Monday, July 25, 2011

Greater The Contempt Perhaps The More Credible?

History has demonstrated you trust the word of your government at your own peril. (See 1 below.)
Over the years I have devised a useful index. Based on the contempt Liberals, Progressives and their media and news friends have for something or someone you can pretty much assume there is merit in what they stand for and/or advocate. (See 2 and 2a below.)
What does Obama's backing of Arab uprisings portend? Has The Arab Spring turned sour? (See 3 and 3a below.)
When I snap my finger you better eat your peas cause I'm the man! (See 4 below.)
1) Is Your IRA Going To Be Raided?
By Monty Pelerin

The notion of government raiding personal retirement accounts for funds may seem extreme. Perhaps it shouldn't. Other governments have done it. Argentina did in 2008. Ireland has indicated it might. The worsening financial crisis may eventually move other countries in that direction.

Surely the US would never do so.

Actually, there is little basis for assuming they would not and factual evidence they would. Here are three good reasons to believe they would:

1.Financial Ratios The US financial ratios are arguably as bad as the weakest countries in Europe. Unlike Europe, the US government has shown no willingness to meaningfully cut government spending and/or balance the budget. Europe has signaled austerity programs, although time will determine whether they adhere to such programs.

2.Rule of Law All modern governments believe they are above the law. They justify violation of the law on the grounds it is necessary for the "good of the nation." The US government has frequently demonstrated that property rights should not stand in the way of public policy. Abuses of eminent domain are numerous. The automotive bailout was a flagrant example. Not only was the bailout without legal precedent, but US bankruptcy law was violated in order to reward unions at the expense of bondholders.

3.Behavior Pattern The US government has a despicable record with regard to honoring retirement obligations. The government raided the Social Security trust fund so that politicians could spend at higher levels. That continuing raid put Social Security in a liquidity crisis that should not have occurred for another couple of decades. President Clinton and Congress reneged on the promise that Social Security benefits would never be taxed. Now Treasury Secretary Geithner routinely raids public pension plans in order to allow government to continue spending.
Most politicians in the US believe (or behave as if they believe) they can continue to kick the spending can further down the road. Apparently many believe the spending/debt problem will somehow magically go away or at least metastasize after they have left government. Unfortunately, the problem is not going away and will get much worse unless political courage and will is found to enact substantial spending cuts. These cuts must be larger than numbers discussed in current political discussions.

What About The Debt Ceiling?

The debt ceiling problem will eventually be resolved with an increase in the ceiling. Unfortunately, that solves nothing, as previously discussed. The problem is not debt; it is spending.

Raising the ceiling does not mean that markets will provide funds at interest rates acceptable to the government or its financial condition. In my opinion, QE2 was never expected to stimulate the economy. It was a holding action to protect government from the bond vigilantes who might have refused to purchase government debt at current interest rates.

Some politicians might have naively believed that the economy would begin to grow during the six-month QE2 period. Instead, the economy deteriorated. QE3 or QE10 will not solve underlying economic problems. Reductions in spending and regulatory uncertainty are necessary. Companies will not hire or invest when they cannot determine future costs and taxes.

When the ceiling is increased, government will be able to lawfully issue new debt. Depending upon the market's reception, three outcomes are possible:

1.There will be enough buyers in traditional credit markets to absorb the debt at "reasonable" interest rates.
2.The Fed will institute QE3.
3.A combination of 1 and 2 will be necessary.

My guess is that number 3 will be required. There will be demand at reasonable interest rates, but probably not enough to meet government requirements. The amounts required are truly enormous. For example, in August the financing required is about $600 billion -- about $130 billion of new debt and almost $500 billion of debt rollovers (see detail). Subsequent months are comparable. Credit markets are unlikely to be confident or deep enough to provide the this level of funding for long.

Why Raid IRAs?

The simple answer was provided by famed bank robber Willie Sutton: "That is where the money is."

Total market capitalization of the US stock market is about $16 trillion and 40% of that is estimated to reside in IRAs and 401Ks. They are big, visible, vulnerable, and mostly immobile targets.

This $6 trillion, if it were grabbed in some fashion, would satisfy the next 4-6 years of government deficits. Whatever can be used from IRAs lessens the amounts needed from sources 1 and 2 above.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the term "IRA" as generally used in this article generally refers to Individual Retirement Accounts and self-directed retirement accounts such as 401Ks. Many of the comments pertain to both even though the IRA abbreviation is used.

How Might Government Go After This Money?

There are innumerable ways. Here is some speculation regarding what might happen.

It is unlikely that government confiscates IRA funds, at least directly. That is likely too big a step, at least as a first move. More likely, government mandates that a percentage of IRA funds be invested in Treasury securities. The percentage would start out small and then likely increase as government insolvency worsened.

Let's imagine a scenario. After proper citizen conditioning, the government would require that all IRAs must be at least 20% invested in Treasuries. The rationale would be that we must all do our share in assisting the country out of its economic hardship. Those with IRAs certainly are better off than those without. Therefore it is only fair that they invest in the future of their country.

The reason to enact such legislation is that markets are driving up the costs of borrowing for the government. By forcing investments from existing IRA funds, the government achieves two objectives:

1.It reduces the amounts necessary to raise in capital markets and/or
2.It reduces the amount of new quantitative easing necessary.
Although unnecessary, a special series of Treasury bonds called "Patriot Bonds" could be created. These bonds would be the only ones that counted for IRAs and could have lower interest rates than traditional Treasuries. If so, you would be coerced into funding the government by purchasing bonds for more than how the market values them. But, after all, you are a patriot and one of the "winners in life's lottery." So it is the least you can do.

Over time the required percentage would be raised to, say, 40 or 60 or even 100% as financial conditions worsen. Finally the government defaults, making whatever portion of your IRA represented by government securities worthless.

In effect, that part of your IRA has been confiscated by government.

Is This Possible?

Those who believe our government is too honorable to raid private retirement accounts had better wake up! The seriously dangerous and wounded animal we know as government is fighting for its survival. It will do anything short of dying, reducing spending, or revealing itself as the Ponzi scheme it truly is.

Your notions of integrity, law, and morality do not apply to this animal. The biggest, meanest man in town is trying to escape death and will use whatever means possible. Rightly or wrongly, he believes you are his antidote and he is going after whatever he can get.

One hurdle to preventing government from taking such action might be the stock market. The shift in asset allocations required in retirement accounts would presumably be detrimental to the stock market. Whether it would crash or not is moot. Any such action would certainly reduce its value, which might be the best protection retirees have.

Unless government spending is reduced to the point that new debt grows slower than GDP, most retirement accounts will diminish dramatically. This conclusion is independent of whether government raids your IRA account. Hyperinflation will eventually result from continued quantitative easing (printing of money). That will destroy most savings and all fixed income obligations like bonds and pensions whether these funds are in or out of IRA accounts.

Things are going to get ugly. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------2)The Tea Party, Right About Everything
By Randall Hoven

The false narrative is that the Tea Party is a bunch of stubborn nuts, if not outright racists. In truth, the Tea Party has been right about everything, while almost everyone else has been nuts, especially the "experts."

Minimum wage. One of the first things Democrats did after taking back Congress in 2007 was raise the federal minimum wage 41% from 2007 to 2009. Result? The unemployment rate went from 4.4% in May 2007 to 10.1% in 2009. It is 9.2% even today -- four years later.

As for teens, the unemployment rate went from 14.9% to 27.1%, the highest ever recorded, meaning since 1948. Today it is still a high 24.5%. And for blacks: from a low of 7.9% in 2007 to 16.5% in 2010. It is still a high 16.2%.

The Democrat Congress also decided to apply the same minimum wages to American Samoa. Results? Near-decimation of its economy, one that had been based largely on low-cost tuna canning and textile work.

... employment fell 19 percent from 2008 to 2009 ... tuna canning employment fell 55 percent from 2009 to 2010... Average inflation-adjusted earnings fell by 5 percent from 2008 to 2009 and by 11 percent from 2006 to 2009.

Of course, some of the increase in unemployment was a result of the Great Recession. But the Employment Policies Institute did a study to separate the effects for the most vulnerable group: males aged 16-24 without high school diploma. EPI's answer: the minimum wage increase killed over 100,000 jobs (31% of the lost jobs) for that demographic.

TARP. Unless you were a politician or executive of a large bank, you were likely against the Troubled Asset Relief Program. I would guess that most anyone now calling herself a member of the Tea Party was against TARP in 2008. But Senator Barack Obama voted for it, along with most of his Democrat colleagues. Also the top brains of the Stupid Party pushed it: Henry Paulson, George W. Bush, and John McCain.

On October 3, 2008, Congress authorized Treasury Secretary Paulson to use up to $350 billion under TARP to do what was needed to stave off financial disaster. By December, after using $267B, Paulson said he was done, crisis averted. (Of course his successor, Tim Geithner, was not done.)

Here's the funny thing: while Paulson was lending out less than $0.3 trillion, the Federal Reserve was lending out over $16T to do about the same thing! By my calculations, Paulson's TARP slush fund was less than 2% the size of the Federal Reserve's.

Do you think that 2% was critical to staving off financial apocalypse? (FYI, over 3T of the Fed's emergency loans were to subsidiaries of foreign-owned banks.)

When the dust cleared, the federal government owned two bankrupt car companies and the god-awful home mortgage portfolios of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- entities that had nothing to do with the original purpose of TARP.

Global markets were so enamored with TARP that there was an immediate sell-off of about 20% in global stock markets the moment it went into effect. I also credit TARP, and McCain's reaction to it, for McCain's loss to Obama. Ever since, all budget discussions have involved units of trillions instead of mere billions. The world has not been the same since TARP.

Stimulus. Opposition to Obama's stimulus was the origin of the Tea Party. Now we know the story.

How the stimulus was sold: It would create three million jobs or more. It would keep the unemployment rate under 8%, instead of 9% without a stimulus. It would cost $787B. The jobs were shovel-ready.

What really happened: There are 1.2 million fewer jobs now than when the stimulus was passed. Unemployment went over 10% (vs. prediction of 8%) and is still over 9% (vs. prediction of about 6.8% at this time). It cost $814B or more. Maybe 6% of it went to infrastructure projects. Obama's reaction? A little joke: "Shovel ready was not as shovel ready as we expected."

Of course, Obama and his minions simply blame this on their underestimating the size of the mess they inherited from Bush. But that has been studied by economists at the University of Western Ontario and Ohio State University. The verdict: the stimulus itself cost about one million private-sector jobs; the net job loss was about 595,000. We'd have been better off without any "stimulus" at all, just as the Tea Party said.

ObamaCare. ObamaCare was sold as a way to bend the health "cost curve" down. As it turned out, it is bending the cost curve up -- health care will be more costly than it would have been without ObamaCare. It's so great that in its first year about 1,500 companies, states, and unions were granted waivers.

ObamaCare strangled the recovery in the crib. The private sector has been generating only 6,400 jobs per month since it was passed, compared to 67,600 before. We would never return to pre-recession unemployment levels at the current pace. ObamaCare is costing us over 60,000 jobs per month.

Drilling moratorium. According to a new study by IHS Global Insight, merely picking up the pace in granting oil drilling permits would go a long way in producing jobs throughout the US, adding to GDP and reducing dependency on foreign oil sources. In 2012 alone it could mean 230,000 new jobs, $44B more in GDP, 150 million more barrels of oil, and $15B less in imported oil.

Budgets. Now we find ourselves in another budget fight, with the Tea Party getting the blame from much of the media and liberal punditry. The truth is that Democrats have not even written, much less passed, a budget of any kind in over two years; they simply kill everyone else's.

•The Republican-led House passed a budget on schedule in April. Senate Democrats voted it down.
•Obama proposed a budget in February. The Congressional Budget Office scored it as having a 10-year cumulative deficit of $9.5 trillion. The Democrat-led Senate voted that down too, 97-0.
•The House proposed the only written plan for addressing the debt ceiling -- the Cut, Cap and Balance plan. Senate Democrats voted that down, too.
It shouldn't take a keen insight to see that Senate Democrats are the "Party of No" and the obstacle to resolving budget and debt issues.

Uncertainty and arbitrariness. Just last December Obama said keeping Bush's tax rates was critical to keeping the recovery going. He and the Democrat Congress at the time extended them for another two years, plus added over $300 B in additional tax cuts and credits. Now, just seven months later, Obama insists that any deal to raise the debt ceiling must include tax increases.

Like ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank bill to regulate all finance in the country is a thousand-page-plus piece of legislation. As the New York Times understated it just after its passage, "[a] number of the details have been left for regulators to work out." Got it? Those thousand-plus pages did not include the details.

The EPA now has power to regulate every use of fossil fuels in this country, as well as every breath we take, if they so deem. What will it do with that power? You get to guess. If you think it wouldn't do anything too stupid, know that the FDA just outlawed common inhalers for asthma sufferers. Their reason was, get this, those inhalers are blamed for contributing to upper-atmosphere ozone loss.

Even if you think CFCs contribute to ozone loss, how much do you think the CFCs released by asthma inhalers have to do with it? And how much is the indirect and ambiguous loss of ozone worth compared to the direct and known suffering of asthma patients? Such is the wisdom of government regulators.

The list is endless. If you were thinking of starting a business or making an investment that might not pay off for five or ten years, would you feel like you know the rules and could depend on them? No, you'd hunker down, which is exactly what everyone with any money left is doing right now.

This jobless recovery is not some mystery. It is very clearly the result of decisions -- decisions made by Obama and the Democrats. At every opportunity they grew government, shrank the private sector, and viewed budding enterprises as little more than beasts of burden -- something to whip while healthy and carve up and eat when not.

As Robert Mugabe viewed white-owned farms, Obama views corporations not yet in Chapter 11.

Nothing Democrats did helped; everything they did hurt. Everything. Min wage. TARP. Stimulus. ObamaCare. The Gulf oil spill. Every budget they ever proposed, written or not. Every little czar they put in place to spend other people's money and to bully the only productive people still toiling away at the thankless tasks of making stuff and providing jobs.

At every point, the Tea Party and its sympathizers tried to stop these idiocies, only to be called ignorant racists. You might want to ask yourself why so many people talk of the "Tea Party," whatever that is, the way Lenin and Stalin talked of kulaks and saboteurs, whoever they were.

Do "taxed enough already," "stop spending," and "obey the Constitution" sound that crazy to you? If so, you might want to think about why you think so.

2a)A president with migraines? Ask Thomas Jefferson
By Jeff Jacoby

WHEN THE Daily Caller, a news site based in Washington, D.C., reported last week that Michele Bachmann gets migraine headaches, it labored to give the impression that it was breaking an important story.

“Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged,’’ the foreboding headline read. (Cue the grim background music.) The article, by Jonathan Strong, depicted a woman who crumples in the face of stress, reacting to the normal aggravations of political life - a staffer’s resignation, a missed flight - with “medical episodes’’ that leave her “incapacitated’’ for days at a time. To cope, she “takes all sorts of pills. Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills wherever she goes.’’ These “debilitating’’ migraines “occur once a week on average,’’ and at least three times have landed Bachmann in the hospital. Her staff must “constantly’’ consult with doctors to “tweak’’ their boss’s medication.

Bottom line? “Some close to Bachmann fear she won’t be equal to the stress of the campaign.’’ And some former aides “are terrified’’ by the thought of a migraine-prone President Bachmann.

All very melodramatic. But a few things were missing from Strong’s account. Like the nature of all those “pills’’ that Bachmann supposedly takes - addictive narcotics, or something more innocuous? And the identity of any of the unnamed “former aides’’ whose allegations the story recycles - which candidates, if any, are they working for now? Missing too was any evidence that a migraine condition is incompatible with the pressures of the presidency or any other high-powered position.

That’s because no such evidence exists.

The health of presidential candidates is of course a legitimate news topic. That’s especially true since, to quote the historian Robert Dallek, “concealing one’s true medical condition from the voting public is a time-honored tradition of the American presidency.’’

Gone are the days when a presidential candidate with severe medical problems could brazenly claim to be in excellent health and expect to get away with it. During and after the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy - who suffered from Addison’s disease, colitis, urinary tract infections, and the near-crippling pain of degenerative back problems - took an astonishing array of medications, including steroids, painkillers, antibiotics, and anti-spasmodics. Yet with the help of a friendly press, the Kennedy machine easily downplayed JFK’s afflictions; one New York Times article described him as being in “superb physical condition.’’
3)When dictators shoot back
By Tahar Ben Jelloun

Gaddafi and Assad are unyielding and murderous. Has the Arab Spring turned into an Arab Hell?

Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad agree on at least one point: Spring must be eliminated; the year should have just three seasons. The demand for dignity and freedom by those willing to die for those values -- that is what they cannot bear, and strive to curb ruthlessly. Gaddafi and Assad are the same kind of people as Saddam Hussein. Like him, they can't tolerate opposition, and answer it with weapons. Like him, they cling to their positions, which they occupy without legitimacy. Like him, they count on tribalism to fortify their power. Like him, they are afraid of justice. Like him, they are convinced they are right.

Because of these two men, what has been called the Arab Spring is in the process of clouding over and becoming more like an Arab hell.

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolts succeeded because the armies abandoned the heads of state. Without the courage and daring of a few superior officers, both those countries would still be burying their dead.

What happened? Why and how did a dream become reality, even if as I write this reality is riddled with disappointment and impatience? The genius of a people is unpredictable. No one knows why, one day, people took to the streets and courageously confronted the bullets of the police or the army. That remains a mystery.

Humiliation is a common technique with dictators. Scorning, crushing the citizen is a way to govern and to guarantee the consolidation of power. The raos -- head of state -- becomes the father of the nation. He is incontestable, free to do what he likes and to have anything he desires; Arab tradition and mentality teach absolute respect for the father. You never criticize your father, never raise your voice in front of him; you obey him and thank him for being there. That is why not only Mubarak but also Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad blithely confuse their countries and resources with their own property, and present themselves as the fathers of their nations. When they are reproached for this, they appear not to understand what is being demanded of them. This confusion between the money of the state and that of the leader is one consequence of dictatorship. The Mubarak family is said to possess $70 billion, and Ben Ali's $17 billion.

In the West this notion of the omnipotent father does not exist. Why is it so strong in the Arab and Muslim world? In these countries there is one constant: the individual as a unique, singular entity is not recognized; it is the family, the clan, and the tribe that matter. The individual is drowned in this magma, and everything is done to prevent him from emerging from it. The early demonstrations in Tunisia, then Egypt, however, were marked by a new phenomenon: the emergence of the individual. The people in the streets were not calling for an increase in wages, but demanding universal values like freedom, dignity, and respect for human rights. They were asserting themselves as individuals having rights and duties, refusing to be regarded as subjects of the chief of state. This notion of the individual was born with the French Revolution of 1789.

People have often wondered why the novel as a literary genre came to life so late in the Arab world (Zaynab, the first novel, by Muhammad Haykal, appeared in serialized form in 1913 in an Egyptian magazine). The novel is the portrayal of one or several characters who are individuals. The writer bears witness to his time. The delayed birth of the Arabic novel was a direct consequence of the Arab disdain for the individual.

When the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire last Dec. 17, he could not imagine that his fatal, tragic gesture would have historic consequences. How did he come to that point, knowing that Islam forbids suicide and that immolation by fire is alien to Arab and Muslim culture? All the great rebellions in history begin with a symbolic deed that sets off irreversible consequences. Bouazizi's sacrifice was experienced by the entire Arab world as a call for uprising. Everyone said to himself, if he gave his life, the least we can do is take to the streets in protest.

Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb was 13 years old. He was arrested in Daraa, in Syria, on April 29 for chanting "Down with the Syrian regime." He was tortured and given electric shocks; his feet, elbows, and knees were burned; then they slashed his face and cut off his penis. They finished him off with three bullets, one in mid-lung. On May 25, he was returned to his parents; the body was in a state of decomposition. The father was arrested and forced to accuse the Salafi extremists of committing the crime. Like the Tunisian Bouazizi, the Syrian boy Hamza has become the symbol for a revolt in which the blood keeps flowing.

These revolts are not revolutions. They have been spontaneous, without leaders, without ideology, without any political party. They have been driven by a yearning to stop living in submission, to stop being denied human dignity. These obstinate rebellions will stop only with the departure of those who practice -- and symbolize -- repression, theft, corruption, and the exercise of absolute power.

At present we are in a period of transition. It is a difficult time, marked by the impatience and disappointment of the people in rebellion. How to explain to them that it takes time to rebuild a country and put the state back on its feet when a dictator has pillaged, spoiled, and dishonored it? Despite the present disorder, though, and the more or less fortunate improvisations in Tunisia and Egypt, the wind of this spring continues to blow over all of the Arab world. It so happens that both countries where the battles against dictatorship result daily in the deaths of dozens of unarmed civilians are in the grips of a system whose roots are ancient and organized. Syria has always been a police state with a solid Army capitalizing on the proximity of Israel and Lebanon, a country from which it was chased out in 2005, but which the Syrian regime has sought to keep as a vassal.

As for Libya, Gaddafi has no future. The day his mercenaries grow weary, he will fall. All negotiations for surrender have failed (South African President Jacob Zuma felt that the mediation of the African Union was "undermined" by NATO raids). There have been 10,000 deaths since the beginning of the uprising.

What does that matter, Gaddafi says to himself. He will leave Libya only by divine will, he has reportedly said. But divine will did not tell him to massacre his own people. That is why the U.N. Security Council voted on its "no-fly zone" resolution and why NATO intervenes daily. You don't know Gaddafi if you think he'll give in to international pressure and take the path of a negotiated exile. His pathology didn't just appear today. He is a hunted man who does not understand that his people are clamoring mightily for his departure. He is convinced he is in the right, that he is a victim of the West and of elements of al-Qaeda. When you have been in power for 42 years, you forget what's real; you think normality is whatever you decide it is. At no time has Gaddafi thought he is a dictator, even if he blithely confuses the immense resources of his country with his own wealth. He is not crazy; he is sick, and has been for a long time. As Philippe Gros, a researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research, stated recently in Le Monde: "Unlike Milosevic, Gaddafi has nothing to negotiate other than his departure, which makes his abdication more uncertain."

The death of bin Laden is not the end of terrorism. There will always somewhere be a lunatic, a madman, a group of sick people to plant bombs and kill innocent people, as in Marrakech on April 27. Terrorism will experience difficulties simply because the people have become vigilant and the police have made security their priority -- unless certain governments decide to manipulate splinter groups in order to thwart democracy in the countries where the revolts took place.

Anything is possible. The Arab world is an entity like no other; there is no unity, no common philosophy. There are Arab states that do not like each other despite their shared conferences, meetings, and protests. Hypocrisy is evident. Morocco and Algeria do not agree with each other. Their borders are closed. Tunisia is afraid of neighboring Libya. Syria is hedging all its bets while consolidating its repressive police regime, and hopes to put Lebanon, a country living under permanent tension about its security, back on its feet. Iraq is bandaging its wounds, and terrorism continues to kill people there. Jordan is calm for now; it has gone through some difficult days. Sudan is in the grip of unrest. Yemen risks getting lost in a civil war.

This is my survey of a tumultuous landscape, done with all the uncertainty of a cartographer who does not know exactly where the boundaries of revolt begin and end. To be sure, the awakening of the Arab people is not over. But fear has changed sides. The dictators in power, men without legitimacy, are now the fearful ones. They will be tossed out. Sooner or later, the Arab world will rid itself of these furious madmen, who cling to power even if it means multiple massacres. There comes a point where even massacres must die out.

Tahar Ben Jelloun is today's most significant Francophone Moroccan novelist and poet. His work straddles Arab cultures throughout the world, chronicling hopes and impasses, whether through the eyes of desperate immigrants (in his book Leaving Tangiers) or political prisoners (This Blinding Absence of Light).

3a)Liberal media poll confirms Obama's backing of ‘Arab Spring’ portends trouble for the West

Daily Beast poll of Egyptian voters latest to document administration's short-sightedness

Growing Power An incredibly diffuse set of nascent political parties -- more than a dozen registered some support in our survey -- spells opportunity for the Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party scored a plurality of support (17 percent). More ominously, just 35 percent said that a Muslim Brotherhood majority would be a bad thing (27 percent said it would be good; 38 percent weren't sure). Such results might explain the Egyptian military's recent moves to assert its role going forward.

Peace Deal Under Siege Egyptians' antipathy toward Israel was palpable. Only 3 percent of those surveyed had a positive impression of the neighboring state, only 2 percent said Israel cares about Egypt's interests, and a mere 1 percent said Israel had responded to the recent revolution in a positive way. This has repercussions on the linchpin of regional stability, the Camp David accords: 70 percent want to amend or cancel the landmark peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

Weakened Sunni Alliance Fifty-two percent of Egyptians think they should continue a partnership with Saudi Arabia. Yet just 34 percent think the Saudis have Egypt's best interests in mind. Only 25 percent approve of the kingdom's autocratic ruler, King Abdullah. He is held in lower esteem than Iran's unpredictable Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (32 percent).

The Region's New Power Broker Among regional powers, Turkey, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is viewed as having demonstrated the most concern about Egypt's interests and the most positive effect on the world. As the Middle East shifts, Egyptians are looking to Turkey for leadership.

HIS Race to Lose On paper, the survey found a close race: former Arab League chief Amr Moussa leads the pack with the support of 16 percent of likely voters. Former diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei and former prime minister Ahmed Shafik follow with 12 percent each; a smattering of others trail in single digits. But Moussa clearly has wider appeal: when we surveyed likely voters about the three frontrunners, only Moussa garnered as much as 47 percent, with "undecided" running even with the other two.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4)Charles KRAUTHAMMER: This is Obama at his most sanctimonious, demagogic, self-righteous and arrogant. And given the baseline it wasn't a pretty sight. Look, he started out by summoning the leaders of Congress -- summoning them -- at 11:00. Who does he think he is? In the American system, the executive and Congress are coequal. In a banana republic, the caudillo will summon the members of the Congress. The way he demanded their appearance in the Oval Office I thought was disgraceful. The branches are coequal.

Second, on this issue he said "We have set forth a plan." He has set forth nothing. Nor has the Democratic controlled Senate. The Republicans offered a detailed plan. The Ryan plan in the House, and they offered Cut, Cap and Balance this time around. The President has offered nothing except he says if you go in the back room now my staff will give you a tick-tock of everything I'm supposed to have given. He has never once spoken about real cuts.

And lastly, what was interesting is even at this late date where he says that the fate of the republic hangs on the debt ceiling extension, he said if given a short extension of, say, half a year I won't except it. Why? because he says I want this to go past election day. That is entirely self-serving and political, and he pretends he's the one who's not interested in politics.

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