Syria

President Obama will address the nation tonight about his burning desire to start a new war in the Middle East.  Intervening in the Syrian civil war would be an act of madness.  Through talk of a “limited strike” and the McCain/Coons resolution which would allow us a broad, “boots on the ground” intervention on the side of radical Islamists, we must first remember one fact:  once you start a war its course is out of your hands.

A military strike on Syria, however limited, would be an act of war against that nation.  Their civil war has devolved into a conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims.  Are we really prepared to side with Iran?  Is it wise to get involved, once again, in another nation’s internal conflict?  Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

The Senate resolution proposed by Senators McCain and Coons is dangerous and allows broad latitude for a major intervention.  The Russian proposal is very promising and, thus far, there has been no concrete evidence presented that the Assad government used chemical weapons.

The country is very apprehensive about believing anything our government says regarding weapons of mass destruction.  Once burned, twice shy.  One interesting facet of the debate is the opposition of right wing conservatives to react to a supposed use of chemical weapons.  They widely used Saddam’s use of them ten years previously to justify invading Iraq.

Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico sent a wisely thought out missive about this issue yesterday:

Dear Friends,

The last week has been the most difficult I have experienced in my more than eight years in public office.  What I share with you now will not win me any popularity awards, and some of you may well never forgive me for my decision today. All I ask is that you read this entire letter and seek to understand how I came to make this decision.

I have always believed that my decisions in public office should reflect my best judgment and what I believe to be the best course for our nation. Most of the time that leads to votes that are well aligned with most of you as constituents.  Just as importantly, it means that I can look my children in the eye and explain my positions with honesty, never having to explain why a vote was the result of politics or pressure. Today, I am taking a position that I believe is in line with those values.

From my position on the Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed regularly for eight months now on developments in Syria. Those developments have been very difficult to watch. Most people only hear about these things on a news report, where it is difficult to imagine the scale and intensity of this violence. I have had a much closer view.

Bashar al-Assad is a dictator who has shown a willingness to reduce residential neighborhoods to rubble, to imprison and torture children, and who has watched callously as his actions have killed over a hundred thousand civilians and displaced millions of Syrian refugees.

Despite that, I remain of the belief that as a nation, we cannot become directly entangled in a civil war that we do not fully understand. It is for this reason that I do not think we should arm the Syrian rebels and I do not support sending American troops into this conflict.

However, over recent months I also learned of the facts that are now the subject of so much debate here and around the world. What I can tell you from my perspective, having seen the public evidence as well as much that remains classified, I do not have any doubt about the following facts:

One: a chemical weapons attack occurred on August 21;

Two: that attack was planned and carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime; and

Three: that as a result, hundreds of children and non-combatants were gassed to death in the suburbs of Damascus.

I have seen how Assad incrementally tests the international community as he employs more and more brutal tactics in order to cling to power. And I can tell you that August 21 was not just some anomaly, but that it is part of a long and predictable pattern of behavior.

What’s more, I believe that when any country chooses to ignore the international norms against chemical weapons, they have made a deeply immoral decision with worldwide implications, implications that the United States and the international community cannot ignore. If you want to understand why chemical weapons were singled out for international actions, you can watch videos that were taken in the aftermath of the Damascus attacks. These videos show the real effects of chemical weapons and are completely consistent with international forensic evidence showing that the agent was Sarin nerve gas.  I would warn you not to view these with children in the room. They are real and they are horrible.

I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq. But this is not Iraq and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons.

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will support President Obama’s request for the authorization of use of military force.

I will seek to make sure that the resolution before the Senate remains narrow in scope and does not put American troops on the ground in another Middle Eastern war. But I believe that President Obama and the international community should be able to send a message to Bashar al-Assad: that he is not above international norms and that he will suffer real, military consequences should he choose to gas civilians.

I will continue to support additional foreign aid to alleviate the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Syria and neighboring countries, and I will also continue supporting diplomatic options so long as they are credible, verifiable, and enforceable.

While I know that my vote on this matter will be controversial, especially among some of my closest supporters, I want you to know that I have little doubt it is the right decision.

Sincerely,

Signature

MARTIN HEINRICH

United States Senator

I stand with Sen. Heinrich, opposed to any war with Syria.

Indefinite Detention

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed this week funding The Pentagon for a staggering $662 billion for the fiscal year.  That total wasn’t the focus of the bill however.  Provisions inserted by Carl Levin and John McCain, at the request of the Obama Administration, say a president can declare anyone an “enemy combatant” and have our military detain and imprison us without trial indefinitely.  This marks the end of democracy in America if any leader can arbitrarily arrest a citizen and hold them without trial forever.  These are police state tactics.

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware argued on Up With Chris this morning on MSNBC that he voted for the bill for several reasons.  First he didn’t want to defund the Defense Department while the nation is at war.  His second reason was that since, statutorily Congress cannot enact such legislation which contradicts the constitution, the Supreme Court will strike it down.  Neither argument is valid.

First, defund the The Pentagon and we won’t be “at war” any longer.  This is the most direct way to bring an end to a bad war where we have no clear mission, Osama has been eliminated along with 22 of the top 30 Al Qaeda leaders and we are doing harm than good to our strategic national security.

On his second argument one cannot assume the Roberts Court would overturn such provisions.  Meanwhile great harm can be done.  That wouldn’t stop a president from implementing these powers and start arresting Occupy protesters for example.  They would disappear to, who knows where?  Gitmo?  One of those secret CIA prisons overseas?  We’d never know and, with no access to legal counsel the detainees couldn’t even challenge the constitutionality of their arrests.  Congress has passed all sorts of unconstitutional legislation since 9/11:  the USA PATRIOT Act, expanded FISA abuse, the wiretapping of everyone’s communications and examination of billions of financial transactions and nothing yet has been overturned by SCOTUS.  So that argument has no merit whatsoever.

Under this law you could contribute funds to a religious charity and, if, unknown to you, the money was transferred to a person or body deemed to be hostile or terroristic, you could be arrested and disappear ala Salvadore Allende style in Chile.

America has become yet another banana republic controlled by tyrants.  Both Bob Casey and Pat Toomey voted for this.  What will you do about it?

National Export Initiative Hits Wilmington, DE

They let me out of Pennsylvania Friday for a trip to Wilmington to cover a Department of Commerce event on the National Export Initiative.  I must say it was nice covering people from somewhere else for a change.  One gets so accustomed to the same faces, the same messages and the same speeches that the short trip south to the Diamond State, my former home, was a nice break.  The conference was held at Delaware Technical and Community College, known locally simply as DelTech, and included panels and breakout sessions all day.  These focused on all sorts of opportunities and practicalities of helping businesses, especially small ones, export their products and services thereby creating jobs locally.

I’ve covered a number of these events since Barack Obama became President and launched the National Export Initiative with a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.  Progress towards that goal has been proceeding according to plan and events such as these help and encourage businesses to search for and find new markets.  The Commerce Department helps find new customers, advises business people on local customs and affords the use of embassies and consulates for meetings.  I spoke with two men who both started small businesses after leaving corporate giant DuPont and who are taking advantage of overseas markets.  The best thing, for me, at these events is meeting such people and getting their stories.  Here they are:

Sky-Trax

AnalTech

I also had a chat with someone from DE MEP which is an agency focused on economic development.  Their funds are both state and federal and he told me their budgets keep getting cut every year.  The biggest of those came under GW Bush but the current wave of spending cut fever in Washington is hurting their ability to create jobs through economic development.  This is crazy in an economic climate where job creation could and should be Job #1.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell spoke about his state’s healthy business climate, something Pennsylvania officials should listen to, and Sen. Chris Coons spoke prior to Commerce Sec. Gary Locke.  Only 1% of American businesses export and well over 50% of those exports stay in North America.  Increasing exports make companies thrive by creating new markets for goods and services thereby creating new jobs here at home.  I recall having  akeen interest in international business as an undergraduate marketing major at Penn State and I took every course offered on it at the time.  Attending these conferences and speaking with these entrepreneurs takes me back to those days.

The videos of the Governor, Senator and Commerce Secretary are under the fold…

Gov Jack Markell

Sen. Chris Coons:

Sec. Gary Locke:

News & Notes October 14, 2010

The closely watched Delaware Senatorial race held a debate last evening and Christine O’Donnell illustrated why Tea Party candidates are going to lose big this year:  she’s good at reciting talking points and clever slogans but none of these candidates offers a clear policy agenda designed to move the country forward.  There has to be more than lip service by Mama Grizzlies, with no substance behind the facade voters will smell the rats.  O’Donnell, like her GOP cohorts, is accusing Democrats of unemployment, low wages, loss of the middle class and all the other ills THEY caused.  How stupid do they think we are?  I suppose we’ll see in a few weeks.

Keystone Progress has an ad out attacking Tom Corbett for failing to obey the law.  Its pretty bad when your state Attorney General is a crook:

Republican independent groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads are outspending Democratic groups by 9-1.  This is all the result of the Citizens United decision (one Ms. O’Donnell couldn’t think of during last night’s debate) releasing limits on corporate and union spending in campaigns.  Remember when I said this dwarfing would happen and one of our ignorant right wing commenters challenged me?  The proof is in the pudding and we’re all drowning in ads sponsored by who knows who and funded from foreign sources.  If you’d like to get back at them we could use your contributions at Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC.

Another independent group VoteVets.org is spending a cool million going after Pat Toomey and Mike Fitzpatrick in eastern Pennsylvania for their bad records supporting veterans.  Toomey’s numbers are falling as Joe Sestak has yet another devastating ad where his opponent is his own worst enemy.  Here’s an example:

Education Voters PA has endorsed Dan Onorato for Governor.  The race for the Governor’s Mansion seems to be down to a virtual tie three weeks out.  Unions especially have been organizing and out knocking on thousands of doors every weekend.  Other organizations are also out there and conducting phone banks, canvasses and doing direct mail.  I can’t get into exact details since I sit on the Boards of one of them.  A lot is happening however.

I like how Jim Gerlach is running on jobs after he voted to destroy our jobs and against every single jobs bill.  One of the things I admire about Dr. Trivedi is his willingness to expose Gerlach’s duplicity:


News & Notes September 18, 2010

Joe Sestak has a new ad up comparing his life of service to Pat Toomey’s.  This commercial should prove to be very decisive in the Senate race.  

Delaware’s newest Tea bagger phenom Christine O’Donnell once “dabbled in witchcraft.”  That might explain her position that we’re trying to put human brains in mice.  At first I thought she’d just been watching too much Tom and Jerry but now I understand.  This woman also doesn’t believe anyone should masturbate.  If you ever masturbated this is reason enough to vote against this extremist.  How many voters does that leave?

President Obama has appointed former Steeler Hines Ward to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  Another nice reception.

The President also lauded the Senate for passing the latest START Treaty.  The amazing thing is that the Senate actually voted on something.  There are 372 bills which have passed the House and not come up for a vote by Senators due to GOP holds and filibusters.  Forty four of them passed the House unanimously.  Our government is broken by Republican obstructionism and is grinding to a halt and people are blaming Democrats.  This is what you call a complete failure of communications by a President for whom communicating with the public was an art form as a candidate.

I saw a Tweet yesterday which was on the mark:  President Obama should be charged with political malpractice because he gave 95% of Americans a tax cut and none of them know it.

Meanwhile Republicans who created the economic crisis by voting for Bush tax cuts, unpaid for wars, deregulation of markets and such are now running on platforms of blaming Democrats for their own misdeeds and Democrats aren’t calling them out for it except Patrick Murphy:

Lack of access to credit has been strangling small businesses since the Bush Recession began and the White House bill seeking to ease these stresses and make money more available was being blocked by supposedly pro-business Republicans until last week.  These people will even vote against one of their core constituencies and against all job creation efforts then go on the campaign trail and cry about the lack of jobs being created.  The bad news?  Gullible, ignorant voters eat it up.

State Representative Jennifer Mann was named as the “other woman” in a divorce action filed in Lehigh County.

Some progressive activists are getting serious, credible threats from Tea Party members and other extremists to the point where some have had to move and others gone into hiding.  This country is quickly descending into literal class warfare and its folks like Glenn Beck fomenting the violence.  These attacks began after he said “progressives are a cancer.”  I know of at least one online group which was disbanded in order to protect its members.  I have a bumper sticker on my car now which says “Pennsylvania Progressive” and since I got it I’ve noticed much more aggressive driving by men in pick-up trucks and such, typical Tea Party profiles.