The Watering Hole, Monday, February 2, 2015: Speaker Logan?

After the French Revolution, tensions had risen between the USA and France. Many French revolutionaries felt we had not aided them enough, and after we signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, France authorized the seizing of American ships and taking prisoners. In 1797 President Adams sent John Marshall, Charles C. Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry (who would later try to redraw political districts that reminded people of a salamander in order to give him an electoral advantage, thus giving birth to the term “Gerrymander”) to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Instead, the result was what would become known as the XYZ Affair and an unsuccessful trip. After their return, a Philadelphia Quaker named Dr. George Logan decided on his own to try to negotiate a peaceful settlement. He was successful and France agreed to stop seizing ships and to release their prisoners. This did not go over well with President John Adams and he recommended that Congress pass a law to stop the “temerity and impertinence of individuals affecting to interfere in public affairs between France and the United States.” The result was the Logan Act. As amended today, the act reads:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

The Act does grant an exception for private citizens who wish to sue a foreign government for injuries, but that’s it. And when you think about it, it makes sense. For example, would you want the Koch Brothers to be allowed to legally negotiate their own agreement with the government of Canada regarding the tar sands oil? Would you want them to then be allowed to go into court and demand that the Keystone XL Pipeline be built because they had a contract and that contract must be honored? Bad idea. Better to not let them have that negotiation in the first place, especially if our government is not in favor of the project. (The Republicans are, because they only care about businesses earning huge profits, even foreign ones. President Obama will veto it.)

In the 200+ year history of the Logan Act there has never been anyone prosecuted under it. There was a farmer who was indicted, but that was over something he had written regarding the land which eventually became the Louisiana Purchase. He was never prosecuted and the Purchase quelled the entire argument being made. (Plus, I’m not so sure he would have been prosecuted, since he only advocated in a letter to a newspaper for something. I don’t believe he actually negotiated with anyone in France.) There have been arguments made (not in court) that the Logan Act may be unconstitutional, but there have also been numerous references to it in other court decisions. And the basic idea that the President is the only one who can negotiate on behalf of the United States has been mentioned several times in court rulings. So while nobody has been prosecuted (including Rev Jesse Jackson and Jane Fonda), the law remains in effect. Which brings us to Speaker John Boehner.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said this about Iran:

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies — including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.

Iran has made it clear that they will stop enriching uranium and negotiate with other countries about its nuclear program provided the United States does not pass any sanctions bill before the talks are concluded. So what do Republicans want to so? They want to pass a sanctions bill anyway that would take effect if the talks break down. What they seem unable to grasp is that the very act of passing a sanctions bill (even if and when it does get vetoed by Obama) could be the trigger that ends the talks. It truly makes me wonder if Republicans want Peace or not. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views Iran as an existential threat, which is just another way of saying, “Even if they don’t try to harm us today, they probably might try to tomorrow, or they might decide to help someone else harm us, so let’s go to war with them before anyone attacks us.” This is not a workable foreign policy, this is paranoia. But since Republicans want to deny Obama any kind of victory at all, on any subject at all, they decided to try to thwart Obama’s foreign policy by inviting Netanyahu to address our Congress, specifically on why we shouldn’t enter into this agreement with Iran. It’s pretty clear that this invitation, arranged and negotiated without the knowledge of the White House (until a few hours before it was publicly announced), is a violation of the Logan Act. The purpose of both the invitation and of the address is to “defeat the measures of the United States,” and it clearly violates the Logan Act. The President has already said he would not meet with Netanyahu because they have an election coming up. And we know that Netanyahu thinks it’s wrong to do something like this because he said so himself, almost 20 years ago. When then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited the US in 1997, just before he faced an election, opposition leader Netanyahu said, “I can’t find an example of any previous Israeli government whose prime minister, on the eve of elections, made a cynical attempt to use relations between Israel and the United States as a party advertisement.” Being so hypocritical, it’s no wonder he enjoys such support from the Republican Party (a/k/a The American Likud Party.)

This is our daily open thread. Talk about anything you want, just don’t invite any foreign heads of state to address our Congress. That would be bad.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 6, 2014: No Nukes for You!

As usual, I found the topic for today’s thread while researching something else: in this case, looking for info on the time frame when Bush wouldn’t let the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) finish its inspection for WMDs in Iraq, just prior to our heedless and headstrong invasion. I never finished that research, as I was distracted by more timely news.

The first IAEA link that came up was, surprisingly, from a Chinese news site, from which I learned that the IAEA is sending a team to Iran shortly for talks on Iran’s progress in meeting certain deadlines regarding its nuclear program. In addition, the National Journal says “The IAEA has sought information on the “potential military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program, in particular information about Iran’s extensive research and development of a nuclear explosive device.”

From the Chinese site, xinhuanet.com:

“Iran and the IAEA agreed to implement five practical measures including the cooperation of resolving two points of Iran’s nuclear program related to the alleged nuclear weapon plan, so- called possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear plan by deadline Aug. 25 in order to provide greater transparency of Tehran’s nuclear program.However, the IAEA said Iran missed the deadline in implementing three measures, and two measures related to PMD issues have yet to be implemented so far.”

Then in an article from Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, the headline shouts “353 US Reps to Kerry: Iran ‘Stonewalling’ on Nuke Detonator”, followed by the opening line, “Stunning bipartisan congressional letter focuses on Iran’s ‘refusal to fully cooperate’ with IAEA over Parchin.”   Hmmm, well, here’s the letter, which I didn’t find particularly “stunning.” The article continues:

“The Congressional Letter’s signatories included almost all of both parties’ leaderships, and was greatly aided by Republican Congressman Peter J. Roskam (R-IL-06) of Illinois, a stalwart, and tireless, advocate of Israel as a vital strategic asset of the United States.”

“This Congressional warning follows a similar warning from Israel Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who issued a statement last week that emphasized that “credible sources” alleged that “internal neutron sources such as uranium were used in nuclear implosion tests at [Iran’s] Parchin.”

I also found this ^^ article interesting as it includes a diagram of a “neutron initiator” by the infamous AQ Khan – KHAAAAAAANN!  (Sorry, I had to.)

Okay, Congress and Israel, don’t get all freaked out and start shouting “mushroom cloud.” Remember the last time that we had “credible sources” about possible nukes, purportedly in Iraq, and went off half-cocked and half-assed? As Donald Rumsfeld (spit) so insultingly told under-provisioned U.S. troops to their faces, “…you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have…” How many thousands of American and coalition troops died, how many maimed, how many innocent Iraqis were killed? How much of their “sovereign nation” did we destroy? Seriously, do you macho politicians ever remember history, because you seem quite willing to repeat it.

Moving along…again from israelnationalnews.com, blogger Batya Medad writes about the following news:

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio late Thursday that he had agreed to an American framework proposal whereby Israel would negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the ’67 cease-fire lines with territorial swaps. (Jerusalem Post)”

Ms. Medad then writes:

“American policy is American policy. They promote what they think is good for the United States of America, and they want the support of what they perceive as “moderate Arab states.” The fact that such a phrase is an oxymoron has nothing to do with anything. Let the USA do whatever it wants. My complaints are against the Israeli Government, Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu’s government coalition.

Israel is supposedly an independent country and has been since the 1949 Armistice, which ended the active fighting between the newly established State of Israeli[sic] and the surrounding Arab countries, which had attacked it.

Although the State of Israel has been victorious in all of the wars against us by our Arab enemies, we have had successive governments that beg the United States for support and friendship. Bibi’s acquiescence to American demands is just the latest in a long series of bad policy steps over the decades.”

Oh, my, where do I start with this bit?

How about, if it weren’t for the U.S. and its allies, the State of Israel would not exist?

Or, AIPAC is the biggest and probably most powerful lobby in the United States?

Or, how much money and military equipment and assistance has the U.S. given to Israel throughout its existence?

Or, didn’t you guys actually start some of those “wars against us by our Arab enemies”?

Or, Israel doesn’t “beg the United States for support and friendship”, it demands it unconditionally and unswervingly, then spits in our faces. And when we politely ask that Israel restrain itself a tad when they’re violating the conditions of the 1967 agreement by bombing their neighbors and taking their neighbors’ land, Israel considers it an affront to their sovereignty. Bite me, Israel, you can stop taking our money and assistance, we can certainly use a few extra billion dollars right here.

As to Israel’s worry over the possibility of Iran hiding the development of a nuclear weapon, all I can say is, how big is Israel’s nuclear stockpile that Israel denies exists?

Okay, rant over…for now.

This is our daily open thread – don’t mind me, feel free to discuss whatever you want.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, March 6, 2013: The Sequester, Iran & the Virgin Islands.

Due to the sequester’s cutback in military spending, the Obama administration has had to scrub its plans to invade Iran. President Obama has decided to emulate President Reagan’s invasion of Granada by invading the Virgin Islands.

Republicans are in a quandry. Instinctively they oppose anything Obama proposes. But, in this case, Obama wants to invade the Virgin Islands without their consent. Given the Republican’s attitude towards rape, many are opting to blame the Virgin Islands for allowing themselves to be invaded by a black man, while others insist the troops be armed with vaginal ultrasound weapons as they establish their beachhead.

Open Thread Time.
Enjoy.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 20, 2012 – Romnesia

Campaigning at George Mason University on Friday, President Barack Obama took a new approach to Governor Mitt Romney’s constant changes of position. He announced that we have to name this condition, and he suggested “Romnesia, a condition that causes one to forget their past statements and beliefs.”

[Transcript and video from Think Progress]

OBAMA: Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it.
If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work – you might have Romnesia. If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care – you might have a case of Romnesia. If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you’ve definitely got Romnesia. […]

And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for President, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.

We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease.

Of course, the president was just being polite. Mitt Romney is, without question, a habitual liar. People often say that every politician tells lies to get elected, but not like this guy, and not so often and about so many things. There isn’t an issue out there on which Mitt Romney hasn’t taken two or more positions, often contradictory.

On Monday night, the two candidates will meet in one last debate, this one centered on Foreign Policy. Now, Mitt Romney has no foreign policy credentials whatsoever. His money has spent more time in foreign countries than he has. His foreign policy advisers consist primarily of Bush Administration war hawks who think the second best cure to whatever ails America, after tax cuts, is War, especially if it’s based on the pretense of “defending Israel.” In fact, Republicans believe that every American president is constitutionally responsible for defending Israel, no matter what that nation’s government does. And they believe in the idea of pre-emptive warfare to “eliminate existential threats.” What are those, exactly? Well, technically, nobody can truly say because they exist only in people’s minds. They’re based on the loose idea that anything that might conceivably be used as a weapon against Israel is a threat whose existence justifies the use of military force to eliminate it. Thus, if Iran is enriching uranium for a modern electricity program, the idea that five or six years from now (or even two or three) they might be able to build a nuclear weapon becomes a morally justified use of military force. This makes total sense in the right-wing mind. By that rationale, because anyone who buys both a gun and the ammunition for it might one day kill an innocent person, Society would be justified in sentencing that person to death before they even got home. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

This is our Open Thread. You can discuss Romnesia or any other topic that tickles your fancy, though we prefer you not post any videos of your fancy being tickled.

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain.]

UPDATE: I found this on Twitter, a perfect example of Romnesia in action:

The Watering Hole – Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Red Lines

According to a report on Raw Story, Israel is trying to “thaw the frosty relationship” between Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the White House. They are trying to set up a meeting between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama to discuss how far they will let Iran go in developing its nuclear capability. Obama is said to be angered by Netanyahu’s repeated calls for him “to set unambiguous ‘red lines’ for Tehran,” especially in the lead-up to the election. I have to say I agree. Netanyahu should keep his mouth shut until after the elections. Iran isn’t going to be building any nuclear weapons before then, and Netanyahu knows that. He lived and studied in the U.S., so he has seen how our election system works.

Jumping off into personal opinion land, I wonder what right Israel has to boss the United States of America around? When did the people of Israel elect our President? Israel does indeed have as much right to defend itself as anybody, but the criteria used for determining what constitutes a threat has to be the same as everyone else’s: Imminent danger. You can’t use the excuse that just because Iran “claims” they simply want a peaceful nuclear energy program, they’re really lying and trying to build a nuclear weapon to be used against Israel, as the rationale for attacking them, which is what Israel wants to do.

In essence, Israel is saying this: We “know” that ultimately this nuclear program will be used to build weapons that will be used against Israel, so we reserve the right (a right they don’t have, by the way), to strike at what we feel is an existential threat. An existential threat is really nothing more than a theoretical threat, and not an imminent threat. They want our approval (an approval they sometimes say they don’t really need) to attack Iran over what they might do down the road, not what they are actually about to do right now. This kind of thinking has to stop.

Russia is more of a threat to Israel’s security than Iran will ever be. Russia has nuclear weapons and often sides with Israel’s political enemies. Why isn’t Israel worried that Russia might give a nuclear weapon to Iran and preemptively bomb them? After all, by their logic they have every right to. And Russia isn’t theoretically building nuclear weapons, they already have, and way more than they need (since they are willing to discuss arms reductions with the U.S.) The United States needs to stop enabling Israel’s warmongering behavior, before innocent people die.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Israel or any other topic you wish. It’s a free country.