Nel's New Day

March 17, 2020

DDT Changes Spin on Covid-19, Sort Of

Over three years ago on January 13, 2017, before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, his proposed Cabinet officials and other aides received a three-hour briefing about responding to a global epidemic. Detailed briefing books contained scenarios much like the world has experienced during the last few months, complete with warnings about shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs, and other medical essentials. Information stressed the “paramount” importance of a coordinated, unified national response. Materials included available legal authorities to pursue a response, and capabilities and responsibilities of different agencies, and detailed explanations of numerous laws and regulations that might affect their work, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

New officials were dismissive of the briefing, and the books were later found in the trash. In talking about covid-19, DDT has made comments such as “you can never really think” that a pandemic like the coronavirus “is going to happen” despite the briefing. This video tracks DDT as he incessantly minimizes any problems from the virus in the U.S. Documents given DDT and his officials show a specific plan for dealing with a pandemic, a plan that DDT ignored.  

As of tonight, the U.S. has 6,456 confirmed cases, 1,793 from just today, and 109 deaths—21 percent of them occurring today. Confirmed cases are in all 50 states and D.C. In the world, 7,965 have died from covid-19 in 198,229 confirmed cases. China has had neither new cases nor deaths today, but some European countries are hard hit. 

Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, has been the source of advice for DDT as he ignored his infectious disease and immunology experts. Kushner repeatedly told DDT the media exaggerated the severity of the virus outbreak. Knowing nothing about covid-19, Kushner still advises DDT’s direction on the virus strategy. (In the past, Kushner claimed to be an authority on the Palestine-Israel conflict because he read 25 books.) DDT’s disastrous speech last Wednesday in which he banned travel from most of the EU was created by Kushner and DDT’s white nationalist Stephen Miller so he would look as if he had a strategy.

DDT has been so convincing to his supporters that they encourage risky behavior to both themselves and others. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) urged people to go to restaurants and bars, despite warnings from leading expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay away from other people. After DDT echoed Fauci on Monday, tell people to “avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts,” Nunes lied and said he meant “take-out.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) bragged about going to a crowded restaurant and took a selfie with his family (right). “It’s packed tonight!” he tweeted.

In a Kendall (FL) megachurch, the pro-DDT pastor told his congregation to keep coming back to church because God’s house wouldn’t be contagious. He said, “If we die, we die for Christ.” In Tampa (FL), another pro-DDT pastor told people to shake hands with each other.

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, pardoned by DDT last month, tweeted, “This hysteria is being created to destabilize the country and destroy [DDT].”  Other right-wing personalities falsely blame liberal billionaire George Soros for causing the virus.

Frequent Fox guest Mark Steyn, guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s show, falsely blamed San Francisco’s “shelter-in-place” guidelines keeping people at home on “compromised immune systems” in the “big gay town.” He added, “They don’t want all the gays dropping dead on the San Francisco mayor’s watch.” The guidelines cover seven million people with about 5 percent identifying as LGBTQ.

Even the private Facebook page for DDT-supporting first responders hasn’t changed its false message of covid-19 being a “hoax.” The leader said that DDT had to say that the virus is serious to fix the stock markets.

For better PR, DDT has decided to treat the virus more seriously, and Fox is struggling to keep up his 180-degree turn after their major hosts had downplayed its threat, calling it a conspiracy to undermine DDT.  Sean Hannity called it a “massive paradigm shift,” “a bold new precedent,” “America’s leadership.” Laura Ingraham moved from decrying the “panic pushers” to talking about “this dangerous health crisis.” Less favored host Trish Regan was simply taken off the air.

Since his speech almost a week ago, DDT has taken a covid-19 test, tried to stop talking about the importance of the stock market over people’s lives, called the virus a pandemic, and agreed with the House bill to give people food, testing, and paid sick leave. He now rates his response to the virus as ten out of ten although he told governors to get their own respirators and supplies, refused to let the Army Corps of Engineers build facilities for hospitals, and said that people shouldn’t try to get testing.

The government lost months in getting resources from the private sector, states, and academic institutions to test people which stopped efforts in tracking and controlling the virus while it could still be contained. In the beginning officials were afraid to tell DDT anything unpleasant, and when he learned about the virus, DDT was afraid bad news would adversely affect his reelection campaign. Now Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon to give money away for votes. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is an example of that approach. First, he didn’t want paid sick leave; now he says that the Democratic House bill doesn’t go far enough to help people. If the virus had to arrive, people are lucky it’s in an election year when candidates like Cotton needs votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has ignored over 400 House bills to push through young unqualified ultra-conservative judges, is now excited about the current covid-19 bill and another one, perhaps costing $1 trillion. At a press conference today, he said that the Senate won’t leave until the next bill passes and talked about 53 people putting the bill together. Evidently Democrats are included. McConnell also said that he needs to “get permission to vote” on the bill which might mean that DDT has to give him permission. If so, the former third branch of government, Congress, has been subsumed under the executive branch, like the judiciary.  How DDT wants to disperse the funds: airlines, $50 billion; workers $100 billion; corporations $850 billion.

DDT has an advantage from the epidemic. The Supreme Court has suspended oral arguments for the first time since the Spanish flu in 1918, and the case on March 31 concerned the subpoenas from House committees to get DDT’s financial and tax records. There may be no decision by the end of June, meaning that the issue will not be settled until after the November election. Across the nation, federal and state courts are postponing in-person court proceedings.

Even elections are questionable. Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio have rescheduled them, assuming that the virus will be gone by later spring. In Ohio, the governor declared a health emergency to call off today’s voting after a court denied his request, a dangerous precedent for DDT. Arizona, Florida, and Illinois plowed forward and all put Biden in first place. In the United States, only three states—Colorado, Oregon, and Washington— are smart enough to vote by mail, and 17 states demand a good reason for getting an absentee ballot. Only one of those states permits covid-19 as a reason for a mail-in ballot. Republicans fight against mail-in elections because it provides a paper trail and lets everyone vote without standing in long lines, two ways that the GOP manages to win elections. 

A frequent DDT message is that Democrats are politicizing the virus. Yet ten days ago, he complained about Democrats to Mar-a-Lago guests: 

“They’re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools—you know, destroy the country. And that’s ok, as long as we can win the election.”

Asked when he was going to make the virus apolitical, he said that he would respond to any criticism, already telling two governors to move faster when they pointed out the delayed response to the health crisis. VP Mike Pence has secret meetings with conservative “influencers” about spinning DDT’s efforts regarding the health crisis and providing PR for DDT’s reelection campaign.

Xenophobic DDT insists on referring to covid-19 as “the Chinese virus.” Called out for the term, he attached the Chinese for their theory that the U.S. military started the virus. A U.S. theory, however, accuses the Chinese to developing covid-19 as a bioweapon.

The most amazing DDT story of the week is his attempt to persuade a German company to relocate to the U.S. for its covid-19 vaccine research efforts and share the information only with the U.S. DDT said he would do anything to get the vaccine and offered the company money. DDT would likely buy a lot of shares in the company, but it turned him down.

People have less and less faith in federal response to and DDT’s statements about covid-19. Only 46 percent believe the federal government is doing enough to stop the virus’ spread, down from 61 percent last month. And only 37 percent have any trust in DDT, compared to 60 percent who have not much or no trust in what he says.  

February 25, 2020

Coronavirus Hits the Economy

The latest victim to fall to the coronavirus in the United States was the economy: in the past two days, the Dow Jones stock market dropped almost 2,000 points, the worst two-day point drop on record. The three biggest indexes—Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq—each averaged three-percent drops for both yesterday and today. Goldman Sachs, citing the dangerous virus, cut its growth forecast for the U.S. economy to 1.2 percent for the first quarter, well below the 2.3 percent rate in 2019 and nowhere near the 4 to 6 percent that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised when he pushed through his massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business.

DDT largely ignored the coronavirus until the drastic drop in stock markets. That’s when he considered a request from Congress for first $1 billion and then $2.5 billion to ameliorate the disease–and raise the Dow. Asha George, director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, said an immediate package of $3 billion is necessary for funding vaccines and antidotes, stockpiling medical supplies, manufacturing medications, creating and sending diagnostic kits to doctors and hospitals, and planning and guidance. She said that agencies already need the $200 million taken from other programs to fight the disease. HHS has already transferred over $130 million from some of its accounts into combatting the virus, including an emergency infectious disease rapid-response fund. DDT wants to move $535 million from an Ebola preparedness account, a disease killing tens of thousands of people, making people vulnerable to that disease.

DDT attacked Democrats for wanting more money, but they aren’t alone. When HHS Secretary Alex Azar asked Congress for the $2.5 billion, some Republicans agreed that it might not be enough. “If you lowball something like this, you’ll deal with it later,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told Azar. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that senators will “decide the final numbers.”

DHS acting deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, demonstrated DDT’s low level of competence in appointments when Cuccinelli frantically tweeted for help in in finding a map showing the coronavirus spread. When he couldn’t locate the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering department’s map showing the latest COVID-19 numbers and locations, he tweeted that it “seems like bad timing to stop helping the world.” Curiosity had caused the site to be overwhelmed, but meanwhile Cuccinelli had publicized his ignorance to the world. The article about his experiences is well worth reading just because of Twitter responses.

Acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf did almost as badly as Cuccinelli during a Senate hearing when he couldn’t accurately state the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S., didn’t know how many cases came into the US. from cruise ships, couldn’t explain how the virus is transmitted, and was unaware of mortality rates for both coronavirus and influenza. According to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu deaths are about 1 in 1,000 people in the U.S. compared to 1 in 50 deaths from coronavirus. Wolf doesn’t know whether the U.S. has enough respirators and masks. His ignorance was made obvious by questioning from Louisiana’s GOP Sen. John Neely Kennedy. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.).

On her MSNBC news program, Rachel Maddow pointed out how DDT has weakened the U.S. fight against the coronavirus health crisis: In 2018, DDT “fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command back in 2018 and never replaced them with anyone,” according to Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist Laurie Garrett. He fired the point person on all global health security matters on the National Security Council and didn’t bother to find someone else for the job. President Obama had one person in charge of the Ebola crisis, but DDT has left the coronavirus response to different agencies with difficulty in cooperation. The National Security Council’s entire global health security unit was shut down, and John Bolton pushed out a similar team from the DHS. Many of the CDC global health section were cut along with a reduction of countries where CDC worked from 49 to only 10. DDT is eroding the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and wants to cut it by 40 percent. In addition, DDT’s cuts to the National Institutes of Health and CDC hurt the possibility for research into the disease.  

DDT has come up with two solutions for the growing pandemic: it will be over in April with warmer weather, and the U.S. is “very close to a vaccine.” The severity of some viruses lessens in spring and summer, but CDC is concerned that the coronavirus may not be one of them. Under optimum conditions, a vaccine for coronavirus might be available between 12 and 18 months. The White House tried to cover for DDT in his mistake with the claim that DDT referred to the Ebola virus in talking about being close to a vaccine.

The CDC opposed putting people with coronavirus on the same plane as those who tested negative to fly them from Japan for quarantine, but DDT’s administration ignored the recommendation. DDT said there wouldn’t be any problem in mixing presumably healthy people with sick ones. Director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy Michael Osterholm called that decision “one of the cruelest human experiments I’ve seen in my entire career.” The administration, however, is protecting DDT. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was told not to go to India with DDT because Mulvaney had a cold.

DDT, supported by his National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, is endangering public health in the U.S. by encouraging people to buy “these dips” in order to make DDT look good before his election while minimizing the danger of a disease that has already killed thousands of people. DDT’s claim that the virus is “under control” has no proof. A public health crisis needs trusted information, something that people will never get from DDT.

Rush Limbaugh, the most recent recipient of DDT’s Medal of Freedom, complained about how “the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.” Limbaugh has his own alternative fact about coronavirus that he shared with millions of conservatives and says that he’s “dead right on this.” He falsely claims that “coronavirus is the common cold.”

With no evidence for his conspiracy theory, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) maintains that China deliberately created the coronavirus that is killing its citizens and destroying its commerce. Experts debunked Cotton’s theory, but he continues to talk about the proximity of a lab to a market, falsely considered the virus’ starting point. His justification for his myth is “China’s duplicity and dishonesty” and persists in identifying the false “hypothesis” of an engineered virus. According to the highly reputable medical journal Lancet, scientists from several countries outside China conclude that this virus, like many other recently emerging viruses in humans, originated in wildlife

The CDC sent out faulty coronavirus testing kits to U.S. labs, but officials aren’t saying how many of the 200 kits are in that category. These kits, each testing 700-800 specimens, were intended to provide results faster than shipping samples to CDC in Atlanta. Over 30 kits intended for other countries weren’t shipped because of the flaw. One ingredient in the test caused the problem. Mislabeled samples in San Diego allowed a woman with coronavirus to be discharged from a hospital. Tests cannot also identify infected people still in the incubation period.

A few facts about Covid-19, the new strain of coronavirus:

  • Symptoms: Coughs, fever, and breathing difficulties that can lead to pneumonia. Some people who test positive have no symptoms.
  • Cure: Recovery depends on a person’s immune system because antibiotics have no influence on the virus.
  • Transmission: Person to person within six feet through air, coughs, and sneezing.
  • Extent: 80,000 people in 31 countries, the worst being China. China has 2,663 deaths among 77,658 cases. Over 12,000 people in China have recovered. Italy, Japan, and South Korea have hundreds of cases, and deaths have occurred in Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Iran and the Philippines.
  • Mortality rate: 2 percent in the epicenter of the outbreak.
  • Other coronaviruses: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers).

Market Watch posits that the drop in stocks is more than the effect of the Covid-19 on the world economy. The uncertainty of the virus consequences may be equaled by the uncertainty of the 2020 election outcome. Economists have been waiting almost a year to see when over-valued stocks would “correct” as DDT kept using the high stock markets as an indicator of economic growth. Recession in the U.S. has been a concern for at least a year, and the virus concern may kick these worries into overdrive.

August 3, 2017

GOP Introduces RAISE (aka RAZE) Act

Filed under: Immigration — trp2011 @ 10:01 PM
Tags: , , ,

Congress has temporarily lost the battle for Trumpcare and is moving on to another well-publicized disaster: reduction in immigration. Bills in Congress are almost always presented with little fanfare other than a press release. In his need to distract the public from his other debacles, however, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) jumped on an anti-immigration bill reissued by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (AR) and David Perdue (GA) in a White House “bill-cutting” presentation. The proposal cuts the number of legal immigrants admitted to the U.S. by one half and restricts them to highly educated, well-to-do, English-speaking people. A description of the point system in the bill is here.

Republicans in the Senate were badly split over the healthcare from endorsing cruel provisions to attempting to protect people. This bill will have equal or worse divisions because some Republicans will understand that farmers can go bankrupt without immigrant workers and perceive that the select group allowed into the country will push higher-wage workers out of their jobs. Even if unanimous among GOP senators, the Senate would need eight Democrats supporting the bill. Odd, too, is DDT’s excitement of this limitation after he increased the number of H-2B visas for non-agricultural industry workers like his workers at Mar-a-Lago. Before that he suspended the “premium processing” option for H-1B visas for highly skilled workers.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) pointed out the need for immigrant workers in his state’s dairy industry, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was more blunt:

“South Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture, and tourism is number two. If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant workforce.”

Graham pointed out that the legislation “incentivizes more illegal immigration.” His bill to allow DREAMers to stay in the U.S. has already picked up support from GOP Sens. Jeff Flake (AZ), Dean Heller (NV), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Also opposed to RAZE is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

The Cato Institute explained the faulty reasoning behind the Cotton/Perdue plan: “When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small.” (National Academy of Sciences) An examination of the 1964 termination of the Bracero program supports this finding. When farmers lost immigrant workers, they changed their crops to those requiring fewer workers.

Immigrants and U.S.-born workers usually don’t compete because they turn to different job markets. Instead they complement each other and increase each others’ productivity. The nonpartisan American Immigration Council reports that better education and an aging population has decreased the number of U.S.-born workers willing or available to take low-paying jobs. Even so, non-citizens and naturalized citizens are far outnumbered by U.S.-born citizens. Immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than native-born people are, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.

Last April a bipartisan group of 1,470 economists published an open letter to the nation’s leaders about the importance of immigration:

“As Congress and the Administration prepare to revisit our immigration laws, we write to express our broad consensus that immigration is one of America’s significant competitive advantages in the global economy. With the proper and necessary safeguards in place, immigration represents an opportunity rather than a threat to our economy and to American workers.

  • We view the benefits of immigration as myriad:
  • Immigration brings entrepreneurs who start new businesses that hire American workers.
  • Immigration brings young workers who help offset the large-scale retirement of baby boomers.
  • Immigration brings diverse skill sets that keep our workforce flexible, help companies grow, and increase the productivity of American workers.
  • Immigrants are far more likely to work in innovative, job-creating fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math that create life-improving products and drive economic growth.”

DDT’s point system limits the number of low-skilled workers for farms and dairy. It can also let DDT decide which immigrants—probably non-white—to exclude. Supporters of the system use Canada as an example, but that country has started to focus on the needs of specific industries. For example, the U.S. needs tech workers and agriculture laborers. DDT’s system eliminates the latter industry, and experiments in states—including Perdue’s Georgia—limiting immigration show the resulting devastation.

Even if unanimous among GOP senators, the Senate would need eight Democrats supporting the bill. It also doesn’t fit with DDT’s increasing the number of H-2B visas for non-agricultural industry workers like his workers at Mar-a-Lago. Before that he suspended the “premium processing” option for H-1B visas for highly skilled workers.

During a press conference about the proposed bill, Stephen Miller’s temper tantrum at the White House press briefing showed his ignorance in both history and language.  Both news and comedy television has shown Miller’s meltdown that began when CNN’s Cuban-American reporter Jim Acosta asked if the proposed law fits with the message on the Statue of Liberty. Miller launched into a sneering revisionist history lesson about Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, ”The New Colossus,” on the Statue of Liberty being irrelevant because it was added after the statue was installed. The last five lines:

“Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, /The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, /Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Lazarus’ biographer, Esther Schor, agreed that the words were added almost 17 years after the statue’s dedication, but the poem was used in 1883 to raise money to bring the statue to the United States. Miller claimed that the statue represents “America lighting up the world,” but Schor explained that “it’s really about the roots of American liberty in the French Enlightenment.” She said that Miller had to deny the statue’s meaning because it doesn’t fit with the theme of “Make America First.”

Miller’s temper blew sky high when Acosta followed up by asking if the English-speaking requirement meant restricting immigrants from only Australia and the United Kingdom. Miller sputtered:

“That is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you have ever said, and for you that is really …. It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree.”

It appears that Miller was trying to insult Acosta for being worldly-wise and unprovincial, the definition for cosmopolitan. Miller is DDT’s aide who said, “The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” Acosta is the reporter who made DDT so angry that he declaimed, “You are fake news!”

At the same time that DDT wants to cut back on immigration, his senior adviser and son-in-law has been subpoenaed regarding Kushner’s selling EB-5 federal visas for $500,000 each as “investors.” EB-5 applicants do not have to provide “skill,” including the ability to speak English. Kushner’ sister, Nicole, has used Jared Kushner’s name to lure investors, and Jared is connected to the company that seeks Chinese investment.

Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, a group of business leaders, mayors and others backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that advocates for comprehensive immigration reform, said:

“Our system is broken, but the response should be to modernize it, not take a sledgehammer to it.”

The past six months have shown that Republican legislation know nothing but sledgehammers.

January 13, 2016

Iran–a Nightmare for the GOP

President Obama’s last State of the Union speech was one of his best, both in delivery and writing. Listening to it was a joy, but even more delightful were the frantic attempts of House Speaker Paul Ryan to keep a straight face, to appear somber and disapproving so that his party not pillory him for reacting in any way that might indicate approval of the president who the GOP is determined to hate. Here’s one of Ryan’s failed attempts.

sotu

The conservatives did have about 16 hours of joy after Iran picked up ten sailors and two Navy patrol boats that wandered into Iranian waters. While Secretary of State John Kerry was negotiating for their return, GOP leaders disparaged the president’s leadership abilities and, as usual, accused him of letting Iran “push us around.” Saint Ronald Reagan came into the dialog as the GOP tried to use the incident to start a war with Iran.

Forbes Senior Political Contributor at Forbes Rick Ungar used Facebook to explain how far off base the Reagan worshippers are:

“One of the advantages of having graduated high school with Abraham Lincoln is that I was quite present during the Reagan administration. I remember all too well when our Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed during Reagan’s term of office, killing 241 Marines and injuring another 100. Reagan knew who did it- it was Hezbollah with the support of Iran and Syria. How did Ronald Reagan respond?

“First, Reagan assembled his National Security team and hatched a plan to seek retribution by blowing up the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards that were there to train Hezbollah fighters. The only problem was that Reagan ultimately decided not to do it because it would harm relations with other Arab nations.

“Not only did he not do anything to avenge the deaths of our Marines, four months later he withdrew all of our Marines from Lebanon, never so much as firing a shot in retribution for our dead military. There was no shortage of people at that time who were incensed with that move, just like these armchair quarterbacks who are on Obama’s case because someone took a photograph they don’t like- forget killing over 200 of our finest.”

Like President Obama in the current era, Reagan realized that “carpet bombing” Damascus and Tehran wouldn’t solve any problems: it would just cause more conflict and destroy foreign policy. Yet conservatives follow the war hawks, Israelis, and defense contractors who are salivating for a fight with Iran to further line the pockets of the rich to the loss of U.S. soldiers, economy, civilians, and peace.

The GOP House has been determined to scuttle the Iran deal determined by six major world leaders, but Ryan seems unable to get his members into the chamber to vote in a timely fashion. Today the vote to trash the Iran deal passed on an almost strictly partisan vote of 191 to 106, meaning that over 50 Republicans were missing. Because Ryan kept to the 15-minute limit for voting, something that his predecessor had not done, he had a serious shortage of votes. The House Speaker than promptly scrapped the vote and set a new one for January 26.

The bill would force the president to certify that entities benefiting from lifted sanctions would have to prove they never supported terrorism or Iran’s missile program. The new vote may be too late to stop Iran from regaining about $100 billion of its own assets. Even if the bill had passed, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said, “It’s a waste of all our time” because the president would veto the bill. This is the process, however, that the GOP continually follows—pass only bills that they know the president will veto.

Congress has another Iranian problem in the Supreme Court when it argued in Bank Markazi v. Peterson that the legislature is above the court system. That position didn’t sit well with the justices. Congress had ordered a federal court to determine how the U.S. could give almost $2 billion in security assets from Iranian’s bank to victims (and their families) of Middle East terrorist acts blamed on Iran by using language in its caption, including the case number of the victim’s lawsuit, for a law governing no other lawsuit. Justices seemed to initially go along with the process, but lawyers told the court that Congress could change any pending case in the courts by modifying a law to apply to only one case. Lawyer Theodore B. Olson told Chief Justice John Roberts that Congress does this all the time—in essence, tells the court how it shall rule—even saying that Congress could take such action in a Supreme Court case. Roberts wasn’t happy about Olson’s position.

In another Supreme Court case, Congress is trying to prove that it controls Puerto Rico instead of the country following its own constitution.

Convinced that Iran would not live up to its agreement to stop its path to a nuclear program, Republicans had a bad shock in the end of 2015. Iran has turned over almost all its enriched uranium to the Russians with plans to downgrade the little remaining material to fissionable reactor plates for an internationally supervised test reactor. The country will have no ability to produce weapons-grade material.

This positive move by Iran is not only irreversible but also months ahead of schedule. The country is also in the stages of completing other requirements, including dismantling the mandated number of centrifuges, reconfiguring the Arak heavy water reactor (to close down the pathway via plutonium), and allowing for more intrusive inspections. Although violating UN Security Council resolutions, Iran’s ballistic missile test does not violate the agreement. President Obama said he will address that problem by enforcing sanctions that are not part of the agreement.

Before the completion of the Iran deal, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) got signatures from 47 senators on a letter to Iran stating that the U.S. might not live up to their agreement. Living in relative obscurity since then, Cotton selected the night of President Obama’s last State of the Union speech to spread more lies about the U.S. boats being picked up in Iranian waters. According to the Tea Partier, it was not “coincidental” that Iran had selected that night to “seize” the boats and that the White House was “apologizing for Iran seizing two U.S. Navy vessels and holding 10 sailors hostage.” A minor blip on history was also blown out of proportion by GOP presidential candidates in an effort to score points and appeal to war hawks.

Republicans may have benefitted financially from their virulent opposition to the Iran deal. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials tried to bribe members of Congress to stop the agreement. They may have succeeded. The discussion shows that some legislators conspired with a foreign government to undermine the Commander-in-Chief’s foreign policy agenda—a definition of treason. The GOP has already evidenced its allegiance to Israeli’s lobbying groups such as AIPAC and the Israeli government. Sheldon Adelson, the 20th richest person in the world, spent $30 million on legislators to oppose the Iran deal.

Republicans have a reason other than supporting Israel to stop lifting sanctions on Iran: oil prices. Last spring, guesstimaters said that the price of oil could skyrocket to $250 a barrel with a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Now they wonder if the prices will drop even more because Saudi Arabia will drop its prices to force down those of Iran. With gas prices hovering at $2 per gallon and $30 per barrel, a 70-percent drop in the past 15 months, conservatives in Congress are considering action to raise oil prices. Fracking in the U.S. has caused an oil glut of oil, driving the prices down; thus lawmakers are considering retaliatory trade measures against Saudi Arabia for flooding the market with its own oil. A few years ago, Republicans blamed President Obama for high gas prices; now they complain about low prices.

All the GOP can hope for is a Republican president, one who would start World War III.

September 1, 2015

Don’t Follow Netanyahu into War

Thirty-three senators now support the President of the United States in agreeing to the Iran deal to keep the country from putting together nuclear weapons. To avoid an override of the proposed “resolution of disapproval” to stop the P5+1 agreement among seven countries of the world, President Obama needs one more senator to support the deal. Despite the tens of millions of dollars from anti-Iran deal groups advertising its dangers, a survey shows a majority of people in the U.S.—52 percent—want approval for the agreement. Nearly 7 in 10 Democrats support the deal that lifts some international sanctions against Iran in exchange for the country restricting its nuclear program for at least a decade. Six of 10 independents support the deal while almost 7 in 10 Republicans oppose the agreement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called a “jackass” in a public meeting last weekend, has invited another GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to join him in opposing the Iran deal at a rally on Capitol Hill. Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, considered too conservative by the ultra-conservative Fox network, will be at the September 9 event. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is continuing his possibly treasonous behavior by meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday and stating, “I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel.” He tweeted a photo of himself and the Israeli prime minister, writing: “Great meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem to discuss our opposition to the #IranDeal.”

cotton

Last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) worked against U.S. foreign policy during the migrant-children crisis. Other GOP lawmakers have also promised their allegiance to Israel. Five years ago, then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) promised Netanyahu that the new GOP majority in the house would “serve as a check” on the Obama administration. In 2006, Cantor is the same member of Congress who accused then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of violating the Logan Act, “which makes it a felony for any American ‘without authority of the United States’ to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States.” Cantor’s accusation came after Pelosi’s meeting with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad which she coordinated with Bush administration officials and where she included State Department personnel. Dick Cheney, the past vice-president who plans to attack President Obama at the September 9 rally, said of Pelosi, “The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”

Nine years ago, Al Gore criticized George W. Bush’s government “abuses” against Arabs after the 9/11 attacks when he spoke at a conference in Saudi Arabia. The conservative media attacked him, one claiming that Gore had committed “supreme disloyalty to his country.” Even worse to these writers was that his speech was “in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections” and “subversive … because of its location and its intended audience.” In 2007, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, insisted, “I would simply hope that people would understand that, under the Constitution, the president conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”

Now Republicans not only meet with foreign leaders to undermine the U.S. policy but also brag about doing it. Instead of being criminal, Cotton’s seditious behavior seems to be almost routine.

Netanyahu, the man who leads U.S. GOP congressional members, began his rise in 1996 after his opponent’s assassination. Fired up by the Oslo Accords, a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli settlers elected Netanyahu to avoid diplomacy and stop a Palestinian state. War mongering Richard Perle, advisor to Netanyahu’s campaign, headed the committee to write the strategy calling for a stop to diplomacy with Palestine and control the neighborhood by undermining, subdividing, or destroying Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Thanks to George W. Bush, only one of these three countries can still block Israel’s destruction of Palestinians. Since Barack Obama’s first election as president, Netanyahu has fought him with political assaults, international incidents, speeches to the U.S. Congress and the UN, and stories about the president’s lack of support for Israel.

The prime minister, who depicts Iran as a military aggressor, was close to attacking Iran three separate occasions between 2010 and 2012, the last of the three in an attempt to defeat President Obama for a second term. Fortunately, even far-right cabinet ministers or the military chief of staff blocked him.

Iran has not attacked another country in a conventional war in modern history. In contrast, Israel has a history of aggression in just a half century including preemptive wars in 1956, 1967, 1982, 2009 and 2014. The 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon led to an 18-year occupation of ten percent of Lebanon. Lebanese Shiites formed Hezbollah to resist Israeli oppression, but Iran’s support is considered by the U.S. and Israel as “support for terrorism.” U.S. and Israeli support for the Israeli illegal invasion and occupation is considered standard operating procedure.

Israel has several hundred nuclear warheads, whereas Iran has none, but Iran has been sanctioned for its civilian nuclear enrichment program for generating electricity. No one knows how many nuclear weapons are located in Israel because it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Netanyahu has consistently refused to broker peace with the Palestinians and forced out officials, such as Meir Dagan, head of the Israeli spying agency Mossad; the chief of staff; and the head of domestic intelligence. Netanyahu spread fear throughout the world by grossly exaggerating Iran’s threat, according to Dagan.

Netanyahu badly needs a GOP president because a Democratic one might not veto UN sanctions against Israel for failing to follow international law. Israel has violated many UN Security Council resolutions through its treatment of the stateless Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem, etc. Iran’s economy has been badly damaged by UNSC sanctions while Israel has not received any punishment thus far because the U.S. has vetoed sanctions against Israel, regardless of the cases’ merits. If the U.S. administration no longer exercises its veto, Israel could be forced into making peace.

Israel is also afraid of the UN recognizing Palestine, which has already been granted non-member observer state status by the General Assembly. Palestine has signed the treaties and instruments necessary to joining the International Criminal Court and gaining standing to sue Israel over its creeping annexation of Palestinian territory beyond the generally recognized 1949 armistice lines. The Rome Statute of 2002 under which the International Criminal Court operates, forbids colonization of other people’s territory. Israel could lose if Palestine sues.

The vast majority of Israel’s defense and security establishment support the Iran agreement, but Netanyahu has put them under a gag order. In a recent article for The Daily Jewish Forward, J.J. Goldberg wrote, “As unanimous as the politicians are in backing the prime minister, the generals and spymasters are nearly as unanimous in questioning him. Generals publicly backing Netanyahu can be counted on—well–one finger.” The U.S. media has avoided providing information that is well-known in the Israeli press and in a U.S. Jewish paper.

Republicans are so eager to spread propaganda against the Iran deal that Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) is terrifying second and third graders in Gilbert (AZ). He was supposed to talk to them about how bills became laws, but he moved into his opposition to the Iran agreement. According to parent Scott Campbell, Salmon explained the situation in Iran and then asked the children such questions as “Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?” Campbell’s daughter told her father that she didn’t know what suicide is and that she is very afraid. Salmon’s office said the congressman’s remarks weren’t any more shocking than the local news.

Israel wants the United States to attack Iran, the Republicans want to destroy the Democrats, and the people of the U.S. are the ones left to suffer the economic and human losses that result from Israel’s determination to dominate the world. People who oppose Israeli positions are accused of being anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is NOT criticizing Israelis for what they do, such as defying more UN resolutions than Iraq, spying on P5+1 negotiations and then leaking the information, committing war crimes, rejecting politicians for their loyalty to a foreign power, and trying to get the United States to go to war just to benefit Israel.

August 31, 2015

Vote on Iran Deal Nears

Conservative media, including Fox, is still distributing the falsehood started by the Associated Press that Iran could use its own inspectors in investigating a military site (which it called a nuclear site). Republicans initially tried to use this announcement to scuttle the Iranian deal, but two hours later AP deleted the information. The original report stated that Iranian scientists would inspect air and soil samples at Parchin and that the number of these samples would be limited to seven. Media ran a scary headline: “AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site.” The report that inspections in the past were carried out by Iranians with no one else allowed on the site came from a leaked draft agreement and is not included in the final one. The edited version eliminated the incendiary details and kept quotes from outraged GOP lawmakers .

According to arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, the leak was to make the agreement sound bad and to hope that the information would make congressional lawmakers start making demands. The AP allowed itself to be duped.

In raising serious—and false—doubts about the Iran agreement, the AP joined Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who evidently leads GOP foreign policy. During the August recess, a Jewish lobbying group paid for members of Congress to visit Israel and hear Netanyahu’s arguments to opposed the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran, signed on July 14 by the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The 58 members of Congress who visited Netanyahu in August were told that they should visit him instead of their constituents if they want contributions from wealthy Jewish donors.

TV ads focused on making people believe that the Iran agreement to control the country’s nuclear weapons is evil should come to an end this fall. Congress has only 18 more days for the first vote to follow the prime minister of Israel rather than the President of the United States.

The process in Congress:

  • Return from recess on September 8, nine days from now.
  • Begin debate on a GOP-sponsored “resolution of disapproval” against the deal.
  • Gather at least 60 votes to move the resolution forward in the Senate.
  • Vote on the resolution by September 17 with a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.
  • Pass the resolution because the GOP has the 51 votes.

If (or when) both congressional chambers approve the resolution against the Iran agreement, the president has 12 days to veto the resolution. Congress has another 10 days to vote on an override. The president needs 34 votes to avoid an override; thus far, 31 senators have committed to supporting the agreement and voting against the override. The House would need at least 44 Democratic votes to override a veto. Passing a resolution of disapproval and overriding a veto would bar President Obama from waiving most of the U.S. sanctions on Iran, necessary to complete the agreement with Iran.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) received much publicity when he came out in opposition to the agreement. He thinks that the country would be better off with the nuclear aspects but objects to the role Iran may take as a trading partner. His goal in opposing the Iran deal is to keep Israel’s domination in the area for another half century. He claims that he doesn’t want a war with Iran, but GOP presidential candidates do. Scott Walker would bomb Iran on the first day of his presidency. Most of the other candidates weren’t as clear in their intentions except they would rescind the agreement. Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate who supports it.

Mike Huckabee, far down in the polls, visited Israel to get financial support although he cannot legally accept donations from foreign nationals. His earnings from selling survivalist gear to Doomsday believers on his radio show seems to be insufficient to run his campaign. Ignoring Israel’s liberal abortion policy and its universal healthcare, Huckabee opposed U.S. foreign policy that the West Bank is illegally occupied territory. He said it sounded like “someone is illegally taking land” (which it is) and refers to the Palestinian seat of government as Judea and Samaria.

Walker has promised Israeli officials an increase in military aid should the U.S. have the misfortune of Walker as president. To Walker—and Israel—the one-third of the U.S. foreign aid budget that Israel gets every year isn’t enough for its 0.001 percent of the world’s population.

Within the seven countries that signed the deal, only U.S. hawks are in opposition. Camille Grand, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation, said that no constituency in Europe is against the agreement. He said, “The hawks are satisfied [with the deal].” In the world, the only strong opposition comes from Iranian hardliners, U.S. Republicans, and some Israel officials. Like the GOP opposition to the new START nuclear treaty, U.S. officials are eager to derail an agreement to advance the nation’s interests because of their hatred for President Obama.

Worried that the Senate may not muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), leader in undermining U.S. foreign policy, has made a statement, asking the Congress and the president to “speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” That would be Cotton’s voice after he persuaded 46 other senators to sign his letter to Iranian officials telling them not to trust U.S. officials. Cotton also wants to do away with the filibuster, ignoring the fact that the Republicans originally created the mandate for 60 votes to advance. The senators who express such amazement that Democrats might want to filibuster the Iran agreement ignore the GOP cause of almost total gridlock in that chamber during President Obama’s two terms. They also don’t recognize what might happen if they insisted on only up-and-down votes and then lost the simple majority in the senate.

Just looking at the names of people against the Iran agreement should be proof that the opposition is wrong. These are the same people who supported the Iraq War. George W. Bush learned nothing from that disaster and called the president “naive,” and David Frum, Bush’s speechwriter who coined “Axis of Evil” for Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, accused President Obama of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), called war against Iraq the “only reasonable option” and “the right war for the right reasons.” Mastermind of the Iraq War, Dick Cheney, plans to give an address against the agreement on September 8 although he’s no longer in office. Reporter Eli Lake, who argued about Iraq’s non-existent WMD, accuses the president of practicing the “politics of fear” to achieve peace. Columnist Bill Kristol, board member of an Israeli committee, was the first to write in March 2003 that “we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators” in Iraq. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who turned against his own party to support the Iraq War, has become the new leader of United against Nuclear Iran after its former leader decided that the Iran agreement was a good deal. Not in office in 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, testified at that time that Iraq had WMD. He is taking the same position with Iran.

Today’s problems with Iran come from Bush’s preemptive war on Iraq which expanded Iranian influence and a nuclear program exacerbated by the U.S. wars in the Middle East. Without the Iraq War, ISIS may never have existed. The agreement is a way to clean up the mess left by Bush and his hawks.

The Los Angeles Times has come out in support of the Iran agreement and has a very simple reason: “Although it certainly represents a gamble, the deal makes it highly unlikely that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon during the next 10 or 15 years. Without it, there is no such assurance…. It is far from a perfect deal … but at the end of the day, it must be supported because the alternatives are worse.”

With a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, Israel is a far more dangerous country than Iran because Netanyahu is willing to bomb anyone who gets in his way. The United States should take a good look at the far-right leadership in Israel and reconsider sending Israel one-third of our foreign aid budget to help wage war.

On the pro side of the agreement are dozens of former Israeli military officials, dozens of retired American generals and admirals, and a wide array of experts on nuclear non-proliferation. On the anti side is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is leading ignorant Republicans around by the nose. I’ll side with the experts.

March 20, 2015

Krugman Comments on GOP Budget; Cotton Supports Netanyahu

Paul Krugman’s column on the GOP perfidy:

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics. And that’s telling us something important about what has happened to half of our political spectrum.

 

So, about those budgets: both claim drastic reductions in federal spending. Some of those spending reductions are specified: There would be savage cuts in food stamps, similarly savage cuts in Medicaid over and above reversing the recent expansion, and an end to Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies. Rough estimates suggest that either plan would roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance. But both also claim more than a trillion dollars in further cuts to mandatory spending, which would almost surely have to come out of Medicare or Social Security. What form would these further cuts take? We get no hint.

 

Meanwhile, both budgets call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the taxes that pay for the insurance subsidies. That’s $1 trillion of revenue. Yet both claim to have no effect on tax receipts; somehow, the federal government is supposed to make up for the lost Obamacare revenue. How, exactly? We are, again, given no hint.

 

And there’s more: The budgets also claim large reductions in spending on other programs. How would these be achieved? You know the answer.

 

It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior. The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. And the Obama administration has been remarkably scrupulous in its fiscal pronouncements.

 

O.K., I can already hear the snickering, but it’s the simple truth. Remember all the ridicule heaped on the spending projections in the Affordable Care Act? Actual spending is coming in well below expectations, and the Congressional Budget Office has marked its forecast for the next decade down by 20 percent. Remember the jeering when President Obama declared that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term? Well, a sluggish economy delayed things, but only by a year. The deficit in calendar 2013 was less than half its 2009 level, and it has continued to fall.

 

So, no, outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan. It’s a modern Republican thing. And the question we should ask is why.

 

One answer you sometimes hear is that what Republicans really believe is that tax cuts for the rich would generate a huge boom and a surge in revenue, but they’re afraid that the public won’t find such claims credible. So magic asterisks are really stand-ins for their belief in the magic of supply-side economics, a belief that remains intact even though proponents in that doctrine have been wrong about everything for decades.

 

But I’m partial to a more cynical explanation. Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

 

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.

 

Does this mean that all those politicians declaiming about the evils of budget deficits and their determination to end the scourge of debt were never sincere? Yes, it does.

 

Look, I know that it’s hard to keep up the outrage after so many years of fiscal fraudulence. But please try. We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.

 

[Another commentary on Tom Cotton’s perfidy: The senator responsible for leading 47 percent of the Senate to destroy President Obama’s negotiations with Iran to get keep the country from building nuclear weapons is now concerned about the U.S. State Department’s cautious approach toward Netanyahu’s opposition to a two-state solution with Palestine. After the spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that “we’re currently evaluating our approach,” Cotton came out swinging:

 

“While Prime Minister Netanyahu won a decisive victory, he still has just started assembling a governing majority coalition. These kinds of quotes from Israel’s most important ally could very well startle some of the smaller parties and their leaders with whom Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently in negotiations. This raises the question, of course, if the administration intends to undermine Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts to assemble a coalition by suggesting a change to our longstanding policy of supporting Israel’s position with the United Nations.”

 

Cotton, the man who undermined his own president through his letter to Iran and his support of Netanyahu’s coming to lobby for war on Iran is worried about undermining? The senator long ago declared that his letter ‘s purpose was to target international diplomacy, undermine American foreign policy, and disrupt officials during their ongoing negotiations.

In return, Cotton worries that the term “evaluating our approach” will “startle” officials abroad who are “currently in negotiations.” On the Senate floor, Cotton added, “I fear mutual respect is of little concern to this administration. The president and all those senior officials around him should carefully consider the diplomatic and security consequences of their words.” We can only assume that Cotton is trying to match the high level of hypocrisy that Netanyahu has established this past week.]

March 16, 2015

Cotton’s Letter to Iran Disgusts Both Left, Right

Filed under: Foreign policy,War — trp2011 @ 9:50 PM
Tags: , , ,

Talking points for the GOP for decades have been “compassionate conservativism” and  trickle-down economics as they claim that the rising tide will lift all boats. Neither conservative economic philosophy nor analogy has proven successful. The real GOP philosophy is corporate rule, low wages, and war, that adds money to the coffers of the wealthy. The 114th Congress has launched its boat onto the waters to drown any policies such as repairing the infrastructure, educating people, helping workers in a crisis, addressing climate change—anything that would contribute to the welfare of the people in the United States.

The current goal of the new GOP Senate is war, as evidenced by Tom Cotton (R-AK), architect of the letter to Iran, that awkwardly tells its leaders that Congress, not the president, is in control of foreign policy. In a speech to the Heritage Foundation, Cotton demanded a halt to any negotiations with Iran explaining that this is the intended consequence of congressional action. In short, “We want war.”

Cotton is riding a bit lower after his appearance yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation. Other senators have demonstrated their abysmal background in foreign policy, but Cotton may have topped them when he said that Iran’s occupation of Tehran shows the country’s quest for regional domination. In fact, Tehran is the capital of Iran. He also said that he would agree to a deal with Iran only if they immediately dismantled their nuclear weapons—which they don’t have. Cotton wants to duplicate the start of war with Iraq in 2003 with a much worse consequence. Host Bob Schieffer also asked Cotton a very pointed question which made him slightly uncomfortable:

Cotton: “The fact that President Obama doesn’t see this letter as way to get more leverage at the negotiating table just underscores that he is not negotiating for the hardest deal possible.”

Schieffer: “Are you planning to contact any other of our adversaries? Do you plan to check with the North Koreans to make sure they know any deal has to be approved by the Congress?”

Cotton (smiling nervously): “Right now I and most every other senator is focused on stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Soon after the letter became public, a few people tried to defend Cotton with his military record in the Gulf. That failed after others pointed out that negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry has a much more distinguished military record.

cotton cartoon

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said the letter warning that any nuclear deal could be scrapped by a new president was “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” […]

“All countries, according to the international norms, remain faithful to their commitments even after their governments change, but the American senators are officially announcing that at the end of the term of their current government, their commitments will be considered null and void.”

People on the political right have been as critical as those on the left.

 

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and an aide in both Bush administrations, said partisan overtures such as the GOP letter make the world more uncertain, dangerous, and disorderly.

 

George Pataki, a former Republican governor of New York, said: “Just imagine if, come 2017, there’s a Republican president and a Democratic Congress. … Would Republican senators want a Democratic Senate sending a letter to a country when the president is engaged in negotiations? I don’t think so.”

 

Fox host Greta Van Susteran said during an appearance on ABC: “I think that letter was horrific. It end runs the president, which I think is terrible. I think they could have achieved the same goal without sending a letter becoming pen pals with the leadership of Iran.”

A major concern from the GOP leadership is that the letter, signed by 47 senators, will hurt its party. One Republican called the letter “a disaster” because “the Democrats have totally framed and owned the debate, and our GOP senators are getting pummeled.” This position is accurate, with conservative newspapers that endorsed Republican senatorial candidates in the last election are now chastising their choices for signing the letters.

 

The Ohio Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Enquirer that endorsed Rob Portman in 2010: “The magnitude of this disgraceful decision,” a Plain Dealer editorial said, “shows the degree to which partisanship has gobbled up rationality on foreign policy.” (Plain Dealer) The letter “diminishes the dignity of the Senate by disparaging the president and presenting an amateur lesson on U.S. governance.” (Cincinnati Enquirer)

 

The Nashua’s (NH) Telegraph which endorsed Kelly Ayotte in 2010: “One wonders how loud and angry the Republican response would have been if a petty clan of Democratic senators had written an open letter to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev [during nuclear arms talks with Washington].”

 

The Peoria (IL) Journal Star which endorsed Mark Kirk in 2010: “Our expectations were higher of Kirk.”

 

The Salt Lake Tribune (UT) which endorsed Orrin Hatch in 2012: “The senators seem determined to build tensions in the Middle East, endanger Israel and greatly increase the chances that the United States will wind up taking military action against Iran.” Headline reads, “Lee, Hatch join a foolish campaign.” [It is to be noted that this newspaper, in the heart of Mormon country, endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2012.]

 

The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal which endorsed Dean Heller in 2012: “The ones who may not fully understand how the U.S. government works are Heller and the other signatories…. Imagine if during George W. Bush’s presidency, the majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate had written to the leaders of Iraq or Afghanistan that they should not take seriously any agreements hammered out with the White House and our allies because Democrats will try at the earliest opportunity to undo them.”

 

A huge irony surrounding Cotton’s letter is congressional members’ failure to even discuss—let alone debate or vote on—the war against the self-described Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It’s been going on for over seven months with more than 2,600 airstrikes and the deployment of about 3,000 troops. As GOP members of Congress wail about the president extending his powers, they have taken no action to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) allowing for continued expansion of war powers for the executive branch. The GOP will subvert the president by secretly inviting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress and send a subversive letter to Iran, but they won’t take any action in Congress to take over the powers for themselves.

 

Raised by Democratic parents, Cotton’s “my-way-or-the-highway” philosophy was honed at Harvard where he wrote a thesis agreeing with his perception of the Founder’s opposition to democracy because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. According to Cotton, the United States must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. In other words, men like him.

 

Cotton voted against $300 million in federal funding for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock although he tried to convince voters that he had supported the hospital. In the House he was the only Arkansas Republican to vote twice against the farm bill and five times against disaster-aid funding, two areas important to rural Southerners. He was also the only Arkansan to vote for a budget that slashed spending, voucherized Medicare, and raised the Social Security age to 70. He wants food stamps cut because too many recipients live “high on the hog,” and he voted against equal pay legislation and the Violence Against Women Act. He opposed the relief bill for Hurricane Sandy was that it was rushed through, exactly like the letter to Iran as senators were leaving town. Cotton has shown “a harsh, unyielding, judgmental political philosophy, one that makes little allowance for compassion or human weakness,” according to journalist Molly Ball in The Atlantic.

 

This is the man who is leading 47 senators and at least five wannabe senators around by their noses.

March 12, 2015

Infamous 47 Senators Face Backlash over Treasonous Letter

The past week has seen news issues such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email, two drunken Secret Service agents disturbing a crime scene at the White House, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott preventing state EPA officials from uttering the term “climate change.” All these major stories, however, have been eclipsed by the letter that 47 GOP Senators sent to Iran in an effort to either join Iranian hardliners in their effort to stop negotiations stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons or undermine the White House administration in working for a peaceful resolution with Iran.

Sen. Tom Cotton, the attempted coup’s leader, received $13.9 for his senatorial campaign, much of these funds from Israeli hard-line sources, almost $1 million from the Emergency Committee for Israel, that support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in going to war with Iran. Cotton has also called for supplying Israel with B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs for a possible strike against Iran. He has had a good week, going to the top of TV bookers’ lists and being sought out by colleagues on foreign policy. As such, he finds himself in “tall cotton,” a farmer’s term for success from good prices for crops. The attention, however, may come from his idiocy. Cotton is not known for his connection with reality and even takes pride in his ability to lie to the public. While a U.S. representative, Cotton told uninsured people not to use the health care marketplace because their personal information would be “stolen by Russian mobsters.” Others, however, may suffer from the continuing outrage about the senators’ treasonous action.

Lacking any sense of propriety, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) used the letter for fundraising.  A communication from his “Reclaim American PAC” stated that a $25 donation “will allow us to immediately fight back against these outrageous attacks [against the letter signers].” He should instead be apologizing for telling Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. can’t fight ISIS because the president is afraid of antagonizing Iran. Rubio said, “Tell me why I’m wrong.” Kerry did. “Because the facts completely contradict that,” he said, before he offered more details in a classified session. ISIL is a threat to Iran, and the country appreciates the U.S. campaign against the terrorists. Rubio repeated his false theory, and Kerry described it as “flat wrong,” following the statement with information about his meeting with King Solomon who supports U.S. actions against ISIL.

Facing the outrage across the country, other senators are trying to cover their sabotage like a cat in its sandbox. Republican aides tried to excuse the letter as a lighthearted attempt to show Iran that Congress should have a part in the negotiations. Other aides described it as a “cheeky” reminder of congressional rights, accusing the administration of having “no sense of humor.”

Failing in this tack, the GOP blamed President Obama for their letter. If he had consulted legislators or not threatened a proposed bill to give them the final vote on the agreement, they wouldn’t have had to write the letter, they said. This argument  also came from both Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who did not sign the letter, and hopeful GOP presidential candidate, Jeb Bush.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted that the letter might not have been the best idea. He also said, “I saw the letter, I saw that it looked reasonable to me and I signed it, that’s all. I sign lots of letters.” Next time he might want to actually read what he signs. His next excuse was that “everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he signed it to “strengthen the president’s hand.” He has lost any credibility as a non-interventionist, non-nation builder libertarian Republican by saying that he wants to create a new nation for the Kurds by giving them arms. He wants a new independent country, Kurdistan, by redrawing borders of Syria and Iraq. This claim came two weeks after he told Tea Party libertarians that the GOP should stop attempts at international nation building.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) might want to reconsider her signature; as an active duty lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, she may have violated her state’s Code of Military Justice, specifically, Chapter 29B.85:

“Any person subject to this code who uses contemptuous words against the president, the governor, or the governor of any other state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which that person may be serving, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Chapter 29B.1 notes that “this chapter applies to all members of the state military forces, while not in federal service.” Thomas Jefferson, one of the constitutional founders who Ernst reveres, wrote, “[The president] being the only channel of communication between this country and foreign nations, it is from him alone that foreign nations or their agents are to learn what is or has been the will of the nation….”  An Iowa National Guard representative said that Ernst is an on active duty, but Ernst claimed on CPAC that “today I serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.”

Before the letter, some Democrats had considered joining GOP senators to pass a bill requiring more sanctions against Iran. The plan that would kill Iranian negotiations is likely dead.

Historically, the GOP has fought congressional interference with White House foreign policy. In 1986, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, joined by Cotton’s letter signer Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), insisted that President Reagan had the constitutional authority to ignore the congressional ban on aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. That was when Reagan provided weapons to Iran in its war with Saddam Hussein, who was backed by the United States at that time. Cheney’s support of the president’s constitutional powers applied to all issues and all occupants of the White House:

“[C]ongressional overreaching has systematic policy effects…. Congress’ efforts to dictate diplomatic bargaining tactics, as well as the efforts by individual members to conduct back channel negotiations on their own, make it extremely difficult for the country to sustain a consistent bargaining posture for an extended time period, whomever the President and whatever the policy.”

A fact-check pointed out the flaws in Cotton’s letter. President Obama is working on an “executive agreement,” not a treaty, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the president has authority to carry these out. Cotton maintains that future Congresses could “modify” the agreement, but the agreement would be supported by five permanent UN Security Council members plus one: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, plus Germany. Modification requires all signers to agree to changes. Even if Congress demanded this action from the United States, at least 67 senators would have to vote in favor of this to override a veto, an unlikely number now and perhaps less likely after the 2016 election which could lose some GOP senatorial positions. Even with a GOP president, the action would require 60 votes.

Reneging on an executive agreement may violate international law, and doing so would certainly endanger the nation’s diplomatic credibility. At this time, 95 percent of international agreements are done through executive agreements; reversing one of these would create global doubt to the United States commitment to most of the existing international agreements.

Asked about the letter from the infamous 47, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.  It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.  This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”

Zarif expressed the same astonishment that at least 22 major newspapers across the country expressed on their editorial pages. Like the media, Zarif pointed out that the senators fail to understand both international law and their own Constitution as it pertains to presidential powers in foreign policy.

As of this evening, a White House petition against the 47 letter signers has reached almost 260,000 signatures.

March 9, 2015

Will GOP Senators Start World War III?

In an act of possible treason, 47 GOP Senators have joined Iranian extremists in an effort to stop negotiations with Iran. In their attempt to undermine the U.S. foreign policy, the Republicans signed a letter to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” declaring the next president could reverse any agreement without legislative approval “with the stroke of a pen.” This action may support Iranian hardliners who want their to develop arsenal of nuclear weapons and lead the Middle East to greater instability.

The White House was not informed about the letter until after it had been sent to Iran, and Democratic senators were also not given advance warning. The secret action of these 47 GOP senators followed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) secret invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who beat the drums of war in a speech before the U.S. Congress.

President Obama has been working with five other leaders of world powers to keep Iran from having a nuclear bomb. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to go to Switzerland within the next week to complete a framework agreement before the March 24 deadline, two weeks from now. If the pact lasted ten years, the world powers would lift its sanctions against Iran.

Fortunately, Iran leaders sneered at the GOP senators’ letter. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, issued a statement:

“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

Although the letter would most likely not stop any agreement, it could be used by Iranians if talks falter. The missive was called an “open letter,” meaning a statement and not an intervention in negotiations, but it is unprecedented. The purpose is another attempt to embarrass the president and keep him from carrying out the foreign policy of the United States. As Minority Leader Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-NV) said, “Republicans are undermining our commander-in-chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) drafted the letter. He said he did it because Iran’s leaders might not understand America’s constitutional system, in case those in Iran don’t know that presidents serve for only two terms. Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith describes the technical mistakes in the letter as “embarrassing”:

“The letter states that ‘the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.’ But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: ‘The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.’  Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): ‘It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.’ Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: ‘When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,’ he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

Negotiations require no congressional action because the president has the power to lift sanctions that he has imposed through his executive orders and suspend others imposed by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to wait for any action in the Senate until talks with Iran were concluded.

The Republicans who did not sign the letter deserve a great credit. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Foreign Relations Committee chair who has been working with Democrats on Iran legislation, said, “We’ve got a bipartisan effort that’s underway that has a chance of being successful, and while I understand all kinds of people want to weigh in.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also did not sign. She said it was “more appropriate for members of the Senate to be giving our advice to the president, to Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry and to the negotiators.” The other GOP senators who did not sign the letter are Jeff Flake (AZ), Lamar Alexander (TN), Dan Coats (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Those who signed the letter fail to see that their action destroys any shreds of U.S. integrity for all future negotiations with foreign powers. The signers are part of a free-for-all climate in which they presume they have the autonomy to address foreign government with their own personal opinions—for example, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized President Obama’s actions in Guatemala. Even worse, they have taken this action during delicate negotiations in the sole purpose of creating chaos. The end result is loss of U.S. influence in foreign affairs.

As Vice-President Joe Biden wrote in a statement:

“In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary—that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them.”

The letter’s author, Tom Cotton, has no interest in peace in the Middle East. During his campaign, he described ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas as an “urgent problem.” Before he was sworn in, he said he wanted Congress to supply Israel with Boeing-made B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs. After less than a month in Congress, he called for offensive action and compared the negotiations with Iran to the appeasement of Nazi Germany. He also said that the president was wrong to not send U.S. forces into Syria. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he said, “The more we bomb … the safer we are.” He wants to create a regime change in Iran, just as George W. Bush wanted a regime change in Iraq. Cotton openly declared that he wants more sanctions on Iran to end current negotiations.

Under the current agreement with Iran, the country’s nuclear program has been frozen and is even rolling back while the IAEA has “unprecedented access” to Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to Dylan Williams, a vice president of the pro-Israel advocacy group J Street. All this would end without an agreement with Iran.  Two years ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that economic sanctions, diplomacy, international cooperation, and defensive preparedness are having a positive effect on Iran’s nuclear program. The Pentagon stated that Dempsey’s assessment is still “accurate.”

About the new senators who wants to be the leading hawk in the chamber, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said:

“Sen. Cotton is already on his way to marking himself as the premiere warmonger of the 114th Congress. I think this is just the beginning of his efforts to see that we’re involved not just in one war or two wars, but perhaps 15 or 20 wars; that’s the way he’d like to see it.”

Some people have brought up the Logan Act of 1799 that could declare Cotton’s actions as treason. Also the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936):

“The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.’ Annals, 6th Cong., col. 613.”

That decision has never been overruled; it covers Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to lobby for war in front of Congress.

 

cottonTomorrow, Cotton will attend an event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.  His advocacy for higher military spending and attacks on the Middle East should gain him an increase in his next campaign’s “war chest.”

Patronizing, smug, arrogant, naïve, willful, controlling, ignorant, condescending—it’s hard to find enough words to describe the new senator from Arkansas. All I ask is that he also reinstate the draft to provide the “drone fodder” that World War III will cause. By doing so, people may stop the war hawks across the nation from leaving he United States in perpetual war.

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