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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dana Milbank, "Barack Obama, President Oh-bummer": Why Is There a Need for a Syrian State?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Barack Obama, President Oh-bummer," uber-liberal Dana Milbank, observing the "stylistic gulf" between American President Obama ("discouraging and lawyerly") and French President Hollande ("upbeat and can-do") at a news conference in the White House on Tuesday, concludes (my emphasis in red):

"When Laura Haim of France’s Canal+ TV network asked if there was a deadline for ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, both men had the same policy: no timetable. But what they said after that highlighted their different styles.

Hollande spoke of a new era. “There is a new mind-set now,” Hollande said. “And those who believed that we could wait” now realize “the risk is everywhere . . . . We, therefore, must act.”

Then came President Oh-bummer.

'Syria has broken down,' he said. 'And it is going to be a difficult, long, methodical process to bring back together various factions within Syria to maintain a Syrian state.'

Maybe you can motivate people when you sound so discouraging. But it’s hard."

Query for Obama: Why is there any need whatsoever "to maintain a Syrian state," whose artificial boundaries were fixed in 1916 by France and Britain pursuant the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916? Isn't it time to recognize a Kurdish state, which would include the northern region of Syria, where its long-oppressed Kurds reside?

Reporting on yesterday's White House press conference, Peter Baker, in a New York Times article entitled "Meeting With François Hollande, Obama Urges Europe to Escalate ISIS Fight," writes:

"Publicly, though, Mr. Obama outlined no concrete new actions that the United States would take, and he suggested that the attacks might finally prompt Europe to approach the threat more seriously. 'We also think, as François said, that there may be new openness on the part of other coalition members to help resource and provide additional assistance, both to the coalition as a whole and to the local forces on the ground,' Mr. Obama said."

"[N]ew openness on the part of other coalition members to help resource and provide additional assistance"?  His 65-nation coalition against the Islamic State includes such big guns as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Nigeria, Panama, Singapore, Slovenia, Somalia, and Tunisia. The coalition also includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, whose wealthy citizens have been busy funding the Islamic State.

In fact, Obama is disavowing responsibility for the Middle East disaster he engineered and blowing smoke up our collective asses.

David Brooks, "Tales of the Super Survivors": Can Nations Recover From PTSD?

PTSD? A doctor once told me that I showed signs of it; however, I've never cared much for psychological pigeonholing. Personally, I prefer the diagnosis of a dear friend who determined, "You're crazy, but in a good way."

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Tales of the Super Survivors," David Brooks discusses the ability of some human beings to "experience surges of post-traumatic growth" following terror attacks. Brooks goes on to conclude his opinion piece by relating to the ability of nations to rebound from mass casualty atrocities:

"It’s interesting that this age of terrorism calls forth certain practical skills — the ability to tell stories, the ability to philosophize and define a meaning to your life. Just as individuals need moral stories if they are going to recover, so probably do nations. France will most likely need a parable to make sense of what happened, just as the United States still has competing parables about the meaning of 9/11.

This is why foreign policies that pursue amoral realpolitik are always impractical. If a country can’t discern a moral purpose in its foreign policy, it will lack resilience. It will lack the capacity to bounce back from an attack. It will lack a satisfying narrative and lose the ability to thrive in terror’s wake.

The good news is there is no reason to be pessimistic during the war on terrorism. Individuals and societies are tough and resilient, and usually emerge from attacks better than before."

France? Its demographics are changing, and its Jews, who have recently suffered repeated anti-Semitic incidents, are leaving. France will emerge "better than before"? I don't think so.

A "moral purpose" in America's foreign policy under Obama? The foreign policy of Obama, who couldn't even bring himself to condemn the conviction and sentencing of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, is best described as one of malign neglect.

Is America "better than before" post-9/11? As the US nears an election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, i.e. something akin to "King Kong vs. Godzilla," a horror from which many PTSD-afflicted persons might not find the will to recover, I have my doubts.

Monday, November 23, 2015

New York Times Editorial, "Iran Sentences an American Journalist": Obama's Foreign Policy of Malign Neglect

In an editorial entitled "Iran Sentences an American Journalist," The New York Times protests Tehran's announcement that Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been sentenced to prison for espionage for an unknown length of time. The Times tells us:

"The Iranian government made the announcement with as much transparency as it has shown in this case all along: none.

. . . .

The prosecution of Mr. Rezaian, a well-respected journalist of Iranian ancestry with dual citizenship, has been a travesty since he and his wife were detained in July 2014. The authorities have failed to present a shred of credible evidence that Mr. Rezaian broke any law and they have deprived him of due process. Recent suggestions by senior Iranian officials that he could be swapped for people imprisoned for violating sanctions against Iran strongly suggest that the case against him was a farce all along.

. . . .

In addition to Mr. Rezaian, two other Iranian-Americans are being unfairly detained. Saeed Abedini, a pastor, is serving an eight-year sentence after having been convicted of harming national security by holding Bible classes in private homes. Amir Hekmati, a former Marine, is serving a 10-year sentence after the judiciary convicted him of aiding a hostile government."

How many times does the editorial mention President Obama? Not once, but on the other hand, why should it? The president has said nothing.

This is probably a good time to revisit Dana Milbank's October 16, 2015 Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s baffling passivity on Jason Rezaian," in which this uber-liberal columnist declared after Rezaian's conviction:

"My Post colleague Jason Rezaian, the paper’s Tehran bureau chief, has been languishing in an Iranian jail for 15 months on bogus charges of espionage. He was put on secret trial by a kangaroo court. On Sunday, Iranian state TV reported that he had been convicted.

And Obama said . . . nothing. He didn’t go to the briefing room and make a statement. He didn’t even release a written statement. On Tuesday, his press secretary, in response to a reporter’s question at the briefing, responded with what might have been described as minor annoyance with the Iranian regime.

'We’ve got a number of concerns,' the spokesman said, mentioning the 'unjust' detention and 'opaque' process.

Where was the demand that Iran immediately release Rezaian and the two or three other Americans it is effectively holding hostage? Where was the threat of consequences if Tehran refused? How about some righteous outrage condemning Iran for locking up an American journalist for doing his job? Even if Obama’s outrage came to nothing, it would be salutary to hear the president defend the core American value of free speech."

Dana couldn't comprehend that Obama's failure to act, or even speak up on behalf of Rezaian and the other Americans languishing in Iranian prison cells, was part and parcel of the president's foreign policy of malign neglect.

But I suppose we must also take into account that if Obama had objected to Rezaian's conviction and sentencing, there are those who might wonder how the president entered into an unsigned, legacy-creating, nuclear deal with these monsters.

January 20, 2017 cannot come soon enough.

Paul Krugman, "Health Reform Lives!": Blowing Smoke Up Obama's Arse

As noted in my prior blog entry, in the 18th century there was a medical device called a tobacco smoke enema, which was used to resuscitate drowning victims. However, it was ultimately discovered that blowing tobacco smoke up dead persons arses had no medical benefit, and from there, "blowing smoke up your ass" was born, i.e. telling someone a lie that she/he wants to hear.

Well, In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Health Reform Lives!," Paul Krugman blows smoke up the president's arse. Claiming that Obamacare remains a success notwithstanding recent "not-great" news concerning Obama's legacy-creating reform of America's health care system,  Krugman writes:

"Sooner or later, of course, there were bound to be some negative surprises. And we’re now, finally, getting a bit of bad, or at least not-great, news about health reform.

First, premiums are going up for next year, because insurers are finding that their risk pool is somewhat sicker and hence more expensive than they expected. There’s a lot of variation across states, but the average increase will be around 11 percent. That’s a slight disappointment, but it’s not shocking, given both the good news of the previous two years and the long-term tendency of insurance premiums to rise 5-10 percent a year.

Second, some Americans who bought low-cost insurance plans have been unpleasantly surprised by high deductibles. This is a real issue, but it shouldn’t be exaggerated. All allowed plans cover preventive services without a deductible, and many plans cover other health services as well. Furthermore, additional financial aid is available to lower-income families to help cover such gaps. Some people may not know about these mitigating factors — that’s the problem with a fairly complex system — but awareness should improve over time."

An average increase of only 11 percent in 2016? Remarkably, this Nobel prize winner fails to observe that inflation in the US is currently running at some 0.2 percent. Or stated otherwise, an 11 percent increase in the cost of health care insurance is disastrous for many Americans.

"[S]ome Americans who bought low-cost insurance plans have been unpleasantly surprised by high deductibles"? As Robert Pear wrote in a November 14, 2015 New York Times article entitled [my italics] "Many Say High Deductibles Make Their Health Law Insurance All but Useless":

"Obama administration officials, urging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, have trumpeted the low premiums available on the law’s new marketplaces.

But for many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage.

'The deductible, $3,000 a year, makes it impossible to actually go to the doctor,' said David R. Reines, 60, of Jefferson Township, N.J., a former hardware salesman with chronic knee pain. 'We have insurance, but can’t afford to use it.'

In many states, more than half the plans offered for sale through, the federal online marketplace, have a deductible of $3,000 or more, a New York Times review has found."

Sorry, Paul, but Obamacare is proving as effective as a tobacco smoke enema.

Washington Post Editorial, "Hillary Clinton smartly distances herself from Obama": Blowing Smoke Up Hillary's Ass

The etymology of "blowing smoke up your ass"? Back in the 18th century, there was a popular medical device called a tobacco smoke enema, which was used to resuscitate drowning victims. However, it was ultimately discovered that blowing tobacco smoke into dead persons arses had no medical benefit, and from there, "blowing smoke up your ass" was born, i.e. telling someone a lie that she/he wants to hear.

Well today, in an editorial entitled "Hillary Clinton smartly distances herself from Obama," The Washington Post blows smoke up Hillary's arse. WaPo would have us know concerning Hillary's position on Syria:

"Ms. Clinton has a strong claim to express her differences with Mr. Obama, since it’s well-known that she argued them privately during her time in the administration, especially about how to handle Syria. (She favored more substantial U.S. support to dictator Bashar al-Assad’s opposition early in the popular uprising that has since devolved into civil war.) Not only that, but it’s clear from events in Paris that any progress Mr. Obama’s approach has achieved so far — and there has been some — is insufficient to stop the Islamic State from sowing terror far beyond the Middle East. Finally, the measures Ms. Clinton endorsed, such as safe zones, directly arming Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces if the Iraqi government won’t, and a more aggressive use of airstrikes and Special Operations forces, enjoy the backing of many military experts."

Excuse me, boys and girls, but how do you make such a claim without mention of Hillary's March 27, 2011  "Face the Nation" interview (massive protests against the Assad regime had begun two weeks earlier), during which she declared:

"There is a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer."

Assad a reformer? As the Washington Post's own Glenn Kessler subsequently wrote in a "Fact Checker" column entitled "Hillary Clinton’s uncredible statement on Syria," in which he gave Hillary three Pinocchios:

"Hillary Clinton is known for making provocative statements, but few have generated such a firestorm as her comment last week that the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, may be a reformer. She made her remarks after 'Face the Nation' host Bob Schieffer noted that Assad’s late father had killed 25,000 people during an uprising against his regime. Clinton responded by noting that the son was now in power and he was a 'different leader.'

Lawmakers and columnists quickly condemned her remarks. So two days later Clinton tried to deflect the criticism by telling reporters she was only referencing 'the opinions' of lawmakers who had met with Assad and that she was not speaking for the administration. But then she added: 'We’re also going to continue to urge that the promise of reform, which has been made over and over again and which you reported on just a few months ago – I’m a reformer, I’m going to reform, and I’ve talked to members of Congress and others about that, that we hear from the highest levels of leadership in Syria – will actually be turned into reality.'

. . . .

Throughout the Middle East uprisings, Clinton has had trouble calibrating her comments to the mood of the moment, such as when she pronounced the Mubarak regime to be 'stable' and 'looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.' Days later, Mubarak was gone.

We grant that we have no way of really knowing what lawmakers may have said privately to Clinton. But there is only a small universe of GOP senators and members of Congress who have recently traveled to Syria — 13 or so — and the word 'many' would suggest at least half of those traveling."

The Mubarak regime was "stable"? "There is a different leader in Syria now"? Spare me.

Regarding today's Washington Post editorial, I would also mention in passing that Hillary cannot even bring herself to say the words "radical Islam."

I would also mention that Hillary was instrumental in bringing about Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Iran, after she recommended allowing the Islamic Republic of Iran, Assad's primary backer, to continue to enrich uranium as part of the said deal. Obama's passivity over the years toward Assad was in no way linked to his desperation to reach a legacy-creating nuclear deal with Khamenei? The answer is obvious. Worse still, Iranian fighter jets are now flying over Syria, creating a powder keg of Gargantuan dimensions, given their proximity to American and Israeli aircraft.

Bottom line: Hillary's foreign policy recommendations have proven no more substantive or consistent than smoke in the wind (or tobacco smoke blown into a corpse's arse). The Washington Post's editorial board should know better than to foist such nonsense upon us.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Frank Bruni, "How ISIS Defeats Us": Dracula to the Rescue?

In a seemingly sensible, balanced, New York Times op-ed entitled "How ISIS Defeats Us," Frank Bruni begins:

"I DON’T know how we win the war against ISIS.

But I know how we lose it. The last week has been a thorough and demoralizing education in that.

We lose it with a response to the Paris carnage and a discussion about the path forward that’s driven by partisan grievances and posturing rather than a mature, nuanced attempt to address Americans’ understandable anxiety and acknowledge that we may not be doing the right things or enough of them."

Bruni doesn't know how to win the war against the Islamic State? Well, fortunately or unfortunately, Russian President Putin thinks he knows how to win. Although Russian air strikes in Syria were initially focused on non-Islamic State rebel forces, including US-backed insurgents, that has all changed after ISIS took down a Russian passenger plane over Sinai on October 31 with a bomb that  killed 224 people. Putin responded to the attack on the A321 jet by declaring:

"Our military work in Syria must not only continue. It must be strengthened in such a way so that the terrorists will understand that retribution is inevitable."

And "true to his word," Putin is now carpet-bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa, which had served as the capital of the Islamic State's would-be caliphate. How many ISIS fighters and civilians have died in the attacks on the city, which once had a population of some 220,000? No one knows.

As you might be aware, Bram Stoker's "Dracula" was based upon a historical figure named Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, who, in his battles with the Ottoman Empire, took to impaling Turkish prisoners of war in order to dispirit enemy forces. Well today, a new Vlad has arisen - actually his name is Vladimir - who is not willing to brook any sh*t from ISIS.

How does the US win or lose against ISIS? Sorry, Frank, the whole situation has spun entirely out of American control.

Friday, November 20, 2015

David Brooks, "Hillary Clinton Takes On ISIS": Bullshit!

Yes, I'm furious.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hillary Clinton Takes On ISIS," David Brooks praises Hillary Clinton's speech on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Brooks writes:

"The speech was very impressive. While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework, not only dealing with ISIS but also putting that threat within the crosscutting conflicts that are inflaming the Middle East.

For example, instead of just issuing a generic call to get tough on the terrorists, she pointed to the reality that ISIS will be toppled only if there is an uprising by fellow Sunnis. There has to be a Sunni Awakening against ISIS in 2016, like the Sunni Awakening that toppled Al Qaeda in Iraq starting in 2007.

That will not happen while President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is spreading mayhem, terror and genocide."

Both Hillary and David fail to recognize that the Sunni Gulf states in the past funded the Islamic State and are now turning a blind eye to donations to ISIS from their wealthy citizenry. You see, Saudia Arabia is more afraid of Shiite Iran's ambition to gain hegemony over the Middle East than it is of ISIS. And lest anyone forget, the courtship of Iran has been a cornerstone of Obama's foreign policy, implemented in no small part by Secretary of State Clinton.

Or stated otherwise, by stoking Sunni fears involving American overtures to Iran, Obama and Hillary share partial responsibility for the emergence of the Islamic State.

Worse still, the Clinton Foundation has also been taking money from these same Gulf states.

Assad? Brooks fails to mention how Hillary declared in March 2011:

"There is a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer."

Assad a reformer? This comment alone should disqualify Hillary as a presidential candidate.

And today, Hillary Clinton cannot even bring herself to say the words "radical Islam." It's almost akin to Harry Potter and friends trying not to utter "Voldemort."

Brooks goes on to say that the US should be "supporting institutional reform, as Clinton said, throughout the Arab world, to revitalize nations as functioning units. Not an unsustainable stab at nation-building, but better governance from top to bottom." Reform the theocracies and dictatorships which comprise the Muslim Middle East? Good luck at that. We already witnessed what came of the Arab Spring.

My advice to Brooks: Go back to writing about the "great religions . . . based on love." You know absolutely nothing about the Middle East.