Friday, April 24, 2015

Clinton the Early Leader

The first major poll released since Hillary Clinton announced as a candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination gives her a strong opening lead against any of her announced or potential Republican rivals. The CNN/ORC Poll matched the former Secretary of State, New York Senator and First Lady against eight prominent Republicans. Her leads against them ranged from 14 to 24%.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio did best, trailing Clinton by  14 points, 55 to 41. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was next closest, though he was 17 points down at 56 to 39. After that came New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Both lagged behind Clinton by 19 points, 58-39. The other four hopefuls sampled were more than 20 points back. Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee trailed by 21 at 58-37, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was 22 back at 59-37, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was down by 24 at 60-36, and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson also lagged by 24 with numbers identical to Cruz.

It's very early and should be remarked that Rubio, Paul and Cruz are the only officially announced GOP candidates vying to take on Ms. Clinton, though it is plain the other four are all making the expected moves serious candidates would be expected to make at this stage of the political season. There may be other entries as well, such as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Indiana Governor Mike Pence.  But even with that said, Clinton begins with a formidable advantage that cannot be completely discounted.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Book to Be Published

I haven't posted in 10 days and have been pretty busy. My book, Liberally Speaking, has been picked up by Branden Books of Wellesley, Massachusetts. I've signed a contract and have been engaged in  pre-production chores. Today after work it's been proofing the publisher's master file for errors. I've managed to get through four chapters of the 20 so far. It will be released soon,  perhaps as early as next month. I will keep you posted on the progress. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Iran Nuclear Deal

Yesterday's interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the six powers is a hopeful step and to be applauded. By it, Iran will dismantle part of its nuclear program, scale back the rest to a level that cannot be used to make fissile uranium, and submit to rigorous inspections. In return, crippling international sanctions will be relaxed contingent on Iranian compliance with the agreement.

The five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council (US, Britain, France, Russia, China) plus Germany had set a deadline for agreement by June, but had established March 31 as a date to determine whether enough progress was being made to continue the talks. They were close enough to continue through April 1, when the overall framework was agreed upon.  

British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said “This is well beyond what many of us thought possible even 18 months ago.” He continued,“There is a very rigorous transparency and inspection regime with access for international inspectors on a daily basis, high-tech surveillance of all the facilities, TV cameras, electronic seals on equipment, so we know remotely if any equipment has been moved,” he said.

Here are the pertinent details as reported by the The Guardian:
  • Iran’s infrastructure for uranium enrichment will be reduced by more than two thirds, from 19,000 installed centrifuges, to 6,104, of which only 5,060 will be used for uranium enrichment, for a period of 10 years.
  • Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium will be reduced by 98% to 300kg for a period of 15 years.
  • Iran’s heavy water reactor will be redesigned so it produces only tiny amounts of plutonium.
  • Iran’s underground enrichment plant at Fordow will be turned into a research centre for medical and scientific work.
  • Iran will be open to enhanced inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency for 20 years.
This is a reasonable agreement in terms of making sure Iran does not develop a nuclear bomb without going to war. Critics such as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and congressional Republicans are not happy. They seem to feel no deal will be enforceable and that Iran will find a way to cheat  The agreement is stringent and should minimize the possibility. Yet if it happens, we will be back to where we are anyway: President Obama has stated he is on the same page as the war hawks in that case. He has said Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that if it appears close to that goal the U.S. will use "any means necessary," an obvious reference to military attack, to prevent it. So Netanyahu, Sens. Tom Cotton, John McCain and Lindsey Graham would scrap negotiations and leave only the certainty of war with Iran. That's not a desirable eventuality, as one would think they might have learned something from the expected easy triumphs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama and the other five powers are right to pursue the path of peace. Iran is submitting to the reversal of all aspects of its program that could lead to a bomb, and to intrusive inspections to keep it that way. Bringing Iran back into normal international relations could have a stabilizing effect on the entire Middle East, and if the effort fails we can always resort to he military option anyway. A few details of logistics still have to be worked out by June. The war hawks have nothing to offer, and it is high time to move and get on with this.