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Sunday, May 24, 2015

New York Times Editorial, "Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite": No Mention of the Clinton Foundation

In an editorial entitled "Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite," The New York Times informs us:

"As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.

. . . .

In all, the banks will pay fines totaling about $9 billion, assessed by the Justice Department as well as state, federal and foreign regulators. That seems like a sweet deal for a scam that lasted for at least five years, from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2013, during which the banks’ revenue from foreign exchange was some $85 billion."

Got it: These banks will pay fines of $9 billion on foreign exchange revenue of $85 billion. Sweet!

However, what the Times doesn't tell us is the connection of some of these banks (not Royal Bank of Scotland) to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative ("CGI"). The Clinton Foundation lists Barclays Capital and the Citi Foundation as donors in the $1,000,001 to $5,000,000 range. It also lists JPMorgan Chase as a donor in the $100,001 to $250,000 range.

In addition, with regard to Barclays, a March 3, 2015 CNN article entitled "Base wary of Clinton Foundation's ties to troubled banks" by Alexandra Jaffe states:

"British banking giant Barclays emerged as a 'strategic partner' with CGI for its 2010 annual meeting, and gave the same level of support every year after that.

. . . .

In August of 2010, the Justice Department announced Barclays would pay nearly $300 million in fines for breaking sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan and others.

. . . .

According to a Justice Department statement issued in June 2012, Barclays "admitted and accepted responsibility for its misconduct" at the center of a scheme to manipulate global interest rates, which in turn affected prices for consumer lending.

The bank agreed to pay $450 million in total to the Justice Department, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the UK's Financial Services Authority to resolve the violations.

. . . .

In July 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused both Barclays and Deutsche Bank of helping hedge funds avoid paying more than $6 billion in taxes."

Can't wait for Hillary to field questions concerning her foundation's ties to the banking industry from a journalist who didn't donate to the foundation. Yes, I know, I shouldn't hold my breath.

Hezbollah Faces Disaster in Syria

As we were informed earlier this month by ynetnews in an article entitled "Report: Hezbollah leader being treated for heart attack" by Roi Kais, there were rumors throughout the Muslim Middle East that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah suffered a heart attack or stroke. However, even if he did not suffer a heart attack, it is more than likely that Nasrallah was indeed admitted to the hospital with chest pains, owing to the stress he has been enduring.

Over the course of the past few days, Hezbollah has been trumpeting its "victory" over al-Nusra forces in the Qalamoun hills situated on the border between Lebanon and Syria (Hezbollah has not mentioned that it received combat intelligence during the battle from American drones). Nasrallah claimed that only 13 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the battle (the number is closer to 250). However, Hebollah's true casualties are a closely guarded secret: Many of its fighters are being buried in Syria, and their families are being told that they were involved in fatal automobile accidents. My "best guess" is that at least 1,500 Hezbollah fighters have died in Syria, and twice that number have been wounded. This represents an extraordinarily large percentage of Hezbollah's military wing and also places a significant financial burden upon the organization, which is obligated to support the families of its "martyrs."

Just how bad is the current situation for Hezbollah? As reported in an April 28, 2015 New York Times article entitled "An Eroding Syrian Army Points to Strain" by Anne Barnard, Hwaida Saad and Eric Schmitt:

"Hezbollah is not in a position to bail out Mr. Assad the way it did in 2013, when it sent hundreds of fighters to crush the insurgent hub of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah now has more fighters and advisers in Syria than ever, about 5,000, American intelligence officials said. But, said the Syrian with security connections, they “only interfere in areas that are in their own interests.”

The official sympathetic to Hezbollah said it has 'maybe thousands' of fighters along the Lebanese border [e.g., the Qalamoun Hills], hundreds in the south, bordering Israel, and only dozens around divided Aleppo, Syria’s largest city."

However, a better indication of the difficulties facing Hezbollah is to be found in the very recent pronouncements of Nasrallah, who earlier this week declared that Hezbollah is fighting an "existential battle" in Syria. Moreover, as reported by The Jerusalem Post in an article entitled "Nasrallah: Downfall of Assad would mean fall of Hezbollah":

"Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime must be preserved, as its collapse would mean the end of Hezbollah and the 'axis of resistance,' the Lebanese movement’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said, according to a Lebanese paper close to the Islamic group.

He went on to assert that Assad would not be overthrown, but that it would not be possible for his forces to recover control over all of Syria.

Nasrallah was speaking on Thursday night during a meeting with Free Patriotic Movement party head Michel Aoun, a Christian leader and former Lebanese army chief allied with Hezbollah, Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday."

Can Assad and Nasrallah survive? In fact, much depends upon whether Obama frees up some $50 billion of frozen Iranian bank accounts as a signing bonus to Khamenei for reaching a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 by the June 30 deadline. No small part of these funds will be used to support Iran's proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, i.e. Assad, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels.

Obama, laboring to establish a presidential legacy by way of detente with Iran, is willfully ignoring Khamenei's duress to obtain these funds to finance Shiite dominion over the Middle East.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gail Collins, "Rush to Judgment": Hands Off Hillary!

In her latest and greatest New York Times op-ed entitled "Rush to Judgment," Gail Collins, at a loss for filler without Romney and Seamus, focuses her prodigious wit upon Republican presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Donald Trump. Sorry, but there's nothing worth quoting.

Notably absent from Collins choice of victims is Marco Rubio, who recently became Washington Post headline news after he spent $3,000 to replace his old refrigerator. How can someone, sending four children to private school and having trouble making ends meet, hope to become president of the United States if he struggles with his household budget? Remarkable how this sizzling hot piece of information from WaPo places the alleged multi-million dollar sale of influence peddling by a certain couple in perspective!

But why isn't Rubio on Collins's laundry list? Maybe because Democrats are terrified by the prospect of Hillary having to face Rubio in November 2016, and it's best not to remind anyone of his name. Out of sight, out of mind.

Does Collins even consider addressing Clinton's use of a private email server, which placed the lives of American diplomatic personnel in jeopardy? Not a chance. Hands off Hillary!

But not all of America's "progressive" pundits are granting Hillary a free pass. To her credit, Ruth Marcus writes today in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Hillary Clinton’s unseemly speechifying":

"Again with the speeches. The gross excessiveness of it all, vacuuming up six-figure checks well past the point of rational need or political seemliness. The ceaseless drip of information that ought to have already been released, now being presented with a self-serving back pat over transparency."

Still, Marcus says that she is "a fan of Hillary Clinton." Tell me, Ruth, what would it take for you not to be a "fan"? Hypothetically, if she were to be found guilty of a dozen chainsaw murders throughout the Middle Atlantic states? Take your time and write me an answer. The readers of this blog would be delighted to know.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Charles Krauthammer, "You want hypotheticals? Here’s one.": Obama's Iraqi Balderdash

In an editorial entitled "The Escalation of Unauthorized Wars," The New York Times appears worried by the advances of the Islamic State in Iraq and the renewed escalation of American involvement in that country's war, or wars, depending upon on how one sees it. The Times would have us know:

"'As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq,' President Obama said at the time [August 7, 2014]. Those words were suspect then. They seem preposterous now.

Over the past nine months, the United States and a small network of allies have carried out more than 4,050 strikes in Iraq and Syria in an attempt to weaken the Islamic State, a stunningly resilient terrorist group that poses an enormous menace to the region and the West. As of April 9, the war had cost American taxpayers more than $2.1 billion, or roughly $8.6 million per day, according to the latest data released by the Pentagon.

. . . .

As the war intensifies, it is more urgent than ever for Congress to approve a new Authorization for Use of Military Force that would provide adequate oversight and clearly articulate the long-term strategy for the fight against the Islamic State. The new mandate should replace the ones the administration is currently relying on and set clear limits that would preclude future administrations from using military force around the globe, anytime, anywhere, without consulting Congress."

Actually, Obama has said a lot of things about Iraq. As noted by Charles Krauthammer in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "You want hypotheticals? Here’s one.":

"Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, 'We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.' This was, said the president, a 'moment of success.'"

And today, Krauthammer would ask Hillary:

"Mme. Secretary: When you arrived at State, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been crushed and expelled from Anbar. The Iraqi government had from Basra to Sadr City fought and defeated the radical, Iranian-proxy Shiite militias. Yet today these militias are back, once again dominating Baghdad. On your watch, we gave up our position as the dominant influence over a 'sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq' — forfeiting that position gratuitously to Iran. Was that not a mistake? And where were you when it was made?"

Answers from Hillary, preoccupied with her silent presidential campaign, or Obama, preoccupied with appeasing Iran, whose forces are all that stand between ISIS and Baghdad? Forget it!

David Brooks, "Building Spiritual Capital": Did You Bury Enough Squirrels as a Child?

Yes, I buried enough squirrels as a child, but have I grown up to be spiritual? Probably not, much to the intense displeasure of my wife. You see, I've been a bit busy attempting to stay alive in the corporeal sense of the word and, to my eternal shame, financially afloat.

Dwelling on spirituality in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Building Spiritual Capitalhttp://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/opinion/david-brooks-building-spiritual-capital.html?ref=opinion&_r=0," David Brooks refers us to a book, "The Spiritual Child," by Columbia Professor Lisa Miller. Brooks would have us know:

"Still, it does seem true that most children are born with a natural sense of the spiritual. If they find a dead squirrel on the playground, they understand there is something sacred there, and they will most likely give it a respectful burial. They have a natural sense of the oneness of creation, and a sense of a transcendent, nonmaterial realm. Miller cites twin studies that suggest that the strength of a child’s spiritual awareness is about 29 percent because of broad genetic heritability, 24 percent because of family environment and 47 percent because of a person’s unique individual environment.

. . . .

Public schools often give short shrift to spirituality for fear that they would be accused of proselytizing religion. But it should be possible to teach the range of spiritual disciplines, in order to familiarize students with the options, without endorsing any one.

In an era in which so many people slip off the rails during adolescence, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring a resource that, if cultivated, could see them through. Ignoring spiritual development in the public square is like ignoring intellectual, physical or social development. It is to amputate people in a fundamental way, leading to more depression, drug abuse, alienation and misery."

Got it. But I wonder if those thousands of Westerners who have volunteered to fight for ISIS are saturated with or lacking in "spirituality." (Please forgive my cynicism, which is about one percent because of "broad genetic heritability," one percent because of "family environment," and 98 percent because of my "unique individual environment.")

Michael Gerson, "In just five weeks, Hillary has had a lifetime quota of scandals": Who Cares If She Endangered Americans Abroad?

Do you know what the federal government designation "SBU" means? We'll get to that in a moment.

Several days ago, I had a short discussion about Hillary with a friend living in the US. The friend quickly agreed that what Hillary had done - erasure of emails and acceptance of foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State - was immoral, but not illegal. And yes, when the time comes, that friend will vote for Hillary.

In a Washington Post opinion entitled "In just five weeks, Hillary has had a lifetime quota of scandals," Michael Gerson concludes:

"But if Clinton succeeds [continue her campaign for the presidency notwithstanding the scandals in which she is entangled], it would expand the boundaries of the permissible. It would again define deviancy down. Americans would have rewarded, or at least ignored, defiant secrecy and the destruction of documents. Future presidential candidates and campaign advisers would take note. Americans would have rewarded a skate along the ethical boundaries of money and influence. Future donors would see a green light, no matter what candidate Clinton says about campaign finance reform.

A democracy becomes the image of the virtues it rewards. Clinton is tough, disciplined and knowledgeable. Who needs honesty, trustworthiness and transparency?"

Actually, it would not only "expand the boundaries of the permissible," but rather it would enshrine immorality as a virtue in American political life.

In a New York Times article entitled "A Closer Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails on Benghazi" by Michael S. Schmidt, we are informed:

"Mrs. Clinton’s emails show that she had a special type of government information known as 'sensitive but unclassified,' or 'SBU,' in her account. That information included the whereabouts and travel plans of American officials in Libya as security there deteriorated during the uprising against the leadership of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. Nearly a year and a half before the attacks in Benghazi, Mr. Stevens, then an American envoy to the rebels, considered leaving Benghazi citing deteriorating security, according to an email to Mrs. Clinton marked 'SBU.'"

Or stated otherwise, "the whereabouts and travel plans of American officials in Libya" were available to any foreign entity that succeeded in penetrating Hillary's server. Do you think that foreign governments and terrorist organizations did not penetrate her server? If you don't think so, there's a bridge that I would like to sell you in Brooklyn.

Immoral, but not illegal. After all, of what significance are the lives of a few government officials when compared with Hillary's presidential ambitions? Apparently, none whatsoever.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gail Collins, "Tubman Versus Jackson": Why Not Pictures of Hillary and Bill?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Tubman Versus Jackson," Gail Collins discusses the replacement of Andrew Jackson's image on the US $20 bill with that of Harriet Tubman. Collins writes:

"The message here is that what goes on our money has an impact. 'It’s a reflection of the values in this country,' said Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. As part of the current debate about putting a woman on one of the bills, she’s introduced legislation that would require the secretary of the Treasury to convene 'a panel of citizens' to discuss the whole portrait issue.

. . . .

'Getting our hands on the money is equally important,' said Senator Shaheen mildly. But, really, we can go for both."

My suggestion? Create a new $20 bill with images of Hillary and Bill Clinton, which alternate, depending upon how the Bill is held (Monica Lewinsky can offer advice). Hard to counterfeit? Absolutely! It will also serve to illustrate how women and men, motivated by power and working in tandem, can go for the money.