ISIS

President Obama is bombing ISIS targets in Syria, an act of war against that country, in a widening of Mid-East conflict stemming from the ill fated Iraq War begun by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  The destabilization of Iraq caused by our invasion and overthrow if its government (under false pretenses) has resulted in the creation of ISIS.  It is a direct result of horrible foreign policy decisions and until Iraq develops a fully inclusive, effective central government which isn’t a US puppet regime such destabilization will continue.

We can again invade Iraq and bomb ISIS and, perhaps, destroy the group’s capabilities only to watch another such organization form and threaten stability in the region.  These are the results of having an idiot in the Oval Office who started a war for regime change without even understanding the dynamics at work in that nation.  Bush wanted to avenge his father’s honor and in so doing opened a Pandora’s Box of trouble which will last for decades.

Many foreign policy experts predicted this sort of long lasting instability after Bush and Cheney’s bloodlust and thirst for defense industry profits (Cheney’s Halliburton made $39 billion in profits from the war) motivated them to lie to the country about Saddam’s non existent WMD’s.  These are the fruits of the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last century.

ISIS does not pose a threat to our strategic national security.  They beheaded two American journalists who chose to enter a war zone voluntarily to do their jobs.  While regrettable we cannot choose to go to war every time an American makes a foolish or dangerous decision.  At some point they must accept personal responsibility for their entering a dangerous region.  Israel murdered thousands of Palestinians and many Americans sat back and cheered the slaughter.  What this says about pr priorities is sickening.

ISIS simply doesn’t have the capability to strike definitively inside this country.  Their 20-30,000 untrained fighters have to hold and secure the areas already under their control plus battle opposition forces in Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish region of Iraq.  Their estimated $3 million/day in revenues sound impressive until one understands they actually have expenses.  Since they control a considerable area in both Syria and Iraq remember that now, as the governing body, they must administer governmental services in this region.  Schools, prisons, road construction and repair, security and all those other normal governmental services normal in today’s world are now their responsibility.  This costs money.  Those government workers expect to be paid as do their fighters.  Their army also needs training and weapons.  These things cost money.  Three million a day won’t go far especially now that Obama is targeting their sources of revenue.  Bombing of their refinery and a tightening of contributions from wealthy Arabs and closing the black market for their oil will reduce their revenues considerably.

Frankly I’m more concerned with the threat of ebola more than I am ISIS.  Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham can inflame passions all they want in their bloodlust for war but remember these two, a year ago, were screaming that we should align ourselves with ISIS against the Assad regime in Syria.  They have no credibility when it comes to national security.  I’d rather see us concentrate on eradicating ebola in western Africa before it migrates to other areas of the world.  This is the more serious threat.

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.

Congress’ UnAmerican Detention Bill

1984 is headed our way if a bit late.  Already living in a surveillance state where we are on camera everywhere we go and where we readily surrender all of our privacy in exchange for a few cents off purchases, we are now ready to allow our government to violate ALL of our civil rights.  The National Defense Authorization Act would allow the feds to arrest and detain anyone and detain them indefinitely under the guise of terrorism.

Of course one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.  What if some official decided all of the Occupy protesters are terrorists?  They could do this very easily and all of them would be rounded up and shipped to Gitmo or some other unknown destination…indefinitely and without trial.

First, the committee’s proposal accepts prosecutors as the arbiters of guilt. We have courts in America to check executive power.  Impartial judges limit over whom the state may exercise its coercive power to deny freedom.

Or consider this analysis:

A provision of S. 1867, or the National Defense Authorization Act bill, written by Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, declares American soil a battlefield and allows the President and all future Chief Executives to order the military to arrest and detain American citizens, innocent or not, without charge or trial. In other words, if this bill passes and the President signs it, OWS protesters or any American could end up arrested and indefinitely locked up by the military without the guaranteed right to due process or a speedy trial.

The bill was drafted in secret without any public hearings.  It would, essentially, establish a police state and turn us into Amerika.  Why did we fight the Cold War for forty years just to turn around and become the Soviet Union?

News & Notes May 18, 2011

Rick Santorum thinks John McCain doesn’t understand the value of torture.  It’s too bad McCain isn’t running this year because I’d love to watch the 2008 nominee turn to Santorum and say “I know torture, I’ve been tortured, you know nothing about torture or what it does.”  It would be a classic put down moment.  How stupid is Rick that he’d say something like that?  Did he forget McCain was tortured in North Vietnam?

Republicans succeeded in blocking passage yesterday of those oil industry welfare programs being halted.  President Obama targeted the $4 billion in taxpayer breaks given to giant energy corporations making billions while paying no taxes.  The GOP filibuster succeeded.  The tax breaks remain.

Today’s video is about protesters crashing the JP Morgan Chase shareholders meeting:

DEP actually fined Chesapeake Energy over $1 million for the Bradford County well explosion.  These “accidents” are the reason the Susquehanna River replaced the Delaware as the nation’s most endangered waterway.  In yet more Marcellus news DEP is citing Cabot for continuing problems in Dimock and Sen. Joe Scarnati is proposing that each well drilled be assessed a $10,000 impact fee.  Don’t confuse that with an extraction tax.

In litigation news an Appeals Court will not step in and void the settlement in the famous facebook case.  The Harvard twins who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea settled for $20 million but aren’t happy.  I think I could be happy with $20 million.

In some election news yesterday Tom Caltagirone’s hand picked candidate for Mayor of Reading came in third in the Democratic primary.  This from the man going around telling people that he is the only Dem in the area who knows how to win elections?  His DJ candidate Judge Deb Lachina also lost.

Judge Michael Leonardziak never called me after I found two of his poll workers acting illegally at different polls yesterday.

Voters in Philadelphia actually cast ballots for a convicted criminal for Mayor.  In that crooked city it seems like poetic justice.  Michael Nutter still beat Milton Street however with 76% of the vote.   Not everyone there is insane.

In Northampton County a referendum on privatization of Gracedale, the county nursing home, was 3-1 in favor of keeping the facility public.

In Allegheny County Rich Fitzgrald beat Mark Flaherty for County Executive in the Dem primary and State Rep. Chelsa Wagner, the Auditor General’s niece, won the race for the County Controller slot on November’s ballot.

The Democratic race for Judge of Commonwealth Court is very close.  With most precincts now reporting Kathy Bookvar is slightly ahead 306,819 to 304,766 for Barbara Behrend Ernsberger.  This will likely go to a recount.

A gay activist threw glitter all over Newt yesterday.  Is he trying to make the man look good or something?  Sorry but that’s impossible.  I had Gingrich had his pants zipped this time.

The End of “Compassionate Conservatism”

George W. Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative” while running for President in 2000.  No one believed him, of course, because conservatives have been defined as people who care only about themselves.  Regardless he convinced a lot of voters he cared about the elderly, the poor, the downtrodden and others enough to win the White House twice.  In 2008 John McCain ran on the slogan “Country First.”

In 2011 we’re witnessing a raw brand of conservatism which harkens back to the days of robber barons, monopolies, near serfdom and corporate control of our lives.  There is nothing compassionate about Tea Party conservatism and the wave of attacks on the poor, the elderly, teachers, unionists, women, working people and those masses deeply concerned for community rather than self.

It is the end of the charade perpetrated by Bush and McCain that conservatives would think of others or put their country first.  The ultra rich and the corporations are what these conservatives put first in their war on the middle and lower classes.  Women, especially, have been in their sights, literally in the case of Gabrielle Giffords.  Proposed legislation in statehouses across the nation and in Congress seek to roll back a century of progress against child labor, back alley abortions, workplace safety, living wages, health care, overtime, the forty hour work week and education.  There is nothing compassionate in these reactionary policies and nothing compassionate in the hearts of Governors, state legislators and Members of Congress who seek to take this country back…to the nineteenth century.

Compassionate conservatism is so dead no one even pretends to call themselves by the term any longer.  Following this wave of repressive legislation and rhetoric no one ever should again.  If George W. Bush had any balls he would speak out against this hatred of working people.

News & Notes September 22, 2010

Pat Toomey is up by either 4 or 7 points in the latest polls.  I tend to rely on Quninnipiac the most and they have the race as seven.  That means Joe Sestak has his opponent right where he wants him.  I’m betting his powerful biography boosts him over someone who has spent his life shilling for Wall Street.  If Pennsylvania voters opt for Toomey after losing their jobs, homes and retirements to Wall Street they get what they deserve.

In the Governor’s race Tom Corbett is pulling away with a 15 point spread and has a decided cash on hand advantage.  Dan Onorato was a bad candidate from the start but got a jump on everyone and raised enough cash to saturate TV last spring.  No personality, no charisma, no record…  I’ll also bet the AGG is a one term Guv.  Next year’s budget battle is going to be historic because cowardly legislators refused to raise taxes in an election year.  With Corbett’s vow for no new taxes he has George Herbert Walker Bush tattooed on his forehead.

The 15 CD race is also over.  John Callahan self immolated at last week’s debate, or, rather, Q&A session.  I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a worse performance.  The Morning Call has that race at 11 points.  Why vote for the Bethlehem Mayor who wouldn’t even make an impassioned plea for someone who has moved 372 bills through the House this session?  He also failed at go after any of Dent’s lies.

Pat Meehan and Bryan Lentz had a debate last evening in the 7th CD but since Gov. Dean’s office has shut me out of tonight’s event in Wayne I passed on their debate last night.  If you want coverage you have to be more open than this folks.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been dissed by Howard Dean and I’m assembling all my old DFA stuff to burn in the BBQ when I return from New Mexico.  

The Pennsylvania ACLU is suing Pittsburgh for its police state tactics during the G20 summit last year.  Police rounded up peaceful protesters, forced them onto the grounds of the Cathedral of Oppression at Pitt, surrounded them so they couldn’t leave then arrested them for failure to disperse.  This is so Orwellian as to be scary.  Dan Onorato was Allegheny County Dictator at the time.

Jim Powers, the head of the state’s domestic terrorism unit, the one which terrorizes activists, remains in office.  

Pittsburghers are complaining about rising parking rates.  This is one reason, along with traffic, why I have stopped covering events in Philadelphia.  I even skipped President Obama’s event for Joe Sestak yesterday.  Sen. Specter, apparently still playing the sore loser’s role, met Obama at the airport then skipped out on reporter’s questions about why he skipped the event at the Convention Center for the Admiral.

Speaking of dissing the press (again, never a good idea) Pat Toomey is refusing to take time to respond to reporters on his campaign trail.  This is a guaranteed method for getting bad press.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell failed in a Senate cloture vote yesterday as both Arkansas Senators joined Republicans to filibuster the bill.  This means we have no Defense Appropriations bill as yet.  With troops on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and hundreds of other countries, the Pentagon has no funds.  All this because 43 Senators think its moral and right to destroy the integrity of our armed forces by forcing people to lie about who they are.  Hopefully either the courts will remedy this travesty or the President will finally act by Executive Order.

This is horrible news for Democrats who desperately needed something to close the “enthusiasm gap.  Now liberals and progressives are even angrier at the Party following Obama’s dissing and ridicule in Connecticut last week.  Just when the President needed to say something to motivate progressives to go to the polls he, instead, insulted us.  Again.  Is he tone deaf or just stupid?

The Tea Party announced a $1 million anonymous contribution.  We’ll never know who kicked that insane amount of money (but we can guess) since it isn’t being disclosed.  Karl Rove, meanwhile, is collecting another $50 million to rule the airwaves with propaganda next month.  Thank the Supreme Court and its activist Justices Thomas, Alito, Scalia and Roberts.

Larry Summers is leaving the White House so there is one sigh of relief for liberals.  The appointments of him and Geithner sounded the first alarms to the left wing of the Democratic Party that they’d been snookered by their candidate.  That was the onset of the enthusiasm gap.

Lisa Murkowski announced she will run for re-election tot he Senate in Alaska as a write-in candidate.  Good-bye Joe Miller.

The reaction in Delaware to Christine O’Donnell is so severe rank and file Democrats are actually talking about voting.  This is radical!  Republicans, more and more, are coming out of the closet and proclaiming they want to repeal the New Deal including Social Security and they want to begin executing gays and lesbians.  In the past they only intimated these positions.  

Ashley Todd Sentenced to Probation

One of the enduring memories of how desperate conservatives tried to manipulate the press involved Ashley Todd’s claim she was beaten up by a Black man because she was supporting John McCain.  The McCain staffer from Texas said a “B” for Barack was carved into her cheek.  The fact the letter was carved in a way which showed it was done using a mirror was key in debunking her claims.  Ms. Todd has now been sentenced to nine months of probation for her fraudulent claim.  She must also do 50 hours of community service.  Let’s come up with some creative ideas of how that community services should be performed.

Ideas?  How about doing community organizer work?  Perhaps something where she actually has to meet and get to know minority citizens?  

Roasting Earmarks

If you’re a Senator or Member of Congress you are required to bring federal dollars back to your state or district.  If you don’t your constituents will find someone who will.  This is one of the key measures of effectiveness in Washington and every legislator there understands the importance of obtaining funds for local projects.  The number of press releases for monies provided for rail lines, fire companies, bus routes, parks and recreation and innumerable other things too expensive for local governments to provide is not lost on those we send to DC.

John McCain made these “earmarks” the cornerstone of his presidential campaign.  He set a nice trap for Barack Obama who spent fifteen minutes of his stump speech on “changing Washington.”  Obama’s pandering to voters on this issue was one of the primary reasons I didn’t vote for him.  The Illinois Senator didn’t simply use it as a throw away line in a stump speech but the keystone of his campaign.  John McCain set the trap by obtaining a commitment that this meant getting rid of earmarks.

The current omnibus appropriations bill is springing the trap.  Though this is unfinished business from the last Congress because of the tyranny of the Republican minority they are capitalizing by blaming President Obama for its earmarks.  It’s working.  The press is all over the Obama Administration because of these earmarks.

The self administered trap sprung by Obama himself is the rock meeting the hard place which are earmarks.  There’s no way Obama, or anyone else, is going to eliminate earmarks.  Senators and Congress persons live or die by earmarks and they will never relinquish them.  If a person or group bundled millions for your campaign how are you going to tell them you won’t fund a project that would help them and your constituents because it amounts to an earmark?  You cannot.

The reality of Washington is much different from the idealized version wished for by naive, pandering talking heads.  These include the Republicans slamming Obama while, at the same time, loading the bill with their own earmarks.  The major media won’t allow Obama off the hook for his campaign promise because it was the centerpiece of his campaign.  Just as I predicted.

This is a mess and the GOP will nail Democrats about this in 2012.   How Obama extricates himself from this trap may prove entertaining.  So far their attempts to explain themselves borders on the ridiculous.

Picking Your Battles

We know what John McCain’s first priority would have been had he been elected president:  earmarks.  He went on a rant this week over the omnibus appropriations bill because of all its earmarks.  This bill has to be passed because Republican Senators filibustered almost every bill which came before the Senate last year.  The time to pass this was LAST YEAR.  Because it was blocked it has to be passed now.  It covers the final six months of this fiscal year and is not next year’s budget.

McCain has an obsession with earmarks which amount to a sliver of the federal budget, about $18 billion.  The real waste, for eight years, was with the corrupt contracting business conducted from the Bush White House.  No bid sweetheart contracts and the privatization of government to a “for profit” operation by companies giving millions to the GOP was a far more critical issue.

John McCain, however insisted that President Obama was not fulfilling his campaign promise.  I understand why:  it is necessary to pick your battles and time them accordingly.  This is not yet the time to expend valuable political capital on a minor problem like earmarks.  The economy is far more important and health care is next on the list.  Picking a battle right now over earmarks may mean not accomplishing far more important priorities.  These can wait until next year.  John McCain is illustrating why he would have been such a very poor president.