Tag Archives: Barack Obama

President Barack Obama: The Very Definition of Tyranny

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Obama_signingCHARLOTTE,  N.C.,  Jan. 16, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” — James Madison, New York, February 1, 1788. The Federalist (373).

“But one of the things that I’ll be emphasizing in this meeting is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” Barack Obama, Washington D.C., January 14, 2014.

The President of the United States has challenged the Congress of the United States on repeated occasions by invoking executive power to enact social initiatives that would otherwise require the legislation of a representative government. At the very least, he is testing the Constitutional limits of his office.  But at the worst, he has overstepped the boundaries of discretion and given the appearance of a repugnant, presumptuous license by assuming powers not granted. The latest episode leaves him vulnerable to the charge of a Federalist-style tyranny. One can understand the critique given Madison’s clear statement on the matter and then taking Obama’s words, context and repeated offense.

As a pastor, I would advise the President that continually pressing the “executive order” card is neither helpful nor endearing. The country and the Congress do not need the appearance of raw power grabs. Strength is more easily born by one who is comfortable in exercising authority.

The President has not had experience in command authority and I am afraid that it is showing. His words and actions reveal the actions of a man who governs by insecurity rather than vision. There was a king who ruled like this. His name was Saul. We know that his rule was finally cut off by the Lord because of his assumption of authority unto himself. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say, as our Founding Fathers well knew, about representative government and about the division of labor and rebellion against authority. One of the more famous lines is from 1 Samuel where God equates rebellion against authority with divination, an evil practice that led to the breakdown of societies all around Israel. Look at what God says about assuming powers unto oneself:

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23 AV).

Indeed, the New Testament, also, underscores the importance of the lines of authority. St. Paul wrote to Titus, a “church planter” at Crete and told him that he was to “put in order the things that remain, appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Other places in Scripture are filled with admonitions concerning the importance of government and the sad state that comes to leader and people when government breaks down.

It is not just that the President is going to have bad poll numbers because of assuming powers to himself. It is not just that Washington will have “gridlock” if the President persists in violating the lines of authority (whether Constitutional or not attorneys can reckon, but an American like myself can clearly recognize, at minimum, a messy blurring of the line at our highest levels of government). It is that if the President of the United States continues to buck the authority of the Constitution, he would lose the blessing of God. That would mean our nation could suffer further trials and tribulations.

It is good that we all remember the teaching of the Bible on governmental power contained in the single greatest book on the subject by the Puritan Samuel Rutherford: “Lex, Rex, or The Law and the Prince; a Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People (1644).” Rutherford answered the question, “What does a human government look like that is based upon Biblical precepts? In 44 questions and answers he tells us. His summary for those who rule? “Power is a birthright of the people borrowed [by a ruler] from them.” This is our heritage as Americans. Let no man move the sacred stone of that heritage.

Mr. President, since I doubt I will have the opportunity to counsel you privately or to speak to those clergy who do, I plead with you, publicly, to guard your heart and your words. Model a spirit of humility before authority. You will not only demonstrate leadership, you will secure divine blessing for yourself and Providential protection for our nation.

Works Cited

Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, John Jay, and John C. Hamilton. The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States: A Collection of Essays. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 1998. Print.

Rutherford, Samuel. Lex, Rex The Law and the Prince. A Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People. Published by Authority. London: Printed for Iohn Field, and Are to Be Sold at His House upon Addle-hill, Neer Baynards-Castle, 1644. Print.

1389822125Commentary by Dr. Michael Milton

Questions Arise In Obama Administration’s Choice of IRS Investigator

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IRS Needs Strong Systematic Investigation, Not Biased Appointee

CHICAGO, Jan. 15, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — The Obama Administration has selected Barbara Bosserman, a trial attorney with the Department of Justice, to investigate the IRS harassment of pro-life and Tea Party organizations, uncovered in the spring of 2013. Bosserman personally donated nearly $7,000 to Obama’s presidential campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Thomas More Society, an organization that helped expose IRS officials’ harassment of pro-life groups, thinks that Obama’s move is not in the best interest of resolving this serious issue.

“We are glad that the president has taken the initiative to conduct an investigation of the IRS for its harassment of pro-life and conservative organizations,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society. “However, we find it very disconcerting that the president has chosen someone so deeply entrenched in Democratic Party politics to spearhead the investigation. This does not have the flavor of an unbiased approach to handling a serious scandal that took place within a government office. Wouldn’t it be better for the president to select an individual without a partisan history, or a bipartisan committee, to conduct this investigation?”

Thomas More Society provided evidence for the initial investigation into the IRS scandal by the House Committee on Ways and Means. At the request of Congressman Aaron Schock, the Thomas More Society drafted two Congressional memos totaling over 500 pages of analysis and evidence about the harassment. These memos were presented before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means at a plenary investigative hearing in June.

The following links record the Thomas More Society exposure of the IRS pro-life discrimination scandal:

Obama’s Promise Zones

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This is the “Fact Sheet” put out by the White House on Obama’s new “initiative”.

Some are calling this initiative “creepy“. Another slip along the Hitler-like slide.

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For decades before the economic crisis, local communities were transformed as jobs were sent overseas and middle class Americans worked harder and harder but found it more difficult to get ahead.  Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, the Promise Zone Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.  Today, the President announced the next step in those efforts by naming the first five “Promise Zones”.

The first five Zones, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, have each put forward a plan on how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity.  In exchange, these designees will receive the resources and flexibility they need to achieve their goals.

Each of these designees knows and has demonstrated that it takes a collaborative effort – between private business and federal, state, tribal and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; children and parents – to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American, in every community.

THE FIRST 5 PROMISE ZONES AND THEIR PLANS:

San Antonio, TX (Eastside Neighborhood)

The City of San Antonio’s key strategies include:

  • Focusing on job creation and training, including through a partnership with St. Philip’s College, in key growth areas including energy, health care, business support, aerospace/advanced manufacturing, and construction.
  • Empowering every child with the skills they need by increasing enrollment in high quality pre-K programs; installing a STEM focus in the local school district; expanding enrollment in Early College Programs; and improving adult education opportunities.
  • Expanding public safety activities to facilitate neighborhood revitalization; improved street lighting and demolishing abandoned buildings; and integrated public safety activities with social resources.

Los Angeles, CA (Neighborhoods of Pico Union, Westlake, Koreatown, Hollywood, and East Hollywood)

The City of Los Angeles’s key strategies include:

  • Increasing housing affordability by preserving existing affordable housing and partnering with housing developers to increase the supply of affordable new housing to prevent displacement.
  • Ensuring all youth have access to a high-quality education, and are prepared for college and careers through its Promise Neighborhoods initiative, by partnering with the Youth Policy Institute and L.A. Unified School District to expand its Full Service Community Schools model from 7 schools to all 45 Promise Zone schools by 2019.
  • Ensuring youth and adult residents have access to high-quality career and technical training opportunities that prepare them for careers in high-growth industries through partnerships with career and technical training schools and the Los Angeles Community College District.
  • Investing in transit infrastructure including bus rapid transit lines and bike lanes, and promoting transit-oriented development (TOD) that attracts new businesses and creates jobs.
  • Charging its Promise Zone Director and Advisory Board with eliminating wasteful and duplicative government programs.

Philadelphia, PA (West Philadelphia)

The City of Philadelphia’s key strategies include:

  • Putting people back to work through skills training and adult education; classes on small business development to support entrepreneurs; loans and technical assistance for small resident-owned businesses; and the development of a supermarket providing both jobs and access to healthy food.
  • Improving high-quality education to prepare children for careers, in partnership with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation, through increasing data-driven instruction that informs teacher professional development; developing school cultures that are conducive to teaching and learning; mentoring middle and high school youth with focus on college access and readiness; and increasing parent engagement.
  • Preventing and reducing crime in order to attract new residents and long-term investments, through strategies such as focused deterrence, hot spots policing, and foot patrol.

Southeastern Kentucky (Kentucky Highlands)

In Southeastern Kentucky, the Kentucky Highland’s Investment Corps’ key strategies include:

  • Implementing a sustainable economic effort across eight counties in the Kentucky Highlands region, focused on diversifying Southeastern Kentucky’s economy to make it more resilient.
  • Creating jobs and growing small businesses by leveraging $1.3 million of private sector funds in a revolving loan fund targeted within the Promise Zone.
  • Creating leadership and entrepreneur training for youth and industry-specific re-training opportunities for local skilled workforce, through the University of Kentucky Economic Development Initiative, the East Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, and the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.
  • In order to ensure all youth have access to a high-quality education Berea College will run evidence-based college and career readiness programs for high school students in the Zone, while Eastern Kentucky University will expand technical education programs.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s key strategies include:

  • Improving skills for tomorrow’s jobs, through workforce training for skilled trades and professionals and more rigorous summer and after-school programs.
  • Leveraging its role as the largest employer in southeastern Oklahoma to create a strong base for economic revitalization by working with partners, like Oklahoma State University, Eastern Oklahoma State College, and the Kiamichi Technology Center to improve workforce training for skilled trades and professionals, with a focus on providing nationally-recognized STEM certifications.
  • Investing in infrastructure that lays the foundation for economic growth, including water and sewer infrastructure; these infrastructure challenges have been identified as impediments to investment in an area with otherwise strong growth potential.
  • Improving educational outcomes by working across 85 school districts throughout the region to share data for continuous improvement, and bolster early literacy and parent support programs.
  • Pursuing economic diversification by utilizing natural, historic, and cultural resources to support growth, including evaluation of market capacity for local farmers’ markets, as well as implementation of technology-enhanced “traditional” farming and ranching, and large-scale greenhouses and specialized training in business plan development, marketing, and financing to support the development of women-owned businesses in the Promise Zone.

THE PROMISE ZONES INITIATIVE

The five Promise Zones announced today are part of the 20 that will be announced over the next three years. These unique partnerships support local goals and strategies with:

  • Accountability for Clear Goals: Each Promise Zone has identified clear outcomes they will pursue to revitalize their community, with a focus on creating jobs, increasing economic activity, improving educational opportunities, increasingaccess to quality, affordable housing and reducing violent crime.  All Promise Zones will continuously track those outcomes, and have committed to sharing data across their community partners (private-sector, non-profits, federal, state, and local agencies, etc.)  so that each partner can work towards improvement and accountability.  The Administration will work with the Promise Zones and third party experts to track progress and evaluate results.
  • Intensive Federal Partnership: Modeled after the Administration’s successful Strong Cities Strong Communities and Strike Force for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiatives, which have created unique partnerships between local stakeholders and the federal government, these first five Promise Zones will benefit from intensive federal support at the local level to help them implement their economic and community development goals.
  • Help Accessing Resources: Where necessary to achieve their goals, Promise Zones will get priority and be able to access federal investments that further the goals of job creation, additional private investment, increased economic activity, improved educational opportunity, and reduction in violent crime.
  • National Service:  Each Promise Zone will be provided five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to support their strategic plan.  These VISTAs will recruit and manage volunteers, and strengthen the capacity of Promise Zones to expand economic opportunity.
  • Investing in What Works: In order to be designated as a Promise Zone, these five communities have already demonstrated that they are pursuing strategies that have data proving their effectiveness. This same data will also help direct future federal investments to these Zones.

Cutting Taxes for Businesses: Finally, President Obama has proposed, and called on Congress to act, to cut taxes on hiring and investment in areas designated as Promise Zones – based upon the proven model of Empowerment Zones tax credits – to attract businesses and create jobs.

“Rendition”, Fact or Fiction? Totalitarian Government is Here

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RenditionI watched the movie “Rendition” a few nights ago and began thinking about the situation in our nation today.  The movie is about an Egyptian man who has lived in the United States for 20 years, moving here when he was 14. He is a college educated chemical engineer, married, with a young son and a pregnant wife.  He has some relatives who have the same last name as a known terrorist so he is kidnapped by the CIA upon his return to the United States from South Africa.  When questioned by the CIA counter terrorism branch he denies any knowledge of terrorists, past terrorist attacks, or plans for future attacks.  As a result of his denial he is put on a plane and taken to a country in the Middle East (which I surmised to be Egypt) and is given to the nation’s secret police for questioning.  He is subjected to beatings, water boarding, and electric shock torture.  He finally gives up names of “co-conspirators” and is thrown back into a very small cell.

An American intelligence analyst who survived a terrorist bombing that killed his companion replaces the dead man as part of the interrogation team.  After days of torture the prisoner gives a list of names to his interrogators.  The American runs the names of the people given up by the prisoner through various intelligence agencies, including Interpol.  What he finds is that the names given are the members of the Egyptian National Soccer Team in 1990, the year the prisoner left Egypt for America.  In the meantime, the wife of the prisoner has contacted an old friend who is the chief of staff for a prominent Senator.  The friend is stonewalled and when he is faced with losing his job if he pursues the matter further he tells the wife that he can do nothing to help.   The analyst goes to the Minister of the Interior in this foreign country, shows the information he has found, and gets the man to sign an order for the release of the prisoner.  The American then arranges clandestine travel for the man to get home.

After September 11, 2001 I bought into many of the steps taken to find terrorists and stop them in their tracks.  I agreed with the Patriot Act at the time, when I knew only talking points about it.  Much has changDept Homeland Security Logoed in light of thirteen years of wars that have not really made our nation any safer from outside attack, but have certainly made the nation much more of a police state.  Today the story line of this movie is more than just a story about Moslem terrorism; it is much closer to home.

When I first heard Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and others call me a homophobic, Il Duce Obamaislamophobic, hate mongering, bomb throwing Nazi TEA Party “potential domestic terrorist” I took offense.  And frankly, they drove me deeper into the Republican ranks of voters.  But in the years since the 2010 elections, and especially in the last few months, I have begun to hear Republicans speak the same rhetoric as life-long Marxist Democrats.  John McCain, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Peter King, and others begin to call people like me the same names and refer to patriotic citizens in the same vein as the Obama/Pelosi/Reid/Schumer crowd.

This is alarming to me.  When I see the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge, without trial, and without probable cause I begin to wonder.  I hear  those in both political parties call me and other patriots  “potential domestic terrorists” for having the temerity to staBi-partisanship logond up and demand our government follow the Constitution.  I wonder when they will subject me to the same treatment as this innocent man in the movie.  All that is necessary for me to be arrested and held indefinitely is for someone, anyone, to denounce me as a terrorist for my political beliefs and my rights under the Constitution are gone, just like that!!!! Call me crazy but this sounds like a movie right out of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Communist China, East Germany, North Korea, and countless Moslem countries.  Of course, politicians in both parties who are calling for these NDAA provisions say they will never abuse the Constitution and subject We the People to these provisions.   If that is the case then why even have those provisions in the bill?????

Our nation has lasted long past any form of government since the Roman Empire because the Constitution provides for “unalienable rights” given by God and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America.  Those currently in charge of our government have already trampled on those rights.  The 1st Amendment, written to protect religious organizations FROM government, is constantly under attack where Christianity is concerned.  Atheists, agnostics, and Moslems aren’t attacked by those who are so concerned about the “separation of church and state”.  Only Christians are subjected to the restrictive decisions by activist judges.  The Secret Service now has the option of declaring the 1st Amendment  provision of “the right of the people to peaceably assemble” null and void if they decide they want to.  No justification is needed other than the President or other high level official will be present.  So they can prevent any dissent from being voiced by a gathering of protestors when it suits them.  I know what that sounds like to me, and it isn’t a free Republic!!!!!

Our civil rights under the 2nd Amendment are constantly under attack by local, state, and federal governments, despite the amendment very clearly stating that  ”the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.  New Feinstein Veterans mentally illYork City and the State of California are using registration lists to confiscate the firearms of people who have done nothing to violate the law, and other states are not far behind.  This video is from Canada but it is coming here:

Some Senators are saying all veterans are mentally unstable and therefore should not be allowed to own firearms.  Colorado state legislators are being recalled by state voters for passing gun control laws that stand against the Constitution and the will of We the People because citizens are fed up and taking action.  Obamacare has provisions for the search of citizen homes without probable cause and without a warrant, violating the 4th Amendment.  The 9th and 10th Amendments are being rendered irrelevant by federal bribery and/or bullying of state governments who are so dependent on federal tax dollars that they refuse to stand on those provisions of the Constitution.  Add the fact that the political machines own most politicians at the state level, and many at city and county level also where do We the People go for redress of our grievances?

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, before he left office, outlawed what was it; salt, pepper, any soft drink over 16 ounces, among a host of unconstitutional actions.  The Federal Food and Drug Administration is about to outlaw trans-fats, and the EPA has now outlawed the use of wood burning stoves, just to name a few instances of government bureaucratic over-reach.  Wood burning stoves?????  I can’t eat what I want to eat now?????

Does anyone really believe these same people won’t subject We the People to the FEMA camps when push comes to shove and citizens have reached their limit of toleration of tyranny?  What have federal agencies, unconstitutional onesBarbed Wire at that, done to ensure that We the People will not be subjugated and led to the slaughter as were the Jews and others in Nazi Germany?????  It looks to me like they are doing exactly the opposite.

This is not a Democrat vs. Republican battle here.  This is, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, ruling political elite vs. We the People, the working class American; and finally the Constitutional Republic vs. dictatorship.  From a practical aspect this is what we are facing, like it or not.  The Republican Party as currently controlled is as much a danger to liberty as the Democrat Party. They have teamed up to enslave We the People, and they are doing just that!!!!!

I submit this in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, in faith, with the responsibility given to me by Almighty God to honor His work and not let it die from neglect.

 

Bob Russell

Claremore, Oklahoma

December 20, 2013

Obama Is *Mostly* OK With The Budget Agreement

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From The White House:

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Earlier this year, I called on Congress to work together on a balanced approach to a budget that grows our economy faster and creates more jobs – not through aimless, reckless spending cuts that harm our economy now, but by making sure we can afford to invest in the things that have always grown our economy and strengthened our middle class.  Today’s bipartisan budget agreement is a good first step.

This agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board spending cuts known as “the sequester” that have harmed students, seniors, and middle-class families and served as a mindless drag on our economy over the last year.  It clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries.  It’s balanced, and includes targeted fee increases and spending cuts designed in a way that doesn’t hurt our economy or break the ironclad promises we’ve made to our seniors. It does all this while slightly reducing our deficits over time – coming on top of four years of the fastest deficit reduction since the end of World War II.  And because it’s the first budget that leaders of both parties have agreed to in a few years, the American people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for the next two years.

This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like – and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done. That’s the way the American people expect Washington to work. I want to thank Senator Murray, Congressman Ryan and all the other leaders who helped forge this bipartisan agreement. And I want to call on Members of Congress from both parties to take the next step and actually pass a budget based on this agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and creating jobs without more Washington headwinds.

But, as I said last week, the defining challenge of our time is not whether Congress can pass a budget – it’s whether we can make sure our economy works for every working American. And while today’s agreement is a good first step, Congress has a lot more to do on that front. In the immediate term, Congress should extend unemployment insurance, so more than a million Americans looking for work don’t lose a vital economic lifeline right after Christmas, and our economy doesn’t take a hit. And beyond that, they should do more to expand broad-based growth and opportunity – by creating more jobs that pay better wages, by growing our economy, and by offering a path into the middle class for every American willing to work for it.

Obama Sends Presidential Delegation to Celebrate With Kenya

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From The White House:

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President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Republic of Kenya to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Republic of Kenya on December 12, 2013.

The Honorable Robert F. Godec, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya, will lead the delegation.

Member of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Israel’s Deputy Speaker of Knesset: ‘I Don’t Trust Obama’

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MANASSAS, Va., Dec. 9, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Following is the statement of conservative author and direct mail pioneer, Richard A. Viguerie:

      “Barack Obama has squandered the trust that American Presidents built-up over the past 224 years, and the world is a much more dangerous place for his cowardly and feckless behavior.
      “During a recent trip to Israel with two of my grandchildren I had the opportunity to meet with a number of Israeli political leaders.
      “It was an eye opening experience.
      “One of the leaders with whom I met was Gila Gamliel, Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset.
      “Gila Gamliel is one of the real stars of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. In 2009 when she was first elected to the Knesset, Gamliel became the youngest member of the government of Israel when, at age 30, Netanyahu appointed her to be his Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.
      “As might be expected from a member of the strongly nationalist Likud Party, Gila Gamliel is an Israeli patriot and had strong views on the political situation in the Middle East.
      “But here’s what she said that was the real eye opener.
      “Our conversation was supposed to be ‘off the record,’ meaning it couldn’t be reported publicly, but what she said was so important that I asked her to clarify the ground rules and she said ‘I feel strongly about this and I want it out.’
      “‘I don’t trust Obama.’
      “Deputy Speaker Gamliel went on to say, ‘We may need to look around to find another friend,’ because ‘It looks like America does not want to be the dominant leader of the free world.’
      “Think of it friends, the President of the United States is not trusted by the Deputy Speaker in the parliament of the only democratic nation in the Middle East and arguably our most reliable ally in that troubled region.
      “Whether you agree with my old friend Dr. James Dobson ‘that Israel is covenant land,’ and that Christians should support Israel in a battle between good and evil, or you agree with another old friend, Pat Buchanan, that Israel has too much influence in American domestic politics and that ‘Capitol Hill is Israeli-occupied territory,’ I’m sure you will agree that the American President must be trusted by our allies — and especially by our foes.
      “Think of what Deputy Speaker Gamliel’s assessment means for our foreign policy and America’s ability to lead in an increasingly dangerous Middle East.
        “Even the failed Jimmy Carter was trusted by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (founder of Gamliel’s Likud Party) to broker the Camp David accords that ended the state of war between Israel and Egypt and established a workable peace between the two countries.
      “Trust is the foundation of all human interaction. To be successful both your friends, and your opponents, must trust that you will do what you say you will do. Barack Obama has squandered the trust that American Presidents built-up over the past 224 years, and the world is a much more dangerous place for his cowardly and feckless behavior.”

Obama Wants To Extend Unemployment Benefits Again!

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The White House wants this “New Report” to be released immediately! Under the current law, the extension in place at this time will expire on December 28 of this year. Of course, Obama wants to make sure it is extended again.

 

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NEW REPORT: The Economic Benefits Of Extending Unemployment Insurance

The United States economy continues to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and while substantial progress has been made, more work remains to boost economic growth and speed job creation. Despite ten consecutive quarters of GDP growth and 7.8 million private sector jobs added since early 2010, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high at 7.3 percent, and far too many families are still struggling to regain the foothold they had prior to the crisis.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program authorized by Congress in 2008 has provided crucial support to the economy and to millions of Americans who lost jobs through no fault of their own.  Under current law, EUC will end on December 28, 2013. This report argues that allowing EUC to expire would be harmful to millions of workers and their families, counterproductive to the economic recovery, and unprecedented in the context of previous extensions to earlier unemployment insurance programs.

Since their inception in 2008, extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits have provided critical support to millions of workers and their families:

  • Nearly 24 million workers have received extended UI benefits
  • Recipients are a diverse group: roughly half have completed at least some college, including 4.8 million with bachelor’s degrees or higher
  • Including workers’ families, nearly 69 million people have been supported by extended UI benefits, including almost 17 million children
  • In 2012 alone, UI benefits lifted an estimated 2.5 million people out of poverty

Millions of workers stand to lose access to UI benefits if no action is taken:

  • Approximately 1.3 million workers currently receiving extended UI benefits are set to lose them at the end of the year
  • 3.6 million additional people will lose access to UI benefits beyond 26 weeks by the end of 2014

Allowing UI to expire would be damaging to the macro-economy and the labor force:

  • Failing to extend UI benefits would put a dent in job-seekers’ incomes, reducing demand and costing 240,000 jobs in 2014.
  • Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and JP Morgan suggest that without an extension of EUC GDP will be .2 to .4 percentage points lower.
  • In 2011, CBO found that aid to the unemployed is among the policies with “the largest effects on output and employment per dollar of budgetary cost”
  • In over a dozen studies, economists have found that any disincentive to find new work that could result from extended UI benefits is, at most, small
  • Expiration of extended UI benefits may also lead some long-term unemployed to stop looking for work and leave the labor force, reducing the number who could eventually find jobs as the economy heals

Allowing EUC to expire would be unprecedented in the context of previous extensions to earlier unemployment insurance programs:

  • The unemployment rate (7.3% in October) is currently higher than it was at the expiration of any previous extended UI benefits program
  • The long-term unemployment rate (2.6% in October) is at least twice as high as it was at the expiration of every previous extended UI benefits program
  • In this cycle, EUC was first signed into law in June 2008 by President Bush when the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the average duration of unemployment was 17.1 weeks.  Today, as of October 2013, the unemployment rate is 7.3 percent and the average duration of unemployment is 36.1 weeks.
  • Consistent with previous programs, the EUC program has been gradually phasing down – the median number of weeks one can receive benefits across states is down from a peak of 53 weeks in 2010 to 28 weeks currently and phasing down to 14 weeks under the proposed extension

Obama Makes A Deal With Iran

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From The White House:

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Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by President Barack Obama on First Step Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Today, the United States – together with our close allies and partners – took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
Since I took office, I have made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  As I have said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we have extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community.  So my Administration worked with Congress, the U.N. Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.
These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged.  I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall.  Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister.  And we have pursued intensive diplomacy – bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5+1 partners: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.
Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.  Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited.  Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor.  And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.  Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.
On our side, the United States and our friends and allies have agreed to provide Iran modest relief, while continuing to apply our toughest sanctions.  We will refrain from imposing new sanctions, and we will allow the Iranian government access to a portion of the revenue that they have been denied through sanctions.  But the broader architecture of sanctions will remain in place and we will continue to enforce them vigorously.  And if Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six month phase, we will turn off the relief, and ratchet up the pressure.
Over the next six months, we will work to negotiate a comprehensive solution. We approach these negotiations with a basic understanding: Iran, like any nation, should be able to access peaceful nuclear energy.  But because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon.
In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to. The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be for exclusively peaceful purposes. If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect. But if Iran refuses, it will face growing pressure and isolation.
Over the last few years, Congress has been a key partner in imposing sanctions on the Iranian government, and that bipartisan effort made possible the progress that was achieved today.  Going forward, we will continue to work closely with Congress.  However, now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions – doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies, and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.
That international unity is on display today.  The world is united in support of our determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  Iran must know that security and prosperity will never come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons – it must be reached through fully verifiable agreements that make Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons impossible.
As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.
Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program.  As President and Commander in Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict. Today, we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement, and I believe we must test it.
The first step that we have taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we have made with Iran since I took office. Now, we must use the months ahead to pursue a lasting and comprehensive settlement that would resolve an issue that has threatened our security – and the security of our allies – for decades.  It won’t be easy.  Huge challenges remain ahead.  But through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do our part on behalf of a world of greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.
Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on First Step Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Via Conference Call
11:34 P.M. EST, November 23
MS. HAYDEN:  Hi, everyone.  Thanks for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate your patience.  I know this is starting a little later than we had hoped, but hopefully everyone got a chance to see Secretary Kerry speaking in Geneva.  That’s what we were waiting on.
Tonight’s call is on background with senior officials.  So there’s no embargo on this call.  Again, the call is on background.  These are senior administration officials.  And with that, I’ll hand it over to senior administration official number one.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  And again, thanks again for waiting.  We were letting, of course, Secretary Kerry complete his remarks in Geneva.
I’ll just make a few opening comments here.  I know you have the fact sheet, but I think it’s still worth running through some of the key elements of the agreement.  And then my colleague will speak to the sanctions piece of our policy, as well as the limited relief in the agreement.
First of all, it’s important to understand that this builds on a several-year effort, one of the leading priorities for President Obama, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  And the P5-plus-1 is the forum through which we negotiate with the Iranians, and this, as the President said, is the most meaningful agreement we’ve reached with the Iranians since we took office.
We have described this as a first step towards a comprehensive agreement, and it’s a first step in that it halts the progress of the Iranian program, rolls it back in some important respects, but then provides a six-month window for us to test whether we can reach a comprehensive agreement.
Why a first step agreement?  We believe it’s very important that Iran not be able to make progress with its nuclear program during the course of the negotiation.  One of the concerns in the past has been that Iran would use the cover of a negotiation to advance its program, and indeed were we not to reach this type of agreement, six months from now Iran could make significant progress in increasing its stockpiles and selling advanced centrifuges, moving towards bringing their reactor in Arak online.  That is the outcome that we prevent with this agreement, by halting the progress of the program and rolling it back.
I’ll now just go through the elements of the first step. Then my colleague can speak to the relief.  Then I’ll say a few words about the comprehensive solution that we’re seeking.  Then we’ll take your questions.
First of all, Iran has committed to halt all enrichment above 5 percent and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5 percent.  Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near 20 percent uranium, and this is, of course, what has been of principal concern to us in terms of their stockpile.  It will dilute below 5 percent, or convert to a form that is not suitable for further enrichment, its entire stockpile of near 20-percent enriched uranium before the conclusion of this six-month phase.
So just to go through those elements specifically:  Iran will also not install additional centrifuges of any type.  Iran will not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.  Iran will leave inoperable roughly half of all centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordo so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.  Iran will limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines so that Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile additional centrifuges.  And Iran will not construct additional enrichment facilities.
Iran will also commit to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5 percent stockpile.  And this is an important point, because not only are they neutralizing the 20-percent stockpile, they, at the end of the six months, cannot have increased their stockpile of 3.5 percent.  So that allows for the rollback on the 20 percent and the halting of any increase in the 3.5 percent stockpile.
Furthermore, Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak, and to halt progress on its plutonium track.  Specifically, Iran will not commission the Arak reactor. Iran will not fuel the Arak reactor. Iran will halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.  There will be no additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.  Iran will not install any additional reactor components at Arak.  Iran will not transfer fuel and heavy-water to the reactor site.  Iran will not construct a facility capable of reprocessing.  And without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.
So just to pause here, there are essentially three different pathways towards a bomb that have been of concern to us.  One is the 20 percent enrichment stockpile — the 20 percent stockpile of enriched uranium.  That goes away with this agreement at the end of the six months.  The other is the combination of the 3.5 percent stockpile together with the advanced centrifuges that Iran has developed should they install them and move to break out.  That is halted with this agreement, because they can’t grow the 3.5 percent stockpile or install those advanced centrifuges.
And then the third track that we were concerned about was the Arak reactor.  And this would give them a new pathway to having a heavy-water reactor, a plutonium track towards a weapon. That is halted.
So these are very important concessions and the most significant progress that has been made in halting the progress of the uranium program in a decade.
Along with those agreements come an unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of the Iranian program.  Iran has committed to daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordo.  This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring.  This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and, of course, shorten the detection time for any noncompliance, so, therefore, also, getting eyes into those facilities in a way that would immediately detect any effort to break out or, of course, violate the agreement.
The IAEA will also have access to centrifuge assembly facilities, also, to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities, and also access to uranium mines and mills.  So, importantly, these are not just inspections and access to the nuclear facilities; we also have access to the production facilities, whether it’s a centrifuge production facility or even the raw materials at the uranium mines and mills.  This is much more extensive monitoring than we have today, and it is a significant portion of this agreement.
Furthermore, Iran has agreed to provide design information for the Arak reactor that we have sought for a long time.  This will give us insight into the reactor that that has not been previously available.  They will also provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor, and they will provide certain key data and information that is called for in the additional protocol to Iran’s IAEA safeguard agreement and, in modified code, 3.1.
So, again, taken together these verification steps will allow us, of course, to detect any Iranian noncompliance with the agreement, will allow us to have unprecedented access to their facilities, and frankly, will allow us to learn a lot more about the Iranian program and its various elements.
The IAEA will perform many of these verification steps consistent with their role in Iran, but in addition, the P5-plus-1 in Iran have committed to establishing a joint commission that will work with the IAEA to monitor implementation and address issues that may arise.  So this joint commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present concerns with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, including the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s activities at Parchin.  So, importantly, over this course of several months, we will be getting together those questions that we have about any potential military dimension associated with Iran’s activities.
So, taken together, again, a halt of activities across the Iranian program, a rollback in certain important elements, and extensive and intrusive monitoring.
With that, I’ll turn it over to my colleague to walk through the relief piece.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  And good evening, everybody.  I want to describe the contours of the limited relief in this deal, which we assess is worth at most about $6-7 billion.
The components are as follows:  We will pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales.  This means Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day, which is down 60 percent since our oil sanctions took effect in late 2011.  And with one exception, the revenue that Iran earns from these sales over the next six months will continue to be restricted by our sanctions, meaning that those funds will not be available to Iran for repatriation or cross-border transfer.
The one exception is that we will allow Iran to transfer $4.2 billion in revenue from these sales in installments over the six-month period.
We will suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports.  This could allow Iran to generate some revenue, which we estimate to be a maximum of a billion dollars in new revenue over the six-month period.  We will suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s trade in gold and precious metals.  There is no economic value to Iran from this provision because Iran will have to spend its limited unrestricted foreign currency for any gold purchases. Iran cannot use restricted oil earnings to buy gold.
We will suspend U.S. sanctions on exports to Iran’s auto industry.  This could provide Iran some marginal benefit on the order of about $500 million if Iran is able to resume its prior levels of production and revitalizes its auto exports.  However, Iran’s auto industry suffers from many problems beyond sanctions, many of which would have to be solved for Iran to benefit from this provision.  Moreover, Iran would need to use some of its limited foreign currency to pay for car kits it would import from abroad.
We will allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds overseas directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.  We will license safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines, and we will establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade in food, agricultural commodities, medicines, and medical devices for Iran’s domestic needs.  Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress, so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds.
Finally, to the extent permissible within our political system, we have committed to refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.  That does not prevent us from implementing and enforcing our existing nuclear-related sanctions, which, of course, we will do, or from imposing new sanctions targeting Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism or its abysmal human rights record.
Let me just make a few additional comments.  First and most importantly, this relief is limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible.  It is designed so that the core of our sanctions, the sanctions that have had a tremendous bite — the oil, banking and financial sanctions — all remain in place.  So in that very important respect, this deal is limited.
It is temporary in that the relief automatically expires at the end of six months.  It is targeted in that it allows Iran access to a set amount of funds in a controlled and controllable manner, and to permit specific additional commercial activity with quite limited upsides to the Iranians.  It does not allow any open-ended financial or economic activity.
And it is reversible.  If Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, the financial component, which is doled out in increments, can be turned off, and the sanctions that have been suspended can be put right back in place.
Second, the relief that Iran gets under this agreement is insignificant economically.  The total maximum value of this deal, as I said, is about $6 billion to $7 billion.  Compare that to the economic distress that Iran currently faces.  Over the past year, Iran’s economy has contracted by more than 5 percent. It’s currency, the rial, has lost around 60 percent of its value against the dollar since 2011.  Inflation is about 40 percent.  Iran is in a deep recession.  Because of our banking sanctions most of Iran’s major banks, including its central bank, are unable to transact internationally.  And because of our financial sanctions, the vast majority of Iran’s $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are restricted or inaccessible.
Iran’s oil exports currently average only around 1 million barrels per day.  That, as I’ve noted before, is down 60 percent, from an average of about 2.5 million per day in 2011, and is costing Iran today about $5 billion per month in lost sales.  In fact, over the past two years, Iran has lost about $100 billion in oil revenue due to sales it has not been able to make.  That is lost revenue that Iran will never recoup.
None of this changes with this deal.  In fact, looking ahead during the six-month duration of this first step deal, our oil sanctions alone will cost Iran around $30 billion in lost revenues, or close to $5 billion per month.  And as for the oil revenue that Iran will earn during this time, those funds will continue to be restricted in overseas accounts due to our existing sanctions.
So just looking at oil revenue alone, Iran will actually be worse off at the end of this six-month deal than it is today.  Its restricted foreign reserves will continue to grow and its budget gap — estimated to be about $36 billion — will not be closed.  What’s more, the relief I just described is the sum total of the relief.  All the rest of our sanctions remain in place and will be zealously enforced.
So, in addition to the sanctions that limit how much oil Iran can sell, our sanctions against the central bank of Iran and approximately two dozen other major Iranian banks and financial actors remain in place.  Those banks will continue to be de-SWIFTED — that is unable to access the SWIFT international financial messaging service.
Our key secondary sanctions that threaten to cut off from the U.S. any bank that does business with designated banks, individuals and entities in Iran remains in place.  Sanctions on the over 600 individuals and entities targeted for supporting Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile program remain in effect.  Sanctions on several sectors of Iran’s economy, including shipping and shipbuilding, remain in effect.  Sanctions on long-term investments in or providing technical services to Iran’s energy sector remain in effect.
The longstanding and broad U.S. restrictions on trade with Iran remain in effect, depriving Iran of access to virtually all dealings with the world’s biggest economy.  All U.N. Security Council and EU sanctions remain in effect.  And all of our targeted sanctions related to Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its destabilizing role in the Syrian conflict, and its abysmal human rights record, among other concerns, remain in effect.
And one final point.  We will in utmost good faith work to deliver our commitment under this agreement.  If Iran lives up to its obligations and commitments, it will get the benefit of its bargain.  But at the same time, we will not turn a blind eye to sanctions evasion, circumvention, or any other attempts to take advantage of this situation by anyone or any person or any entity anywhere.
As I just described, the vast bulk of our sanctions remain in place.  And as the President said just this evening, you can be sure that we will enforce those sanctions vigorously.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  I’ll just say a couple of comments quickly about the comprehensive piece, and then I know we’ll want to get to questions.
So, first of all, essentially what happens now is we have with this framework in place six months to see if we can negotiate a comprehensive resolution.  It’s an important point that this is an agreement that will have a duration of six months, and it would only be continued if it was mutually agreed upon.  So there is an expiration date as it relates to the terms of the first step, unless there is either a comprehensive resolution agreed to or there is a mutually agreed decision to continue.
In terms of the end state, we do not recognize a right for Iran to enrich uranium.  That is a specific issue that has, of course, at stake in the negotiation.  What we are going to explore with the Iranians and our P5-plus-1 partners over the next six months is whether there can be an agreed upon comprehensive solution that assures us that the Iranian program is peaceful.
And with respect to that end state, there are many issues that will have to be addressed.  I would note that in the agreement it is made clear that Iran will have to address the outstanding U.N. Security Council resolutions in which they have previously claimed to be illegal throughout the course of that negotiation.  So there is not an end state that can be arrived at unless we address those U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Moreover, nothing is agreed to with respect to the end state until everything is agreed to.  So when it comes to the various components of an end state, including those alluded to in the document today, which we can discuss, those are not agreed to unless we actually reach an comprehensive resolution that, again, gives us that assurance that the Iranian program is peaceful.
However, we have an opportunity here, as the President said — our goal has always been to resolve this issue peacefully through a diplomatic resolution, both because we believe that that is the more durable way of solving the problem, because diplomacy allows you the assurance that you have an agreement that is verifiable and puts limits and constraints on the Iranian program that can be checked over time; and similarly, because, of course, the enormous costs and consequences that would come with any potential military action were it to come to conflict.
So this is an opportunity that we aim to seize, but we have no illusions that it will be easy to do.  These are going to be tough negotiations, but we’re going to give it our very best shot.
And with that, we’ll move to questions.
Q    Thanks very much.  How real is the danger that the sanctions regime would have unraveled if this agreement had not been reached?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Scott, I’ll say one thing and then my colleague may want to add.  The purpose of sanctions were not to just have sanctions in place.  They were to change the calculus of the Iranian government.  We began to see that with the election of a new President who ran on a mandate to achieve sanctions relief through a more moderate foreign policy towards the West.  And we had an opportunity, the best opportunity we’ve had in five years, to test whether we could get an agreement through diplomacy.
We achieved that agreement in this third round of talks in Geneva.  It’s important to note that it isn’t simply the unilateral sanctions that have had a bite on the Iranian economy. What’s made a difference is countries around the world cooperating with the sanctions regime reducing their purchases of Iranian oil, for instance.  And that depended upon a great amount of political will from those countries.  But the reason that those countries cooperated with us is because they wanted to support a diplomatic resolution and because it was pretty clear to the world that Iran had been the recalcitrant party in previous negotiations.
Our point has been that were we to walk away from the table here, were we to move to additional U.S. unilateral sanctions before we had tested diplomacy, that the political will on behalf of our partners would have been tested in severe ways, and essentially, you could have seen an unraveling of the sanctions regime from those countries that felt like we were not negotiating in good faith.
And so the risk was that in refusing to test diplomacy, which was the purpose of the sanctions in the first place, the U.S. would have been alienated not just from our P5-plus-1 partners but from other countries around the world.  And that could have put at risk our ability to have the type of coalition we’ve had during enforced sanctions.
I don’t know if you have anything to add to that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, I think that’s exactly right.  The effectiveness of the sanctions regime that’s in place is not dependent solely on the force of our sanctions and the sort of coercive impact of our enforcement — although that’s obviously an important aspect of it — it’s also that we have galvanized the international community to join us in this effort, and so we have a great deal of voluntary cooperation and collaboration with others around the world.  And that depends in very great extent on the recognition that we are approaching this in a sensible way and not applying sanctions for sanctions’ sake.
And I think that there was obviously a danger — it’s hard to quantify, but obviously a danger if we discarded this opportunity and just moved to layering on additional sanctions unilaterally, that that important international coalition would not hold together.
Q    Thank you both very much for doing this.  What is your response to the arguments from the Israelis — and you’ll hear from the Prime Minister tomorrow, I’m sure — that this actually weakens our leverage because the sanctions were working, were getting Iran to be so serious, and now Iran knows and other countries know, and businesses around the world will know that Iran is going to be back in business and that they can start finding ways around the sanctions that have been so successful, that you’ll see this — you’ll see a big change in rial and you’ll see a lot more flexibility for Iran.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Andrea, to your question, I’ll say a couple of things, and I’m sure my colleague will want to add.
First of all, just to step back, we believe that this agreement aims to address a number of concerns that Israel has expressed over the years.  First of all, Israel has expressed concern that Iran could use the cover of negotiations to advance their program.  We are halting their program in its tracks and rolling back elements of the program while we test whether we can reach an agreement.
The Prime Minister has raised concerns in the past about the growing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  This would neutralize that stockpile, eliminating one of the most important paths that Iran could have towards a breakout to a bomb.
We and the Israelis were concerned about the Arak reactor coming online or a variety of reasons, including the fact that it would give them a plutonium track towards a weapon.  And we believe that this halts Arak in its tracks for the first time while we have the space to negotiate.
We had a tactical difference on this question of a first step or an end state agreement.  We, frankly, again, just believe that you weren’t going to get to an end state from a standing start, so we needed to put this in place to halt the progress of the Iranians while we negotiate that final step.  And we’ll consult with the Israelis.  And after every one of these negotiations, we brief our Israeli friends and I can tell you that Israel has been briefed by the United States on the elements of this agreement.
I’ll just say one comment on the sanctions before going to my colleague.  My quick comment would simply be I don’t think that this limited and reversible agreement suddenly makes Iran a good bet for businesses to invest.  The sanctions are still in place and the sanctions are still going to be enforced.  And even in the categories where there are these limited suspensions for a time-bound period of six months, that’s not exactly a fruitful climate for investment.
But I’ll turn to my colleague on that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’d make two points, picking up on the last one there.  Iran is not back in business and anyone who makes the mistake of thinking so I think will be met with some serious consequences.
The deal that was struck is very limited in terms of the additional business that Iran can engage in.  It’s able to sell petrochemicals and able to sell/export automobiles.  That’s it; full stop.  There’s no other business activity that is permitted under this first step deal with Iran.  And anyone who thinks they can now go in to develop Iran’s oil fields, go into shipbuilding, shipping with Iran, any of the other sectors that are subject to sanctions will I think swiftly come to realize that we are quite serious about maintaining — and robustly maintaining — the sanctions that are in place.
Secondly, with respect to the impact of this deal on Iran’s economy, as I noted before, we do not judge this to be economically significant.  The $6 billion to $7 billion maximum value of this deal — which I think probably overstates its actual commercial value — will be realized over the course of six months.  And in comparison to the hole that Iran’s in, its foreign exchange needs, which are more than 10 times that amount, its budget deficit, which is in the order of about $35 billion, this very limited package of relief will not move the needle economically for Iran.
Q    Just a question.  I want to clarify the right to enrich piece.  The Secretary said earlier that there is no right to enrich in the document.  But we’ve heard that some of the Iranian officials are claiming there is if not an explicit right to enrich, then an implicit right to enrich.  Can you tell me exactly what the document says or doesn’t say?  And is it an issue for the next round of negotiations if the P5 is claiming there isn’t a right to enrich and the Iranians are claiming there is a right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, that’s a good question, Mark.  The Iranians have asserted this, as you know, for some time.  And it is just the fact that as a matter of policy, the United States has not recognized a right to enrich for the Iranian government, nor do we intend to.  The document does not say anything about recognizing a right to enrich uranium.
In terms of the end state, what essentially the next six months will determine is whether there can be an agreement that deals with the Iranian program and gives us an assurance that the Iranian program is peaceful; an agreement that puts limits and constraints on the Iranian program and that has strict verification measures so that we have a certainty that Iran cannot use that program to develop a nuclear weapon.
We would have to negotiate over the course of those six months whether that can be achieved with some type of limited enrichment capability for the Iranians.  But the point is that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.  So there is nothing in this agreement that gives Iran something in terms of the end state that they can hold onto unless all of our concerns are met, with Arak, with Fordo, with Natanz, with strict limitations and constraints on the type of program that the Iranians have and with verification measures.
So that’s what the next six months are going to be about:  Can we define what an end state is that is mutually agreeable to the P5-plus-1 and the Iranian government.  That won’t involve a recognition of a right to enrich from us because we just simply do not recognize that there is a right to enrich for Iran under the NPT.
So that’s what will have to be explored over the next six months of negotiations.  We’ve also — just to make a couple of points I referenced earlier — made clear that the U.N. Security Council resolutions must still be addressed and that is something that Iran will have to deal with over the course of the next six months; and similarly, that Iran must come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA.  So those aspects of Iran’s commitments to the international community hold and will have to be addressed.
But we’ll see whether we can achieve an end state agreement that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy, an access to peaceful nuclear energy and clearly some domestic component of a nuclear program that provides for that peaceful nuclear energy with constraints and limitations and verification measures that are acceptable to us so that we have the certainty their program is peaceful.
And so again, that’s precisely what the negotiation will be about over the next six months.  But it does not enshrine any right for the Iranian government to enrich.
The other thing I’d just reiterate that I said earlier is that this first step agreement is not a permanent state.  This has a six-month expiration date on it unless we get a comprehensive resolution, or unless there is a mutually agreed upon decision to continue the negotiation with this first step in place beyond that timeline.
So again what that means is Iran cannot point to anything in this first step agreement as some type of permanent acknowledgement of their current nuclear capability.  It is not a new status quo.  It is a first step that is giving us the time and space to negotiate that entity.
Q    Thanks for doing this call at this late hour.  There is an Associated Press story that has just come out in the last several minutes that said there were some high-level talks going on in the months preceding this agreement and obviously the months preceding what took place in Geneva.  I was just curious if you can provide some details to the rest of us about that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, Jim.  I was just made aware of that story.  I’d just make a couple of comments.  Number one, when President Rouhani was elected and indicated a new direction, we decided to take that seriously and to test it.  And that effort commenced with President Obama writing a letter to President Rouhani, which, of course, we have made public.  And that letter I think was delivered in early August.
The second point I’d make is the United States has always been crystal-clear that the P5-plus-1 is the venue for negotiations with Iran towards an agreement on the nuclear issue. At the same time, we’ve also made clear that we were open to having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to supplement and feed into those P5-plus-1 negotiations.  So, again, any discussions we had with the Iranians on a bilateral basis were meant to reinforce and ultimately be a part of the P5-plus-1 negotiations.
And some of this has been quite public.  President Obama spoke to President Rouhani.  Secretary Kerry has had bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif,  Wendy Sherman has had bilateral meetings on the margins of these P5-plus-1 talks.  In addition to that, we’ve also had a small number of bilateral discussions with the Iranians since President Rouhani’s election, again, with the aim of discussing ideas that could then be merged into the P5-plus-1 negotiations.
So over the course of the last several months of very intensive diplomacy in September, October and November of this year, we had some limited bilateral discussions with the Iranians in addition to the P5-plus-1 discussions that, again, were aimed at developing ideas that we could provide in the P5-plus-1 negotiations.  And then the text itself, importantly, was negotiated in these Geneva rounds with the P5-plus-1.
I’d also just add that our bilateral discussions with the Iranians insofar as they deal with substance — we brief our P5-plus-1 partners on it so that they have an understanding of any discussions we’re having, just as our P5-plus-1 partners can brief us on their discussions that they may be having with the Iranians.  We also keep our Israeli friends informed of our substantive discussions with the Iranians.  This is something that we brief them on just as we brief them on the content of the P5-plus-1 talks.
Q    I just wanted to be clear on the sanctions relief, I just wanted to hear your explanation for why you don’t believe that this requires any congressional authorization.  Can you just outline that a little and get, if I could, maybe your sort of outlook on the Hill, how you think this will be received and what sort of diplomacy the President needs to prevent sort of further sanctions in the coming months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  A few points on that.  First of all, the sanctions that have been passed by Congress continue to be enforced, so it is not as if we need to unwind the legislative architecture of sanctions.  Again, this limited relief, as my colleague described, is very limited, reversible, and doesn’t dismantle in any way the architecture of sanctions we have in place.
With respect to new sanctions, the introduction of new sanctions would, we believe, derail the agreement, and we believe that people in Congress understand the importance of testing whether we can get to a comprehensive solution over the next six months.  And we have been having this discussion with members of Congress for several weeks now.  They’re fully briefed on what we’ve been discussing with the Iranians.  We’ve been making calls to the Hill tonight and will continue to do so in the coming days.
I’d just make a couple points about that.  First of all, if the Iranians violate the agreement, or if we can’t reach a comprehensive resolution, we have said that we will move to additional sanctions.  So we are open to working with Congress in the event that this agreement is violated, or that we get to the conclusion of this six months and we don’t have a deal and we don’t believe that we should continue negotiations.  So that will be an ongoing discussion with Congress.
But I’ll let members of Congress speak for themselves.  What I would say is I think most members of Congress have been clear that they do believe that this issue should be resolved peacefully through diplomacy, and that they have been key partners with us in providing the sanctions regime that brought us to where we are today.  And as the President said, we wouldn’t be here without these sanctions.  They helped bring Iran to the table.  But I think members of Congress also understand that a peaceful outcome to this is far preferable to the alternative, and that’s why we’re going to continue to test this over the course of the next six months.
And we’ll have to continue to make our case to Congress, but, again, I think the broad majority of members of Congress would agree that a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear program is in the U.S. interest, and that using the sanctions as leverage in those negotiations rather than doing anything that would derail the negotiations is similarly in the U.S. interest.
We have time for one more question.
Q    Hi, gentlemen.  Thanks for doing the call.  I wanted to just clarify, on Israel, has the President spoken with Netanyahu one-on-one about this tonight, and do you have any assurances from the Israelis that they’re not going to do anything within the next six months?
And then I have a technical question.  Can you give us any detail on the EU lifting insurance and shipping sanctions on oil spills?  We know a little bit about that from the Farsi version of the deal, but it’s not in your fact sheet, so if you could help with that that would be appreciated.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll take the first question, and then my colleague can take the second one.
With respect to Israel, you can be sure that President Obama will speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and in fact, we have every expectation that he will do so tomorrow — or maybe I should say today, since it is already Sunday.  We brief the Israelis after every one of these rounds of discussions.  And the President has had basically five years of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu on this subject.
And let me just say this.  We understand that there have been some differences, but we share the same objective here, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  That’s in America’s interest; that’s in Israel’s interest; that’s in the world’s interest.  That’s what this is about.  And we work through these issues in a spirit of great candor and we have dialogue at every level — from the President to the Secretary to our negotiator, and also in our security establishments, military and intelligence — a very regularized dialogue with the Israeli government.  And we will continue to do so.
And again, ultimately, we understand and appreciate why Israel is particularly skeptical about Iran, given the threats that have been made about Israel from Tehran.  We understand why Israel would want to make sure that this is the best deal possible, and make sure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.  One point we’d make is this is not simply about trusting the Iranian government.  There are strict verification measures through these intrusive inspections involved in making sure that Iran is meeting its commitments under this agreement.
I would say that what we have now is a six-month period to test whether the new leadership in Iran continues to follow through on their commitment to move Iran in a new path.  The Iranian President has said they will not develop a nuclear weapon.  The Supreme Leader of Iran has said that there is a fatwa to development of a nuclear weapon.  What we will know after six months is whether there can be a solution that is enshrined in an agreement that gives us assurance that their program is peaceful.  That would be good for the United States; that would be good for the world; and we believe that would be good for the security of Israel, for our Gulf partners and for the region.
And we’ll just conclude with my colleague taking your second question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, and just very briefly, the relief provisions in here, to the extent that there is additional business activity, also cover associated services.  So I assume that the — I haven’t seen the Farsi version myself — that it was referring to that, to the associated service.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  Something tells me this won’t be the last time we’ll be talking to you about Iran over the course of the next six months.  I just want to say, I know that this won’t be news to you that I think this, but I hope that we all at the very least appreciate the negotiators for the United States — John Kerry, Wendy Sherman, and the whole crew out there in Geneva who have been — who are up at 6:00 a.m., still working, and have been literally working harder than anybody that I’ve seen over the course of my time in government — of course, with the exception of our servicemen and women who are deployed.
But they have done extraordinary work.  They’ve been tireless.  And they have the personal — the President is personally grateful for what they’ve done, and holds them in tremendous esteem for their efforts on behalf of this agreement for the United States.
Thanks everybody.
END
12:16 A.M. EST, November 24

President Obama calls Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu

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From The White House:

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Readout of the President’s call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu today to discuss the P5+1’s first step agreement with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  The two leaders reaffirmed their shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  The President noted that the P5+1 will use the months ahead to pursue a lasting, peaceful, and comprehensive solution that would resolve the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  Consistent with our commitment to consult closely with our Israeli friends, the President told the Prime Minister that he wants the United States and Israel to begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution.  The President underscored that the United States will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.  The President and Prime Minister agreed to stay in close contact on this issue as the P5+1 and Iran negotiate a long-term solution over the next six months.

Harlem Pastor: ‘I Believe the CIA will Assassinate Obama’

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The Manning Report- November 20, 2013
From Pastor James David Manning in Harlem, New York

As thousands of consumers receive health insurance cancellation notices, President Obama is continuing to fine tune his promise that Americans who like their health plans would be able to keep them under his signature health care law.

The president told about 200 of his campaign supporters and health care activists Monday that the administration had promised Americans they could keep their current coverage — as long as their plans hadn’t changed since ObamaCare was signed into law.

Emperor Obama’s New Clothes

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A new Fairy Tale for America, adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s classic, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

The cast of characters:
Emperor = President Obama
The Emperor’s new clothes = Obamacare (aka Affordable Care Act)
The Minister = Vice President Biden
Chancellor = Eric Holder
The Swindlers = Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid
Little Boy = John Boehner

H/T White House Dossier

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