The Weiner Component #150 – The Press & the Media

The overall purpose of journalism and the media is to provide us with the information to make the best possible decisions about our lives, communities, society, government, and the world in general.  The press and television or the media tends to give us general information and direct images of people and events.  To a large extent they do interviews with assorted noted individuals.  Currently we are going through a primary season that will determine who the leading candidates will be in the oncoming Presidential Election on the first Tuesday of November, 2016.

 

Are we being honestly informed about the world around us?  Is this what the assorted journalists and the media are doing?  Are they gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting largely unbiased information?  When assorted people are interviewed are we getting honest images of them?

 

This process is very important in a Democratic Society where people’s decisions are based upon the news and information they have.  In the oncoming 2016 Presidential Election will the general population be honestly informed or will they be propagandized?  Where does the press and media stand?

 

In the world today we are constantly surrounded with bits and pieces of information denoting what is both in the country and in the world around us.  At times such as elections we have to sort through some of this information and come to certain realizations before we can make rational decisions.  This is particularly true if we are functioning in a Democracy and have to choose the best candidate in a Presidential Election.

 

The question then arises if we are dealing with a Presidential Election, as we do every four years in the United States, is: Are we getting proper relevant information about the prospective candidates to make informed decisions concerning the elections.

 

The agencies through which we gain this information are the newspapers, radio, television, ads and news, the press, the media, and the internet.  The newspapers, depending upon their bias, generally give factual information and opinion, favoring one or the other candidate.  While some tend to be a little to the right or to the left, in their opinion sections, they are more or less neutral in their factual information.  Virtually anything can be published on the internet.  Here the reader has to decide the value of what he/she is reading.  In terms of the media or television, the question arises: Are these interviewers truly doing their job?  Are they honestly presenting interviews or are they being used by the people they are supposedly interviewing?

 

I would say that it is a combination of the two which essentially means that they are both being used by the candidate to present whatever he or she want the audience to understand and by the interviewer to present as good an image as he or she can.  An obvious example of the former was the Vice Presidential debate in 2008 between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.  Palin clearly stated at the beginning that she would respond to questions by talking about what she felt like saying, that she would not be answering any questions asked.  And that’s what she did.

 

Today if a politician doesn’t want to answer the question asked for whatever reason he tends to talk but what he says has no relationship to the question.  The news broadcaster generally goes to another question.  If he attempts to ask the question over again with a follow-up question the same thing will happen again and, this time, the interviewer will definitely go on to another question.  This can happen a number of times during an interview.

 

What about blatant lying or prefabricating during an interview?  Donald Trump seems to do this all the time.  He is never challenged.  Carly Fiorina had a story about fetus parts being sold by Planned Parenthood.  When she was challenged on this her response was something to the effect of, Prove it didn’t happen.  Presumably the interviewer was put on the spot and the issue went away.  In any case she was not about to respond to the question.

 

Trump’s obvious prefabrications have never even been directly challenged.  But then if Trump is challenged he will verbally attack the reporter as he did with Megyn Kelly during the first presidential debate, when she asked him about his treatment of women.  Trump is also very careful in choosing his interviewers.  He skipped one debate at Fox News because Megyn Kelly was one of the interviewers.

 

Are the TV interviewers doing their jobs?  An interesting question in terms of news casting today.

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There is a history behind what is going on in the present.  Generally the same games have historically gone on but the role of the interviewer, for various reasons has changed.  If we go back to the time before Richard Nixon became President of the U.S. in 1969 or earlier then we are in a period when questions were specifically answered or skipped.  Specific information was given to the press generally when it was asked for.  There were a group of commentators who evaluated the information the various candidates enunciated.  The entire process of news gathering was more direct and more specific.

 

With the Nixon Presidency in 1969 conditions began to radically change.  Nixon’s axe man, Vice President Spiro Agnew, began in a mildly oblique way to threaten the electronic news media, suggesting that when their Federal Communication Commission license became due for renewal the request might be rejected as the station, be it radio or television, might no longer qualify as doing a public service. To individual reporters who might come out with a somewhat negative view of the President at some time it was suggested that they might no longer be welcome at White House briefings.  Gradually this pressure began to spread beyond the White House press meeting throughout the entire Republican Party.  At that time there was a new price that had to be paid if one was a reporter; there were new limits to reporting.  The press and media was beginning to be controlled by the administrations.

 

When Nixon ran for reelection in 1972 members of his staff sanctioned the Watergate Hotel break-ins at Democratic Headquarters.  They also helped fund George McGovern as the Democratic candidate for the office of President, working on the assumption that if overly liberal McGovern became the Democratic candidate Nixon would have an overwhelming Republican victory.

 

Nixon’s Reelection Committee was correct in their assumption but in order to be sure they had a group called “the plumbers” break into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel several times to go through the Democratic documents there.  On their third visit they were caught and arrested.  At some point early on in the process Nixon became aware of the break-ins.  Meanwhile Nixon was reelected by an overwhelming majority.  For the next two years as the information gradually emerged the question became: “What did the President know?  And when did he know it?”  Basically the issue was: Was Nixon involved in the Break-in?  And did he participate in the cover-up?  The answer that came out two years into his second term was YES and he was involved in the cover up.  Nixon would resign from the presidency the day before he was to be impeached.

 

Meanwhile, while this was going on, the Justice Department was investigating the Vice-President, Spiro Agnew.  He was charged with an eighty-nine page indictment charging him with extortion, tax fraud, bribery, and conspiracy.  He had accepted bribes of over $100,000 as Governor of Maryland and as a government official before that, as well as vice president.  Because of the ongoing investigation over Watergate Agnew was allowed to plead “no contest” to a single charge that he had failed to report $25,000 of income, pay a fine, resign as Vice President, and leave Washington, D.C.  As a note or irony ten years later in a civil suit by the State of Maryland Agnew had to pay out nearly $270,000, stemming from the bribery charge.

 

Nixon appointed Senator Gerald Ford as his new Vice President.  President Ford would end America’s involvement into the Viet Nam War and pardon former President Nixon for any crimes he had or may have committed

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It is important to remember that when Richard Nixon became President in 1969 one of his major goals was to get the United States out of Viet Nam “with honor.”  Former President Lyndon B. Johnson had vigorously increased the extent of the war to force the Vietnamese to capitulate to America.  He did not succeed.  Richard Nixon had promised to end the war if elected.  He would do this by upgrading the war effort to the point where the U.S. could have an honorable settlement.

 

The Viet Nam War had been reported practically battle by battle.  Cameramen went along with the military daily and filmed practically every battle.  This, then, was shown that night on national television in the U.S. as the nightly news.  The effect of this was to engender a massive protest movement throughout the country.  The population did not enjoy watching American soldiers or Vietnamese nightly being machine-gunned or blown to bits.

 

To demonstrate that we were winning the U.S. military came up with the concept of the daily “body count,” the number of American’s killed that day versus the number of Vietnamese militants who died.  Their number was always far greater than our number of dead.  In fact if one totaled the count it would seem that soon there would be no Vietnamese left to fight the war.

 

It was President Gerald Ford who ended this war in 1975 and we did not leave “with honor.”  Interestingly today there is a Hanoi Hilton and Vietnam is an inexpensive vacation country that welcomes American citizens.  The press would never again be allowed to report a military operation in the same way it did in Viet Nam.

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In 1976 the Republican, Gerald Ford, ran against the Democrat, Jimmy Carter, for the office of President and lost.  Jimmy Carter became President of the United States in 1976.  He would serve one term.  His relations with the press and media eased up but a note of caution remained in their reporting.

 

During Carter’s tenure there would be a revolution in Iran and the autocratic Shah, a longtime ally of the United States, would be replaced by the religious far right leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.  Presumably a group of students raided the U.S. Council and made the American Embassy employees prisoners.  The U.S. military mounted a helicopter mission to rescue them which failed.  52 hostages were held from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981.  They were released just hours after Ronald Reagan became president.

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With the assent of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States the press and media underwent a new metamorphosis.  Reagan, our 40th President and his staff managed the media largely for eight years to their advantage.

 

He was called the Teflon President.  As a former actor he never stopped acting. He has been called the most ideal, congenial President in modern history, continually telling his audience, the American Public, what they wanted to hear, always in positive terms.  Even, at the end of his presidency when he was telling the public on a television broadcast about his guilt in the Iran-Contra Affair, a breach of law that could have gotten him impeached and sent to prison, he was able to do it in such a way that it didn’t seem to be his fault.

 

While the media was warry of him they also fell under his influence and allowed him to manage the news.  Even though he was to the right of the majority of the American people he was able to get massive tax cuts for the wealthy.  An average member of the middle class might from 1981 on save $200 on their income taxes while someone in the upper echelon might save $20,000 or more in income taxes.  While he did this he was able to significantly cut social programs to the needy.  Reagan actually espoused welfare for the rich.

 

He was the first President to raise the National Debt over a trillion dollars and then with his massive military spending and tax cuts, more than doubled that amount.

 

Through his overspending he did end the Cold War.  He and his administration were convinced that militarily the Soviet Union was far ahead of the United States and that we had to catch-up to them.  In doing this he inadvertently bankrupted them as they tried to keep up with us.  This brought about the end of the Cold War.

 

It was after his administration that reality set in with the press and many of them, after the fact, reevaluated him on an extremely negative basis.  But that was after the fact.  Some of his staff went to prison for the Iran-Contra affair but Reagan, in whose name it was brought about, was essentially untouched by it.

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Reagan was followed by his Vice President, George H. W. Bush, as the 41st President for one term with a Democratic Congress.  He was guilty in bringing about a war with Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, by inept diplomacy, which also cost numerous lives on both sides but also raised the National Debt additional trillions of dollars.  Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq would unsuccessfully attempt to have Bush assassinated.  His son would later punish him.

 

With Bill Clinton there was much drama involving some of his proclivities.  The press was not threatened, instead they were treated to various colorful stories about the man and to his attempted impeachment.

 

George W. Bush, the son of former President George H.W. Bush became the 43d President.  His presidency is marked by the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001.  It was then that the War on Terror earnestly began in the United States and was used by the Bush Administration to get a myriad of laws passed.  “9/11” became a key term and was freely used from then on by the administration to get their way on many issues.  The press was largely patriotic and went along with most of what the government wanted.

 

The second Bush was followed by Barack Obama.  Currently there are no threats to the press.  But with the oncoming 2016 Election and the belligerence among the Republican candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz we are coming into another era of risk to the press and media.

 

The very nature of live reporting seems to have changed.  Candidates, with a very straight face, blatantly lie or prefabricate in front of the camera or in speeches at rallies.  But they are never challenged on this.  It’s as though the press or media are afraid of the people they are interviewing.  Donald Trump is particularly noted for this.  If he doesn’t like the question he will verbally and vindictively challenge the reporter.  Ted Cruz tends to pick his interviewers as well as reinterpret the questions asked.  Reporting has become a heady occupation.  Somehow the original purpose of the reporter seems lost or confused.  The public seems left to make their decisions on an emotional basis.

 

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #142 – Terrorism in the World Today

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FBI mugshot of Timothy McVeigh.

FBI mugshot of Timothy McVeigh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Terror is to be afraid of or fearful of something.  Terrorism is, for a group or population, to be intensely frightened of something equally unpleasant.  Usually what is being considered here is some form of death or mayhem!

 

It is a weapon that has been used innumerable times over the centuries to attempt to achieve a political goal usually by minorities over a much larger population.  Usually within a society a group or groups that are not powerful enough to make their will or position known will use the tactics of terror to propagate their beliefs.  In Elizabethan England during the 16th Century, Catholics in this country that had decades earlier reluctantly turned Protestant under King Henry VIII secretly used this strategy to voice their objections during the reign of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth.  During the late 19th Century in Russia and Austria-Hungary, whose population was a polyglot of different Balkan ethnic groups, protest was illegal.  Revolutionaries in both these countries used terror as a form of protest, forcing their will upon the Central Governments by assassinating government officials.  This included rulers in both nations.

 

Generally when a political group is too strong to be forcibly obliterated but not powerful enough to openly influence the existing government they seem to resort to the use of terror.  The direct cause of World War I was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Frances Ferdinand, in 1914.  Later in the 20th Century the concept of war was broadened to include the entire population of a nation and terror then covered the entire population.

 

In the case of the world today we are dealing with total war, this can cover the entire population of a nation or a group of nations.  Mayhem/ human destruction, terrorism anywhere in a nation is an act of war.  The action can be caused by some individual or groups within the nation or by people from other countries or areas of the world.

 

In the United States in 1995 Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist detonated a truck bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19th, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others.  Presumably McVeigh was getting even with the United States for the Waco siege in 1993.  At that time the Branch Davidians, a sect that separated in 1955 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was led by David Koresh and lived at Mt. Carmel Ranch in Elk, Texas.  The group was suspected of weapons violations and forcibly refused to allow a search and arrest warrant by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  Because of armed resistance, and the presence of women and children at the Ranch, a 51 day siege resulted.  It ended with a tear gas attack by the FBI, in which a fire engulfed the Ranch.  76 people died that day, including David Koresh.  Timothy McVeigh had been driving to Waco to show support for the Branch Davidians.  Two years later he would explode his home-made bomb.

 

Terrorists can be either citizens of the country where the atrocity is perpetrated or come from other parts of the world to punish a particular nation.  McVeigh was an American citizen seeking revenge for the Branch Davidians.  Whether this was because he had mental problems or not is academic.  He was at heart a terrorist who resented his own government and his killing of people was an act of terror.

 

A number of the mass shootings that seem to become commoner and commoner in the United States seem to be perpetrated by people who have mental problems and should have no access to weapons.  According to an article in the L.A. Times as of Friday, December 4, 2015, there were up to 353 mass shootings in 2015 in the nation.  The problem seems to be that In the U.S. every state has different gun laws, and weapons that are illegal in one state can be easily acquired in another state, particularly at gun shows where no background check is ever required.

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It should be noted that in the case of the world today al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups from the Middle East and North Africa, make up the majority of the terrorist groups. Their rational is that they are punishing the world for not giving in to them.  In fact the President of the United States and the government of a number of European nations have declared war upon ISIS.  Most of these groups come from nations that until shortly after World War II were colonies or protectorates of Europe and or the United States.  Among the reasons for the uses of terror this fact seems to be one of the causes for their actions.

 

The colonial imperialist empires continued after the Second World War.  It was from the 1950s on that these countries/colonies began rebelling and it became too expensive for the European nations like England, France, Holland, among others, to keep their possessions.  It was far more practical to give them their independence and trade with them.  In this way most of these nations suddenly became ready for independence.

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In the United States on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers in New York City, the tallest buildings in the world were destroyed killing 2,700 people in the collapsed two buildings, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. was also hit killing 184 individuals, and in a plane crash in Pennsylvania where 40 people died trying to take back control of the jet.  The fuel on the airplanes were the bombs that burst into flames and exploded when the jets crashed into their targets.  Each plane carried as passengers a crew of suicide terrorists, nineteen on all of them, who took over the planes shortly after takeoff on the East Coast and piloted the jets to their targets crashing them, in the first two cases, into the structures.

 

Osama bin Laden the leader of al-Qaeda chose these targets because he believed the United States was a “paper tiger, an easy and inept target.”  His reasoning followed the pattern of U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam in 1975, leaving Lebanon after a bomb in Beirut in 1983 at the marine barracks killed 241 servicemen, and the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in 1993 after the deaths of 18 servicemen in Mogadishu.

 

While al Qaeda was highly functional after the attack on the Twin Towers it wasn’t until after the election of Barak Obama as President of the United States that it was effectively gone after.  Using drones the U.S. continually went after its leaders, killing a large number of them.  What eventually became the dominant militant terrorist force was ISIS or ISIL.

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The Boston Marathon is held yearly on Patriots Day.  It is open to anyone from 18 years on who qualifies.  On April 15, 2003 the brothers Tamerlain and Dzhekhar Tsarnev placed two separate backpacks in separate areas near the finish line.  They exploded killing 3 people and wounding 264 others.  Both brothers were born in a Muslim area of Russia and migrated to the United States.  One died in a shootout with police and the other was taken prisoner, tried, condemned to death and executed.  At one point he publically apologized to his victims.  It would seem from the evidence released that these two acted on their own; they were not affiliated with any terrorist organization.

 

To my knowledge there has been one other cases of foreign terror in the U.S. since then, the recent shooting by the young terrorist couple in San Bernardino, California. This couple also largely acted on their own.  The reason, as I understand it, for this small amount of foreign terrorism has been the relentless protection provided by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement services.  Unfortunately there has been assorted terrorist killing in the United States but these have been by our own deranged citizens.  There are no real restrictions, as we’ve seen, on anyone acquiring automatic assault weapons. Freedom to buy guns seems an axiom of Republican Congressmen who will not even require background checks upon the purchasers.

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In the United States the Caucasian population no longer makes up the majority of the population.  They are one of the large ethnic groups but no longer one that is the majority.

 

In terms of religion there are today a multitude of largely different beliefs now existing in the United States.  Traditionally the country was mainly Christian, having mostly Protestant Sects, some Roman Catholics, with a relatively small Jewish population.  There was also a nonreligious group operating as a religion, Ethical Culture.  Today there are also Hindu temples, Moslem mosques, plus numerous other groups existing in the country.  The country has undergone a large number of people coming from other parts of the world for political or other reasons.

 

One of the major causes for the problems that currently exist is that society has gotten complex.  Unfortunately today to economically function successfully in our society one needs a decent education; people need to understand that nothing is simply black and white; that societal and other problems do not have just simple “common sense” solutions.

 

Not too long ago a young, high school dropout, Dylann Roof, who apparently found high school too difficult but who admired former South African apartheid, at age 21, went into a Black Church in South Carolina and, after sitting and watching a Bible class for a while, shot nine people, killing them; then stated that he had to do it because Black people “rape our women” and “are taking over our country.”  His lack of intelligence created a simplistic bigot who, incidentally at the shooting, mostly killed women.

 

Over the last fifteen years there’s been a goodly increase in hate crimes, and at the same time it has become more difficult for a large number of people, with low or no specific skills, to become gainfully employed.  It is easy to find such a reason in demographic change, particularly in a country with a Black President.  The U.S. has had an increase in homegrown domestic terror.  But the Jihad still exists.  ISIS has declared war on all opposing nations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and on the United States.  Evidence of their behavior is evident, practically every day.  There are acts of terror around the world or ISIS is beheading people, both Muslim and non-Muslim in areas it controls.

 

Probably in 2015 the most devastating Terrorist attack or attacks were in Paris, France on November 13th.  Since then the governors of 20 states in the U.S. have stated that they will not accept refugees from Syria.  Legally they don’t have that power but they may forcibly try to stop the process.  President Obama has committed the U.S. to bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees.  Donald Trump wants to stop any Moslems from coming to the U.S.

 

It is important to remember that Syria has a multi-sided Civil War that has been going on for a number of years with no solution in sight.  ISIS is only one of main rebel groups that controls a fair section of the country.  The current president of the country holds a fair section of the nation and currently has the support of Russia and Iran.  The population has been caught in-between all this fighting and well over a million citizens have been killed.  A percentage of the civilian population has and is continuing to flee the country and flooding Europe.

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In Paris, late Friday, November 13th three well-coordinated simultaneous terrorist attacks in different areas of the city killed 130 people.  There were six random shootings of anyone who happened to be in range by three teams of suicide killers who wore sophisticated explosive vests.  There was no way they could or would be taken alive.

 

As far as we know the Paris attacks were planned in Syria and organized in Belgium.  ISIS has claimed credit for the killings and has promised that the next raid and killings will be in Washington, D.C.  Apparently their actual next raid in the U.S. was in San Bernardino, California.  On December 2, 2015 a married couple attacked an end of year company party, where the man worked, killing 14 people and wounding 22.  They were both killed in a car chase.  The man had been born in the United States of Moslem parents and the woman, his wife, was born in Pakistan.

 

In terms of France the November 13th killings were not the first attacks in France.  Nearly a year earlier there was an attack on the French satirical publication “Charlie Hebdo” that had come out with one edition that had a representation of Mohammed on its front page.  Several staff members were killed.  Not too long afterwards a Jewish Supermarket was attacked either by al-Qaeda or ISIS members.  Several people were killed before the French police assaulted the facility, freed the hostages that were being held, and killed the suspects.  In addition people who swore allegiance to ISIS in several instances ran their automobiles into crowds killing and maiming numbers of people.  There seems to be a strong animosity between extreme Muslim radicals and the French government.

 

Most of the people killed in al-Qaeda or ISIS attacks have been and are Muslims, both in the Middle East and in North Africa.  ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) is a Sunni sect.  The other major Islamic sect is the Shiites, which ISIS considers anathema or blasphemous.  The Middle East is divided mostly by these two sects, of which Shiites are in the majority.  The Shiites are the civilians in ISIS areas who are usually beheaded.

 

Sunni ISIS considers the Shiite and most other interpretations of their religion blasphemous.  They see nothing wrong with attacking their co-religionists as infidels, even during their religious services, with suicide bombers.  If the prophet, Mohammed, were to come back today he would be both shocked and appalled at much of what ISIS is doing in his name.

 

The United Nations holds ISIS responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes.  Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a massive scale in northern Iraq.  Around the world Islamic religious leaders have condemned ISIS’s ideology and actions arguing that the group has strayed from the path of pure Islam and that its actions do not reflect Islam’s true teachings or virtues.  The U.N. has designated it a terrorist organization.  The European Union and all its member nations, the United States, India, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other countries, over sixty in all are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIS.

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As a result of the last Paris attack the French and also the British have joined the United States in bombing attacks on ISIS strongholds.  Will all this be effective?  ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is holding large tracts of land in both Syria and Iraq.  The Iraqi government has not been able to mount strong enough ground offensives against them to force them out of their country.  In Syria there well are over a dozen revolutionary groups fighting President Assad and his government, plus each other.  They all have, including ISIS, different versions of what they want for their country.  It is an impossible situation that has been going on for five years.  ISIS holds large tracts of land in the country.  Both Russia and Iran support Assad’s government as the legitimate one.  The United States wants to remove Assad and work out some sort of compromise between a number of the less radical Revolutionary groups.  Millions of Syrian citizens have left the country looking for safety by going west into Europe as refugees, looking to start life over again where they can be safe.

 

For the United States or a European nation or nations to send an army in to help either Syria or Iraq is not a good idea.  There are too many people there who remember the colonial era.  And ultimately which group or groups do they support in Syria?  For that matter which of the Revolutionary group or groups do they really approve of or can trust after they arm them?  It is currently an impossible situation.

 

For the United States or any other Industrial country to send in troops would be an act of utter stupidity as we saw in Iraq where the U.S. sent in any army to dispose of one dictator only to generate another corrupt government that just about expelled the American army.  U.S. troops were not popular no matter what they did.  The same was true for Afghanistan where a small number of Americans were shot by their allies.

 

The situation in the Middle East is a mess.  The only real solution is to have the countries of the Middle East come to the rescue of their own people.  But they don’t seem to want to do that.  But then again they don’t have to with the United States and other Western nations continually intervening.

 

In Iraq incidentally the government, which the U.S. helped to set up, seems to be largely corrupt and very pro-Sunni; about 95% of the country belongs to this Muslim sect of Islam.  The government doesn’t necessarily have the support of its own people, at least not to the point of dying while militarily fighting its enemies, like ISIS for example.

 

If the United States or France or England and Germany, for that matter, were to send troops in either or both Iraq and Syria they would risk keeping them there indefinitely without the support of the people in either of these countries.  The people’s sense of values is completely different from those of the Western nations.  In both Pakistan and Iraq, when the U.S. had a presence in those countries during the administration of President George W. Bush, some of the local military ended up shooting some of the Americans.  It is quite a frustrating dilemma!

 

Currently President Barak Oboma stated, in a national speech made on television in early December of 2015, that the bombing raids by the U.S., that have been going on now for well over a year, in coordination with local military operations have kept ISIS from gaining additional territory in either Syria or Iraq.  The President stated that the Islamic State militants have not waged a single successful major offensive operation since 2014 in either of the two countries.  Currently France and England are also conducting bombing raids against ISIS targets.  Saudi Arabia is also involved in air raids against the Islamic State.

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ISIS has threatened that its next attack will be in Washington, D.C.  Of the American born man and his Pakistani born wife who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, December 8, 2015, in a shooting rampage at the Inland Regional Center.  The man, Syed Rizwan Farook, aged 28, attended a party with his fellow workers; he quietly slipped away   his jacket draped over a chair.  Then he returned with his wife, Tashfeed Malik, aged 29.  Both were dressed with body armor and unleashed a terrorist attack.  They were at the Center for Disabled People, where his company had rented a large room for their yearly social event.  They killed 14 and injured 21 people.  They were both killed in a police chase, leaving a 6 month old baby with his mother.

 

The annual event was known as a GEM (general education meeting), run by the San Bernardino Health Department.  It began at 8 a.m. and would end about 4 p.m.  It was held in a conference room that was designed to hold around 500 people.  Mr. Farook was there from the start of the meeting.  He had worked for the Department for five years.  At some point he got up and went out.  When he returned with his wife the drama began.

 

They had automatic weapons which had been legally purchased.  The man’s parents had been born in the Middle East and immigrated to the United States, becoming citizens.  His wife was born in Pakistan.  Both were college graduates and both were radicalized enough so that they left a six month old baby with his mother.  Presumably the mother, who lived with them, was told by the woman that she had a doctor’s appointment.

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What emerges here is an interesting point.  In the United States if we compare terrorist shootings, killings and woundings with American shootings, killings and woundings, the mayhem caused by the terrorists numerically is barely noticeable.  Terrorist acts get lots of publicity while American shooting are statistics barely covered by the media.  Republican Congressmen and many others are very conscience of terrorist acts but ignore other shootings because in order to limit American shootings they would have to limit the availability of guns.

 

A solution among many Republicans is to keep Muslims, followers of Islam out of the country.  The problem here is that there are a large number of followers of Islam already in the country.  This is in addition to the number children of immigrants who were born in this country.  There are also the Black Muslims who converted or whose parents converted in the last half of the 20th Century.  They are largely the descendants of slaves that were brought to this nation as prisoners and sold as slaves in the 18th and early 19th Centuries.  They converted originally as a protest to Christianity, the major religion of white America.  How will the Republicans handle them?  By putting them into reeducation centers?

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There is a legitimate fear with the terrorists.  That is that somehow they will smuggle into the U.S. bacteriological disease creating materials that can be easily put into the water supply.  Another possibility is that a stolen atomic bomb can be brought in and exploded in the center of a major city.  All this makes a good plot for Hollywood films.  But is this danger real?  Currently, it seems that the FBI has 900 open cases it is investigating.  This does not include all the other cases that are being worked on by other law enforcement agencies.  Also the possibility of acquiring any of these weapon is almost nonexistent.

 

What should our attitude be toward the current Syrian refugee problem?  Currently under the Obama administration it takes from eighteen months to two years of investigation for any Syrian refugee to be able to settle in the United States.  To the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Republican governors of twenty some states this screening is inadequate, they want to extend it even further.  One of the terrorists from San Bernardino was born in the United States and was a citizen.  France despite its recent attack has overwhelmingly voted to take in Syrian refugees.  It seems that the Republicans who overwhelmingly believe in all kinds of gun ownership and availability would change our principles about refugees because they do not trust their government to properly monitor refugee immigration from the Syria and the Middle East.  They seem to be fearful for the sake of being fearful.

The Weiner Component #125 – The Bush Presidencies

George H. W. Bush

Cover of George H. W. Bush

Barbara Bush stated, when her son Jeb said publically that he was going to run for the Presidency of the United States, that the country didn’t need another Bush president.

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George H.W. Bush (Daddy Bush) joined the Air Force as an 18 year old during World War II and served for the duration of the war. Shortly after he formed his own oil company and then became a Republican Congressman in the House of Representatives.  President Gerald Ford later appointed him as CIA Director on January 30, 1976.  He served in that office until January 20, 1977.  He became President Ronald Reagan’s Vice President on January 20, 1981 and remained in that position for eight years.  Toward the end of his term he ran for President of the United States and was elected.  He would serve one term as President and then be defeated by the Democratic candidate, William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton.

As Vice President, Bush would be involved in the Iran-Contra Affair that flaunted the Constitution of the United States.  Ronald Reagan was convinced that the Contras, a group of terrorists operating in Nicaragua, were really Freedom Fighters trying to free Nicaragua from its elected Socialist government.  Congress refused to fund this enterprise.  Reagan and his assorted Secretaries then decided to get the money needed to fund this operation by illegally selling arms to Iran.  Vice President George H.W. Bush was clearly involved in this enterprise.  He served as a courier for Reagan; the evidence clearly exists.  When Dan Rather, the CBS lead reporter in a televised interview tried to trap him into admitting this fact, President Bush refused to answer the question and Dan Rather was later fired.

As President, Bush sent a roving female ambassador-at-large or a plenipotentiary with very general instructions to Saddam Hussein, in Iraq.  Bush was obviously striking a blow for Women’s Rights.  In the Middle East, particularly at that time, women were considered second-class citizens that would never be entrusted with anything really important.  By sending a female Hussein understood that his forthcoming invasion of Kuwait was of low priority to the United States and he consequently invaded that country.  This resulted in Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait by the United States and some of its allies.  Bush was smart enough to end the war at the border of Iraq.

To Hussein, George Bush had given a clear message and he reneged on it.  Impotently he threatened to have President George H.W. Bush assassinated.  Bush’s son, George W. Bush, would react to this threat later on when he went to war with Iraq.

The Kuwait rescue war called Operation Desert Storm would never have happened if President George H.W. Bush, who should have known better, had sent a male diplomat with clear authority to negotiate with Saddam Hussein.  He, Saddam, would have known that any Iraqi invasion would result in the U.S. and other Western Powers getting involved if Iraq invaded Kuwait or any other country.  Bush’s inability to properly handle this situation brought about a totally unnecessary war.

So much for the Presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, a president we could have done without.

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In the entire history of the United States there were two men who became president with the majority of the population voting for the other candidate

The first was the Election of 1876 where the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes received 4,034,311 popular votes but ended up with 185 electoral votes to Samuel J. Tilden who received 4,288,546 popular votes and 184 electoral votes.  What happened was that 20 electoral votes were contested.  Several states had two sets of electors, one set of Democratic Electors and one set of Republican Electors.  Both groups claimed to have been directly elected by the public. The debate continued on until the night before the new President was to be sworn-in.   A compromise was reached literally hours before the new President was to take office. The Republicans wanted the presidency; the Democrats wanted to formally end Civil War Reconstruction.  Each political party got what they most desired: a Republican became President and the army was withdrawn from the Southern States.

The second instance was the election of George W. Bush in November of 2000.  He had 50,456,002 popular votes to Al Gore’s 50,999,897 popular votes.  The problem there was the State of Florida whose governor was George W. Bush’s baby brother, Jeb Bush.  The person in charge of that election was a staunch Republican.  Either Jeb Bush instigated or knew about a highly flawed voter purge of the voter registry, just prior to the 2000 Election that removed mainly registered Democrats from the voter lists in the state.  These were mostly minorities who would probably vote the Democratic ticket. The faulty purge was touted as removing felons from the list of registered voters.

In addition a number of election ballots came up faulty because of the way they were set up.  One had to punch out the candidate of his or her choice and the instructions were vague.  A goodly number of ballots were incorrectly or partially punched.  These had to be individually examined and the choices determined individually; a long, tedious process, which was terminated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William D. Rehnquist.  The majority of those ballots were never counted giving the electoral votes for the State of Florida to Bush, and giving him 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266.  Thus George Walker Bush became the President of the United States.  Did his baby brother, Jeb help him get elected?  Certainly.

Since this was the second time this had happened, that the will of the majority had been thwarted there should have been a Constitutional Amendment doing away with the Electoral College and having the President named by the direct vote of the people.  After all the concept of the Electoral College was created in post-colonial times when communication was very difficult.  It is no longer needed.  And there also have been times when Electors voted for people for whom they had not been chosen to elect.  We seem to hang on to some tenants of government that are totally obsolete.

Will Rogers, the comic philosopher of the 1920s, among other things, said that the members of Congress are like children with hammers who have been let into a China Shop.   They make messes but don’t do much damage.  About Calvin Coolidge, who was President at the time, he said that it wasn’t that he did nothing, it was that he did it better than anyone else.  In George W. Bush’s case he did something and it was worse than anything else he could have done.  Without realizing what his actions would bring about he destabilized the Middle East and we are still attempting, not too successfully, to deal with this problem today.  Bush, in a manner of speaking, opened up a Pandora’s Box; and its reverberations have created ISIS and other functioning terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

Through ignorance or naivety Bush destabilized the Balance of Power that existed throughout the Middle East.  He indirectly caused numerous deaths, both of American soldiers and Iraqis, and the mayhem which still exists.  Apparently he thought that the people of Iraq would be thankful to the United States if he got rid of Saddam Hussein. With no glimmer of understanding of the Middle East he invaded Iraq supposedly looking for weapons of mass destruction.

The choosing of Bush as President had done irrevocable damage to the world stage by creating what seems to be an unsolvable problem.  If Al Gore had been President, as he should have been, the U.S. would never have gone into Iraq.  At the time of the U.S. preemptive invasion the United Nations was sending inspectors to that country checking for weapons of mass destruction.  In fact, they asked the U.S. for more time in order to continue their inspections looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction.  With Al Gore as president sanity would have prevailed.  There would have been no Iraqi war. The stability of the Middle East would have prevailed.  It seems Will Rogers was wrong about elected government officials; they can, at times, do irrevocable harm to their country and the rest of the world.

How will the current Middle East problem be solved?  That’s an interesting question to which nobody seems to have a real answer.  In essence the Republicans who are interested in running for the presidency in 2016 are talking about getting tough in the Middle East, whatever that means.  In essence George Bush junior and his cohorts screwed up a situation by going to war with Iraq with no real comprehension of what they were doing.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, his Vice President, and Donald Rumsfeld, his Secretary of Defense apparently conceived of war with Iraq as a win, win situation.  They thought the people of Iraq would welcome the U.S. with open arms for freeing them from the Dictator, Saddam Hussein.  They visualized that they could set up a democracy similar to that of the U.S.  In essence they visualized how they would behave if they were Iraqis and the U.S. invaded their country; but they aren’t Iraqis and the Iraqis had an entirely different psyche.  What they ended up bringing about was a situation that existed between the two major Islamic sects: the Sunni and the Shia.  What resulted in Iraq was a government we created but couldn’t control, where the Sunni majority actually persecuted the Shia minority.  It was a situation where the tail wagged the dog.  We created a government but couldn’t control it.  In fact it was similar to the situation that had existed in Vietnam.  Somehow this country never learns from its past mistakes.

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George Walker Bush had been born on July 6, 1946. He was 54 years old when he was elected to the presidency.  As a businessman he had not done too well in the oil business.  In fact he might have been known as “Dry Hole Bush,” as he was responsible for drilling many of them.  The Bush family was well to do having made lots of money in oil.  George W. became Texas governor in 1994 and was elected president in 2000. Eight months into his first term, September 11, 2001, a terrorist attack destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City and Bush responded by launching the War on Terror.

It was during this period of the War on Terror that the Afghanistan War against Al-Qaeda, who had destroyed the Twin Towers, began and was followed by the preemptive attack against Iraq, whose leader, Saddam Hussein, had threatened to have Bush’s “Daddy” assassinated that he inaugurated a major tax cut, mostly for the well-to-do.  Bush also inaugurated “enhanced interrogation” of prisoners (torture, usually water boarding), which apparently never really worked.  This type of treatment, with the exception of the last phase of the Spanish American War at the tail end of the 19th Century, had never existed before or since his administration in the history of the United States.

Water boarding is a process of taking the prisoner to the point of drowning.  Some prisoners were water boarded well over a hundred times.

To be fair Bush also inaugurated Medicare prescription benefits for seniors.  He also added funding for the Aids program.  Basically with his wars and everything he spent a lot more money, some wastefully, than the government took in in taxes, massively increasing the National Debt.

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When I look at a certain print hanging in a corner of my living room I think of George W. Bush’s 2004 political campaign when he ran against the Democratic senator, John Kerry.  The print was done by a 19th Century Spanish satiric artist, Francisco Goya.  It depicts a monkey painting a jackass white and is entitled “Neither more nor less.”  That is what happened in the 2004 Presidential Election.  John Kerry, a Vietnam War hero, who is currently Secretary of State, ran against George W. Bush.  Karl Rove, Bush’s senior advisor and deputy chief of staff ran the campaign for Bush.  He painted Kerry as a villain, ignoring his true military record and presented Bush as a military hero, even though Bush had never left Texas as a member of the state’s National Guard and had been AWOL a number of times.  In addition he had tested poorly for the flying school and had only been accepted because his father was in Congress.  It was an interesting version of painting a jackass white and a hero black.

In essence it would seem that George Walker Bush visualized himself as the sheriff who symbolically came to Iraq with his army, got rid of the bad guys, and allowed the so-called good guys to run the country.  He never left the U.S. during his presidency, and passed the problem of his wars on to his successor.  Also he never accepted responsibility for his actions.  He left a mess which can still take decades or longer to clean up.

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Since the beginning of the year of 2015 Jeb Bush has been vigorously campaigning for the presidency of the U.S. and avidly raising money for his super pact.  Since it is illegal for a candidate to be connected in any way with his super pact Bush had not announced that he is formally a candidate.  He didl not formally make up his mind until June 15, 2015, that is a little over six months into his presidential campaign.  From what I understand his goal was to raise 100 million dollars in his super pact before he made his announcement.

Bush is made a mockery of the current election system in this country.  He had been actively campaigning for over six months, with one careless exception, as a potential candidate who had not formally made up his mind.  In essence he has pushed the envelope to the extreme limit on the election laws.  What does this tell us about his integrity if he were to be elected president?

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Jeb (John Ellis) Bush is the second son of George H.W. and Barbara Bush.  He was elected Governor of Florida in 1999 and served two terms, eight years.  He was the first governor to serve two terms in that state.

On December 16, 2014 he announced that he would explore the possibility of running for President in 2016.  Since that time he had been energetically raising money for his presidential campaign of which he did not officially become a candidate until June 15, 2015.  That is six and ½ months after beginning his campaign.

Politically Jeb Bush is a Conservative Republican who envisions some movement to the Left by his party.  In April 2013 he authored an article for Newsweek Magazine in which he urged Conservatives to be a party of “growth and opportunity.”  He warned that America’s entitlement system risked collapse unless there was a correction in public policy.  Bush recommended a six point plan for the Conservative Movement.  This included tax reform, education reform, a welcoming immigration system, regulatory reform, and pro-family policies.  In October of 2013 he called for immigration reform. Obviously a lot of this did not go down with the Tea Party.

As Governor of Florida Bush was a proponent of school vouchers and charter schools, particularly in the areas of failing schools.  He firmly refused to raise taxes for schools. He obviously didn’t want to solve problems by throwing money at them.

In fact JED reduced taxes over his tenure by $19 billion, eliminated civil service protection to over 16,000 state jobs, issued an executive order that removed racial preference in state contracts, supporting over a dozen new protections for gun owners, led the first state in 2005 to pass stand your ground laws, and was opposed to abortion.

He was directly involved in the Terri Schiavo case.  This woman had massive brain damage and was on a feeding tube for over fifteen years.  Her husband and legal guardian wished to remove the tube.  Her parents were opposed to this move.  The governor signed a law, “Terri’s law,” that authorized him to keep Schiavo on life support. The case was appealed in the Federal Courts.  After the law was declared unconstitutional in the Florida Supreme Court the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.  By then Terri Schiavo had died.

Jeb Bush seems to be a progressive conservative Republican.  He has played games with the election laws which has allowed him to raise about 100 million dollars for his super pack.   He gave up control of that entity when he directly announced that he is running for the presidency.

Jeb has been touted as being the smartest of the Bush children.  During his pre-election campaign, which ended in the middle of June 2015, he emerged as a highly opinionated, righteous individual whose spoken word should always be taken as sacrosanct.  He seems to believe that it’s his turn to be President.  Fortunately a good percentage of registered Republicans do not agree with him.  He is not the frontrunner of the party.  In fact the number of possible Republican presidential candidates is overwhelming.  It seems to be open season for Republicans who want to be the next President of the United States.

Currently Jeb Bush’s advisors are the same individuals who advised his brother.  From his speeches and other remarks on foreign affairs he appeared to be not too cognizant of the rest of the world.  His experts are the same people who helped his brother George decide on invading Iraq.  This group could easily get us into another war in the Middle East, this time with Iran.  The U.S. fighting three different wars at the same time (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran) could bring back the draft and lead to oncoming and other disasters.

By his current actions one has to question Bush’s integrity.  Why play games with the election laws?  His actions just prior to the 2000 Election, both purging the registered voter list and the faulty ballots seem to be what got his brother elected to the presidency.  Would he act the same way if he were elected?

On Monday, June 15 2015, months after JEB officially announced to the world, surrounded by avid supporters, that he would run for the Presidency of the United States.  And all this after he had collected approximately $100 million dollars for his super-pact.  He stated that he was running because the country needs a competent President.

To my mind he didn’t mention the Terri Schiavo incident where he got the state to force her family to essentially keep a brain dead woman alive.  And no mention was made of the faulty purge of registered voters shortly before his brother’s election in 2000 under the guise that they were clearing the registration rolls of convicted felons.   Of course in his mind it is possible that all Democrats are potential felons and the real legal voters are or should be all Republican.

Do we need another Bush in the White House?  Is his mother, Barbara Bush, correct in her initial statement?  Do we need another Bush as President?  Haven’t we had enough unnecessary wars so far?  Do we need another Bush as President of the United States

 

 

 

Al Gore

Cover of Al Gore