The Weiner Component Vol.2 #7 – Part 4 – The Fed & the Inflationary Spiral

English: Former President Jimmy Carter and his...

English: Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, wave from the top of the aircraft steps as they depart Andrews Air Force Base at the conclusion of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: President Ronald Reagan, the 40th pre...

English: President Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States of America, delivers his inaugural address from the specially built platform in front of the Capitol during Inauguration Day ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chairperson of the Federal Reserve heads this bank. Currently Janet Yellen is the chairwoman. She has held this position since 2014 when she was appointed by President Barack Obama. Prior to that Ben Bernanke was chairman from 2006 to 2014. He was appointed by George W. Bush and completed his term under President Obama. Alan Greenspan was the prior Chairman. His term was the second longest in the history of the Federal Reserve going from 1987 to 2006, 19 years. He was preceded by Paul Volcker, who served from August 1979 to August 1987. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter and left toward the end of the Reagan administration. Paul Volcker served as Chairman for two terms, from August 6, 1979 to August 11, 1987.

 

These are the most recent people to serve as chairpersons on the Federal Reserve. If we go back to the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963, the Fed Chairman was William M. Martin who had been appointed by Harry S Truman and served from April 2, 1951 to February 1, 1970.

 

The problem, when Kennedy became President, was that the country was in a recession cycle. By using fiscal policy President Kennedy was able to turn that economic phase into a recovery phase of the business cycle. At this time unemployment was slowly increasing and consumption was slowly decreasing. The economy needed an impetus. What the President proposed and Congress passed was a tax decrease. The result was that people had more money which they spent and the amount of Federal taxes collected actually increased. This move fairly quickly took the nation from recession to recovery.

 

Since that time, over fifty years ago, almost every Republican President has tried to follow that fiscal policy. In no case has it worked as announced. Instead from the time of President Ronald Reagan on it has allowed the National Debt to mushroom into the trillions of dollars. And during the last year of President George W. Bush’s presidency this tax reduction process led to the bursting of the Housing Bubble or the Great Recession in 2008. In the process of avoiding a Second Great Depression President Barack Obama was forced into excessive spending. It was the President and the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, who enabled the country to squeak through the 2008 and 2009 Housing Crash or bubble bursting.

 

Currently President Donald J. Trump is proposing a massive tax cut for business and the wealthy. It has been suggested that this could bankrupt the U.S. Government. Whether his decrease in taxes and proposed increase in spending for the military comes about, if it does, then to what extent it will do so is still up for debate. Trump and some members of his Cabinet are claiming they can significantly lower taxes and increase production without adding to the National Debt. It should be an interesting experiment.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been President Kennedy’s Vice-President and succeeded him at his death in 1963, when he was reelected to office in 1965 massively accelerated the war in Viet Nam. He would have America, the strongest nation in existence, force North Viet Nam to accede to the wishes of the United States. And, at the same time, he would not lower the standard of living of any American. The country could both afford to fight a major war and care for its population as though it were still at peace; we would have both guns and butter. His only requirement was a small addition by everyone to their income taxes. This led to the beginnings of an inflationary spiral that would reach fifteen percent by the end of the 1970s. The inflation spiral would be broken by the Fed by taking drastic action in the very early 1980s.

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Paul Volcker was appointed was appointed Federal Reserve Chairman on August 6, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He began a process to end the inflationary spiral by making the borrowing of money so expensive that it would cause the percent of interest to rise to where it would cost too much to borrow. This, in turn, would cause the price of interest to drop toward zero.

 

If the inflation rate rises too high, like to 12 or 15 percent or more the way to reduce it is by raising the prime rate, the interest level the Fed charges banks, to a very high level. This forces the banks to raise their interest level to 20 percent or more. Money becomes too expensive to borrow.

 

Unfortunately many businesses have dormant periods during the year when they have to borrow money in order to meet their expenses. If the interest rate on loans is too high they cannot afford to borrow any money and consequently they go bankrupt. This causes an almost instant recession, with massive layoffs throughout the country. But it will end an inflationary spiral.

 

Early in this process President Jimmy Carter received innumerable complains from people around the country about what was happening to them and their businesses. He asked Volcker to back off and Volcker did so. The high inflation continued throughout President Carter’s term in office.

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Paul Volcker served two four year terms as Chairman of the Fed. He retired from that position on August 11, 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Reagan succeeded Carter in 1981 and remained in office for two terms, until 1988. He allowed Volcker to break the back of the inflationary spiral.

 

Under Reagan the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board led by Volcker were credited with curbing the rate of inflation and the expectations that inflation would continue. The United States rate of inflation peaked at 14.8 in March of 1980 and fell below 3 percent by 1989. The Fed Board raised the federal funds rate that had averaged 11.2 percent in 1979, to a peak of 20 percent in June of 1981. The prime rate also rose to 21.5 percent in 1981. All of this lead to the 1980-1982 recession, in which the unemployment rate rose to over 10 percent.

 

All of this elicited strong political attacks and wide spread protests. There were high interest rates on construction, farming, and the industrial sectors. U.S. Monetary Policy eased in 1982, leading to a resumption of economic growth.

 

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of this necessary readjustment of the economic base of the United States was the fact that President Ronald Reagan made a presentation on television one weekend in 1981 in which he held up the business section of the Sunday Times and stated that there were twenty full pages of job offers in the Times. If a person lost their job then they should go to where there was jobs available. President Reagan did nothing else. He could or should have set up some federal agency that could offer reliable job information. But he did not do so.

 

What followed was that sections of cities became deserted as people filled their cars with their belongings and followed rumors going from place to place looking for work. Mostly there were no jobs. Temporary agencies did a land-office business that year. I remember reading about an instance where a man with a wife and small child, having stopped for a red light, opened the passenger door, and pushed his wife and child out of the vehicle. When the light changed he drove on.

 

Cars moved from city to city that year, following rumors. While there had been some homeless before 1981 they became very visible from that year on; there were so many of them. The problem is still with us.

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What followed from 1981 on was the Fed’s tight money and the expansive fiscal program of the Reagan Administration: large tax cuts, and a major increase in military spending. While the middle class got some tax relief the tax cuts were essentially for the upper echelon of society who had their taxes reduced substantially. While the inflation rate stayed low, which it still is today, President Reagan’s spending produced large Federal budget deficits.

 

This combination of growing deficits and other economic imbalances led to the growing Federal debt and a substantial rise in Federal costs. Under Reagan’s spending the debt would reach over one trillion dollars for the first time.

 

Presumably Paul Volcker was fired or replaced in August 1987 after serving two four year terms in office because the Reagan Administration didn’t believe he was an adequate deregulator. Volcker was replaced on August 11, 1987, by Alan Greenspan.

The Weiner Component #169 – Part 3: The Modern Presidents & the Congress

English: Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon...

The first of the potentially extreme Conservative Candidates to run for the Presidency was Barry Goldwater.  He ran and was massively defeated in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson.  He received 22% of the vote, Johnson got well over 70%.  The extreme Conservatives (reactionaries) were not able to successfully mass their forces and win an election until 1980 with Ronald Reagan.  Both Eisenhower and Nixon tended to be more moderate Republicans.

 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 and died on June 5, 2004.  He served as President of the United States from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989.  This made him seventy years old when he first assumed the presidency and seventy-eight when he retired from that position, after serving two terms.  Up until that point he was the oldest President of the United States.

 

For his first four year term the Senate had a Republican majority and the House of Representatives had more Democrats than Republicans, meaning that the Speaker of the House was a Democrat.  This continued through the first two years of his second term.  During his last two years in office both Houses of Congress had a Democratic majority. 

 

In order to get legislation he wanted Reagan had to be able to compromise with the Democrats; “Take half a loaf.”  Occasionally he would go off on a tantrum and state that unless such-and-such a bill was passed he would not sign any other bills; but mostly he was able to compromise with Democrats.  Once in a while he would get his way.

 

Reagan has been called the Teflon President.  He came across as a nice guy with good intensions, being both an excellent speaker and a likeable person.  His years in the movies from the late 1930s on and the fact that he always played one of the good guys seemed to carry over. 

 

In 1964 Reagan gave a paid speech for Barry Goldwater called: “A Time for Choosing,” that threw him into politics.  He was elected the conservative Governor of California from 1967 through 1975.  Later he unsuccessfully entered the race as a potential Republican Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1976.  He lost both times and was not chosen as the Republican candidate.  In 1980 he did become the Republican choice and won against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter.

 

As the new president in 1981, Reagan instituted new and sweeping changes.  He espoused supply side economic policies which was described as “Reagonomics.”  This advocated tax reduction for the well-to-do, presumably in order to bring about rapid economic growth.  The argument being that if the rich had more surplus income they would then invest that money into new economic growth.  This new money would then trickle down to the ordinary citizens who would hold these new jobs and the government would then collect more taxes by reducing taxes.

 

There was only one problem with this system: it didn’t work.  Reagan himself had been one of the rich individuals benefiting from the new law.  His money had never been invested in new growth and this was true for the entire group that received this benefit; they tended to invest their surplus funds into old investments like the stock market.

 

He also advocated economic deregulation which brought about an increase in pollution and, in addition, he advocated a decrease in government spending; that would be entitlement programs to help the poor since he massively increased military expenditures.

 

Reagan felt that during administrations like that of Jimmy Carter the Soviets had militarily gotten ahead of the U.S. in military preparedness.  He firmly believed that America had to catch up and get ahead of Russia in its military ability.  Consequently we had to seriously upgrade our armaments.  The program was called “Star Wars.”   Apparently Reagan liked movies; some of the weapons he envisioned came out of films; they didn’t exist in real life.  He felt they could be developed as needed.

 

Reagan’s military concepts weren’t true; we were far ahead of the Soviet Union.  The U.S. National Debt went up for the first time to well over a trillion dollars during his watch.  In a sense it was a brilliant strategic move because if we upgraded, even though it was partly on a comic book level, the military was going to utilize weapons that didn’t exist but were going to be created as needed.  Following this happening the Soviet Union to just maintain it world position also had to upgrade its military. 

 

Every country, every economy is limited to the amount of productivity that its citizenry is capable of producing.  It may be a gigantic amount, almost beyond concept, but it is still a finite amount.  Consequently choices have to be made as to what it will produce.  The Soviet Union by trying to keep up with the United States militarily massively deprived its people of what they needed in order to successfully survive and the result was that the Communist State fell economically apart and Russia ceased being a communist dictatorship. 

 

Communism, where it existed, now became a National Movement rather than an international one.  Each of the existing communistic states like China and Cuba now became mixes of socialism and capitalism.  Reagan can claim credit for this; but it was an accident based upon his fears rather than a strategic move.

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Early in his first administration Reagan allowed Paul Volker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, to institute the Draconian measures needed to break the inflationary spiral that had been gradually generated from the time of the Vietnam War.  These measures caused a lot of unemployment and misery throughout the United States.  Interest rates had reached over 12 1/2 percent. To break the cycle of inflation Volker raised them far beyond that.

 

With massive unemployment occurring Reagan went on national television with a copy of the Sunday Employment Section of the New York Times and stated to the American public that he held twenty pages of employment ads.  If anyone had lost their job then they should go to where there was employment.  After the announcement he returned to the Oval Office and forgot about the problem. 

 

From that day on people in old jalopies left home with their families and followed rumors of where there was supposedly employment.  Most of the rumors for employment in other parts of the U.S. were just that, rumors.  By 1982 the FED would reduce interest rates; the GDP would rise to 3.4%; the inflationary spiral was broken but the homeless problem would persist to the present day.

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In 1984 Reagan won a landslide victory for his second term.  His foreign policy was at times strange: He described the Soviet Union as the
Evil Empire.
  In late 1983 Reagan approved having the CIA mine Nicaragua’s main harbor.  This was the harbor of a Socialist country with whom we were at peace.  The object was to keep out civilian cargo vessels and cut off imported weapons, fuel, and other supplies.  The premise being that this would seriously hurt the Sandinista or socialist government of Daniel Ortega.  This, in turn would give a serious boost to the CIA backed rebels or “Freedom Fighters,” as Reagan called them and create and uprising.  The CIA used firecracker mines dropped by small speedboats.  They were noisy but did little damage.  This act created an international uproar which forced Congress to take action.

 

In 1986 the U.S. bombed Libya in retaliation for a 1986 Berlin discotheque terrorist bombing.  There were 40 reported Libyan casualties and one U.S. plane was shot down.  The dead included a baby girl.

 

Reagan illegally authorized the Iran-Contra Affair.  Toward the end of his second term Reagan requested that Congress authorize funds for his “Freedom Fighters” in Nicaragua.  The Democratic Congress would not authorize any money.  Reagan’s people, with his approval, began a secret operation by which arms would be illegally sold to Iran through other countries and the profit would be used for the Nicaraguan rebels.  The operation was right out of the movies, probably a James Bond movie, and the man coordinating everything was Colonel Oliver North, who probably saw himself as the super-patriot.  North avoided prison because he testified before Congress and all of his testimony was exempt from prosecution.

 

It was all totally illegal and Reagan could have been impeached and he and his staff prosecuted and sent to prison.  In his speech when he admitted it to the nation he couldn’t believe that he had acted illegally.  But since his term was almost over and as he had acted, it was believed, for the good of the United States nothing was done.

 

President Reagan initially transitioned the Cold War from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the USSR.  He engaged in talks with Mikhail Gorbachev that culminated in the INF Treaty which shrank both countries nuclear arsenals.   He challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall.  This was done five months after he left office and on December 26, 1991, nearly three years after he left office, the Soviet Union collapsed.  It can be argued that President Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War.

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Reagan was followed by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush as the 41st President of the United States from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993.  He served one four year term as President.  Both Houses of Congress were controlled by the Democratic Party, consequently there wasn’t much cooperation between them and the Republican President.

 

President George H. W. Bush had a lot of experience working in the government: he had been a member in the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971, United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1973, Chair of the Republican National Committee from 1973 to 1974, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975, Director of Central Intelligence from 1965 to 1977, and 43d Vice-President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

 

In domestic policy Bush wanted to lower the National Debt which had grown to well over a trillion dollars under President Reagan.  He felt that this should be done by lowering government spending.  Congress, on the other hand felt it should be done by raising taxes.  Mostly the Democratic Congress won out.  Bush had promised not to raise taxes when he ran for the presidency but he later signed a bill that raised them.  This lowered his popularity significantly among Republicans.

 

President George H.W. Bush spearheaded, along with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  The treaty encourages trade among these countries.

 

In foreign policy the U.S. invaded Panama and placed the popular elected president in charge of the country.  He had won the election but the old government under Manuel Noriega had invalidated it and remained in power.  After an American soldier was killed the U.S. invaded and arrested Noriega.

 

In Iraq the situation was different.  President Bush sent a plenipotentiary or special unassigned diplomat to deal with Saddam Hussein the ruler of Iraq.  The diplomat was a woman, which in the eyes of an Arab ruler meant that the mission was unimportant and also her authority to commit the U.S. to anything was highly limited.  Apparently the two verbally spared for a while. 

 

What Saddam Hussein needed to know was what would the U.S. do if Iraq invaded oil-rich Kuwait?  It would seem that diplomatic meetings never deal directly with the question that needs to be answered.  Saddam Hussein assumed from the meeting that the U.S. would do nothing to stop the invasion. 

 

I suspect that George H.W. Bush assumed he was establishing the concept of equal rights for women.  With his experience he should have known better.  The result of the Kuwait invasion was the Gulf War, which Bush had the sense to end without unseating Hussein.  Saddam Hussein would later attempt to have Bush assassinated for betraying him.  George W. Bush, his son, would later get even with Hussein and turn the Middle East into a cage-less zoo, which it still is.

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In 1992, Bush was succeeded in the presidency by Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who held that office for two terms, until January 20. 2001.  Previously Clinton had been Governor of Arkansas.

 

Bill Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history.  During his first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress and he signed into law The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had been initiated by Republcan President George H.W. Bush.

 

From 1992 until early 1994 the Republicans were able to stop legislation from passing in the Senate by use of the filibuster.  Clinton’s Health Care proposal was never voted upon and other legislation was also stopped in this fashion.

 

In 1994 both Houses of Congress achieved a Republican majority.  Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House and Strom Thurman Majority Leader in the Senate.  The Senate had 47 Democrats and 53 Republicans.  The House had 230 Republicans and 204 Democrats.

 

President Clinton was seen by the Speaker and other Republicans as the enemy.  The Republicans shut down the government twice: from November 14 – 19, 1995 and from December 16 – January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, would resign his speakership and also resign from the House over ethics violation charges.  The potential vote against him was overwhelming by both Republicans and Democrats.

 

The final attack against Clinton ended in Impeachment Charges by the House of Representatives.  An independent council, Ken Starr, was appointed to investigate Clinton’s involvement in an earlier land deal, called “Whitewater.”  Nothing negative or impeachable was found about Clinton’s involvement.  What was discovered was that he was having an illicit relationship with a White House intern.  When questioned by a Grand Jury he gave misleading information.

 

Presumably he lied to the Grand Jury.  The first article of impeachment was approved by a House vote of 228 to 206.  Five Republicans refused to vote for it and five Democrats supported the impeachment.  He was accused of lying to the Grand Jury about the nature of his relationship with the intern.  The second article of impeachment, obstruction of justice passed by a narrower margin: 221 to 212.

 

The trial was held in the Senate, which also had a Republican majority.  The question, of course, was: Are these “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”?  Bill Clinton was found, Not Guilty.

 

The irony attached to this was that Newt Gingrich had earlier resigned both his Speakership and position in the House of Representatives.  He had been replaced by the Louisiana Republican, Robert L. Livingston as the new Speaker.  Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler Magazine offered one million dollars for each unflattering sexual story about Republican members of Congress. 

 

Apparently one million dollars is serious money.  Livingston was a true family man.  He so believed in it that he had two families, one legal and one not so legal.  His second extra-legal wife gave Flynt her story and received the one million dollars.  Robert L. Livingston resigned both his Speakership and his position in the House.  Other Republicans in Congress got very nervous as Flynt’s offer still remained.

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For his last two years in office Clinton had a budget surplus and reduced the National Debt.  He signed a welfare reform act and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that provided health coverage for millions of children.  Clinton left office with the highest public approval rating of any U.S. President since World War II.

 

The man who replaced Bill Clinton as the 43d President of the United States was George W. Bush, the second man elected president who did not receive the majority popular vote by the American people.

 

George Walker Bush was elected president in 2001 after a close and controversial election.  Eight months into his presidency, on September 11, 2001, The Twin Towers in New York City were destroyed in two terrorist suicide attacks.  Bush launched the War on Terror, an international military campaign which included the war in Afghanistan (2001) and the War in Iraq (2003).

 

In addition he promoted policies on health care, education, and social security reform.  While going to war he signed into law broad tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind law, social security reform, the Partial Birth Abortion Act, and Medicare prescription drug coverage benefits for seniors.  During his presidency there were national debates on immigration, social security, electronic surveillance, and torture or enhanced interrogation. 

 

George W. Bush was reelected to office in 2004 in another close election.  During his second term he received criticism for his handling, from both sides of the aisle, of the Iraq War and the Katrina Hurricane. 

 

Presumably the preemptive Iraq War was launched because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  No “weapons of mass destruction” were ever found in Iraq.  In point of fact, Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, had tried to have George H.W. Bush, the president’s father assassinated over Iraq’s Gulf War.  Bush Jr’s attack on Iraq was a punishment for that. A rather expensive punishment!

 

In the case of Hurricane Katrina which devastated much of the Gulf Coast and put much of New Orleans underwater, the man who headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael D. Brown, was a Federal appointment.  He had been rewarded for his participation in the presidential election with that job and was incapable of properly carrying it out.  Bush responded to mounting criticism by accepting full responsibility.  But that was beside the point.

 

In 2006 the Democratic Party regained control of both Houses of Congress.  In December 2007 the United States entered the worst economic downturn since World War II, the so-called Great Recession.  Its causes had been rapidly generated from the Reagan administration on.  The Bush administration obtained Congressional passage of numerous economic programs intended to preserve the country’s financial system.  In 2008 Bush initially bailed out the major banks who through their hunger for profits and the lack of regulation had brought the nation to the brink of financial collapse and themselves to the point of bankruptcy.

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It was at this point that Barack Obama assumed the presidency with the nation facing a disaster far greater than the 1929 Great Depression.  President Obama had been elected on a platform of “Time for a Change.”  Instead he had to make a potentially Great Depression into a Great Recession and allow the country to recover from the state of disaster that the Republicans had created, of which American was in the midst.

 

In his first two years in office he signed the American Recovery and investment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.  He also signed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  In foreign policy he ended U.S. involvement in the Iraq War and increased troop levels in Afghanistan. In January of 2011 President Obama ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden 

 

Up until 2010 the Democrats had control of both Houses of Congress.  In that year the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives.  The Democratic Party lost 63 seats in that House of Congress, giving the Republicans 243 representatives to 193 for the Democrats.  The Republicans had earlier in caucus taken an oath to make Obama a one term president by impeding everything he wanted to do.  For the first two years of his presidency they would delay and make extensive use of the filibuster in the Senate.  After they achieved their majority they would oppose everything he had or would try to do in the House of Representatives.

 

From 2011 on the House of Representatives has not only hampered Presidential actions but have also forced through laws by attaching amendments to necessary legislation that have actually worsened economic conditions brought about by the Great Recession or Housing Debacle of 2008.  They did this by, among other things, increasing unemployment.  Through the Federal Reserve’s use of creative Monetary Policy the President and the Chairman of that organization have brought about a good percentage of recovery.  Had they had Congress’ full cooperation, fiscal policy could have been applied and recovery would have been completely achieved.  Instead the country is still at about 5% unemployment.

 

President Obama was reelected to a second term in 2012.  He has, unsuccessfully in terms of Congress, promoted policies related to gun control, particularly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, among other reforms.  On foreign policy troops were sent back into Iraq to help counter the effects of ISIS and the situation in Afghanistan continues.  In 2015 the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed by the United States and by 192 other countries.  The U.S. was part of a United Nations agreement with Iran not to develop an atomic bomb and relations with Cuba were normalized.  All this, despite the actions of Congress, have given President Obama a highly favorable rating among American presidents and the general public.

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On November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States beginning January 20. 2017.  While the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton had 395,595 more popular votes than Trump, 60,467,245 to 60,071,650.  Trump had 290 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232. 

 

Trump has largely but not completely acted presidential since the election.  He still tweeted stupidly about the spontaneous protests that have occurred across many cities in the United States against him.  He is thin-skinned and over reactive.  But this is not the real crux of his present problems.  On November 28 the first of his Trump University class action suits begins.  Even though it’s a civil suit if Trump loses and is found guilty of fraud, which he is accused of, he could conceivably be impeached.  The judge in the case, who Trump has accused of being prejudiced because of his Hispanic heritage, has recommended that Trump settle the case out of court.  But there are over 7,000 claimants who say they were cheated by Trump’s false claims about Trump University, some of whom paid as much as $35,000 for tuition.  Trump may not be able to afford the cost of settlement.  In addition there are two other class action suits coming up in addition to a $40 million suit from New York State for fraud.  The current case was filed in 2010.  Trump could be impeached during his first year in office for what he did before being elected president.  It should be interesting, if not colorful.

 

 

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

 

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 #146 Part 2 – The Republican Party & the Future

English: Woodrow Wilson.

English: Woodrow Wilson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4 U.S. Presidents. Former President Jimmy Cart...

4 U.S. Presidents. Former President Jimmy Carter (right), walks with, from left, George H.W. Bush (far left), George W. Bush (second from left) and Bill Clinton (center) during the dedication of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 18, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Fra...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Franklinas Delanas Ruzveltas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the effects of the American Civil War was the industrial concentration of large groups of people needed to manufacture the goods required by the military confrontation.  This slowly began the movement which would become, through the rest of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, known as the Rise of the Cities. This Industrial Revolution would increase after the War, people would leave the rural areas and numerous immigrants would come to the ever-growing cities and the United States would become mainly an urban nation.

 

From 1877 on, when the Southern occupation or Reconstruction by a Northern army of occupation ended as a result of a deal made during the disputed Presidential Election of 1876 in which the Republicans got the presidency and Reconstruction ended, with the South becoming freely again a part of the Union.  The Senate barely remained Republican and the House had a Democratic majority.

 

A Republican, James A. Garfield was elected in 1881.  He was assassinated four months into his term and was replaced by his Vice President, Chester A. Arthur, who served out the four years.  The Senate had an equal number of Republicans and Democrats and the House had a Republican majority.

 

There were an equal number of Republican and Democratic presidents after until you get to the reform presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who are both Republicans.  They are followed by the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, and World War I.  He will be succeeded by three Republican Presidents: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.  At that point we have the Great Depression of 1929 which lasts until World War II.  The Congress will generally follow the lead of the reigning president.

 

The next President in 1933, by a landslide, was the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Both the House and Senate maintained a Democratic majority during his terms in office.  He is reputed to have brought unemployment down from 25% to 2%.

 

After his death, during his fourth term, his Vice President, Harry S. Truman, served the rest of his fourth term and an additional one of his own through 1953.  During his last two years in office the Congress had a Republican majority.

 

Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, during his eight years in office, intermittently had both Democratic and Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress.  Democratic Presidents, Kennedy and Johnson had Democratic majorities in Congress.  The same is true of Republicans, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford.  From January 1977 to 1981 President Jimmy Carter had Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress.  Ronald Reagan had Democratic majorities in the House and mostly the same in the Senate.  George H.W. Bush had to work with Democratic majorities during his four years in office while Bill Clinton had them only during his first two years in office.  George W. Bush had both during different times and Barack Obama had a Democratic majority only during his first two years, then a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, and a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress during his last two years in office.

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In the post-Civil War period, as earlier, recessions and depressions came, at the best, every few years or at the worst, almost successively, with occasional major downturns like the Bankers’ Panic of 1907 at the New York Stock Exchange.

 

On December 23, 1913 Congress passed and President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act bringing financial regulation into existence in the United States.  Prior to this time Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which he defined as the motivating force behind the Market System, determined which way the Stock Market would run.  The “invisible hand,” self-interest, individual greed, had historically caused continual large fluctuations in the Stock and other Markets.

 

The mission of the Federal Reserve was through Monetary (money) Policy to maximize employment, keep prices stable, and moderate long term interest rates.  This purpose was extended with bank regulation during FDR’s New Deal.  In the 1980s the Reagan administration canceled the bank regulation.  This, in turn, led to the Real Estate Bubble two decades later.  And because of the banking-caused Real Estate Debacle of 2008 the Federal Reserve’s purpose was again expanded to supervising and regulating banks, maintaining stability of the financial structure, and providing financial services to depository institutions, the United States Government, and foreign official institutions.

 

Of course the banks objected to the 2009 reforms and in the 2014 Federal Government’s Finance Bill, Citibank was able to slip in a section into this 1,600 page law limiting this power.  This was done the night before the bill had to be voted upon.  Naturally the banks object to any regulation that limits them.  I would also suppose that their executives would equally object if any of them were sent to jail for illegal activities instead of having the bank just paying fines as they have been doing since 2009.

 

In the 2012 Presidential Election the Republican Candidate, Mitt Romney, publically stated, more than once, that after he was elected he would do away with the Dodd-Frank Banking Reform Bill that was passed in 2009.  His statements called for a return to the good-old-days before the 2008 Real Estate Crash when the banks and bankers were making inordinate amounts of money and getting phenomenal compensation packages.

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If we look at the economic patterns that occurred during the last hundred and some years what emerges is the fact that the major economic downturns were preceded by Republican Presidents.  The three presidents during the last three major downturns were: Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and George W. Bush.

 

While they were not individually responsible for the depressions it was both the Republican policies and the general ignorance of how the economy works that brought the economic collapses into being.  In 1907, there was no central bank, money, in the shape of gold coins, moved freely according to the needs of the nation.  The Panic of 2007, also known as the Banker’s Panic, more or less, began in October of that year when the New York Stock Market dropped about 50%.  There had been an assault upon the Stock Market that blew up the economy and there was no Central Bank at that time to infuse currency into the National Cash Flow.  A few years later in 1913 this depression brought about the establishment of the Federal Reserve.

 

For 1929s depression, and all the minor recessions up to that time, there was a bland reliance upon the forces of the Marketplace to continually determine what had supposedly been long term prosperity.  In essence the Market forces, the “invisible hand,” self-interest, was the determinate.  After years of pushing stock prices upward the Stock Market was severely overpriced.  This could not go on forever and it collapsed in 1929 dropping to a fraction of what it had been earlier, and in the process bringing the entire economy down.

 

In 1933 the new Democratic President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, doubled the money supply by collecting all the gold coins, melting them down into gold blocks, burying them in depositories like Fort Knox, legally doubling their value, and issuing paper money presumably backed by gold.  It was a fiction that lasted until 1969 when, then President Richard M. Nixon took away the last bit of gold supposedly behind the dollar.

 

This action by Roosevelt, doubling the money supply easily paid for the New Deal but it wasn’t enough to offset the 1929 Depression.  It would have taken four to eight times the money then in circulation to end the economic situation.  Unfortunately the problem wasn’t understood properly at that time and it took a major war from 1939 to 1945 to offset and end the Great Depression.

 

The explosion of the 2008 Real Estate Bubble toward the end of that year also occurred during a Republican presidency.  Here the next President, Barack Obama, applied all the money needed; and what could have been a Greater Depression than that of 1929 became a major recession that should have been resolved in a year or two with applications of both Monetary and Fiscal Policy.  But the Republicans, following their historic philosophy which had caused most of the economic downturns, exacerbated the situation by refusing to pass any Fiscal Policy laws.  Virtually every economic move they made tended to worsen economic conditions.  It took the efforts of the President and the Federal Reserve to keep a depression from happening.

 

If the Republicans had been solely in charge, not only the United States but the entire world would currently be in a Great Depression that would  make 1929 look like a weekend holiday.

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Much has been learned and understood as to how National Economies work from the latter half of the 20th Century on.  Economic changes like recessions and depressions can be lightened or even avoided.  The National Economies are not like wild animals that inevitably rear their heads and bring about indiscriminately varied levels of misery to their populations.  In 2009 a multi-gigantic depression was avoided by actions of the Central Government.  Economic catastrophe or lack of prosperity can be avoided and controlled.  It was in 2009 by President Obama and his administration.

 

Yet none of these practices are or have been accepted by the members of the Republican Party.  They still follow Adam Smith’s late 18th Century work, An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, which in itself was, in part, a reaction against the 16th Century economic practice known as Mercantilism.  Smith defined the Free Market controlling entity as the “invisible hand,” self-interest.    What Smith did not foresee was that the Free Market led to Monopoly and Oligopoly, which led to societal economic decision-making by the few who were still motivated by self-interest.

 

This is the Free Market in which Ronald Reagan and the Republicans believe.  This is what the Reagan and his administration utilized for their newly discovered Supply Side Economics.  Lower taxes, particularly for the upper echelon of society (the rich), and they will automatically invest that new income in new industry, creating new jobs, and new productivity which will supply new goods and jobs for everyone.  And everyone will live happily ever after.  A nice fairy tale!  It never happened.

 

What did happen was that a very large percentage of the people who benefited from the tax cut gave these new savings to financial experts who invested them in old productivity, stocks and bonds.  New startup companies, when they came into existence and had proved their durability, tended to be financed by the large banking houses.

 

The theory was nonsense.  It never worked.  But the 2016 Republican candidates for the presidency are all still adhering to it.  They want to cut taxes for the very rich which currently stops being graduated after their income reaches $400,000, with the percentage the Federal Government receives staying fixed no matter how many millions or billions it goes into.

 

Why is it important for the Republicans to be Supply Siders?  Because these people are their main financial contributors.  They are the ones who pay for their political campaigns.  And the Republicans are very good at combining need (endless contributions) with political philosophy.

 

This is also true with most pharmaceutical companies.  Their products can be purchased at lower prices outside of the United States.  Congress has passed laws fixing their prices in this country and not allowing any government agency to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry.  They are large contributors to political campaigns, particularly Republican political campaigns and Republican Congressmen are utilizing the principle of self-interest.

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Of the two major political parties in the United States the Republicans are the minority party; there are far less of them than there are Democrats.  But they are far more vociferous than the Democrats, never ceasing their loud complaining about the other party.  While the Democrats seem to keep a more or less polite silence.  The Democrats are blamed for everything wrong with the country, particularly those items caused by Republican actions.  The Republicans never take responsibility for any adverse action; they are either ignored or blamed on the Democrats.  Their theories of economics are self-serving and absurd.  And ultimately in percentage of the population they are actually shrinking in number as time moves forward and they become slowly an ever-decreasing minority.

 

They, the Republicans, have been successful politically in the last six years mainly through voter apathy and disgust.  They have done far better in Midterm Elections than in Presidential ones when a good percentage of the citizenry in disgust or disappointment for what has not happened during the last two years don’t bother to vote.  This has been added to by various forms of voter suppression in states the Republicans control.  In essence they have greater political victories when more people stay home on election days.

 

In addition to this in order to gain the support of the evangelicals the Republicans have incorporated the concept of the holiness of life from conception onward into their philosophy.  Statements have been made about passing an amendment to the Constitution giving the fetus full Constitutional rights from conception on.  This will never happen but it gives them a certain credence with the far right evangelicals.

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In the 1973, the Supreme Court found, by a 7 to 2 decision, in the Roe v. Wade case that abortions were legal; that women had a right to make their own decisions about their own bodies.  The evangelicals (religious right) have resisted this decision from the beginning.  At some point the Republicans latched onto this cause and made it their own, gaining the support of this group.

 

To many Republicans today, women are not capable of dealing with their own bodies.  They state and believe there should be no abortions allowed, not even in cases of rape, incest, or where the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life.  It would seem that they have and are trying to endanger women’s lives, both psychologically and physiologically.  In their view women are not capable of making certain decisions concerning their own lives.  It must be done by elderly white men who make up the bulk of the Republican Party.  This is, without question, War on Women,

 

In addition to this the Republicans are an extension of the National Rifle Association.  They tend to be against any laws regulating weapons, ammunition, and magazine size in any way.  No atrocity will deter them from this belief.  A goodly percentage of their blue collar membership, more or less, holds this belief.  To many members of the NRA the fact that this hasn’t happened is proof that it will happen if they allow any changes to occur to the gun laws.

 

It seems, if we consider the group in Oregon which has recently taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, that having weapons, like thousand dollar plus assault rifles, will keep the Government respectful.  Of course the fact that the Federal Government doesn’t want another blood bath is beside the point.  They have been there since January 2, 2016 and the few that have not been arrested and are still remaining there have stated that they will stay until the Federal Government gives the land to the original owners, the local ranchers.  It must be nice to just sit around indefinitely and wait for the Federal Government to give the land to the local ranchers.  Of course following their argument the land really belongs to the local Indians who have inhabited the area for at least the last two thousand years and claim it as their own.

 

It would seem that the Republican battle cry for a large number of its members is God and Guns, or is it Guns and God?  It’s often hard to tell which should come first.  I suppose it depends upon which Republican you ask.

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The American society has needs which have to be handled by necessary legislation.  These societal needs have been avoided by the Republican dominated legislature and in many cases by Republican dominated state law making bodies.  Congress has attempted to deal with these problems by ignoring them, especially since 2011 when the Republicans, by gerrymandering the states where they had a majority in the legislatures, gained control of the House of Representatives.

 

If anything what the House of Representatives has done is to shorten its meeting days until 2016 when they were reduced to 110 days for the year, to a three day week with holidays.  This allows the new Speaker, Paul Ryan, to spend four days a week home with his family: wife and two children, in Wisconsin and three days in Washington, D.C., as Speaker of the House.  A good job, if you can get it!

 

The Republican dominated Senate will meet a bit more often for the year.  Both Houses of Congress are ignoring the needs of the people within the nation and expect to maintain their majorities in both Houses of Congress after the 2016 Presidential Election and get a Republican elected to the presidency.  And they believe they can do this by antagonizing most of the other minorities and the one remaining majority, the women of the United States.

 

Speaker Paul Ryan has stated that after having passed a law doing away with Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) which the President vetoed, they will continue to pass laws embarrassing the President by forcing him to veto them.  They do not have enough votes to override his vetoes.  And in that way they, the Republicans, will show the public what they will get in the way of new laws in 2017 if they elect Republicans in both Congress and the Presidency.  I would imagine that if Donald J. Trump were to become the next President of the United States then all bets are off!

 

So much for Republicans!  They are, after all, the minority party which tends to win elections when only a minority vote in Midterm Elections.  2016 is a Presidential Election.  The majority of the population will be voting in that election.  The probability is that the Republicans, at best, will retain the House of Representatives; and that is because in 2011 they gerrymandered the Districts within the states they controlled.  In this way they choose their own voters instead of having the voters choose them.  Remember in the 2014 Midterm Election well over a million more votes were cast throughout the United States for Democrats in the House, but the Republicans still retained control of that body.

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It should also be noted that large, and, in some cases almost unlimited, contributions give immediate access to legislators and Congress by those making them.  These contributors to elections can and have influenced legislation or the direction the government is going.  The Republicans have integrated into their psyches the desires or needs of most of these individuals or corporations. For example, the Koch brothers of Wichita, Kansas, who are involved with oil, have had their state pass legislation against green energy.  Citibank has written financial regulation which has been inserted into Congressional Bills and become laws.

 

The Republicans are after all the party of business and of the individual.  They believe in everyone having as much freedom as possible.  Their solution to adding jobs is to increase pollution and other unsafe conditions.  No one forces anyone to take a job.  Everyone has choices, even the choice to starve or live in the street.

 

Finally it should be noted that even with voter suppression the Democrats are the majority party.  States like Texas have been able to limit rural voters by two or three hundred thousand by making it very difficult and expensive for these people living in rural areas, mostly, if not all, Democrats, to get proper identification and/or register to vote.  This was proven in the last Midterm Election of 2014.  But even so, the probability is that the Democrats will gain back the Senate and keep the presidency.  The probability is that the House is the one body the Republicans may still be able to control.  If my prediction is correct we will have total gridlock in the Congress for an additional four years.  It’s a depressing thought!

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #35 – Plodding Along: The Iraqui War

George W. Bush

We seem to plod along through many of our crises, somehow working our way through the particular problem.  We get involved in wars without ever really understanding what we’re doing, being anthropomorphic about how our friends or enemies function, essentially blindly moving forward, too simple to realize that other people think and function differently from ourselves.  In essence we see the world and everything in it from our own prospective and values.  If anything, we are absurdly naïve, innocents trying to guide the world. 

George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was a prime example of this.  A cruel and evil dictator, Sodom Hussein, who, in their opinion, totally oppressed his people and was hated by them, ruled Iraq, in the opinion of Bush and his major advisors, Dick Cheney and Donald Runsfield.  In addition he had threatened George W’s “daddy.”  .  Also, presumably, Iraq had and was producing weapons of mass destruction to use in the future.  If we invaded the country and freed its people they would be grateful to us and we could set up a democracy similar to the one in the United States.  We would also be getting rid of a potential danger to the Middle East and the rest of the world.  It would be a win, win situation, which couldn’t fail.  A war of liberation!  Using the 9/11/01 situation as an excuse the United States, for the first time in its history, began a preemptive attack on a country looking for “weapons of mass destruction” that did not exist. 

Our intelligence was falsified or non-existent.  It took a while to discover this fact.  Under George W. Bush we used enhanced interrogation, a euphemism for torture.  The United States had only used torture once before, shortly after the Spanish American War while we were subduing the Philippines, so that they could enjoy our enlightened rule. In both cases water boarding was used.  It had been more extreme in the Philippines than what was used on the Iraqis because in the early 1900s the military technique was to fill the lungs of the victim with water, drowning them and then pumps it out.  No doubt some died horribly in the process.  With the Iraqis the interrogators used the water to stop them from breathing but left the lungs alone.  Obviously a milder form of the torture!

George W. Bush, in his speech announcing the invasion of Iraq, stated that he had made the decision after conferring with his “higher father,” God.  He never communicated how God had contacted him. 

The amount of corruption that went along with that war was massive; billions were lost.  The dishonesty was not just among the Iraqis it also came from the Americans.  Halliburton, an American corporation, whose ex CEO was the Vice President of the United States, acted as though the U.S. Government was Father Christmas with endless amounts of money that could be billed.  They charged one hundred dollars for a hammer and similar amounts for other tools.  They fed thousands of troops at a time at the rate of twenty dollars per man.  And they used their imaginations in finding other things to bill the government.  There was an investigation, which for a while looked like it would end up with indictments.  Then somehow the investigation fizzled out and ceased.  Apparently it really paid to have the Vice President as your former CEO, especially since he was getting a substantial retirement package.

Perhaps the most disgusting dishonesty came from a number of American manufacturers who sold the government faulty equipment that ended up costing lives.  Various bulletproof apparatuses were sold to the government and used in combat that did not work causing innumerable deaths, bulletproof clothing in particular.  The manufacturers were sorry; but I don’t remember hearing of any instance where they returned the money for the faulty items they sold to the government.  Here we had profit over lives!

To me the most frightening and bizarre element in all of this was that the death of our soldiers and of the Iraqis was an abstraction to our leaders.  Bush served safely in the National Guard, Cheney and Rumsfeld never served in the military.  These people and their families were safe; they never were even near combat situations.  Yet these were the people who sent thousands of American troops in harms way to be maimed and killed, and never really felt the reality of what they did.  They never accepted responsibility for their actions or decisions.  They saw death as an abstraction, which never really affected them

After ten years, five thousand American casualties, and well over a hundred thousand Iraqi casualties we had created a government that was democratic in name only, rife with corruption and not much different from the government that had existed before the invasion.  In fact the day after President Obama removed the last of the American troops from the country the President of Iraq had the vice president, who belonged to a different Muslim sect arrested. 

Two presidencies prior, George W. Bush’s father George H.W. Bush had gotten the United States in a war with Iraq through sloppy diplomacy where he gave Sodom the impression the U.S. would take no action if Iraq invaded Kuwait.  That error caused the U.S. to go to war with Iraq.   Dwight David Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, set up a situation in 1954 when a solution had been worked out by a European Conference solving the Viet Nam problem which two years later brought about that war that lasted until 1975 and was resolved the same way it would have been in 1956. 

All these wars were examples of the United States plodding blindly through situations that should have been handled differently.  We elect presidents and assume they are component; then we are stuck with their decisions

 

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