Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Meditation, November 13

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
It looks as if my predictions about the President having a very hard time getting the Senate to ratify the new SALT treaty with Russia are coming true. Senate approval of President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms treaty with Russia, which once looked close to a sure thing, now appears to be in jeopardy. The administration is scrambling to get enough Republican support in the Senate to ratify the New START treaty before the Democrats’ majority shrinks by six in January. But Republicans have little incentive to give Obama a big political boost after leaving him reeling from their strong gains in last week’s congressional elections.

Some people, including yours truly, have argued that the treaty would limit U.S. missile defense options and does not provide adequate procedures to verify that Russia is living up to its terms. Advocates for the treaty dispute both charges. A failure to win passage could trip up one of the administration’s top foreign policy goals: improving relations with Russia. The treaty, signed in April by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, has been the most tangible sign of success, and failure to get it ratified could be viewed as a rebuke in Moscow.

The Obama administration is worried that ratification could slip out of reach if a vote were to be delayed. Ellen Tauscher, the undersecretary of state for arms control, said this week that the lame-duck session Congress will convene before most newly elected senators take their seats in January could be the administration’s last shot.

“Our last opportunity to do it coming forward is in the lame duck,” she said. “I think that, frankly, because of the way the numbers are working, it’s the best opportunity to do it.”

Republicans will gain one vote part of the way through the lame-duck session because they won a special election for Obama’s former seat in Illinois. That will increase the GOP’s Senate numbers temporarily to 42 in the 100-member chamber.

Since the election, senior administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden

and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have been pressing the case for ratification with Republican lawmakers. A long list of retired generals and senior statesmen from both parties have expressed support, arguing that that the treaty should be beyond politics.

But its best shot seems to lie in a political deal with one key Republican senator.

Republican Jon Kyl has wielded the most sway in his party on the issue. He has been negotiating with the administration for months and pinning support for the treaty to a boost in funding to modernize the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons. A number of his Republican colleagues have said they will follow his lead on the treaty. His approval could push support beyond the 67 votes the administration needs for ratification, although many Republicans still are likely to oppose it.

The administration has countered Kyl by warning that the lame-duck session also will be his last chance to get the money he is seeking for the nuclear stockpile because Democrats will not support him next year should the treaty fail.

The treaty would reduce the limit on strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would set up new procedures to allow both countries to inspect each other’s arsenals to verify compliance.

Investigators believe a cat who liked to sleep on top of a toaster oven started a kitchen fire in Port Townsend by depressing the toaster lever. Lois Lund told The Peninsula Daily News she doesn't hold a grudge against her cat Osiris. Lund said he had been sleeping on top of the oven to avoid a pet dog and probably stepped on the lever.
Lund heard the fire early Sunday and put it out with a garden hose. Fire investigator Kurt Steinbach said the fire originated in the oven that had been left on. The cat escaped, and no one was hurt in the fire.

On this day in history in 1789 Ben Franklin writes "Nothing . . . certain but death & taxes"; in 1942 Minimum draft age lowered from 21 to 18 

Live Long

Three Irishmen, Paddy, Sean and Shamus, having left the pub a wee bit late
one night, found themselves on the road which led past the old graveyard.

"Come have a look over here," says Paddy, "it's Michael O'Grady's grave,
God bless his soul. He lived to the ripe old age of 87. Good blood,
those O'Gradys!"

"That's nothing," says Sean. "Here's one named Patrick O'Toole, it says here that
he was 95 when he died. Aye, those O'Tooles are a hardy bunch, they are!"

Just then, Shamus yells out, "Forget him, here's a fella that lived to
be 145 years old!"

"What was his name?" ask Paddy & Sean.

Shamus stumbles around a bit, awkwardly lights a match to see what else
is written on the stone marker, and exclaims, "Miles..."

"Miles who?" ask Paddy & Sean

"To Dublin!"

Live Long and Prosper....

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