The Weiner Component V.2 #28 – The Pattern of U.S. History & the Evolving Purpose of Government: Part 1

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 178...

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781. This was the format for the United States government until the Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The order in which the original 13 states rati...

The order in which the original 13 states ratified the constitution, then the order in which the others were admitted to the union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The issue here is to discern the pattern(s) of U.S. history and ascertain   the purpose of the Federal and State Governments?  For what are they or should they be responsible.  And how has this changed over the years?

 

Historically during America’s Colonial Period people came for religious freedom which they did not generally extend to those with different beliefs once they were established in their own colony or they came for economic opportunities in order to exist in a non-fixed society where they could achieve goals not possible in Europe.  Here one could gain ownership of land and possibly prosper.  Many also were brought as indentured servants or as slaves.

 

It was to most of these people a New World with new opportunities that did not exist in the Old World, Europe.  The Colonial Governments provided the opportunities and if the settlers could properly utilize them they could make a new life for themselves and for their families.

 

In time, going from the 16th Century to the late 18th Century the settlements and society became more complicated.  On the East coast, in the Americas, Great Britain had gained control of most of the colonies.  By the last quarter of the 18th Century the British Colonies below Canada and above Florida no longer wanted to be ruled as dependent colonies, totally relying upon the mother country.  The immediate problem was taxes decreed by King George III and his Parliament.  This protest brought about the Revolutionary War.

 

When it became clear to England, after the Battle at Yorktown in Virginia on October 19, 1781, that it was too expensive in both gold and men to occupy the American Colonies with an army perennially the British gave the 13 Colonies their independence.  It was cheaper and more practical to simply trade with them.  What was to develop from that was the United States of America.

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The overall purpose of the new state governments, under the Articles of Confederation, was to allow their populations to develop as best they could with the governments essentially providing safety from foreign invasions and keeping order within the individual states.

 

Each state was virtually an independent nation with essentially a largely powerless Congress made up of representatives from all the different governments.  They each could print or mint their own money.  They agreed to cooperate but essentially kept their own sovereignty.  The members of the unified Congress had to go back to their individual state legislatures for decisions over major bills.  And all bills required unanimous approval in order to come into being.  There was no executive office; Congress also had this function. This period lasted from the end of the Revolutionary War until 1788, when the Constitution was ratified and a new government established.

 

What brought the Constitution into being was mainly Shay’s Rebellion, which lasted from 1786 through 1787.  The coastal mercantile class that controlled the government in the State of Massachusetts, in order to raise money, passed a tax to be paid by the small inland farmers who were not represented in the State Legislature and tended to be short of cash.  The tax was vigorously collected, causing tax collectors to seize and auction off land in payment of debts.  During this period many people argued that since the large plantation owners in the Southern states had refused to pay their debts to English merchants, that they had amassed before the Revolutionary War they, the small farmers, could do the same thing to the state of Massachusetts.  This tended to raise fears among the property owning class throughout the new country and brought about for many an awareness of a need for a strong central government that could enforce its will.  It brought about the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 which was chaired by George Washington.

 

In 12 of the 13 states a new government came into existence in 1789 with the election of George Washington as its first President.  In Massachusetts a year earlier the state government was reformed.  Shay’s Rebellion had been one of the major motivating forces for the formation of the Constitution.  Henceforth life, liberty, and the protection of property became the creed of the new government.

 

The Constitution came into effect after 9 states approved it.  12 of the 13 states actually voted for it.  Rhode Island did not send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention and did not approve it.  It held a number of conventions within the state and did not approve the new government in any of them.  Finally in 1790 the Congress of the New United States voted to exclude Rhode Island in the near future from any participation with the other 12 states, thus totally isolating them.  On May 18, 1790, before this bill could come into effect, Rhode Island approved the Constitution and joined the Union.

 

The new government that came into being under the Constitution was run by both the educated and mercantile class.  These people formed the Federalist Party.  They were the elite.  In this government only male property owners could vote.  This group constituted the first political party.  While they ran the country for everyone’s benefit they favored their own class.  The function of government was the same as it had been under the Articles of Confederation.

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In 1800 a new political party was formed under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Republican Party.  Jefferson favored the yeoman/small family farmer.  During a dramatic election with all sorts of denouncement from both sides the Democratic Party won; Jefferson was elected President.  It was still government by the elite; but mainly for the benefit of the small farmer.

 

In point of fact Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon and France.  The sale was technically illegal because the French had promised Spain, the original owner that they would not sell the territory; but there was nothing Spain could do about it since at that time she was ruled by one of Napoleon’s Marshalls and had been conquered by France.

 

To Jefferson the Louisiana Territory extended the new United States’ land area so that there would be land for yeoman farmers, in President Jefferson’s opinion, for the next hundred years.

 

After the War of 1812 the Federalist Party disappeared.  It backed the wrong side in that war, England.  It would not really appear again until 1860 under the new name of the Republican Party.

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With the election of Andrew Jackson to the Presidency from 1828 to 1837 Democracy was spelt with a small d.  By then practically all males voted.  Land was cheap and practically all males owned some.  The vote was essentially universal for males.  In addition the Union had grown from the original 12 to 24 states.  And the Democratic Party had split into Jacksonian Democrats and Non-Jacksonian Democrats.

 

With Jackson the concept of rule by the elite disappeared.  President Jackson was considered by the population as one of their own.  He was the common man elevated to the Presidency and his government extended that concept with what was called the “spoils system,” whereby anyone could hold any government job.  It was now, to pre-quote Lincoln, “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  Its overall purpose remained the same as it had been before: the government provided what was necessary in the country to exist, the people had the opportunity to make use of what the government provided.

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With the earlier invention and dissemination of the Cotton Gin slavery, which had been dying out, became the means for the Southern states to raise cotton.  Cotton became the chief export of the large Southern planters.  It fostered the new Industrial Revolution and made slavery again important in the Southern States.  Spinning thread and weaving inexpensive cloth became the first major industry of the new Industrial Revolution.

 

At first England controlled this new industry; then it spread to the rest of Europe and the Northern parts of the United States.  The new Industrial Revolution was begun by an industry based initially upon slavery in the Southern United States.  To them Cotton was King.  It reestablished slavery as an economic system.

 

Gradually the Non-Jacksonian Democrats became a myriad of political parties.  The largest pro-business party was the Whigs.  Another was the Abolitionists which consisted of those who were against slavery.  There were innumerable others; some lasted a short period of time and disappeared, others persisted.  By 1860 the Whig, the abolitionists, and innumerable other smaller parties coalesced into the Republican Party and because the Democratic Party split into two political parts, the Northern and Southern Democrats, the new Republican Party won the Presidential Election with 40% of the vote and Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President of the United States.

 

Lincoln’s name was not on the ballot in any Southern state.  The election consisted of two separate elections; one in the Northern and Western States and one in the Southern States.

 

This began the Civil War and the one question that had never been settled when the nation was first established under the Constitution was resolved by the outcome of the war: Who was more powerful the States or the Central Government?  In addition slavery was ended.

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After the Civil War America went rapidly through the Industrial Revolution.  The railroads covered the nation, industry rose rapidly, there was the very rapid rise of new cities and the phenomenal growth of the old ones.  The country underwent rapid change with the growth of monopolies and oligopolies.  Actually practically every industry by the end of the 19th Century had become a monopoly with one of its lawyers having a seat in the U.S. Senate.  Just about all the state legislatures were prone to bribery.  Rockefeller’s Standard oil not only had a reputation of refining oil it also refined state legislatures.

 

Initially the state legislatures elected the members of the Senate; they were to serve the needs of the individual states.  The 17th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1913.  It caused the members of the Senate to be elected by the direct vote of the people of the respective states.

 

It was during this period that the nation changed from a rural country with cities to an urban one with rural areas that produced the necessary food for the population.  The changes were so rapid that the support systems and support laws had to be developed with and after the changes.  Proper water for the people of the cities, evacuation of sewerage, building regulations, proper ventilation, a sane workday in the factories, rules for the employment of women and children, and so on.  All this and more had to be understood and laws had to be passed regulating these conditions.  All this would take an infinite amount of time to be done.  And all this would initially condone an infinite amount of corruption and bribery.

 

Initially the Populist Party came into existence to support the agrarian class.  Among other things the railroads were charging the farmers different rates to transport their crops.  The rule was to charge what the traffic would bare.  In most cases the trains were the only way to get the crops to market.

 

From 1892 to 1896 the Populist (People’s) Party, a U.S. agrarian political party came into existence.  It was hostile to cities, banks, railroads, and banks.  It contained the poor white cotton farmers of the South and the wheat farmers in the Plain States.  In 1896 it supported the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan.  The Republican candidate William McKinley won that election.  The Populists became part of the Democratic Party after that election.

 

The major change at the beginning of the 20th Century was the Progressive Movement.  Some of its leaders were Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, both Republicans and Democrats.  Robert M. La Follett, Charles Evans Hughes, William Jennings Bryant, and Al Smith were also some of the reformers.  Efforts were made to reform local government, public education, industry, etc.  It was a local, state, and national movement.  It brought about financial reform with the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and women’s suffrage in 1919 with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Presidential Election of 1920 that made the Republican, Warren G. Harding President of the United States, was the first time all the women in the country voted in a national election.

 

The Progressive Movement targeted political machines and their bosses.  They sought regulation of monopolies and corporations through antitrust laws.  They were essentially an urban movement which largely and successfully brought the country into the Twentieth Century.

The reform stopped when the United States entered World War I.  After the war with the refusal of the U.S. to sign the Versailles Treaty and join the League of Nations the country entered into a corrupt Republican period that in 1929 ended with the Great Depression.

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In the early part of the 20th Century lawyers like Louis Brandeis, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, began using sociological facts as evidence.  This was a first, expanding the concept of what presented   proof.  The function of the government was still to provide a safe base for its people in which to live; they were still responsible for themselves and their families.  Basically, where the individual or family couldn’t handle the situation it was up to the local religious organization and/or neighbors to help the situation and provide aid.  This had worked up to now.

 

With the Great Depression, which was a world disaster, a good percentage of the population could no longer provide for their basic needs.  This was far beyond what local charitable organizations could handle.  In general all the neighbors were in the same deplorable situation.  Overnight the country changed, jobs disappeared and a fair percentage of the population could not handle the economic situation, but the Republic Government under President Herbert Hoover with the multi-millionaire, Andrew Mellon as his Secretary of the Treasury, could not adjust to the crisis.  There had been depressions and recessions in the past and in all cases the economy had eventually adjusted itself and come out of crisis after a period of time.  They expected that to also happen here.  Consequently they kept talking about prosperity being around the corner.  After three years the depression just got deeper and it was time to elect a new President.  The Candidates were Hoover for the Republicans and Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Democrats.

 

In addition, shortly before the election, the veterans from World War I, who had been promised a bonus in the future, organized a Bonus March and came to Washington, D.C., requesting that Congress give them their promised bonus then.  They set up a camp just outside the city.  Congress refused to vote the bonus and President Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to clear the veterans out of the flats.  In the process of doing this several were killed.

 

When the election came the Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt won by an overwhelming majority, 57.4 percent of the vote.  It was with this administration that the United States expanded the purpose of government, adding the maxim that it was responsible for the welfare of the people who could not care for themselves.

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What we’ve seen from the Colonial Period on was that the overall purpose of government was to provide a safe place for the citizen to get on with his life.  When the citizen ran into situations beyond his ability beyond his ability to deal with then the community and the religious organization would help him.  The government provided safety and security from foreign invasion and presumably a safe place to live.

The Weiner Component #173 – A Short History of Political Parties

The Republican Party came into existence with the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in 1860.  It was a combination of different political groups that didn’t agree with the Democratic Party, which was the major political party that existed throughout the entire United States. The other political parties were all reginal.  It should be noted that in this election the Republicans were not on the ballet of any one Southern state.  The election in the Southern States dealt only with the Northern and Southern Democratic Parties.

 

With the exception of the issue of slavery the Republican Party supported business and its growth.  In fact largely so did that of the Democrats with a slight emphasis on agriculture.  This period was the era of business growth in the country.  The Industrial Revolution had begun in Great Britain at the turn of the 19th Century; it spread to Europe by the 1830s; and thereafter moved to the United States where it began slowly speeding-up during the Civil War and then growing even more rapidly in the post war period.

 

Politically the Republicans would stay in power for most of the balance of the 19th Century.  With the death of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, the Vice-President, would become President.  He was a former Southerner and Democrat who had been elected during Lincoln’s second term when the Republicans had run under the National Union Ticket.  During his presidency the Congress was almost totally Radical Republican and did what they wanted even to the point of unsuccessfully impeaching Johnson.

 

Johnson served out his term, 1865-1869, and was followed by the Republican Union General, Ulysses S. Grant who served two terms, from March 4, 1869 – March 4 1877.  In 1876 the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes stole the Presidential Election from the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden.  Tilden won the popular vote but there were two sets of electoral votes from several states and the Republicans were the ones who prevailed.

 

In 1880 the Republican James A. Garfield was elected President.  He served 200 days in that office and was shot by a dissatisfied office seeker.  His Vice- President, Chester A. Arthur, then became President.  In 1884 the Democrat Grover Cleveland won and four years later in 1888 he lost to the Republican, Benjamin Harrison.  In that election Cleveland won the popular vote but Harrison won the Electoral College vote.  But in 1892 the Democrat Grover Cleveland won his second term.  In 1896 the Republican William McKinley was elected to the presidency. 

 

It was during this post-Civil-War period that the United States began turning into an industrial giant.  And it was during this time that the country underwent the rise of a new class, the plutocrats.  These were essentially the “robber barons” who owned most of the new industries that arose.  They had largely bribed their way through the State and Federal legislatures.  It was a time of intense corruption in all levels of government.  Shortly after this period that the people would get the right to directly elect senators through their votes and the Progressive Movement would take off in an attempt to return the country to its people.

 

As we’ve seen the Republicans, more or less, stayed in power during this time.  But the nation was going through intense growing pains.  It didn’t matter which political party was in charge the country was changing on almost a daily basis and it was impossible to keep up with everything that was going on.  These Presidents did their best; but, I suspect, no one totally understood or could have done what was really necessary with the speed of change.  In many respects the corrupt political machines, both Democratic and Republican, that existed then in the cities served the poor in return for their votes.  There were no government or other services.

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In 1900 the Republican William McKinley was elected to a second term.  His new Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt, was put into that position to get him out of New York.  Jokingly it was stated that “Teddy,” the former governor of New York, “had taken the veil;” he could no longer bother anyone in government.  At that time the most nonfunctional job in Washington was that of Vice-President.  In the musical satire “Of Thee I Sing,” there is a scene with the Vice-President taking a tour of the White House so he could see what it looked like since he’d never been their otherwise.

 

On September 6, 1901, less than a year after he had begun his second term, William McKinley was shot by an anarchist.  Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.  To the Republican leadership it was “that damn cowboy in the White House.”

 

From the 1890s on until shortly after America’s entrance into World War I the United States went through the Progressive Movement.  It was a time of reform on all levels of society.  Its goals were to eliminate city political machines and their bosses, to bring direct democracy to the people, and to regulate monopolies and corporations through anti-trust laws.  Theodore Roosevelt became known to his admiring public as the Trust-Busting President.

 

The Progressive Movement brought about prohibition, women suffrage, the direct election of senators, and the Federal Reserve Act.  The three presidents who were directly involved with this movement were the Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. 

 

Roosevelt was President from 1901 to 1908; then he choose Taft to replace him from 1909 to 1912.  In 1912 Roosevelt dissatisfied with Taft decided to run again for the office.  The Republican Party supported Taft.  Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate in the Bull Moose Party.  In this Presidential Contest Roosevelt came in second, Taft was third, and the winner with a little over 40% of the vote was the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

 

The Progressive Movement, with these three presidents, ended shortly after the Great War (World War I), with woman suffrage and prohibition, the 18th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution in 1919.

 

At the end of the war the Senate had a Republican majority which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.  The Republican, Warren Harding, was elected President in 1920.  He signed a separate peace treaty with Germany.  The following two administrations that of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were also Republican.  The Secretary of the Treasury for all three administrations was Andrew Mellon, the millionaire industrialist and banker.

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In 1776, Adam Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh published a book based upon his lectures entitled, “An Enquiry of the Wealth of nations,” that defined the functions of capitalism.  The work and its theories are still the basis of modern capitalism.  The study was a vigorous attack upon an earlier economic system called mercantilism which defines national wealth as gold and the amount of gold a nation possessed as its wealth.  Smith defined national wealth as the amount of goods and services a nation produced in a set amount of time, a fiscal year.  The motivating force that caused the economy to work was, according to Smith, the invisible hand, the profit motive.

 

The Republicans not only accepted this idea they have been utilizing it ever since.  The only problem is that the unregulated profit motive has continually led to economic disaster.

 

From 1920 to 1929, under three Republican presidents, allowing the market system, the profit motive, to freely function, brought about the country’s collapse into the Great Depression.  Hoover and his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, the multi-millionaire industrialist and banker, didn’t know what to do.  For over three years of economic decline they kept talking about “prosperity being around the corner.”  They expected the Market to balance itself and prosperity to return.  It didn’t happen.  Conditions went from bad to worse and continued to stay there.  The industrial world foundered in misery.  Some countries like Italy, Germany, and Japan ended up in dictatorships.

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As in had happened in the 1920s, under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the Federal Government did away with all banking regulations.  The Free Market would determine which way the economy would go.  The motivating force for the Free Market was Adam Smith’s “invisible hand;” this was the profit motive.  In 2008 the Housing Market crashed and the major banking houses were on the point of bankruptcy after about 30 years of constant growth.

 

In the 1920s the Stock Market became crazier and crazier.  On Black Tuesday, October 23, 1929 the Stock Market, after a decade of intense growth, collapsed. 

 

The collapse continued.  By 1932 the Gross National Product had dropped 15%, unemployment was down 25%, and farm prices were down 80%.  In many cases it cost the farmer more to raise the crop than the amount for which it could be sold.  The Hoover administration and the Secretary of the Treasury’s constant response was that prosperity was just around the corner.  Hoover did make some attempts to deal with the situation but they were totally inadequate.  Neither he nor Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury, were capable of dealing with this situation, the country and its people floundered.

 

What happened, happened on a world basis.  All the industrial nations were affected by the Great Depression.  It was far worse outside of the United States.  In some countries unemployment was far lower than 25% and the level of misery was far greater than in the United States.

 

The various governments, including that of the United States, put high tariff walls around themselves in order to protect what jobs still existed.  This, in turn, made many prices far higher than they should have been.  Living standards hit an all-time low, with many people dying of malnutrition.  People wandered over the country looking for work.  We had the age of the hobo.  Many, and that included those in the government, did not understand what was happening.

 

In 1932, four years after the Great Depression began, the former Democratic governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), ran for the Presidency of the United States.  The Republicans ran Hoover for a second term.

 

 During this period many of the veterans of the First World War descended upon Washington, D.C.  They had been promised a bonus in the future for serving in the war.  This was the Bonus March.  They demanded it at that time.  The veterans set up a massive camp at the outskirts of the city.  The Federal Government felt it was in no position to pay the bonus early.  President Hoover ordered the commanding general, Douglas MacArthur, to break up the camp but to not harm any of the veterans.  Two men were killed.  This move absolutely destroyed most Republican support that may have still existed in the country.  Roosevelt was overwhelmingly elected President of the United States. He received 57% of the popular vote and carried all but six of the forty-eight states.

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As President Roosevelt offered the country a New Deal.  The term came from poker.  His program consisted of the 3Rs: Relief, Recovery, & Reform.  Relief for the unemployed and the poor, Recovery of the economy to normal levels, and Reform of the financial system to prevent future depressions. 

 

Money at that time was gold and silver.  The Federal Government would pay for this by collecting all the gold coins in circulation, melting them down into bricks of golds, storing the gold in depositories like Fort Knox, and then issuing paper money.  In 1932 a gold coin that weighed an ounce was a twenty dollar gold piece.  The Federal Government bought all the gold mined in the United States at $16 an ounce.  In 1933, after the gold was collected and replaced with paper money its value was legally increased to $32 an ounce.  The Roosevelt administration doubled the money supply.  This would pay for the New Deal.

 

They issued paper money, called Federal Reserve Notes which were then theoretically backed by the gold bricks stored in the government depositories.  No one ever checked to see that the amount of Federal Reserve Notes (paper money) matched the amount of gold in the underground depositories.  The Federal Government could print and issue money as needed, which it did during the New Deal and later during World War II.  In essence the country went off the gold standard in 1933.

 

FDR changed the function of government.  Up to that point, historically, it had run the nation and the people were responsible for themselves.  From 1933 on the Federal Government officially assumed responsibility for the people where they could no longer care for themselves.  Actually the change had been begun during the Progressive Movement, but it was under FDR made into official government policy. 

 

In addition the Federal Government passed laws to regulate industry.  The basic concept was to have a level paying-field for all participants.  It also encouraged unionization of labor.

 

These, in essence, became the major issues between the Democratic and Republican Parties with the Republicans slowly giving in to the Democrats.  After the death of Roosevelt President Harry S. Truman would continue this policy with his Fair Deal.  The next President Dwight David Eisenhower would be a middle-of-the-road Republican building, among other things, a national highway system.

 

Eisenhower was followed by the Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who would serve as President from January 1961 to November 22, 1963 when he was assassinated.  Kennedy was succeeded by his Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson who was elected in his own right in 1964.  These two presidents were responsible for bringing the Federal Government into the Civil Rights Movement, which, in turn, legally enabled Blacks to vote throughout the South and integrated society making all the nation’s citizens equal.  It also turned the South into Republican voting states.

 

Johnson was followed by, Richard M. Nixon, who was also a moderate Republican.  During the middle of his second term he was forced to resign over the Watergate Scandal and was replaced by his Vice-President Gerald Ford.  Ford officially ended the Viet Nam War.  He was replaced by the Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

 

After one term Carter was succeeded in 1981 by the Republican, Ronald Reagan, who would serve for two terms and leave a definite imprint on American politics.  President Reagan implemented sweeping political and economic changes, bringing supply side economics (Reagonomics), lowering taxes in order to spur growth while actually increasing government spending.  He brought about government deregulation of industry and banking and reduced government spending in social programs for the poor and needy.  He massively increased military spending, starting an arms race with the Soviet Union and raised the deficit to over one trillion dollars for the first time.

 

Reagan brought into government the conservative Republican prospective that had first been demonstrated when ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.  Reagan’s supply side economics was a large tax cut for the wealthy and small tax cuts for everyone else.  The theory being that the rich would invest the new monies into new economic expansion and all sorts of new jobs would be created.  Thus the monies would trickle down to all parts of society.  It never happened. The money was actually invested in old productivity, like the stock market, and produced no new employment.  However to Republicans this was the Conservative Revolution. 

 

Reagan’s military spending brought the National deficit up to over a trillion dollars for the first time.  It also began an arms race with the Soviet Union that would bankrupt them.

 

Reagan was followed by his Vice-President, George H. W. Bush, who had to deal with a Democratic Congress, and ended fighting an unnecessary war against Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, which more than doubled the national deficit.

 

Bush, after one term, was followed by the Democratic President Bill Clinton, who served two terms, from 1993-2001.  Clinton as President reversed or ignored the Reagan economic changes.  During his third year in office, 1994, the House of Representatives acquired for the first time in 40 years a Republican majority.  From 1998 to 2000, the last three years of the Clinton presidency the United States government had a budget surplus and was able to reduce the deficit.

 

Clinton was followed into office by the Republican George W. Bush, who won the electoral vote but not the popular vote.  Like Clinton he served two terms.  He was initially elected in a controversial election, receiving less votes than the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.

 

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City occurred eight months in his first term as President.  George W. Bush’s response to this was to declare War on Terror and send a military force to Afghanistan in 2001 to take control away from the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda.  He was successful in doing this but he was not successful in setting up a Democratic government that could maintain control of the country.  After 15 years in Afghanistan we are still there.  Bush also later decided, for personal reasons, to set up a Democracy in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, had tried to have his father assassinated.  We are also still in Iraq.  

 

Following Republican policy Bush lowered taxes for the well-to-do and somewhat for the middle class while he massively fought two wars and destabilized the Middle East.  Under Bush the National Debt rose from six trillion dollars to ten trillion dollars.

 

During his presidency he signed into law the Patriot Act, a Partial Abortion Ban Act, and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits for seniors.  In 2008, his last year as President, the Housing Market crashed and Bush and his Treasury Secretary loaned billions to some banking houses to keep them from going bankrupt. 

 

His presidency has been ranked among the worst by historians in the entire history of the United States.

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In the Election of 2008 the Democrats took both the presidency and both Houses of Congress.  In 2008 the country was on the brink of a Depression that would have made the Great Depression of 1929, which lasted for a little over a decade, look like a weekend affair in comparison.  The new President, Barack Obama, through massive government spending was able to turn it into what has been called The Great Recession.  And, as of early December 2016, unemployment fell to the level it had been at prior to 2007, 4 ½%.

 

During his first two years in office President Obama with the cooperation of a Democratic controlled Congress was able to avoid a massive depression.  He also passed the Affordable Health Care Bill.  From 2011 on he had to deal with a Republican dominated House of Representatives and thereafter was able to gradually continue his economic reform through the use of creative Monetary Policy with the Federal Reserve.  The House forced through some legislation which actually exacerbated what then became called The Great Recession.

 

Barack Obama has been President for two terms.  He will end his tenure on January 20, 2017, when Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.  What the new President-Elect will or will not do is unknown, outside of the fact that he is erratic in his behavior.  His current appointments to his staff and cabinet would indicate that he is moving far to the right.  The appointments indicate also that he is doing the opposite of what he initially proposed, bringing Wall Street and the military into his Cabinet. 

 

As of January 20th the three main parts of the Federal Government will all be Republican dominated, the Presidency and both Houses of Congress.  The Republicans in Congress have been talking about doing away with Obamacare (Affordable Health Care) but if they do that 20 million people would lose their health coverage and numerous millions more would have their young adult children removed from their policies.  In addition those individuals with a prior condition, who the insurance companies were forced to accept, would be dropped from their insurance policies.  The effect of these changes would no doubt cause the Republicans to lose control of both Houses of Congress in 2018. 

 

As I understand the current issue the Republican dominated Congress will do away with Obamacare immediately but the plan will not go into action for three years, not until after the next Congressional Election in 2018.  The Republicans in Congress feel that they can come up with a better replacement over that period of time.

 

Unfortunately the current universal medical plan is an expanded Republican Plan that was developed by a Republican Think-Tank and was first successfully used in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor.  The only alternate plan, which would successfully lower costs, would be a single payer plan run by the government covering everybody in the United States.  In fact it could be successfully financed by an increase in income taxes and no premiums being paid by anyone.    This plan would be unacceptable to the Republicans.  The only basic one that they could in principle support would be Affordable Health Care, which was the Republican plan.  They have opposed it for the last seven years.  2019 should be an interesting year. 

 

And also there is what Donald Trump has promised and will do or try to do.  It is interesting to note that the current Republican dominated Congress does not really trust Donald Trump.  They have only partially funded the Federal Government for a second time this year.  It will have to be funded again in four months during Trump’s presidency.  This action can be used to force him to cooperate with them.

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What should emerge from this article is that the political parties were close together around the 19th Century.  The Democrats emphasized the rural or agricultural areas and the Republicans the urban or business cities.  Other than that the two parties tended to, more or less, cooperate.  The Progressive or Reform Movements that came about from the 1880s to 1920 was a function of men from both political parties.

 

From 1921 on, with the assentation of President Warren Harding we have the modern Republican Party.  Presumably because of scandal Harding died in office and was replaced by his Vice-President, Calvin Coolidge, who was then reelected to serve another term.  It was under these two men that modern Republican principles were developed and continued under the next President, Herbert Hoover.  The forms of government regulation that had been brought about by the Progressive Movement were done away with.  The Free Market was allowed to function unhindered.  This brought about the Great Depression of 1929.

 

Four years later, in 1933, the Democrat FDR became President.  He brought about the New Deal, experimenting with all forms of socialism to put the country back on its feet.  He kept was worked and discarded what didn’t.

 

FDR changed the function of government, making it responsible for the welfare of its people.  This was a new concept excepted in the 20th Century by virtually all the industrial nations.  This concept was actually carried on by both political parties in the United States until the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Will it continue?  There are many who feel strong doubts.  We are at an interesting or frightening point in our history.

 

Trump’s election seems to indicate a return to the policies of the 1920s.  Could we be facing the possibility of a return to the Depression of 1929 or to the Housing Debacle of 2008, to the potential of a far greater depression than that of 1929?  It is a distinct possibility considering Republican control of the Presidency and the Congress.  And, of course, there are Trump’s attitudes and his appointment to important government jobs.  Republicans seem to have a short historic memory!

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 #123 – Part 1: A History of Iran and the Middle East

Long before Jesus Christ was born, Persia (Iran) had conquered most of what is today the Middle East.  In 539 B.C. they captured Ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia.  During the 5th Century B.C. Darius, their ruler, invaded the Greek mainland.  His armies were defeated in the Battle of Marathon.  The following century, in 330 B.C., Alexander the Great of Macedon conquered Persia and Mesopotamia.  With the death of Alexander his empire passed to his generals and the region came under the control of the Seleucids, who would rule until the Romans conquered them.         *******************************

In the late 6th Century Muhammad was born in the city of Medina in what is today Saudi Arabia.  He was considered by Muslims to be the last profit of God sent to restore the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.  To people of the West he is considered the founder of Islam.

During the early 7th Century Muhammad unified most of the Arabian Peninsula through religious warfare.  He destroyed all the pagan symbols that existed and declared that there is only one God and Allah is his name.  He died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr as the first Rashidun caliph.

With Muhammad’s death there also occurred the first major split in Islam with two major denominations coming into being: the Shia and the Sunni.   Approximately 90 to 96% of all Muslims are Sunni and 6 to 10% are Shia.  Sunnis are the majority in most Muslim communities.  Shia make up the majority population in Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, as well as being a large minority in Lebanon.

The split between the two occurred in 632, when the prophet Muhammad died, over his succession as caliph.  Today there are differences in religious practices, traditions, and customs.  Both groups consider the Quran to be divine.

Over the years Sunni-Shia relations have been both cooperative at times and marked by conflict at other times.  Sectarian violence exists from Pakistan to Yemen and is a major element of friction throughout the Middle East.  The tensions between communities have intensified during power struggles, such as the Iraqi War and recently during the Syrian Civil War.  The formation of ISIS and its advancement into Syria and Iraq have added to these tensions.

After Muhammad’s death Islam spread generally by conquest westward through North Africa to Spain and also Northward through the Middle East and then Westward toward Europe.

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In 1299 A.D. the Ottoman Turkish Sunni Islamic Empire was established.  By 1389 it was transformed by further conquests into a transcontinental nation and claimant to the Islamic Caliphate.  In 1453 they overthrew the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire and conquered Constantinople, which became their capital and thereafter was called Istanbul.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries the Ottoman Empire reached its height, controlling much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, and North Africa.  By the year 1600 the Empire had 32 provinces and numerous vassal states.  It was the center of interactions between Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries.  Afterward it went into a period of gradual decline and was dissolved after World War I, where it supported the losing side.  It emerged after 1918 as the State of Turkey.

It’s Middle East and other possessions became spoils of war, which were taken over by the European victors of WWI as colonies under the term issued by the World War I Versailles Peace Conference as “mandates.”  The theory then being that since these states had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire they were not ready in 1918 to rule themselves; consequently they needed guidance by the victorious European nations.

After World War II many of these “mandates” were entitled “Trust Territories” by the United Nations and given or returned to their former colonizers.  But after World War II many of these “Trust Territories” revolted against their European colonizing countries and when it became too expensive to hold onto these colonies it was discovered that they had reached a state where they were ready for self-government.  Many, like Persia (Iran), became fully independent with ties to their former European elder relative (England).

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This, of course, is a very thumb-nail sketch of several thousand years of history but it makes the relevant point that the European Industrial Nations colonized much of the non-industrial world well into the 20th Century and gave up those possessions only when they became too expensive to hold.  What I have not gone into but is equally relevant is that the citizens of these Mandate-Trust Territories were treated as second class citizens by their European masters and exploited by them for profit.  There is an historic chain of resentment that still exists from this behavior.

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While Persia was separate from the Ottoman Empire prior to WWI it still came under European influences by Russia in the north and Great Britain in the south and east.  In 1901 oil was discovered in the country.  By 1907 there was an Anglo Russian agreement dividing Persia into two Spheres of Influence.  During WWI (1914-1918) Persia was occupied by Russian, British, and Ottoman troops.

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While the countries surrounding Iran were eager for more land there were other important reasons for European nations wanting control in Iran.  These go back to a change that occurred in England around 1800.  It was called the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing changed from hand-made items to machine-made products; when industrial production went from handicrafts to machine manufacture.  This process began in Great Britain in the cotton production industry and gradually spread to the rest of the world.  It required a constant, ever increasing supply of markets and a constant, ever increasing, supply of raw materials.  It set up a competitive race for colonies.  And it also ushered in the Age of Imperialism, which essentially lasted until after WWII.

The terminology underwent gradual changes, as we’ve seen, beginning with the term colonies and colonial empires, to Mandates, Trust Territories, and Spheres of Influence. Industrial nations ruling non-industrial countries.  Those that also manufactured guns and cannon against those who did not have the technology.  The English utilized such phrases as “The sun never set upon the British Empire.”

In some cases they were protective areas, supposedly independent states but run by European advisors.  The French had the French Foreign Legion to keep order; King Leopold II of Belgium owned and criminally exploited the Congo Free State; England used the locals as soldiers, officered by the British.  The Germans, when they began colonization in Africa, used their own military against the non-industrial peoples.

Each nation had a variation of the above. The United States, which came into this shortly before World War I, used its own military.  Whatever euphemism was used it all meant the same, these were colonies belonging to a better armed industrial nation with economic needs.

As we’ve seen after WWI the term colonies disappeared, all the possessions became “mandates.”  The term implies that these former colonies were the children being protected by adults, the mother countries, their former masters.  The term “Spheres of Influence,” which had existed earlier, also became dominant at this time.

Also, as stated earlier, after WWII the term was changed to “Trust Territories,” giving the process a slightly religious overtone.  But after W.W.II most of the so-called backward nations had had it with their colonial masters.  They revolted against them.  Most of the Trust Territories had their own independence movements.  And when it became more expensive for these industrial nations to keep their colonies than they could earn from having them, the colonizing countries discovered that their “Trust Territories” had reached the point where they could rule themselves as independent states, that it was more profitable to trade with them than to continue to exploit and rule them.

French Indo China became Vietnam and when the French Foreign Legion was finally defeated at the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu the United States replaced the French in Vietnam because of a fear of the spread of Communism and much later lost that war in 1975, and today, interestingly, the United States trades freely with Vietnam and Conrad Hilton has a hotel in Hanoi largely for American tourists who can have a very pleasant inexpensive vacation there.

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In 1901 oil was discovered in Persia (Iran).  Today the oil discovery there is estimated to be nearly ten percent of the world’s oil reserves.  Great Britain early took control of the oil through the Anglo Persian (Iranian) Oil Company.  It is interesting to note that the taxes paid to the British government in the early 20th Century was greater than the royalties Persia/Iran received from the Anglo Iranian Oil Company.

In Persia (Iran) there was in the 20th Century a series of Shahs (rulers) with Reza Shah Pahlavi ruling from 1921 to 1941.  In 1925, after suppressing several rebellions, he became Shah ruling the country until 1941, modernizing it.  In 1935 the name of the nation was changed to Iran.  Reza Shah transformed Iran into an industrial and urbanized nation.

From 1949 on the movement for nationalization of Iran’s oil industry grew.  Many Iranians were well aware that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) was paying more in taxes to Great Britain than the Iranian Government got from royalties.  By February of 1951, when AIOC finally offered fifty-fifty profit sharing, it was too late.  Sentiment for nationalization had become widespread throughout the country.  On March 15th of that year the legislature voted to nationalize the oil industry.

Oil production came to a halt as the British left the country.  Great Britain imposed a world-wide embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil and froze Iran’s assets banked in their country.  It also banned the export of goods to Iran.

The British then questioned the legality of the nationalization and brought their case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.  The Court’s verdict was in favor of Iran.  Still the dispute between Iran and the AIOC remained unsettled.   Iran’s economy underwent suffering from the loss of foreign exchange and oil revenues.

The 1950s was the time of the Cold War and the fear of the spread of communism.  Iran had a ruler, the Shah, an elected prime minister and a legislative body.

In 1953 the Eisenhower Administration approved a British plan for a joint Anglo-American operation to overthrow the popular Prime Minister who was at odds with the Shah.  A member of the U.S. CIA traveled secretly to Iran to coordinate plans with the Shah and the Iranian military.  On August 19th pro Shah Army units and street crowds defeated the forces of the Prime Minister and the plan was successfully carried out.

The coup earned the U.S. and Great Britain the lasting enmity of a large section of the Iranian population.  It united communists, nationalists, and Shia clerics against foreign meddling in Iran’s affairs.  The former Prime minister became a folk hero of Iranian nationalism.

One of the points that should have emerged is that the Iranian view of the Western nations, including the United States, is negatively tinged by the imperialistic practices which these nations practiced in exploiting them, particularly from the 20th Century on, actually with the lifetime of many Iranians still living..

They also have been caught between religious rule, traditional absolutistic rule, and an urge for democratic rule. Unfortunately the power has rested with both religious and absolute rule..  In addition the role of women varies throughout the Middle East nations. It is still in the process of being defined.

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

U.S. Supreme Court building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weiner Component #24 – One Vote Per Person

English: Original cartoon of "The Gerry-M...

The basic concept of a Democracy is one vote per person, with every vote counting equally.  According to the Constitution, “We The People,” and not the states, created this nation.  Yet in the 2012 Election the states by the electoral vote determined the President and the states through gerrymandering determined the representation in the House of Representatives.  The Republicans got the majority of representatives even though the Democrats received one million one hundred thousand more Congressional votes.  Somehow the intent of the Constitution seems to have been subverted.

The government is the servant of the people carrying out the majority will with protections for the minorities.  This is how this country is supposed to function.  If it does not then the system has been corrupted and must be cleansed.  In the 2012 Election the majority will was compromised and to a certain extent thwarted.

Even though the Democratic Party received over a million more votes in the House Election the Republicans got the majority of Representatives there.  How was this possible?

In England during the 18th and 19th Centuries, as the voting franchise was gradually extended to all males, there were, with the Enclosure Movement and the Industrial Revolution, a mass movement of people from the rural areas to the urban centers.  No adjustments were made to balance the votes and what developed were “rotten boroughs;” areas where the number of voters necessary to elect a member of the House of Commons was well under one hundred voters, in some cases under twenty, while in the urban factory towns it could be in the multi-thousands.  And anyone could run in any district in the country.  There was also open voting; the secret ballot did not exist until 1872.  The “rotten boroughs” were not done away with until the middle of the 19th Century.

In the United States the system that developed was called  “Gerrymandering.”  The term Gerrymander was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812.  It came from the name of the then-Governor, Elbridge Gerry who had signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic Party.  One of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.  The term was a combination of the governor’s last name and the word salamander.  In 1812 the Massachusetts Senate remained firmly in Democratic hands while the House and Governorship went to the Federalist Party.

Besides achieving desired electoral result for a particular party, gerrymandering has been used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, or class group.

In the 2012 Election a number of states elected Republican majorities on all levels of their government.  In the United States there is a census every ten years for the purpose of redistricting the voting districts on both the state and Federal level.  The political party in power usually draws the new districting map.  By carefully drawing the lines they can break up ethnic or racial groups, set up districts with definite party majorities, or emphasis any group they want.  There are no rules in drawing the shape of these districts and they can take any shape possible, hence gerrymandering.  In addition many of these states made voting much more difficult, if not almost impossible, in districts that favored the opposition party.

In 2012 the district lines drawn up allowed the Republican controlled states to win control of the House of Representatives with far less than fifty percent of the votes cast for members of the House.  It took a lot of maneuvering and strange shaped voting districts to do this.

Isn’t it time for the Federal Government or the courts to set up a system that creates these districts on a non-partisan basis with simple shapes strictly according to the population?  If the government cannot do this then it may take a Constitutional Amendment to achieve this goal.

A Democracy is supposed to be a government representing the will of the majority.

Our goal should be to make this in the best way possible.  The British eventually got rid of their “rotten boroughs.”  Are we ever going to get rid of gerrymandering?

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The Weiner Component #11 – Outsourcing & the Enigma of China

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 27:  Protesters demonstrate...

Bain Capital, Apple, and other companies that manufacture their products in China do so for a very obvious reason, profit, and usually enormous profits.  In the U.S. a decent wage has to be paid, generally arranged by a union contract.  There are additional monies for social security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, pensions, medical insurance, etc.  The employee pays some of this, but the employer pays most of this sum.  A seventeen-dollar an hour job could end up costing the company from thirty to forty dollars an hour.  Even paying all this a successful concern can be making a good profit.

Modern Communist China is in an interesting condition.  An individual visiting that country today would find its large cities no different than those in other industrial nations.  The people in these cities are paid according to their occupation as in the West.  There are public transportation, parks, libraries, and schools.  These are modern urban centers, which in many instances look better than those in Europe or the United. States in that they are newer and generally better planned.

However if one visits the countryside, there an individual finds a totally different situation.  Factory communities have been set up in many places that employ, house, and feed large numbers of workers who labor in these buildings on twelve hour shifts under primitive conditions, poorly fed, and poorly housed in crowded accommodations.

These are the sweatshops of China into which many American and Western employers such as Mitt Romney have invested.  Historically the conditions in these plants mirror those in England, Europe, and later the United States during the early period of the Industrial Revolution.  Whole generations of people were sacrificed to the growing needs of early capitalism.  In England over a period of thirty or more years Parliament gradually passed legislation limiting the employment of women and children and bringing about reforms for everyone employed.  While the employers had no social conscience in this pure capitalistic system, the government did have one.  Eventually the labor or socialistic part became one of the major political parties in England.  Much of the same can be said for all the other industrial states.

Today the American and European entrepreneurs can have an immediate phenomenal cash advantage by shipping both their manufacturing and even their factories to the Chinese countryside.  Here all their labor costs are under one dollar an hour and there are no benefits or retirement for the workers.  For every million dollars in profit they made in the United States they would now be getting thirty to forty million dollars.  People like Mitt Romney, the former CEO of Bain Capital would be foolish to do otherwise.  After all their success is measured by the bottom line, the amount of profit they make for their company and for themselves.

Of course all of this is short term, immediate.  By the time this situation is straightened out in China at least a decade or two will have passed.  Mitt Romney will be seventy-five or eighty-five years of age and might even have gone to his reward.  It won’t be his problem anymore.  Bain Capital will still be around; but it will be run by a group of younger men.  They may be able to find another area of the world to exploit.  China will have benefited by having become the first among all the manufacturing countries in the world.  After all what are a few million lives to a country with a population of well over a billion people?

What I find innocuous is that China, a Communist Country, formally called The People’s Republic of China, is willing to exploit sections of their own population in the same fashion as the early industrial capitalists did in Nineteenth Century England.  At least in the British Isles the government worked to end the abuse.  In China it seems that the government is perpetuating it.  With or without the direct aid of the Chinese Communist Government these early capitalist practices will gradually change.

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