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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list


MONDAY through THURSDAY, March 28 through 31, 2011

What's wrong is that, although our Founding Fathers were among the best minds of that era in the world, they were not sufficiently clairvoyant to see how the country's governance needs would change with massive and imaginable growth and success - given its resources and its separation from the crazies of Europe. 
The result: we now sorely need a Federal Constitutional Convention to bring our Federal governance in balance with our national needs.  Specifically, we need term limits; we need limits on campaign durations, on campaign funding and sources; we need strong powers of Recall and powers to prosecute Fraud and Abuse in Office; we need to re-define Administrative Law which governs the rule-making bureaucracy that is now wagging the dog.  We also to reassert the intent of Amendment X of our Constitution.  That's certainly enough to justify such a bold, if risky, action.  What's much more risky to the future of this country is what has now evolved in Washington, D.C.:our own Nomenclatura, our own Oligarchs, our our own tin-pot Despots with titles like "Senator" and "Honorable", protected by their own arcane and self-serving "Rules"  Our Ship of State is about to founder under the weight of these accretions of barnacles. 
HELP!


GS


SUNDAY, March 27, 2011

NICE TRY...BUT NO CIGAR. 

Here I make reference to an article, posted below in its entirety, entitled "Obama: Style Is More Like Ike Than JFK", by Ronald Brownstein, Mational Journal, Friday March 25, 2011.
Mr. President, I grew up with Ike...and you're no Ike. 
Two other references should be read in order to understand my observations listed below:
Ike was born of a poor, pious, close-knit family in Kansas. Obama's origins are somewhat cloudy.
Ike graduated in the top third of his class, and graduated #1 in the Command and General Staff School in 1926.  Obama's school record has never been released, to my knowledge.
Ike was considered warm, gutsy, gregarious.  He had a genius for bringing men together, for producing agreement out of conflict. by contrast: "More than any President since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes across as an Introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be draining"(Baker article, p47). 
Ike said "No" to politics in 1948; he agreed to a nomination for President in 1952 only if there was "a clear-cut call". Obama was running for President long before he was elected a State Senator in Illinois. 
Although Ike initially resisted the concept of a strong executive in favor of Constitutional division of powers, he soon learned the importance of Presidential leadership in keeping the country strong and a leader in the world (see the section entitled "The 'New' Eisenhower" in the Britannica article).  The "New Obama" has not yet emerged. "...this style has exposed Obama to charges of passivity, indecisiveness, and leading from behind.  The pattern has left even some of his supporters uncertain whether he is shrewd - or timid" (see the Brownstein article). 
Ike considered himself  a "President of all the people" and declined "to make of the Presidency an agency to use in partisan elections".  Obama has clearly been a partisan President. 
Although Ike was always concerned about "the little people", he was firmly Conservative and worried about the growth of the Federal Government, especially about its living beyond its means and promoting inflation.  That certainly does not sound like Obama's MO. 
Ike articulated and had passed by both Houses of Congress the "Eisenhower Doctrine" relating to the spread of Communism in the Middle East: a muscular and pro-active approach appropriate for the leader of the free world.  Watching the painful and serpentine course of Obama's inactions and actions in Libya, can we hope for a comparably appropriate "Obama Doctrine"? Considering 9/11 and world Islamic terrorism, the world is in at least as much danger than during the decades of M.A.D. 

What? You say that this is early in President Obama's term in office, and that we should give him more time?  I say: given the divided state of this country and of the world, and given the new pace of developments in this cyber-world, we cannot afford a learning curve beyond 2012 for the most powerful and influential position in the world.  So, as used in many typing classes: NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL MEN TO COME TO THE AID OF THEIR COUNTRY.

GS

<>Obama: Style is more like Ike than JFK
<>By National Journal national Journal Fri Mar 25, 11:39 am ET

By Ronald Brownstein
National Journal

In 2008, many of Barack Obama's supporters thought they might be electing another John F. Kennedy. But his recent maneuvers increasingly suggest that they selected another Dwight Eisenhower.

That's not a comment on President Obama's effectiveness or ideology, but rather on his conception of presidential leadership. Whether he is confronting the turmoil reshaping the Middle East or the escalating budget wars in Washington, Obama most often uses a common set of strategies to pursue his goals. Those strategies have less in common with Kennedy's inspirational, public-oriented leadership than with the muted, indirect, and targeted Eisenhower model that political scientist Fred Greenstein memorably described as a "hidden hand" presidency.

This approach has allowed Obama to achieve many of his domestic and international aims—from passing the health reform legislation that marked its stormy first anniversary this week to encouraging Egypt's peaceful transfer of power. But, like it did for Eisenhower, this style has exposed Obama to charges of passivity, indecisiveness, and leading from behind. The pattern has left even some of his supporters uncertain whether he is shrewd—or timid.

On most issues, Obama has consciously chosen not to make himself the fulcrum. He has identified broad goals but has generally allowed others to take the public lead, waited until the debate has substantially coalesced, and only then announced a clear, visible stand meant to solidify consensus. He appears to believe he can most often exert maximum leverage toward the end of any process—an implicit rejection of the belief that a president's greatest asset is his ability to define the choices for the country (and the world).

[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

(Distracted presidency: Obama's focus on economy tested by Libya, Japan)

To the extent that Obama shapes processes along the way, he tends to do so offstage rather than in public. Throughout, he has shown an unswerving resistance to absolutist public pronouncements and grand theories. "The modus operandi is quiet, behind-the-scenes consensus-building, rather than out-front, bold leadership," said Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff for Ronald Reagan.

All of these instincts are apparent in Obama's response to the Middle East tumult. He has approached each uprising as a blank slate that demands new assessments and recalibrated policies: Even in the deserts of the Middle East, he resists drawing lines in the sand. Bahrain, an ally, receives quiet exhortation. In Libya, Obama speaks with cruise missiles. "Each of these cases presents a different set of circumstances," a senior national-security official insists. "The distinction between this and the previous administration is, we're not trying to sweep this all into one grand, oversimplified theory … without understanding the context."

A common thread throughout Obama's responses has been his belief that the U.S. image across the region is so toxic that it could undermine the change it seeks by embracing it too closely. "We can't have this be our agenda," the senior official says. In Egypt, Obama deferred to local protesters; in Libya, he allowed France and England to drive the international debate toward military intervention—and only publicly joined them once the Arab League had signed on.

(Interactive map: Unrest in N. Africa, Mideast)

By stepping back, Obama has effectively denied the region's autocrats the opportunity to discredit indigenous demands for change as a U.S. plot. But this strategy has led to delay, mixed messages, and his unilateral renunciation of the weapon of ringing rhetorical inspiration: There's been no Kennedyesque "Ich bin ein Berliner" moment for Obama.

The president has shown similar instincts on domestic issues, especially since Republicans captured the House. On health care reform last year, he prodded the process but mostly let Democratic congressional leaders direct the internal party negotiations. Today, Obama has remained aloof from a bipartisan Senate group laboring to convert the recommendations of his deficit-reduction commission into legislation. Many around that group (including commission Cochairmen Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles) believe that the president may still endorse the effort, but only if it first garners broad bipartisan support.

Obama's case for delaying intervention into the deficit discussion parallels the administration's logic about the Middle East strategy: Because the domestic debate is so polarized, Republicans might feel compelled to oppose the Simpson-Bowles plan if Obama preemptively adopted it. By reducing his profile upfront, he can broaden his coalition in the end.

That logic is probably right but hardly cost-free. This week, a large bipartisan Senate group warned the president that no deficit agreement may get far enough for him to bless unless he moves more aggressively to build public support for action. Even if a plan emerges, by delaying his involvement, Obama risks being forced to choose among options largely defined by others.

(Costs of Libya operation already piling up)

In foreign policy as well, the most pointed criticism of Obama's style is that it leaves him reacting to events rather than shaping them—and, frequently, reacting only after costly hesitation. The president's approach carries another big cost: His desire to maintain flexibility for private deal-making often dulls his ability to mobilize popular support by drawing clear contrasts. (See: health care.)

Yet at home and abroad, Obama consistently achieves many of his goals. Can a "hidden hand" presidency thrive in the 24/7 information maelstrom? Obama is testing the proposition.

This article appeared in the Saturday, March 26, 2011 edition of National Journal.


SATURDAY, March 26, 2011

AND NOW...THE MODERN HOLOCAUST

What else can we call a nation-wide, systematic and intentional destruction of individuals for the sole reason that they exist and are "inconvenient" to the majority of their fellow human beings?  Now add to that scenario the fact that the majority of those victims are of one ethnic group.  What do you have?  The abomination of ABORTION is what you have, where over 90,000 individuals were killed in New York City alone in 2010 - and where the large majority of those were Black babies.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, the most dangerous place for a Black person to be is in the womb.  And if those persons were as visible as Blacks were during the hundreds of years of slavery in this country, we would already have had a second Civil War. 

Of all the most serious and divisive problems facing this country at this time, the most corrosive one, and the one most responsible for the seeming intractability of those problems is societal division over Abortion.  Because it is the one most likely to engender contempt and even hatred between and among citizens on both sides of that issue - and of many other issues by extension. 

That need not be.  What is needed, besides a new realization of the primacy of Natural Law and a return to prayer, is elimination of the illegal involvement of the Federal government in the question via Roe v Wade and its progeny, and a return of the question to the States in this Republic.  Barring that action, this country has entered a permanent period of Decline and Fall.  It need not be.

GS


FRIDAY, March 25, 2011

Irena Sendler

There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena.

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.

She had an 'ulterior motive'.

She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German).

Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids).

She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family.

Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She was not selected.

President Obama won one year before becoming President for his work as a community organizer for ACORN and Al Gore won also--- for a slide show on Global Warming.

In MEMORIUM - 63 years later


MONDAY through THURSDAY, March 21 through 24, 2011

"A CAMEL: A HORSE DESIGNED BY COMMITTEE". 
That's the political creature currently lumbering across the Libyan desert and coastline, thanks to the studied abandonment of leadership embraced by President Obama and by his far-left leaning advisers. 
And even some Republicans, looking in the rear-view mirror instead of paying attention to the road before them, are questioning our role there...and throughout the world.  Shame on them. 
Listen Up, Folks:
President Obama, how you handle this opportunity in the Middle East at this moment...and its implications for the future safety of this nation, will be your entire legacy - for good or ill.  Please WAKE UP!

GS


SUNDAY, March 20, 2011

This offering should be considered as a follow-up to the March 3, 2011, posting below...

Here's what I posted, under the name 'Clarity', after the article:
 
The shameless displays of shouting down opposing viewpoints, directly threatening physical violence on fellow assembly members, and generally thuggish behavior by unions and their supporters in Wisconsin should be a wake-up call to the entire country.  It proves that public sector unions and the Democratic politicians in their pockets will do all that they can to keep this playing field soundly tilted in their favor.  And, once and for all, let's put to bed this ridiculous stereotype of the mustache-twisting, gold watch-spinning corporate fat cat who pours money into the coffers of ONLY Republican politicians.  Large business interests are interested in one thing--profit.  However, the largest contributor to the tax base, small businesses, are the ones who suffer under the weight of decades of totally unrealistic promises to public sector unions that can no longer be funded.  Big business donates to BOTH parties, depending on who can get them the most.  But, since most of the Democratic pols are bought and paid for by huge union donations, big business ends up donating more to Republicans.
 
Getting back to profit, who the hell doesn't want to make a profit?  I'm sure the unions pore over their salary and benefit tables before their collective bargaining meetings so they can negotiate a zero-sum game.  Please.
  
And, stop whining that you're fighting to preserve weekends and safe working conditions for your children.  What a steaming load.  Everything that unions righteously and properly fought for and received since circa 1880 has made its way into the legal and cultural foundation of this country.  Anyone who would try to thwart such basic aspects of the management/labor relationship would be crushed under the weight of opposition from voters of all stripes.
 
Contrary to popular belief in the Wisconsin state house currently under siege, collective bargaining by state workers is NOT a God-given right that must be enjoyed until the end of time.  It started, ironically enough, in Wisconsin only 50 years ago.  Even the God of Gods in the world of the Left, FDR, refused to allow Federal government workers to collectively bargain.  This situation exists to this moment on the Federal level.  Why are you not holding the White House hostage to club even more taxpayers over the head to pay for laughably-lopsided and opportunistic wage and benefit demands?  Speaking of which, thank you SOOOO much, Wisconsin state employees, for sacrificing so much of your income to pay for a measly 6% of YOUR pension and 12% of YOUR healthcare--up from ZERO.2% and 6%, respectively.  Most people in the private sector, even WITH benefits, pay AT LEAST 50% of their pension and healthcare.  What do you say to that, you friggin' ingrates?
 
Most importantly, let's not forget the fact that what is going on in WI, OH, IN, MI, and eventually CA, deals with PUBLIC sector unions, NOT private sector unions.  A previous post nailed this point.  If a widget is priced too high EITHER because management demands too much profit OR because labor demands too much compensation, the widget company folds.  The current state employee benefit system (once again, enacted in the late 50's, starting in good ol' Wisconsin) doesn't allow, legally or logistically, for these "companies" to simply fold.  Are you listening?  If you continue to squeeze this golden goose, you will squeeze the life out of it.  Do you understand?  Stop looking like jack-asses trying to make it appear that without you, we'd all be under the collective thumb of latter-day robber barons.
 
Sorry, all you "Progressives" out there.  Not sexy, dramatic, or reactively emotional (which I know is your favorite method of expression), but all true.  Easy, now.  I can see the smoke coming out of your collective ears.
 
Perrin Sprecace


FRIDAY through SATURDAY, March 11 through 19, 2011

ANOTHER EDITION OF "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 OPINIONS".
GS


THURSDAY, March 10, 2011

REGARDING STATE VS PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYMENT.  GS

Perrin, another example of 2+2=5...and for the same reason, I think: political correctness of the authors.  See my critique of Nicholas Kristof's recent article on Islam, on my RR.  Bottom line: State workers get overall better compensation packages and fringe benefits...and especially much more job security...than workers in private industry.  And all they have to do is keep electing Democrats to the legislature.  It's a win-win between those two groups. 
How stupid can people be, you ask.  Very stupid, especially within the last generations...present company excluded, of course.  Dad

State vs. private pay is a complicated comparison
By Kenton Robinson
Publication: The Day
Published 03/06/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 03/06/2011 12:04 AM

There is a widespread perception that state employees are better paid and have better benefits than workers in the private sector.

Certainly, if one were to look at one raw and simple number - the total compensation package received by the average state worker compared with that of the average private sector employee - there would seem to be a vast disparity between the two.

The average state employee's annual compensation, including salary and benefits, is $105,498, compared with $74,174 for the average worker in the private sector, according to a December report produced by the state Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes, a task force formed under the former administration to streamline state government.

The problem with that approach is that the average state worker is a different animal than the average private sector worker.

The state government has a disproportionate number of doctors, nurses, professors, teachers, computer technicians and lawyers who are older and better educated than the average private sector worker.

"Unfortunately the commission did not do the best of work on this issue," said William J. Cibes Jr., the former secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management under Gov. Lowell P. Weicker and a member of the commission.

"When you control for age and education, public sector employees are older and much more well educated," Cibes said.

About 33 percent of Connecticut's state employees have an advanced degree beyond college, compared with 13.4 percent in the private sector, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts. And their median age is 44, versus 41 in the private sector.

Other studies confirm this. A report released last month by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington showed that nationwide the vast majority of state employees are teachers, professors, health professionals and police and firefighters. That translates into higher salaries and benefits.

When one looks at the issue job by job, it becomes clear that those on the lower end of the scale earn more working for the state than they would in the private sector, and those on the upper end earn less working for the state.

So, for example, the median pay for an office clerk working for the state is $42,254 compared with $29,904 for a clerk working in the private sector. On the other hand, a professor of computer science earns $62,620 working for the state, while his or her counterpart in a private school has an annual salary of $86,521, according to the state Office of Legislative Research.

"Public employee compensation is not grossly out of line with the private sector," Cibes said, "and at the high end of the scale, the public sector is lower than the private sector."

In Connecticut, those at the bottom of the ladder earn about 3.8 percent more than their counterparts in the private sector, while those at the top earn about 5.5 percent less, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass.

Public employees made 'villains'

The OPM secretary, who has overseen construction of the budget for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that seeks $1 billion a year in concessions from state employees, agrees with Cibes.

"It's a much different mix than the overall workforce. We have a lot of teachers, college professors and voc-ed teachers, and they are being paid on master's degrees and doctorates. ... When you look at many of the case workers at the state Department of Children and Families, they are going to have college degrees or some level of higher education," said Benjamin Barnes, Malloy's budget chief.

"So I'm kind of reluctant to accept an overall statement, especially within the context of what's going on in Wisconsin and Ohio," he said.

Union leaders agree.

"I think that we're in a dangerous debate right now in which public employees have been made villains for the economic downturn," said Larry Dorman, spokesman for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which is negotiating with the governor's budget people. "And I think that's neither truthful nor helpful to get the economy moving again. It's a dangerous path when you attack one group of workers because they have decent health care, pensions and family-supporting jobs."

Instead, the unions think the state should raise the taxes on the wealthy.

"Middle-class workers spend money on Main Street," Dorman said. "Hedge fund managers spend it overseas."

The state is required to make payments exceeding $5.4 billion a year to compensate state employees and retirees, a figure that represents about 25 percent of the state's general fund budget. A billion dollar cut would represent nearly 20 percent of that.

But when Malloy conducted one of his "town meetings" at New London's Jennings School Wednesday, he reiterated that, from his point of view, there is no alternative.

"I've made it very clear that we have to get to this agreement. Otherwise, our options are to lay off thousands and thousands of people and to gut the safety net. That's what we're looking at. Because I've made it very clear: We cannot raise taxes $3.3 billion, nor can we cut $3.3 billion out of this budget as it currently exists."

Some possible cuts

Neither Malloy nor Barnes, however, would discuss specifics, as the state Office of Labor Relations began talking with union representatives Wednesday. Both sides have agreed not to discuss the content of those talks with the media.

But a look at some of the benefits that accrue to state workers, and a report completed by the state Post-Employment Benefits Commission in October, suggest some directions the state might go.

For example, the average state employee contributes 11 percent of the cost of his or her health insurance, compared with the 21 percent contributed by the average private employee. Malloy has suggested changing state employees' health benefits package for an estimated $100 million in savings.

Comparing retirement benefits is more complicated, as the state employee pension system consists of three "tiers," with different contributions and benefits, depending on when the worker started working for the state. The first tier provides the most generous benefits; the second two provide less and require a larger contribution from the employee.

About 14,000 state employees make no contributions to their pension plans, according to the benefits commission. Another 18,315 make a 2 percent contribution.

If employees contributed an additional 1 percent toward their retirement, it would total about $32 million. Also, the state could save another $135 million by raising the retirement age - currently 55, 60 or 62, depending on when one began working for the state.

State retirees also receive a minimum of a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment to their total salaries each year, and, depending on the Consumer Price Index, can receive as much as 6 percent, a perk unknown to many in the private sector.

Pensions are calculated on the employee's "final average salary," which is the person's three highest-paid years, and several panels have warned that this policy encourages "spiking," in which employees work a lot of overtime in their last three years to drive up that figure.

"That's an area that really needs to be controlled," Cibes said. "I think it's also reasonable to lengthen the period to a five-year average instead of three-year average."

Also, retiring state employees can "cash out" up to 120 unused vacation days and up to 60 unused sick days, another benefit not common in the private sector.

Another benefit state employees receive that their brethren in the private sector don't: longevity payments. Both managers and union members get them and, in 2009, about 35,000 managers and employees received them.

For union employees these are flat amounts, paid twice a year, for long-term employees depending on their length of service.

The typical range of payments is from $75 to $499 twice a year for workers with 10 to 14 years of service.

The amounts go up for 15 to 19 years of service, 20 to 25 years of service and for more than 25 years of service, at which point the payments range from $300 to $1,938 twice a year.

The total cost of longevity payments to state employees is about $36.6 million a year, according to the benefits commission.

Malloy has suggested a couple of other possibilities: Impose a two-year wage freeze to save nearly $300 million, and require state employees to take furloughs, saving $80 million.

"We're looking at everything," Barnes said. "All parts of compensation we're taking a look at."

k.robinson@theday.com

Up and down
How does the compensation of state employees compare to employees in the private sector? A lot depends on the job. Persons in jobs requiring less education tend to do better working for the state; persons with advanced training and degrees do worse. Here are some examples.
Job Private sector State

RNs

$ 70,623
$ 70,263
Nurse's aides $ 30,191
$ 45,249
Home care aides $ 20,007
$ 39,773
LPNs & LVNs $ 53,059
$ 55,002
Physicians $ 154,307
$ 157,911
Executive secretaries $ 45,905
$ 59,127
Legal secretaries $ 47,699
$ 37,191
Other secretaries $ 33,616
$ 51,338
Office clerks $ 29,904
$ 42,254
Typists/Word processors $ 33,433
$ 35,231
Lawyers $116,203
$111,076
Math professors $ 71,485
$ 63,564
English professors $ 79,570
$ 63,290
Computer science professors $ 86,521
$ 62,620
Note: When it comes to the state's top jobs, commissioners make a lot less than CEOs in the private sector. So, for example, the state's social services commissioner, who heads up a multibillion dollar agency, earns $166,980 a year, compared to, say, the CEO of Cigna, who takes in $6,593,921 a year.
Sources: The state Office of Legislative Research, the state Department of Labor and company Securities and Exchange Commission filings.


WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2011

Running in place, as fast as they can.  GS

Officials: No-fly zone may have limited impact

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller, Ap White House Correspondent Wed Mar 9, 7:41 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's top national security aides emerged from private talks Wednesday with a growing sense that imposing a no-fly zone over Libya would have a "limited impact" on halting the kind of violence raging in the North African nation, senior administration officials said.

That position, sure to shape the international debate about potential military intervention in Libya, came as Obama's principal security aides reviewed potential recommendations for the president during a White House Situation Room meeting.

The officials underscored that the creation of a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace was not off the table from the U.S. perspective if the facts on the ground change, chiefly Moammar Gadhafi's use of air power to attack the rebels threatening his grip on power.

The administration maintains that planning for such intervention should continue, particularly at a pivotal NATO meeting in Brussels of defense chiefs on Thursday, and that the no-fly zone also remains in consideration as a way to increase pressure on Gadhafi.

Yet for now, the no-fly zone option is not seen as having high impact in ending the violence, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the private strategy discussions.

The officials familiar with the meeting would not elaborate.

But other officials have noted that the no-fly zone tactic may be ineffective in part because Gadhafi appears to be using his planes sparingly in his crackdown on rebels. Military experts say the use of jets by Gadhafi loyalists poses less of a threat than the deployment of attack helicopters, which can get around flight prohibitions because they are harder to detect.

Even before Wednesday's talks, the Obama administration has had little enthusiasm for military intervention in Libya or for the no-fly zone in particular. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that beginning the flights would require an assault on Libyan air defenses, a step tantamount to war. And Obama officials have consistently warned of the costs and the risks.

In order to ground the Libyan air force — thereby providing air cover for the rebels — U.S. and partner aircraft would first attack Libya's anti-aircraft defenses. Freed of the threat of being shot down, U.S. and partner planes could then patrol Libya's air space and down any planes that got airborne.

The prospect of a no-fly zone has come to dominate attention even as the White House has consistently held that it is just one option that could be used to try to protect civilians and pressuring Gadhafi to give up power. Obama says he will not be "hamstrung" by ruling out options but has never publicly given it the attention in this crisis that other world leaders have.

Obama did not attend Wednesday's meeting, and the White House said no action was imminent. Officials set no timeline.

"We're not at a decision point," Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, said as the White House sought hard to inject perspective into a fast-changing conflict.

Gadhafi's forces pounded rebels with artillery and gunfire in at least two major cities on Wednesday, adding more pressure on nations and international bodies to figure out what to do — and whether they can agree.

The NATO alliance said it was planning for any eventuality in the Libyan crisis. But with Gates preparing to join Thursday's NATO meeting to discuss military options, there was little sign they would agree to set up a no-fly zone.

The United States held to its right to show its military might unilaterally, including potential naval maneuvers closer to Libyan shores. But Obama's admonition for international action — not go-it-alone-force — remains a driving principle of any military intervention.

That approach offers broader legitimacy and shared burden, but also more complicated politics.

"We believe it's important that this not be an American or a NATO or a European effort; it needs to be an international one," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday on CBS. She conceded divisions within the United Nations Security Council but said that a "good, solid international package" was being considered.

Obama's aides cast the Situation Room meeting as one in a series of discussions as the president's top security advisers sought to rally around recommendations for him.

Carney said he did not want to even suggest that more action will be taken. He offered a broad defense of what the United States has already done on its own and with the United Nations in response to the crisis, from freezing assets to imposing sanctions, and insisted no such response has ever happened faster.

Still, the deepening and bloody standoff in Libya, combined with Obama's tough declaration that Gadhafi must go, has kept the pressure on the president to do more.

Gadhafi has seized the momentum, battering the rebels with airstrikes and artillery fire and repulsing their westward march toward the capital, Tripoli.

A no-fly zone has become the best-known response option and the one that European allies, in particular, consider an effective international response.

Britain and France are pushing for the U.N. to create a no-fly zone over the country, and while the U.S. may be persuaded to sign on, such a move is unlikely to win the backing of veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China, which traditionally object to such steps as infringements on national sovereignty.

"There are individuals and countries within the UN who question the efficacy of a no-fly zone, the need for a no-fly zone, what it would entail. I think those are somewhat justified questions," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "We're still evaluating the option." Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters Wednesday that "NATO is not looking to intervene in Libya."

He said the alliance, however, was doing the planning for "all eventualities." The NATO chief said the alliance will extend its surveillance of Libya's coastal area by keeping an airborne warning and control plane on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell indicated Wednesday that the U.S. was unlikely to make a decision this week on any military action.

U.S. military officials are providing Obama with options that can range from humanitarian assistance and a show of force to war-fighting tactics. Military action could include creating and enforcing the no-fly zone, using Air and Navy forces in the region to jam and take out Libya's air defenses, and ramping up intelligence and surveillance in the region.

There are at least five major U.S. warships in the Mediterranean, including the USS Kearsarge with its Marine contingent on board. And there are Air Force fighters, bombers, tankers and electronic warfare aircraft easily available from bases in Germany, England and Italy.


MONDAY and TUESDAY, March 7 and 8, 2011

BARACK OBAMA, YOU ARE AWOL.

As predicted by me in this section shortly after the last Presidential election,  Barack Obama's Presidency is looking more and more like that of Jimmy Carter...with the added feature of the ever-present teleprompters.  Carter was an articulate micro-manager who missed the forest for the trees - and so is Obama.  Carter had his Hostage Crisis - and it looks like Obama will have his Libya.  Even  Bill Clinton, master of the "wet finger in the air politics", now states that his greatest regret is not having intervened earlier in the Balkans.  Barack Obama is a basketball player who constantly throws air-balls. 

Mr. President, you are President of the United States, not of NATO and certainly not of that good-for-nothing congregation of world-class cynics and hypocrites - the U.N. 
Wake Up!  Don't just stand there...intervene now with enough power to insure the success of the revolt of the people of Libya against yet another homicidal maniac.  Meanwhile, you are AWOL.

GS


SUNDAY, March 6, 2011

A COMMENTARY AND A COMMENT:
GS


SATURDAY, March 5, 2011

If you are reading these Rapid Response offerings from me, you certainly should be reading regularly the offerings of Charles Krauthammer, locally and wisely offered in The Day (www.theday.com). Dr. Krauthammer is articulate, very knowledgeable and spot-on with his insights.  He makes my self-appointed task in this section a great deal easier.
His most recent column sets the current unrest in the Middle East in the context of developments of the last ten years in that region: "Road From Baghdad to Benghazi", The Day Saturday, March 5, pA7. 
PLEASE KEEP INFORMED...AND GET INVOLVED.  "This is your life".

GS


FRIDAY, March 4, 2011

CAUTION: WE ARE ENTERING "THE TWILIGHT ZONE".  GS

The Decline of U.S. Naval Power

Sixty ships were commonly underway in America's seaward approaches in 1998, but today there are only 20. We are abdicating our role on the oceans.

By MARK HELPRIN
Last week, pirates attacked and executed four Americans in the Indian Ocean. We and the Europeans have endured literally thousands of attacks by the Somali pirates without taking the initiative against their vulnerable boats and bases even once. Such paralysis is but a symptom of a sickness that started some time ago.

The 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," suggested that in another 30 years commercial flights to the moon, extraterrestrial mining, and interplanetary voyages would be routine. Soon the United States would send multiple missions to the lunar surface, across which astronauts would speed in vehicles. If someone born before Kitty Hawk's first flight would shortly after retirement see men riding around the moon in an automobile, it was reasonable to assume that half again as much time would bring progress at a similarly dazzling rate.

It didn't work out that way. In his 1962 speech at Rice University, perhaps the high-water mark of both the American Century and recorded presidential eloquence, President Kennedy framed the challenge not only of going to the moon but of sustaining American exceptionalism and this country's leading position in the world. He was assassinated a little more than a year later, and in subsequent decades American confidence went south.

Not only have we lost our enthusiasm for the exploration of space, we have retreated on the seas. Up to 30 ships, the largest ever constructed, each capable of carrying 18,000 containers, will soon come off the ways in South Korea. Not only will we neither build, own, nor man them, they won't even call at our ports, which are not large enough to receive them. We are no longer exactly the gem of the ocean. Next in line for gratuitous abdication is our naval position.

Separated by the oceans from sources of raw materials in the Middle East, Africa, Australia and South America, and from markets and manufacture in Europe, East Asia and India, we are in effect an island nation. Because 95% and 90% respectively of U.S. and world foreign trade moves by sea, maritime interdiction is the quickest route to both the strangulation of any given nation and chaos in the international system. First Britain and then the U.S. have been the guarantors of the open oceans. The nature of this task demands a large blue-water fleet that simply cannot be abridged.

Forty percent of the world's population lives within range of modern naval gunfire, and more than two-thirds within easy reach of carrier aircraft.

With the loss of a large number of important bases world-wide, if and when the U.S. projects military power it must do so most of the time from its own territory or the sea. Immune to political cross-currents, economically able to cover multiple areas, hypoallergenic to restive populations, and safe from insurgencies, the fleets are instruments of undeniable utility in support of allies and response to aggression. Forty percent of the world's population lives within range of modern naval gunfire, and more than two-thirds within easy reach of carrier aircraft. Nothing is better or safer than naval power and presence to preserve the often fragile reticence among nations, to protect American interests and those of our allies, and to prevent the wars attendant to imbalances of power and unrestrained adventurism.

And yet the fleet has been made to wither even in time of war. We have the smallest navy in almost a century, declining in the past 50 years to 286 from 1,000 principal combatants. Apologists may cite typical postwar diminutions, but the ongoing 17% reduction from 1998 to the present applies to a navy that unlike its wartime predecessors was not previously built up. These are reductions upon reductions. Nor can there be comfort in the fact that modern ships are more capable, for so are the ships of potential opponents. And even if the capacity of a whole navy could be packed into a small number of super ships, they could be in only a limited number of places at a time, and the loss of just a few of them would be catastrophic.

The overall effect of recent erosions is illustrated by the fact that 60 ships were commonly underway in America's seaward approaches in 1998, but today—despite opportunities for the infiltration of terrorists, the potential of weapons of mass destruction, and the ability of rogue nations to sea-launch intermediate and short-range ballistic missiles—there are only 20.

As China's navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany's in World Wars I and II and the Soviet Union's in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.

The United Sates Navy need not follow the Royal Navy into near oblivion. We have five times the population and almost six times the GDP of the U.K., and unlike Britain we were not exhausted by the great wars and their debt, and we neither depended upon an empire for our sway nor did we lose one.

Despite its necessity, deficit reduction is not the only or even the most important thing. Abdicating our more than half-century stabilizing role on the oceans, neglecting the military balance, and relinquishing a position we are fully capable of holding will bring tectonic realignments among nations—and ultimately more expense, bloodletting, and heartbreak than the most furious deficit hawk is capable of imagining. A technological nation with a GDP of $14 trillion can afford to build a fleet worthy of its past and sufficient to its future. Pity it if it does not.

Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt), "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt) and, most recently, "Digital Barbarism" (HarperCollins).


THURSDAY, March 3, 2011

WISCONSIN.  THIS IS "WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE".  GS

Analysis: The real stakes in Wisconsin
By MIKE MURPHY Mike Murphy – Thu Mar 3, 11:20 am ET

If you don't look too closely, the battle lines between Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, and his state's public employees' unions seem to be clearly drawn. Walker wants public employees to pay more toward their health care and retirement benefits, while teachers and public workers howl that Walker's plan to curb most collective bargaining is a malicious plot to bust up their unions.

Of course neither side wants to discuss what is really at stake in this battle: the public-sector unions are fighting for their shady ability to take millions of dollars from their members' dues money without really asking, and the governor is not really owning up to his ambition to smash the political power of public employees' unions to smithereens. (See TIME's photo-essay "Showdown in Wisconsin.")

The stakes are rising because, if Walker succeeds, other swing states with newly elected Republican governors, such as Ohio and Michigan, could follow. A growing movement by cash-strapped states to limit the political clout of public-sector unions would bring disastrous results, not only for the unions but for every Democratic candidate eyeing the 2012 ballot, from local officials all the way up to Barack Obama.

Walker has a strong case on the fiscal merits. The cost of state employees' benefits has skyrocketed in tandem with the rising power of public employees' unions. It has become a perverse and semicorrupt arrangement: the unions raise millions from dues, which are then used to elect labor-friendly politicians who cave at the contract-negotiating table, especially on long-term employment deals, whose cost really begins to crush the state or city budget in the years after the agreeable politician has left office. This is where public-sector unions lack the moral authority of their private-sector brethren. When the United Steelworkers negotiate with a steel company, they don't also control the company's board of directors. (Who's to blame in Wisconsin?)

Few Americans understand how the public-employee-union money machine works. Many unionized state and local public workers have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. On average, a teacher in Wisconsin pays more than $1,000 per year to the union (from an average salary of $51,264). A decent chunk of this money is used to fund political activities. That doesn't mean just making contributions. It also means running lavish independent ad campaigns in support of their chosen candidates and against their opponents. Even Democratic candidates who oppose union priorities can face massively funded negative campaigns targeting them in primaries. Engaging in such well-funded political activity is the unions' right, of course, but their immense financial power means they are bringing a machine gun to a fistfight.

Can rank-and-file employees opt out of their unions' political spending? They can, but they have to ask for that exemption, and few do. The system is set up to allow the unions' political barons to easily skim big money from dues with very little member involvement. Under Walker's proposal, employees have to opt into their union and its dues every year; nothing is automatic. Union leaders fear that few rank-and-file members would do so, and their political machines would quickly grind to a halt. And if Walker wins his battle in Wisconsin, it could become a game changer for the GOP as other states follow suit. (See how to fix teacher tenure without the pass-fail grade.)

This brutal battle of political realpolitik is why both sides in Madison are dug in deep, hanging from the rafters of the Wisconsin state capitol and vowing to fight to the death. National labor and interest groups are funding TV ads trying to push public opinion in Wisconsin to one side or the other. (Disclosure: I work with a communications firm doing some of the pro-Walker ads. I also belong to a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO.) Both sides have polls showing they are winning, but the ground truth is murkier. Walker is prevailing in the argument over the budget. But the unions have cleverly begun to defend what they call the right of collective bargaining. That move is as politically effective as it is factually dubious. Collective bargaining for public employees didn't begin to gain strength until the 1960s, when growing union power (and Democratic statehouses) conspired to adopt it. Two generations later, only 26 states allow collective bargaining for most public employees, and this "right" has largely not been extended to federal workers.

Like all political battles, the Wisconsin fight will come down to numbers. I'm betting on Walker. He has the votes.


TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, March 1 and 2, 2011

One of Maxine's best!! Indeed!

Minorities 

We need to show more sympathy for these people.
* They travel miles in the heat.
* They risk their lives crossing a border.
* They don't get paid enough wages.
* They do jobs that others won't do or are afraid to do.
* They live in crowded conditions among a people who speak a different language.
* They rarely see their families, and they face adversity all day ~ every day.


I'm not talking about illegal Mexicans. I'm talking about our troops!  Doesn't it seem strange that many Democrats and Republicans are willing to lavish all kinds of social benefits on illegals, but don't support our troops, and are even threatening to defund them?

If you wish, pass this on. It is worth the short time it takes to read it.


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