Friday, July 31, 2015


Did You Ever Notice the Asterisk on Your Social Security Statement?

While engaging in the mundane task of gathering financial statements for a “secure retirement” meeting with my husband’s and my adviser, this Baby Boomer stumbled upon documented proof that our nation does not have the guts to confront one of its most serious economic problems. The realization came when I pulled from my files a document statement innocently titled, “Your Social Security Statement.”

At first glance, the statement did not appear menacing. I was told I could expect to receive a benefit of “about $2,136 a month” upon reaching age 70 — which certainly seems like good news. But immediately I thought of a parallel of President Obama’s infamous Obamacare promise: “If you like your Social Security, you can keep your Social Security.”

Then, as if on cue, I saw an asterisk with the following message:

The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2033, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 77 percent of scheduled benefits.

My full form:

I could not believe I was seeing the equivalent of what I was just thinking, but with a new twist, “If I like my Social Security, I can keep 77 percent of it.”

With an asterisk, my beloved government was informing me that they will be unable to fulfill their part of a financial arrangement into which, as their statement attested, I had been making mandatory contributions starting in 1971 at age 16.

RELATED: Marco Rubio on Saving Social Security and Medicare

This impending “benefit rationing,” reducing my future financial “security” by $492 a month, may, in fact, not be the worst of it.

Sitting in the back of my Social Security file was an earlier statement dated March 10, 2009. Again, followed by an asterisk was a sentence that read exactly like my 2015 statement except for two major differences (emphasis added):

The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2041, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 78 percent of your scheduled benefits.

Clearly, in 2009, the government’s prediction — that Social Security would have to be cut to 78 percent of benefits come 2041 — was overly optimistic.

Now, in 2015, they are projecting 2033, eight years earlier, with one percentage point less of my projected benefits. The projections have steadily worsened over the past few years, helped by a much weaker economy than the federal government expected. Does anyone really expect these numbers to get better?

The skepticism I felt when I saw my initial monthly benefit was entirely justified. There are just too many Baby Boomers and too many financial promises with elected leaders too afraid to inflict the necessary pain of real reform.

RELATED: Eight Reasons We Shouldn’t Raise the Cap on Social Security Taxes

But the pain will be much, much greater when monthly Social Security benefits are rationed. Now is the time for Baby Boomers to force their elected leaders to confront this issue and take action. The planned benefit reduction should be a major talking point for every 2016 presidential candidate, but somehow it is not.

Why? Politicians fear confronting the truth, and they fear Americans can’t handle it.

Meanwhile, here is the truth, as stated by the Social Security Administration in its annual Trustees Report from 2014:

Social Security is not sustainable over the long term at current benefit and tax rates. In 2010, the program paid more in benefits and expenses than it collected in taxes and other noninterest income, and the 2014 Trustees Report projects this pattern to continue for the next 75 years.

The old cliché “demographics is destiny” has never been more applicable. In January 2011, the first 1946-born Baby Boomers began turning age 65, at the rate of 10,000 a day. This gray-haired evolution continues for 19 straight years — until the end of 2029 — when the youngest crop of Baby Boomers, born in 1964, finally turn 65.

That adds up to just over 69 million former hipsters who changed America at every stage of their lives (though, of course, some of them have died). Now, many equipped with artificial hips and knees, they’re expecting generous automated deposits from the government at the first of each month. (With many millions of them over time eventually receiving far greater amounts than what they initially contributed.)

Keep in mind that those millions of surviving Baby Boomers do not include all the immigrants, also aging, who came to America in the past decades. The official total is 74.9 million Boomers native and foreign-born.

Here is more truth (and pain) from the Social Security Administration:

The population of retirees is projected to double in about 50 years. People are also living longer, and the birth rate is low.

Baby Boomers can expect to live longer than any previous generation, which compounds the problem, and on the other side of the equation, we have the low national birth rate. Combined, the Social Security actuaries put it this way:

Trustees project that the ratio of 2.8 workers paying Social Security taxes to each person collecting benefits in 2013 will fall to 2.1 to 1 in 2032.

Like it or not, the worker shortage is a key reason why our government is importing immigrants (both legal and illegal). Don’t buy it? See this 50th anniversary video commemorating President Johnson’s signing Medicare into law, produced by a group promoting immigration reform — clearly implying more immigration is what’s keeping Social Security and Medicare afloat:

The Social Security trustees go on to warn that “if no changes are made to the program,” they project that “assets will be sufficient to allow for full payment of scheduled benefits through 2032” — hence the most recent warning on my Social Security statement.

Don’t you just love understated government language explaining what will soon become a Baby Boomer revolt?

My favorite phrase: “If no changes are made to the program.”

Let’s face it. Congress is never going to make changes to the program. It won’t happen, or certainly won’t happen any time soon, because (surprise) Baby Boomers themselves are against changing the benefit formulas.

RELATED: The Price of the Americans with Disabilities Act

So, barring some positive developments, in 18 years — or less — Washington, D.C., will be filled with aging protesters, many using walkers, wheelchairs, or scooters. They will carry signs reading, “Give me my full benefits” and “It’s my money.” Old men wearing Vietnam veteran caps will be demanding, “100 percent and no less.” By that time, it will be too late.

What comes to mind is a classic 1965 song by The Who, “My Generation.” If you are of a certain age you know the famous lyrics, “I hope I die before I get old.” Now, since the Baby Boomer generation is already redefining what it means to be “old,” it’s time to rewrite the lyrics: “I hope I die before the government goes broke.”

As things are going right now, you won’t, but it will.

— Myra Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign’s creative team and the 2008 McCain campaign’s ad council. Her writing credits include PJ Media, the Daily Beast, World Net Daily, RedState, and the Daily Caller.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


McConnell and Reid may have just set a 51-vote threshold for passing Obamacare repeal


Next week, Senate Republicans could pass Obamacare repeal with a simple 51-vote majority as part of the long-term highway bill, according to Sen. Mike Lee.

The Utah Republican laid out the argument in a press release after party leaders set the sequencing of votes:

"The first Obamacare vote on Sunday will have a 60 vote threshold, and Democrats will likely block it," Lee continued. "But thanks to the sequencing of the votes we just locked in, Republicans will have the opportunity resurrect that Obamacare amendment later on in the process, and put it back before the Senate in a manner that only requires a simple-majority vote."

After cloture is reached on the Export-Import Bank amendment, senators will still be allowed to offer germane amendments to the highway bill, each of which would only require a simple-majority to pass. If the Chair rules that the Obamacare amendment is non-germane, Senate Rule 22 also allows any senator to appeal that ruling to the full Senate. At that point, a simple-majority of Senators would have the power to add the Obamacare repeal amendment to the highway bill.

If Lee is correct, then Democrats, in order to save Obamacare, would need to kill the highway bill — and thus their effort to restart the expired Export-Import Bank. (Unless, of course, Republicans bail Democrats out and sink the repeal efforts.)

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Iran hits out at Kerry's 'empty threats'
Tehran (AFP) - Iran hit out Friday against US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of threatening military action against Tehran if it fails to respect a historic nuclear deal sealed on July 14.

"Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of 'the ability of the US for using military force'," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement.

Zarif decried what he called the "uselessness of such empty threats against the nation of Iran and the resistance of the nation of Iran", and said such remarks should be consigned "to the last century".

Despite the agreement reached with Iran on putting the nuclear bomb out of Tehran's reach, several US officials, including Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, have signalled that military force remains on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Kerry and other American officials "have repeatedly admitted that these threats have no effect on the will of the people of Iran and that it will change the situation to their disadvantage," Zarif claimed.

"Therefore, it would be better for Americans to abandon their old habit and put aside once and for all their threatening language and sanctions against this great people," he added.

Under the July 14 agreement, Iran has agreed to dismantle or mothball much of its nuclear industry in return for an easing and eventual lifting of sanctions.

World powers have called it a historic opportunity to set relations with Iran on a new path.



Donald Trump bans Des Moines Register from Iowa campaign event … the Register learns the "Golden Rule" … the man with the gold rules!

Donald Trump courted further controversy on Friday by banning the Des Moines Register from attending his Iowa campaign event Saturday, according to the Register.

The real-estate mogul and Republican 2016 candidate was unhappy with an editorial published by the newspaper that called on Trump to pull out of the race.

“We’re not issuing credentials to anyone from The Des Moines Register based on the editorial that they wrote earlier in the week,” Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the newspaper.

He said he expected the campaign would reconsider for future events.

The editorial section of the Register — Iowa’s largest newspaper — operates independently from the newspaper’s political team.

“As we previously said, the editorial has no bearing on our news coverage. We work hard to provide Iowans with coverage of all the candidates when they spend time in Iowa, and this is obviously impeding our ability to do so. We hope Mr. Trump’s campaign will revisit its decision instead of making punitive decisions because we wrote something critical of him,” the Register’s editor Amalie Nash said in a statement.

Friday, July 24, 2015



WASHINGTON (AP) — In a stunning, public attack on his own party leader, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of lying, and said he was no better than his Democratic predecessor and couldn't be trusted.

Cruz, a Texan who is running for president but ranks low in early polling, delivered the broadside in a speech on the Senate floor Friday, an extraordinary departure from the norms of Senate behavior that demand courtesy and respect.
"Not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie," Cruz said.
At issue were assurances Cruz claimed McConnell, R-Ky., had given that there was no deal to allow a vote to renew the federal Export-Import Bank - a little-known federal agency that has become a rallying cry for conservatives. Cruz rose to deliver his remarks moments after McConnell had lined up a vote on the Export-Import Bank for coming days.
"It saddens me to say this. I sat in my office, I told my staff the majority leader looked me in the eye and looked 54 Republicans in the eye. I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie," Cruz said.
"We now know that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment that he is willing to say things that he knows are false."
The majority leader was not on the Senate floor when Cruz issued his attack, and ignored reporters who tried to ask him about it in the Capitol's hallways. A spokesman said McConnell would have no response.
McConnell has long indicated he would allow a vote on the Export-Import Bank as an amendment on the highway bill, which is the course he's now following. Senate supporters of the Export-Import Bank have said they got that commitment from McConnell in the course of debate on a separate trade bill, though there's been some dispute about what precisely was agreed to.
No senator rose to defend McConnell on the floor, as some Republicans sought to avoid engaging in the dispute and giving Cruz still more attention. Questioned by reporters later, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, challenged Cruz's criticism of McConnell, telling reporters, "I think it's wrong to disclose private information, especially when the disclosure is not accurate."
"Keep in mind, he's running for president," Hatch added. "People who run for president do some very interesting things."
McConnell and Cruz have never had a thriving relationship. The new majority leader's allies earlier this year derided Cruz's Senate record, complaining that he often speaks out but has missed important developments. After complaining about President Barack Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch as attorney general, for example, Cruz skipped the final vote on her confirmation.
Some close to McConnell call Cruz "Mr. 1 percent," referring to his share of support in the crowded race for the GOP presidential nomination. Recent polls have him a few points higher among more than a dozen contenders.
Cruz, for his part, has grown increasingly outspoken about his contempt for McConnell and other Republicans, using his newly published book, "A Time for Truth," to attack his colleagues on various fronts and accuse them of failing to stand up for their principles.
On Friday he charged that the Senate under Republican control is no different from when Democrats ran the show before this year and McConnell is behaving like his Democratic predecessor, Harry Reid of Nevada. Republicans accused Reid of shutting down debate and limiting amendments when he ran the Senate.

"Now the Republican leader is behaving like the senior senator from Nevada," Cruz complained. He also derided an announcement from McConnell that the Senate will vote Sunday to repeal Obama's health care law, calling it "an empty show vote" and "exercise in meaningless political theater" because the legislation will inevitably fail to get the 60 votes needed to advance.
"We keep winning elections and then we keep getting leaders who don't do anything they promised," Cruz said.


Democrats in both the House and Senate – during Congressional hearings Thursday – referenced GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, attempting to take jabs at the GOP frontrunner.

During the House debate over the bill – “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act” –
Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA)

“Donald Trump is trying to get to the White House, but it looks like he’s already infiltrated Congress,” said Cardenas. “This bill on the floor of this House today has Donald Trump written all over it.”
The Act would essentially block sanctuary cities, which refuse to enforce federal immigration law, from receiving federal funding.
The measure passed the House with large Republican support in a final 241-179 vote. Six Democrats joined the Republican majority.
“Democrats have pejoratively labeled the legislation ‘The Donald Trump Act,’ tying the proposal to the volatile presidential candidate and his controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants,” ABC News reported.

There are reports that President Obama has already vowed to use his veto pen on the bill.

The issue of sanctuary cities became a large issue recently when an illegal immigrant who was a repeat felon, but was not deported because he stayed in the sanctuary city of San Francisco, allegedly murdered Kate Steinle.

“We had a horrible tragedy that was preventable,” said House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), “Cities do not have the right to ignore federal laws that require them to incarcerate people who commit serious felonies.”

Democrats are calling the Republican legislation too restrictive.

“The man who killed Kathryn Steinle should be punished to the full extent of the law,” said
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), “Don’t take the Donald Trump bait,” he stated. “Don’t punish others for the crimes of the few.”

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing with Secretary of State John Kerry on the Iran deal.

During her questioning, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
, who defended Kerry against many Republicans critical of the negotiations with Iran,also took a jab at Donald Trump.

“Would you just thank Wendy Sherman for me, personally for her work? Donald Trump said something, ‘Why don’t you bring women into this negotiation, it would go much better.’ Well, she was the chief negotiation – she’s fantastic, I wish she was here,” Boxer said to Kerry as she mocked Trump and cheerleaded the Iran negotiation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


US Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence
Realist versus Utopian Thinking© Dr. Keith B. Payne

A debate over the future of the US nuclear arsenal is at a pivotal moment. The Obama administration has proposed to Congress a budget that calls for modernization of the US “nuclear triad” of missiles, submarines, and bombers. This proposal is notable because presidential administrations and Congress have largely neglected US nuclear forces for over two decades; consequently, each part of the triad has aged or is aging rapidly, and according to National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century (2008), “The United States does not have the ability to produce new nuclear weapons.”1

The Congressional Budget Office notes that the Department of Defense will spend $15.4 billion on nuclear-weapons modernization in 2015 — less than 3 percent of the department’s budget—and only slightly more ($15.9 billion) in fiscal year 2016. If the fledgling programs now requested are killed or further delayed, the US nuclear arsenal — already reduced by 80 percent since the end of the Cold War — will be further disarmed by neglect as the aging missiles, submarines, and bombers reach the end of their scheduled and extended service lives.

The congressional defense budget hearings now under way reveal the fragility of the multiyear US nuclear modernization plan. For example, Frank Kendall, under-secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, reported to the Senate that under current defense budget projections, the United States will have “affordability problems” in producing the replacement for the existing submarine element of the nuclear triad.

The administration’s proposed budget and modernization plan have met with strong opposition, particularly from nuclear utopians, who insist that the United States should either delay or skip triad modernization, make further deep reductions in the remaining US nuclear arsenal, or even eliminate it altogether. In contrast, nuclear realists believe that, given the rapid aging of the US triad, the increasing belligerence of Russia and China, and their buildup of nuclear forces, prudence now demands that the United States update its nuclear arsenal and pause from further reductions below those already scheduled in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

The fissure between nuclear utopians and nuclear realists has at various times been attributed to greater and lesser concern about nuclear war, respectively, or greater or lesser intellectual maturity.
4 One eccentric explanation even presents the fundamental difference in Freudian terms (i.e., “acute missile envy”).5 Differences in academic credentials, the desire to prevent nuclear war, or emotional maturity do not divide nuclear utopians and nuclear realists, however. The distinction separating these rival lines of thought is their fundamentally different underlying understandings of international relations and the functioning of nuclear deterrence.

Utopians tend to believe that international cooperation, norms, and institutions — not nuclear deterrence — have prevented nuclear war and can do so in the future. As Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, claimed in a recent speech, “We have been spared that fate because we created an intricate and essential system of treaties, laws and agreements.”
6 It is said that with sufficient political will, action, vision, and faith, world leaders can agree to renounce nuclear weapons via the creation of international legal structures and institutions that will provide peaceful approaches to conflict resolution as an alternative to nuclear arms and deterrence.7

Nuclear realists, however, point out that in severe security crises across all time, international cooperative norms and legal structures have been superseded by the imperative of the hour. Hence, in 1914 Germany justified its violation of Belgium’s neutrality as necessary in defense of its national security, and in 1940 Great Britain violated Norway’s neutrality to counter the mounting German threat. Furthermore, in 1940 Britain attacked the French naval base at Mers-el-Kébir on the coast of then-French Algeria, killing almost 1,300 French servicemen. Britain took this action against its erstwhile ally for fear that Germany otherwise would take the French ships and tip the naval balance in its favor. The respective German and British justifications for these military actions are remarkably similar — that is, the highest calling of national security demanded them.

These and countless similar examples reflect the powerful international norm of raison d’État (the primacy of state interest over opinions regarding cooperation, morality, or international law). Realists do not celebrate this norm but recognize its existence and potency. The perceived requirements of national security ultimately trump the constraining effect of international opinion, norms, and law and create an essentially anarchic “self-help” security environment.
8 The great ancient Greek historian Thucydides put it starkly in the Melian Dialogue: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”9 The frequent demonstration of the reality of this observation in international relations, not folly or malevolence, leads many states to seek nuclear capabilities if they are able or to rely on the nuclear capabilities of a powerful ally.

Utopians claim that the imperative of national security underlying the felt need for nuclear protection can be superseded by the rise of an alternative countervailing norm and international institutions that buttress global collective security, peaceful conflict resolution, and nuclear disarmament. As noted, this unprecedented global norm would, they say, be established via international political will, leadership, and faith.
10 Leaders so equipped and inspired could seek to overcome the age-old international context described by Thucydides with global legal institutions and mutual trust rather than insecurity and mistrust.

It is not an overstatement, however, to observe that the global establishment of a powerful, effective cooperative norm and corresponding international institutions that can be trusted to control aggression and provide protection globally would represent an unprecedented reordering of the international system. Once such a reordering is in place, utopians are correct in saying that it could create the international security context necessary for nuclear disarmament. History, however, gives no indication of its possibility, and in its absence Thucydides and the norm of raison d’État will continue to prevail. As the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States (Perry-Schlesinger Commission) recognized, “The conditions that might make possible the global elimination of nuclear weapons are not present today and their creation would require a fundamental transformation of the world political order.”

Realists in this regard are from Missouri, the “show me” state, and ask utopians to explain how, why, and when a powerful new cooperative international norm with corresponding international institutions will become a reality. Realists point to the unhappy history of the unmet claims and dashed hopes of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (intended to prevent offensive war by global legal agreement), the League of Nations, and the United Nations. To be sure, the future does not have to be bound by the past, but before moving further toward nuclear disarmament, realists want to see some clear evidence of the emerging transformation of the global order—not just the claim that it can occur if all key leaders are so willing, faithful, and visionary and can “embrace a politics of impossibility.”12 As the old English proverb says, “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.”

But has not everything changed in the twenty-first century? Has not the end of the Cold War ushered in a new global commitment to cooperation, the rule of law globally, and benign conflict resolution? The unarguable answer is no. Russian military actions against Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine since 2014 (the latter in direct violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum signed by Russia, Great Britain, and the United States) are sufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate that Thucydides’ stark description of reality is alive and well. China’s expansionist claims and military pressure against its neighbors in the East and South China Seas teach the same lesson.

Why is this reality significant in the consideration of nuclear weapons? Because in the absence of reliably overturning the powerful norm of raison d’État and Thucydides’ explanation of international relations, states with the capability and felt need will continue to demand nuclear capabilities for their own protection and, in some cases, to provide cover for their expansionist plans. To wit, if Ukraine had retained nuclear weapons, would it now fear for its survival at the hands of Russian aggression? Former Ukrainian defense minister Valeriy Heletey and members of the Ukrainian parliament have made this point explicitly, lamenting Ukraine’s transfer of its nuclear forces to Russia in return for now-broken security promises of the Budapest Memorandum.

This lesson cannot have been lost on other leaders considering the value of nuclear weapons. Nor is it a coincidence that US allies in Central Europe and Asia are becoming ever more explicit about their need for US nuclear assurances under the US extended nuclear deterrent (i.e., the nuclear umbrella). They see no new emerging, powerful global collective security regime or cooperative norms that will preserve their security; thus, they understandably seek the assurance of power, including nuclear power. The Polish Foreign Ministry observed in a recent press release that “the current situation reaffirms the importance of NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy.”
14 This reality stands in stark contrast to utopian claims that powerful new global norms and international institutions will reorder the international system, overturn Thucydides, and allow individual states to dispense with nuclear weapons or the nuclear protection of a powerful ally. As the Socialist French president Francois Hollande has said, “The international context does not allow for any weakness . . . . The era of nuclear deterrence is therefore not over . . . . In a dangerous world — and it is dangerous — France does not want to let down its guard . . . . The possibility of future state conflicts concerning us directly or indirectly cannot be excluded.”15 There could be no clearer expression of Thucydides’ description of international relations and its contemporary implications for nuclear weapons.

Opponents of the administration’s plan to modernize the US triad now double down on the utopian narrative by insisting that the United States instead lead the way in establishing the new global norm by showing that Washington no longer relies on nuclear weapons and does not seek new ones. Washington cannot expect others to forgo nuclear weapons if it retains them, they say, and thus it must lead in creation of the new norm against nuclear weapons by providing an example to the world. For instance, “by unilaterally reducing its arsenal to a total of 1,000 warheads, the United States would encourage Russia to similarly reduce its nuclear forces without waiting for arms control negotiations.”
16 A good US example supposedly can help “induce parallel” behavior in others.17 If, however, the United States attributes continuing value to nuclear weapons by maintaining its arsenal, “other countries will be more inclined to seek” them.18

Nuclear realists respond, however, that the United States already has reduced its nuclear forces deeply over the last 25 years. America cut its tactical nuclear weapons from a few thousand in 1991 to a “few hundred” today.
19 Moreover, US-deployed strategic nuclear weapons have been cut from an estimated 9,000 in 1992 to roughly 1,600 accountable warheads today, with still more reductions planned under the New START Treaty.20 The United States has even decided to be highly revealing of its nuclear capabilities to encourage others to do so, with no apparent effect on Russia, China, or North Korea.21 America has adhered fully to the reductions and restrictions of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty — the “centerpiece of arms control”— but the Russians now are in open violation. As former undersecretary of state Robert Joseph stated recently, decades of deep US reductions “appear to have had no moderating effect on Russian, Chinese or North Korean nuclear programs. Neither have U.S. reductions led to any effective strengthening of international nonproliferation efforts.”22 Utopians want the United States to lead the world toward nuclear disarmament by its good example, but no one is following.
The basic reason, realists point out, is that foreign leaders make decisions about nuclear weaponry based largely on their countries’ strategic needs, raison d’État, not in deference to America’s penchant for nuclear disarmament or some sense of global fairness. A close review of India by S. Paul Kapur, for example, concluded that “Indian leaders do not seek to emulate US nuclear behavior; they formulate policy based primarily on their assessment of the security threats facing India.”23 The same self-interested calculation is true for other nuclear and aspiring nuclear states.
Nations that are a security concern to the United States seek nuclear weapons to intimidate their neighbors (including US allies), to counter US conventional forces, and to gain a free hand to press their regional military ambitions. They see nuclear weapons as their trump cards and do not follow the US lead in nuclear disarmament. A bipartisan expert working group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded accordingly that “U.S. nuclear reductions have no impact on the calculus of Iran and North Korea.”
Nations that are a security concern to the United States seek nuclear weapons to intimidate their neighbors (including US allies), to counter US conventional forces, and to gain a free hand to press their regional military ambitions. They see nuclear weapons as their trump cards and do not follow the US lead in nuclear disarmament. A bipartisan expert working group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded accordingly that “U.S. nuclear reductions have no impact on the calculus of Iran and North Korea.”24

Nuclear realists also note that many allies have given up the nuclear option because America provides a “nuclear umbrella” for their protection. The United States reportedly has now offered this nuclear umbrella to Middle Eastern states that otherwise could go nuclear for fear of a prospective Iranian nuclear bomb.
25 Japanese and South Koreans have said that if the US nuclear umbrella loses credibility, they will be compelled to find security alternatives, including reconsideration of nuclear capabilities. In short, further US nuclear reductions may inspire nuclear proliferation — not prevent it as claimed by critics of US nuclear modernization.

Nuclear utopians and nuclear realists simply perceive international relations differently, with corresponding great effect on their views of nuclear deterrence and weapons. Seeing an orderly system that functions predictably and increasingly amicably, utopians make two confident predictions as the basis for further deep US nuclear reductions. The first is that US deterrence will work reliably even with a relatively small nuclear arsenal or nuclear zero. Specifically, they offer confident claims that a specific number or level of US nuclear weapons will be adequate for America’s deterrence goals. That number often is associated with the capability deemed adequate to threaten an opponent’s societal infrastructure with destruction— a relatively small number of nuclear weapons: “From a practical perspective, several second-strike nuclear weapons are more than enough to keep the most aggressive adversary at bay.”
26 Or, “deterrence today would remain stable even if retaliation against only ten cities were assured.”27 And, “no current or conceivable future threat requires the United States to maintain more than a few hundred survivable warheads.”28 Such predictions abound in the public debate. They are offered with great certainty by those recommending deep US nuclear force reductions, presumably because they feel the need to assure us that deterrence will not be degraded by the deep nuclear force reductions they recommend.

Yet, such predictions simply assume that a specific number of weapons or specific type of threat will produce the desired deterrent effect on the premise that all rational opponents should be deterred by such a threat. The capability for posing a threat, though, does not equate to a predictable deterrent effect — or indeed any deterrent effect. In truth, no one, however credentialed, can make such promises with any credibility because the functioning of deterrence is shaped by many factors— some known and others opaque, including enormous variations in leadership perceptions and calculations. Only an omniscient observer could claim to know that a specific number of nuclear weapons will be adequate for deterrence, now or in the future. As a recent National Academy of Sciences study noted in this regard,

Finally, models of human beings and their individual and collective behaviors must necessarily include a large amount of inherent uncertainty. This uncertainty is not a flaw of the model and cannot be designed out of the model. Human behavior is dynamic and adaptive over time, and it is impossible at the moment (and into the foreseeable future) to make exact predictions about that behavior.29 
In short, deterrence is a human construct based on the functioning of human perceptions and calculations that are affected by multiple factors beyond confident prediction. Its functioning remains unpredictable and fallible, and confident claims about the deterrent effect of “several,” “10,” or a “few hundred” weapons reflect a utopian pretense of omniscience. 

The second typical prediction is that Russia and China will pose no severe military threats to the United States and its allies and that their differences with the United States will be resolved without reference to nuclear capabilities. For example, the 2012 report by the Global Zero Commission claimed that “the risk of nuclear con- frontation between the United States and either Russia or China belongs to the past, not the future.”

Nuclear realists have no confidence in such predictions, which again can come only from the utopian pretense of omniscience. Prior to the nuclear age, they point out, great powers periodically came into intense conflict, and deterrence relying on conventional forces failed to prevent catastrophic wars. The Concert of Europe failed to stop the descent into World War I, and the League of Nations collapsed during the lead-up to World War II. Since 1945, however, a powerful US nuclear arsenal appears to have had a decisive effect in deterring the outbreak of World War III and in containing regional crises and conflicts. Yet, nuclear utopians want to reduce this arsenal deeply or eliminate it.

Instead of the utopians’ vision of an orderly, predictable, and benign world order, realists see international relations as fluid, often dangerous, and unpredictable, as they have been for millennia and as described by Thucydides. Realists point to the frequent history of international relations worsening rapidly and surprisingly; they see no indication of an emerging and amicable new world order. The current unexpected Russian aggression in Europe is a cold reminder of this reality. In January prominent Russian journalist Alexander Golts warned that “the West had forgotten how it had used nuclear deterrence to coexist with the Soviet Union. Now it will have to open up that playbook once more.”

In truth, Thucydides and raison d’État rein over international relations, and sovereign power remains the ultimate currency in a self-help international system with a near-global lack of security and trust. Deterrence, including nuclear deterrence, correspondingly remains important — but it is both fallible and unpredictable. The utopian-proffered solution of nuclear disarmament must await the fundamental reordering of international relations — the hope for which seems remarkably utopian. What can be done, given this distressing situation?

The realist response is clear but not fully satisfactory because realism offers no infallible, complete solution to conflict in the international system and the related question of deterrence and its nuclear requirements: deterrence must be made as effective as possible to prevent war and the escalation of hostilities. This goal likely requires (1) as complete an understanding as is possible of opponents’ perceptions and values so as to tailor US deterrence strategies appropriately to the opponent and deterrent goal and (2) a broad spectrum of flexible and resilient US conventional and nuclear capabilities to help the United States deter as effectively as possible across a broad spectrum of contingencies and potential opponents with varying goals, values, perceptions, and modes of decision making. The number of US weapons and platforms is one, but only one, potentially important measure of a flexible and resilient force structure.32 Equally important, the potential for deterrence failure must be recognized via the provision of indirect and direct US defensive capabilities. Defenses cannot ensure the safety of all people in all scenarios, to be sure — but they could help save lives and mitigate destruction in many. It must be acknowledged that this combination of deterrence and defensive measures can neither fully eliminate the risk of war nor ensure the safety of all — that too would be a utopian expectation. But only the pretense of a more credible solution and safety resides in the utopian expectation of a cooperative new world order that ushers in nuclear disarmament — or in vapid promises that a small, narrow set of US strategic capabilities surely will deter reliably now and in the future.
In summary, contemporary evidence and all of history argues against the utopians’ predictable, amicable world in which a potent cooperative norm and international law have supplanted raison d’État and Thucydides’ description of international relations. Decisions made now that would cause further erosion of the US nuclear arsenal would take decades to reverse, create fear among key allies, and likely inspire foes to challenge a United States that appears less able to deter in the hard times ahead. These are the stakes in the current debate.

1. Department of Energy and Department of Defense, National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century (Washington, DC: Department of Energy and Department of Defense, September 2008), 2,
2. “Fact Sheet: Increasing Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile,” Department of De- fense, 3 May 2010, __FINAL_w_Date.pdf.
3. Senate, Hearing to Receive Testimony on U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Programs, and Strategy in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2016 and the Future Years Defense Program, Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, 114th Cong., 1st sess., 4 March 2015, http://
4. Ivan Oelrich, Missions for Nuclear Weapons after the Cold War, Occasional Paper no. 3 (Washington, DC: Federation of American Scientists, January 2005), 8,; and Robert R. Holt, “Meeting Einstein’s Challenge: New Thinking about Nuclear Weapons,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 3 April 2015, -thinking-about-nuclear-weapons8166.
5. Helen Caldicott, Missile Envy: The Arms Race and Nuclear War, rev. ed. (New York: Bantam Books, 1986), 235.
6. Rose Gottemoeller, “Arms Control Priorities for Russia and the United States in 2015 and Beyond” (remarks delivered at the Exchange Monitor’s Seventh Annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit, Washington, DC, 18 February 2015),
7. See, for example, Richard Falk and David Krieger, eds., At the Nuclear Precipice: Catastrophe or Transformation? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); and Richard Falk and David Krieger, The Path to Zero: Dialogues on Nuclear Dangers (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2012).
8. For the classic presentation, see Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State and War: A Theoretical Analysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959).
9. Robert B. Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 352.
10. Richard Falk and David Krieger, “Introduction,” in Falk and Krieger, At the Nuclear Precipice, 6, 10.
11. William Perry and James R. Schlesinger et al., America’s Strategic Posture: The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2009), xvi,
12. Falk and Krieger, Path to Zero, 201.
13. See Oren Dorell, “Ukraine May Have to Go Nuclear, Says Kiev Lawmaker,” USA Today, 11 March 2014,; Anastasiya Kravenchko, “Ukraine Could Develop Nuclear Bomb in 10 Years,” Isvestiya, 17 September 2014; and “Russian Experts Comment on Prospects of Ukraine Acquiring Nuclear Weapons,” BBC Monitoring, 2 October 2014.
14. “MFA Statement on Information about Russia’s Non-compliance with the INF Treaty,” press re- lease, Republic of Poland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 July 2014, /mfa_statement_on_information_about_russia_s_non_compliance_with_the_inf_treaty.
15. Quoted in “‘Dangerous World’: France Has Less Than 300 Nukes and Still Needs Them,” Reuters, 20 February 2015,
16. Bruce G. Blair et al., Toward True Security: Ten Steps the Next President Should Take to Transform U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy (Cambridge, MA: Federation of American Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, February 2008), 18, /documents/nwgs/toward-true-security.pdf.
17. George Perkovich, Do unto Others: Toward a Defensible Nuclear Doctrine (Washington, DC: Carn- egie Endowment for International Peace, 2013), 61, _others.pdf.
18. Stephen Young, “Obama’s Nuclear Legacy #4: Give Nuclear Weapons a Sole Purpose,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 23 February 2015,
19. Gary Samore, coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction terrorism, Na- tional Security Council, quoted in “Obama Adviser Gary Samore: ‘The Ball Is Very Much in Tehran’s Court’ ” (interview), Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 14 April 2011, /interview_samore_russia_iran_us_policy/3557326.html; and “Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile,” fact sheet, Department of State, 29 April 2014,
20. Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin, “Table 2.1: US Strategic Nuclear Forces, January 1992,” in Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 1992: World Armaments and Disar- mament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 74; and Department of State, Bureau of Arms Con- trol, Verification and Compliance, “New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms,” fact sheet, 1 January 2015,
21. Paul Meyer, Henrik Salander, and Zia Mian, “Why the NPT Needs More Transparency by the Nuclear Weapons States,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 8 April 2015, -more-transparency-nuclear-weapon-states8188.
22. Quoted in Keith B. Payne, “Why the ‘Nuclear Utopians’ Are Wrong,” Wall Street Journal, 15 March 2015, 23. S. Paul Kapur, “More Posture than Review,” Nonproliferation Review 18, no. 1 (March 2011): 69.
24. Clark A. Murkock, Stephanie Spies, and John K. Warden, Forging a Consensus for a Sustainable U.S. Nuclear Posture (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 2013), viii,
25. Shabtai Gold, “Report: U.S. to Offer Gulf States Nuclear Umbrella against Iran,” Haaretz, 5 March 2015,!.
26. James Wood Forsyth Jr., B. Chance Saltzman, and Gary Schaub Jr., “Minimum Deterrence and Its Critics,” Strategic Studies Quarterly 4, no. 4 (Winter 2010): 7, /winter/winter10.pdf.
27. Bruce Blair et al., “Smaller and Safer: A New Plan for Nuclear Postures,” Foreign Affairs 89, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 10, /smaller-and-safer.
28. Blair et. al., Toward True Security, 18.
29. Greg L. Zacharias, Jean MacMillan, and Susan B. Van Hemel, eds., Behavioral Modeling and Sim- ulation: From Individuals to Societies (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2008), 355.
30. James Cartwright et al., Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture, Global Zero US Nuclear Policy Commission Report (Washington, DC: Global Zero, May 2012), 6, /files/gz_us_nuclear_policy_commission_report.pdf.
31. Alexander Golts, “Russia Is Turning into a Rogue State,” Moscow Times, 26 January 2015, http://
32. Dr. Keith B. Payne and Dr. John S. Foster Jr., Nuclear Force Adaptability for Deterrence and Assur- ance: A Prudent Alternative to Minimum Deterrence (Fairfax, VA: National Institute Press, 2014), http://

Approved for public release; distribution unlimited.


In the first public criticism of the P5+Iran deal by a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, Prince Bandar bin Sultan told Lebanon’s Daily Star the deal would allow Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb and would “wreak havoc in the region." Covered in The Times of London, the prince also told Daily Star,
"Saudi Arabia and the Gulf powers are prepared to take military action without American support after the Iran nuclear deal"
Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two leading players in the Sunni/Shia divide and are competing for leadership of the Muslim world. The Sunni Islam Saudi Arabian monarchy fears that the Shia Islam Iranians will employ terrorists in an attempt topple the monarchy and the ruling House of Saud.
Prince Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 20 years before returning home to run the country’s intelligence service from 2005-2014. While he is no longer a part of the inner ring of Saudi decision-making, the prince is still a very connected member of the ruling family. The prince would not be conducting interviews without the permission of highest authorities; most likely he was asked to to put himself out there by his uncle King Salman.

The Prince also said that regional powers have lost faith in America:

“People in my region now are relying on God’s will, and consolidating their local capabilities and analysis with everybody else except our oldest and most powerful ally”
The prince was less polite in an op-ed he wrote for the London-based Arabic news Web site Elaph. He compared the Iran nuclear deal made by Obama to the North Korean nuclear deal Bill Clinton made. Bandar suggested that they were both bad deals but Clinton made a bad deal with the best of intentions thinking it was a good deal. Obama on the other hand knew he was making a lousy deal and made it anyway.

Quoted in a Washington Post article which translated part of the Elaph piece:

Bandar says [about the North Korean pact], "it turned out that the strategic foreign policy analysis was wrong and there was a major intelligence failure." He added that if Clinton had known the full picture, "I am absolutely confident he would not have made that decision."
The Saudi royal then contrasts this with the present situation with Iran, "where the strategic foreign policy analysis, the national intelligence information, and America’s allies in the region's intelligence all predict not only the same outcome of the North Korean nuclear deal but worse – with the billions of dollars that Iran will have access to."

Bandar says Obama is smart enough to understand this but that he is ideologically willing to accept collateral damage because he believes he is right.

(..)The Saudi prince says the new Iran deal and other developments in the region have led him to conclude that a phrase first used by Henry Kissinger – “America’s enemies should fear America, but America’s friends should fear America more" – is correct.
At his press conference earlier this week, President Obama seemed to indicate the only opposition to the P5+1 deal came from congressional Republicans, Israeli Premier Bibi Netanyahu, and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer (see video below).  The president was not being truthful. Not only is there opposition from Congressional Democrats, but one of the leading critics is Senator Bob Menendez - a New Jersey Democrat. In Israel, with the possible exception of the Arab parties, all of the political parties in the Knesset have come out against the deal. And based on Prince Bandar bin Sultan, we now know that another one of the United States' closest allies, Saudi Arabia, believes the P5+1 deal was a blunder.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Empire State Building bathed in green for Eid or perhaps for the $140 billion green backs given in return for nothing!!!

New York’s Empire State Building was lit in green late Friday to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

The green light will shine until the famous skyscraper closes to the public at 2:00 am (0600 GMT), when the building traditionally turns out its lights.

The Empire State Building famously shines specific colors for a number of religious holidays — pastel shades for Easter, blue and white for Hanukkah, and red and green for Christmas.

It also has marked a number of events — red, white and blue for the US women’s World Cup victory, rainbow colors for gay Pride Week, and blue, white and purple for World Oceans Day on June 8.

The tower is otherwise illuminated in white each night.
The privately-owned building receives hundreds of requests each year to be lit in particular colors for various causes and events.

Although it does not make its selection process public, it does not accept requests for political campaigns, religious figures and organizations, or personal events.


Hillary Clinton outdone in 1st major Iowa test as Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley  …
  • In the Democrats' first 'cattle call' event of 2015, all five presidential candidates appeared on the same stage
  • Clinton spoke of herself while two of her more energetic rivals fed red meat to the lions
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trumpeted a populist brand of liberalism meant to appeal to young fans of free college and income redistribution
  • Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's voice trembled as he shushed Hillary's partisans with a lengthy list of liberal accomplishments
  • Clinton's best lines, about Donald Trump's hair and global warming deniers, couldn't match the energy brought by her two main rivals
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, two emotionally potent politicians determined to run far to the left of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, outshined her Friday night during the Democratic presidential field's first big 'cattle-call' event.

Following Clinton, who spoke in sharp cadence about herself and her family's story, the two men wowed a crowd of more than 1,300 with powerful appeals to progressives. 
Clinton entered the presidential race as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but she has at least two formidable foes who exceeded her ovations and grew their following on Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Friday night marked a first for Democrats in the 2016 race for the presidency: a 'cattle call' audition where every declared candidate spoke to a large audience in an early primary state on the same night.

UNDERWHELMING: Hillary Clinton was bested by two more fiery politicians on Friday night in Iowa who riled up the crowd while she talked about herself and her family history

FIRE AND BRIMSTONE: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders put out the most pure wattage, booming his far-left priorities to an eager audience who cheered and stomped

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley emerged as the night's biggest surprise, establishing himself as a liberal's liberal and a candidate who can boast achievements to ease his march to Hillary's left

CLASH OF THE DEMOCRATS: Chaos ensued in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday as supporters of Hillary Clinton (right) crashed through a line of Martin O'Malley backers, each group with its own signs and chants

It's something Republicans have done nearly a dozen times already. But with Clinton expecting a coronation instead of a contest, the Dems have been slow to build a field of challengers.

Now that there are five, Iowa's Democratic Party used its annual 'Hall of Fame' dinner to host on-stage speeches from the whole field.

None of the five politicians on the program for the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Hall of Fame dinner threw any intramural punches; the candidates returned to their tables in front of the stage after speaking, ensuring any insults would be delivered face-to-face.

The trio of clear front-runners hammered Republicans aplenty, but Hillary couldn't match the red-meat liberalism of O'Malley and Sanders.

Her main saving grace was that she spoke before them both – thanks to the coincidence of alphabetical order.

Clinton brought one-liners. Of Republican leader Donald Trump, she cracked: 'Finally! A candidate whose hair gets more attention than mine!'

She blasted the billionaire's rhetoric on violent crimes committed by illegal border-crossers as 'hate that he is spewing toward immigrants and their families.'

'It really is shameful,' she said.

And jabbing the GOP for its collective doubts about global warming, she noted how some Republicans have shrugged off the issue by noting that they're not scientists.

'I'm not a scientist either,'snarked Clinton. 'I'm just a grandmother with two eyeballs and a brain.'

Bernie Sanders officially kicks off presidential campaign

IT'S ON: Hillary Clinton faced new competition on a public stage as she spoke alongside four challengers for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shown are Martin O'Mallley (left) and Lincoln Chafee (right)
CHALLENGERS: Jim Webb (left) is a recent but lackluster entrant in the 2016 race, while Bernie Sanders (right) has given Clinton the most heartburn so far and outshone her on Friday

She also mocked the GOP's economic policy as a 1980s-style 'trickle-down' scheme.

'Trickle-down economics has to be one of the worst ideas of the 1980sm,' Clinton boomed.

'It is right up there with New Coke, shoulder pads and big hair. I lived through it and there are photographs, and we're not going back to that.'

Earlier in the day, speaking before a crowd of her own organizers, she quipped that 'we've been trickled on enough.'

But most of her speech's power on Friday came in parables about herself.

She reminded the audience of her mother's demoralizing poverty and the power of personal strength. She waxed about the need to leave her granddaughter Charlotte with a sustainable America.

And she boasted that she has spent her life 'fighting for women [and] children.'

When her supporters had stopped chanting 'HIL-LA-RY' – each candidate controlled the tables in one part of the cavernous banquet hall – the real show began.

Martin O'Malley, the former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland's chief executive, brought a mix of passion and pathos that Clinton appeared to have left on her private jet.

His introduction was met with a standing ovation from his own section, mostly in the back of the hall. By the time he was finished, many tables that had stood for Clinton were on their feet for him.

A bullhorn-blasting organizer and a gaggle of shouting young partisans delivered the point home as Democrats left for the night, shouting slogans about his progressive accomplishments.

At one point 'O-MAL-LEY! O-MAL-LEY!' morphed into 'GO-AWAY HIL-LA-RY!'

Inside, the former governor had lobbed the evening's first earnest bombs at Clinton from her left, ticking off a list of progressive litmus tests he had passed.

On the list were drug treatment programs established, the state's minimum wage hiked, resounding entrepreneurship statistics, an assault weapons ban, nation-leading public schools, the adoption of a DREAM Act law that predated President Obama's own executive actions preventing deportations for millions, a four-year college tuition freeze, and 'drivers licenses for new American immigrants.'

SLAP MAGNET: DOnald Trump, shown at a Republican Party of Arkansas event Friday night, attracted more barbs in the Democrats' speeches than anyone else

'OHHHHHHHH-MALLEY!' The former Maryland governor had supporters out in force on the streets of Cedar Rapids on July 17

By the time he demanded a $15.00/hour minimum wage from coast to coast, people were listening.

This was a different O'Malley, a man confident of his bona fides and unintimidated by the Clinton juggernaut.

Even his fiery critique of Trump and 'his racist, hate-filled comments,' although not new, rang as more authentic.

O'Malley mocked the Republican presidential field for being divided on whether or not Trump's charges about 'rapists' and 'murderers' coming north from Mexico were correct.

'Divided?' he asked. 'As in, "not sure he's wrong?"'

'If Donald Trump wants to run on a platform of demonizing immigrants, he should go back to the 1840s and run for the nomination of the Know-Nothing Party.'

Sanders, too, brought down the house in a way that the more canned, rehearsed, polished, and telepromptered Clinton couldn't manage.

'Please don't think small. Think big!' he urged a crowd, hinting that Clinton's brand of Democratic politics should be seen as too much of a margin-trimming exercise.

'Given the reality of economics and politics in America today,' Sanders began, 'no president, not the best, can bring about the changes we need in this country unless there is a political revolution.'

Sanders, 73, is known for a nakedly populist message rooted in 1960s socialism: He has labeled himself a 'democratic socialist' and is only running for the Democrats' nomination out of convenience.

'The powers that be in Washington,' he barked, 'the billionaire cliques, the Koch brothers, the lobbyists, the corporate interests, are so powerful that nothing will get done unless millions of people stand up and loudly proclaim "Enough is enough! This country belongs to all of us and not a handful of billionaires".'

'Preach!' yelled one man at a table near the back.

POPULAR POPULIST: Bernie Sanders posed for selfies with fans as the evening began

FOUR YEARS: Martin O'Malley made his pitch for a full White House term, speaking after Clinton and making the room forget about her

'Income inequality is the great moral issue of our time,' said Sanders, the aging Vermont senator who has never shied away from class-warfare rhetoric.

'There is something profoundly wrong with the top one-tenth of one per cent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent. ... Enough is enough. That has got to end, and together we will end it.'

At times shouting so loud that he spat, Sanders forcefully demanded a 'Medicare for all single-payer program' that would declare medical care a human right in the United States.

A minimum wage increase to an unspecified 'living wage' was also on his menu, along with a massive government jobs program to rebuild crumbling U.S. bridges, highways, dams and ports.

'There is more than enough work to do. Let's rebuild our infrastructure!' he yelled.

Sanders pledged two things, while saying he would make few promises on the campaign trail.

He would nominate only Supreme Court justices who agreed to strike down a ruling that opened the floodgates of money into American politics, he said.

'"Citizens United" must be overturned,' Sanders boomed, a withered fist shaking.

And he promised to youthful hoots and hollers that he would 'make certain that every public college and university in America is tuition-free.'

To drive the point home, he announced that he had invited 'seven or eight' recent college graduates to sit at his table, each with massive student loan balances hanging over their heads – 'more than $1 million' in all.

Two other hopefuls, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, bookended the evening with paler versions of what came in between.
NOT ENOUGH: The campaign begins Saturday for Clinton, who has ground to reclaim after she took the bronze on Friday

BOLD: Clinton's crowd marched from her pep rally to the Iowa Democratic Party's annual banquet

Chafee, a mild-mannered and short-winded speaker, ironically drew first blood of a polite sort, pointing out that he voted against a Senate resolution authorizing President George W. Bush's war in Iraq.

Left unsaid was that Clinton voted for it when she was a senator from New York.

Praising the Obama administration's nuclear bargain with Iran, Chafee bashed 'bellicose Republicans' for rattling their sabers.

'We need to reject once and for all the belligerent advocates of conflict,' he said. 'Avoiding war is worth every bit of our energy.'

Later, Webb took the opposite tack, saying he wouldn't have inked the deal with Tehran that Obama announced on Tuesday.

'I am still looking with some concern, some great concern,' he said.

'I would not as president sign any executive agreement establishing a long-term relationship with Iran if it in any way tips the balance of power ... and particularly if it accepts Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.'

Webb appeared to be a non-factor, receiving his only genuine cheers when he defended labor unions.

'Organized labor is not the enemy,' Webb said, his calm and analytic tone a tremendous come-down from Sanders' human loudspeaker.

But fewer people heard him: a line of dinner guests streamed to the exits after Sanders had finished.

Webb did draw chuckles by noting that 'I'm the only person ever elected to statewide office with a union card, two Purple Hearts and three tattoos.'

And he expressed great sympathy for immigrants, noting that his third wife escaped Vietnam with her entire extended family when communists rose to power.

But ultimately, he ended his speech before the allotted 15 minutes were up – and spun the remaining 1 minute and 20 seconds as a virtue.

Clinton, O'Malley and Sanders all ignored the red light that signaled they should sit down.

The Republican Party has a far deeper bench for 2016 than the Democrats, fielding three basketball teams' worth of would-be presidents, and it's unclear who will emerge from the scrum next year.

JUGGERNAUT: Hillary Clinton's poll numbers put her far and away ahead of every other Democrat who wants to win the White House, but that could change quickly – at least in Iowa

But the Democrats began the night in America's first primary caucus state with a prayer that it won't much matter.

Ako Abdul-Samad, a Muslim member of the state legislature, delivered an invocation that included a request for the almighty – to show Iowans that Republicans 'don't know what they're talking about.'

The crowd chuckled in mid-prayer.

Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, speaking at the top of the program, proclaimed: 'I think this is the official kickoff to the Iowa Caucuses.'

Opinion polls have been kind to Clinton. A polling average calculated by Real Clear Politics shows her with more than a 40-point lead over Sanders, her nearest rival. And she has never come close to trailing anyone else in the Democratic field.

Sanders, though, has so far made the biggest splash of any anti-Hillary hopeful in the race, drawing thousands of progressive voters at a time.

Hillary's 'kick off rally' in Cedar Rapids on Friday afternoon drew a loosely-packed crowd of young campaign volunteers wearing t-shirts, waving signs and chanting slogans.

ALSO-RAN: Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee impressed no one as he calmly asked Iowa Democrats to support him in next year's statewide caucuses

ALSO ALSO-RAN: Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb dissed President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal and lost some of the audience before he even began

Some other voters who weren't attached to Clinton's Iowa machine, though, said they came for the free pizza.

There was also beer and wine available, for a price. Reporters were told to find a water fountain, and kept away from the pizza by steel barriers.

Meanwhile O'Malley's volunteers gathered on street corners waving signs and shouting for cars to honk. As Clinton's supporters walked from her rally to the evening venue, the two crowds clashed.

Shouting matches ensued. Hoots and hollers were heard. Sloganeering devolved into cacophony.

None of Friday's speakers mentioned any of the others by name, likely disappointing some Democrats streaming into the Cedar Rapids Convention Center who said they came to see the candidates challenge each other.

'Especially Hillary,' said Ed from Waterloo, Iowa, who asked not to publish his last name. 'I really want some of these guys to test her.'

'The last thing we need is a primary that's over before it starts, and then we find out we picked the wrong horse to ride.'

Another attendee, an elderly woman, was overheard talking to a male companion in the long line of ticket-holders leading to metal detectors and Secret Service screening.

'Well, we're gonna see 'em all, ain't we?' she said.

'Maybe there'll be some blood on the floor. We sure need to see some punches flying if we're going to beat the hell out of Jeb Bush.'