies, they may have to revert to diapers. If they can still walk, they can occasionally fall and seriously hurt themselves. This is particularly crucial in a two story house.

If they are left alone and fall this constitutes elder abuse. They need someone with them all day and even those times at night when they get up to use the restroom. For most families this is impossible to provide.

If an elderly individually goes into the hospital and has this tendency to occasionally fall once the hospital has done everything medically that it can do for this person then what happens? The hospital cannot keep this individual indefinitely, it will fill up eventually and have no room for patients who it can help. If the person is living with his children they cannot take proper care of him or her. Most of the nursing homes do not want to take in patients who will occasionally fall. They don’t have the manpower to watch them all the time and they could be liable if the individual falls and is seriously hurt.

If the individual is homeless he or she was picked up in the street. Are they to be released back there? Some of the hospitals in the city of Los Angeles were doing that, releasing these patients back to a homeless section of the city, leaving them out in the streets. This was presumably stopped when the city of Los Angeles sued the hospitals over this action. I’m not quite sure what they are doing now. Possibly releasing them outside the city limits. Seemingly there is a major homeless population in most major cities within the United States.

Another factor to consider is that a fair percentage of the homeless people, those living out on the street, have mental problems and are not really capable of holding a job. In 1967 in California then Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. It went into effect in 1969 and shut down the mental health system in the state and quickly became a national model, saving the states large amounts of money. In effect they released the harmless mentally disabled presumably back to their families but actually to join the homeless in the various cities around the nation. It would seem we are too poor a country to care for our mentally disabled.

What I find fascinating is that the United States today is the richest country in the history of the world but we cannot afford to take care of a goodly percentage of our helpless population. We are against Euthanasia but we are perfectly capable of allowing people to freeze to death while being homeless in the winter. We seem to have a superfluous percentage of our population that is non-productive and requires care for which the society does not want to pay or even acknowledge exists.

Is there a solution for this problem? Apparently not, according to the Republicans. To be Biblical:” As a man sows, let him reap.” Seemingly everyone is responsible for themselves. If they end up not able to take care of themselves and then undergo all sorts of suffering, then that’s their problem. A strange attitude for a group that professes to be Christian!

Of all the modern industrial nations the United States seemingly is one of the few that refuses to accept responsibility for all of its citizens. There is no real excuse for this type of behavior. We can easily afford a level of care for all the people in the country. There should be no homeless, particularly no homeless children who make up at least twenty-five percent of this population.

Why do we, as a nation, refuse to accept this basic responsibility? Is it individual greed? Is it a policy of letting the other people pay? Whatever it is this policy flouts the term hypocrisy over all our so-called decent values.

The point has been made in other articles that the distribution of the national income is blatantly unfair. Despite Republican protest that the upper twenty percent’s taxes being too high, these people do not pay their fair share of taxes. A person like Mitt Romney pays a lower percent of his income in taxes than the average middle or lower class individual or family. This is true for all the wealthy in the United States. They pay less in taxes, percentage wise, than everyone else.

Isn’t it time the principles of fairness were applied equally to everyone in this country? If that were done we could easily solve the problems stated in this blog.

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

The Weiner Component #106 – The Fickle Voter

English: President George W. Bush and Presiden...

English: President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, November 10, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago, when I used to write occasional articles for a local newspaper, I discovered that there was nothing deader than yesterday’s news. Within a very short period of time the past drops out of the minds of the American public. This seems to be particularly true also in politics.

The Republicans have systematically fought President Barak Obama since he was first elected trying to hamper anything and everything he has attempted to do. Affordable Health Care, Obama care, was passed during his second year in office when the Democrats had a majority in both Houses of Congress. The medical plan, which the Democrats espoused, was a Republican plan that had originally been developed by a far-right think-tank and was first put into practice by Mitt Romney when he was the Republican governor of Massachusetts. It relies on private enterprise to supply universal health care.

Obama Care is unlike the Canadian and European plans in which the government serves as the provider and private insurance companies are excluded. The Republicans came out against the plan because President Obama would get credit for it. They dubbed it Obama Care originally as a put-down. It was the action of spiteful adolescent.

But even before this the Obama Administration in 2009 saved the economy from totally collapsing in the 2008 Real Estate Bubble that was inherited from President George W. Bush. The economy collapsed in late 2008 toward the end of the Bush presidency. New President Obama halted the economic disintegration and turned the tide in the direction of recovery. Six years later we still have not reached total recovery. Many people are still hurting but the overall economy is functioning well again.

One of the major reasons we have not yet fully recovered has been caused by the Republicans, particularly those in the House of Representatives which acquired a Republican majority in 2011 and adroitly kept it since then.  They have systematically refused to consider fiscal policy or any other real job creating measures that would allow President Obama to look successful. The sad part of this is that the country needs to have its infrastructure rebuilt, much of it is well over fifty years old. We desperately need to have it brought into the 21st Century.

Despite the fact that nothing has been said about it for quite a while, the Republicans have facilitated a continual war on women. In the states where they control the legislature and the governorship they have legislated the free health services for poorer women practically out of existence using the excuse that these facilities perform abortions. In essence they are limiting the medical choices for poorer women. Those who can afford it can always go to a state or country where these medical procedures are legal. But for the poorer women in that particular state all medical services they should have are now essentially gone. In point of fact many Republicans would like to push through a personhood bill or amendment that would not only make abortion illegal it would also make birth control illegal. It would seem that to them women are second class citizens incapable of making their own decisions and would be better off “barefoot and pregnant.” Or it would seem that these men have been frustrated too many times over their life cycles by females and are consciously or unconsciously attempting to get even.

Immigration is another subject the Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to even consider. A bill was passed in the Senate but never taken up by the House. President Obama has taken take executive action on this issue after the House of Representatives has refused to even deal with it. The President can act by executive order but he cannot legislate. Whatever he does will still be a temporary action. Only Congress can make laws.

The Republicans have continually refused to deal with the issue of the minimum wage. It has remained $7.25 for the last seven plus years even though prices of virtually everything have slowly risen. Actually many Republicans would like to drop the concept completely. They feel the Market, the forces of supply and demand, should determine what can be paid to these unskilled workers. The irony of someone receiving $7.25 or even $10.00 an hour and attempting to raise a family is that in order to succeed they have to receive state and possibly federal aid. That wage does not even allow an individual to afford survival

The Republicans will not allow a law to be passed that requires equal pay for equal work. Generally women are paid about 60% of what a male will make in the same job. The overall justification for this is that the male is supporting a family but the woman is earning extra money. This is, of course, nonsense since a goodly percentage of the women are raising fatherless families or are divorced and supporting themselves and their children.

For the November 2014 Election twenty-one states, where the Republicans control the legislature and governorship, have laws restricting the right to vote. These restrictions tend to affect the poor minorities and the young voters who generally vote Democratic . They require types of identification that generally cost money, like a state driver’s license or a gun license in order to register to vote. The state that has the best of these in restricting voting is Texas which requires some form of official identification even for the people who are registered to vote. It’s estimated that in that state about 600,000 Blacks and other minorities have not been able to cast a ballot in the 2014 Midterm Election.

The Republicans systematically oppose any laws limiting gun ownership. They are staunchly supported by the National Rifle Association with heavy financial aid during their political campaigns. Regardless of the number of atrocities committed practically weekly throughout the nation they seem to believe that everyone should own their own weapon regardless of their mental state and that there should be no background checks on anyone buying a weapon. It would seem that the gun lobbies control this organization.

One of the major problems of the 2014 Midterm Election was voter indifference. Many people did not bother to vote. They had issues with both political parties. But by not voting they did indirectly vote for the political party that will do them the most harm over the next two years, that is the Republican Party. This is the one that specifically represents the upper two percent of the population and whose total agenda coincides with the needs of the very rich.

By feigning disinterest in the midterm election a goodly percentage of the population indirectly approved the party that works against their interests. If reasoning was required for these people to vote it came down to the question of which political party did you least dislike or which party best serves your economic needs? That would have been the party they should have voted for. By not voting they actually supported the political party they like the least.

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)

Anger is always justifiable but complete inaction is just plain stupid. It allows the individual in this case to work against himself. This seems to be the fickle position of a large percentage of the American voters. There was a 37% voter turnout in the 2014 Midterm Election, the smallest since 1942. Everything that was done by the Democrats over the last six years was forgotten, only what was not accomplished was remembered and reacted upon. The majority of voters are indeed fickle.

The Weiner Component #105 – The Midterm Election of 2014

A political cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abra...

A political cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln, 1865. The caption reads (Johnson to the former rail-splitter): Take it quietly Uncle Abe and I will draw it closer than ever!! (Lincoln to the former tailor): A few more stitches Andy and the good old Union will be mended! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Now that the Election is over we can examine the results.

Less people voted in this election than did in the 2012 Midterm Election. In fact only 37% of those who could vote voted; 63% stayed at home. The pattern seems to be large scale voting during presidential elections and highly limited voting on midterm ones. That gives Republicans the advantage during non-presidential elections and the Democrats have it in Presidential Election years. It makes for a crazy pattern with Congressional gridlock.

In 2015 the Republicans will have a majority in both Houses of Congress. More states will have Republican control of the legislature and governorship. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate were up for election. The Republicans won 246 seats, a gain of 13 from the previous House. In the Senate the Republicans added 7 seats, giving them the majority in that body.

Elections were held for governors in 36 of the 50 states. The Republicans won 24 and now control 36 state governorships. The election left the Democrats with the smallest number of state legislatures since the Great Depression in 1929.

The President has met with the new majority and minority leaders in both Houses: Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid for the Senate and John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi for the House. President Obama stated that they will be able to get necessary work done. He may be overly optimistic.

House Speaker John Boehner stated in a press interview that if the President plays with matches he can get burnt, implying that if Obama issues executive orders the Republicans will react negatively.

The cooperation should be interesting since the goals of both parties are miles apart.

The Democrats are concerned about income inequality and tax reform. They want to raise taxes on the upper ten percent and increase entitlement programs, like social security and Medicare. They want immigration reform, particularly for non-citizens whose children were born in this country and are United States citizens. They are also deeply concerned about global warming and want actions taken to slow it down. They are also against the Keystone XL Pipeline which would cross the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico carrying oil-rich mud and other toxins, arguing that spills could easily occur poisoning local water- tables. They would also like to have background checks on all people purchasing weapons.

The Republicans, on the other hand, very much want the Keystone Pipeline installed. They want to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and allow for more petroleum production. They do not believe in global warming. The new chairman of the Senate committee that deals with that subject has stated that changes in climate are determined by God and that man has nothing to do with it. Pollution presumably occurs by itself. The Republican idea of tax reform is to lower taxes for the upper twenty percent and spend less on entitlement programs and more on the military. They would also like to limit weapon laws more than they already are.

If you put these two groups in a room and had them try to reach a compromise on any of the above issues, on what could they reach a compromise? For those Republicans on the far-right, many of them have stated that their definition of compromise is to have the other side accept their position. What we are looking forward to from January 2015 through December 2016 is far more gridlock that we have seem in the prior congressional session. Virtually nothing will be done in terms of new needed laws. The one exception might be a declaration of war against ISIS.

What many Republicans seem to want to do is hold investigatory sessions on all Democratic actions with which they disagree. With the Republicans now in charge of both Houses of Congress we could conceivably spend the two years of the next Congressional session in committee investigations instead of passing any laws.

Once President Obama begins taking executive action in immigration and some of these other areas where the Democrats want action the Republican agenda will be to impeach the President. In fact the threat is now in the air. It has already been made. But there is not enough time left in the current session to carry this out. If it does come about in the next session the Republicans do not have the 2/3 majority vote in the Senate to successfully bring it about.

There have been two cases of presidential impeachment in the history of the United States, both failed. There could have been a third but in the case of Richard Nixon, he resigned from his office one day before he could be impeached. The first such case concerned Andrew Johnson who became president upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. The second was William Jefferson Clinton.

Andrew Johnson had been a Democratic Congressman from Tennessee who refused to support the Southern cause during the Civil War. When Lincoln ran for a second term Johnson was chosen as his Vice Presidential candidate. They ran at that point under the guise of the Union Party. With Lincoln’s assassination Johnson became the 17th President of the United States. The Radical Republicans who controlled the Congress attempted to use him to get extreme legislation passed. President Johnson attempted to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps with a more moderate policy. In 1867 the Republicans passed the Tenure of Office Act over the President’s veto which required that he get the advice and consent or approval of the Senate before he could fire anyone on his cabinet. Johnson replaced his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, and the House of Representatives voted Articles of Impeachment accusing him of “High Crimes & Misdemeanors.” The case was presented to the Senate on March 2, 1868. The trial ended with acquittal. Seven Radical Republicans could not being themselves to vote guilty. One vote less than the needed 2/3 majority was cast.

William Jefferson Clinton (Bill Clinton) was a Democratic President who had a Republic Congress for the last six years of his presidency. He was impeached on February 12, 1999. Clinton was charged with one count of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice. Guilt of “high crimes and misdemeanors” required a 2/3 vote by the Senate, 67 Senators had to find him guilty. Fifty Senators voted guilty on the obstruction of justice charge and forty-five voted so on the perjury charge. No Democrats voted guilty. President Clinton was acquitted; the 2/3 majority was not reached. In fact, not all Republican Senators agreed on the charge of guilty.

In both cases Republican Congresses had attempted to impeach a Democratic president that would not do their will. In both cases the Congress was attempting to take over primacy in the government of the United States. And in both cases the principle of checks and balances remained in force.

In the case of the Republican president, Richard Nixon, the situation was different. He was clearly guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Nixon was fully engaged in the Watergate scandal and resigned from the presidency the day before the House of Representatives was to bring up a bill of impeachment. Had Nixon been impeached he would have been found guilty.

The two impeachment trials were political in nature. If Barak Obama were to be impeached it would be for the same reason and the results would be the same. The Republicans would have to have a 2/3 majority in the Senate for it to be otherwise. They do not nearly have that number and the vote for innocence or guilt would run along party lines with the Republicans voting one way and the Democrats the other. Everything here would be along party lines.

The next two years should be interesting. Hopefully something will get done. But that is doubtful. There is no way real compromise will be achieved. Some deals will probably be made but the Republican hostility or frustration level should reach the clouds. Of course the Republicans can always shut down the government again by not voting the necessary funds for it to operate.

The probability is very high that the Republicans will so alienate the American people that the Democrats will sweep into the Presidency and Congress in 2016.

 

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.

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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.