Category Archives: Heller

Dean Heller’s Immoderate Vote

Heller Goo1

Once again, Nevada junior Senator Dean Heller gets stretched out into Immoderate territory in Senate votes this week.  On September 22, 2015 Senator Heller voted in favor of the unscientific and pretty thoroughly politicized “Pain Capable…” forced birth bill (H.R. 36) [roll call 268]

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) explained the opposition to the bill by noting it is  (1) unconstitutional because it bans abortion procedures before a fetus is medically considered viable and it does not include exceptions for a situation in which a woman’s health in endangered – both elements contradict Roe v. Wade and other precedents.  [RealityCK]

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) added: “Do we really want to make a criminal out of a physician who is trying to prevent a woman with preeclampsia from suffering damage to her kidneys or liver, or having a stroke or seizures?” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). “Do we want the threat of prison for a doctor who knows that his pregnant patient needs chemotherapy or radiation treatments?” [RealityCK]

For those unfamiliar with lady parts and how they function (which unfortunately seems to include a majority of Republican men in Congress) let’s note that preeclampsia generally occurs after 20 weeks, and one of the first signs is an increase in the woman’s blood pressure.  There is one and only one cure for preeclampsia – the delivery of the fetus. [MayoClinic]  The decisions made by the woman and her physician are going to be really tough at this point. 

The delivery has to happen before damage to the kidneys or liver becomes permanent – or fatal.  What happens to the fetus is problematic.  The usual assumption of viability in the U.S. is 24 weeks of gestational age.  Less than that gestational age and the fetus will likely not be physically mature enough to survive into the neo-natal period and achieve the capacity to be an independent human being. [NCBI]  However, there is another factor which isn’t biological.  The technology must be available to sustain the fetus delivered this early.  For example, even in developed western European countries such as Portugal the age of assumed viability is higher than in the U.S. [NIH]

What makes Senator Heller’s position so radical is his vote to criminalize the efforts of a physician who is confronted with preeclampsia in a pregnant woman after 20 weeks into the pregnancy – when the condition most often appears – and his assumption that all pregnant women and their physicians have access to the kind of neo-natal technology associated with a neo-natal intensive care unit.  And, not just any neo-natal care unit, in cases of extremely pre-mature infants we’re talking about Level III care capacity.

Now scroll through the Nursing Institute of Nevada list of hospitals and their technical and staff capabilities.  Two list Level II nursery care, six list Level III facilities – and they are all located in either the Las Vegas or Reno area.  Treating preeclampsia outside one of Nevada’s two metropolitan areas requires all the emergency training and equipment for the most extreme emergencies.

As if the situation weren’t complicated enough, preeclampsia’s early symptoms – headaches, nausea, plus aches and pains are all things that happen in a normal pregnancy.  However, when the headaches are severe, there’s blurred vision. severe abdominal pain,  and  shortness of breath – it’s time for the emergency room. [MayoClinic]   The condition occurs in about 5%-8% of all pregnancies, and can appear at any time during pregnancy, delivery, and up to six weeks post-partum, although it most frequently happens in the final trimester. [PreecOrg]

It would be very useful if more Republican men knew that a pregnancy involves more than having a wife who reacts to certain smells, and  has trouble with shoe laces, in addition to the general knowledge that it’s a good idea to keep the gas tank filled in the family wagon.

The radical forced-birth crowd in the U.S. Senate seems not to understand that their anti-abortion grandstanding has implications in the real world in which not all pregnancies are trouble free, not all women and infants have immediate access to the very latest technology and medical expertise, and not all complications in pregnancies take place conveniently before some artificially established gestational age.  It’s too bad Senator Heller has joined this herd.

Recommended reading for Republican men: “Frequently Asked Questions,” Preeclampsia Foundation. “Familial Occurrence of Preeclampsia,” National Institutes of Health, NCBI. “Late Pregnancy Complications,” Patient.Info. “Preeclampsia,” Mayo Clinic. “Medline Plus: Preeclampsia,” NLM, NIH. “Preeclampsia,” WebMD.

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Filed under Health Care, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, Women's Issues

Pain Capable Panderers Get The Wedgies

Heller Goo 2

No matter how much he may try to stretch himself into a “moderate” shape Nevada Senator Dean Heller is aligned squarely with the radical right when it comes to women’s health.   The U.S. Senate can’t seem to address major items like climate change, infrastructure, and the voting rights act, but the Republican controlled body can certainly spend time on women’s bodies.  Witness: H.R. 36, and the vote thereon. [rc268]

H.R. 36 is the product of the House conservatives’ brain-flatulence and emphatic embrace of pseudo-scientific items like a “pain capable” fetus, in which abortions would be banned after twenty weeks.  What’s the science?

“Published research generally supports an experience of pain being possible only later in gestation than 20 weeks. A synthesis of available evidence was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 by experts from the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere, and their report concluded: “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” The third trimester begins at 27 to 28 weeks from conception.” [FactCheck]

There are a couple of things to notice in the summary above. First, “evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited,” or, restated, there is limited evidence (read: little) that the fetus is able to perceive pain. Secondly, if we accept the “limited’ evidence, then the perception is unlikely until 27-28 weeks after conception. However, nothing scientific stopped Senator Dean Heller from voting to bring H.R. 36 up for a vote.  The motion to break cloture failed.

Nevada’s other Senator, Harry Reid, offered the following summation of GOP efforts:

“It is said that you cannot make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s a choice. On every issue imaginable Republicans are choosing to  employ the same failed strategy. Over and over again, they drag Congress and the American people through votes that are publicity stunts designed to boost their conservative records.

Today we stand in the midst of yet another Republican show-vote designed to honor the political wish list of extremists. Once again, Republicans have decided to place women’s health at the center of their ideological campaign. We’ve seen this tactic before.  It doesn’t work. Americans are tired of Republican attacks on women’s health.”

And yes, the bill is going nowhere, and the vote was a waste of time.  However, it does appear indicative of a Republican strategy in this Constant Campaign season.

Enter The Wedgies

For the sake of argument, let’s define a wedge issue as a social or cultural topic introduced into a campaign which seeks to attract and galvanize persuadable voters who might otherwise focus on economic or other major issues.  There’s nothing particularly new about this technique.  We could start almost anywhere, but 1968 seems as good a place as any, as an election into which two divisive issues were raised: “Public Order,” and “busing.”  The former sought to brand Democrats as the party of chaos (Chicago civil unrest) and the party supporting “forced integration” for which “busing” was the stand-in.  The busing (race) issue morphed into “States Rights”  and “welfare queens” (race) during the 1980 campaign, which was, in turn,  revised into the “Affirmative Action” (race)  issue in 1996. The “gay marriage wedge issue” was used to good effect in the 2004 election season.

Clinging to the Wedgies

While wedge issues are extremely helpful during primary elections, their utility may diminish during general elections depending on the level of voter turnout.  The danger of the wedge strategy is that it may be viewed as what is on offer from a party which has very little else to publicize to a national audience.  The second danger inherent in the wedge strategy is that the issue itself may become marginalized and less effective in national elections.

It’s a useful exercise during any campaign season to take a step away from the publicity attached to single issues or single candidates and see what the polling says about national priorities.  For example, the July 28, 2015 polling done by Quinnipiac University shows registered voters placing the highest priority on the economy and jobs (37%), health care (13%), terrorism (12%), and foreign policy (9%).  Immigration (9%), Climate Change (6%), federal deficit (6%), taxes (3%) rounded out the polling.  Those social and cultural issues garner about 2% to 3% in other polling. [TPP]

Note that of the contemporary wedge issues only immigration is seen as a major national priority (9%) and the polls don’t indicate the perspective of the voters in terms of either passing comprehensive immigration policy reform, or on the other hand, a policy of mass deportation. Gay marriage and abortion barely register with a majority of American voters.

Using gay marriage as a wedge issue appears to be one of those issues whose time has come and gone. Gay marriage might have been a potent wedge issue in 1996 when only 27% of the population thought those marriages should be valid, however its luster faded by 2015 when approximately 60% of the American public agreed that gay marriages should be legal. [Gallup] The fact that only the most radical of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates sought to exploit the issue of the Kentucky county clerk leads to the conclusion that this issue has also been marginalized.

The next available wedge issue for social  conservatives is abortion, and it appears to be moving center stage for its close up in the 2015 primary season.  The priority given to the abortion issue by the GOP has been explained thusly:

“The answer lies in the Republican Party’s shift to the right. A decade ago, between 30 and 40 percent of Republicans identified as pro-choice. This May, (2012) that number was a scant 22 percent. It’s hard to know whether that’s the result of Republicans changing their minds about abortion, or pro-choice respondents ceasing to identify as Republicans. But the result is the same: The party is increasingly uniform in its opposition to abortion.” [AmProsp]

This might help to explain why H.R. 36 (and other similar legislation) is perceived as a cohesive issue for Republicans and why Senator Heller and others have attached themselves to it.  Trends in voter affiliation may support the thesis that some are ceasing to identify as Republicans since polling was done in  2003.  As of 2014 32% responded as Democrats, 39% as Independents, and 23% as Republicans; a loss of 7% in self-identification with the GOP since 2003. [PRC]  If the trend continues, we might reasonably conclude that the fixation in the GOP with what appears to be a wedge issue of limited utility could have serious consequences for that party in upcoming national elections.

Given the Republican Party’s march to the right, the willingness of its national leadership to adopt a wedge issue like abortion, and the continual emphasis placed on the topic by ultra-conservatives, probably means we will see more publicity about Planned Parenthood, more non-scientific legislation, and more lock step votes such as that of Senator Heller in the U.S. Senate.   And it’s still over 400 days until the next national election.

Recommended/Reference: N. Coca, “Wedge Issues: A 2008 Historical Preview,” NithinCoca, January 2008.  D.S. Hillygus, T.G. Shields, “The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns, Princeton University Press, 2009.  K. Walsh, “Wedge Issues Take Center Stage in 2016 Race,” USNWR, April 2015.  Sen. Harry Reid, “Republican Attacks on Women…” Press Release, September 2015.  D. Townshend, “Abortion: The New Wedge Issue,” American Prospect, August 2012.  Pew Research Center, “Trends in Party Affiliation,” April 2015.  The Polling Report, “Problems and Priorities,” July 2015.

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Filed under abortion, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Reid

They have nothing: The GOP and Modern American Life

Black Hole Answer: They have nothing!  Question: What does a political party do when it has failed to research, compile, and publicize a platform of policy proposals addressing American issues?  What’s happened to the Republican Party?  There area clues.

They fall back on old issues, pounding away at uninspired and unoriginal grandstanding rhetoric as if the grandstanding were an alternative in itself.  Witness the latest “vote” to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The only alternative proposal in the hopper is Coupon Care or “Voucher Hospital,” which didn’t withstand scrutiny for the last several rounds.  The Republicans talk as if the extension of family benefits for children up to age 26 can be maintained, or the provisions disallowing elimination of insurance for pre-existing conditions can be continued, without sending the whole system into a downward spiral – unfortunately for the GOP, the system IS working.  However, that didn’t stop one more amendment to:

To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 entirely,” from hitting the floor of the U.S. Senate for another vote.  [rc 253]

You read that correctly – the Senate Republicans wanted to repeal the ACA entirely – repeal the prohibitions on refusing insurance for pre-existing conditions, repeal the insurance for young people who stay on their parents’ policies until 26, repeal  the prohibition of arbitrary rescission of coverage, repeal your guarantee of a right to ask that your insurance plan reconsider a denial of payment.  Repeal prohibition of that bogus insurance that put limits on lifetime coverage; repeal the review of premium increases; repeal the provision that at least 80% of what’s paid in for premiums must be used to pay for medical treatment.  Repeal preventive health care; repeals insurance company barriers to emergency services…. [DHHS]

It’s been five years since the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights became law.  Meanwhile, the Senate tried once again to repeal the ACA and Patients’ Bill of Rights “entirely.”   Who were the 49 Senators who voted for repeal?

ACA repeal vote senate 2015And, so Senator Heller, exactly what do you propose to replace the measure which has added  16.9 million more Americans to the number of those with health insurance? [Forbes]  Spare us the vague rhetoric about “free market solutions,” or “protecting individual choices,” or “big government intrusion into American lives.”  Those 16.9 million people aren’t rhetorical place-holders, they are real Americans who want real health insurance – so, what’s your plan?  Crickets.

We can expect more rhetoric about abortion! about immigrants! about Tyranny! about anything EXCEPT those issues which should be attracting our attention, and precipitating practical remedies.

They avoid rational responses to current policy issues(1) What do we hear from our Republican representatives and officials about gun violence in America?   Reaction to the Charleston, Chattanooga, and Lafayette shootings have drawn the same old responses we heard after the IHOP shooting in Carson City, NV,  the VA Tech shooting, the Aurora Theater shooting….  The Republican response has been little more than a recitation of NRA talking points which conveniently boil down to we can’t do anything about the proliferation of guns because: 2nd Amendment.

So, they talk about “mental health,”  but between 2009 and 2011 the legislatures of 34 states cut funding for mental health care services by a total of $1.6 billion.  Some House Republicans tried to bring a funding bill to the floor last January, but as with most legislation in the GOP controlled House it got chopped into bits in the hope that some portion of it could survive. [TheHill]

It’s instructive to note that Representative Murphy introduced his bill (HR 3717) in December 2013, and it bounced around committees until a last subcommittee hearing in April 2014. [Cong]  Then came the portion of the program known as Dueling Bills, the GOP version (HR3717) vs. a Democratic party member sponsored HR 4574 – and the fight was on concerning funding for substance abuse treatment, and treatment under Medicaid, and for veterans.  [NAMI pdf]

Less rationally, Republicans tell us that our personal safety is an individual responsibility and we’d all be safer if we went to the restaurant or theater with weapons.   Former Texas governor Rick Perry:

“I will suggest to you that these concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea,” Perry said. “I think that you allow the citizens of this country, who have appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms, to carry them. I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.”[CNN]

And who might these “backgrounded” appropriately trained, knowledgeable, people be?  In a dark theater… and how many of these “backgrounded,” trained, knowledgeable people will it take to create complete chaos? And, more casualties?  Are we willing to create the possibility that our schools, churches, and theaters could become shooting galleries?

(2) What do we hear from the Republicans about terrorism?  Plenty, as long as we’re speaking of ISIS or Muslims.  Not so much if we’re speaking of the home grown variety.   The propaganda wing of the GOP can’t seem to remember any reports of domestic terrorism which can’t be attributed to Muslims.  Interesting, because in September 2011 the FBI released its warning about the Sovereign Citizens and their form of domestic terrorism.  The timing is important because by June 2011 the Department of Homeland Security had eviscerated the analytical unit that produced their report on domestic terrorism including white supremacist and Christian Identity activities. [WaPo]

“Last night, a shooter who held white supremacist and extreme anti-government, anti-feminist views “allegedly killed two people and wounded nine others who were watching the new comedy ‘Trainwreck,’ a film written by and starring the feminist comedian Amy Schumer.”  As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out in wake of the Lafayette, Louisiana, shooting, “in the last five years, an attack from the radical right was carried out or thwarted on average every 34 days and that the overwhelming majority of those attacks, 74 percent, were carried out by a single person, or a group of no more than two people.” [RRW]

We might add that two individuals associated with right wing extremism assassinated two police officers in Las Vegas in June 2014, and draped the Tea Party flag over one of their bodies. [ABC]  

The Republican formula “Say No Evil” about radicalized anti-abortionists, anti-immigrant, anti-integrationists, may work well in fund raising e-mails about Tyranny In America! or, Big Brother, or whatever the fear du jour may be, but it’s obviously NOT helping track the lone wolves who shoot police officers, or threaten to shoot BLM employees, or shoot patrons in movie theaters.

(3) What happened to that Comprehensive Immigration Bill?  A comprehensive immigration policy reform bill passed the U.S. Senate in June 2013. [NYT]  More specifically that would be 760 days ago, or 108 weeks plus 4 days, and it’s politely referred to as Stalled.  The stall began in December 2013, as the House decided to go “piecemeal.” [MPI] As of February 2014 the Speaker was whining the House couldn’t pass the bill because it didn’t trust the President. [WaPo] However, in April 2014 the Speaker was mocking conservatives for blocking the bill. [WSJ]   By June 2014 Senators were blaming ultra-conservative members of the House for the Great Stall. [9News]  The calendar moved on to January 30, 2015 and the internal struggles of the House Republicans still kept the bill in abeyance. [MPR]

760 days, 108 weeks + 4 days, or 18,240  hours later, there is still no passage of an immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives – whole or piecemeal.

In this morass it may be counted as a minor miracle if Congress can manage to pass a relatively uncontroversial highway funding bill. [TheHill]

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Congress was expected to be filled with Republicans and Democrats who having different perspectives would file differing bills on the same general topics.  Compromises would be worked out among the ladies and gentlemen of the august legislative bodies, and conference committees would work out the differences between measures.  This requires that both sides bring something to the table.  How do we know the GOP isn’t packing anything in its collective briefcase?

When the highway bill comes up they want to “repeal Obamacare” just one more time, or when legislation stalls it is everyone’s fault and no one’s fault that we can’t seem to enact comprehensive immigration policy reform.  How many votes on various and sundry “anti-abortion” proposals has the House taken, instead of taking any votes on whether or not to have universal background checks for gun sales? 

How many hours has the House spent on the Benghazi attack compared to the number of hours it has taken testimony on the condition of our roads, airports, dams, and bridges?  How much time was expended dreaming up a bill to exempt veterans from the ACA and Patient’s Bill of Rights if those individuals already had “government” insurance? (A specious proposal if there ever was one.)

How much more time before the Republicans come to realize that most of the American public – that portion not infatuated with the celebrity bashing all immigrants – would very much like to see something accomplished. 

It’s hard to accomplish anything when what’s being brought to the table is essentially nothing.

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Filed under anti-immigration, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, terrorism

Council of Conservative Citizens and the Problem of Money in Nevada Politics

Earl Holt NV On August 21, 2010 the Friends of Sharron Angle received a $500.00 donation from one Earl Holt, Longview, Texas.  There was another donation from the same source on October 12, 2010, also for $500.00.  However, pouring money into Mrs. Angle’s failed campaign wasn’t Earl Holt’s only interest in Nevada.  On September 30, 2012 the Heller for Senate received $500.00 from the generous Mr. Holt. [LVSun]

Mr. Holt and his organization have come under scrutiny since the Charleston church massacre as the probable source of inspiration for the killer.  From the Associated Press, the Guardian, and Politico. And, now Senator Heller has announced he will give his prize money from Holt to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund. [LVRJ]

The donation is good news indeed, the bad news is that the $500 from Holt’s Hate Band has been in Senator Heller’s account from September 30, 2012 until June 22, 2015 without notice on the part of Heller’s own staff.

This says something about money in politics and Republican money more specifically.

Given the massive costs of running a statewide campaign, especially in the top echelon races, it’s comprehensible that individual donations of relatively small amounts wouldn’t be cross checked for provenance.  However, it’s not like the Council of Conservative Citizens is an unknown group. 

“The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South. Among other things, its Statement of Principles says that it “oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Created in 1985 from the mailing lists of its predecessor organization, the CCC, which initially tried to project a “mainstream” image, has evolved into a crudely white supremacist group…” [SPLC]

Flags As the Republican Party has been co-opted or at least significantly  influenced by the ultra-conservative Tea Party membership, the origins of money are ever more likely to come from organizations which have dubious racial and ethnic agendas – i.e. white supremacists.

Our second “given” is that it is always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask  permission.  Several prominent members of the Republican Party have donated CCC money to charity in the last week, all presumably because the tainted nature of the origins came to light.  Granted this is speculation, but what IF by some miracle the killer in Charleston had not acted on his evil ideation? What if the basis for the hate wasn’t the propaganda of the white supremacist’s associations?  Would those donations still be available to the politicians to buy air time and advertising?

In an era of Dark Money, Big Money, PAC money, and questionable non-profit money – here’s some unsolicited advice:

Well coordinated campaigns have good lines of internal communication.  Policy advocates and specialists should know where the money’s coming from, and the finance specialists should be aware of the image the candidate wants to project.   If a candidate doesn’t wish to be guilty by association with white supremacist groups then that needs to be conveyed to the finance directors with an admonishment to screen donations which appear questionable.

Bluntly speaking, Citizens United, while beneficial to Republican candidates in terms of corporate donations, may have made it harder for individual campaigns to discern the ultimate origins of campaign donations, which when discovered could prove embarrassing – or career ending.  We have a current example – Rep. Scalise, his speech to a David Duke related organization, and Duke’s threat to reveal his connections to other politicians. [HuffPo]

When in doubt – there’s always Google?

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Filed under Angle, campaign finance reform, campaign funds, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, racism

Yes, Heller Embarrassed Nevada

newspapers 1 The Reno Gazette Journal adds its editorial voice to the backlash over the #Iran47 participation of Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), in “Heller embarrassed Nevada with Iran letter.”   Thus, the Gazette Journal joins a chorus including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Nashua, NH Telegraph, the Concord, NH Monitor, the Peoria Journal Star, the Salt Lake Tribune, the New York Times, the Kansas City Star, the Sacramento Bee,  the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times,  and others. [Pol]

Senator Heller’s web site doesn’t include any press releases explaining the inexplicable.  Perhaps he’s adopting some of the other incredulous statements made, like Senator McCain’s “snow storm” excuse?  [Pol] Or, he might use the Senator Rand Paul template: “I signed the Iran letter in Order to Help Obama?”  Or, how about the former Governor Jeb Bush idea, “I approved it out of frustration?”  There’s always 60+ day Senator Tom Cotton’s version: “If Congress doesn’t approve the deal it may not last.”

Maybe the junior Senator from Nevada could mash them all together?

“I signed the Iran Letter because I was frustrated with the snow storm, and in order to help the President I thought I’d let the Iranians know that the Constitution allows the Senate to offer “advice and consent” to treaties before they’re ratified, just in case the fellows weren’t educated.”

The last part is really amusing given that the Iranian government has the highest number of US college graduates serving in any foreign government cabinet in the world.  President Rouhani has a PhD from the prestigious Glasgow Caledonian University (Scotland), Zarif has a PhD from the University of Denver; the Science, Research & Technology minister (Mohammad Ali Najafi) did post graduate work at MIT.  Vaezi, Minister of Communications, began his PhD at LSU and finished at the Warsaw University in Poland, the Minister for Industry, Nematzadeh, graduated from Cal Poly in 1968, and studied industrial management at Cal Berkeley. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the AEO, has a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT.  Chief of Staff, Mohammad Nahavandian, has a PhD in economics from George Washington University.  [IranPrimer]

The junior Senator from Nevada might want to consider his response and rationale very carefully because when an editorial board uses terms like “condescending, embarrassing, clueless, damaging, and hypocritical,”  the Senator’s next words should be very carefully weighed and measured.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Heller, Iran

GOP Age of Un-Enlightenment: Heller one of the #Iran47

Heller 3

Nevada’s junior Senator, Dean Heller (R) is one of the  signers of the now infamous ‘enlightenment letter’ to the Iranian leadership.  Heller, who has a certain flare for the dramatic – if not the practicable – has demonstrated his willingness to participate in amateur political theatricals before.   Witness the “Balanced Budget Amendment” which he hauls out every session only to be reminded that the budget of a sovereign nation doesn’t have the same characteristic as a household budget in East Deer Breath.  Or, there was the gallant attempt to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, in tandem with former Senator (now Heritage Foundation guru) Jim DeMint. This scene evaporated as well.   Considering the matter at hand, here are some absolutely unsolicited bits of advice for the junior Senator:

#1.It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.”  Before signing on to this line, one might be aware that the recipients include  Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who attended Drew College Prep in San Francisco, got his B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University in 1981, and a Master’s in 1982. He did post graduate work at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and received his PhD in International Law and Policy in 1988. Here’s guessing that the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs might have some knowledge of U.S. governmental operations?

Opening lines such as this are patronizing or at least condescending, and one of the Things Not Done in international relations is being… patronizing or condescending.  Iran, love it or loathe it, is a sovereign nation, and that pompous, supercilious, opening sounds suspiciously like the #Iran47 would like to teach their “little brown brothers” about U.S. politics. 

#2. Don’t make obvious errors.  It really doesn’t do to have a legal heavyweight from the Bush Administration tell you that the Senate may “offer advice and consent,” but “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). [Goldsmith]  In athletic parlance, this fumble is often called an Unforced Error.

#3. You will be known by the company you keep.  Very junior Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has made it very clear that he wants to scuttle all attempts at diplomacy with Iran.  “The end of these negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence. A feature, not a bug, so speak,” Cotton said in January, speaking at a conservative conference hosted by the advocacy group Heritage Action for America.” [Huffington Post]  This puts the #Iran47 deep in the realm of American hardliners who see no practicality in negotiating a deal with the current Iranian government.  Not everyone has dived into that pool, including acknowledged foreign policy expert former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN).  If Senator Heller would like to retain his “periodically moderate” label, this is not the way to do it.

#4. The more flexible you are the more options you’ll have.  Taking the hard line stance as a signatory to the Cotton Letter means that diplomacy is off the table.  What does that leave?  Let’s assume the old adage is correct: War is the failure of diplomacy.  If diplomacy is removed as an option then the only way to resolve an international dispute is with armed forces.  But, what of economic sanctions?

#5. Don’t discard options merely because they require assistance.  Unilateral economic sanctions never work.  At best they can be functional in about 13% of their applications, at least since 1970, and  usually with small countries. (Rhodesia comes to mind)  [Hill]  Then there’s this observation from the Director, Institute for International Economics, a panelist at the CFR:

“There is no case—repeat, no case—where unilateral sanctions have ever worked to induce a sizable country to make a major change in policy, no case in history that we have been able to discover. The simple reason is that the United States no longer dominates the world economy. There are always alternative sources of export, import markets, finance, whatever it may be. We alone cannot coerce others. And there are always alternatives, and they will always be available.”

And, this leads us to the next point.

#6. The more friends you have the better.  The current negotiations involve  members of the P5+1 who are actually negotiating the deal with Iran.  The U.S. isn’t the only country with a negotiating interest in the talks, the other nations include the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany, and the U.S.  Some care should have been taken that what was perhaps meant as a poke at Iran wouldn’t be received as a slap in the face of the other negotiating countries.  Now, consider the next point —

#7. If the #Iran47 intend for the talks to collapse, then the intended (or unintended?) consequence could be the U.S. wedded to a unilateral policy calling for a military solution to the issue of Iranian nuclear development? After all, why would the UK, France, or Germany participate in military operations if they assume their negotiations were in good faith, and the U.S. was the one to pull out?

Should the U.S. become embroiled in a war with Iran,  a nation with about 450,000 regular military personnel, some 120,000 in the Army of the Guardians, and about 3 million combat trained paramilitary Basij, it should be reasonably obvious that the conflict would not be a simple matter of a few air strikes.  And, while the U.S. is thus engaged what happens in, say, Ukraine? Iraq? Central Africa? Nigeria? North Korea? Libya?

#8. “Regime Change” is a term freighted with negative associations. In an ethereal world of ideals, as opposed to the practical one in which we are living, we could bargain very nicely with a ‘new’ regime in Tehran.  That is, IF, the new regime was cooperative.  However, as we learned to our dismay in Iraq, a new regime doesn’t necessarily equate to a cooperative ally.  The ‘new regime’ in Iraq refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement with two American administrations, insisted on the pull out of U.S. combat forces, and then proceeded to make a hash of Sunni-Shia power relationships giving ISI a wedge into the fray.

#9. Striking a pose and taking a position are two different things. Striking a pose is easy.  One may be belligerent – fists at the ready, emotions on high;  or pacific – fists down, brain engaged. Taking a position requires thought, especially forethought, and the inclusion of a host of factors which may or may not prove to be critical elements.   One of the conveniences of militarism is that it requires little forethought – have a problem with someone? Simply shoot’em up.   The current situation in the Middle East is not a scripted melodrama from film writers; the good guys are difficult to identify and may not always be ‘good,’ and the bad guys may be helpful in one area (think Iran and its assistance against ISIL) and unhelpful in others.

Signing on as an original founder of the #Iran47 wasn’t the best idea Nevada’s junior Senator has had, and in fact it may prove to be one of his worst moments.  Unless, of course, he would like to posture as a belligerent, mindless subscriber to militarism and the notion that not only is might always right but it also always works.  This is a dubious proposition at best, and it certainly offers a future challenger an opening on an unforced error.

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Filed under Congress, Foreign Policy, Heller, Iran

Heller and the Keystone Amendments: Taxpayers on the Hook

Heller 3 Before the Keystone Pipeline bill made it to a vote in the U.S. Senate there were some amendments which shed light on the mindset of the proponents of the construction. Remember, this pipeline is for the transportation of foreign oil (Canadian) through (not to) the United States to foreign markets.  S.Amdt 155 came up for a vote, its sponsor Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) spoke in favor saying,

“Mr. President, I want to say that amendment No. 155 is a  very important amendment. It is common sense. It is practical. The National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA as it is known, is one of the most emulated statutes in the world. It is something that many people see as valuable in other countries because NEPA, in fact, by many is referred to as the modern-day environmental Magna Carta. NEPA regulations require agencies to supplement already-issued environmental impact statements when significant new circumstances or information is found to exist relating to the environmental impact of a project. The pending Keystone bill, however–and quite surprisingly–would deem the final environmental impact statement issued last January to fully satisfy this NEPA requirement going ahead. This would remove the obligation from permitting agencies to supplement any environmental impact statements if significant new circumstances or information is discovered.”

Here’s a loophole through which one could drive an oil tanker.  In every other instance the regulatory agencies are required to consider new evidence and new circumstances when overseeing the environmental impact of any proposal – but not this one. Not Keystone Pipeline. No, once the “final” impact statement is filed – that’s it. No more adjustments. Even if the construction called for a route change which might put a local drinking water source in peril? Even if the construction caused peripheral damages, unforeseen in the initial plans….  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was one of the 56 members of the Senate to vote “No” on this amendment.  [rc 46]

S. Amdt 141 was simplicity itself, delay the effective date until the White House had determined that the construction of the Canadian pipeline would have no negative impacts.  Again, Senator Heller voted, “No.” [rc 47]

S. Amdt 178 was also fairly simple. “To ensure that products derived from tar sands are treated as crude oil for purposes of the Federal excise tax on petroleum.”  Here’s a lovely catch

Return, for a moment, back to 2010 when there was a pipeline spill in Michigan, some of which was from Canadian tar sands.  Enter the Tar Sands Tax Loophole:

Five months later, the Internal Revenue Service quietly ruled that a significant portion of the type of Canadian crude flowing through that Michigan pipeline was exempt from the per-barrel tax created for that spill-liability fund. The loophole for oil sands fuel, which also forms the bulk of the crude set to run on the Keystone XL pipeline, remains in effect today despite congressional proposals to close it. [EE]

Now it’s clear – Senator Heller voted against having TransCanadian pay taxes into the spill-liability fund to pay for clean up in the case of a pipeline break or failure.  A vote against this amendment was quite simply a vote in favor of having anyone – anywhere – pay to clean up the oil spill EXCEPT the pipeline company responsible for the problem. [rc 48]   Nothing sends such a Valentine to the Koch Brothers and the Canadian oil companies as this.  And then he voted in favor of the unamended bill. [rc 49]

In short, Senator Heller’s bought into the various and sundry convenient prevarications associated with the Keystone debate.

It will NOT be a long term “job creator,” because most of the jobs, about 3,500 will be short term construction.  The construction jobs would be beneficial, but only about 35-40 long term jobs would be created.  The pipeline does transverse a section of a major aquifer, and that’s reason enough in an agricultural region (read: breadbasket) to think very carefully about pipeline spills.   While it’s one thing to support a foreign pipeline transporting foreign oil to the world markets – it’s another to exempt the pipeline and oil producers from paying into the  Spill Liability Fund.

The Fund can provide up to $1 billion for any one oil pollution incident, including up to $500 million for the initiation of natural resource damage assessments and claims in connection with any single incident. The main uses of Fund expenditures are:  State access for removal actions; Payments to Federal, state, and Indian tribe trustees to carry out natural resource damage assessments and restorations; Payment of claims for uncompensated removal costs and damages; and Research and development and other specific appropriations.

Recall, the next time Senator Heller bemoans the “tax payer bailouts,” that he just voted to put the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for any clean up costs associated with the Keystone project.


Filed under ecology, energy, energy policy, Heller