NATIONAL SECURITY A Republican Litmus Test On START


Last week former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney threw his hat into the foreign policy ring in an error-filled Washington Post op-ed calling the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) — signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in April– Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake.” Romney’s op-ed led to a vehement response from foreign policy leaders and experts from across the political divide. Yet it also coincided with the emergence of a new action campaign from the conservative Heritage Foundation that laid out two objectives: repealing health care reform and stopping the New START treaty. However, these efforts are being countered and a new Lawrence Bender film titled “Countdown to Zero,” set for release on July 23, promises to raise awareness of nuclear weapons issues just as An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change. It is now a pivotal time for the New START treaty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should soon vote on the treaty, and the White House has indicated that it wants a full Senate vote this year. While Republican obstructionism in the Senate has impeded progress on issue after issue, Republican support is required to achieve the 67 votes needed to ratify the New START treaty. Past arms control treaties have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and START should as well, as it is merely an update and extension of the original START treaty negotiated by Ronald Reagan. It also has the unanimous support of the military and strong backing from many of the most senior Republican foreign policy officials, including Henry KissingerRichard LugarGeorge SchultzJames Baker, Brent ScowcroftColin PowellJames Schlesinger and Stephen Hadley. The upcoming votes on START therefore provide a critical litmus test for whether Republicans have moved well to the extreme right of Reagan and now have no problem playing politics with the nuclear security of the country.

ROMNEY’S FAILURE: Following Romney’s op-ed, which laid out a series of long discredited and specious arguments, military reporter Fred Kaplan wrote, “In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and — let’s not mince words — thoroughly ignorant as Mitt Romney’s attack on the New START treaty in the July 6 Washington Post.” Senator John Kerry (D-MA) responded the very next day in the Washington Post, “the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing. Sadly, former governor Mitt Romney failed that test. … When it comes to nuclear danger, the nation’s security is more important than scoring cheap political points.” In a rare intra-party rebuke, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) called Romney “misinformed,” adding, “Governor Mitt Romney’s hyperbolic attack on the New START Treaty…repeats discredited objections and appears unaware of arms control history and context.” Former Georgia senator and noted leader on national security and nuclear issues Sam Nunn remarked, “I didn’t see a single reference in the Romney article…to catastrophic terrorism, I didn’t see a single reference to U.S.-Russia cooperation required to keep materials out of the hands of terrorists. … It could be captioned: ‘I’d rather run for President than learn about national security.’ Very little in that article was either accurate or relevant.” By the end of the week, Romney had been so thoroughly discredited that Max Fischer in the Atlantic summarized the response by saying that besides Romney himself, “most everyone else thinks that Romney is making a spectacle of himself.” Wall Street Journal political reporter Gary Seib asked whether Romney’s foray into national security was a blunder.

MODEST START: The New START treaty is rather uncontroversial. The original START treaty was vigorously pursued by Reagan and was ratified by a vote of 93-6 under President George H.W. Bush in 1992; eight current sitting Republican senators even voted for the initial treaty. It set verifiable limits on strategic nuclear weapons and the launchers used to deliver them. It also helped create vital nuclear stability between the U.S. and Russia by placing inspectors on the ground and setting up extensive verification and monitoring systems. Through this information sharing, U.S. military planners gained confidence and awareness of Russian nuclear activities and vice-versa. The New START treaty signed in April sets modestly lower limits on warheads and launchers, and perhaps more importantly, extends and updates the original verification and monitoring regime. Complaints from the far right that Russia cannot be trusted enough to enter into this treaty have it exactly backwards. The verification and monitoring measures exist because neither side completely trusts the other. The original START treaty expired last December and therefore every day that goes by without a vote on the new treaty, the U.S. military loses valuable information and intelligence on the Russian nuclear arsenal. This is why the New START has the full backing of the military and a growing consensus of bipartisan national security leaders. Even former Bush adviser Karl Rove called it a “helpful” and modest treaty.

GOP LITMUS TEST: While the New START treaty is relatively modest, the implications of it failing to be ratified are anything but. Rejecting this treaty means eliminating the framework that has ensured nuclear stability between the U.S. and Russia in the post Cold War era. With the loss of nuclear monitoring, suspicions, tension, and uncertainty would grow, which is unhelpful for two super powers that continue to have nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. A failure to ratify the treaty would strike a severe, perhaps fatal, blow to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, possibly leading to a new cascade of nuclear proliferation across the world. The non-proliferation regime is founded on a grand bargain between nuclear and non-nuclear states, where non-nuclear states agree not to obtain the bomb and, in exchange, nuclear states agree to cut their arsenals and share civilian nuclear power technology. Should the U.S. reject a treaty like START and fail to uphold its end of the nuclear bargain, non-nuclear states could easily balk at upholding their end. Consequently, any effort to control nuclear materials and prevent nuclear terrorism would also likely fray and the threat of nuclear terrorism would grow, especially since START’s rejection would also prevent further far reaching talks to address Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons that are more prone to falling in the hands of terrorists. This is how the world can descend past the nuclear tipping point and how a new anarchical nuclear age comes about. Since the implications of START’s failure are so severe, should Republican senators decide to reject or obstruct the New START treaty, it would signal both a dramatic and dangerous shift to the extreme right, as well as a reckless willingness to play politics with the nuclear security of the United States.

source: ThinkProgress.org website

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King County freezes salary & eliminates COLA & step increases for Executive branch appointees


July 13, 2010

Constantine freezes salary and eliminates COLA and step increases for Executive branch appointees, asks other elected officials to do same

Will urge organized labor to join in containing costs by forgoing cost-of-living adjustments in 2011 contracts

News conferenceSaying he will lead by example to contain the cost of government, King County Executive Dow Constantine today froze his salary and those of his appointed leadership, eliminating the group’s cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and step increases for next year. As part of his effort to close an estimated $60 million gap in the general fund budget for next year, the Executive also proposed extending an existing countywide hiring freeze by making many current position vacancies permanent.

“I cannot in good conscience send the Council a 2011 budget with drastic cuts to public safety without first leading through example in my office and administration and asking others to do the same,” said Executive Constantine. “These sacrifices must be shared by all.”

Among the savings measures the Executive announced today were:

  • Effectively freezing his own salary by donating any 2011 increase back to the County.
  • Freezing the salaries for his Executive Office, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Strategic Planning and Performance Management (OSPPM), and his appointed leadership – about 155 people.
  • Proposing permanent elimination of many positions left vacant under the current countywide hiring freeze, reallocating the workload where possible, and carrying those reductions forward in his 2011 budget proposal.
  • Continuing to limit out-of-state travel funded by the county.

The Executive asked King County’s independently-elected officials including the Prosecutor, Sheriff, County Councilmembers, Assessor, and Elections Director to join him in these cost-containment measures. Salaries for Superior and District Court Judges were frozen in September of 2008 by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

“I strongly support the proposals and actions that Executive Constantine presented today,” said County Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “We must all do our part to solve this financial problem.”

“Executive Constantine is leading by example, and I have followed his lead in my own office,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. “Cutting labor costs is a crucial component of a comprehensive strategy to meet the budget shortfall.”

“Elections will do its part to help the County operate as efficiently as possible,” said King County Elections Director Sherril Huff. “I’m supporting the Executive’s salary initiative.”

“The salaries for the judicial branch are set at the state level by a state salary commission,” said Superior Court Presiding Judge Bruce Hilyer. “Judges have not received any cost-of-living increase for 2009 or 2010 and we do not intend to ask for one.”

“I’m joining Executive Constantine and endorsing a salary freeze for myself and my top staff as one small step towards trying to resolve the County’s looming budget crisis,” said Assessor Lloyd Hara. “Taxpayers have every right to expect us to tighten our belts.”

The Executive said he will urge organized labor to join him in containing costs by forgoing COLA next year, and he is working with the County Council to adopt labor policies that support this effort.

“We must all be part of the solution,” said Constantine. “I will ask our labor partners to join us in containing compensation costs in a way that is fair and equitable across the county’s workforce.”

The Executive Office freeze comes on top of actions Constantine took last fall to reduce the level of salaries and reduce the number of staff.

The Executive cited the importance of ongoing work on workplace effectiveness as a way to help employees do their work better and increase job satisfaction, with the goal of cutting the increase in the cost of government in half by July 2011.

The County Council is set to vote on new County labor policies at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday. A new county revenue forecast issued today shows 2010 sales tax revenues down even further than projected.

Cutting Social Security


Conservatives who want to cut Social Security and squeeze the middle class are dominating the discussions about how to cut the deficit. We need progressive ideas that protect the middle class and make Wall Street pay out there—and fast. To do it, we need 64 donations from Seattle. Can you chip in $5?

Contribute Now

There’s a showdown coming in Washington.

On one side are conservatives and the Blue Dog Democrats. Most of them supported Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and two unfunded wars.1 But now, they say, we have to focus on the deficit—even if it means cutting Social Security and leaving millions of Americans jobless for years.2

On the other side are progressives who agree we have to rein in our deficits, but think we should do it in a way that protects the middle class and makes Wall Street clean up its own mess.

Here’s the scary part: the conservatives are winning hands down. They’re spending millions of dollars to push their position and hoping that the president’s new deficit commission—which is stacked with conservatives—will strike a deal to cut Social Security before the end of the year.3

If we’re going to have a shot at stopping them, we need to start pushing back right now. So we’re spinning up a massive six-month campaign to make sure we deal with the deficit the right way—by getting the middle class back on their feet and making Wall Street pay its fair share—with polling, hard-hitting ads, and rallies all over the country.

But we need to raise $185,000 to kick it off—which means 64 donations from Seattle. Can you chip in $5?

https://pol.moveon.org/donate/deficit_commission0.html?bg_id=hpc5&id=21761-9640874-7OlEv0x&t=3

Social Security belongs to the American people, who pay into it every working day of our lives. But this election could determine whether conservative budget hawks finally have their way and make deep cuts to our benefits.

And there is a disturbing pattern of conservative fear-mongering on Social Security that is ramping up each day. Most recently it was Republican Leader, John Boehner followed by several other Republican congressmen. And before that former Senator Alan Simpson, the head of a commission that will make recommendations on Social Security this fall, called Americans who rely on Social Security “lesser people.”

That’s why we’re kicking off a major campaign to push back on the lies about Social Security, hold politicians who want to cut it accountable, and get progressive solutions to the deficit—like a bold job creation program or making sure corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes—on the table.

Here’s some of what we’re planning:

  • Deep grassroots organizing: We’re going to organize MoveOn members in races to make sure those on the wrong side of the economy and Social Security hear about it everywhere they go. At the same time, MoveOn members across the country will be making sure that Democrats know that voters want an ambitious jobs program and they expect Wall Street and the super rich to pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Polling: We’re planning to poll in critical swing states and districts to show that voters don’t support conservative answers on the economy. We know that voters are more interested in jobs than Social Security cuts but in an election year, the only language that politicians understand is polling. And that’s what we’ll do.
  • Ads: We’re going to work on a cutting-edge media program to push out the voices of those who are hurting most in this economy so Washington hears from them directly. Their stories are powerful. And they’ll show politicians that cutting Social Security for the elderly or Medicaid from those who need it most is not the answer voters are looking for.

This is critical work—but the other side is well organized and we need to start right away if we’re going to make an impact. Can you chip in $5?

https://pol.moveon.org/donate/deficit_commission0.html?bg_id=hpc5&id=21761-9640874-7OlEv0x&t=4

Thanks for all you do.

–Nita, Daniel, Duncan, Amy, and the rest of the team

Call Senators Cantwell & Patty Murray -Support Wall Street Reform



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Organizing for America

Organizing for America

Washington’s senators are gearing up to cast their last votes on Wall Street reform tomorrow. Right now, we believe we might have just enough votes to pass this historic legislation.

But we won’t know until the final vote is cast — and we’re only certain of one thing: it could come down to one single senator.

That’s how close this is — and that’s how urgently we need your help.

Your senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, have been fighting alongside President Obama to pass this bill — and they need to know you appreciate their leadership.

Call your senators now and let them know you support Wall Street reform — and then make sure to let us know what they said.

Call Sen. Murray at (202) 224-2621
Call Sen. Cantwell at (202) 224-3441

One last vote on Wall Street reform. Call the Senate.

We’re on the verge of passing the boldest overhaul of the financial system since the Great Depression.

Wall Street reform will bring more economic security to consumers by forcing credit card companies, mortgage companies, and predatory lenders to stop exploiting consumers with hidden fees and pages of fine print.

It will create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency — with a responsibility to protect all of us. And it will ensure that taxpayers will never again be asked to bail out the big banks that are “too big to fail.”

Reform is facing one last showdown in the Senate. Lobbyists for the big banks are doing everything they can to stop this legislation before it lands on President Obama’s desk.

Let’s help pass reform — and show once again that the movement we built can go up against the most powerful special interests in Washington and win.

Call your senators now:

http://my.barackobama.com/WSRFinalVote

Thanks for your help today,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America

Stopping Monsanto


CREDO Action | more than a network. a movement.
The USDA can stop Monsanto

No GMO alfalfa.
Take action!
Clicking the text below will add your name to this petition. The petition reads:

I demand the USDA refuse any partial deregulation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the economic risks from genetic contamination, as well as the risk to the environment of gene flow, are real harms. The USDA has a responsibility to protect farmers and consumers and should refuse any requests for partial deregulation.

Click to sign.

Click here to add your name


Although it was reported as a wholesale victory for Monsanto1, the recent Supreme Court decision on “Roundup Ready” alfalfa has actually put food activists in a good position to maintain the ban on Monsanto’s genetically engineered GMO seeds.

The court ruled that the planting of GMO alfalfa is still illegal, but it assigned authority to the USDA to determine whether to allow some provisional planting to go forward as soon as next spring. The responsibility for maintaining a total ban on the GMO seeds — and protecting organic crops from likely contamination — falls squarely on the shoulders of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Tell Secretary Vilsack to stand up to corporate agribusiness and protect organics for future generations. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

The court supported farmers’ claims that the USDA illegally allowed Monsanto to sell its seeds before a full environmental review could be completed, but Monsanto knows that it can use its power within the USDA to speed up the review process. The company has already requested that the USDA permit a so-called “partial deregulation” that would allow some plantings of Roundup Ready alfalfa before we know the full risks.

A landmark element of the recent Supreme Court ruling was its recognition that the USDA must take into account economic harms from genetic contamination of conventional seed by genetically engineered seed — things like the loss of export markets or loss of organic certification, as well as the risks to the environment of this “gene flow” effect. Monsanto wants the agency to ignore those risks and let them plant now.

We can’t let them. Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter DeFazio delivered a letter signed by over 50 lawmakers demanding that the USDA not legalize GE alfalfa.2 Over 83,000 Credo members added their voice by calling on their members of Congress to sign on to the letter.

Click here to automatically sign the petition and tell Secretary Vilsack to maintain the planting ban on GMO alfalfa, now and in the future.

Thank you for standing up for safe and healthy food.

Adam Klaus, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets