Friday, December 07, 2012
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Syrian forces have mixed chemical weapons and added them to bombs in preparation for possible use on President Bashar Assad’s own people, Fox News confirms.
A senior U.S. official told Fox News that bombs were loaded with components of sarin gas, a deadly nerve gas. Syrian forces have 60 days to use these bombs until the chemical mixture expires and has to be destroyed.
The nerve agent has been loaded into canisters in aerosol form that can be dropped from planes, Fox said. A Fox reporter spoke with Pentagon officials, who expressed grave concern. Sarin is capable of killing many people in a short time. There is no antidote.
Earlier, Fox reported that U.S. troops were deploying to the Syrian border for defensive purposes.
Any solution to the Syrian conflict that comes before sarin is deployed will be tricky, and the pressure to deploy sarin has been anted up as rebels continue to advance on Damascus.
Already, Russia has warned Turkey about meddling in the internal politics of Syria, a major arms purchaser from Russia. Those differences have been papered over in recent days, but the use of sarin gas would cast a whole new light on the tenuous agreement.
Russia has tried to place itself as a neutral observer, leaning towards Assad -- the "status quo" would probably be the code they'd use to indicate this predilection -- but it has blocked no less than three UN resolutions asking Assad to step down peacefully or to provide UN support to the rebels.
But Turkey has deployed Patriot missiles to its border with Syria, and ostensibly these could be used at US direction to shoot down planes suspected of carrying chemical weapons. Too, Turkey has a dog in the hunt, since winds do not respect borders.
An ad hoc, presumably emergency meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, has been arranged for this afternoon on the crisis. Perhaps Russia is reconsidering her position in support of Assad. Certainly, the chemical weapons -- which must be deployed by February 1 or thereabouts, else they'll lose potency -- raises the stakes for them.
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
[...]Conservatives do not have economic ideas that are good for the middle class. Since the 1970s, wage gains have decoupled from productivity gains and the median family has therefore reaped a disproportionately small share of the benefits of growth. Conservatives are left without anything to say about this problem.
What can they say about it? I have a few ideas, though I don't think conservatives are likely to like any of them too much.
What does he talk about?
The redistribution of wealth. Go read that again, I'll wait.
Josh approaches this issue from a conservative slant, to be sure, and I could take issue with some of the details of his broadly outlined solutions like means-testing welfare programs (seems duplicative, for one thing), but on balance, he makes a strong case.
Lower taxes and smaller government *might* raise GDP. Certainly over the Bush administration, growth happened. It was anemic but measurable. That was with historically low taxes. Josh's point was that this concentrated wealth in the hands of the rich, while leaving scraps and crumbs for the rest of us.
No trickle down, in other words. Given that this is the single talking point any conservative can raise when talking about stimulating the economy, Barro is essentially pointing out that conservatives have nothing.
Couple that with the fact that the lion's share in the current government economic transfers programs have been in aid to the elderly, which are not means-tested or adjusted for other income, basically, it's giving more of your hard earned money to wealthier people in two separate scoops: original economic activity, plus benefits accrued from your taxes.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner proposed $2.2 trillion of spending cuts and new revenue that lack what President Barack Obama calls essential for a fiscal agreement: higher tax rates for top-earning Americans.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, yesterday called it a “credible plan that deserves consideration by the White House.” The Obama administration promptly rejected the proposal, which would raise the Medicare eligibility age and slow Social Security cost-of-living increases.
[...] With the Republican blueprint, both parties now have their opening offers on the table. Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat, said the Republican plan signals “act two” in negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff. “There will be an act three undoubtedly, and hopefully the distance between the bid and ask is closed,” he said.
In fairness, at least one of the aspects noted above might make sense, in a perverse way: raising the Medicare eligibility age.
Look, people are going to have to work longer for a bunch of reasons (not least of which is the two major recessions that have triggered on the watch of President Bush, destroying 401(k)s), which means there is a good chance that they'll have private health insurance available to them under Obamacare. By delaying the port over to Medicare, the nation could save billions over time.
Of course, who relies on Medicare but the folks who weren't able to sock away shrinking wages for retirement.
Buried in the proposal is a signal that Republicans might consider a net hike in tax revenues (which I alluded to yesterday) but not a raise in rates. This would entail closing deductions like the home mortgage interest deduction (again, the hike would fall disproportionately on the middle class and destroy the housing market at a time it is already crippled, as it would discourage home buyers and deflate real estate prices, which fuel much of consumer spending.)
Monday, December 03, 2012