Brett Kavanagh

Brett Kavanagh: The sky is falling! It’s the end of the world!

Yup, if you read moderate to left-leaning publications and blogs, you’ve probably heard that it’s the end of times for the US Supreme Court. Oh, the other hand, conservative-leaning sources warn of and are already complaining about Democratic lawmakers pulling out all kinds of tricks… really? Because McConnell and the Republican-led Senate treated Merrick Garland and Barrack Obama fairly?

Please… I’m not sure how many so-called “tricks” there are anyway. This confirmation has always, since the moment Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, been about John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly… it has never been about fair play or judicial qualifications. If it were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Brett Kavanagh is a qualified as any member of the Supreme Court has been.

Kavanagh graduated from Yale Law School, served three clerkships, and been a Federal judge for 12 years. And those clerkships? One of them was with the very same Justice Anthony Kennedy that Democrats are bemoaning for retiring.

In fact, on June 1, 2006, Kavanagh was sworn in as a member of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It seems to me that Kavanagh has the blessing of the very man celebrated for his decisions in gay rights cases and other 5-4 decisions.

Kennedy

But, at the same time, I think it’s also important to put Anthony Kennedy into historical perspective as we evaluate his potential successor. Yes, Kennedy voted with the majority in two cases quite dear to Democrats: Boumediene v. Bush and Obergefell v. Hodges. I dare say that Kennedy voted to maintain abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey too, though with increased limits. But Kennedy is no darling of causes liberal after all: Kennedy voted with the conservative on the Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, District of Columbia v. Heller, and Kansas v. Marsh.

Judge Kavanagh

In terms of Kavanagh’s own judicial decisions, supporters and critics alike point to Garza v Hargan and have declared – Kavanagh’s going to ban abortion! Personally, however, I know that I would not have wanted to make that decision; it’s not the open and shut case that many seem to think.

Breaking new: Kavanagh has been pro-business, critical of environmental regulation, and a supporter of Christian religious rights… wow… its almost like he’s a conservative appointee? And yet, judges are not susceptible to demands of lobbyists and the whims of voters; twice Kavanagh sided with the government in cases involving the Affordable Care Act. In another case, he errored on religious latitude in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Religion

Which brings us to Kavanagh’s religious affiliation and its role in judicial decision-making. Yes, it is worth discussing Kavanagh’s religion to a limited degree. Kavanagh is Roman Catholic and, as such, will maintain the Catholic majority of the US Supreme Court. Having said that, however, what does that even mean? The Catholic majority has not voted en bloc: the conservative Catholics have voted to support the death penalty, and the liberal Catholics have supported abortion-rights, so it seems to me that Kavanagh’s political ideology is more influential than his religion. If you do want to discuss his Catholicity more, it is worth noting that he is a volunteer tutor at Washington Jesuit Academy; the fact that Kavanagh volunteers his time, and with Jesuits, speaks more to me that his Mass attendance.

Mitch McConnell, Merrick Garland, Justin Kennedy, and Donald Trump

Politically, there is a lot that sticks about recent nominations to the US Supreme Court. From the refusal to call for a vote on Merrick Garland, to the elimination of the filibuster rule to favor Neil Gorsuch, McConnell personifies the hypocrisy and ‘Swamp’ of Washington, DC. But that’s not Kavanagh’s fault; he played the game and worked his way up to be in consideration for a nomination, just as liberal lawyers and judges have done as well.

Should we mention the end of the apolitical court and Bush v. Gore? Kennedy voted with the supposed States’ Rights conservatives to assert Federal authority over the Florida ballot counting at the same time that the pro-Federal Democrats on the Court voted to support States’ Rights. The veil of judicial independence had finally been lifted.

Even worse, the recent revelations about family connections between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump are disappointing, nauseating, and potentially unethical. But that has nothing to do with Brett Kavanagh.

I think we owe it to Brett Kavanagh, and more importantly to ourselves, to judge Kavanagh with the Golden Rule, not by McConnell’s Rules.

Which brings me to my second to last points: the art of predicting SCOTUS voting.

Nominations to the US Supreme Court

When I think about the history of Supreme Court nominations, I think of Harriet Myers; I think we can all agree Kavanagh is more qualified and his nomination (Kennedy-Trump connections aside) less nepotistic than a president nominating a member of his staff.

If you want qualified, has there ever been a more qualified nominee than Judge Robert Bork? Yet being qualified wasn’t the issue, it was his well-documented history of judicial decisions. As a result, presidents of both parties have nominated younger, less documented judges ever since; so, it would be hypocritical to criticize Kavanagh for his judicially-speaking nascent age of 53.

But most of all, when I think about nominations to the US Supreme Court, I think of Earl Warren. Nominated by Republican US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren, when lifted from the confinement of political accountability, Warren became the most liberal Chief Justice in history. I also think of Sandra Day O’Connor and how disappointed Reagan and the conservatives were with her voting record… but more recently, I think of the make-up nomination to Judge Bork, Douglas Ginsburg. Can you believe we almost had a member of the Supreme Court who smoked marijuana?!!?! Thank goodness, Ginsburg withdrew his nomination… after all, could you imagine two Ginsburgs on the same Court? So, President Ronald Reagan settled on a Circuit Judge with exactly 12 years of experience to be his reliable conservative. That Associate Justice, of course, was Anthony Kennedy.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Finally, there is the nature of the Court and the leadership style of Chief Justice John Roberts. Supreme Court Justices do not make isolated decisions in a vacuum. The Nine meet privately and reflect upon each case, circulating draft decisions for discussion. Roberts, in particular even among other Chief Justices, is acutely aware of the partisan poison in American and has worked hard to build 7+, 8+, and even unanimous decisions. Look no further than Masterpiece Cake v CCRC. In the room of consensus, Kavanagh is just one voice. Yes, he is a conservative voice, but the deliberative and congenial nature of the Court lends itself to being caretakers of the Constitution, not Lone Ranger Constitutional cowboys.

Conclusion

Brett Kavanagh has said the right things. In 2006, Kavanagh told the US Senate, “I firmly disagree with the notion that there are Republican judges and [Democratic] judges,” he said. “There is one kind of judge. There is an independent judge under our Constitution.”

Like Roberts, Kavanaugh seems to give broad consideration to executive authority and unitary executive theory; yet Kavanagh has also worked for the Independent Council’s Office and wrote sections of the Starr Report that criticized President Bill Clinton and, ultimately, was used as an instrument to impeach Clinton.

So, who is the real Brett Kavanagh? I think we’ll have to wait until he’s actually been confirmed and begins to make his mark. Ultimately, we won’t really know until he’s been on the court for 30 years like his old boss, Anthony Kennedy.

Conservative Rapprochement Bias

Meet the FOCRs? I’d really like to call it the FOCR Theory (Favoritism of Conservative Rapprochement), but let’s just call it Conservative Rapprochement Bias (CRB). Conservative Rapprochement Bias is the propensity for diplomatic breakthroughs to be initiated or codified by political conservatives. The phrase “Conservative Rapprochement Bias” is not an attempt to be derogatory, but to be descriptive; more moderate protagonists and those with a wider viewpoint are often already committed to change, so the gamechanger occurs when conservative or extremists commit to change or peace.

I wrote about this years ago and called it Narrowism. At the time, I defined the phenomena as a suggested political theory which recognizes the tendency for meaningful social and international decision-making must be completed only by those with the narrowest and extreme political perspective. That definition certainly describes the negotiations that led up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. In that situation, there were four Northern Irish political parties, as well as three nation-states party to the negotiations. The three nation-states (The US, UK, and Ireland) all wanted a deal. Among the Northern Irish, there were the more mainstream parties that desired a deal, namely the Social Democratic and Labour Party of John Hume, and the David Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party. Those two Nobel Laureates deserve all the praise that the peacemakers received, but the deal was never a deal, until the other two parties with narrower and more politically extremist parties agreed to the Agreement, or at least participated in the result. The extremist Loyalist, Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), initially participated in the negotiations but withdrew when his ideological mirror, Gerry Adams of Sein Fein was allowed a seat at the table following his Nationalist party’s paramilitary (terrorist) affiliate the Provisional Irish Republican Army announced a ceasefire. My point is, negotiations between centrist Nationalists like SDLP, and center Loyalists like UUP, was never going to end The Troubles. The Troubles ended when the IRA announced a ceasefire, Gerry Adams and Sein Fein took their seats at the negotiating table and, post Agreement, Ian Paisley’s DUP took control of the new government after winning the plurality of seats and, ultimately, with Ian Paisley becoming First Minister in 2007.

~~~

Yes, the Good Friday Agreement is a perfect example of Narrowism, however, when I proposed the term in 2011, I was naïve. Narrowism is certainly valid, but I now see the phenomena differently. I know believe that the more common pattern is Conservative Rapprochement Bias.

Sometimes that Conservative Rapprochement may even play out within a side of the political spectrum. Look at the US Civil Rights movement: It took a conservative Southern Democrat and master legislator like LBJ to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Would Southern Democrats ever accept a deal brokered by Northerners like JFK, had not been assassinated?

~~~

Let’s look back at a few examples of the Conservative Rapprochement Bias:

1972, US President Richard Nixon travels to China and meets Mao Zedong. Would a President Eugene McCarthy have had enough political capital to sit down with a Communist leader?

On September 17, 1978, the Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin of the conservative Likud Party, not the liberal Labour Party of Yitzhak Rabin or the centrist party of Yigael Yadin.

In the 1980 Election, candidate Ronald Reagan ran for president against Jimmy Carter railing against Iran and called Russia the Evil Empire, but later the Reagan Administration coordinated the infamous Iran-Contra deal with Iran, and Reagan sits down with Mikhail Gorbachev on multiple occasions. To paraphrase my earlier rhetorical question, would President Jimmy Carter have had enough political capital to sit down with a Communist leader? Or a President Mike Dukakis?

We already discussed that in the Anglo-Irish peace process, nothing mattered -not only Gerry Adams came to the table- but moreover, the Agreement didn’t truly matter until Paisleyists took ownership of the new government. When political extremists like Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, or even Yassir Arafat as another example, when the political extremists (or even terrorists or former terrorists) participated in peace talks, THAT’S when peace happens. Hardline soundbites like, “The US does not negotiate with terrorists” plays well on the 24-hour news and social media, but the reality is starkly different.

I would even point out that it was a conservative US Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), but on the other hand, there hasn’t been a liberal SCOTUS since the Warren Court ended in 1969. More to the point, it was also the transitionally conservative Burger Court that legalized abortion, banned the death penalty… most recently, it was the conservative Roberts Court that not only legalized same-sex marriage as mentioned before but also confirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

[As I said, hardline soundbites like, “No ‘bamacare” and “Repeal Obamacare” plays well on the 24-hour news and social media, but the reality is starkly different when a person or a party has to govern, not just criticize. Heck, the repeal shouters even changed their mantra to “Repeal and Replace,” and it’s still the law of the land… but I digress.]

~~~

Back in 2008, former Presidential candidate William J. Bennett wrote in the National Review: “Barack Obama’s position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history,” adding that if Obama were to meet with Iranian officials, “he will lower the prestige of the office of the president.”

~~~

And now we have, not kimchi, but Kim-Trump: The Singapore Summit. The reclusive leader of one of the most reclusive regimes in the world, travelled 3,067 miles to meet with the man who has described Kim as:

“North Korea where you have this maniac sitting there and he actually has nuclear weapons.”
~Sept. 16, 2015~

“Rocket Man [who] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
~September 19, 2017~

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea… is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people”
~September 22, 2017~

And, finally, on November 11, 2017, the President of the United States referred to Chairman Kim as “short and fat.” Perhaps even the same words General George Washington used to describe King George III or perhaps it was what Abraham Lincoln called Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis?

~~~

When US President George W. Bush uttered that infamous phrase ‘axis of evil’ in his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, it got all of our attention. For some of us who follow international relations closely, personally I wondered why “W” baited the Iranians since the Iranian government had just shared their intelligence on Afghanistan with the US military in September and October of 2001… just 3 months earlier… but anyway…

Most people, and the media, we knew what he meant, the Iraqis, the Iranians, the Libyans, and the North Koreans… the Bush Administration was serving notice to these rogue states. In fact, one of those rogue-states, Libya, straight-up capitulated and offered to give up its WMDs programs. To an extent, it hurts me to admit it, but the Libyan reaction to the 2002 speech is an example of saber-rattling actually working as an instrument of peace, to an extent.**

  • Libya, neutralized as a member of the so-called Axis of Evil. Done. Credit given to Bush 43.
  • Saddam’s Iraq, neutralized as a member of the so-called Axis of Evil by the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Done. Credit (as it were) given to Bush 43.
  • Iran, neutralized by the Iran Nuclear Deal Framework. **Done. Credit: none.

What???? The Iran Nuclear Deal Framework was a multinational agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, and Iran… six parties! And they were *all* somehow duped?

Under the Corker-Cardin framework establishing oversight of the Iran deal, Congress could vote to approve or disapprove of a final deal, determining whether Obama has the authority to temporarily lift Iran sanctions needed to implement the Agreement. If Congress fails to pass disapproval of the deal — or if Congress does pass a disapproval measure, then fails to override Obama’s veto of it — the deal would move forward.

And it did. The Corker-Cardin framework provided Congress with the right to review the Iran Agreement, regardless of what you’ve heard spun by the pundits.

~~~

No sitting-President of either political party has ever met with the leaders of North Korea. This policy was to avoid legitimizing a rogue-state as well as to hold onto that strategic carrot in order to draw concessions from North Korea. And now, like the US Embassy move in Israel, the United States has given up a negotiating item, for apparently nothing in return. But, the reaction to Trump’s meeting with the dictator of North Korea?

Senator McConnell praised the “historic first step” and noted that it was “the beginning of the arduous process,” but he said, “I support the goals contained in the statement and I remain supportive of the administration’s mission.” On the Iran Agreement, Mitch McConnell criticizes Iran nuke deal as “windfall” for Tehran…

On the Iran Agreement, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said, “It is an agreement that will reward a violent, terrorist regime. Instead of stopping the Iranians from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, it merely delays it. This deal is shortsighted and dangerous for our security.” But of the Trump-Kim Summit, Rounds said: “Good news coming from Singapore. @POTUS has made early strides in making our world a safer place. A lot of work to do yet.”

And how about this for sarcastic bitterness:

Of Obama and the Iran Agreement, Jim Risch (R-ID) said: “This deal falls disastrously short of what the Obama Administration originally promised and gives the Iranian government what it desires.”

And of Trump and North Korea? Risch said “If Barack Obama had accomplished what Donald Trump just accomplished, they’d be calling for the stonemasons to get out to Mount Rushmore and put off his head on Mount Rushmore. This is a historic occasion.”

Hahahahahaahhaha…..

Personally, I’m kinda wondering what exactly Trump *has* accomplished besides a handshake that North Korea has been seeking for decades, and now the regime received without capitulating on anything.

On Trump and North Korea, Sen. James Inhofe (OK) said “I do not trust Iran who has been the leading state sponsor of terrorism for generations, and I have no faith that President Obama’s deal will change the irrational and dangerous behaviors of Iran’s government leaders,” so I guess I’m really curious how Inhofe feels about Kim and his country’s history of bank fraud, cyberterrorism, saber-rattling and breaking of promises to South Korea as well as US Presidents of both political parties….

Here ya go: Of Trump and North Korea, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) even said “I’m so convinced that good things are going to happen,” and even praised Trump for being the first person to ever get Kim Jong-un’s attention and for playing him “like a fiddle.”

Really? Inhofe knows this already? Isn’t it equally possible that Kim played Trump like a fiddle?

The truth is that we won’t know for a long time whether President Trump gave away the cow for free, or if he was the one who started the North Koreans down the road to peaceful coexistence. John Delury, a North Korea watcher and professor at Yonsei University, thinks that it’s even possible that Kim Jung Un is creating a détente with the United States to pivot out of China’s orbit. At this point, who knows? Certainly not I…

But what I do know, is that there is a hypocrisy in the rightwing media (not that there’s not a blindness in the leftwing media on other issues), that there is a selectivity in history and an inconsistency in opinion on international rapprochement initiatives.

Perhaps it’s just partisanship? Or perhaps it’s just that the worst of partisanship is what ultimately becomes the dominant narrative in history. I hope not.

As I said, the Iran Nuclear Deal Framework was a multinational agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, and Iran… six parties! And somehow *all* six parties are incompetent and have somehow duped?

To be fair, North Korea and Iran are not in the same place in their nuclear research and capabilities. And that’s some of the reason for the confusing messages out of some conservatives. After all, North Korea’s research has been entirely weapons-based, so *if* (and that’s a huge if) North Korea stopped its nuclear weapons research, then it would be stopping all of its current nuclear work.

Iran’s nuclear research is much more sophisticated and more of a dual-tracked research. Iran has civilian nuclear research programs as well, so the Agreement honors civilian research.

So, on Trump and North Korea:

Sen. Jon Ernst (R-IA) can say that she was “excited about the opportunity.”

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) can say the “critical summit is happening because of President Trump’s leadership and unwavering resolve to make the world a safer place,” and added that “[t]he Trump Administration has my full confidence as they move forward in these key talks.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) can say a “big opportunity” and “clearly there has been progress.”

But on Iran, the same three said:

Ernst: “This to me is a pathway to nuclear armament for Iran…This deal does not stop them from developing nuclear capabilities.”

Purdue: “This deal won’t prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state — it just delays it,” and “As I’ve said all along, I cannot support any deal that allows Iran to become a nuclear weapons state. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever.”

Sullivan: “Principal objective of Iran negotiations was to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This #IranDeal does NOT do that.”

~~~

These statements, to me, are a lot more consistent than the statements by Inhofe, Risch, Rounds, and McConnell…

Ernst, Purdue, and Sullivan are correct. The Iran Agreement does not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in 10 years if the Iranians want to. It was never intended to. The Agreement was intended to create breathing room, for Iran to be integrated into the world economy for a period of ten years, so that, as a member of the world economy, there would be a disincentive for Iran to throw those incentives away after ten years of participation in the international system.

Whereas the Trump Administration has, at this point, not offered North Korea the path to peaceful nuclear technology as Iran has been guaranteed, and at this point North Korea is still expected to terminate its nuclear weapon programs in perpetuity as South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and the former Soviet Republics outside of Russia have all done.

Two different nation-states. Two different nuclear programs.

So, the issue isn’t so much about the “deal” but about the reception of engagement with rogue leaders and rogue states.

  • Nixon meets Mao, and is praised.
  • Reagan meets Gorbachev, and is praised.
  • But Clinton normalizes relations with Vietnam, and its criticized.
  • Clinton allows Gerry Adams a visa to the US as part of the Northern Irish Peace Process, and its criticized.
  • Bush pressures UK PM Tony Blair to release the PanAm 103 bombers to reward Libya, and its ignored by the public.
  • Obama normalizes relations with Cuba, and its criticized.

Yes, President Barack Obama shakes hands with Raul Castro, and it’s the end of the world, but President Donald Trump shakes hands with the leader of a rogue state one called a member of the Axis of Evil by President George W. Bush and…

Sen. Jim Inhofe says “I’m so convinced that good things are going to happen.”

~~~

The two most consistent voices have been Ben Shapiro and Jim Geraghty:

“I’m not certain why meeting with Kim without preconditions is suddenly a grand coup when we would have gone nuts had Obama done the same,” said conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, who criticized Obama back in 2009 and is now often critical of Trump.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty wondered the same. “Remember how much we condemned then-senator Barack Obama’s pledge to ‘meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?’ That wasn’t wrong,” Geraghty wrote.

~~~

Yes, Conservative Rapprochement Bias is a suggested political theory which recognizes the tendency for meaningful social and international decision-making must be completed only by those with the narrowest and extreme political perspective. While “not fair” it is none the less true that there is a pattern in politics, sociology, psychology, and religion that the seminal events are most often decided when those with the narrowest perspective agree to change or compromise.

As Yogi Berra said, “Déjà vu all over again.” And here we go again…

Top Diplomat: US Will Crush Iran (May 21st)

Trump, Pompeo, and Iran

Current US policy toward Iran has three facets of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. My criticism of the leadership style of Donald Trump, the new normal of abusive language in political rhetoric, and the arrogance and ignorance of the President and his Administration is well known. The President’s petty Obamaphobia and the hypocritical interpretation of historical facts is dangerous and self-indulgent. He has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and, now, I’m just waiting for the rehabilitation of Paul Wolfowitz next. And now a Tea Partier is the Secretary of State. Mike Pompeo is highly qualified for many offices, perhaps the CIA, and perhaps even the Pentagon. The leader of the State Department ought to be a Warhawk. Yet, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush? Is that now the new-normal for diplomatic parlance?

I. Pettiness

  • From the White House Correspondents Dinner of 2011 to the campaign trail of Election 2016, it is apparent that the US President Donald Trump has a personal vendetta with all things Barrack Obama. No, it’s not even a policy disagreement, its personal Obamaphobia. The cornerstone of this Administration seems to be to dismantle the name Obama from the government as if the name was an interloper’s moniker on the side of a Trump Tower. Indeed, there seems to be little logic behind policy-reversals, just that the policies were ascribed to Obama… Obamacare anyone? From DACA, to Cuba, the Paris Accord and Net Neutrality, to off-shore drilling, Bears Ear, transgender bathrooms, and the Iran Agreement. Of course, an incoming president has the right and, as presidents from opposite political parties, perhaps the ideological interest in reversing policies. However, this Administration is obsessed with undoing policy at rates of speed and indifference to law more than prior administrations.
  • While questionably legal, many on both sides of the aisle were relieved with the DACA policy because it removed Congressional responsibility for a legislative fix. The Republican-led Senate brokered a deal, only to have President Trump undermine the deal at the last minute.
  • Was anyone outside Little Havana in Miami even complaining about the normalization of relations with Cuba? Then why change the policy… because it was done by Obama.
  • Climate Change? Obama, so it was “undone” even though it is legally binding under international law. Article 4 of the Paris Accord reiterates the obligations already contained in Article 4 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which became binding law after US Senate ratification in 1992.
  • On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, the Republican-led Senate passed legislation to repeal Trump’s FCC decision by Trump’s appointees.
  • President Trump lifted the off-shore drilling ban, even though the coastal governors of both political persuasions lobbied Trump not to reverse the ban.
  • And don’t get me started about Bears Ear National Monument…
  • Even in the face of North Carolina’s gubernatorial election, Donald Trump’s Administration reversed the interpretation of Title IX regarding transgender bathrooms.

Pettiness at its finest.

II. The Hypocrisy of Selective History and the Selective Application of National-Sovereignty and International Norms

A. The Hypocrisy of Selective History

Again, each incoming presidential administration has the right to make policy changes and reprioritize both domestic and international agendas. Presidents of both political parties have had a history of engaging with rogue states and terrorist organizations. Yet, hypocritically, some presidential candidates and presidents seem to only vilify engagements by presidents of the opposite political party. From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Iran-Contra Deal, from the Reagan-Gorbachev Summits to the USS Stark cover-up, from Bush 41’s official acceptance of the Japanese apology for Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1991, to Bush’s continuation of pro-Iraq policies as NSD 26. And Clinton’s normalization of relations with Vietnam and his negotiations with the PLO in the Middle East as well as the IRA and UDA terrorist organizations in Northern Ireland.

In 2004, President George W. Bush began the process of normalizing relations with Libya. Additionally, the Bush Administration used US funds to create the Sunni Awakening militias by essentially hiring the militiamen away from the Sunni uprising militias that had been attacking the US and Shi’a forces.

The point is this: it is hypocritical and/or ignorant to denounce meeting and negotiation with rogue nations and terrorist organizations. It is a tool of diplomacy that has been used by US Presidents from both political parties. In fact, the current president seems as proud of his impending meeting with Kim Jung Un as he and others were critical of President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro.

B. The Hypocrisy of Selective National-Sovereignty and International Norms

Again, it is important to remember that the UN Treaty is binding US law based upon Article VI of the US Constitution and the ratification of the UN Treaty by the US Senate in 1945. And Chapter VI of this binding document requires negotiation and arbitration of international disputes, not one-sided ultimatums.

US foreign policy for many decades has been a double standard, to say the least. American rhetoric often refers to the rule of law, yet the American government categorically ignored the decision in USA v. Nicaragua (1986). The more recent American use of drones as extrajudicial execution squads are as illegal internationally and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and others, against domestic law as well.

The US government often asserts national sovereignty as a bulwark defense of US policy and unilateral actions yet labels other sovereign states who assert the same supposition as rogue-nations. Either the Americans has the right to impose a unilateral economic blockade against Cuba and Iran has the right to develop nuclear technologies, or Iran does not have the right to develop nuclear technologies and the US does not have the right to unilaterally impose economic sanctions. Both are examples of national sovereignty. Either Iran must comply with international regimes and the US must comply with international regimes as well (again, like USA v. Nicaragua), or international regimes are not compulsory on either nation-state.

If the US government can arbitrarily withdraw from international treaties such as the US Small Weapons Ban, Kyoto Protocol, the Rome Statute, NAFTA, the Paris Accord, the Iran Agreement… If the United States can withdraw from international agreements, then is there any reason for Iran to stay party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? Iran can hardly be held in violation to an agreement that the government has withdrawn from, right? What is the incentive for Iran to stay a party to the NPT?

Yes, there is a clear, non-partisan, double standard in how the United States government interprets the concepts of national sovereignty and international law. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said that everyone has a right to their opinion, but not to their own facts. Too often in the past, the American government has interpreted the facts of international law to suit US foreign policy. Now, in the Age of Trumpism, we have ignorance and categorical lies, coupled with American’s tradition of selective history and the selective application of International norms.

III. An Ignorance of History and the Concept of Cultural Diffusion

On May 21, 2018, Mike Pompeo made his first formal comments on Iran since President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the party agreement was negotiated by the P5, the European Union, and Germany with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Seven sovereign nation-states and a non-state actor worked on the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Framework, and now the United States is taking its proverbial ball and going home. More ignorance of international norms.

The President’s petty Obamaphobia influencing Trump’s understanding of the Iran Agreement, combined with the hypocritical ignorance of historical facts that ignores Reagan’s attempts to negotiate with the Iranian government. In addition, this self-indulgent

Candidate Trump, President-Elect Trump, and President Trump have all repeated ignorant and categorical lies, such as stating that President Obama sent millions in US currency to Iran, without either understanding or articulating that the transfer was a return of Iranian assets frozen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The return of those frozen assets (+interest) was part of the negotiated Framework.

Conclusion

President Trump and Neocons, like Bolton, as well as Tea Partiers, like Pompeo, seem to think that negotiation is when everyone else agrees with you. The international community has done that before, it’s called the Treaty of Versailles. And, thanks to the Treaty of Versailles, we got Hitler, Nazism, and World War II. A successful treaty is a negotiated agreement in which each side gets something and, frankly, no one is happy. That’s called diplomacy. Total warfare may work in military combat, but it always fails in international diplomacy.

Let’s go back to Pompeo’s visit to the Heritage Foundation today; in the 16th paragraph of his speech, Pompeo said that, after complying with US demands, Iran will be welcomed back into the “League of Nations.” Yup. He said the League of Nations. And please don’t tell me that it’s an expression, take a look at the text of the speech, League of Nations was capitalized. Who the heck is his speech writer? If it was meant as just an expression, who is the editor? Who released the text of the speech to the public? Did the Secretary read his speech before he arrived at the Heritage Foundation today? Did *he* notice? I dunno, should someone tell, or have told, the top diplomat of the most powerful nation-state on Earth, the United States Secretary of State, …that the League of Nations does not exist anymore? For some reason, I personally feel that he should have known that already.

And these of the people who are in charge of our diplomacy and our reputation throughout the world…

Yes, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush. Yes, the new-normal for diplomatic parlance. And, in the same speech, the chief diplomat referred to the League of Nations that has been defunct for 72 years.

Yes, my criticism of Donald Trump’s leadership style is already on record. I do not appreciate the debased new-normal of abusive language in our political rhetoric, as well as the arrogance and, in my opinion, ignorance of the President and his Administration. The President’s has a petty Obamaphobic hang-up and a dangerous and self-indulgent interpretation of historical facts. The President has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and Tea Partiers like Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, like Rex Tillerson, is highly qualified for many offices like the CIA and the Pentagon. But the leader of the State Department is a Warhawk who promises to “crush” Iran until it rejoins the 72-year defunct League of Nations.

The US policy toward Iran is three comprised of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. Apparently, one the one hand, Obama gave the cow away to Iran, but it’s the Art of the Deal to sit down with Kim Jung Un. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. No, no one knows what the future holds for Iran or North Korea, but US negotiations with the PLO and the IRA seem to have gone well. US normalization of relations with Vietnam and Libya seem to have gone fairly well too.

The fact is that the Iranians will have nuclear weapons if they want… maybe not this year, or the next, maybe not in 5 years, but you can’t stop it permanently. It’s called cultural diffusion. The British couldn’t prevent Samuel Slater from bringing the Industrial Revolution to America, nor could America stop the transfer of electronics technologies to East Asia. More to the point, the US and its allies were unable to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Russia, China, India, Pakistan, or North Korea. But few Americas fear waking up to nuclear war with the UK, France, India, or even China or Russia. So, the issue is not nuclear proliferation, its the relationship that the United States has with other nuclear power that matters most. No, the US government cannot permanently prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb forever, but the US can manage the US-Iranian relationship so that in ten years Iran is not an enemy.

Perhaps its time to let go of Zero Sum politics, the hypocritical application of international norms, and Obamaphobia? Perhaps Obama’s engagement and negotiation with the Iranians is as valid as Trump’s engagement and negotiation with the North Koreans?

Just the thoughts of a Babbling Professor…

My name is Tom Keefe, and, remember, Today’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday!

Thanks for Listening!

 

April 28th ~ A Famous Nazi and a Treaty with Japan

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

~April 28~

On this day, April 28, 1908, Oskar Schindler was born in Moravia, in what was called Czechoslovakia for most of Schindler’s life. Schindler (April 28, 1908 – October 9, 1974) was a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. His story was told in book Schindler’s Ark (1982). The subsequent film Schindler’s List (1993) showed him as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who then, slowly, came to show his extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication to saving the lives of his Jewish employees.

~~~

On this day, April 28, 1952, the Treaty of San Francisco came into force (after having been signed September 8, 1951). The treaty officially ended World War II (six years after combat!!, but still looking timely compared to the Korea War “treaty” that has yet to be signed more than 60 years later), allocated compensation to Allied civilians and former prisoners of war who had suffered Japanese war crimes, ended the Allies’ military occupation, and return sovereignty to Japan.  It is the first notable treaty to make extensive use of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

By Article 11, Japan accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan and agreed to carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan.

~~~

On this day, April 28, 1970, Fort Ninigret was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Fort Ninigret is a historic fort and trading post site at Fort Neck Road in Charlestown, Rhode Island. Most historians believe that the fort was built either by the Dutch West India Company or by Portuguese explorers prior to 1637, in addition to the earlier trading post on nearby Dutch Island. At the 1883 Dedication, it was referred to as “the oldest military post on the Atlantic coast.” Former US President George Herbert Walker Bush aviation trained at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Charlestown (now within Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge) before going to Japan in World War II. More recently, hundreds of children and their families watched the Big Apple Circus perform at Ninigret State Park.

~~~

“The Old State House”

  On this day, April 28, 1970, the Old State House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Old State House was where, on May 4, 1776, the General Assembly declared its independence renouncing its allegiance to the British crown, and the date is now celebrated as Rhode Island Independence Day. Debates about slavery occurred in the building in the late 18th century. George Washington visited the building in 1781 and 1790. By 1901 the new Rhode Island State House was occupied on Smith Hill and the legislature vacated the Old State House.

~~~

That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

History of the US Embassy in Israel

Image result for un partition of palestine

In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne recognized British authority for the Mandate for Palestine. Neither US Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, nor Franklin Roosevelt questioned British authority in the Mandate for Palestine, nor Jerusalem…

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted the Plan as Resolution 181(II), which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and an international authority for the city of Jerusalem…

Harry S. Truman, President of the United States for approximately 7 years, did not object…

  • On May 14, 1948, Jewish leaders in the Mandate for Palestine issued the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in defiance of the United Nation as Resolution 181(II)… setting the stage for the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (or the First Arab–Israeli War) between the State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states, and forming the second stage of the 1948 Palestine war.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States for two full terms, “minimized relations with Israel, but he did not reduce the U.S. commitment to the existence and survival of Israel” (Source).

John F. Kennedy, President of the United States for approximately 3 years, ordered Israel to terminate its nuclear program in exchange for US defense (Source)

Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States for approximately 6 years, ordered the U.S. 6th Fleet, previously sent on a training exercise toward Gibraltar, to be re-positioned to the eastern Mediterranean to be able to assist Israel during the Six-Day War of June 1967.

  • On June 7, 1967, Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem.
  • On June 8, 1967, Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, an American naval research ship incident.

Richard Nixon, President of the United States for almost two full terms, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Gerald Ford, President of the United States for approximately 3 years, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • In June 1976, a UN proposal supporting the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines was vetoed by the United States.

Jimmy Carter, President of the United States for a full term, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • On September 17, 1978, following twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David, the Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States for two full terms, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to spying for and providing top-secret classified information to Israel.
  • On November 15, 1988, Palestinians declared the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, which referenced the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and “UN resolutions since 1947” and was interpreted as an indirect recognition of the State of Israel, and support for a two-state solution.

George H. W. Bush (41), President of the United States for a full term, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • From October 30th to November 1, 1991, Spain hosted the Madrid Conference (co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union), to revive the Israeli–Palestinian peace process through negotiations, involving Israel and the Palestinians as well as Arab countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

Bill Clinton, President of the United States for two full terms, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • In 1993, the Oslo I Accord, an agreement between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, was signed in Washington, D.C.
  • In September 1995, the Oslo II Accord, an agreement between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, was signed in Washington, D.C.
  • October 28, 1995, the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed by the US Congress. President Clinton, however, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem at any point in his for two full terms as president.
  • In 2000, US President Bill Clinton convened a peace summit between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. In May of that year, according to Nathan Thrall, Israel had offered Palestinians 66% of the West Bank, with 17% annexed to Israel, and a further 17% not annexed but under Israeli control, and no compensating swap of Israeli territory. The Israeli prime minister reportedly offered the Palestinian leader approximately 95% of the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip if 69 Jewish settlements (which comprise 85% of the West Bank’s Jewish settlers) be ceded to Israel. East Jerusalem would have fallen for the most part under Israeli sovereignty, with the exception of most suburbs with heavy non-Jewish populations surrounded by areas annexed to Israel. The issue of the Palestinian right of return would be solved through significant monetary reparations. According to Palestinian sources, the remaining area would be under Palestinian control. Depending on how the security roads would be configured, these Israeli roads might impede free travel by Palestinians throughout their proposed nation and reduce the ability to absorb Palestinian refugees. Borders, airspace, and water resources of the Palestinian state would have been left in Israeli hands. President Arafat rejected this offer and did not propose a counter-offer. No tenable solution was crafted which would satisfy both Israeli and Palestinian demands, even under intense U.S. pressure. Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of the Camp David Summit. In the months following the summit, Clinton appointed former US Senator George J. Mitchell to lead a fact-finding committee that later published the Mitchell Report.

George W. Bush (43), President of the United States for two full terms, did not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • In July 2002, the “quartet” of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia outlined the principles of a “road map” for peace, including an independent Palestinian state. The roadmap was released in April 2003 after the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the first-ever Palestinian Authority Prime Minister.
  • From December 2006 to mid-September 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority met 36 times; there were also lower-level talks. In 2007 Olmert welcomed the Arab League’s re-endorsement of the Arab Peace Initiative. In his bid to negotiate a peace accord and establish a Palestinian state, Olmert proposed a plan to the Palestinians. The centerpiece of Olmert’s detailed proposal is the suggested permanent border, which would be based on an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank. Olmert proposed annexing at least 6.3% of Palestinian territory, in exchange for 5.8% of Israeli land, with Palestinians receiving alternative land in the Negev, adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as a territorial link, under Israeli sovereignty, for free passage between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel insisted on retaining an armed presence in the future Palestinian state. Under Abbas’s offer, more than 60 percent of settlers would stay in place (not return).
  • In December 2008, Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. Army mechanical engineer, pleaded guilty to being an “unregistered agent for Israel,” and admitted to disclosing classified U.S. documents to Israel in the 1980s.

Barack Obama, President of the United States for two full terms, never moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

  • On October 19, 2009, Stewart David Nozette was arrested by the FBI for espionage. Nozette, an American scientist for the United States Department of Energy, the United States Department of Defense, DARPA, the United States Naval Research Laboratory, and NASA. At trial, Nozette admitted attempting to sell U.S. classified information to someone he believed was an Israeli Mossad operative. He was convicted for attempted espionage and fraud against the United States.
  • In September 2010, the Obama administration pushed to revive the stalled peace process by getting the parties involved to agree to direct talks for the first time in about two years.
  • On July 29, 2013, United States Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to restart the peace process through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

On December 6, 2017, US President Donald J. Trump, ordered the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, on his 320th day in office as President of the United States, with no connection to any direct talks, negotiation, or peace plan.

 

With friends like this…

According to the St. Petersburg Times, President George Bush said, “I think Jeb [Bush] would be a great president.” With a 34% national approval rating and 24% in RI, an unjust war in Iraq, a failed foreign policy and a slow economy –if George Bush thinks Jeb Bush would be a great president, well, I’m not sure we could afford another ‘great president.’ Do you think Jeb appreciates his big brother’s support?

Will the ProJo give me a chance to reply?

In his original letter, Bourget said “I am also tired of politicians’ and news media’s comparing this war to Vietnam. I think it should be compared to World War II…On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists launched an unprovoked attack on New York City and Washington…The United States went to war to remove terrorists, and sever their support from host countries” (March 23, 2006). Then, in the second letter (which the ProJo afforded him the opportunity to print), Bourget said “I did not say in my letter that Iraq was connected to 9/11” (April 7, 2006 ProJo). Quite simply, Bourget is changing your argument. It was strongly implied that Bourget was linking 9/11 with Iraq. If he was not then why did he include all the casualty statisics from it? We impeached a president for slicing and dicing the word “is” and Bourget would have us slice and dice the word “say” so he can distance himself from the implications of his original letter. I also talked with “Other people” who drew the same conclusions from Bourget’s piece and thanked me for pointing out the errors and misleading nature.

While I even agree with most of Bourget’s second letter, he can not deny what he said in his first. Even in his second, again, Bourget makes blanket statements that are not true “Everyone thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction prior to our invasion.” The UN Weapons Inspectors said there was no evidence of WMD. The US Ambassador to Niger, Joseph Wilson said the allegations of Iraq gettting enriched uranium from Africa were false. [And of course, we now know the President punmished Wilson for speaking the truth but ruining his wife’s career with the CIA and putting her life in danger by identifying her as a CIA operative.] “Everyone” did not think Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; the correct statement would have been “Many people though Saddam HAD and wanted to develop WMD.”

And again, this is the danger of printing letters without including editorial notes. In Bourget’s piece on April 7th, there should have been an editor’s note that ran beneath that said not everyone thought Saddam had weapons. The failure to include such editing encourages misleading statements and artificially supports a war that is based on lies and assuptions.