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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,691

Journal Archives

Bill introduced to require congressional approval of any diplomatic agreement with Iran

Obama vows veto of new Senate legislation ensuring vote on Iran deal\

Four senators have introduced a bill that would grant Congress the opportunity to approve, or disapprove, of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 was introduced on Friday by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and ranking member Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), as well as Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).

Their move was immediately criticized by the White House. US President Barack Obama will veto all legislation on Iran so long as negotiations are under way, one spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.

The bill would require Obama submit to Congress the text of a final agreement as well as evidence of Iran's compliance to the deal, and prohibits him from "suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing" congressional sanctions for sixty days. At that point in time, Congress would vote on a joint resolution of approval or disapproval of the deal. Should Congress vote against the agreement, and should the president veto that resolution, the legislature would vote a second time with the potential to override his veto with a two-thirds majority.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is preparing to open its annual conference on Sunday and to host Netanyahu the following day, will fight for the bill, one official said.


This is no surrender: Paul Krugman on the Greek left’s surprising victory against austerity

One week after Greece’s leftist government reached a new debt deal with its creditors, Paul Krugman argues in his New York Times column today that left-wing criticism of the deal is misguided, obscuring larger victories secured by Greek negotiators.

What was at stake in the negotiations, the Nobel Prize-winning economist writes, was whether Greece would have to impose further austerity measures on its already beleaguered populace. The Syriza government avoided such a calamity:

Krugman concedes that the debt deal contains other provisions with which leftists quarrel. Greek negotiators agreed to proceed with privatization deals already underway and to preserve some “structural reform” of the labor market implemented by the leftist government’s predecessors. But Greece also redoubled its commitment to cracking down on tax evasion, particularly by the wealthy; you’d be hard-pressed to frame that as a defeat for the left.

All in all, Krugman concludes, the pushback against austerity is meeting with notable successes — “even if nobody believes it.”


Putin creates an official holiday to celebrate the role of special forces in Crimea.

Putin Creates Official Holiday on Anniversary of Crimea Annexation

February 27 will from now on be marked in Russia as Special Operations Forces Day, according to a decree signed Thursday by President Vladimir Putin and published on the official legislative website. The Special Operations Forces, a branch of Russian defense apparatus operating both inside the country and abroad, was formed in March 2013. The Chief of the General Staff said at the time of its creation that the new branch was inspired by the experience of "the world's leading nations," Russian media reported.

Answering its own question of why Feb. 27 was chosen as the day, an article in government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta said: "Remember what happened and where a year ago. And how it all ended."

One year ago, mysterious troops bearing no insignia appeared in Crimea, which was shortly afterward annexed from Ukraine by Russia. The troops, who said little and declined to reveal their identity but ensured order during the annexation and subsequent referendum on joining Russia, quickly became known as "little green men" in the international media and "polite people" in Russia.

Putin initially denied that Russian troops had been dispatched to Crimea, but later admitted it.


And now the Russian government denies that there are Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. Perhaps later they will admit that too and establish a new holiday commemorating their deeds.

Nato defence spending falls

Despite the Ukraine crisis and increasing tensions with Russia, most Nato members are doing little to reverse the decline in their defence spending. Nato has already set a target that member states should each spend a minimum of 2% of their national wealth or GDP on defence. In 2015 only one of the 14 nations examined, Estonia, will meet the 2% target.

New research by Ian Kearns and Denitsa Raynova of the European Leadership Network (ELN) found that six countries, including two of the biggest defence spenders in Europe, the UK and Germany, will cut defence expenditure in 2015. Defence spending in France, the other big spender in Europe, will remain static.

Contrast that with Russia's defence spending, which is rising from 3.4% of its GDP this year to 4.2% next year ($81bn or £52.2bn). Russia is also stepping up its military activity.

A separate report by Ian Brzezinski for the Atlantic Council says there is also an "exercise gap" between Russia and Nato. Since 2013 Russia has conducted at least six military exercises involving 65,000-160,000 troops.


"Putin appears to fear that the Maidan’s successes in Ukraine could mobilize Russia’s opposition."

Since the revolution in Kyiv, the Kremlin has sharpened its campaign against domestic dissent.

The turning point in the Kremlin’s view of NATO and the EU—and the turning point in Putin’s foreign policy in general—came in December 2011, as tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets to demand clean elections and an end to Putin’s autocratic rule. This was the first serious threat to Putin’s hold on power, and he took it personally. The protests shifted the balance of power in the Kremlin toward more conservative forces, and led Putin to redefine his definition of the Kremlin’s security interests. Now, Putin realized, his greatest threat was not foreign powers, it was the middle class Russians who took to Moscow streets demanding political change.

Putin does not seriously fear a nuclear strike or a military invasion. Instead, Moscow opposes NATO expansion for the same reason it opposes EU enlargement: it knows that membership in NATO and the EU helps facilitate the establishment of stable, Western-style democracies. Such an outcome in Ukraine would encourage similar efforts in other post-Soviet states, reducing Russian influence. More worrisome to the Kremlin, it would provide a dangerous model for opposition movements within Russia itself.

Yet the most important strategy for staving off a Maidan in Moscow is to prove that political opposition in general—and ‘Western-style’ democracy in particular—leads to chaos. The Kremlin has used Ukraine to prove this point. Russian state-run TV portrays the Maidan protests as a Nazi takeover, and continues to claim that Ukraine is being overrun by fascists. When far-right presidential candidate Dmytro Yarosh won 1% of the vote in recent presidential elections, Russian TV reported polls suggesting he won 37%, underscoring the argument that protests feed radicalism.

But it is important to separate cause from effect. Putin’s media machine repeatedly argues that political opposition causes chaos, yet it is Russia that most aggressively stoked chaos in Ukraine -- from the annexation of Crimea, to the arrival of Chechen fighters in Donetsk, to Russians who have repeatedly destabilized Ukraine. Some see this as evidence that Moscow is willing to risk chaos in order to defend its core interests. The reality is that controlled chaos—which discredits Kyiv’s new government—suits the Kremlin perfectly. Without regular video footage of militants and explosions on the nightly news, it would be far harder for state TV to explain why the Maidan was so dangerous in the first place.


Europe’s far right still loves Putin (particularly the French verson)

Head of the French far-right Front National (FN) party, Marine Le Pen gives a press conference at the FN headquarters in Nanterre on Feb. 6, 2015.

Her popularity is a mark both of increasing French frustration with the political status quo as well as of Le Pen's own efforts to bring her notoriously xenophobic (some would say neo-fascist) party closer to the French mainstream. Yet there are many contexts where Le Pen remains at odds with Europe's liberal consensus. One glaring case in point has to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to a Polish radio station this week, Le Pen took Putin's side in the conflict, hailing Russia as "a natural ally of Europe." She said Moscow's annexation of Crimea last March ought to be recognized by European governments, stressing that the interim government in Kiev at the time "was illegal." She trotted out the Kremlin's talking points on the nature of the revolt that ousted Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year, branding the movement as one organized by "Neo-Nazi militants."

Never mind the irony of a far-right European politician warning against neo-Nazism. Le Pen repeated claims she has made for almost a year now that Europe, when it comes to Ukraine, is behaving "like American lackeys." Le Pen sounded the gong again earlier this month: "The aim of the Americans is to start a war in Europe to push NATO to the Russian border," she said.

As WorldViews noted last year, Le Pen is hardly alone in her admiration for Russia under Putin. A whole range of right-wing and ultra-nationalist European politicians share her affection for the Russian leader, whose religious nationalism, conservative values and stated discomfort with the U.S.-authored geopolitical order all appeal to their own brand of politics. ... "It’s beyond irony," a senior figure in the European commission in Brussels tells the Guardian. "You can hear Putin say he had to act in Ukraine to stop fascism, while he’s financing fascists right, left, and centre all over Europe."


Obama's take on trade and immigration is reflected in his old "clinging to guns and religion"

speech in 2008.

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.


He got a lot of flack for this at the time but it seems to be an accurate reflection of his long term attitudes.

"Access to TPP texts is limited to members of Congress ..."

I did not realize that all members of congress had access to it now. I thought they wouldn't be able to see what was in it until after negotiations were completed and it was submitted to congress.

Russian Military Units Linked to Ukraine Hide Casualty Data

More than a dozen Russian military units linked by media reports to the fighting in eastern Ukraine have refused to disclose their casualty figures for 2013-14, while one that provided the data showed a rise in soldier deaths from zero to six, a news report said Thursday.

The St. Petersburg branch of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee — an organization that defends conscripts' rights — sent requests to military units that soldiers' families and media reports had identified as suffering losses last year, including in eastern Ukraine, the Vedomosti business daily reported Thursday, citing the group's spokesman Alexander Peredruk.

A total of 17 units have responded so far — with all but one with refusing to disclose their casualty data, the report said. The one unit that provided information said it had lost six soldiers since July 2014 compared to no casualties a year earlier, according to Vedomosti. The report did not identify the unit nor specify how many soldiers it comprised.

The military units cited various reasons for their refusal to provide casualty data to the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, from saying the information constituted a state secret, to directing inquiries to higher military command, Vedomosti reported.


Everyone who disagrees with you is not an 'uncritical Obama fan' or thinks that he is 'wonderful'.

And please, uncritical Obama fans, stop saying this will improve labor conditions. That is not going to happen.
A simple (and simplistic) "Obama is wonderful and would never ever champion anything bad and eleventy dimensional chess" would be more appropriate, really.

I suspect that each and every poster who disagrees with you is not an "uncritical Obama fan" or does not believe that he "is wonderful and would never ever champion anything bad and eleventy dimensional chess".

Some may want labor and environmental standards in our trading rules and hope Obama is the best chance to achieve this. Some may believe that to the way to improve international trading rules (and improve the flaws in previous deals) is through international negotiations and agreements. Otherwise how do improved rules get into trade?

Some may be believe that there are good trade agreements, and bad ones (that they are not all bad by definition), and will be disappointed if Obama delivers a bad one, but refuse to be paralyzed into inaction by fear of another mistake.

It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.


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