U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times

Funny how Obama now sees that Iran is a threat and is persuing nuclear weapons… I wonder what would have happened had he been privy to this level of intel when the decision to take out Saddam was made… I bet he would have sang a different tune, but then again he was just a state senator in IL and did not have access to intel this level of intel when he spoke out against going into Iraq.

Reporting from Washington — Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.” 

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran’s intent.

“When you’re talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington. 

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama’s political advantage. “It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran,” he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran’s advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges — cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium — to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that “Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009.” That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran’s progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country’s nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran’s rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was “ready to hold talks based on mutual respect,” and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities “in the coming months.”

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

“Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground,” Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

“They’ve made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10,” Cirincione said.

via U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times.

Obama Doesn’t Get It

Rep. Aaron Schock talks about the stimulus, and urges a NO VOTE. Despite President Obama’s observations, workers at the Catepillar workers do not support the stimulus.

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Leading economists take on the $800 billion stimulus scam

It seems some of the leading economists do not agree with Obama and that there are other options… Obama’s fear mongering to pass his pork roll has the economy in a panic and making things worse…

Yesterday, the United States Senate passed a sweeping $800 billion stimulus plan that President Barack Obama says he would like to sign into law as soon as possible. “There is no disagreement,” Obama has declared, “that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help jump-start the economy.”

Reason.com asked a panel of leading economists for their response to the stimulus package.

Robert Higgs

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

This legislation entails the addition of a huge increment to the burden of debt the public must bear, directly or indirectly. It redirects resources on a grand scale from uses consumers value to uses politicians value and thereby impoverishes the general public. I’ve written along these lines at greater length here and here.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

All of it works. The trouble is what it works for, which is to reward virtually every special interest allied with the Democrats and to guarantee the recipients’ future support for the pirates who are now sending the booty their way. It is eerily similar to the New Dealers’ use of the Works Progress Administration and other big relief programs to buy votes and bulk up their political machine.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

For the economy in general, doing nothing is vastly preferable to doing the stimulus package, but doing nothing is not a political option; indeed, it would be political suicide. Which shows that only by adopting economically destructive policies can politicians survive. Do you see something wrong in this picture? Given the dominant ideology and the political institutions that now exist, economically rational public policy is incompatible with political viability. See here. Having hit bottom, the politicians can only do one thing: keep digging. If Hell is down there, they’ll reach it, sooner or later.

Robert Higgs is senior fellow in political economy for The Independent Institute and editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

The biggest problem with the stimulus package is the amount by which it increases total government spending, the national debt, and therefore future taxes.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

If by “work,” you mean alleviate the depression, there is nothing in the stimulus that will do so.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

Not at all. The best thing the government could do is to cut spending and taxes. Doing nothing is a second-best option.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel is associate professor of economics at San Jose State University and the author of Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War.
Megan McArdle

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

Even if you accept the theory of the stimulus, the package is not well-structured. A good stimulus package should be designed to move money out the door rapidly, then stop. This program is designed to move money out the door slowly, and keep going. Moreover, the vast size of the package is going to add big costs in the not-so-distant future which have barely been discussed.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

Expanding unemployment benefits and food stamps—the “automatic fiscal stabilizers”—are relatively low cost and transparent. They target money to the people whose consumption is contracting the most, and they will naturally shrink as the economy recovers.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

I would like to see more proof of the statement that doing something is better than doing nothing. The Keynesian arguments upon which Obama’s statements are based work out neatly in the textbooks, but there’s little proof that they actually make things better, in aggregate, in the real world. And the current situation is all the proof you need that there are massive holes in our old textbook models.

Megan McArdle writes about economics, business, and politics at The Atlantic.

Deirdre McCloskey

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package? 

It’s not targeted, not temporary, not timely. Especially the last. Too slow, too slow, alas.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

At less than full employment the Keynesian stuff works. So the minority of the quickie expenditures will “put people back to work”—until we return to almost-full employment, which will happen pretty quickly in the recovery. At that point the stimulus will merely crowd out private investment. In the short run people might get more cheerful, too, always a good thing. But in two years the recession will be over. And the myth will grow up—rather similar to the ones about FDR and war expenditure—that Obama did it. Essentially, Obama will get credit for the self-adjusting character of the economy. I reckon we should start preparing that other face of Mount Rushmore.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

I agree on the money and banking side, not on the real expenditure side. We are in a financial panic, which happens only in a few recessions (1907, 1929). In other words, the TARP is way, way more important than the stimulus. Truly, Something Must Be Done about the banks. That’s a logic of second best—the government fouled up the banking system (the most regulated part of the economy), so maybe the government should help clean up the mess. Someone needs to, and I reckon it’s not going to be the Icelandic government. J.P. Morgan, where are you when we need you?

Contributing Editor Deirdre McCloskey teaches economics, history, English, and communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her latest book is The Myth of Statistical Significance.

Allan H. Meltzer

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

No thought is given to the medium and longer-term consequences. We are very likely to have large inflation in the next few years.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

Yes, extending unemployment compensation, tax subsidy to homebuyers, some of the permanent tax cuts.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

Yes. But doing the right things is the option.

Allan H. Meltzer is the Allan H. Meltzer University Professor of political economy and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Jeffrey A. Miron

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

The package is focused on increased spending and tax cuts that fail to improve incentives. I am extremely skeptical that the U.S. has $500 billion in additional productive spending, especially if done in a hurry. In most areas government spending is too high, not too low.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

Roughly, no.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

Doing nothing is always an option, and in my view it would be better than the stimulus. Better yet, we should fix those aspects of current policy that ought to be fixed independent of the crisis. Seehere and here.

Jeffrey A. Miron is a senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

Michael C. Munger

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

The creation of new bureaucratic and regulatory structures, restrictions on creation of liquidity. The genius of the American system, for all its flaws, has been that we can mobilize lots of liquidity quickly. Silicon Valley exists because you could sit down, make a pitch, and get $10 million that afternoon.

If we start governing finance like we govern universities, or city councils, we are going to lose that. Having committees, and a bunch of forms to sign off on, and stamps…Hernando de Soto wrote about systems like this. They strangle business, investment, and growth.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

Keynes said that Y=C+I+G. Borrowing money to raise “G” (government spending) will work, I suppose. But the cost to future generations is enormous. I am amazed by the hypocrisy of both sides. John McCain calls the stimulus “intergenerational theft.” Well, he’s right, but he came late to this wisdom. The Republicans have been just pouring out new deficit spending since 2002.

And then Obama says he doesn’t want to do tired old ideas, and failed economics. But he is doingexactly what the Republicans did: huge deficit-financed spending on largely useless or irrelevant programs designed to reward political friends. The only thing that’s different is the identity of the “friends.”

So, some of the spending may increase measured GDP slightly for 2009. But the price is increased inflationary pressures in 2010, and the squandering of the birthright of our children for decades.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

This makes me furious. Doing nothing is not an option—anymore. Because first President Bush, and now President Obama, have engaged in a completely irresponsible fear campaign. “We must do something, or you should cower in helpless fear, behind locked doors, in darkened rooms!” Presidents should not use this kind of fear as a weapon to pass their pet projects. Roosevelt, for all his flaws, got it right: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Well, not quite right: it turns out we need to fear fear itself, and also President Obama.

The sensible thing to do at this point would be to make an offer, at 40 cents on the dollar, for the “toxic” assets, both the collaterlized debt obligations packaged by Freddy and Fannie, and also the credit default swap “insurance” derivatives sold by AIG (and some other firms, but mostly AIG). Since AIG wrote so many “naked” CDSs, even for people who don’t own the underlying, or “insured” asset, they are going to keep hemorrhaging until someone puts a floor on the value of the assets.

So, a one-time, take it or leave it, offer. One big reason that credit markets are frozen is the uncertainty created by Treasury indecision and vagueness. Asset owners are holding out for a better price, and they are trying to negotiate through the Senate, not the Treasury. Obama needs to lead here, and say, “Take this partial buyout, or hang on to the asset at your peril. There is no better deal coming tomorrow.”

Michael C. Munger is professor of economics and chair of the department of political science at Duke University.
William A. Niskanen

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

Nothing in the package increases the incentive to work, save, invest, or increase productivity. Any spending stimulus should be limited to increasing the demand for housing, in order to increase the value of the mortgage-backed securities that are limiting the ability of the banks to lend.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

No. Almost all of the tax cuts are welfare payments channeled through the tax system, not reductions in marginal rates.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

No fiscal stimulus program is a viable option. Use monetary policy to stimulate demand. Consider an optional fiscal stimulus plan consisting only of selective marginal tax rate cuts and a temporary subsidy to increase the demand for housing.

William A. Niskanen is chairman emeritus and a distinguished senior economist at the Cato Institute.

Johan Norberg

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

The biggest problem is that it destroys savings by using them on projects that the majority did not think were reasonable a year ago. We take capital that would have been available to companies and poorer countries and use it to create a stimulus that will have its largest impact after the economy has already turned the corner—so that it will contribute to another round of boom and bust.

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

That depends on what the meaning of “works” is. The tax credit will work. Not as they intended it, though. But it gives people more money, which they will save because they can see that the government is building up a huge deficit that they will be forced to pay for in the future. And then those savings will come in handy.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

No. Every single crisis in the last 100 years shows that doing nothing would have been preferable to doing bad things. But he is right that it is not an option in the current political climate. Now what applies is the politicians’ logic from Yes, Prime Minister: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore it must be done.”

Johan Norberg is a Swedish author and historian of ideas, and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is currently writing a book on the financial crisis.
Mark Perry

1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?

There are many problems with the stimulus package, but there are several that stand out. First, like all fiscal stimulus packages in the past, the current one will not impact the economy at the right time for the intended stimulus effect, due to the inevitable problems of long lags. Much of the intended expansionary fiscal effects won’t happen until next year and even 2011, and it’s likely the economy will have recovered sufficiently by then so that the fiscal stimulus will be unnecessary, and might actually be destabilizing. Second, the fiscal stimulus has to be paid for eventually in the form of higher taxes, which will have a negative economic effect in the future, i.e. the “fiscal child abuse” effect. That is, any positive short-term effects of this stimulus package will be more than offset by future negative effects in the form of reduced future economic growth, decreased investments, and lower incomes. 

2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?

The fiscal stimulus will work only in the sense that it will serve to stimulate the approval ratings of the President and other politicians.

3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?

No. The market economy has an underappreciated, but amazing ability to correct and reverse economic imbalances and problems on its own, and that economic self-correcting resiliency works best in the absence of government interference. 

Mark J. Perry is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan.

via The Reason.com Stimulus Symposium: Leading economists sound off on the $800 billion stimulus package – Reason Magazine.

“I Voted for Him I Think I Made The Wrong Decision”

More Change You Can Believe In!

Jake Tapper Kills Bambi

Gibbs should just quit…

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Glenn Beck on Obama’s ‘Change': Socialism

Change You Can Believe In

Washington Post Publishes Obama’s Fear Mongering Editorial

In another lame attempt to convince the people of the United States to blindly accept his $900+ billion stimulus, Obama publishes an editorial in the Washington Post. He says nothing new in this editorial, the only purpose of this is to spread the fear to as many readers as possible.

This administration is using fear to push forward it’s socialist agenda and political pork barrel.

America, contact you congressional representatives and demand they reject this eater of planets. Tell them to formulate a responsible package that will boost our economy not nationalize it.

Change You Can Believe In!

By now, it’s clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives — action that’s swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That’s why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it’s a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We’ve seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker — and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They’re patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington’s bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn’t written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

via Barack Obama – The Action Americans Need – washingtonpost.com.

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