Follow by Email

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What If Anita Dunn Had Said: "Two of My Favorite Political Philosophers, Hitler and Mother Teresa"?

As noted in my prior blog entry, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, one of Obama's top advisers, told June 2009 high school graduates:

". . . the third lesson and tip actually come from two of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Tse-Tung and Mother Teresa . . ."

Although Mao is thought to have murdered some 70 million people, more than even Adolph Hitler, this remark has been largely ignored by America's news media, except Fox.

Yesterday, after I posted my prior blog concerning Dunn's declaration of affinity for Chairman Mao, I had a lengthy conversation with a politically aware person with a doctorate, who was unfamiliar with Dunn's remark. This person, who voted for Obama, subscribes to the Boston Globe, reads The New York Times online, but does not watch Fox, was astounded:

"What if Dunn had said that Hitler was one of her favorite political philosophers?"

Exactly. What if Dunn had referred to Hitler instead of Mao? Would this have been less politically correct? Is Mao a "more benign" mass murderer because he starved most of his victims to death instead of gassing them? Is Dunn's comment acceptable because there is no museum in Washington commemorating Mao's victims? Or is Dunn's remark being hushed because the United States cannot afford to offend Communist China with its "mao-tain" of dollars from slave labor?

Is the press, other than Fox, refusing to cover this story because it is being manipulated, or, is it simply cooperating? Note the carrot (an exclusive op-ed purportedly written by President Obama) given to The New York Times, whose editorial board sanctified Obama's foreign policy in the face of WaPo criticism and sanctioned a peculiar Nobel Prize, and the stick being administered to naughty Fox News (banishment from the press pool and derision).

Do a Google search using "New York Times Anita Dunn Mao". All I found was an item in "The Caucus, The Politics and Government Blog of The Times", which states:

"The video has sparked an uproar in the conservative blogosphere".

Is that all The Times sees "fit to print"? Why are its editorial page pundits entirely ignoring this issue and the attempt to ostracize Fox? Adulation of mass murderers and freedom of the press are just "conservative" issues?

Moreover, this New York Times "blog" inaccurately states:

"On the left side, Media Matters, which tends to monitor all right-leaning sentiments, points to many Republicans, including Barry Goldwater, who have cited the Chairman Mao’s declarations as inspiration."

However, if you click on the Media Matters link, Barry Goldwater is not said to have cited Mao's declarations as "inspiration"; rather an aide is quoted as saying that he "followed the advice of Mao" while working for Goldwater and in his other campaign work: "Give me just two or three men in a village and I will take the village." Goldwater is quoted as suggesting "that we analyze and copy the strategy of the enemy; theirs has worked and ours has not.(Harper's Magazine, November 1964)"


There would seem to be a small difference between Barry Goldwater suggesting that we "analyze and copy the strategy of the enemy [emphasis added]", and the avowal of Dunn that Mao is one of her "favorite [emphasis added] political philosphers." How can you call anyone who murdered 70 million people a "philosopher", a word, lest we forget, which derives from the Greek "philos", i.e. loving?

Again, listen to Anita Dunn at a January event focusing on Obama’s media tactics and hosted by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, in which Dunn discusses how Obama controlled the media during the 2008 election (

"One of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe [Obama’s chief campaign manager] videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters. We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it. . . . very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control."

Listen as Dunn goes on to say:

"There is no such thing as off the record . . . . Obama himself learned that when he told a fund rasing group in San Francisco . . . about people who owned guns in small communities that ended up of course costing us a lot of votes in rural Pennsylvania. . . . Anything you say you should expect to be on You Tube."

When Dunn spoke with the high school graduates, she obviously forgot her own advice. But more important and frightening is her message: Let's control the media and avoid telling people what we really think.

Bottom line: Obama's threats against Fox, attempts to manipulate the media, and desire to control what voters need to know are not about "change". Rather, they are a former law professor's challenge to the First Amendment, and you don't need to be a conservative or a fan of Fox to take offense.

White House Communications Director Anita Dunn's Favorite Political Philosopher: Mao Tse-Tung

Unfortunately this is no joke. White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, one of Obama's top advisers, speaking at a June 2009 high school graduation, declared:

". . . the third lesson and tip actually come from two of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Tse-Tung and Mother Teresa, not often coupled with each other, but the two people that I turn to most . . ."

Although Dunn subsequently stated, "The use of the phrase 'favorite political philosophers' was intended as irony...," I sensed no irony in her statement or subsequent remarks. Decide for yourselves:

Mao? His mass purges and political strategies, which, inter alia, caused the Great Chinese Famine, resulted in the deaths of up to 70 million people, making him one of the greatest mass murderers of all time.

Question: Why has Dunn not been fired? Why is the U.S. media, other than Fox that is under attack by Obama, not abuzz with this story? You don't have to a fan of Fox or a conservative to be outraged.

Meanwhile, in other related news, Obama has just appointed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as co-chair of the Intelligence Advisory Board, which oversees the intel community. Hagel's history:

In 2000 Hagel was one of four Senators who wouldn't sign a Senate letter supporting Israel.

In 2001 Hagel was one of 11 Senators who wouldn't sign a letter asking President Bush not to meet with Arafat until the PLO ended attacks against Israel.

In 2004 Hagel wouldn't sign a letter asking Bush to focus upon Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit.

In 2006 Hagel was one of 12 Senators who wouldn't ask the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Wake up America!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Amnesty International: Taking a Page from Human Rights Watch's Website

Go to Amnesty's home page, and see what gets top billing: A heart wrenching picture of a Palestinian girl sitting on a curb with empty water bottles. The caption: "Israel rations Palestinians to a trickle of water."

Of course, it might have been "nice" if Amnesty had allowed the Israel Water Authority to provide their contrary view. But why should facts stand in Amnesty's way?

Bombings in Baghdad the other day that killed more than 150 people? Yesterday's news.

Lashings in Saudi Arabia? We are told that Amnesty "has welcomed the intervention of Saudi Arabia’s head of state, King ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, to cancel a flogging sentence against a female journalist" for her work on a television program during which a man spoke about his sex life. Good old King Abdullah! Now if only he would revoke the 1,000 lashes and five-year prison term to which the man was sentenced.

You see it's all about what will bring in the funding, and what is more popular than to beat up on tiny Israel. How about Amnesty disclosing on a country by country basis the source of their funding? How about lobbying for a Jordanian/Israeli desalination project?

Or might that dry up Amnesty's donations to a trickle?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I Asked to Work for Compugen

No, this time, following yesterday's conference call, I'm not going to expound on Heat Shock Proteins. Rather, I wish to explain why I asked to work for Compugen. Or in other words, why I believe Compugen's understanding of science built upon computer models of biological phenomena at the molecular level is going to bury the faltering, trial and error, high throughput methodology of Big Pharma.

I will do this by reciting a story:

Once upon a time in a distant kingdom many years ago, an aging monarch called for his two sons and declared: "I grow old, my bones ache, and the time is near to select a successor. He who shows me that which is most wondrous on this earth before I die shall inherit the throne."

Without a moment to lose, his older son sent his vassals around the kingdom with instructions to gather all that was novel: plants, animals and minerals. The shipments of goods were brought back to large warehouses, where teams of slaves began grinding and mixing these items in every imaginable combination and seeing what resulted. Indeed, the initial results were impressive: The older son brought to his father new ointments, dyes, flavors and fragrances.

But after a year, the results of the older son's efforts dwindled, and he sent his vassals to all corners of the world to bring back new materials for novel concoctions. And so as not to take any chances, he assigned new slaves to the task of combining these materials and worked them harder than ever, day and night. Again, these combinations of flowers and snake eyes initially yielded new products of marvelous utility, but ultimately, no matter what his vassals found, and no matter how hard his slaves worked, nothing new emerged.

Meanwhile, the king's younger son had decided upon a different route. The younger son gathered together all of the kingdom's brightest men and women and instructed them to present him with a theory of matter. After many months these wise persons showed the younger prince a model of what they called an atom, comprised of protons, neutrons and electrons. There were no wondrous products to behold, but the younger prince persisted in his path.

Some time afterwards, the wise persons informed the younger prince that they had devised a periodic table, and that they had even discovered new elements whose existence they had predicted, but still there were no wondrous products to exhibit before the king.

Later, the wise persons told the younger prince that they now knew how elements combine into molecules. The younger prince's eyes sparkled with excitement, but those around him said, "That worthless knowledge and five pieces of bronze will get you on a donkey to Damascus."

After many years, the king, gray and fragile, slipped on the palace floor and broke his hip. His older son quickly sent a litter and servants, who would bear the king wherever he wanted. However, his younger son, whose wise persons had discovered that toxic toluene can be compounded into toluene diisocyanate, which can be compounded into polyurethane, and which can be safely used to build replacement hip joints, had something else to offer.

Needless to say, the king underwent successful hip replacement surgery, and remained spry and active for many years thereafter, and you know which son inherited the kingdom.

Now consider Big Pharma's R&D, much of which is premised upon building ever larger libraries of substances thrown at drug targets at ever higher speeds. In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before Big Pharma realizes that their bottom lines cannot be saved by mergers aimed at creating a semblance of a pipeline and reducing redundant staff, and that instead they will need to choose Compugen's scientific understanding to create the therapeutics and diagnostics of the future.

[As noted in a prior blog entry, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of Compugen.]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Roger Cohen's "Nuggets": A Man Obsessed

Last I checked, I had been blacklisted by The New York Times and could not post online comments to Cohen's inanities. Rather than waste time trying to submit another comment, I will merely observe that in Cohen's op-ed of today's date, "Britain Resolves, U.S. Wavers", which seems to concern David Miliband and Afghanistan, he reverts to Israel in its final paragraphs:

"Beyond Kabul I got these two nuggets from Miliband. . . .

He said: 'I profoundly believe that Israel’s security depends on a two-state solution and I think that a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders plus or minus agreed land swaps, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a fair settlement of the refugee issue is the right basis for Israel’s future as well as the Palestinians’ future.'”

Silly me! I thought Israeli Prime Minister Barak offered Arafat a two-state solution on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as a shared capital and a fair settlement of the refugee issue, but Arafat refused. A "nugget" or a "road apple"? You decide.

And in case you didn't notice, although I can't remember when "internationalist" Cohen last visited Israel, 8 of 19 articles listed under Cohen's name in his New York Times' columnist page since August have somehow managed to involve Israel in one way or another. Usually when Cohen writes about a country - Turkey, England, France, Germany - he travels there, but this is not a courtesy he reserves for Israel. Why? You probably know my opinion, but I will also leave this for you to consider.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

U.S. State Department to Persons Traveling to Saudi Arabia: Leave Your Sex Toys at Home

No, the U.S. State Department did not actually issue such an advisory, instructing Americans traveling to Saudi Arabia to leave their sex toys at home, but the following October 24, 2009 report from A.P. is real:

"RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi court on Saturday convicted a female journalist [Rozanna al-Yami] for her involvement in a TV show, in which a Saudi man publicly talked about sex, and sentenced her to 60 lashes. . . . In the program, which aired in July on the Lebanese LBC satellite channel, Mazen Abdul-Jawad appears to describe an active sex life and shows sex toys that were blurred by the station.

The same court sentenced Abdul-Jawad earlier this month to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes. . . . Three other men who appeared on the show, "Bold Red Line," were also convicted of discussing sex publicly and sentenced to two years imprisonment and 300 lashes each."

What does Human Rights Watch have to say about this? And what does President Obama, who was caught bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during the G-20 economic summit in London on April 1, wish to add? Thus far, nothing.

Re Obama's obeisance, perhaps the president was acting in accordance with Proverbs 22:

"Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge."

Or was it a matter of heeding the whip hand, or, proving he was smart as a whip? You decide.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Again No Mention of the Baha'is by The New York Times

In an editorial in today's New York Times entitled "More Iranian Injustice" (, the NYT's editorial board notes the following outrages:

The imprisonment of journalist Maziar Bahari for five months before being freed this week.

The sentencing of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, to 15 years in prison for working with George Soros’s Open Society Institute.

An attack on Friday upon opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, at a media fair.

Post-election detention of many Iranians without charges and the sentencing of four protesters to death.

The holding of three American hikers, seized along the Iran-Iraq border, since July 31.

The disappearance of Robert Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent, since 2007.

The editorial concludes:

"Iran may sit at the negotiating table with the United States and other world powers, but it will never earn the respect it craves if it continues these kinds of human rights abuses."

Is that all? Why is there no word about the brutal persecution of Iran's Baha'is, Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority, and the 17-month imprisonment of the Baha'is' community leaders without charges? The U.S. House of Representatives has just passed a bipartisan resolution, H.Res. 175, authored by U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), condemning the persecution of Iran's Bahá’í community, demanding the immediate release of more than a dozen Baha’ís currently imprisoned in Iran, and calling for Iranian compliance with the International Covenants on Human Rights, but there is no mention of this resolution by The New York Times' editorial board.

As noted in an earlier blog entry (, it is high time for The New York Times to address the issue of Iran's Baha'is on its editorial page and to counter Roger Cohen's claims that Iran is "not totalitarian" and that "Iran makes rational decisions." Today's editorial is not enough.

A Personal Recipe for Peace

"What now?" groaned my wife of 23 years, who ordinarily does not watch the news, but last night overheard developments concerning the Goldstone Report on Israeli television. The report was written at the behest of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and its predetermined conclusions did nothing to advance Middle East peace. Even Mary Robinson wouldn't lend her hand to this inquiry, but that didn’t prevent Goldstone's fellow commissioner, Christine Chinkin, from declaring Israel guilty before seeing evidence.

Surprising, however, was the response of my wife, who has known much horror over her lifetime. Three of four grandparents and an aunt were murdered by the Nazis. Much of her childhood was spent in bunkers on a kibbutz shelled incessantly by Syria. In 1991 our sixth floor apartment trembled when Iraqi missiles fell on Tel Aviv. In 2006 she said goodbye as I "commuted" to war – a mere two-hour drive to my reserve unit on the Lebanese border. In January our oldest son was sent into Gaza following years of rocket fire into southern Israel, and currently Hezbollah is aiming 40,000 missiles at Israel, many capable of hitting our new home in Caesarea.

The Goldstone Report in comparison? Empty words, yet when does this hostile preoccupation with a tiny nation, only nine miles wide at its waist, end? Gaza was evacuated, and in response Hamas escalated fire into Israel. Two Israeli prime ministers, Barak and Olmert, offered to evacuate the West Bank in exchange for peace, but both Arafat and Abbas were incapable of concluding the deal. The tensions with Iran and its surrogates, Hamas and Hezbollah, stem from an age-old struggle for hegemony between Persians and Arabs, Shiites and Sunnis; Saddam fired missiles into Israel in order to mobilize Muslim support, and Ahmadinejad is threatening the same game for the same reasons.

So where do we begin to look for Middle East peace? How do we break the cycle of violence? More to the point, what can I do personally?

I wish you could spend an average day with us: When we need electrical or plumbing work, we call the Israeli Arab contractor who renovated our house. When he enters, there are handshakes, coffee, questions about children, and talk of impending marriages. Later, his team roams freely around the house, while I busy myself behind the computer. He knows I'm a reserve officer and that our oldest son served in the paratroops. It doesn't matter.

If I need to buy something, I'll probably drive to the Gan Shmuel Shopping Center, where Arab and Jewish consumers mix freely. If I need medicine, I'll most likely be served by an Israeli Arab pharmacist and afterwards make small talk with the Israeli Arab woman behind the cash register.

You could also accompany my wife to her hairdresser, an Israeli Arab. Occasionally they argue over politics, but much of their last conversation was devoted to his trip to a Turkish resort with Jewish families.

My son? He plays basketball with Arab youths from the neighboring town of Faradis.

I strongly favor a two-state solution, but ask Israeli Arabs if they would amalgamate their villages with the neighboring Palestinian Authority and abandon their political freedom and prosperity. No way, notwithstanding the prejudices they sometimes suffer.

You see, peace is about shared values and mutual respect. It's not going to come from judges, diplomats, politicians or journalists. It just might arise from one-to-one interaction.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bernstein or Human Rights Watch, Who's Correct?

This week, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast" (, Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch and the former CEO of Random House, assailed Human Rights Watch for discrimination against Israel. Bernstein claimed:

"Now [HRW], with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region."

Struck by this thunderbolt, HRW quickly went into damage control mode. If you go to their home page under "Latest News", there is a link to "Why We Report on 'Open' Societies, Responding to Robert Bernstein's NYT op-ed" (, where it is stated:

"Human Rights Watch was saddened to read in The New York Times on October 20, 2009 that its founding chair, Robert L. Bernstein, feels he must "join the critics" of our work on Israel. We fundamentally disagree with Mr. Bernstein's views.

. . . .

Human Rights Watch does not devote more time and energy to Israel than to other countries in the region, or in the world. We've produced more than 1,700 reports, letters, news releases, and other commentaries on the Middle East and North Africa since January 2000, and the vast majority of these were about countries other than Israel."

As if to emphasize their claim of impartiality, on 20 October HRW "quite by coincidence" called on Hamas to "promptly implement the recommendations of the Goldstone report on Gaza by conducting credible investigations into serious laws-of-war violations by Palestinian forces." (

HRW, however, is disingenuous. Bernstein's claim is not that HRW has produced more condemnations of Israel than all other Middle East countries combined as HRW would have us believe, but rather that "Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country [emphasis added] in the region." How might we test this?

Go to the HRW website, go to "Browse by Country", and from there check the number of pages of HRW reports for each country. For example, you will see:

Sudan: 30
"Israel and Occupied Territories": 27
Iran: 21
Egypt: 18
Saudi Arabia: 11
Syria: 8

It need first be noted that some of the reports found in "Israel and Occupied Territories" concern violations of human rights by Hamas and Fatah, but these reports are a distinct minority. Also, classifying Gaza as "Occupied Territory" already casts a shadow upon HRW's neutrality.

Now let's look at the numbers. True, Sudan of Darfur infamy, comes in barely ahead of Israel in terms of number of pages; however, Israel is well ahead of Iran, which is known for hanging homosexuals, executing minors, persecuting Baha'is, persecuting Sunni Muslims, persecuting Jews, discriminating against women, brutally suppressing political dissent, stoning to death adulterers while their children watch, supporting genocide in Darfur, and the list continues.

Israel also comes in far above Saudi Arabia, known for its beheadings, severing of hands, whipping, gauging of eyes, discrimination against women, discrimination against Shiites, etc. I would love to learn how much of HRW's funding derives from this desert kingdom.

In summary: Donate in the future to Human Rights Watch? I'd rather pay to watch old episodes of Baywatch - zero chance of that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is The New York Times Ignoring Persecution of Iran's Baha'is?

The brutal persecution of Iran's Baha'is continues. As observed in a February 26, 2009 Voice of America editorial "reflecting the views of the United States Government" (

"More than 9 months have passed since 7 leaders of the Baha'i community in Iran were arrested and sent to prison with no access to legal counsel. Now the Iran government has announced the 7 have been charged with espionage. The move is the latest in decades of repressive measures against the Baha'is, the largest non-Islamic religious minority in Iran. Those measures include barring Baha'is from attending public universities or working in public agencies, destroying or closing Baha'i places of worship, bulldozing Baha'i cemeteries, legally confiscating Baha'i property, and killing Baha'is with impunity."

Since publication of this editorial, nothing has changed, and if anything, matters have gotten worse: After 17 months, the Baha'i community leaders are still in prison with no trial date, and the persecution of the Baha'is, which is reminiscent in many respects of the way in which the Jews were persecuted by the Nazis, continues unabated.

What does The New York Times have to say about this persecution? Very little. For many months, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen devoted countless op-eds to Iran in order to indoctrinate New York Times and International Herald Tribune readers with the notion that Iran is misunderstood. During his long, ongoing series of op-eds about the Persian theocracy, he mentioned Iran's Baha'is only in a single sentence, busy trying to convince us of Iran's innocuous intentions. As Cohen wrote in his June 10, 2009 op-ed, "Iran Awakens Yet Again":

"For months now, I've been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state."

Although Cohen expressed short-lived outrage with the Iranian regime when street protests against the rigged elections were crushed, he quickly reverted to his usual rant and declared in his October 15, 2009 op-ed, "An Ordinary Israel":

"In other words, as I’ve long argued, Iran makes rational decisions."

Balance on the New York Times' op-ed page? Quite the contrary. In a May 24, 2009 op-ed published by The Times entitled "Are We Losing Iran?", Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett implored President Obama to forge "a new, conciliatory approach toward Iran":

"The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free-fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah."

No mention anywhere in this opinion of the Baha'is. And in a second, September 28, 2009 op-ed by the Leveretts, entitled "How to Press the Advantage with Iran", which stressed the "strategic necessity of constructive American-Iranian relations", there was again no reference to the Baha'is. Do the Leveretts believe that any mention of the Baha'is would derail "constructive American-Iranian relations"?

There was one relatively recent "On Religion" (not op-ed) article in The New York Times, dated June 26, 2009, written by Samuel G. Freedman, which detailed some of the suffering of Iran's Baha'is (, but was this a sufficient counterweight given Roger Cohen's protracted harangue, reinforced by the Leveretts?

More to the point, does The New York Times have a moral obligation to present the other side of the story? They sure do. Two former New York Times Executive Editors have acknowledged that The New York Times' coverage of the holocaust was grossly inadequate. As stated by A.M. Rosenthal, father of Andrew Rosenthal who is Editorial Page Editor of The New York Times, (

"The charge has often been made that the New York Times’ coverage of the holocaust was grossly inadequate. The clippings from the New York Times shown on the left demonstrate that the charges were justified."

And as stated by Max Frankel (

"Only six times in nearly six years did The Times's front page mention Jews as Hitler's unique target for total annihilation. Only once was their fate the subject of a lead editorial. Only twice did their rescue inspire passionate cries in the Sunday magazine.

And to this day the failure of America's media to fasten upon Hitler's mad atrocities stirs the conscience of succeeding generations of reporters and editors. It has made them acutely alert to ethnic barbarities in far-off places like Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. It leaves them obviously resolved that in the face of genocide, journalism shall not have failed in vain."

Given its none too pretty past, is The New York Times sufficiently "alert to ethnic barbarities" perpetrated against Iran's Baha'is, or have they perhaps been in lockstep with a determination by the Obama administration to reach out to this barbaric regime and avoid offending Iran's mullahs? Judge for yourself.

Human Rights Watch Assailed by Founder

In an op-ed entitled "Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast" in today's New York Times (, Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch and the former CEO of Random House, assails Human Rights Watch for discrimination against Israel:

"As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state."

I commend Mr. Bernstein for this courageous stand, but to what does he attribute the behavior of Human Rights Watch?

Is it because Human Rights Watch is following the lead of the Obama Administration, which, as observed by The Washington Post, only pressures Israel, while cuddling up to tyrannies?

Is it because it is easier for Human Rights Watch to work out of Israel, where freedom of speech is ensured?

Is it because an anti-Israel attitude brings funding?

Or is because anti-Semitism, which has reared its ugly head again during a global economic recession, is again in fashion?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blacklisted by The New York Times and Unable to Respond to Roger Cohen

The New York Times today published an op-ed, "An Ordinary Israel", by Roger Cohen, in which he concludes:

"The Middle East has changed. So must Israel. 'Never again' is a necessary but altogether inadequate way of dealing with the modern world."

The New York Times is no longer accepting my online comments; however, I did send the following e-mail to a Times editor:

Dear ____________,

I see that Roger Cohen, writing from NY (I don't remember when he was last in Israel), has written an op-ed about Israel. Peculiar how, when Cohen opines about Iran, France, Germany or Turkey, he writes from that country, but that's not the case with Israel.

I would submit an online comment in response, but as you might know, following the rejection of a recent comment that I submitted, which, inter alia, highlighted Cohen's failure to write about the persecution of Iran's Baha'is, all of my comments have been "rejected" by The Times. I am no longer being "censored" by The Times; it would appear that I am now being "blacklisted", i.e. anything bearing my URL is automatically trashed no matter how innocuous.

I don't want to trouble you any further: this is not my newspaper, and I understand that there are those at The Times who were annoyed by my requests

- to deal with the rabid anti-Semitism that found its way into The Times' online comments,
- to examine issues of journalistic ethics concerning Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say",
- to study the implications of the title of Cohen's "Obama in Netanyahu's Web",
- to report the persecution of Iran's Baha'is,
- to consider how a less than veiled threat to a former U.S. vice president contained in an online comment was permitted by a Times "moderator".

The promise of the Public Editor's Office to report back to me concerning issues of journalistic ethics vis-à-vis Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say" was not honored. In addition, Public Editor Clark Hoyt in an e-mail to me dismissed the issue of anti-Semitic online comments by noting that ultimately, following my correspondence with you (Hoyt had not acted on the protests that I addressed to him), certain comments had been removed months after their publication.

Sure I've been a pest. But would you have preferred that I not alert you, for example, to the rabid anti-Semitism in New York Times online comments or the threat to the former vice president?

Cohen's op-ed of today's date is offensive. Why? The situation in Israel is indeed "exceptional". Let's ignore the potential Iranian nuclear threat and just look to Lebanon: Notwithstanding the UN resolution banning the rearmament of Hezbollah, this organization has been provided by Iran and Syria over the past three years with 40,000 short, medium and long-range missiles, all aimed at Israel. Will Iran ultimately give instructions to its Lebanese surrogate to pull the trigger? You know the answer.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monoclonal Antibodies (mAbs) for Dummies Like Myself

Although the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is suffering from depleted pipelines, patent expiries and stiff competition from manufacturers of generics, the market for monoclonal antibodies has expanded dramatically in recent years. Monoclonal antibody drugs, which primarily target cancer and autoimmune disorders, had total sales of nearly $32bn in 2008 and today amount to more than 30% of the global biologic drug market.

Compugen yesterday announced that it is providing Bayer Schering Pharma, one of the world's largest pharma companies, with an option for a worldwide exclusive license to monoclonal antibody and other therapeutics targeting a specific oncology target and its splice variants. Given that monoclonal antibody therapeutics comprise such a fast growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry and given their relatively high levels of success after entering human clinical trials, this sounds impressive, but what are monoclonal antibody therapeutics? How are they capable of making cancer cells more visible to our immune systems, blocking undesired growth signals, and in some instances delivering radiation and drugs to cancer cells?

We all know that antibodies are proteins found in blood and used by our immune systems to identify and neutralize foreign objects, such as bacteria and viruses, i.e. "antigens". Although most of the structure of these "Y"-shaped antibodies is similar, one of its tips is variable, allowing antibodies to bind to millions of different, extremely specific antigens. Recognition of an antigen by an antibody tags it for destruction by other components of the immune system.

Given that antibodies bind to antigens, why don't our antibodies attack our cancer cells? This is because our antibodies do not perceive our cancer cells as foreign. Imagine, however, the advantages if we could create antibodies that would bind only with cancer cells while causing limited collateral damage to healthy cells. This is in fact the conundrum with which scientists have successfully wrestled over the past decades, resulting in the creation of monoclonal antibodies and the award of no small number of Nobel Prizes.

What is the recipe for monoclonal antibodies? In a nutshell, a laboratory mouse is injected with the human antigen target, and the mouse, which identifies the human antigen as foreign, begins to produce antibodies targeting this antigen. Spleen cells from the mouse, producing the desired antibodies, are then removed and fused with tumor cells ("myelomas") that replicate endlessly. The result of this cell fusion, no small fete in and of itself, is called a "hybridoma" and is the factory for production of identical "monoclonal", i.e. coming from only one kind of cell, antibodies.

End of story? No. When injected into humans to bind to the desired antigen, mouse antibodies are perceived by the human immune system as foreign, thus giving rise to "HAMA" (human anti-mouse antibodies), which can quickly eliminate the desired therapeutic antibodies from our bodies and cause immune responses that damage our kidneys. In response, using genetic engineering wizardry, "murine" (mice or rat) components of the monoclonal antibody, other than the tip that binds to the target antigen, have been replaced with human components, creating longer lasting, better tolerated therapeutics: "chimeric" (65% human) and "humanized" (95% human) antibodies. In addition, transgenic technology has been used to provide mice with human antibody genes, creating "fully human" antibodies.

Where does Compugen fit into this picture? Compugen's expertise is not in genetic engineering, but rather in target discovery; without mAb targets, there can be no mAb therapeutics. Moreover, as succinctly observed in Compugen's press release concerning the deal with Bayer:

"Like the known cancer target, this protein molecule and its variants are all trans-membrane proteins. However, each of the Compugen molecules has a unique sequence at the extracellular domain of the protein that enables the development of monoclonal antibodies specific to each of the respective splice variants.

Therefore each splice variant could represent a novel target for monoclonal antibody therapy. A common feature of Compugen's discovery platforms, such as the mAb Targets Discovery Platform used in this discovery, is the ability to predict and select multiple potential product candidates for each indication of interest.

The availability of multiple candidates, in this case a number of different splice variants, should increase the probability of success for the overall program."

[As noted in a prior blog entry, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of Compugen.]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Obsequious New York Times Lauds Nobel Award to Obama

The New York Times, in an editorial entitled "The Peace Prize", lauds the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama. The Times notes:

"There cannot have been unbridled joy in the White House early Friday. Mr. Obama’s aides had to expect a barrage of churlish reaction, and they got it. The left denounced the Nobel committee for giving the prize to a wartime president. The right proclaimed that Mr. Obama sold out the United States by engaging in diplomacy."

I am curious how The Times perceives itself. The Times is certainly not right wing, but do they really delude themselves into believing that their world view and "culture" are middle-of-the-road?

My online response to this editorial, which was censored, as were my prior unrelated online comments:

I am planning an epic, 1,000-page novel, intended to be a best seller on all continents, which will address poverty, education, war, famine, global warming, racism and universal health care. I started writing two weeks ago, and my agent is voicing optimism. Would someone care to submit my nomination to the committee for the Nobel Prize for literature?

The Times has a special relationship with Obama. Although The Times initially endorsed Hillary during the Democratic primaries, when the Obama candidacy became viable, it was patently obvious whom their editorial board and many of their op-ed writers were supporting. My online comments, critical of Obama, in response to idolatry op-eds, were not infrequently censored.

The Times, not surprisingly, was quick to come to Obama's defense when his foreign policy was criticized by The Washington Post, and shortly thereafter The Times was chosen by Obama as the vehicle for the publication of an op-ed written by him or, more likely, by someone on his behalf.

Similarly, it is not at all surprising how The Times editorial board has now sought to rationalize away the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.

There needs to be a "tension" between the press and the executive branch of a democracy, and newspapers should avoid being perceived as the "official organs" of political parties. Sure, The Times has its token conservative op-ed writers, but it nevertheless should examine the umbilical cord still extending to the Obama administration, notwithstanding the fact that Obama is already president for more than the ordinary gestation period of nine months. Meanwhile, praise of Obama's Nobel Prize served to cheapen whatever remains of our world and probably amounted to another step by this newspaper in its path to self-destruction.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hillary to Run Against Obama in 2012, But Meanwhile "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"

It is commonly said, "Out of sight, out of mind." However, one also often hears "Absence makes the heart grown fonder." Which of these two contrary truisms best characterizes Obama's attitude toward Hillary? Clearly the former: Obama prefers to keep her "Out of sight, out of mind" vis-à-vis the general electorate.

While Obama wrestles this week with his generals' demands for higher troop levels in Afghanistan, Hillary is off on a whirlwind magical mystery tour, which, inter alia, includes a visit to Kazan, Russia, to discuss interfaith cooperation, and to watch a signing ceremony in Zurich, marking the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia following Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh some 16 years ago. What could possibly be more important? Certainly not U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

Will Hillary run against Obama in 2012 if she senses that he's vulnerable? Count on it. She won't forget this trip to Kazan anytime soon.

But will Obama be vulnerable in 2012? It's still early, but Americans are getting wise to him, and Axelrod knows it. Note the recent skit on Saturday Night Live.

Note also that although his approval ratings, after plummeting, have now stabilized, it was recently reported that among U.S. Jews, who were some of his staunchest supporters, his approval ratings have fallen dramatically ( Response: Blame Israeli incitement ( Obama is still busy doing what he does best, i.e. campaigning, rather than governing.

The Nobel Peace Prize after ten months of accomplishing nothing? The award's prestige has been immeasurably cheapened. However, I am very much in favor of nominating Obama for the "Best Actor" Oscar in 2010. He hasn't yet appeared in a movie? Why should that possibly matter given his innate talent and potential?

My bet: In 2012 the U.S. electorate, after being smacked in the face by reality, will be asked to chose between two additional conflicting truisms: "Turn the other cheek", or, "Slap me once, shame on you; slap me twice, shame on me."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Obama and the Demise of U.S. Foreign Policy

There are those starry-eyed admirers of Obama, e.g., Frank Rich, who would compare the current U.S. president with John Kennedy. Regrettably, thus far the more apt comparison is with Ryan Seacrest of American Idol fame.

In 1962 45-year-old John Kennedy faced down Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev without a posse of European leaders, and forced Khrushchev, shame-facedly, to remove the missiles from Cuba. Kennedy never once blinked.

Forty-seven years fast forward: 48-year-old Barack Obama gives Iran until September to curtail its nuclear weapons development program. September comes and goes, a secret Iranian nuclear development site is revealed in the mountains near the holy city of Qom, and Obama, formerly intent upon charming Ahmadinejad, declares with the consensus of friends from France and England, that Iran had best toe the line, or sanctions will soon follow. Yet another line has been drawn in the sand, or, as we would say as children, "Now I double dare you!"

Afghanistan: Faced with demands from his generals for additional soldiers, yet subject to the doubts of a war-weary American public, Obama chooses the middle ground and opts to maintain current U.S. troop levels. However, this is the one course of action that guarantees failure. You can gamble on a "surge-like operation", or, you can choose to cut your losses, but to maintain the status quo is to behave like a person who can never decide, to mix coffee and tea at the end of your meal.

Appeasement of enemies in the space of some nine months: Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, to name a few.

Antagonism of longstanding friends: Japan, South Korea, Honduras, Israel.

So which is it? "The Audacity of Hope" or, "The Mendacity of Grope"? Thus far we have witnessed the performance of a teleprompter orator, not a leader.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The New York Times: Further "Insensitivity" to Jews and Judaism

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog entry concerning Roger Cohen's May 28 New York Times op-ed, "Obama in Netanyahu's Web", in which I concluded:

"Finally, a word about the title of this op-ed, 'Obama in Netanyahu's Web', which will necessarily inflame anti-Semitism on the web. I didn't vote for Netanyahu, but he is not an ugly, venomous spider. Rather, he is ardent in his determination to prevent a second Holocaust, and although I do not share all his views, I share his existential concerns. Moreover, Netanyahu and his family have demonstrated dedication and courage of a kind beyond anything that the itinerant and fanciful Roger Cohen could ever hope to fathom."

I also wrote to various senior editors of The New York Times and explained, with pictures, that there is a long anti-Semitic history of depicting Jews as voracious spiders, e.g. a man-eating spider with a Star of David from the Nazi tabloid Der Sturmer.

In fact, The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia issued a "working definition of antisemitism", which includes:

"Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism".

The New York Times ultimately agreed with me: This "was not a good headline", but it was too late to make changes.

Roger Cohen's op-ed, "The Miracle of Dullness", was published by The New York Times on September 23, 2009, during what Jews call "the days of awe" or "the ten days of repentance", the days between Rosh Hashana (New Years Day) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), when Jews engage in introspection and ask for forgiveness from those they have wronged. In this op-ed about Germany, seemingly without any connection whatsoever to Israel, Cohen suddenly inserted the following language:

"The demon [italics added] of instability, German-prodded, moved to the Middle East, where another modern nation state, Israel, in turn upended the order of things. Perhaps after 74 years (1871-1945), we will see glimmerings of a new, more peaceful regional order there."

The period 1871-1945 obviously includes the Nazi era, and the thinly disguised comparison with the militaristic Germany, including Nazi Germany, is unmistakable.

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia's "working definition of antisemitism" also includes, inter alia:

"Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing [italics added], or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective", and

"Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis."

Even if Cohen's op-ed, "The Miracle of Dullness", avoided falling within the EUMC's "working definition of antisemitism", I nevertheless found it offensive and again complained to The Times' editors, but this time there was no answer. My online comment in response to Cohen's subsequent op-ed, "The U.S.-Iranian Triangle", was censored (see my prior blog entry), as was an innocuous online comment in response to a later David Brooks op-ed, and it seems that I have been blacklisted by The Times.

Is Roger Cohen to blame for this ongoing proliferation of hatred? No, this is what he thinks, and this is not about to change. Ultimately the management of The New York Times must take responsibility for what it publishes.

[Concerning the past posting of rabid, anti-Semitic, online comments in response to New York Times op-eds, notwithstanding review by so-called New York Times "moderators", see:
"Why Is Antisemitism Permitted in Online Comments "Moderated" by The Times? Open Letter No. 2 to Clark Hoyt, Public Editor of The New York Times",
and "Clark Hoyt Responds; Has The New York Times Filed for Moral Bankruptcy?",