September 3, 2014
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Talk from Iran, but agreement too broad
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

MORE BAD THAN GOOD IN IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT:  Iran has 440 pounds of weapons-grade uranium that can be made into an atomic bomb in only weeks; it has enough low-enriched uranium for eventual construction of four more nuclear weapons; it has about 18,000 centrifuges that enrich uranium - 10,000 of which are currently operating; and it is within one year of completing a heavy-water reactor that will immediately produce plutonium, a fissile material immediately ready for a nuclear weapons.  On the other side, the world has imposed about $120 billion in sanctions on Iran.

The six-month agreement reached on Saturday between Iran and the group of six countries comprising the world’s greatest powers will require Iran to eventually neutralize its weapons-grade uranium, delay further enrichment of low-grade uranium, halt installation of additional centrifuges, and allows continued construction of Iran’s plutonium-producing reactor but precludes installation of key components.  The U.S. agreed to lift sanctions on Iran in the form of $7 billion in immediate cash from exports and another $5 billion by releasing some of Iran’s funds frozen in foreign banks.  The powers also agreed that no additional sanctions would be imposed for six months.

The good:  After three decades of virtual isolation, Iran is actually talking to the rest of the world.  The agreement gives all parties six months for further improvement of relations and possibly more curtailment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  And it may encourage Iranian moderates to push for the country to rejoin the civilized world.

The bad:  The agreement doesn’t adequately describe the verification process; doesn’t stop construction of the plutonium-producing reactor; doesn’t require Iran to immediately rid itself of its weapons-grade uranium; doesn’t require Iran to turn off any of its centrifuges; and is adamantly opposed by Israel and Saudi Arabia - the two countries most at risk should Iran develop a nuclear weapon.  Further, the agreement precludes Congress from imposing additional sanctions for six months.  It certainly looks like the bad outweighs the good!

 

POLL OF RHODE ISLAND VOTERS:  Some expected and some surprising news came out of the recently-conducted PROJO/WPRI-12’s poll of Rhode Island voters.

57 percent of voters think Rhode Island is moving in the wrong direction.  Thank goodness Governor Chafee is a lame duck.  No matter who is elected as his replacement, things will likely get better.  Now if only our voters will throw out some of the anti-business, anti-jobs legislators, things will certainly improve.

It’s a no-brainer that the economy/lack of jobs is the top issue that concerns Rhode Island voters.  The economy garnered 57 percent of voters’ concern as the top issue facing our state.  Next came taxes and health care at 12 percent each, education at 11 percent, and gun control the lowest at only 5 percent.  Though gun control was thought by voters to be the least important of the five issues, the Providence Journal - with its anti-Second Amendment agenda - gave the gun control issue equal headline billing on the front page along with the economy issue.  Disregarded were the higher-concern issues of taxes, health care and education.

Rhode Islanders in general, not just those on Aquidneck Island, oppose tolls on the Sakonnet bridge.  Only 35 percent of statewide voters support the tolls.  Let’s get rid of them!

What about Obamacare?  More Rhode Islanders oppose it than favor it.  Red states already oppose Obamacare overwhelmingly; with cobalt-blue states like Rhode Island now turning against it, the unpopular law may be doomed. 

As most realized already, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is a popular politician whose poll numbers indicate he would do a good job as governor.  Of course, after the dismal performance of his predecessor, David Cicilline, it would be hard for a follow-on mayor not to be found favorable.  Taveras has done a very good job and voters recognize it.

Though public service unions have tried very hard to discredit her because of her signature pension reform, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo remains popular among Rhode Island voters with the majority saying they trust her investment decisions.  It shows that “doing what’s right” still appeals to the majority, even in the face of nefarious union opposition that uses underhanded tactics and misleading statements.  The primary showdown between Raimondo and Taveras should be interesting indeed.    

Happenings in Cranston don’t generally get the statewide attention of those in Providence or in state government.  Nevertheless, Mayor Allan Fung’s name recognition and accomplishments seem to be better known than thought.  The poll showed that even in a Democrat-dominated state, Republican Fung rates only about five percentage points behind Taveras as the candidate most able to improve our economy.  Fung’s prospects will likely improve as more voters learn of his business-friendly record in Cranston.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE GETTING OLD WHEN...:  Many of us were mesmerized in our twenties by the frenetic energy of the then-30 something Rolling Stones front man, Mick Jagger.  We all thought that we and Jagger would never get old.  This week it was announced that the still-going-strong Jagger is about to become a great-grandfather!  Yep, when the music idol of your youth becomes a great-grandpa, you know you’re getting old!  But, maintaining energy and relevance like Jagger’s means getting old isn’t such a bad thing?

DEMOCRATS ERR ON FILIBUSTER CHANGE:  U.S. Senate Democrats arbitrarily changed the rules on how many senators must be in favor before a presidential nominee can be approved.  Now only a simple majority of 51 is required instead of the previous 60 that ensured input by the minority party on controversial appointments. This and future presidents will be able to pack the federal courts with far-left or far-right ideologues.

What will now stop a future senate, either Republican or Democrat, from further changing the rules to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court appointees and for passage of highly controversial legislation?  If America thinks the current congress is doing a lousy job, wait until congress can push through anything it wants without input from the minority party.

RHODE ISLAND EXPOSES ANOTHER OBAMACARE PROBLEM:  Last week United Healthcare of Rhode Island dropped about 20 percent of its doctors from the company’s Medicare Advantage network.  The insurer claims the move is intended to keep the network “more focused around the needs of our members (and to) encourage higher quality health care coverage and help keep that coverage affordable for them.”  Perhaps the last phrase is the most telling - “keep that coverage affordable for them.”

Many doctors who are being dropped from the network believe they are being pushed out because they treat a large number of patients with high-cost afflictions.  Many of these patients will opt to change insurance companies and keep their doctors rather than change doctors in order to stay with United.  Of course, the only other major health insurance company in Rhode Island is Blue Cross Blue Shield.  So, the theory is that United will profit from high-cost patients leaving while Blue Cross will suffer by taking them on.  But, not only does United profit, their remaining patients also profit since United can keep its costs down and charge remaining patients less for insurance.

How does this apply to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?  It points to a way that healthcare insurance companies can get around one of the primary provisions of the law.  Obamacare requires insurers to take on all patients, even those with very costly preexisting conditions.  United’s procedure of dropping doctors with high-cost patients from its Medicare Advantage network will likely be adopted by Obamacare insurers.  The law says insurers can’t refuse a high-cost patient but it doesn’t say an insurer can’t drop a doctor who treats high-cost patients from its network.  It’s just another glitch among many in the president’s unworkable plan.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:  Steve Tobak, a former executive in the technology industry, in a Sunday Providence Journal commentary piece about the blatant lies that led to congressional passage of Obamacare, stated:  “I wish this was just about lying, dishonesty, and accountability.  To me, it goes way beyond that.  To me, and apparently the Merriam Webster dictionary, this is fraud:  ‘Fraud (noun): deceit, trickery; specifically: intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.’  If a CEO or CFO of a public corporation pulled something like this, it would be fraud.  The only difference is this fraud was committed against the American people.”


Comments
1 comment on this item

The State pension system clearly needed reform,but not Raimondoform. From the beginning,Raimondo had her personal poltical interests ahead of reform (witness the obscene amount of money she has raised from the financial sector). Clearly,the absurd COLA of 3% had to go. Linking Cola's with those granted to Social Security makes sense,and would be impossible to argue against. The phony cart and pony charade she had leading up to the reform was a joke. She had her plan from the start,and the meetings and board were a smokescreen.The system was underfunded without doubt,but individuals participating in it (I'm not in it),paid their contribution every pay period. But many communities in it skipped their contribution over the years. Could she please tell us who they were and who authorized the lack of contribution.

The legislature clearly wanted to put this behind them,with little thought to it's benefit,or a potential legal challenge.

How about this idea for for reasonable reform. Those already in the system,would retain the benefits,except the COLA's would be linked to Social Security increases. All new empoyees as of a date fixed,would contribute 10% of their pay,matched by a 10% contribution by those in the system. The money is invested in funds the employee is comfortable with (similar to the defined contribution plan). At the end of service, the State,or participating community has no further involvement with the retirees pension. This should make Raimondo's friends on Wall Street do back flips.

Raimondo has a huge political ego. If she truly wanted to see the system fixed,she would run for a second term as General Treasurer. But we will no doubt hear,"I can do more good as Governor". A line as phony as everything she has said to this point in her career..

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