Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm From The Government and I'm Here To Help!

Sweet Tammy's is now in Whole Foods Pittsburgh.

In the last few months demand for Sweet Tammy's products has begun to spread and their ability to meet demand has now become a problem but a good one. Sweet Tammy's is now in a position to meet this demand by bringing on board labor saving equipment that expands their production capability ten fold.

2011 could be the year that Sweet Tammy's established themselves as a local success, a regional potential success headed toward a national one.

A superb product, indefatigable effort, sound consulting advice and learning from mistakes is the formula that all small businesses must go through but it can happen.
Dennis Ross appears at a J Street Forum and disappoints them because he failed to give them anti-Israeli fodder.

J Street is a hapless organization of neophytes duped by those who fund it - Soros et al.(See 1 below.)

More sound advice. (See 1a below.)
Economist Mark Zandi, offers encouraging forecast. (See 2 below.)
The Wall Street Journal has a lead editorial that tracks what I wrote yesterday.

Yes, Americans are finally finding out what unions are all about and how they have been allowed to muscle and bully their way into the public arena.

Now that they have done so unions claim they have a right to continue wrecking the economies of states that have yielded to their bludgeoning and greed. (See 3 below.)
My friend, Bret Stephens, has written a brilliant op ed pointing out that leaderless revolutions are not the answer and cites George Washington's decision to place victory over personality. (See 4 below.)
If you intuitively knew government bloat was a problem we now have a GAO study that just begins to touch the surface. Duplication, waste and incompetence is the hall mark of far too many government efforts which wind up wrecking everything it touches.

I' m from the government and I'm here to help you - oh yeah!(See 5 below.)
Will Egypt and Israel maintain their relationship and be able to build upon it ion the future? (See 6 below.)
Obama has reached a pinnacle. He has become the big turn off! (See 7 below.)
Iran to build permanent naval base in Syria.

Obama needs to pick up the pace of talking with the Syrians because it has been so effective. (See 8 below.)
Has Israel perfected a defense against anti-tank missiles in the guise of 'Windbreaker?' (See 9 below.)
Are Americans mature enough for adult talk? I believe they are and always have been but too few politicians ever tried. (See 10 below.)
1)Dennis Ross disappoints J Street
By Jennifer Rubin

The administration's chief Middle East adviser Dennis Ross went to the J Street confab. It was an odd assignment, given that J Street, in concert with the pro-Iranian-regime NIAC had conspired to try to prevent his appointment. The applause greeting him was slight, almost imperceptible.

Ross in some clever ways communicated to J Street that its agenda and strategy are out of touch with reality. J Street perpetrates the myth that Israel, and specifically Israel's settlements, are the center of most if not all woes in the region. He, however, didn't mention "Israel" for the vast majority of his address and never referred to "settlements." Instead, he explained that the main issue in the Middle East is the toppling of autocratic regimes. He told the group that from "Algeria to Yemen" pressure is coming from the people of the Middle East. Using a term the left likes to apply to Israel's possession of the West Bank, Ross said that the old autocratic regimes are "unsustainable." Granted, his address was exceedingly dull and delivered in a monotone, but one couldn't ignore the utter silence -- indifference, perhaps -- when the topics of freedom, revolutionary change, and Muslim despots were discussed. And when he stressed the need for Muslim states to focus on internal reform without blaming Israel, the crowd, again, seemed not to notice or care that he was ridiculing J Street's own obsession with Israel and its settlements. (He, of course, tried some historical revisionism, explaining how the administration had been pressing Egypt for reforms from the beginning.)

When Ross did get around to Israel the bulk of his comments were about the U.S.-Israel military relationship. He declared that the administration's "fundamental principle is an unshakable commitment to Israel's security." Applause was tepid. (Not what this crowd paid to hear.) He asserted, "There has never been a time when the security relationship has been stronger. And that's a fact." Again, only very brief applause.

At the tail end of the speech, he finally got to the peace process, saying the "status quo was unsustainable." That got the crowd mildly excited, for now he might be getting around to their main goal -- hammering Israel. But alas, he declared, "There is no substitute for a negotiated peace." Dead silence. (You can see the thought bubbles: "Where does this guy think he is -- AIPAC?)

In his wind-up, he got around to Iran. He noted the "irony" of the regime taking credit for events in Egypt. (He muffed the line and instead said "taking credit for Iran.") And on Iran's nuclear program, he gave the Obama-approved squishy line, saying we are determined to try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

With near-comic timing, the J Street host the immediately asked Ross whether it wasn't time for an American "initiative" (i.e. an imposed peace deal) to resolve the Palestinian conflict. As a trained diplomat, Ross resisted the urge to respond, "Weren't you listening?" Instead, he said the administration is "working in a different direction" (as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out in a speech in November), namely talking separately with the parties. He cautioned that the "preoccupation" of the region is the relationship between the "rulers and the ruled."

The host tried again, asking if it wasn't time to publicly make a proposal. Once more, Ross explained what the administration was doing (private, quiet talks). He was asked about the Palestinians' unilateral attempts to obtain recognition. Ross said firmly, "Unilateral moves are not going to produce an agreement." He said the U.N. was "not the forum" for these discussions. Dead silence.

Last year, the administration sent National Security Adviser James Jones to J Street. This year the representative was a step lower in the White House hierarchy. Moreover, he gave the crowd no fodder for its Israel-bashing and zero indication he shared its agenda.

I suppose next year the administration could send an intern (continuing the downward spiral of respect). But it's an election year, so the Obama team might wise up and send no one, for fear that the administration's decision to speak before a group infamous for its dishonest finances and enthralled with public bashing of Israel might undermine its own "pro-Israel" credentials. But, then again, J Street -- if it is still around -- might not want to have someone who is going to undermine, rather than parrot, its talking points.

1a)Editorial On The National Anthem At The Super Bowl
Joe Albero

So, with all the kindness I can muster, I give this one piece of advice to
the next pop star who is asked to sing the national anthem at a sporting
event: save the vocal gymnastics and the physical gyrations for your
concerts. Just sing this song the way you were taught to sing it in
kindergarten - straight up, no styling. Sing it with the constant awareness
that there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines watching you from bases
and outposts all over the world. Don't make them cringe with your
self-centered ego gratification. Sing it as if you are standing before a row
of 86-year-old WWII vets wearing their Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and flag
pins on their cardigans and you want them to be proud of you for honoring
them and the country they love - not because you want them to think you are
a superstar musician. They could see that from the costumes, the makeup and
the entourages. Sing "The Star Spangled Banner" with the courtesy and
humility that tells the audience that it is about America, not you.
2)Zandi: Risk of Widespread Muni Defaults Near ‘Zero’

Dire warnings about impending defaults in the municipal-bond market are overblown, an economist and analyst told a group of the nation’s governors.

The risk of a major default or round of defaults is “close to zero,” Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said during a panel session at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington.

“I think that the very loud hand-wringing over the prospects for major municipal-bond defaults is entirely misplaced,” Zandi said.

Thomas Doe, founder and chief executive officer of Concord, Massachusetts-based Municipal Market Advisors, said he has seen nothing to change his view that general-obligation debt at both the state and local level is secure.

“I don’t want to be Pollyanna about it,” Doe told the governors. “I have great confidence in you all, the markets do have confidence in you as well, and the informed investor, the institutional investor, understands that your debt is good.”

Speculation about the possibility of widespread municipal- bond defaults intensified in recent months after Meredith Whitney, the banking analyst who attracted attention for correctly predicting Citigroup Inc.’s 2008 dividend cut, said last month that “hundreds of billions” of municipal bonds may default this year as a result of the financial strains. Her analysis drew criticism from investors and state officials such as California Treasurer Bill Lockyer who said Whitney’s analysis was flawed and her estimates too high.

Zandi, speaking during a meeting of the National Governors Association’s Economic Development and Commerce Committee, said he’s optimistic about the prospects for economic growth during the next year after the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

Zandi predicts that the nation will add about 1.25 million private-industry jobs during the next year, and he expects the U.S. unemployment rate of 9 percent in January to fall to about 8 percent by the end of 2012.

“Most industries are rolling in cash,” he said. “It’s really, in my mind, no longer a question of, ‘Can businesses invest and hire more aggressively?’ It’s really a question of their willingness, and that’s a very important distinction.”

Zandi said that “the coast is not clear” because of 4 million first mortgage loans in foreclosure nationwide and rising energy prices. He also said that despite his forecast for job growth, he expects about 250,000 state and local government employees will be fired during the next year.

States are seeking to close budget deficits that may total $175 billion during the next two years, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, the Democrat who heads the National Governors Association, said yesterday.

Zandi’s comments prompted Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to say that the foreclosures and oil prices “are of a dimension that’s liable to keep things frozen as unfortunately they have been in terms of business investment and expansion.”

“I’m going to try to cheer you up, governor,” Zandi replied. He said energy prices are unpredictable but an encouraging sign is that 30-day, 60-day and 90-day delinquencies on first-home mortgages are falling nationwide.

“A year from now, the fiscal situation will look measurably better,” Zandi said.

The association’s annual meeting, which began yesterday, concludes tomorrow after the governors meet at the White House with President Barack Obama and members of his cabinet.
3)A Union Education
What Wisconsin reveals about public workers and political power.

The raucous Wisconsin debate over collective bargaining may be ugly at times, but it has been worth it for the splendid public education. For the first time in decades, Americans have been asked to look under the government hood at the causes of runaway spending. What they are discovering is the monopoly power of government unions that have long been on a collision course with taxpayers. Though it arrived in Madison first, this crack-up was inevitable.

We first started running the nearby chart on the trends in public and private union membership many years ago. It documents the great transformation in the American labor movement over the latter decades of the 20th century. A movement once led by workers in private trades and manufacturing evolved into one dominated by public workers at all levels of government but especially in the states and cities.

The trend is even starker if you go back a decade earlier. In 1960, 31.9% of the private work force belonged to a union, compared to only 10.8% of government workers. By 2010, the numbers had more than reversed, with 36.2% of public workers in unions but only 6.9% in the private economy.

...The sharp rise in public union membership in the 1960s and 1970s coincides with the movement to give public unions collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin was the first state to provide those rights in 1959, other states followed, and California became the biggest convert in 1978 under Jerry Brown in his first stint as Governor. President Kennedy let some federal workers organize (though not collectively bargain) for the first time in 1962, a gambit to win union support for his re-election after his cliffhanger victory in 1960.

It's important to understand how revolutionary this change was. For decades as the private union movement rose in power, even left-of-center politicians resisted collective bargaining for public unions. We've previously mentioned FDR and Fiorello La Guardia. But George Meany, the legendary AFL-CIO president during the Cold War, also opposed the right to bargain collectively with the government.

Why? Because unlike in the private economy, a public union has a natural monopoly over government services. An industrial union will fight for a greater share of corporate profits, but it also knows that a business must make profits or it will move or shut down. The union chief for teachers, transit workers or firemen knows that the city is not going to close the schools, buses or firehouses.

This monopoly power, in turn, gives public unions inordinate sway over elected officials. The money they collect from member dues helps to elect politicians who are then supposed to represent the taxpayers during the next round of collective bargaining. In effect union representatives sit on both sides of the bargaining table, with no one sitting in for taxpayers. In 2006 in New Jersey, this led to the preposterous episode in which Governor Jon Corzine addressed a Trenton rally of thousands of public workers and shouted, "We will fight for a fair contract." He was promising to fight himself.

Thus the collision course with taxpayers. Public unions depend entirely on tax revenues to fund their pay and benefits. They thus have every incentive to elect politicians who favor higher taxes and more government spending. The great expansion of state and local spending followed the rise of public unions.

Professors Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo point out that even during the Reagan years, growth in state and local government jobs was double the rate of population growth. The effect on the private economy is a second order problem for public unions, as we've seen from the recession's far more damaging impact on private than on public workers.

Current AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka has tried to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's reforms as an attack on all unions, but they clearly are not. If anything, by reining in public union power, Mr. Walker is trying to protect private workers of all stripes from the tax increases that will eventually have to finance larger government. Regarding public finances, the interests of public union workers and those of private union taxpayers are in direct conflict. Mr. Walker is the better friend of the union manufacturing worker in Oshkosh than is Mr. Trumka.

Notice, too, how fiercely the public unions are willing to fight for collective bargaining power even if it means public job layoffs. Without Mr. Walker's budget reforms, Wisconsin will have to begin laying off thousands of workers as early as today. The unions would rather give up those jobs—typically for their younger members—than give up their political negotiating advantages. They know some future Governor or legislature will get those jobs back, as long as they retain their inordinate political clout.

This is the imbalance of political power that Mr. Walker is trying to break up, and he is right to do so. As important, the public in Wisconsin and around the U.S. seems to be listening and absorbing his message. The cause has been helped by the sit-ins and shouting of union members, the threats toward politicians who disagree with them, and by the flight of Democratic state senators to undisclosed locations in Illinois. It's hard to claim you're protecting democracy when you won't show up to vote. Taxpayers need to win the battle of Wisconsin for the sake of self-government.
4)Is There an Arab George Washington? Most revolutions trace a familiar arc from euphoria to terror.

On learning that George Washington intended to follow up his victory at Yorktown by retiring to his farm at Mount Vernon, George III told the painter Benjamin West: "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." The British monarch may have wound up stark raving mad, but he knew a thing or two about the seductions of power.

We celebrate Washington today as the greatest of the founding fathers. But the fame he gained during his lifetime owed mainly to his willingness to relinquish the vast powers he had repeatedly been granted, and which were his for the keeping. That's a rarity in the history of revolutions, in which the distance from liberation to despotism—from euphoria to terror—is usually short. The French Revolution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man. It very nearly ended in an extinction of those rights.

The uprisings now sweeping the Arab world threaten to retrace that familiar arc. Consider the irony of last month's massive protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Until Egypt's corrupt but tolerant monarchy was overthrown in 1952, the square was known as Midan El-Ismailiya after Ismail Pasha, the great 19th-century Egyptian Westernizer. It became Liberation Square only after Gamal Abdel Nasser's 1952 coup, yet another calamitous revolution that began brightly with promises of democracy.

Now we're being told that this time it's different. A day after the demonstrators began to gather on Tahrir Square last month, an Egyptian friend of mine—a former independent member of parliament with close ties to the secular opposition—explained that difference: "It's a revolution without papas," he told me. No Nasser, no Ben Bella, no Arafat, just ordinary people in their millions demanding their long-denied civil and political rights.

I'd love to think that my friend is right. And there's no shortage of pop-political philosophy explaining how in our networked, horizontal, spontaneously organizing era of Facebook and Twitter, there's no longer a need for credible leaders or effective political parties. Just click the install button on People Power 3.0 and the program will run itself.

Yet until technology recasts human nature, human nature will be what it always has been. And human nature abhors a leadership vacuum. When revolutions are successful, it's not that they have no "papas"; it's that they have good papas. So it was with Washington, or with Mandela—men of hard-earned and unmatched moral authority, steeped in the right values, who not only could defeat their adversaries but rein in the tempers of their own followers.

What happens when revolutions don't have such leaders? The French Revolution is Exhibit A. Exhibit B might be Lebanon's Cedar Revolution of 2005, which took place following the assassination of the charismatic former premier Rafik Hariri. Millions of Lebanese poured into Beirut's Martyrs' Square on March 14 to demand the end of Syrian occupation. The Syrians obliged. Elections gave pro-Western groups clear majorities in parliament. The country seemed settled on a better course.

In May of that year I went to Lebanon to see things for myself. "Wherever I go here, the impression is of a people intent on making up for lost time, and determined never again to be dragged down by extremism," I wrote. "It is these Lebanese, one senses, and not Hezbollah, who are making the country anew, and who are doing so, at long last, in the absence of fear."

Re-reading those lines today, with Hezbollah in firm control of a puppet government and the various leaders of the March 14 movement murdered, dismembered or politically neutered, is enough to make me cringe.

But it's also a useful lesson in the limits of the very kind of people power now being celebrated in Egypt. It's not enough to be against, or to bring down, a hated regime. It's not even enough to be for something, at least in the sense in which the Arab world now seeks a freer and more representative political dispensation. What's required is the statesmanship that can give concrete form to a hazy political dream.

It would be nice to believe that this kind of statesmanship will emerge unbidden from decent quarters, which probably explains the fascination with Egyptian Google exec Wael Ghonim. But the perennial political problem is that good people usually lack political ambition. They cede the field to charlatans, romantics and jackals.

As Americans look at what is happening in the Middle East, it's natural that their sympathies should lie with the demonstrators. Natural, too, is the belief that movements consisting mainly of oppressed people in search of a better life will lead to decent regimes that care for those people. And maybe that will turn out to be true.

But also true is that America's revolutionary history was exceptional because we had a Washington while the French had a Robespierre and the Egyptians had a Nasser. We owe today's Arabs our optimism, and the benefit of the doubt. They owe themselves the real lessons of our example.
5)Billions in Bloat Uncovered in Beltway

WSJ's Damian Paletta discusses a GAO report that uncovers billions of dollars in wasteful spending by the U.S. government due to duplicate work done by dozens of agencies.

The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

These are a few of the findings in a massive study of overlapping and duplicative programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

A report from the nonpartisan GAO, to be released Tuesday, compiles a list of redundant and potentially ineffective federal programs, and it could serve as a template for lawmakers in both parties as they move to cut federal spending and consolidate programs to reduce the deficit. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), who pushed for the report, estimated it identifies between $100 billion and $200 billion in duplicative spending. The GAO didn't put a specific figure on the spending overlap.

GAO Report

The GAO examined numerous federal agencies, including the departments of defense, agriculture and housing and urban development, and pointed to instances where different arms of the government should be coordinating or consolidating efforts to save taxpayers' money.

The agency found 82 federal programs to improve teacher quality; 80 to help disadvantaged people with transportation; 47 for job training and employment; and 56 to help people understand finances, according to a draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Instances of ineffective and unfocused federal programs can lead to a mishmash of occasionally arbitrary policies and rules, the report said. It recommends merging or consolidating a number of programs to both save money and make the government more efficient.

"Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of tax dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services," the report said.

There have been multiple efforts to cull the number of federal programs in recent years, but they often run into opposition from lawmakers in both parties who rush to defend individual spending provisions. In fact, GAO's recommendations are often ignored or postponed by federal agencies and lawmakers, particularly when they could require difficult political votes.

The report says policy makers should consider creating a single food-safety agency because of a number of redundancies. The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that chicken eggs are "safe, wholesome, and properly labeled" while a division of the Department of Agriculture "is responsible for the safety of eggs processed into egg products."

Spokespeople for the Department of Agriculture and FDA pointed to the Obama administration's creation of the Food Safety Working Group, which works to better coordinate the government's regulators.

The report says there are 18 federal programs that spent a combined $62.5 billion in 2008 on food and nutrition assistance, but little is known about the effectiveness of 11 of these programs because they haven't been well studied.

The report took particular aim at government funding for surface transportation, including the building of roads and other projects, which the administration has made a major part of its push to update the country's infrastructure.

The report said five divisions within the Department of Transportation account for 100 different programs that fund things like highways, rail projects and safety programs.

One program that funnels transportation funds to the states "functions as a cash-transfer general-purpose grant program, rather than as a tool for pursuing a cohesive national transportation policy," the report said. Similarly, it chided the government over encouraging federal agencies to purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles while having policies that agencies reduce electricity consumption. It said government agencies have purchased numerous vehicles that run on alternative fuels only to find many gas stations don't sell alternative fuels. This has led government agencies to turn around and request waivers so they didn't have to use alternative fuels.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the president's budget for fiscal year 2012 "proposes to cut waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy by consolidating over 55 separate highway programs into five core programs, and by merging six transit programs into two programs."

.On teacher quality, the report identified 82 programs that often have similar descriptions and goals and are spread across 10 federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Nine of these programs are linked to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Fifty-three of the programs are relatively small, receiving $50 million or less, "and many have their own separate administrative processes."

The GAO highlighted 80 different economic development programs at the Department of Commerce, HUD, Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration, that spent a combined $6.5 billion last year and often overlapped. For example, the four agencies combined to have 52 different programs that fund "entrepreneurial efforts," 35 programs for infrastructure, and 26 programs for telecommunications. It said 60% of the programs fund only one or two activities, making them "the most likely to overlap because many of them can only fund the same limited types of activities."

Journal Communitydiscuss..“ Rather that cry about this as waste we should look at it as an opportunity to use the dollars spent today in a more efficient process, with a wider reach, instead of all of the overlap. It would not require firing anyone necessarily, just having them more focused. It is the administration of all of these separate groups that is "overhead" waste.

.—Sandra Schirmang.
The report took aim at several military programs, which could prove thorny because many lawmakers from both parties are wary to cut defense spending. It said there were 130,000 military and government medical professionals, 59 Defense Department hospitals and hundreds of clinics that could benefit from consolidating administrative, management and clinical functions.

For example, it said the government "may have developed duplicate" programs to counter improvised explosive devices, with the Marine Corps and the Army paying to develop similar "mine rollers." The Marine mine roller costs $85,000, and the Army mine roller costs $77,000 to $225,000. "Officials disagree about which system is most effective, and [the Pentagon] has not conducted comparative testing and evaluation of the two systems," the report said. The Pentagon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The GAO study was required by a provision inserted by Sen. Coburn into a law that raised the federal borrowing limit last year. This report is the first produced in response to the provision.
6)Assuaging Israel's Egypt Anxiety
After decades of cold peace, an uncertain future.

One of the jokes circulating during the first outbursts of protest in Egypt came from Israel: "Dear Egyptian rioters, please don't damage the pyramids. We will not rebuild. Thank you." The joke spoke to Jewish attitudes toward the land of their ancient enslavement, and it underscored the apprehension Israelis feel when considering the still unpredictable outcome of recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and beyond.

Whether Jews built the pyramids is debatable (most historians are skeptical). But there is no doubt that Jews in the 20th century helped conceive, build and finance many of the institutions, such as banks and hospitals, that ushered Egypt into the modern age. You wouldn't know it, however, since Hosni Mubarak, like Gamal Abdul Nasser before him, made certain that all signs of the Jewish presence were expunged from Egypt's memory.

Despite the 1978 Camp David Accords signed between Israel and Egypt, what Mr. Mubarak put in place after President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 was a frigid peace. Egypt did not go to war with Israel, but it spewed hostility across the border. For a price—namely American aid and the restitution of the Sinai peninsula—Egypt continued to sell natural gas to Israel, allowed Israeli ships to pass through the Suez Canal, and kept a semi-watchful eye on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip.

It allowed Israeli tourists to visit Egypt, but there were and are no cultural exchanges, no meaningful trade, nothing. Egyptians who dare to visit Israel are summarily blacklisted. Egyptians who wish to marry Israelis could have their Egyptian citizenship revoked.

Rather than seek ways to build friendship between both nations, Mr. Mubarak stoked the vilest forms of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda. For 30 years, an entire press and entertainment machinery made sure to distort anything having to do with Jews and Israel. Stoking Jewish hatred would never earn him an enemy in the Arab world, but it might certainly appease, let alone win over, some of the more religious or refractory members of Egyptian society.

The problem facing Israel today is not only the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood—which, despite all its claims of pacifism, seems committed to rescinding the 1978 peace treaty. It is a persistent and systematic policy that galvanized fierce nationalism, religious fervor, and virulent Israel-bashing. Each of these three, when pushed to the hilt, is dangerous enough. Commingled, the three are explosive.

Under Nasser, Egyptian nationalism was built on little more than pan-Arab irredentism and anti-Western and anti-Israeli sentiment. Mr. Mubarak retained these powerful brainwashers and allowed the rise of a religious component to further alienate Egyptians from liberal and democratic thinking. That the call for democracy is so loud in Egypt these days is a testament to the brilliance, courage and promise of Egypt's youth, who during the revolution were not distracted by the Israeli question. In the rousing words of one of them, they welcomed the day when Egypt finally woke up to dream again.

Understandably, however, Israel is worried. Will Egypt see that its real enemies since the deposition of King Farouk in 1952 have always been poverty, ignorance, repression, failing prospects for its youth, and a shameful record in human rights? Or will it slip back into fervent nationalism, religious zealotry, and anti-Semitism and in the process find itself saddled with an army man eager to re-energize his country by demonizing the usual Israeli suspect?

The opening of the Suez Canal to two Iranian warships does not bode well. Neither does radical Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi's ability to draw over a million Egyptians to hear him preach in Tahrir Square. Nor does last week's attack by the army on a Coptic monastery, or the brutal sexual assault on CBS News correspondent Lara Logan during the massive celebration of Mr. Mubarak's ouster. As a crowd of 200 men attacked her, it was widely reported that they screamed "Jew, Jew, Jew." (Ms. Logan is not Jewish.)

Israel is under no illusions, but it cannot afford to wait and see which way the wind blows as rebellion sweeps through the Middle East. Rather, it should seize the moment and show that it can bring about changes as momentous as those witnessed elsewhere in the region today.

That means striking an honorable deal with the Palestinians, vacating areas whose occupation is unjustifiable and allowing the Palestinians to have a country with a capital Israel learns to share. Israel must show its Arab neighbors that it can up the ante on their revolution and produce the long-awaited miracle of peace in the Middle East.

Israel and Egypt need to turn back the clock 33 years to that utopian moment when, for a period of three or so years, the doors between the countries were wide open—when friendship and trust was not quixotic business, and when good will more than good fences made for good neighbors.

Egypt wants to be young again. Israel must show it never grew old. Egypt wants to wake up and dream again. Israel must learn to dream though it cannot sleep.

Mr. Aciman teaches comparative literature at the City University of New York and is the author of, among other works, "Out of Egypt: A Memoir" (Picador, 2007).
7)President Obama's Yawning Heights
By Robert Morrison

Aleksandr Zinoviev wrote a book under the old Soviet Union called The Yawning Heights. He used it to describe, almost obscenely, the speeches of Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev. The Russian words for "glistening" and "yawning" are very close and with Comrade Leonid's drunken slurring, "the glistening heights of socialism" to which he was forever summoning his chained peoples came out "yawning heights."

President Obama is surely no drunk. And we are not yet a captive people. But President Obama is also a bore. It's not his fault. It's socialism's fault. Irish poet Oscar Wilde was once asked what he thought of world socialism. Wilde archly replied: "I think it would consume too many evenings." He was right about that.

Socialism politicizes everything -- literature, medicine, science, law, education, culture, religion, sports, all of life. And that ultimately makes socialism a crushing bore. President Obama is finding that tens of millions of Americans have tuned him out as he summons us to the heights. His audience for the State of the Union Address is down 18% this year over his first year.

Part of this is his speechwriter, a 29-year old who seems never to have had any contact with literature, American history, poetry, or the Bible. The speeches he crafts for this president are textbook examples of ennui.

Two million people gathered two years ago on the Mall to hear President Obama take the Oath of Office. It was assuredly an historic moment. But now, barely 25 months later, can anyone-supporter or opponent-recall a single memorable line from Inaugural Address? "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America." He said that?

Mr. Obama has also suffered from the 24/7 news cycle. Franklin Roosevelt "Fireside Chats" were offered sparingly. FDR knew the presidency was a precious national resource and he did not squander it. His major speeches were carefully crafted for maximum effect.

Compare Mr. Obama at Normandy with President Ronald Reagan at the same location twenty-five years earlier. Reagan spoke movingly of "the Boys of Pointe du Hoc"-our heroic Rangers-in cadences that gave echoes of Henry V and Gettysburg.

Mr. Obama was said by Newsweek's Evan Thomas to hover over the nations at Normandy "like a god." Awesome, but what did he say there?

Hand our leader a foreign crisis -- like Libya. What does the president have to say about that? "This violence is unacceptable." We don't need a $400,000-a-year Commander-in-Chief and his $172,000-a-year speechwriter to tell us that.

He's not the only war leader, by the way, with this problem. For all the hoopla about the movie, The King's Speech, I doubt that any ticket-buyers can quote a single line of that much labored over radio address. His Majesty overcomes his stammer, by the Grace of God, but brings forth a rhetorical mouse.

Mr. Obama is still a charismatic figure. He has a deep and sonorous voice. He shares this much with FDR, CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow, and Hollywood star Humphrey Bogart. Those smokers all had wonderful speaking voices. The way he speaks would be truly marvelous-if he had anything interesting to say.

Because Mr. Obama is boring does not mean he will not be re-elected. The media will do its best to puff anything he says or does. And the GOP is making noises about the "charisma of competence." Read in that "adventures in accounting."

Try to imagine a scintillating evening in the company of Richard Nixon. Listen to those tapes, if you dare. Jerry Ford may have taken the prize as the most boring president, but he came within a whisker of being re-elected in 1976. He was up against Jimmy Carter, however, who is nobody's idea of a stimulating conversationalist.

Gov. Mitch Daniels wants us all to get over Ronald Reagan. Part of Reagan's appeal to Americans in general and to conservatives in particular is that he was a Great Communicator. He modestly said it had been his privilege to communicate great ideas. He quoted the Founders more than any of the four presidents before him. And more than any of the four presidents who came after him. Maybe the reason Reagan was so great is that he didn't think himself great.

When Ted Kennedy toasted Democratic Wise Man, Averell Harriman, the Massachusetts pol said Harriman at ninety was not so old: "Averell, you are only half as old as Ronald Reagan's ideas." All the liberal partygoers roared their approval.

President Reagan graciously responded to the jibe with thanks to the senator. "The Constitution is almost two hundred years old, and that's where I get all my ideas," the president said. Reagan was winsome, witty, and wise. He was never a bore. And we'll never get over our need to such a leader.

Robert Morrison works at the Family Research Council.
8) Iran to build permanent naval base in Syria

Two days after two Iranian warships reached the Syrian port of Latakia via the Suez Canal, Friday, Feb. 25, an Iranian-Syrian naval cooperation accord was signed providing for Iran to build its first Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port, military and Iranian sources reveal.

The base will include a large Iranian Revolutionary Guards weapons depot stocked with hardware chosen by the IRGC subject to prior notification to Damascus. Latakia harbor will be deepened, widened and provided with new "coastal installations" to accommodate the large warships and submarines destined to use these facilities.

Iran has much to celebrate, military sources report. It has acquired its first military foothold on a Mediterranean shore and its first permanent military presence on Syrian soil. Tehran will be setting in place the logistical infrastructure for accommodating incoming Iranian troops to fight in a potential Middle East war.

According to our sources, the "cadets" the Kharg cruiser, one of the two Iranian warships allowed to transit the Suez Canal, was said to be carrying were in fact the first construction crews for building the new port facilities.
Two more events were carefully synchronized to take place in the same week.

On Feb. 24, as the Iranian warships headed from the Suez Canal to Syria, Hamas fired long-range made-in-Iran Grade missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one hitting the main Negev city of Beersheba for the first time since Israel's Gaza campaign two years ago. Tehran was using its Palestinian surrogate to flaunt its success in getting its first warships through the Suez Canal in the face of Israeli protests. The Iranians were also parading their offensive agenda in deploying warships on the Mediterranean just 287 kilometers north of Israel's northernmost coastal town of Nahariya.

The second occurrence was a contract announced by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov for the sale of advanced Russian shore-to-sea cruise missiles to Syria. The Yakhont missile system has a range of 300 kilometers and skims the waves low enough to be undetected by radar. Military sources take this sale as representing Moscow's nod in favor of the new Iranian base at Latakia, 72 kilometers from the permanent naval base Russia is building at the Syrian port of Tartous.

The Russians are willing to contribute towards the Iranian port's defenses and looking forward to cooperation between the Russian, Iranian and Syrian fleets in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the US Sixth Fleet's regular beat.

This unfolding proximity presents the United States with a serious strategic challenge and Israel with a new peril, which was nonetheless dismissed out of hand by Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak. In a radio interview Monday, Feb. 28, he brushed aside the Iranian warships' passage through the Suez as "an outing for cadets" which did not require an Israeli response. He added, "For now, there is no operational threat to Israel."

According to Barak, the Suez Canal is open to all of the world's warships and the two Iranian vessels' transit could not have been prevented. He omitted to explain how Egypt did prevent it for 30 years and why it was permitted now. The defense minister went on to speak of "fresh signs that President Bashar Assad is willing to resume peace talks with Israel."

Both Barak's assessments were knocked down by Damascus on the same day.

Syrian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Ali Mohammad Habib soon put him right on the "cadets' outing." At a ceremony in honor of the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Habib said: "Iranian warships' presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time after 32 years is a great move that is going to cripple Israel."
9)IDF armor-defense system foils attack on tank for first time
The Me'il Ruach (Windbreaker) system, marketed abroad under the name Trophy, successfully stopped an antitank missile fired from Gaza.
By Amos Harel

The Israel Defense Forces Armored Corps successfully operated its new armor-defense system for the first time on Tuesday, defending a tank from an antitank missile attack on the Gaza border.

On Tuesday afternoon, an antitank missile was fired at a Merkava 4 tank on the border with the Gaza Strip, near Kibbutz Nir Oz in the western Negev. The tank crew then activated the new defense system, Me'il Ruach (Windbreaker), and successfully foiled the attack.

The "Windbreaker" armor-defense system first made its field debut two months ago, after antitank missiles were seen used by Palestinian militants from Gaza, as well as following a strike on an IDF tank with an antitank missile.

Produced by Rafael, "Windbreaker" is an active armor defense system that is being marketed abroad under the name Trophy. The system employs sensors and radar to identify an incoming missile, and dispatches interceptor missiles which neutralize the hostile weapon before it can strike the tank.

The decision to develop the system followed the experience of the Second Lebanon War, in which a number of tanks were damaged by advanced anti-tank missiles fired by Hezbollah guerrillas.

Several groups in the Gaza Strip are known to hold hundreds of different antitank missiles, and the growing ability of Gaza militants to use these missiles may force the IDF to change its combat doctrine on the Gaza border, in order to reduce its exposure to the antitank missiles.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------10)Walker, Christie Talking Like Adults on Budget
By Gene Healy

"An adult conversation" -- that's what we need to have about spending, President Obama proclaimed at a Feb. 15 presser. The president's hardly the first to use that cloying, self-congratulatory phrase: so many House Republicans mouthed it in November that Jon Stewart put together a "Daily Show" montage on the theme.
It's Washington's favorite sound bite these days. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., even called for having "an adult conversation" about prostitution in Nevada (I'm pretty sure you can't have any other kind).

There's something cringe-inducing about this sort of rhetoric: It's just shy of announcing that you've decided to put on your "big-boy pants." One would like to think that, among adults, an "adult conversation" goes without saying. And, like "let me speak frankly, here," the phrase smacks of an admission that, up till now, you were just shining us on.

Still, if being an adult requires acknowledging reality, taking responsibility, and living within your means, we've got a very long way to go on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and among the public at large.

A new survey released the same week as Obama's press conference shows that, among the general public, "cutting government spending may be popular, but there is little appetite for cutting specific government programs."

The Harris polling firm showed more than 5,000 adults a list of 20 categories of federal spending. There was majority support only for cutting six of them, "and these do not include the big ticket items that comprise most of the federal budget."

What areas are Americans willing to cut? Foreign aid, the space program, subsidies to business, and welfare programs. From the perspective of the average middle-class voter, this is "other people's money."

Eighty percent of respondents opposed cuts to Social Security, 67 percent rejected cuts to health care, and more opposed defense cuts than favored them. Is it any wonder that so many alleged "austerity" plans leave these three categories -- almost two-thirds of the federal budget -- off the table?

The Harris poll shows that most Americans either don't know, or are unwilling to accept, the fact that our budget crisis can't be solved without major cuts in benefits to middle-class voters.

Interestingly, at the state level, where governors can't print money and actually have to balance budgets, that disconnect is far less pronounced. Blue-state Republican governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and New Jersey's Chris Christie are surviving -- and may well win -- their fights with public employee unions.

At a state firefighters' convention in Wildwood recently, Christie got lustily booed. He gave it right back: "For 20 years, governors have come into this room and lied to you, promised you benefits that they had no way of paying for." I can understand why you feel deceived, he said, but "Why are you booing the first guy who came in here and told you the truth?"

As someone who grew up in New Jersey, I find it disorienting to hear a Garden State Republican talk like that. The few GOP governors of my youth were genteel WASPs who seemed to consider it gauche to mention cuts. I loved the place, but considered it the densest state in the union in more ways than one.

Yet today, most New Jersey voters aren't booing: Only 27 percent have a positive view of teachers unions, and Christie's popularity remains above 50 percent.

We're far from an "adult conversation" at the federal level just yet. But Walker and Christie are showing that, when the pinch comes, such a conversation is possible.

Examiner Columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and the author of "The Cult of the Presidency."

Nation Is Getting a Front Seat at How Unions Work!

Jury still out regarding how Egypt's Revolution will end. It6 could end in a way that is most unappealing to all concerned. (See 1 below.)
David Harris discusses the similarities among President Chavez, Prime Minister Erdogan,President Morales, and President Ortega, and concludes their actions of late border on hypocrisy. Their professed claims have proven shallow.(See 2 below.)
Democrats, Unions and Obama believe it is their right to win at any price. They claim their rights are being taken away yet, they do not believe anyone else should have rights.

I have often written when a Liberal idea is resisted and/orchallenged, like a child, far too often they become petulant and ill of humor.

Wisconsin is a battleground and if the intemperate win one more nail will have been driven into our nation's coffin. Our undertaker president has buried us in debt now the unions want to do the same.

Public workers should not have the same right to collective bargaining as private workers because it gives them far too much power to influence the political environment.

By laundering outsized salaries and pension benefits into political contributions public unions are able to buy unwarranted political influence.

Public unions claim their rights supersede - that's their message and anyone who challenges their brutishness must be aware that unions goons, and even this president, have no desire to obey laws. (See 3 and 3a below.)
Is Obama ready to go to war against Qaddafi? (See 4 below.)

But then viewed from another perspective Obama seems more willing to punt the ball to the Europeans. (See 4a below.)

Meanwhile Jordan's King is getting an ear full. Tribal leaders are telling the young King there are too many Palestinians. What goes around comes around. The King's father heard the same and set about killling about 15,000 of them in a week. (See 4 below.)
Chris Christie keeps knocking the cover off the ball by responding clearly and patiently to questions that media folks are stupid enough to continue asking. (See 5 below.)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1) The Tricky Business of Revolution
By Elliot Chodoff

Revolutions capture our imaginations and inspire us, but they make for tricky business. To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s saying about war, people may know how to start one, but nobody knows how it will turn out. The uprisings in Egypt and Libya provide good cases in point. Lots of democratic fervor, aging dictators who have ruled by emergency regulations for three or four decades, and closed corrupt economic systems that benefitted close cronies of the regime provided the ingredients for textbook-style popular eruptions that have ignited the enthusiasm of the Western media. If we follow the enthusiastic reports coming out of Cairo, we are on the verge of a brave, new Egypt, and, with Tunisia down, the Libyan uprising boiling, along with Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, and who-knows-where-next, perhaps a new, free Middle East as well. If only it were so bright, clear, and simple.

Revolutionaries are romantically admirable characters, representing the weak and downtrodden against oppressive and self-serving regimes. They risk liberty, life, and limb to stand up for their rights and those of their fellow citizens, opposing leaders who often respond violently before being overthrown. Furthermore, many revolutions fail, with the would-be revolutionaries killed, jailed, or scattered and hiding for fear of reprisals. Failed revolutions are often followed by minor concessions and reforms, along with severe crackdowns on liberties by the regime’s security services.

Unfortunately, success brings its own problems, since it is far easier to tear down rotten, oppressive regime structures than it is to build new, clean, democratic ones. Moreover, the interim chaos provides sterling opportunities for those who wish to hijack the process and use it to their own benefit.

In the struggle for control of the new regime, organization skills and infrastructure, singularity of purpose, and willingness to use violence are premium assets. Thus a small, well organized, ideological movement has a significant advantage in the early competition. A charismatic leader, whether religious or merely ideological, may emerge from the wings, or preferably from exile, to guide the nascent “republic” along its path to freedom.

Sometimes, the new rulers co-opt the revolutionary naïfs and use them to ease their way to power, in the name of the people, freedom, and the revolution. Those who persist in opposition to the lofty goals of the new power-wielders are likely to be rounded up, incarcerated, and executed. Having succeeded in overthrowing the old regime, and imbued with their new sense of righteous empowerment, the freedom fighters are often surprised with the cynical brutality of the hard-line ideological opportunists who have gained power. By this pont, however, it will be too late to turn back.

The result, all too often, is a new regime that is at least as brutal as the old one, having replaced a traditional, corrupt system with an ideologically murderous one. We should keep in mind that the modern term “terror” may be traced to the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution that delivered as many as 40,000 victims to the guillotine in the name of equality, fraternity, and liberty.

All the uprisings are still in their early stages. In the meantime in Egypt, power has been transmitted from a dictator, Hosni Mubarak, to a military junta under Defense Minister Tantawi. This means that the revolution has not yet really occurred. Promises of a new constitution, free elections, and the lifting of 30-year old emergency regulations remain just promises. More important is the question of the military’s continued control over significant segments of the Egyptian economy.

The direction of the next phase of the uprisings will be determined by the ideologues, both foreign and domestic. Iran has made no secret of its interest in seeing Egypt and other states shift from secular, Western-allied powers that contribute to regional stability to ones that are ruled by Islamists and will align themselves with the Shiite Islamic Republic. The Muslim Brotherhood, touted in much of the Western media and by some US government analysts as a moderate, non-violent, social organization without a charismatic leader, has thrown its hat in the Egyptian ring. With the return from exile of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his Friday address to the crowd in Tahrir Square, the Brotherhood has its charismatic leader. The Brotherhoods official, traditional motto, “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations,” should be sufficient to disabuse anyone of its true intentions and preferred methods. At the same time, it is not at all clear, Western hopes notwithstanding, that al Qaeda is forlornly standing by, watching the train of history leave the station without it on board (to paraphrase the NYTimes).

Will Egypt collapse into full revolution resulting in the emergence of a Brotherhood ruled Islamic republic? It is still too early to predict the next stage, and certainly the final stages, of the process that began with the demonstrations in Tahrir Square that sent Mubarak packing. But it would behoove us to watch the process closely, with an attitude considerably less sanguine than the near-cheerleading descriptions that have emerged in the news reports and commentary.
2) Dear President Chavez, Prime Minister Erdogan,
President Morales, and President Ortega

David Harris, AJC Executive Director

Each of you has several things in common.

For starters, you are the leaders of your respective countries -- Venezuela, Turkey, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.

Moreover, each of you, in many speeches, has talked about the centrality of justice.

President Chavez, you've spoken of your quest "to bring about a state that is social, democratic, and just."

Prime Minister Erdogan, you have said that "peace, justice, brotherhood, and solidarity were in the best interests of every country."

President Morales, you stress that you seek "equality and justice."

President Ortega, you describe yourself as a fighter "for a just and free world."

Third, each of you has been a recipient of the Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.

According to the website, the prize was established in 1988 to honor those who have "achieved great actions in defending human rights, protecting the cause of freedom, and supporting peace everywhere in the world."

President Chavez, you were in Tripoli in 2004 to receive the prize. Subsequently, you hosted Gaddafi in Caracas, comparing him to Simon Bolivar and conferring on him your country's highest civilian decoration. At the time, you declared: "We share the same destiny, the same battle in the same trench against a common enemy, and we will conquer."

Prime Minister Erdogan, you were in Tripoli last year for the award ceremony, at which time you said: "You can be sure that this award will encourage our struggle for human rights in a regional and global sense."

President Morales, you proudly traveled to Tripoli in 2000 to get the prize.

And President Ortega, it was your turn in 2009, and you did not hesitate to accept it.

Finally, notwithstanding your stated commitment to justice, your postures in recent days, as Gaddafi unleashed the state's deadly power against those protesting his 41-year authoritarian reign, could not be more striking.

Surely, the right thing to do at this moment, first and foremost, is to renounce the Gaddafi prize, not to mention the cash award that accompanied it. Why not donate the funds, not back into the coffers of Gaddafi, but to relief efforts on behalf of the victims of his brutality?

Why would anyone claiming to battle for justice wish to be associated with a mass murderer? How cruel a joke in the first place to associate Gaddafi with human rights and possess an award that links the two?

Yet, not only have you not relinquished the prize, but it gets still worse.

President Chavez, you and your foreign minister proclaimed on February 25th, with hundreds, if not more, slaughtered, leaving rivers of blood flowing through the streets of Libyan cities, "Viva Libya and viva Gaddafi."

Prime Minister Erdogan, where is your outrage and fury at what is taking place before the world's eyes? Is it only when Israel is deemed to be involved that you show a capacity for unbridled anger?

President Morales, the silence from La Paz is deafening. Why? Where is your voice in support of the "justice" you proclaim as your guiding light?

And President Ortega, no doubt Gaddafi valued your phone call this week to express your solidarity, emphasizing, in your own words, that "it's at difficult times that loyalty and resolve are put to the test."

Actually, it's at such times that leaders reveal themselves. And the four of you have revealed yourselves for all to see.

You accepted a ludicrously named prize from a murderous scoundrel. In doing so, you conferred undeserved legitimacy on Gaddafi's rule. After all, it most assuredly didn't take until 2011 to understand the true nature of Gaddafi and the ruthless nature of his regime.

When you had the chance this month to show the world that you learned your lesson, however belatedly, by returning the award, you did not, even as the reports from the ground compellingly described a bloodbath for which Gaddafi and his henchmen are responsible. Does the award really mean that much to you as a source of validation, gratification, and inspiration?

And given the chance to condemn resoundingly the denial of justice, the repression of human rights, and the negation of brotherhood in Gaddafi's Libya, you couldn't bring yourselves to do so. So much for the high-minded values you preach.

How tragic! And yes, how telling!
3)The Entitled Party
By Karin McQuillan

President Obama and the left wing of the Democratic Party think they are entitled to win. From our narcissistic President to screaming union organizers, they are puffed up with self-righteous zeal. They must have health care to save the sick, they must shut down Louisiana oil rigs to save the planet, they must defend government unions to save the middle class.

Of course, each side thinks they are right. Being right is no excuse. You have to abide by the law, you have to abide by elections, you have to respect the courts and constitutional separation of power, or else we no longer live in a democratic country. In our democracy, no one is entitled to win. If you won't lose, you cannot have democracy.

What you have are the Wisconsin Democrat senators who are unwilling to abide by the election results that put them in a minority. What you have is Reid and Pelosi, ramming Obamacare through by breaking rules of procedure, in order to flout the 2010 election results. What you have is the Obama White House, blocking Congress's right to confirm appointees, and openly ignoring federal courts. What you have is the Justice Department announcing it will no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court, as if Obama gets to decide which laws are constitutional. What you have is a Democratic Party run amok, undercutting our democracy in the service of their own power.

The complacency, nay, the vociferous support, from Democrat leaders and the legacy media for this disregard for the rule of law reminds me of the old joke about the psychiatrist. A man is sent by his family to see a shrink because he thinks he's a chicken. After months of treatment, he is still clucking. The family asks the psychiatrist if he's told his patient he is not a chicken. "No," the psychiatrist admits. "Why not!" "Because I like the eggs."

The Democrats like the eggs. They like imposing their will, whether it be ObamaCare, or the off-shore drilling moratorium, or the blockage of Wisconsin's elected government. Are they really this short-sighted? Don't they understand the damage to our democratic system by these anti-democratic precedents? Do they really want to change congressional rules so that the House and the Senate version of bills no longer have to be reconciled, as they did to jam ObamaCare through by the fiction it was a finance bill? Do they really want the Interior Department ignoring federal court orders? Do they really want state senators refusing to accept that when you lose an election, the other side gets to pass their agenda?

Obama appointed extremists for important administrative positions, controversial and even creepy people, like Van Jones, whom he knew would not get past Congressional confirmation. The checks and balances between executive and legislative branch were instituted by our founders for this exact purpose. The executive nominates but Congress must confirm -- bedrock principles of American democracy. Obama's answer: flout the law. Call his appointees 'czars' and bypass confirmation. This is not legal and it is not democracy. Do the liberal legacy media and Obama's fellow Democrats want presidents to have this unlimited power? Do they really want to give up the safeguards of congressional confirmation by calling appointees czars?

Czars indeed.

The White House is not only ignoring elections and subverting the power of Congress, it is also willing to disobey federal courts. When the health care bill was challenged in court and the administration lost, Obama ignored the ruling of Justice Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court in Florida. Judge Vinson declared the entire ObamaCare bill unconstitutional in a ruling that the judge stated was the equivalent of an injunction. The White House has not halted implementation. The White house has not followed normal rules to fast-track the appeal process so the Supreme Court can decide. Our White House seems entirely comfortable to show contempt of court.

In Louisiana, the administration didn't like a court ruling lifting the moratorium on off-shore drilling, so what did the Obama administration do? It ignored the court. In response, on February 2, the U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman held the Department of Interior in contempt. The Administration then adopted a go slow policy and did not issue a single permit. So on February 21, Judge Feldman ordered the Obama administration to act on five deep water drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico within 30 days, calling the delays in issuing new decisions "unreasonable, unacceptable, and unjustified." We have a White House that places its anti-energy policy above the rule of law. This is unacceptable in a democracy.

Democracy is a complex system based on cultural norms and principles as much as institutions. As we see governments topple in the context of resurgent jihadi movements in the Arab world, we are keenly aware that elections alone rarely lead to democracy. George Washington was an almost unique figure in the history of the world, in that he relinquished power. Our founding fathers were political geniuses who gave us a system of checks and balances to curb misuse of power by those who govern. As Americans, we are privileged to witness the recurring, orderly transfer of power from one administration to the next, through which voters get to determine the direction of their government and correct mistakes and imbalances.

We are seeing in both the Obama White House and the Wisconsin Senate that the Democratic Party is unwilling to lose. Over and over in the past two years, we have seen a Democrat administration willing to flout the courts, flout rules and regulations, and flout the voice of the people as expressed in elections.

Disregard for the democratic limits on power is as important as the administration's fiscal irresponsibility that threatens our prosperity, as important as the explosive growth of bureaucracy that threatens our liberties.

Our democracy cannot survive if only the Republican Party cares about it. It is time for centrist Democrats to throw off the power grab by the radical wing of their party and start defending the Constitution, as they have sworn to do.

3a)Unions vs. the Right to Work
Collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty

How ironic that Wisconsin has become ground zero for the battle between taxpayers and public- employee labor unions. Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining for government workers (in 1959), following a tradition where it was the first to introduce a personal income tax (in 1911, before the introduction of the current form of individual income tax in 1913 by the federal government).

Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty, akin to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. For a teachers union, collective bargaining means that suppliers of teacher services to all public school systems in a state—or even across states—can collude with regard to acceptable wages, benefits and working conditions. An analogy for business would be for all providers of airline transportation to assemble to fix ticket prices, capacity and so on. From this perspective, collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty.

In fact, labor unions were subject to U.S. antitrust laws in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which was first applied in 1894 to the American Railway Union. However, organized labor managed to obtain exemption from federal antitrust laws in subsequent legislation, notably the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

Remarkably, labor unions are not only immune from antitrust laws but can also negotiate a "union shop," which requires nonunion employees to join the union or pay nearly equivalent dues. Somehow, despite many attempts, organized labor has lacked the political power to repeal the key portion of the 1947 Taft Hartley Act that allowed states to pass right-to-work laws, which now prohibit the union shop in 22 states. From the standpoint of civil liberties, the individual right to work—without being forced to join a union or pay dues—has a much better claim than collective bargaining. (Not to mention that "right to work" has a much more pleasant, liberal sound than "collective bargaining.") The push for right-to-work laws, which haven't been enacted anywhere but Oklahoma over the last 20 years, seems about to take off.

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Associated Press
.The current pushback against labor-union power stems from the collision between overly generous benefits for public employees— notably for pensions and health care—and the fiscal crises of state and local governments. Teachers and other public-employee unions went too far in convincing weak or complicit state and local governments to agree to obligations, particularly defined-benefit pension plans, that created excessive burdens on taxpayers.

In recognition of this fiscal reality, even the unions and their Democratic allies in Wisconsin have agreed to Gov. Scott Walker's proposed cutbacks of benefits, as long as he drops the restrictions on collective bargaining. The problem is that this "compromise" leaves intact the structure of strong public-employee unions that helped to create the unsustainable fiscal situation; after all, the next governor may have less fiscal discipline. A long-run solution requires a change in structure, for example, by restricting collective bargaining for public employees and, to go further, by introducing a right-to-work law.

There is evidence that right-to-work laws—or, more broadly, the pro-business policies offered by right-to-work states—matter for economic growth. In research published in 2000, economist Thomas Holmes of the University of Minnesota compared counties close to the border between states with and without right-to-work laws (thereby holding constant an array of factors related to geography and climate). He found that the cumulative growth of employment in manufacturing (the traditional area of union strength prior to the rise of public-employee unions) in the right-to-work states was 26 percentage points greater than that in the non-right-to-work states.

Beyond Wisconsin, a key issue is which states are likely to be the next political battlegrounds on labor issues. In fact, one can interpret the extreme reactions by union demonstrators and absent Democratic legislators in Wisconsin not so much as attempts to influence that state—which may be a lost cause—but rather to deter politicians in other states from taking similar actions. This strategy may be working in Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder recently asserted that he would not "pick fights" with labor unions.

In general, the most likely arenas are states in which the governor and both houses of the state legislature are Republican (often because of the 2010 elections), and in which substantial rights for collective bargaining by public employees currently exist. This group includes Indiana, which has recently been as active as Wisconsin on labor issues; ironically, Indiana enacted a right-to-work law in 1957 but repealed it in 1965. Otherwise, my tentative list includes Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska (with a nominally nonpartisan legislature), Kansas, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The national fiscal crisis and recession that began in 2008 had many ill effects, including the ongoing crises of pension and health-care obligations in many states. But at least one positive consequence is that the required return to fiscal discipline has caused reexamination of the growth in economic and political power of public-employee unions. Hopefully, embattled politicians like Gov. Walker in Wisconsin will maintain their resolve and achieve a more sensible long-term structure for the taxpayers in their states.

Mr. Barro is a professor of economics at Harvard and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4)US weighs hit-and-run raids to disable Qaddafi's air capability

The US is repositioning its naval and air forces around Libya, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan stated Monday, Feb. 28, indicating possible military steps to break the standoff between Muammar Qaddafi's army and rebel forces in the fighting for control of the towns commanding the roads to the capital Tripoli where Qaddafi is barricaded. The reported rebel capture of the key towns of Misrata and Zawiya is technically correct. In fact, they are both surrounded by Libyan troops who control their road links with Tripoli. In Misrata, the army has a valuable edge over opposition forces in its control of the local airfield.

The Pentagon spokesman's indeed remarked that there are "various contingency plans" for the North African country where Muammar Qaddafi's forces and rebels in the east "remain locked in a tense standoff."

Most military observers interpreted his remark as referring to potential US military intervention in Libya to break the stalemate. It was strengthened by the imminent redeployment off the Libyan coast of USS Enterprise from the Red Sea and the amphibious USS Kearsarge, which has a fleet of helicopters and about 1,800 Marines aboard.

This US naval movement appeared to be running ahead of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier Monday said "nothing is off the table" but added "there is no pending naval action planned against Libya."
Military and intelligence sources report the presence of the two US warships opposite Libya gives Washington and its allies a flexible option for military intervention should Qaddafi be seen to prevail over the opposition or if the standoff lingers too long. Among the 1,800 marines aboard the Kearsarge are units especially trained for guerrilla or covert raids behind enemy lines. They would have air cover from the Enterprise to protect them from Libyan air and helicopter strikes. They primary mission would be to disable the Libyan air force and put its air fields out of commission. The rebels would not then be stalled by the Libyan ruler's ability to bring in fresh troops and drop them at any point and give them a better chance of carrying the day.

The other "contingency plan" in discussion between Washington and European allies is creating a no-fly zone to protect the people from air assault. The American UN Ambassador Susan Rice said later that Washington is discussing militlary options with its allies but a determination is premature.

On the sanctions front, the US government Monday blocked a record $30 billion in Libyan assets, the largest amount ever frozen, in line with the Obama administration's decision to impose unilateral and multilateral sanctions on Qaddafi.

4a)Obama looks to Europe to take principal role in Libyan crisis
By Paul Richter and David S. Cloud

Is President being cautious or sending signals of unpreparedness?

Despite growing calls in the U.S. for action, the Obama administration is carefully limiting the American role in the unfolding international effort to halt the killing of Libyan demonstrators by dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

U.S. officials have been pushing European countries to take the lead in world powers' response to Gadhafi, arguing that the Europeans have closer ties and more leverage. U.S. officials also want to limit military involvement in what could be a protracted civil war, coming at a time when U.S. forces are overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is predominately a European problem, in the sense that they are the ones who have the most at stake," said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive diplomacy.

U.S. officials have been working for days with European officials, including at the United Nations Security Council, to prepare multilateral and unilateral sanctions against the regime. These include freezes on the leadership's financial assets, an arms embargo and travel restrictions, as well as possible recommendations for war crimes charges in the International Criminal Court.

The White House on Friday announced plans to impose unspecified U.S. sanctions on Gadhafi, and for the first time singled out Gadhafi personally for criticism.

Gadhafi "is overseeing the brutal treatment of his people … and his legitimacy has been reduced to zero in the eyes of his people," said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.

U.S. officials had avoided comments about Gadhafi while hundreds of American diplomats and other citizens were in Libya. But Washington sharpened its language Friday after about 300 diplomats and other Americans left the country on a ferry, and the State Department temporarily closed down the embassy.

Edward S. Walker Jr., a former top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, said the administration had to be cautious since Gadhafi's security forces had sacked and burned the U.S. embassy in Tripoli in 1979, at the time of the Iranian revolution. U.S. citizens "escaped by the skin of their teeth," he recalled.

While the U.S. normalized relations with Libya in 2008, it could not afford to risk a hostage situation, Walker said.

Reports of the deaths of hundreds of Libyan protesters have brought increasing calls for U.S. intervention. A group of 41 former U.S. officials, human rights activists and others sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday warning that "we may be on the threshold of a moral and humanitarian catastrophe," and urged the U.S. and allies to lay plans for a variety of steps, including a halt to Libyan oil imports and establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya.

Omar Khattaly, a Libyan-American and spokesman for the Libyan Working Group, said he understood the desire to have Europeans take the principal role, but believed the U.S. also should make a major effort.

"In this situation, you need help from the superpower," he said.

The U.S. sanctions will take months to produce results and are not likely to affect the bloody clashes between Gadhafi's forces and the demonstrators, most experts say.

The U.S. military's minimal role in the crisis has become noticeable in recent days as several European allies — Great Britain, France and Italy — sent their armed forces to evacuate citizens from Libya. Pentagon officials said they were not asked by the State Department to help in the evacuation of U.S. citizens.

The proximity of Libya to southern Europe is raising the fears of the Italian, French and other governments that the brutal violence will create a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of refugees making their way across the Mediterranean, U.S. officials said.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday after convening an emergency meeting on Libya that the priority should be on evacuation and on humanitarian assistance. He played down the possibility of a no-fly zone, calling it a "far-reaching approach" that could only be undertaken with U.N. approval.

Any U.S. military response to the crisis is likely to be as part of a larger NATO force and even then the U.S. is likely to play a supporting role, the senior U.S. official said.

In one visible sign that the Pentagon is not planning a major role in Libya in the near future, the only U.S. aircraft carrier in the region, the USS Enterprise, left the Mediterranean earlier this month and is now in the Indian Ocean.
4)In Jordan, King Abdullah II getting earful from tribal leaders
By Kim Murphy

Fissures are slowly beginning to take hold

Fayez grew up hearing about the day in 1970 when his father and other Jordanian tribal leaders summoned the late King Hussein to complain about entrenched Palestinian fighters who were virtually occupying the country.

"King Hussein was two hours late. When he finally arrived, my father stood up — and he used to call the king by his first name — 'Hussein,' he said, 'We feel now that for you we are the cover that the shepherd uses. When you get cold, you cover up with us. When you don't need us, you kick the cover with your feet.' "

The king apologized for being late. He said he didn't know the tribal elders were waiting. He valued their advice. Even better, from their point of view, he unleashed the army against the militants. "A quality man, with a humane view of people," Fayez said.

Over mint tea at his desert home, he turned the conversation to the current king.

"King Abdullah, the situation is not the same as it was with his father. There's negligence in the state. He lets things go. It's like the shepherd that leaves his sheep to go astray. And for this reason, corruption has spread everywhere."

Fayez's Bani Sakher tribe this month showed its displeasure by lining up across the highway between the capital, Amman, and Queen Alia International Airport, blocking the road in protest of the government's use of increasingly valuable traditional tribal lands for development.

Although most analysts think there is little chance of a popular storm like the one that swept Egypt in this quiet kingdom of luxury hotels, impoverished mud hut villages and exotic desert castles, King Abdullah II is facing criticism from a quarter that couldn't be more troubling: some of the tribesmen and military veterans who have been the bedrock of the Hashemite dynasty and are unnerved by the country's large and growing population of Palestinians.

Tribal leaders such as Fayez's father have never hesitated to confront the king privately, but the 49-year-old monarch has faced rare, open criticism in recent months. Since the Egyptian uprising, dissent from leftists and Islamist and labor leaders has escalated into almost-daily street protests and a public letter from 36 tribe members demanding an end to corruption and the king's near-unilateral hold on political power.

The king has responded by pledging to rewrite the election laws and expand freedoms. He fired the Cabinet and replaced the prime minister with a former military officer and tribesman.

"I want real and quick reform," the king said in a Feb. 20 speech, in which he pledged to investigate corruption, speed up review of the election law and hasten economic progress. "I want quick results. When I talk about political reform, I want real reform consistent with the spirit of the age."

But Jordanians, emboldened by what happened in Egypt, appear to expect much more.

"These are not concessions," Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst and reform advocate in Amman, said of the new government. "The one who appointed the first prime minister who was fired is the king. The one who fired him is the king, the one who appointed his successor is the king, and the one who's going to fire him is the king. These men are mere clerks with high rank. And this is not reform."

About 4,000 Jordanian protesters took to take to the streets of downtown Amman Friday to demonstrate for reform. Their key demands are fair elections and a return to the 1952 constitution as it existed before most power was transferred to the monarchy.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the only real organized opposition in Jordan, boycotted the parliamentary vote last year as a protest against what it said were fraudulent elections in 2007, in which the organization against all reasonable expectations netted only six seats out of 110. Brotherhood leaders, along with other reform advocates, are insisting on a prime minister who is selected by parliament, perhaps in consultation with the king.

"What happened in Tunisia and especially Egypt has brought a big hope — Egypt was the most secure and autocratic regime, and it fell," said Murad Adaileh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's executive committee. "People's frustration is increasing because we have started to see a total alliance between the authority of the state and money, which has led to an unprecedented state of corruption."

Privatization efforts have led to complaints that the country was getting raw deals for selling off its golden geese. A businessman with purported close connections to the royal palace landed a lucrative cell phone license for a fraction of what other companies were offering, according to widespread complaints in the local media. Critics said phosphate and potash companies sold to foreign companies quickly showed profits greater than the amount for which they were sold.

"In one year, one profited three times the sales price. This is not just corruption, it is audacious corruption," said retired Gen. Ali Habashneh, who was one of a number of senior military veterans who signed a public letter last year demanding reforms.

Much of the public blame seems to focus less on King Abdullah than on his queen, Rania. The beautiful Kuwaiti-born Palestinian's vacations in St. Tropez in the company of rock star Bono and model Naomi Campbell have not sat well among Jordanians who are reeling under rising food and fuel prices in a capital city that has the highest cost of living in the Arab world.

Public irritation came to a boiling point in September, when the queen hosted an opulent party for her 40th birthday in the scenic desert valley of Wadi Rum. Though some villages in southern Jordan can barely pay for electricity, the party reportedly featured a large number "40" in lights.

The event raised $1.6 million for charity and wasn't that glitzy, said Ayman Safadi, who was deputy prime minister in the government that was sacked this month.

"Any middle-class Jordanian would have thrown a better party," he said. "And the food? I came back and had to order a hamburger because I was still hungry."

Simmering at the heart of the tribal discontent is the issue of Palestinian demography that has bedeviled the kingdom since the 1967 war with Israel.

Tribesmen of Jordanian stock from the East Bank of the Jordan River worry that the growing number of Palestinians who have moved in from the West Bank and elsewhere will erode their traditional hold on money and power.

Although the Palestinian population is officially pegged at 49 percent, most observers believe it has reached 60 percent and is growing. Yet Palestinians typically hold fewer than 20 percent of the seats in the elected lower house of parliament (a figure that slipped to 12 percent in the November elections).

Analysts say true reform will almost surely erode the East Bank Jordanians' hold on power and, in the process, the massive system of public subsidies they enjoy. This is not only controversial but also may be impossible — East Bank tribesmen have traditionally formed the bulk of the army and police.

It means, in stark terms, taking away generations of perks from, as one analyst put it, "the guys with the guns — good luck."

Yet the king's decision to appease the East Bank by restoring many subsidies, raising public wages and appointing a new prime minister from the tribal old guard, many analysts say, is almost sure to slow the pace of economic reforms, crucial to new investment and jobs.

It is in many ways a no-win situation for the king at a time when winning may be a matter of survival.

Safadi insisted that the king remains popular and had made it clear he was committed to reform even before events elsewhere in the region increased their urgency.

Kamhawi, the political analyst and reform advocate, is skeptical.

"The government is not wholeheartedly for reform," he said. "The government considers it its duty now to defuse the tension. And this will not work."

"The issue is not the king, or royalty. We don't care about that. We have so far nobody at all proclaiming their intention to change the regime. But the regime has to accept that this is not an open check to say, 'OK, well, accept the regime as it is.' No. The regime has to change according to the will of the people."
5)What is it about Chris Christie?
By Jennifer Rubin

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) appeared on "Face the Nation" yesterday. He turned in another gripping performance, following his recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute.

He is -- no doubt a consequence of his years as a prosecutor -- entirely fluid in his delivery. He maintains good cheer even when dismantling the question. And he makes even the toughest position sound like nothing more than common sense.

Asked if Gov. Scott Walker has "gone too far," Christie responded:

Bob, let me tell you what -- what went on in New Jersey. My predecessor, Governor Corzine, stood on the front steps of the Capitol at a public-sector union rally and said, "I'll fight to get you a good contract." And I thought to myself, watching that, who's he fighting with? Once he says that, the fight's over. What I believe in is true adversarial collective bargaining. And so, every state is different. I'm not going to micromanage Wisconsin from Trenton, New Jersey. I know Scott Walker. I like him. And I trust him. And I think he believe he's doing what's in the best interest of Wisconsin, the same way I'm going to do what I think needs to be done for New Jersey, which is, to reform the pension system and roll back health benefits for public-sector workers, to put them more in line with the rest of the population in New Jersey, to put us on a long-term path to fiscal stability.

But aren't collective bargaining rights inviolate? Christie, a former U.S. attorney, reminds us:

Now listen. All these rights are legislatively created. They didn't come down from tablets at the top of a mountain. And so, political things change and go back and forth. And every state is going to make their own determination on that. Wisconsin is in the middle of making that determination. As you know, Bob, there are plenty of states in America where that right doesn't exist. And so, each state has to make their own determination on that.

But it's not the legal precision of the answer that is exceptional. What stands out is his utter candor. I frankly can't imagine another politician debunking the notion that public employees have a God-given right to collectively bargain.

But his best answer was in response to the accusation that he is "demonizing teachers." In his unflappable and cheery way, he essentially told Schieffer that was nuts:

Listen, I think that the teachers in New Jersey, and there's thousands and thousands of great ones deserve a union as good as they are and they don't have it. And, I disagree with the premise of your question, which is that everybody agrees there should be education reform. It's everybody, but the teachers union who believes that everything is fine. If you listen to them in New Jersey, they'll tell you everything is fine. I mean it's great. It's great except for the hundred and four thousand kids in New Jersey that are struck in -- stuck in 200 chronically failing schools. I mean, you know just because their zip code is in a poor urban center doesn't mean we should be fighting to change the system that's failing them. So, no. What I'm trying to do is have a merit-based system for teachers, so that great ones get rewarded and paid more and that the really great ones want to stay in the profession, not only because they love it but because they're rewarded financially for it. The union, Bob, they protect the worse of the worst. That's what there for, they make it impossible to fire bad teachers and it's ruining our education system.

Contrary to the rap that Christie is a bully, he delivers his message without the slightest trace of annoyance, let alone anger.

He is unabashed in refusing to raise taxes: "[W]e're not going to continue the spending spree and we're certainly not just going back to raising more and more taxes. The people in New Jersey have had enough of that. Hundred and fifteen times in eight years, I think they'd given it the office, Bob."

He is matter-of-fact about avoiding a government shutdown: "I mean their job is to solve these problems and not just to stand in a corner and hold your breath. So -- and I say that about both sides. So let's get together. They've got a week to figure it out. Let's get in the room and figure it out. I was a little surprised they took the last week off, to tell you the truth, given that this was looming."

Far from overbearing, he seems like the tough football coach -- he's not going to take any guff, but he devoted to his guys (in this case, the ordinary citizen).

And those who think he doesn't show restraint should think again. Is Sarah Palin ready for president? "She's got to make that judgment herself." Should Michelle Obama be dinged for her anti-obesity campaign? "Well, I think it's unnecessary. I think it's a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better. You know, I've -- I've struggled with my weight for 30 years and it's a struggle. And if a kid can avoid that in his adult years or her adult years, more power to them." The man knows when not to throw a punch.

He, of course, insists he isn't running for president. But here's the deal (a Christie-ism): if he racks up another big win in the budget fights, the GOP field continues to shrink and disappoint and the economy is still in the doldrums, don't you think Christie might just decide to take the ball and run with it? And with his reputation and name identification, he could make that decision in November. By then, the Republican electorate should be desperate for a candidate who can not only beat Obama but take Washington by storm.