Thursday, January 30, 2020

thoughtful Response On Iran Crisis From My Senator

This is the kind of thoughtful responses you get from your Senator in Delaware.  Never, Never in Texas did I ever get this thorough  and thinking person's response from Cruz or Cornin in Texas.  It was always a non-committal form letter if anything, often nothing.  And I ran into him at the grocery store a couple of weeks back and had a brief chat.  So grateful to have two Democrats here in the Senate.

Senator Carper

Wed, Jan 29, 2:26 PM (19 hours ago)

to me
January 29, 2020 
Dear Mr. Merriman,
Thank you for contacting me to express your concern about escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. I appreciate hearing from you regarding this important matter, and I share your concerns. 
As your letter notes, on January 2, 2020, following protests led by Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, President Trump ordered U.S. forces to carry out a lethal airstrike near Baghdad International Airport. The strike killed General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the powerful Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Also killed was Iraqi commander and leader of Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis. 
This strike represented a dramatic escalation in tensions that have been boiling with Iran and in the surrounding region in recent months. It also raised legitimate questions among members of Congress, including myself, regarding the President’s authority to unilaterally order such strikes. 
Under the War Powers Act of 1973, Congress has the sole authority to declare war on another country, and to authorize acts of war including the assassination of foreign government officials, except in cases of self-defense against an imminent threat. In the days immediately following the strike, Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, stated publicly that Iran had been plotting an “imminent attack,” and that the strike had been necessary to ensure the safety of American personnel in the region. But in the weeks since, no information to support that claim has been provided to Congress, despite repeated requests by senators on both sides of the aisle. During that time, several Trump administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr, publicly offered contradictory justifications for the strike. These discrepancies, and the administration’s failure to provide intelligence justifying an act of war to duly elected representatives of the American people, are both unacceptable and deeply unsettling.
Additionally, as your letter rightly notes, the strike killing Soleimani is not the first time that the Trump administration has escalated tensions with Iran—far from it. Instead, time after time, President Trump has chosen rash provocation over strategic solutions or diplomacy. 
The current tensions with Iran go back to before the 2016 presidential election. During his campaign, then-candidate Trump pledged to “tear up” the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement (JCPOA). That landmark agreement – signed in 2014 after years of careful negotiation with our allies under the Obama administration – kept the Iranian government ten years away from developing a nuclear weapon, and subjected the country to rigorous, intrusive and unprecedented quarterly inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 
Just as there were some in the U.S. who opposed a deal with Iran, plenty of hardliners within the Iranian government—including extremists like Soleimani—fundamentally opposed any negotiations with the United States. However, through strategic international sanctions and diplomacy, the Obama administration and our allies were able to successfully negotiate a deal that kept Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This deal was resoundingly affirmed by Iran’s electorate: in the country’s parliamentary elections a year later, we saw moderate candidates make strong gains; the following year, moderates and reformists swept municipal elections across the country. 
The nuclear deal was working. Over the course of three years, the independent inspectors verified nearly 20 times in a row that Iran was in compliance with the agreement. However, in May 2018, President Trump made good on his campaign promise, announcing that the United States would unilaterally pull out of the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran—despite their proven compliance. Shortly thereafter, the President imposed even harsher economic sanctions as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Administration officials including Secretary Pompeo have stated that the purpose of these punishing sanctions is to bring Iran to the table to negotiate a better, more expansive nuclear deal to address Iran’s malign activities in the region. But these sanctions amount to economic war—and the Trump administration has taken no steps to convene talks with the Iranians. Meanwhile, in response to U.S. withdrawal from the deal, and pressure from the Trump administration on our European allies to impose similarly harsh sanctions on Iran, President Rouhani announced on May 9th, 2019 that Iran would resume enriching uranium in excess of amounts allowed under the nuclear deal. And following the Soleimani strike, Iranian leaders went a step further, announcing that they will no longer be bound by any part of the deal unless sanctions are lifted.
Thomas Friedman has described the Trump doctrine as, ‘Obama built it. I broke it. You fix it.’ It is clear that that analysis still holds true and that, in the short term, President Trump is willing to sacrifice our standing in the world for political gain. President Trump’s dangerous obsession with dismantling President Obama’s legacy, rather than building on the progress we’ve made, puts our national security at risk. 
Following the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani, Iran’s leaders vowed retaliation. On January 8, 2020, Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that house United States forces. No U.S. casualties were reported immediately following the strike, for which I am deeply grateful. It appears that, for the moment, Iran has chosen the path of de-escalation in response to President Trump’s rash provocation—and I hope that they will continue to do so. But hope is not a strategy, and the American people and the men and women serving our country in the Middle East deserve a better foreign policy than senseless escalation. Congress and the American people need to hear what the administration’s strategy is, and it must be based on facts and rooted in truth. 
Despite provocations of the current administration, the moderate Iranian voices the Obama Administration worked so hard to lift up have not disappeared. The country’s population is overwhelmingly young, and many have cause to be dissatisfied with their leaders. Just a few short weeks ago, in December, Iranians took to the streets following a sudden hike in gas prices in what quickly turned into widespread protests against the repressive regime. However, once again, rather than seizing the moment and using that internal political pressure as leverage to bring Iran to the table for diplomatic talks, the administration continued escalations with Iran—ultimately carrying out a strike that, for now, appears to have united moderates and hard-liners in support of the country’s conservative leaders. While we shouldn’t be surprised by the events of the last few weeks, we must remember that it didn’t have to be this way.
The President has said he doesn’t want war with Iran. But it is hard to see how the actions of the Trump administration have made us safer. Today, as a result of the decisions of the Trump administration, Iran no longer has limits on its nuclear program, and the people of Iran have, for now, taken to the streets to rally behind the government and mourn General Soleimani. Because of our lack of strategy, in a matter of weeks, we have given the most extreme voices within the Iranian regime exactly what they wanted. This is no way to conduct our foreign policy—or to safeguard our national security.
With that having been said, I have led or supported numerous legislative efforts to check the President’s power when it comes to Iran. In June, I opposed ending debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 as part of a successful effort to secure a vote on my bipartisan amendment with Senator Udall (D-NM) which would prevent the Trump Administration from taking military action against Iran without the approval of Congress. I have also co-sponsored a standalone bill, S. 1039, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act, that would do the same. 
This month, following the Soleimani strike, I joined Senator Kaine’s (D-VA) joint resolution to limit the President’s war powers. That resolution would reassert Congress’s Article One constitutional authority by directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran unless and until such actions have been authorized by Congress. Consideration of the resolution is privileged under Senate rules; as such, its introduction effectively ensures that those of us in Congress will have to debate the merits and take a vote before the administration can start a war with Iran and send Americans into battle—an idea I strongly support. The House of Representatives approved a similar resolution on January 9, 2020. 
Let me end by saying this: as the only Vietnam veteran still serving in the U.S. Senate, I have repeatedly warned against war with Iran. I served alongside the 55,000 men and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. They died, and many of us risked our lives, in a war that was premised on a lie. It was a similar situation with the Iraq War in 2003. Over 4,000 men and women laid down their lives based on the lie we were told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. 
I have been to too many funerals of service members from Delaware who died in Iraq. I don’t want to go to any more.  I don’t want to have to comfort any more spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters as we’ve done in recent years for families that have been crushed by sorrow from our engagement with Iraq. As the Trump Administration’s Iran policy becomes ever more dangerous—and ever more isolated — from our traditional allies, I worry that this administration’s actions could very well plunge us into another foreign war if not corrected.
Please be assured that I am following this matter closely, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to hold the administration to account and ensure that the United States does not go to war with Iran without first seeking and obtaining authorization from Congress. Thank you once again for contacting my office. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or other matters of importance to you. 
With best personal regards, I am, 

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Honoring Resisters: Dishonoring The Silent

My spouse is off to another fabulous strategy meeting of her ReSisters group formed from the Women's March three years back.  They are still at it, strong, resolute, strategic and most importantly, patriotic. I honor them and millions of others across our land doing everything they can to return us to democracy, regardless of the outcome of the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

There are tens of thousands of non-resisters who, by definition, are complicit with Trump's fascism and destruction of our democracy.  Some are in my family.  Some are people I once respected and called friends.  Many are silent.  Excuses?  undeclared Trump supporters de facto in my life who face the challenge of marriage to one or connected by family to one.  Difficult, but i if their value system mattered to them, they'd at minimum condemn the behavior of support for immorality, predatory behavior, racism, miscegeny and authoritarian fascism.  My choice is to not tolerate association with these morally degenerate people and to reject, resist and shun them to show the unacceptability of their chosen, willful acceptance of the unacceptable.  This current crisis is way beyond politics, liberalism v. conservatism, Republican v. Democrat.  This is an existential crisis threatening and already eroding our great democratic experiment.  It is fragile and breaking.

Why do I choose this path?  First, because my own upbringing, which I thought I was mirroring with my life partner for our children, taught me that we were fortunate to be born in a society that declared an historic commitment to democracy.  A democracy which enabled family members to pursue their life's dreams in freedom.  But a democracy which valued helping fellow citizens in similar pursuit of their dreams.  A democracy which offered an opportunity to serve in times of conflict with other nations threatening the very idea of democracy.  Three generations of my family heard the call and served as officers in our nation's Army, including me.  And whose spouses served in public causes to support their country and fellow citizens.  

Second, because I was given the opportunity to work with fellow idealists in causes benefiting not only their families but the society around them; civil rights movements, school integration work, anti-war projects, elections of fellow idealists to serve us in government dedicated to uplifting all of us.  I learned from these caring, dedicated people who put their family responsibility first but who saw as one of those responsibilities inculcating these values of civic service in their offspring.

And,  third, because my life partners, whose values I shared and deeply respect inspire me to be a public citizen, to do the work with them  of trying to foster uplifting of my fellow citizens and to speak out in support of projects and programs of uplift.

But also, to speak out when destructive, selfish and inhumane behavior is exhibited by fellow citizens.  Using the very free speech many of these destructive forces attempt to suppress and stifle.
History has shown us that silence, even when risking alienation from others, is complicity in a tangible and very real sense.

Thank you fellow Resisters for doing this selfless work with real risks.  We can and will prevail, even if the positive result rewards those who were silent.  That is what democracy is about. All are served, even those who don't act in behalf of the greater good.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

America: The Great Con Country

America has a fantastic tradition of conning our public.  Think snake oil salesmen; traveling shows of bizarro manufactured oddities and our government convincing us of untrue events such as the Gulf of Tonkin  or WMD's in Iraq to cite just a few.  We have unlimited examples of con jobs by businesses separating us from on money on fraudulent offers over the decades.  Few of us have escaped such exploitation.  In fact, we as a society elevate con artists to the annals of our famous characters; think Bernie Madoff.  And con artists do not limit their victims to the stupid.  The rich and famous are often caught up in a con.

Some contemporary examples are our public penchant for cons are the popularity of lotteries, casinos,  telephone get rich quick scams and the ever popular TV ministries and mega churches preaching weird distortions of Christianity including prosperity gospels. 

What stimulated this insight for me?  I watched a documentary on Theronos's rise and fall and was astounded at the extent of this con.  Let's start with the brand name; sounds kind of Greek, doesn't it?  Creates kind of a mystique, doesn't it?   There is no such Greek word.  It is a manufactured brand name like Exxon or Enron.  Speaking of Enron, cons seem to run in families; the 19 year old founder of Theronos, Elizabeth Holmes was the daughter of an Enron executive.  Yes, and she spend her early life in Houston, going to St. John's school for the very elite in preparation for her Stanford years.  Apparently Enron money paid to her father through fraud helped finance the startup of her brilliant fraud. The physical and stylistic similarity to Ivanka Trump is hard to ignore.

And Elizabeth Holmes was a brilliant con artist.  She packaged herself with mystique, role playing with a deeper than her normal voice,  presenting a very attractive face that rarely blinked.  Dressed only in black and developed a really convincing pitch.  She developed an aura of a visionary and a line of bullshit that simply bowled over highly scientifically educated people to join her company and work their asses off in a highly controlled, paranoid environment to maintain the mystique.

She even recruited the likes of brilliant people such as George Schultz and Henry Kissinger to join her board to be magnets for hundreds of thousands of investment dollars.  Big Silicon Valley figures did not escape her con. Also, the Walton's, Murdoch and DeVos's were all conned.  Few big names in American society and politics escaped her charisma.

This stolen money created her amazing brand and marketing strategy; google her and look at some of the advertising and graphics which created a con equal to that of the Enron marketing strategy.  I had the privilege of interviewing  the whistle blower on the Enron scam for a public radio station I volunteered for.  Her insights on the scam and marketing con pulled off on investors, clients and employees was nothing short of amazing.

Elizabeth Holmes even managed to pull off selling her scam product/services to the likes of sophisticated organizations such as Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic.  For a while.  Until they discovered that her product was not what was promised and threatened the health of their customers/patients with inaccurate blood test results.

This documentary led me to the conclusion that a gullible, ill-informed, mis-informed  American citizen was easy prey to another con.  The mystique of a  mobbed up, failed business man but charismatic TV personality as a candidate for our Presidency was a enough to convince enough voters to elect him as leader of our great but troubled land.  He managed to convince some of those among us with white privilege and a household income of $70,000 that he was up to the task of rectifying some of our divisive problems as they viewed them.  Like ridding the country of those these ignorant racists thought were challenging their status and power in their ex-urban and rural communities.  And suppressing the threat to their power they perceived existed from our fellow citizens of color.

The myth that anyone can rise to become President of our country and the American Dream awaits anyone willing to work hard for it are central to the great American con.

Donald Trump, our forever impeached President, represents the reality that many Americans are susceptible to almost any con as long as the promise of the land of milk and honey is well packaged and brilliantly marketed.   The same was true of Fascism in Germany and Italy in the 1930's.  We seem to never learn from our own history, let alone the history of the wider world.