Saturday, June 27, 2015
In an open letter, the security and foreign policy experts say it "falls short of meeting the administration's own standard of a 'good' agreement".
They call for fewer concessions on international nuclear inspections and on research and development activities…
The open letter published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday is signed by a bipartisan group of US diplomats, legislators, policymakers and experts who have met regularly over the past three years to discuss Iran.
- Dennis Ross, who advised President Obama on Iran
- Former CIA director David Petraeus
- Robert Einhorn, a former member of the US negotiating team with Iran
- James Cartwright, a former vice-chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Gary Samore, a former Obama adviser on nuclear policy
- Stephen Hadley, who was a national security adviser to President George W Bush
"Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement," the letter says.
"The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran's nuclear infrastructure," it adds...
The letter calls on Mr Obama to insist that Iran provide information about nuclear weapons research Western powers suspect it has carried out, and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to military sites.
The president is also urged to establish strict limits on the research and development of centrifuges used to enrich uranium to preclude the "rapid technical upgrade and expansion" of Iran's enrichment capacity at the end of any deal. '
In 1990, federal spending equaled about 21% of gross domestic product. Social Security and major health programs (mainly Medicare and Medicaid) represented a little less than one-third of all spending.
The rest was defense, domestic "discretionary" programs (homeland security, environment regulation, law enforcement and the like) and non-elderly "entitlements" (unemployment insurance, welfare).
In 2015, the federal government is still spending 21% of GDP, but now Social Security and major health programs consume about half the budget, according to the CBO report. Most health spending goes to the elderly.
As the CBO makes clear, an aging population and high health costs will perpetuate this trend for years. Under current law, Social Security and health programs will account for two-thirds of today's budget levels (measured by GDP) by 2040, estimates the CBO. What's left for the rest? Not much.
The remaining amounts are "the lowest ... relative to the size of the economy since the 1930s," says the CBO. Either the rest of government will shrink dramatically - or Congress will expand government spending sharply. That, of course, would require higher taxes or bigger deficits.
But budget deficits are not the problem. They are simply the consequences of the problem, which is that the combination of an aging society and expensive health care threatens many vital government functions.'
How hard is it to make Social Security solvent without cutting benefits? So hard that even Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is now running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, can't do it. Sanders's reform proposal would eliminate the $118,500 cap on wages subject to payroll taxes, which would effectively raise the top federal income tax rate by 12 percentage points…But despite tax increases far larger than those President Obama was able to enact, Sanders' plan still falls decades short of the traditional goal of making Social Security solvent for 75 years. Even if the Sanders plan passed, today's young Americans would receive less than 90 percent of their promised Social Security benefits.'
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
A Japanese surveillance plane and about 20 troops conducted the first of two days of joint training with the Philippine navy on Tuesday off the coast of Palawan, a strategically important island not far from contested islands claimed by several countries including China and the Philippines.
While the P-3C plane was being used for maritime search-and-rescue drills and disaster relief drills, the aircraft is also a mainstay of Japan's anti-submarine and other aerial surveillance efforts. In theory, it could help the U.S. keep an eye on the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. Some experts think that's a possibility in coming years.
"It's likely we will see Japan doing joint surveillance and reconnaissance in the South China Sea in the coming years," said Narushige Michishita, a defense expert at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. "It is going to be with the U.S., Australia, the Philippines and others."
Others are less certain. Such a move would raise tensions with China, with which Japan already has a major territorial dispute over islands farther north in the East China Sea. It would face public opposition at home from those who want Japan's military to avoid getting entangled in overseas disputes. The military is already stretched, keeping an eye for example on North Korea and China in the East China Sea.'
As these liberal strategists took stock, most acknowledged that the Democratic side had genuine underlying problems that needed to be fixed. And while the prescriptions they offered varied, one of the common themes that gained momentum was that the Democratic Party needed to strongly identify itself with the fight against economic inequality. For many progressives, the argument was not simply that ending economic inequality was the right thing to do; it was that a populist campaign built around this theme would mobilize what strategists call a "new American majority" or a "rising American electorate"—allowing Democrats to take back the country that they thought they had won in November 2008.
How do we know about Gruber's role? Not because the White House released any documents, not because the media dug into it, but because the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, got MIT to turn over the relevant emails. There were 20,000 pages of emails back-and-forth between Gruber and the White House in the crucial months when the bill was being crafted and passed.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Of 213 lawmakers present on Sunday, 199 voted in favour of the bill, which also demands the complete lifting of all sanctions against Iran as part of any final nuclear accord. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, to become law…
However, it concludes that "access to military, security and sensitive non-nuclear sites, as well as documents and scientists, is forbidden". The bill also would require Iran's foreign minister to report to parliament every six months on the process of implementing the accord.'
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Until fairly recently, the INF treaty had for a long time been of interest only to arms control junkies. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty back in December 1987. It banned all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. It entered into force in June 1988. Three years later, the two countries had destroyed some 2,600 missiles—the first time ever that an entire class of nuclear arms had been eliminated…
U.S. officials have said that, if Moscow does not correct the problem and come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, they will ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from the violation. A range of options are being considered, some which would be consistent with the treaty and others which would require withdrawal. The options include defensive measures to defeat the Russian GLCM as well as "counterforce" capabilities that would presumably allow the cruise missiles to be attacked before launch.
A June 4 Associated Press story noted that one counterforce option could entail deployment of new U.S. land-based missiles in Europe. That got noticed in Moscow. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow "placed much attention" on the report. Colonel General Victor Zavarzin, a member of the Russian federal assembly's defense committee, warned "if the Americans indeed deploy their ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe, in this case we will face the necessity of retaliating."
It comes as no surprise that the possibility of U.S. INF missiles in Europe provoked concern in Moscow. The Soviets really did not like the U.S. GLCMs and Pershing II ballistic missiles deployed in Europe in the 1980s, a key factor in getting Moscow to change its negotiating stance and ultimately accept a treaty banning all INF missiles. The thought that the Pentagon might dream up a Pershing III makes the Russian Ministry of Defense nervous—and hopefully reminds the Kremlin of why it saw value in the INF Treaty in the first place. '
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
'One of the more striking aspects of free market ideology in American politics is how cornucopian magical thinking has become not just acceptable, but ubiquitous and nearly unquestioned.
Consider the reaction to a seemingly commonsensical observation that presidential contender Bernie Sanders made on Tuesday. "The whole size of the economy and the GDP doesn't matter if people continue to work longer hours for low wages and you have 45 million people living in poverty," Sanders told CNBC. "You don't necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country."..."Free markets are not irrational; they are a reflection of what people actually value at a particular time relative to the other things that they might also value. Real people simply want things that are different from what the planners want them to want, a predicament that can be solved only through violence and the threat of violence. [National Review]"
...The final judgment, then, must inevitably be which outcomes are morally defensible, and which are not. So if you're cool with starving children, then by all means, keep snickering at Sanders.'
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Atena Farghadani, 28, had what Iran considers a trial in Tehran's Revolutionary Court on May 19 and learned on Monday of the verdict and sentence. She was charged with "insulting members of parliament through paintings" for drawing the officials as animals, according to Amnesty International.'