The Weiner Component #93 – The U.S. & the World

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

President Barak Obama has had absolutely no support for anything he does or tries to do by the Republicans in Congress who constitute the filibustering minority party in the Senate and the majority party in the House of Representatives. Their fervent goal has been and is to denounce any action he takes or tries to take.

House Speaker John Boehner has been recently making statements that it is not Congresses job to make policy decisions. But Speaker Boehner is presumably suing the President for taking actions without the consent of Congress.

The country is currently facing a number of international emergencies that defy simple solutions. In fact, each seems to be a no win situation. In the Middle East

Members of both major political parties in Congress have argued for immediate action without specifically stating what the action should be. A number of Democrats want the president to be more resolute while members of the Republican Party seem to want immediate action, the sending of troops to Iraq and Syria. Others want action without suggesting what that action should be. In the Ukraine there seems to be a war going on between the Separatists and Russia. Congress has not passed any resolution supporting any position. And no one in Congress seems to be ready to vote for any kind of war, or for that matter, any kind of action. At least this was their position before they went on vacation for the month of August. They will return to work on the second week of August.

In Syria and Iraq ISIS or ISIL has set up a separate Islamic State in areas they have been able to conquer and control. Here they are freely beheading and otherwise freely killing people. They have attempted genocide of a group within Iraq, forcing these people without food or water, to flee up an arid mountain. They have beheaded an American reporter because the U.S. has refused to pay a ransom of several million dollars and because they objected to the U.S. rescuing the group on the mountain and because of other military participation against them in Iraq. ISIS has also beheaded another kidnaped reporter, presumably because the U.S. did not stop its air strikes against them in Iraq. The effect of this has been the reverse of what they want.

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ISIS or ISIL is reminiscent of the old Nazi Party in Germany. They have essentially been able to organize an army of people who psychologically are losers, not able to successfully function in a normal society. As members of the group they are now the strong, the successful, the leaders, and they have absolute power within the areas they dominate. They can arbitrarily put anyone to death. They are now the feared winners within the regions they rule. Recently, I understand, they have also been providing social services for many of the poor within their state. They follow an old primitive form of the Sunni Islamic faith.

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The U.S. invaded Iraq, under the Bush Administration, in the year 2003 after the al-Qaida suicide attack and destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City and after the invasion of the al Qaida stronghold in Afghanistan. Its stated goal was to search out and remove weapons of mass destruction such as atomic bombs making material and poison gas. Its real purpose, which it failed to achieve, was to gain control of Iraqi Oil.

The United States completed its withdrawal from Iraq in December of 2011, during its ninth year there after helping to set up an elected government. The agreement to leave had been drawn up by the Bush Administration after the Iraqi Government refused to continue a policy toward Americans of immunity from Iraqi law. Actually both the Americans and the Iraqis wanted the U.S. forces out of the country.

Unfortunately Iraq ended with a Shia prime minister, Maliki, and a Shia dominated government which gradually discriminated against the Sunni minority within the country, arresting their leaders and other in the group. The result being that a percentage of the population did not and does not trust the government. ISIS, as we’ve seen, is a Sunni terrorist group that has cut out for itself a state that consists partly of Syrian and partly of Iraqi territory. It has voiced claims to other parts of the Middle East.

The population of Iraq tends to be mixed and confused at this point; the government is largely ineffective. If the United States were to become involved in a full military capacity now it would be in Iraq not only fighting ISIS but also supporting the Shia government against the Sunnis living in the country.

President Obama has called for and continues to call for a democratic reorganization of the Iraqi Government, with both sides fairly represented, before the U.S. takes any large scale decisive action. Under these circumstances he apparently feels Iraq will be able to mount an effective military force against the Sunni terrorist group, ISIS.

Currently the U.S. is effectively supporting the Kurds, another ethnic group within Iraq, with air support.

On Monday, September 1, 2014, President Obama formally notified the U.S. Congress that he had authorized air strikes and humanitarian airdrops over the Iraqi city of Amerli, the preceding weekend where ISIS militants had trapped the civilian population.

Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias and Kurds on Sunday broke the two month siege of Amerli and entered the city after U.S. military carried out air strikes on the attacking forces.

In this case, with American help, the Kurds, a non-Islamic ethnic group, were able to save their city and defeat ISIS. Will the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis be able this time to form a democratic government which is fair to all groups living in Iraq; and will this allow them to form an effective military that can successfully fight ISIS? And how long will this take? Can the United States be marginally involved until this occurs? An interesting question.

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What should the U.S. do in terms of Syria which has been involved in a civil war for the last few years? There is the original absolutistic government led by Assad who is fighting over a dozen different revolutionary groups of which ISIS is the most extreme and probably the most successful since it now rules a section of the country. By attacking ISIS there we strengthen Assad’s government, which is in the middle of a civil war, and weaken the Arab Spring in their attempt to reform Syria.

We are, in a manner of speaking, caught on the horns of a dilemma. Any move we make in Syria is a no-win move. We do have drones, pilotless planes, flying over Syria and presumably mapping out everything. This is even though Assad has officially stated that he will allow no planes to occupy Syria’s air space unless that government were cooperating with the Syrian government. What should President Obama do in Syria? Should we aid the more moderate groups with shipments of arms? Eventually we may have to bomb ISIS bases there.

President Barak Obama’s strategy seems to be to gather as many allies as he can, form cooperating coalitions, both in the Middle East and Europe, who are opposed to ISIS as a terrorist state that is both anti-Arab and anti-Occidental. He seems to want to build a coalition that is anti-terrorist. He has also stated in a letter to Congressional leaders on September 1, 2014, of his decision under the War Powers Act that he chooses to broaden the U.S. military role in Iraq. He will deliberate carefully before making final decisions on whether to expand U.S. air strikes into Syria. He has avoided military intervention to date during the three years of civil war.

There is also the situation in the Ukraine with Russia. Under Putin’s leadership Russia is trying to forcibly take over Ukraine. This presents another problem. How does the United States and its European allies (NATO) stop them short of war? The Russian premier, Vladimir Putin, has threatened atomic war. This is something that was never done during the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the two countries were on the point of war but both backed off. Chairman Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba and the U.S. secretly agreed to remove our missiles from Turkey six months later. If Khrushchev had not backed down then President Kennedy was ready to openly remove the missiles in Turkey in exchange for the missiles in Cuba. Neither man would consider an atomic war.

As a footnote: Joseph Stalin’s daughter married an American and settled in the United States. Khrushchev’s granddaughter currently teaches at a university in the United States

If Congress wanted to defuse the situation between the two countries it would end its vacation prematurely, return to Washington, D.C., and authorize the President to take whatever action(s) necessary in dealing with Russia, including war. This would give Putin second thoughts and he would be forced to act as an adult in the situation. It would also give President Obama a full range of possible actions in dealing with Russia. It would mean the U.S. is standing together, which it is not doing, with the Republicans jockeying for political advantage against the President and the Democrats.

During the last week of August 2014 President Obama stated that his administration did not yet have a strategy to combat ISIS, at least in the areas it controls in Syria. By the end of the following week in Wales at the summing up of the results of the NATO meeting between its 27 members the President had a fully worked out strategy. Obama spent the week at the Conference building coalitions against the radical Islamic group and also spelling out a response to Putin’s war threat. He specifically stated publically more than once that an attack upon any NATO member would be treated as an attack against all of them. It seems that even though Ukraine does not belong to the group they will be allowed to join.

Toward ISIS the United States and its allies aim to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militant group. The process will include NATO and the majority of Islamic states including those that are Sunni. ISIS, he believes, is a threat to all the nations.

Even though the Ukraine and Russia are not technically at war on Saturday, September 6, they agreed to a cease fire agreement and an exchange of prisoners. On Sunday, September 7, the truce is holding in Ukraine with a few violations on both side. Will it break down or end up in some sort of peace settlement?

Congress returns on Monday, September 8, the second week of September from its monthly vacation. What will be their response to President Obama’s requests under the War Powers Act and will they support or ignore the President’s actions. It should be interesting to see what happens. Particularly with an interim election coming up early in November.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

The Weiner Component #65 – Dysfunctional Government

A dysfunctional family is one that is perennially in chaos.  Nothing ever gets done; no issue is ever solved; nothing is ever accomplished.  A dysfunctional government works or doesn’t work on the same basis.  Its lawmakers are incapable of accomplishing anything, at least anything that the nation really needs.

Is that the situation that exists in Washington, D.C.?  The answer to that question is obviously, yes.  But is the answer that simple?  Are both political parties equally responsible or is the true villain just one of the particular political parties?

Toward the end of the last year of the reign of George W. Bush as President of the United States the economy collapsed.  Because of the activities of the major banks the country was facing a catastrophe greater than that of 1929.  Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury, Paulson, did an emergency bank bailout of the big Financial Institutions whose greed and irresponsibility had caused the situation.

In 2008 Barak Obama was elected President on a platform of: “It’s Time for a Change.”  Through the use of both Fiscal and Monetary policy he was able to avert a major breakdown of the economy.  In addition he bailed out the auto industry.  The country had a recession with major unemployment but it never reached a real depression.  The Obama Administration also passed a universal Affordable Health Care Bill, which, had been initially suggested by the Horizon Institute, a Conservative Republican Think Tank and earlier put into operation in the State of Massachusetts by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.

In the 2010 Midterm Election the Republicans under Tea Party leadership became the majority party in the House of Representatives.  Apparently there hadn’t been enough “change” during President Obama’s first two years in office!

The Republican caucus in both Houses of Congress had earlier decided the Obama would be a one term president.  Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate had announced this publically.  They would support nothing that President Obama proposed.  In fact, they would oppose everything he would favor.  Government functionality would cease.  From 2011 on the House of Representatives would not pass any bill that supported any program that Obama or the Democrats favored and that they would oppose any bill that had been passed during his first two years in office.

The House repealed Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) over forty times.  The repeals went nowhere because the Senate had a Democratic majority and the majority leader would not take up the bill which was already law.

In 2011 President Obama came out with a plan to put America back to work by both extending and modernizing the infrastructure of the United States.  This would probably have reduced unemployment to about 3 1/2 percent, increased the GDP significantly, and substantially increased the tax base of both the Federal Government and the states.  The Republican majority and the Speaker of the House of Representatives completely ignored these plans.  The House of Representatives from 2011 on has done absolutely nothing in any way to create jobs for the unemployed.  By their actions they have sought to reduce government employment and have actually added to the unemployment problem.

In 2012 the House of Representatives met in formal session 125 days, in 2013 it was 121 days, and in 2014 it will be for 120 days.  Some Republican legislator made a comment about what will they do in all that time.  The members of Congress receive 174 thousand dollars a year, plus an office and a fully paid staff.  The get an allowance for an office in their home districts.  I would love to work 120 days out of 365 for that pay and do as much as the House Republican legislators!

In 2013, late at night, the Republicans changed the rules in the House of Representatives so that only bills favored by the majority party could be brought up for a debate or vote on the floor of the House.  If a bill favored by the Democrats and a small number of Republicans came up, the Speaker of the House did not have to call for a vote on that bill, even if the majority favored it.  The only bills that needed to be brought up were those favored by the majority of the Republicans in the House.

In the Senate the Republican minority can filibuster both bills and Presidential appointments of judgeships and appointments of assorted department heads.  The position of the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms was only recently filled after being vacant for six to eight years.  The NRA wanted this job left vacant.  The post was filled after Harry Reed, the majority leader, threatened to change the rules and end filibustering most Presidential appointments.

In mid-November, over the issue of three judgeships, in which the Republicans refused to allow a vote to be taken because they did not want Obama to fill three vacancies in the second highest court in the U.S., the Senate by a simple majority changed the rules and disallowed filibustering in most presidential appointments.

In 2012 the closest the Republicans came to a compromise was the Sequester, which automatically dropped government spending across the board on all levels except Congressional salaries that automatically rose every year.  These, cut down military spending and innumerable entitlement programs for the poor: meals on wheels and infant nutrition to name only two.  In 2013 they shut down the government, refused to raise the debt ceiling, and cost the country about 24 billion dollars and around 250,000 jobs.  If they had had their way and gotten everything they wanted the country would currently be in a deep depression with unemployment up well over 25 percent.  Their version of running the government is not only to not spend money but also to massively reduce the size of the Federal Government.

Even though the public cast 1.4 million more votes for the House Democrats in 2012, by gerrymandering in the census year, 2010, the Republicans still got a majority in the House.  The country will need an overwhelming majority in 2014 to beat them.

 

English: President Barack Obama speaks to a jo...

There is a note of irony that helps explain this dysfunction.  Since the Republicans have determined to oppose everything that President Obama supports they have gone against some policies that initially were their own.  The reason for this, as we have seen, was to make Obama a one term president.  When they failed in 2012 they still adhered to these policies.

 

Affordable Health Care will help keep a number of people alive who would otherwise have died earlier because they could not afford to see a doctor until it was an emergency.  Many children will now get prenatal care.  The insurance companies, even with more restrictions on what they can do, will get a tremendous increase in business.  Yet the Republicans continue to denounce this law using mostly general platitudes.  They offer nothing except the argument that it’s no good, that it will harm the society and kill jobs.

We are probably the only industrial nation in the world today that doesn’t have universal medical care for its citizens.  Our original system of medical care is faulty, inefficient, and overly expensive.  The Republicans offer no alternative except that Obama Care is no good.  Really spiteful reasoning!

We can again ask ourselves: Why is Congress dysfunctional?  The answer is because of Congressional Republican acts or lack of any action since 2011 when they gained control of the House of Representatives.  The 2014 Midterm Election will determine what direction this country takes.  If the Republicans retain the majority in the House we can look forward to two more years of economic disaster.  The American People will have to choose in 2014.  Hopefully the majority will understand their choices.  Unfortunately we have to wait another year before there’s any hope of a functioning government.

 

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The Weiner Component #56 – Obama Care, The Affordable Health Care Law

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Venomously and mischievously the Republican Party has opposed the Affordable Health Care Law whose basic aim is to insure all Americans against any kind of medical catastrophe.  Sara Palin, among others, has gushered forth against it and its “so-called” evils like a broken toilet spewing forth its sewerage.

The Republican Party is seemingly against it to the last man; generally denouncing Obama Care as the worst catastrophe ever promulgated against the American People.  Rick Santorum seems to count it as equal to the worst punishment Satan could command against any sinning soul.  The Koch brothers have put out rather disgusting commercials telling young adults to opt out of the law, refuse to join and don’t get medical insurance.  They would rather have them be dependent upon the government and the taxpayers if a critical medical emergency were to occur.

What’s wrong with this law?  What great evil will it bring about?  How will it damn the American People?

There is one interesting note of irony here.  The Affordable Health Care Law (Obama Care) was originally a Republican proposal or plan, particularly as it was carried out in Massachusetts during Mitt Romney’s governorship.  It allows everyone to take full responsibility for their own and their family’s health care.  It also allows for an expansion of private business based upon the principles of the free market by having the system run by private enterprise.

The Democratic idea was to set up a system based upon a single payer, the government.  They would run the system as they do Social Security and Medicare.   If the Democrats had pushed this idea through then most of the problems that existed with the present system would not have occurred.  The system would have been government sponsored and government controlled.  It would have included all people in the United States.  Instead the Democrats tried to glean Republican support for the program.  In passing the bill the Democrats did not receive one Republican vote in either House of Congress.

Why then have the Republicans come down so heavily upon a plan which is mostly their own, and which espouses all their principles?  The Republicans are a political party run mostly by mature white males.  They have two major factors against Barak Obama: one is that he is a Democrat and two, that he is black.  This is not necessarily the order of importance of those two factors.

The Washington Republicans in both Houses of Congress agreed in caucus shortly after Obama was elected President in 2008 that they would make him a One-Term President by not supporting anything that he wanted to bring about, that he would be the least successful of all elected presidents.  They publically announced this.

Unfortunately for them the Democrats controlled Congress for the first two years of his first term and they passed, among other reforms, the Affordable Health Care Bill, trying to get Republican support by espousing their basic principles.  The Bill received no Republican support of votes.  In fact it was adamantly opposed by the Republican Party.  When Obama was reelected to a second term the Republicans were stuck with their initial position and they all had to follow the party line and oppose the measure.

This is true even though they probably would have strongly supported the bill under a Republican President.  To me, this is the ultimate irony, having to dramatically oppose what you initially promulgated.

Is this behavior rational?  Does it serve the American people, many of whom are still facing the 2008 Real Estate Crisis, which was brought about by the major banks in the United States, with the support of a former Republican dominated Congress.

The situation is ludicrous.  All the legislators take an oath to follow the Constitution and serve the American people.  Instead the Republicans are ignoring their oath and serving the Party.  Their goal, at any price, is to return ruling power to themselves.  To date they have exacerbated negative economic conditions with the sequester, refused to supply an operating budget to the  United States, and closed the Federal Government for a period of time, costing the economy billions of dollars and, during a time of high unemployment brought about the loss of additional hundreds of thousands of jobs.

If anything, instead of gaining support, by their legislative actions, both on state and Federal levels, the Republican Party has adroitly alienated all sorts of groups of people/voters.  On a Federal level the House of Representatives has refused to pass immigration legislation, arbitrarily continuing the separation of members of families and keeping young people who were brought to the United States as babies or young children from becoming citizens. There was a case of an Arizona police officer discovering that at the age of 42 that she was actually born in Mexico and had to resign from her job.   One of the reasons given for this is that immigrant Latinos tend to vote for Democrats.

The Republicans have alienated a large percentage of the female population, presumably over the issue of birth control, taking Constitutional rights away from women and depriving those that are poor of medical aid by closing their free clinics.  The argument is that this is to stop abortions from being performed.  Somehow or other they have also alienated Asians.  In addition to all of the above the Republicans have attempted to limit the votes of minorities and the aged on the state level where they can, because these people also vote for Democratic candidates.

At the rate they’re going the Republicans may end up with almost no supporters at some point in the near future.  Then, I suppose, they will complain that they are being unfairly picked on.

I suppose if the Republicans can restrict the vote to just evangelicals and the members of the far right they can regain political power for a long period of time.  They may even be able to follow the precepts of someone like Rick Santorum who seemed to want to set up a modern day theocracy where a relatively small group of elderly white men would decide what is morally, ethnically, and legally right for everyone in the nation.

 

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Weiner Component #23-Plodding Along: Are the Republicans Really Adults?

Will Rogers

Cover of Will Rogers

William Penn Adair Rogers, Will Rogers (1879 – 1935) was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, and, motion picture actor.  He saw Congress as a bunch of children bumbling their way through government and never quite knowing what they were doing.  Among other things he said they were like a bunch of children in a China Shop with hammers.  One hopped they didn’t do too much damage.

Looking at the current Congress one can see that his observations are just as valid today as they were in the 1920s before the Great Depression when we had another Republican Administration in Congress. 

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, tends to waddle like a duck as he walks, going forward and sideways at the same time.  He always seems to be going in two directions at once; he ought to straighten up, take control of his party and get something done.   Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the House, seems to be a bit constipated; He looks like he should go somewhere and take some medication to loosen up and begin working in the interests of the country instead of just raising money for the Republican Party.  Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, appears to be myopic.  He should get bifocals that allow his to clearly see the needs of this country and forget about trying to make President Obama a one term president (which he has failed to do) and tend to the actual needs of this country.  He needs to back off on his filibustering and let the will of majority prevail.

During its 2012 term the House of Representatives met 120 days out of 365.  The members must have been very busy with other things.  The House voted out, with just a Republican majority in each instance, Obama Care thirty-five times; that is, they spent no less than 35 of the 120 days voting out of existence a bill that never was even considered in the Senate and which would have been vetoed by the President if it ever reached his desk.

They sent this bill to the Senate thirty-five times.  They spent about one third of their time as legislators on a bill which 35 times went nowhere.  In addition they passed a resolution affirming that the statement,“In God We Trust.” that appears on all paper currency, is who we do trust.  Are these the actions of either rational people or adults?  The Republican House of Representatives passed no bill that created any jobs.  In fact, many of the bills that came out of The House exacerbated the unemployment problem in the United States.

Fortunately, despite the behavior of the Republicans in the last two plus years since they got a majority in the House and have used the filibuster more times than it was used during the entire 20th Century, the overall economy of the United States has slowly improved.  The stock market is higher than it was in 2008 and the Housing Market is coming back and new housing is being built throughout the nation.   The National Deficit as a percentage of GDP has been decreasing.   Corporate profits are higher than they have ever been before.  Things seem to be looking up even though unemployment is still very high. 

It seems conditions are getting better despite the actions of the Republican Party.  However the country is facing a new dilemma, the Sequester, which is in the process of automatically bringing about cuts on all levels of government spending, with the exception of the salaries of all the members of Congress.  This bill was passed to force both political parties to come to a spending compromise several months ago.  No compromise has been reached or seems to be in the process of being reached.  Consequently government spending will decrease in entitlement programs hurting a goodly percentage of the poor and middle class.  Also it will affect military spending, decreasing the ability of the armed forces to successfully function and cut back on spending for the military effecting countless civilian jobs in factories that supply the army.  All this is a stupid, spiteful thing to do by the Republicans.  It is hurting every level of the economy so that they can presumably have their way in reducing taxes for the upper echelon and decimating entitlement programs for the poor and needy.

In addition to this, another financial crisis will be coming up soon when the debt limit is reached on the National Debt and the amount has to be extended to keep the government going.  It will be interesting to see what happens then.

It should be noted that the Republicans tended to oppose virtually everything President Obama supported during his second two years in office.  This included bills that they had initiated or supported earlier.  In a manner of speaking they tried and failed to make Obama a one-term president and now they have boxed themselves into a corner.  If the Republicans support anything that President Obama supports then they are admitting this policy.  If they continue the way they have been going then they are espousing policies that are blatantly unpopular with the general public.  It’s an interesting “catch 22” that they have placed themselves into.  It could even lead to their demise as a political party.

With all this said it seems the Republicans have found ways to constantly hamper the functioning of the nation.  Going back to Will Rogers’ statement from the 1920s, only in young spiteful children do you find such irrational behavior.  And that is what they are, with the hammer in the china shop, which unfortunately is the nation.  Let us hope they don’t do too much damage.

 
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