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Thursday, September 18, 2014

David Brooks, "Startling Adult Friendships": Do You Want to Go to Friendship Camp?

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

- Groucho Marx

Care to spend next summer in a David Brooks friendship camp? I kid you not!

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Startling Adult Friendships," subtitled "There Are Social and Political Benefits to Having Friends," David Brooks contemplates "what I would do if I had $500 million to give away." Observing that friendships give rise to better judgment, better versions of ourselves and better behavior, Brooks "envision[s] a string of adult camps or retreat centers (my oldest friendships were formed at summer camp, so I think in those terms)." He concludes by explaining:

"The goal of these intensity retreats would be to spark bonds between disparate individuals who, in the outside world, would be completely unlikely to know each other. The benefits of that social bridging, while unplannable, would ripple out in ways long and far-reaching."

Great idea! Let's send President Obama to a friendship summer camp together with a member of the Tea Party and a knife-wielding ISIS killer. I wonder who would walk away sane? More to the point, who would walk away with his head?

Thanks, but I think I'll just read a book with (not inside) Arnold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dana Milbank, "Trey Gowdy’s unexpected Benghazi twist": Who Cares If Documents Were Culled by Clinton Loyalists?

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Trey Gowdy’s unexpected Benghazi twist," Dana Milbank praises Republican Congressman Gowdy for the manner in which he chaired the first public hearing of the House’s new Benghazi select committee on Wednesday:

"There was no discussion of talking points or stand-down orders, and only one of the seven Republicans on the panel — Jim Jordan of Ohio — even mentioned Clinton. Instead, Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee’s Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.

This is exactly what congressional oversight should be: a bipartisan effort by legislators to make sure executive-branch officials don’t repeat past mistakes."

"This is exactly what congressional oversight should be"? Oh really? On Monday, over at The Daily Signal, Sharyl Attkisson wrote in an opinion piece entitled "Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review":

"As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to 'separate' damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story."

Although this could prove "untidy" for Dana Milbank, Mr. Maxwell's story demands a thorough examination by the select committee, extending far beyond "a bipartisan effort by legislators to make sure executive-branch officials don’t repeat past mistakes." At issue is the mere integrity of American democracy.

James Bamford, "Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal": The New York Times Continues to Wage War Against Israel

So, you're interested in having a guest opinion piece published in The New York Times? Unless you're Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin or Henry Kissinger, it's not an easy thing to do. On the other hand, if you write an opinion piece - no matter how vapid or inane - excoriating Israel, you're chances of being published improve immeasurably.

In a fatuous guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal," James Bamford tells us how he "had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden" in Moscow this past summer. And apparently during the time that Bamford "hung out" with this American traitor, he was told that "the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200." Bamford informs us:

"Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. 'I think that’s amazing,' he told me. 'It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.'

It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for 'political persecution.' In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society."

Oh my goodness, the NSA passes communications from Palestinians to Israeli intelligence. Apparently unbeknownst to Bamford, Israel also shares intelligence with the United States. That's what friendly intel agencies do. (Would Bamford have us believe that the US doesn't share such information with the UK's MI6?)

A violation of privacy? No question about it. However, as Bamford is surely aware, every time you make an overseas call, your conversation is recorded. Say a "magic" word, and your conversation gets "special attention." That's the price we pay in order to attempt to avoid another 9/11. Sure, it's a nasty trade-off, but I personally prefer not to see another 2,600 people incinerated in a skyscraper, and I am willing to sacrifice much of my personal privacy to ensure that this does not happen again.

The Mossad and the Shin Bet make use of information concerning sexual orientations, infidelities and money problems to coerce people into becoming collaborators? Tell me, are there espionage organizations which don't do this?

And if Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US, is raising money in the US to fund its terror activities, is this of no interest to Israel and the US?

Okay, 43 reservists and former reservists from Unit 8200, from among the thousands of Israelis who have served in this unit, published a letter criticizing Israeli intelligence gathering efforts. Am I supposed to be shocked? Doesn't this speak volumes about the tolerant nature of Israeli society, which allows citizens from a broad spectrum of political views to express their views without fear of imprisonment or corporal punishment? And are we to understand that the thousands of other Israelis who served in Unit 8200 didn't sign the letter because they are stupider than these 43 persons or less moral?

Bamford concludes his opinion piece by observing how Snowden informed him:

"It’s much like how the F.B.I. tried to use Martin Luther King’s infidelity to talk him into killing himself . . . We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the ’60s. Why are we doing that now? Why are we getting involved in this again?"

It never occurs to Bamford that unlike Hamas, Martin Luthor King never encouraged suicide bombings, indiscriminately fired thousands of missiles at Israeli population centers, or called for the murder of all Jews.

Only The New York Times would stoop so low as to publish this offensive tripe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Take a Deep Breath": What If Friedman Was Decapitated by ISIS?

What if it had been Obama's friend Thomas Friedman, and not James Foley, who had been captured by ISIS? Do you think Obama would have delayed a rescue mission? And if it had been Friedman who had been decapitated by ISIS in August, do you think Obama would have been on a Martha's Vineyard golf course within 20 minutes of delivering a speech deploring Tom's grizzly death?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Take a Deep Breath," subtitled "ISIS and the Arab World," would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman tells us that "an existential struggle" is taking place in the Arab world today" and asks "is it ours or is it theirs?" Questioning whether American needs to escalate its war against ISIS, Friedman goes on to say:

"What concerns me most about President Obama’s decision to re-engage in Iraq is that it feels as if it’s being done in response to some deliberately exaggerated fears — fear engendered by YouTube videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists — and fear that ISIS, a.k.a., the Islamic State, is coming to a mall near you. How did we start getting so afraid again so fast? Didn’t we build a Department of Homeland Security?"

Well, I don't know about a "mall near you," but these bastards are not stupid (they have Friedman writing about them twice a week), and notwithstanding Friedman's apathy, it is only a matter of time until they attempt a terror attack against the US. Place you faith in Homeland Security to deter such a disaster? I will let you answer that question yourselves.

But more to the point, when ISIS leaves behind it a trail of heads detached from their bodies and surrounds thousands of Yazidis on a mountaintop, are there no humanitarian concerns that should drive US foreign policy? Whatever happened to United Stated Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who once-upon-a-time wrote a book entitled "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide"?

And when our Kurdish allies are almost overrun by these monsters, do we turn a blind eye? After all, Friedman would have us know that it is their problem and not ours.

Now try to reconcile Friedman's column of today's date with his February 2003 New York Times op-ed entitled "Tell The Truth," in which he wrote:

"Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice -- but it's a legitimate choice. It's because he is undermining the U.N., it's because if left alone he will seek weapons that will threaten all his neighbors, it's because you believe the people of Iraq deserve to be liberated from his tyranny, and it's because you intend to help Iraqis create a progressive state that could stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world, so that this region won't keep churning out angry young people who are attracted to radical Islam and are the real weapons of mass destruction."

So, destroying the balance of power between the Sunni and Shiites just over a decade ago was justified by the need to "stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world, so that this region won't keep churning out angry young people who are attracted to radical Islam." Needless to say, the inane Iraq war and its aftermath cost the United States the lives of thousands of soldiers and trillions of dollars. Has the Muslim world stopped "churning out angry young people"? No way, Jose.

Now, however, when ISIS is brazenly killing thousands of innocent civilians, grotesquely executing American citizens and overtly threatening the American homeland, Friedman would have America reconsider armed intervention. Maybe Friedman would care to try his hand at explaining away the contradiction.

Most frightening, Obama actually listens to this nincompoop.

Haaretz, "Bill Clinton strays from Hillary’s Israel script and knocks Netanyahu": DON'T VOTE FOR HILLARY!

In a Haaretz article entitled "Bill Clinton strays from Hillary’s Israel script and knocks Netanyahu," Chemi Shalev informs us that Bill Clinton, joining his wife at the Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa on Sunday, agreed with a pro-Palestinian activist that "If we don’t force him [Netanyahu] to have peace, we won’t have peace."

You don't believe it? See the video:

It wasn't enough that Obama attempted to compel Netanyahu to accept Qatari and Turkish mediation during the latest round of fighting with Hamas. Now, it is obvious what Hillary intends to force upon Israel if she should succeed Obama as president.

Some time in the not too distant future, Israel will be fighting another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The last thing Israel needs is another president prepared to cut off arms shipments when hostilities begin in order to obtain the concessions she desires.

Please, anyone other than Hillary . . .

Monday, September 15, 2014

David Brooks, "Goodbye, Organization Man": ISIS, Yes; Ebola, Not yet

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Goodbye, Organization Man," David Brooks segues from the repetitive need to cobble together coalitions to fight "jihadism," to periodic unpreparedness to combat epidemics such as the current Ebola crisis, to "general institutional decay." Brooks describes what he perceives to be the root of this problem:

"Now nobody wants to be an Organization Man. We like start-ups, disrupters and rebels. Creativity is honored more than the administrative execution. Post-Internet, many people assume that big problems can be solved by swarms of small, loosely networked nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Big hierarchical organizations are dinosaurs.

. . . .

When the boring tasks of governance are not performed, infrastructures don’t get built. Then, when epidemics strike, people die."

"Nobody wants to be an Organization Man"? Get real, David. Unemployment is still high in both the US and Europe, and many people would give their eye teeth to be employed by the World Health Organization, which employs more than 7,000 people, including "medical doctors, public health specialists, scientists and epidemiologists," as well as "people trained to manage administrative, financial, and information systems, as well as experts in the fields of health statistics, economics and emergency relief. "

Sure, in 2011 the WHO was forced to cut its annual budget by almost $1 billion, but this seems to have mainly affected administration and management staff at its Geneva headquarters, as well as travel and publications.

Sure, working at WHO does not confer rock star status upon its employees. On the other hand, there are very few rock stars in this world.

There are also those of us who are incapable of working with hundreds of other people in large organizations. (Given the pranks I played in the offices of a major financial institution many years ago, I'm amazed I wasn't found out and fired.)

But I think Brooks is missing the point. He wants action against Ebola? Well, if Obama was to raise funds from millionaires to combat this deadly disease, instead of seeking money to finance the Democratic Party, awareness could be raised. Or maybe Michelle might want to be the first to undergo the Ebola ice bucket challenge.

But that would demand leadership, which would take the president away from the links. Also, the latest polls don't demand this sort of action. ISIS, yes; Ebola, not yet.

Not to worry: Ebola's time will also come . . . and go.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Israel's Next War: Just Around the Corner

All is quiet on the border with Gaza. Israel's recent war with Hamas and Islamic Jihad set the economy of Gaza back by a decade, and it will be quite some time before these two terror organizations dare send another rocket into Israel.

On the other hand, the quiet on Israel's northern border with Lebanon is deceptive. Shiite Hezbollah refused to intervene on behalf of Sunni Hamas's behalf, given the brutal fighting in Syria between these two sects of Islam. (Hamas, of course, moved its headquarters from Damascus to Qatar owing to this tension.) However, the Israeli military is now busy preparing for a Hezbollah attack across the Lebanese border into northern Israel. As reported by Marissa Newman in a Times of Israel article entitled "Hezbollah could advance into Israel in next war, official warns":

"A senior IDF official warned Sunday that while Hezbollah has no immediate plan to attack Israel, a minor security incident could erupt into a full-fledged war on Israel’s northern front during which the terror organization would likely try to capture swaths of the Galilee.

. . . .

According to the assessment, Hezbollah could capture the Rosh Hanikra area, including a small Israeli town near the border with Lebanon, for several hours, if Israel does not strike the group preemptively.

He said the army was working on a plan to evacuate the northern residents if need be, but warned there would be casualties on the Israeli side."

Any such war will necessarily involve a deep ground penetration by Israel into Lebanon in order to stanch the firing of missiles at Israeli civilian targets. Hezbollah has received from Iran and Syria more than 50,000 missiles, which can hit anywhere in Israel.

Israeli civilian casualties? There will be many, unless Israel launches a preemptive attack.

Israel can only hope that when this happens (not if it happens), there will be a new US president, who will not seek to cut off arms deliveries in the middle of the fighting.