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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Did You Take Leadership 101 at College?

My daughter will soon be "finishing" high school, and she has no desire to succeed with her course work. When I ask her why she is not studying for her exams, we inevitably engage in the following recurrent conversation:

"Why should I bother with math? I want to be a singer."

"Just because you want to be a singer, doesn't mean you can be a singer. There are another ten million just like you who want to be the next American Idol."

"You're old and disillusioned, Dad. If I try hard enough and believe, it's all going to happen."

This is where I explain to my daughter that I am still hoping to be a linebacker for my beloved Chicago Bears. I exercise regularly, can bench press a respectable amount of weight, and am waiting for my tryout with the team. Problems: no matter how hard I strive, I am becoming slower with each passing year, and I am probably 60 pounds too light for the position. My daughter says that I waited too long before attempting to fulfill my lifelong ambition, whereupon I respond that even in my youth, no matter how hard I might have tried, I would never have been big, strong or fast enough to play professional football. In short, I don't have the right genetic material to make this dream come true.

But what about playing the violin? Again, I am genetically deficient: inadequate small motor dexterity and an inability to carry a tune. Sure, if I wanted to go to the trouble, in another five years I might be able to provide a recital, including such favorites as "Happy Birthday" and "Frère Jacques", but my musical career would not extend beyond this unhappy cacophonous occasion.

But now back to the subject of this blog entry: Can "leadership" be learned, and if so, why is it not being taught at universities throughout the world?

My belief? Although I think "leadership" should be studied and can perhaps be improved, this does not mean that it can be practiced on a "virtuoso level" by almost anyone. What are its components? Certainly, charisma, which cannot be taught, is one of them. Add to the list, a willingness to accept risk - again something for which we are not all wired or suited. Abundant confidence and an ability to make snap decisions? Absolutely, but once again, owing to genetic and environmental factors, this is not present in all of us.

What about intelligence? I'm sure it's helpful for any prospective leader, but in and of itself does not make for leaders. Perhaps someone out there can tell me the average IQ of an NFL quarterback - I am certain it is not inordinately high. Also, although I was never impressed with the raw intelligence of Ronald Reagan, he was certainly a leader.

Do we wish to be led by leaders? Leadership on the battle and playing fields is critical to winning, but can we subsist without leadership, for example, in the White House? Notwithstanding Axelrod's success at portraying him otherwise, Obama is not a leader: he is extremely intelligent, but by all accounts is slow to make decisions and is reluctant to rule by fiat. Some have called Obama a Wilsonian president, but is there still room in the Oval Office for such a person, who perhaps represents the antithesis of leadership, in an unforgiving twenty first century which brooks no delay?

My daughter? Let's see if she ultimately decides to invest the time in voice lessons. Maybe someday she will take satisfaction from whatever level of proficiency she attains. And just maybe she will prove her father wrong and become a star of stage and screen. Meanwhile, however, I am still hoping she will take her math seriously, and I have composed a ditty on her behalf:

There once was a girl named Barr,

Who bought herself a guitar.

She thought she could play,

And sang all day,

But no one put money in the jar.

U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011? Yeah, Right!

In the largest U.S. led offensive in Afghanistan since 2001, the American Marines have swept into Marja and are now being "reinforced" with additional Afghan government troops, as they seek to win the loyalty of the local inhabitants. Why is this strategy not going to work? C.J. Chivers of The New York Times writes today in an item entitled "With Marja Largely Won, Marines Try to Win Trust":

"The Afghan soldiers who accompanied Company C, he said, had looted the 84-booth Semitay Bazaar immediately after the Marines swept through and secured it. Then the Afghan soldiers refused to stand post in defensive bunkers, or to fill sandbags as the Americans, sometimes under fire, hardened their joint outpost. Instead, they spent much of their time walking in the bazaar, smoking hashish.

Company K had stories of its own. As its own Marines stumbled wearily across friendly lines, much of the Afghan platoon that worked with them was straggling behind, unable to keep pace.

The first phase of the campaign for Marja was ending. Captain Karabin had paid aggrieved shop owners $300 to $500 each for their losses to the Afghan Army’s looting."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/world/asia/01marja.html?hp

In less than a year and a half the U.S. is going to hand this mess over to the Afghan army, which will then be combat-ready to confront the Taliban? Apparently, the Afghan troops are not the only ones high on hashish.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ahmadinejad, Assad and Nasrallah: A Banquet from Hell

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah had dinner together yesterday evening in Damascus. Although the lamb was tasty, you can be certain that the conversation focused on impending war with Israel.

What is Obama doing to derail this axis? As earlier noted, the U.S. is sending an ambassador to Syria after a 5-year hiatus and looks forward to "working constructively with Syria" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/effectuating-obama-doctrine-new-us.html). Regrettably, the naivete, dilly-dallying, and appeasement which characterize the Obama administration's foreign policy will only hasten the advent of the next Middle East war.

Will Israel's next conflict be one-front, two-front, three-front or four-front (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/01/will-iran-attack-israel-in-2010.html)? Much depends on whether Assad will renege on his promises to Nasrallah and watch the destruction of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal from the sidelines. Israel learned the lessons of the Winograd Report, and this will not be a prolonged conflict.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Afghanistan: The U.S. Fights with Both Hands Tied Behind Its Back

According to CNN, U.S. forces are being prevented from undertaking nighttime raids in Afghanistan:

"A new classified directive to coalition forces in Afghanistan puts restrictions on nighttime raids of Afghan homes and compounds, according to a senior U.S. official who has seen the document.

The official declined to be identified because a declassified version of the document has not been made public. The directive is signed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, the official said.

The directive comes as the coalition seeks to reduce tension between its military forces and Afghan civilians in an effort to maintain Afghan public support."

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/02/23/afghanistan.night.raids/index.html?hpt=T2

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am no proponent of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan. Slugging it out on the ground without civilian support against a guerilla enemy that has been notified of a July 2011 deadline for drawing down U.S. forces is nothing short of inanity. But now, in addition to this, no nighttime raids?

Yes, the U.S. is attempting to garner civilian support precisely by avoiding nighttime raids, but surely this is counterbalanced by the comfort this provides to the Taliban during the hours of darkness.

Moreover, can civilian support be achieved in a mere matter of months? Not a chance, particularly following recent airstrike errors. On Sunday, an airstrike killed at least 27 civilians in central Afghanistan. Five more civilians died the prior Monday when NATO forces called in an airstrike against persons suspected of planting an IED, and 12 more civilians died one day earlier when two U.S. rockets missed their target and hit a residence outside Marjah.

Operation Moshtarak? The Taliban was informed in advance that the operation was coming, and as known to all, flight is integral to guerilla warfare. What was NATO seeking to achieve without seriously engaging the enemy? Even under these circumstances, the local Afghan troops proved incapable of acting on their own.

This is now Obama's war, and it is fast becoming a fiasco.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Qassam Ready to Be Fired from the West Bank: the Good News and the Bad News

As reported today by the Jerusalem Post, the Palestinian Authority discovered a Qassam rocket ready to fired from the West Bank at Israel:

"The Palestinian Authority handed a Kassam rocket made in a West Bank village to Israeli authorities last week, Army Radio reported Monday.

PA security forces apparently found the rocket ready to launch.

The discovery was made after intelligence was gathered by the PA, according to the report."

http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=169346

The good news: The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority are cooperating in an effort to reduce terror attacks directed against the Israeli civilian populace.

The bad news: This is the threat being faced by Israel for which there is no simple solution. A single Qassam is limited in terms of the physical damage which it can do; however, a shoulder-held missile (Stinger or SA-7) can bring down a 747 landing at Ben Gurion Airport, whose landing pattern would almost necessarily bring it within proximity of the border and take it within range of such a missile (some five kilometers).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gail Collins: All the Rage

In response to my blog entry on Saturday, "Gail Collins on Flight Safety: Clueless" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/gail-collins-on-flight-safety-clueless.html), which was a response to a recent Collins' op-ed attributing "rage" exclusively to Republicans, I received the following comment:

Anonymous said...
I think it was Romney, probably thinking: " I am the white master; who is this n______ not listening to what I said and do [sic] what I told him! Where is the whip?"

February 21, 2010 3:35 AM

My first thought was to expunge this hateful comment from my blog; this is my sovereign space, and I don't want the "N" word being used here by anyone in any context. However, I then gave the matter further thought: The Gail Collins op-ed, entitled "The Wages of Rages", was intended to illustrate the "rage" of the Right, and isn't this a perfect example of "rage" from the Left?

Mitt Romney's father, George, was known for his strong stand on civil rights. Mitt Romney states that Martin Luther King and his father have served as his role models. Perhaps there are many reasons to criticize Mitt Romney - I don't agree with many of his positions and am appalled by his flip-flops - but why make him out to be a racist?

Gail Collins would have us believe that "rage" is characteristic of Republicans. Collins is wrong. There are also Democrats consumed with rage. Rage today is found almost everywhere. Notwithstanding the picture of a smiling Collins presented to us by The Times accompanying her op-eds, would Collins claim that she is free of rage?

Myself? I am no different from anyone else, and given my past, rage burns inside me. The questions then arise, how do we control it, how do we mend it, and how do we channel it in positive directions?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dubai: Will Assassination of Hamas Leader Change Other Nations' Perception of Israel?

Go to The New York Times online homepage, and there, prominently displayed under "opinion" is "The Thread, Mission: Dubai, Will the assassination of a Hamas leader change the way Israel is seen by other nations?", which takes you to an item entitled "Mission: Impossible - Dubai", written by Tobin Harshaw.

Will the assassination of the terrorist, murderer and illegal arms procurer, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, change the way Israel is seen by other nations?" Answer: No. Regardless of what Israel does or does not do, it will be villified by the overwhelming majority of nations throughout the world.

You want proof? Look to Haiti. Following the earthquake that devastated much of this island nation, Israel immediately responded by sending rescue and medical teams. How did the world respond to this humane gesture by the "Zionist" state? The vile Baroness Tonge, for example, called for an investigation of whether the Israelis had sent their personnel to Haiti to harvest body organs (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/left-dishonourable-baroness-tonge-anti.html).

Was Israel behind the operation in Dubai? Were other nations involved? I don't know. I do know, however, that Israel is facing an imminent four-front war with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/01/will-iran-attack-israel-in-2010.html), and Iran is smuggling as many missiles as possible to its surrogates in anticipation of this confrontation. As acknowledged by Hezbollah's Nasrallah and Syria's foreign minister Waleed Mouallem (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/what-if-israel-threatened-syrian-cities.html), these missiles are targeting Israeli cities and pose an existential threat to Israel.

Whoever was responsible for the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai was certainly aware of the surveillance cameras at the airport and the hotel. Next time you're at any international airport or luxury hotel, look up at the ceiling: the cameras are there for all to see. However, whoever was responsible for Mabhouh's assassination also engaged in a cost/benefit analysis: What is the importance of eliminating this terrorist responsible for acquiring advanced armaments for Hamas versus the risk of exposing the identities of the persons undertaking the operation.

Let the nations of the world continue to cry crocodile tears for Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Notwithstanding the public displays of anguish and outrage, many of these same countries can now sleep more peacefully.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gail Collins on Flight Safety: Clueless

In her NYT op-ed of today's date, entitled "The Wages of Rages", Gail Collins assails Mitt Romney for asking a fellow passenger to raise his seat before takeoff. What will those nefarious Republicans do next?

When I last submitted an online comment concerning a Collins' op-ed, which respectfully exposed her ignorance of the underpinnings of terrorism (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/01/gail-collins-on-terrorism-clueless.html), I was censored by The Times. Subsequently, a very senior NYT editor promised me an answer why my comment was censored, but never got back to me.

My response to Gail today, if The Times deigns to post it:

Gail, thank you for this revelation concerning Romney's request that a fellow passenger, a rapper who specializes "in songs about shot-drinking," raise his seat before takeoff. Can you imagine anyone aboard a flight asking a fellow passenger to follow safety regulations intended to protect the fellow passenger and all others aboard the flight? Simply horrifying! And thank you, also, for letting us know that "My niece, Becca, worked with LMFAO on a promotional video this week". I am taking careful note of this significant piece of information, which I intend to share with everyone I know, and needless to say, I can't wait to see the promotional video and learn more about "shot-drinking".

Promotional videos, shot-drinking, the appellation "LMFAO"? I see that I am intellectually challenged, culturally deprived and increasingly not attuned to The Times.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Obama on Iran: "Change You Can Believe In!"

Consider the following timeline:

“I would never take a military option off the table.”
Barack Obama on Iran, throughout 2008 presidential campaign.

"We are not taking any option off the table at all.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 2009 Senate confirmation hearing, responding to question concerning the Iran military option.

"Obviously, we don't want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, but we are not planning anything other than going for sanctions."
Hillary Clinton, Al-Arabiya television, Wednesday, February 17, 2010.

Observe that Clinton says that the Obama administration is now "planning" upon "going for" sanctions; she does not say that Obama is ready to impose them immediately. What should Iranians, both the Green Movement and the Revolutionary Guard, understand from this dalliance and avoidance of any hint at confrontation?

Here, in this timeline, we finally see it, "Change You Can Believe In!", all in keeping with the Obama Doctrine of appeasing your enemies, while undermining your friends. Thanks, Barack, for inspiring such confidence and trust . . .

Russia to Delay Shipment of S-300 Surface-to-Air Missiles to Iran

Interfax reports that Russia is indefinitely delaying shipment of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Iran has been eagerly awaiting delivery of the missiles, which would have meaningfully bolstered its defenses against attack upon its nuclear installations. According to Interfax:

"Russia will deliver S-300 surface-to-air missiles systems to Iran after the technical flaws uncovered have been fixed, the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service's First Deputy Director Alexander Fomin has announced.

'The delay is due to technical problems. The systems will be delivered when these problems have been resolved,' Fomin told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.

Fomin is leader of a Russian delegation to the Defexpo-India arms show.

No details were given on what kind of technical problems are involved, or how long it will take to fix them."

http://www.interfax.com/newsinf.asp?id=147429

Now you know why Netanyahu was smiling in his photographs with Putin and Medvedev (see prior blog entry). This is a meaningful coup for Netanyahu and a serious setback for Iran, still susceptible to attack from above and forced to rethink its negotiating position with the U.S. and its allies.

Peculiar how Obama never dreamed of obtaining this concession from Russia. Or is it because Obama's advisers had already reconciled themselves to a nuclear Iran . . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Obama Doctrine: Appease Your Enemies, Undermine Your Friends

Historian and scholar Bernard Lewis aptly stated:

"A nation can make few mistakes worse than this: to be harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend."

Regrettably, the Obama administration has decided to ignore the advice of Lewis and is indeed pursuing a foreign policy premised upon appeasing enemies while undermining friends:

- In Europe, Obama abandoned the American missile defense agreement with NATO allies Poland and the Czech Republic, after subdued growls from Moscow. Both Poland and the Czech Republic assisted the U.S. with troops in Iraq.

- In Asia, Obama has decided to keep North Korea off the list of states that sponsor terrorism, notwithstanding a ballistic missile test in 2009 that infuriated Japan. Placing North Korea on the blacklist would have subjected it to economic sanctions.

- In the Middle East, Obama is now appointing a new ambassador to Syria, after Syria threatened to target Israeli cities in the event of renewed hostilities. Syria's assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a friend of the West, exactly five years ago, is being ignored.

- In Iran, Obama continues to stand silently on the sidelines and mull new deadlines and sanctions, as Iran's dissidents are silenced, tortured and executed.

- In South America, Obama helped reinstate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who sought to to abolish presidential term limits and to provide himself with dictatorial power. Obama allied himself with the likes of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan president and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega.

Can the Free World survive the Obama Doctrine over the course of the next three years? What will be the repercussions if Obama is reelected and his inner convictions are no longer counterbalanced by the need to present a moderate facade?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Left Dishonourable Baroness Tonge: Anti-Semitism Reminiscent of the Dark Ages

As reported by The Jewish Chronicle, the Left Dishonourable Baroness Jennifer Tonge called for an inquiry to ascertain that the Israeli medical rescue team sent to Haiti, following the catastrophic earthquake, did not steal body organs:

"Baroness Tonge, the Liberal peer, said this week that Israel should set up an inquiry to disprove allegations that its medical teams in Haiti 'harvested' organs of earthquake victims for use in transplants.

Her call has been sharply criticised by fellow LibDems, but party leader Nick Clegg has refused to act against her.

The organ theft claims were published last week in the Palestine Telegraph, an online journal based in Gaza of which Baroness Tonge is a patron.

In a statement to the JC, she said the Israel Defence Forces were 'to be commended for their fantastic response to the Haitian earthquake'.

But she added: 'To prevent allegations such as these — which have already been posted on YouTube — going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.'”

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/27070/tonge-investigate-idf-stealing-organs-haiti

On Friday, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg finally had the good sense to sack Tonge as his health spokeswoman in the House of Lords. Clegg, however, had the temerity to claim that Tonge is not anti-Semitic or racist. Shame on Clegg for defending her and not recognizing this vulgar anti-Semite for what she is!

This is not the first time that the vile Tonge has been embroiled in controversy. In 2004, while a Member of Parliament, Tonge was asked to step down as children's spokeswoman by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy after grotesquely asserting vis-à-vis Palestinian suicide bombers:

"If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3421669.stm

Has Tonge alone lost her mind, or has anti-Semitism become fashionable in the House of Lords?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Effectuating the Obama Doctrine: New U.S. Ambassador to Syria

Obama has decided to appoint a new ambassador to Syria for the first time following the 2005 murder by Syria of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/lebanese-prime-minister-hariri-sides.html). According to Philip J. Crowley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs:

"The decision reflects our growing interest in working constructively with Syria and the leaders of that country."

Further pursuit of the "Obama Doctrine" of appeasing enemies and enfeebling friends? Or just possibly, an attempt to wean Syria away from Iran? Regardless, it is not going to make the Palestinian Authority happy, given the historic designs of Damascus upon Palestine and Lebanon, which are deemed part of "Greater Syria". "Work constructively" with Assad's savage regime? Good luck to the Obami.

Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has proposed a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which would involve a trade of Arab towns in northern Israel for Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The proposal was vehemently protested by Israeli Arab parliament member Ahmed Tibi:

"Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al chairman) responded to Ayalon's remarks, saying they reflect a 'complete defect in the understanding of the basic values of democracy and civil rights.'

'We are not chess pieces,' said Tibi. 'We did not arrive in this country on planes and we did not immigrate here. We do not want to expel anyone from the borders of this country, but if someone wants to expel us, I will say this: He who got here last leaves first. That way, there will be fewer fascists in Israel.'"

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1149435.html

How peculiar that Tibi so vociferously opposes this proposal given the claims of Jimmy Carter and the New Left concerning the existence of apartheid in Israel . . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

Roger Cohen: "Flaccid Mideast Falsehoods"

In today's New York Times, Roger Cohen again lashes out at Israel in an op-ed entitled "Hard Mideast Truths". My online response, if The Times chooses to post it:

Have you ever noticed that when Cohen writes about any country other than Israel, he writes from that country? Not so concerning Israel. I can't even remember when Cohen was last in Israel. I think I know why Cohen is loath to visit Israel, but no need to engage in ad hominem attacks. Let's just look at several of the many items which Cohen failed to mention in his op-ed:

- No mention of the fact that former Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert offered the West Bank back to Arafat and Abbas, respectively, in exchange for peace. Both Arafat and Abbas refused.

- The Hamas charter is more than just "vile", as Cohen dutifully informs us. It calls for the murder of all Jews and rejects any compromise with Israel.

- No mention by Cohen of the 700,000 Sephardic Jews (a number larger than the number of Palestinian refugees), who were evicted from their homes in neighboring Arab countries and stripped of all their belongings in 1948 and made their way to Israel without any means of sustenance.

- No mention of the fact that many of those Jewish "settlers" consist of persons now living in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, which was conquered by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948. When conquered, the Jordanian commander declared: "For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews' return here impossible." The Jordanians subsequently destroyed all but one of the Jewish Quarter's 53 synagogues, and Jews could no longer worship at the Western ("Wailing") Wall, which became a garbage dump.

- No mention that many more of the Jewish "settlers" consist of persons living around the bottleneck at the western entranceway to Jerusalem, which could easily be transformed into a sniper's haven. Even in recent years, Palestinians have shot into the city from the surrounding environs, and yes, if and when Palestinians agree to Israel's right to exist, there will be land swaps as part of a peace deal.

- No mention by Cohen of the some 50,000 rockets being aimed by Hezbollah at Israeli cities.

- No mention of Syrian Scuds which can be fired with deadly accuracy at any target in Israel.

- No mention by Cohen that there is already another country, once forming part of Palestine, where Palestinians comprise the majority of the population: Jordan.

I believe in a two-state solution along the lines of the 1967 border with land swaps as necessary. I would welcome a democratic, prosperous Palestine (a pity that Cohen cannot bring himself to witness the resurgent Palestinian economy in the West Bank). But Palestine will also need to recognize Israel's right to exist, it will need to put an end to suicide bombings, and it will need to prevent the firing of rockets into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Netanya (Israel is only 9 miles wide at its waist).

I would only note in passing how convenient it must be for Cohen to write about Israel, notwithstanding the brutal events in Iran yesterday and in prior weeks. Surely there are those who still remember Cohen's recent repeated attempts to indoctrinate New York Times readers with the watchwords: "Iran is not totalitarian."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catherine Ashton Expresses Her "Concern" Over Iran

Catherine Ashton, "High Representative" of the EU, issued the following statement today concerning events in Iran:

"On the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which for many in Iran should symbolise progress in fundamental freedoms and rights, the European Union notes with great concern that a large number of Iranians have been prevented for [sic] expressing their views.

The EU is also concerned by reports that opposition leaders have been subjected to violence and intimidation and may have been arrested.

The scenes of violent repression today are part of a pattern over the past few months. Violent crackdowns on those calling for the fundamental right to freedom of expression and assembly have cost the regime the trust of its own people, as well as that of the international community.

The determination shown by protestors on Iran's streets clearly demonstrates the strength of their desire for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU reiterates its support for them.

The choices this regime is making vis-à-vis its people and the international community are the wrong ones. No amount of inflated rhetoric can hide that. The regime is letting its own people down; and they deserve better."

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/112858.pdf

The EU notes its "great concern"? If so, why, for the love of heaven, are EU member states not bringing this matter before the UN Security Council on an emergency basis?

A "large number of Iranians have been prevented for [sic] expressing their views"? I have news for you, dearest Catherine: in recent days, the Ahmadinejad regime has been busy arresting and executing them.

Yes, the Ahmadinejad regime is "letting its own people down" and Iranians "deserve better" - I am sickened by this wilting language - and what, if anything, do you intend to do about this, Catherine?

On the other side of the pond, what does President Obama have to say about this situation? Meanwhile, nothing. USA TODAY reports:

"The Obama administration is keeping a close eye today on Iran".

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2010/02/obama-white-house-eyes-celebration-in-iran/1

How reassuring! In accordance with the now famous "Obama Doctrine" of appeasing enemies and enfeebling friends, Barack is busy watching. That should have Ahmadinejad and his henchmen trembling in their pants!

Iran Feels Pressured by U.S. Supplied Anti-Missile Systems

Iran claims to know the locations of U.S. supplied missile defense systems in the Middle East. According to the Tehran Times:

"Iran is fully aware of the locations of the U.S. missile defense shields in the region, Brigadier General Ahmad Miqani said on Tuesday.

. . . .

He said the establishment of the missile shields is part of the plan to promote Iranophobia among regional nations, adding that the U.S. is seeking to undermine the unity of the Islamic ummah (community).

Since the U.S. is in the middle of an economic crisis, it is trying to sell arms to Persian Gulf littoral states in order to recover from the economic meltdown, he stated. The U.S. is also seeking to stabilize its military presence in the region so that it can pursue its evil interests, he added.

. . . .

The moves, which include the sales of anti-missile systems to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, seem to be designed to pressure Iran."

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=214093

Why does Iran feel "pressure" from missile defense systems? Is Iran's claim that it knows the locations of these systems an attempt to place its neighbors on notice that it can destroy them? And here we had been led to believe that Israel was the source of all tensions in the region . . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri Sides with the Murderers of His Father

In an interview reported by the BBC, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that he is worried by "escalating" threats posed to the Middle East by Israel and that Lebanon's government would be united in its support for Iranian and Syrian proxy Hezbollah:

"This is something that is escalating, and this is something that is really dangerous."

"I think they're betting that there might be some division in Lebanon, if there is a war against us.

"Well, there won't be a division in Lebanon. We will stand against Israel. We will stand with our own people."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8507482.stm

Saad Hariri, soon to be 40-years-old will "stand with his people"? Peculiar how there was no mention in this news item of how Syria murdered his father, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, on February 14, 2005, by means of a bomb that created a 20-yard-wide hole opposite the St. George Hotel and which demolished the older Hariri's bulletproof car.

Blood is thicker than water? Not for Saad Hariri when it relates to his father's blood, which was spattered over a Beirut street.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Tom Friedman is visiting Yemen, and in his op-ed of today's date, entitled "It's All About Schools", Friedman claims that by "rebuilding Yemen’s educational system, the West could prevent the country from becoming an Al Qaeda breeding ground." My online comment, if The Times permits it:

Friedman would have the U.S. "build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls."

Tom, do you really think that Yemen would send its boys and girls together to school to learn "critical thinking"? I suggest you first inform your readership about the horrifying practice of "honor killings" against Yemeni women.

If you really believe these schools would be attended by boys and girls together in Yemen, where women are second class citizens, you have been chewing too much "qat".

Let's build those new schools in the U.S., where unemployment is also rampant, and provide those scholarships to underprivileged American children.

Given the sensitivities of the readership of The Times, I dared not mention the practice of female circumcision in Yemen, which often leads to death from hemorrhage or infection. A pity those persons from the New Left, who advocate "freedom" for Palestine, do not bother calling for the liberation of women throughout the Middle East.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reinstate the Uptick Rule Immediately

What needs to be done to remedy the ongoing financial crisis?

Everyone has heard of the Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in 1933, which was intended to prevent banks from engaging in speculation by prohibiting bank holding companies from owning other financial companies. Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999 by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, and ever since the most recent financial crisis, there have been calls for its reenactment. In mid-2009, senators John McCain and Maria Cantwell proposed re-imposing the separation of commercial and investment banking, and in January 2010 President Obama belatedly proposed regulations to limit the banks' trading and investment capabilities. Yes, it is indeed time to force the banks to go back to the "boring" business of lending money to worthy borrowers, thereby preserving the integrity of the U.S. financial system, but that's only part of the problem.

Although everyone knows about Glass-Steagall, how many people are familiar with the Uptick Rule, whose repeal contributed directly and immeasurably to the severity of the most recent economic crisis and thwarts future economic growth?

The Uptick Rule went into effect in 1938, also in response to market abuses that threatened the health of the U.S. economy, and prohibited the short selling of securities except on an "uptick". As summarized by the SEC:

"Rule 10a-1(a)(1) provided that, subject to certain exceptions, a listed security may be sold short (A) at a price above the price at which the immediately preceding sale was effected (plus tick), or (B) at the last sale price if it is higher than the last different price (zero-plus tick). Short sales were not permitted on minus ticks or zero-minus ticks, subject to narrow exceptions."

The Uptick Rule was cancelled in 2007, thereby enabling hedge funds to short shares, i.e. sell shares they did not own, in almost unlimited, immediate quantities, and permitting them to benefit from the resultant investor panic in almost any given traded company.

Example: Micro-cap Company "X" has patented a better widget, manufactures cutting-edge wozzles, and is developing a new kind of werble. Recently, the achievements of "X" have made their way into the news, and its shares have risen. Farmer Joe, who attends night school and reads the financial news, decides to buy 1,000 shares of "X". However, unbeknownst to Farmer Joe, Slick Eddy at Hedge Fund "Z", who couldn't care less about the merits of Company "X"'s widgets, has also noticed the rise in the share price of "X". With almost unlimited resources behind him, Eddy borrows "X" shares from various financial institutions and begins to sell vast quantities into the market, causing a precipitous decline in the market price of "X". Eddy then blocks any rally in the share price and immediately sells shares at the bid after any significant purchase. Worried by the huge downswing in the price of "X" accompanied by unusually high volume, and also concerned that at the end of each trading day "X" always goes down (Eddy always sells into the market in the last seconds of trading), Farmer Joe dumps his shares at an enormous loss ("Someone must know that something's wrong at 'X'"). Having succeeded in panicking Farmer Joe and other small investors in "X", Eddy buys back the shares at a significantly lower average price than that at which he sold them, resulting in enormous profits for Hedge Fund "Z". Eddy's bosses note his "fine" work and reward him with bonuses as the shares of "X" tumble.

Of course, there are those who will say that ultimately the stock market is "efficient", and the price of "X" will recover to an appropriate level. However, in the process we have witnessed the flow of wealth from Farmer Joe and other small investors to Hedge Fund "Z".

Also, consider the damage to Company "X", which, owing to doubt raised by the run on its shares, is suddenly unable to raise additional funds to finance production of a new line of widgets.

According to Muriel Siebert, former state banking superintendent of New York:

“The S.E.C. took away the short-sale rule and when the markets were falling, institutional investors just pounded stocks because they didn’t need an uptick. We have to look at that and say, ‘Did that influence and add to the volatility?’”

http://select.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/business/yourmoney/26gret.html?_r=1

John McCain was far more blunt than Ms. Siebert:

"Sen. John McCain called for the dismissal of Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, blaming him for much of the financial crisis that is now ripping the nation.

'The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and has betrayed the public's trust,' he told a rally. 'If I were President today, I would fire him.'

Working to seize momentum in the unraveling financial crisis that has knocked his campaign off stride, Sen. McCain put much of the blame on the SEC. The agency, he said, allowed abusive short-selling, or bearish bets on a company's stock, to turn 'our markets into a casino.'"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122175692668652881.html

Interestingly, in January 2009, Chairman Cox, on the day he left the SEC, wrote a letter supporting reinstatement of an Uptick Rule:

“I have been interested in proposing an updated uptick rule. However, as you know, the SEC is a commission of five members. Throughout 2008 there was not a majority interested in reconsidering the 2007 decision to repeal the uptick rule, or in proposing some modernized variant of it. I sincerely hope that the commission, in the year ahead, continues to reassess this issue in light of the extraordinary market events of the last several months, with a view to implementing a modernized version of the uptick rule.”

http://www.house.gov/list/press/ny05_ackerman/PR_012709.html

Why has the Uptick Rule not been reinstated? Obviously, there are powerful lobbyists opposed to its reenactment, yet this requires immediate action.

Looking back at Glass-Steagall and the Uptick Rule, it turns out that our forefathers gained much wisdom in their attempts to pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression and to prevent a recurrence of this tragedy. Today certain American politicians would ignore their wisdom.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February 11 in Tehran: What Will President Obama Do?

On February 11, the anniversary of the revolution against the Shah, the Iranian masses will again take to the streets of Tehran, protesting against the savage totalitarian regime of Ahmadinejad. The tension is high following the executions of dissidents and after today's instructions from Ahmadinejad to produce twenty percent enriched uranium fuel.

And when there is tension on the streets of Tehran, what are you going to do? The answer is obvious: Blame Israel and threaten its destruction.

"Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali Khamenei stated on Sunday that the will of God is set for an end to the oppression in the region and the defeat of the hegemonic powers.

The Supreme Leader made the remarks in a meeting with Ramadan Abdullah, the secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement.

Israel is going downhill toward decline and fall and God willing its obliteration is certain, the Leader noted."

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=213925

According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates, it's not too late to impose additional sanctions against Iran. Yeah, sure, let's fix another date for compliance and see what effect that has on Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard. And even if sanctions are imposed, do you think for one moment that the Chinese won't cut a deal to allow the Revolutionary Guard to circumvent the restrictions?

So what's it gonna be in another four days when the protesters chant: "Obama, are you with us or against us?"

Most likely just another vote of "present".

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Anti-Semitism and Censorship: Shame on The New York Times!

This blog entry recounts my recent correspondence with an editor of The New York Times. This blog entry is longer than usual, but speaks for itself. Make the effort and read it through to the end, then send it to a friend, send it to the Publisher of The Times, send it to the Public Editor of The Times. Anti-Semitism, when it rears its ugly head even via the back door of a national newspaper, must be exposed and confronted:

Saturday, January 30

Dear ______,

My comment, below, to Collins' op-ed of today's date ["Another Inconvenient Truth"] was censored by The Times. Not germane? Foolish? Not specifically on point? Not 100% relevant to New Yorkers?

What was your "moderator" hoping to suppress?

Best,
Jeffrey

Collins, who is completely out of her depth, writes:

"Safety is always a concern, but Al Qaeda doesn’t operate like a season of '24.' Terrorists don’t generally strike when it’s most symbolic or best serves a story line."

Collins obviously has never taken the time to study terrorism. As observed by Albert Bandura in "Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement in Terrorism", which appears in Walter Reich's "Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind":

"Terrorists try to exercise influence over targeted officials or nations through intimidation of the public and arousal of sympathy for the social and political causes they espouse. Without widespread publicity, terrorist acts can achieve neither of these effects."

As further noted by Brian M. Jenkins in "International Terrorism: A New Kind of Warfare":

"Terrorist attacks are often carefully choreographed to attract the attention of the electronic media and the international press. Holding hostages increases the drama. If certain demands are not satisfied, the hostages may be killed. The hostages themselves often mean nothing to terrorists. Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims. Terrorism is theater."

What Collins terms the "Bloomberg Rebellion" has nothing whatsoever to do with a "sour, us-first" mood. It has everything to do with moving the trial away from an exposed population center, protecting New Yorkers and exercising common sense."


**********

Saturday, January 30

And how do you know it was not accepted? Do you get a notice?

**********

Saturday, January 30

No notice is received. Your submission simply disappears from the top of the comments page, and the comment is not posted.

Perhaps my opening sentence was too strong; however, I would like to believe that there was not another posted comment that provided this kind of substantive response concerning the motivation which underlies terrorist attacks.

Thanks for getting back to me. Perhaps you would be kind enough to forward this comment to Mr. Collins with my apology for the opening sentence.

Best,
Jeffrey

**********

I should have written "Ms." Collins in my prior e-mail.

Note comment No. 126 to this op-ed:

"Gail is right on. New Yorkers are being selfish and cowardly. In fact most of this country is too selfish and spoiled. Whiny babies that have had it so good for so long they can't tough out rough times and make decisions and sacrifices for the greater good of the country. All they want is whats best for themselves. The Tea Party idiots (or new KKK) are a prime example. . . ."

I am not of the "Tea Party" ilk and consider myself centrist. However, how can my comment have been deemed abusive, yet the foregoing be posted?

Protect the op-ed writer? Or is the moderator allowing her/his views to surface?

Jeffrey

**********

Saturday, January 30

I don't have any idea. I haven't looked at the comments pages on this one. Are there many comments? It is all dependent on resources. With each comment the desk has to decide how many they can handle in the time they have to do it and that's all they do. We close comments and even some that are in the queue. Comments are a mandatory part of the Internet life but they are very labor intensive. I can ask our folks what happened here but I'm not sure they will have a detailed memory of one comment out of many.

**********

Satuday, January 30

Time had nothing to do with the refusal of this comment: It was submitted early (from Israel). Nothing terrible happened, but I am convinced that it was a political judgement on the part of the moderator.

Thanks for getting back to me.

**********

Saturday, January 30

I cannot imagine that it was. I've never seen any evidence of that.

**********

Saturday, January 30

My experience has been otherwise. In the past, I am convinced this also affected "editors selections" (today, "highlights"), but it's of little significance.

There were only 127 comments posted in response to Gail Collins today [at the time this e-mail was sent; ultimately 533 comments were posted - but not mine]. If it doesn't require more than a minute of your time, I suggest you do, indeed, ask them why my comment was rejected.

***********

Saturday, January 30

Jeffrey
It's Saturday. We have very few comment moderators on Saturday. I have never seen, including the mistakes that were made with some of your comments in the past, any sign at all that a moderator was following a political agenda. I will ask about your comment on Monday.

***********

Sunday, January 31

Again, thanks for your intervention, which in and of itself should help keep things "balanced". I subsequently sent an abbreviated version of my comment for publication as a "letter to the editor" and copied you. I think, in this instance, the underpinnings of terrorism, which are unknown to Ms. Collins, are extremely relevant to New Yorkers and deserve attention. [My "letter to the editor" submission was not published.]

You will recall in the past that the Public Editor said that he intended to write a column concerning the acceptance and rejection of comments and requested from me examples of comments which had been rejected. I immediately provided the examples, including my response to the Qaddafi op-ed which should not have been suppressed. Clark Hoyt never wrote the column and informed me: "I have inquired about why your comments have not been posted and have been told that those that were rejected were considered off the topic."

I can assure you that the "rejection" of comments is an issue that troubles many Times readers.

**********

Sunday, January 31

The comment system is going to be imperfect as long as comments are moderated. And I hope they will always be moderated. I'd rather have a few improperly rejected comments than the streams of irrelevant and juvenile comments that fill most comment areas. I'll ask about yours tomorrow.

**********

Sunday, January 31

_____,

A stream of "irrelevant and juvenile comments that fill most comment areas"? I am certainly agree in theory with you, but please consider the following horrifying comments that were posted by your moderators on the first page of comments (I didn't bother to review the following pages) in response to David Brooks' recent "The Tel Aviv Cluster":

Examples:

From comment No. 15: ". . . as our great nation the USA has recently shown, cheered on by one bright jew david brooks, a small bunch of stupid men claiming to be closer to god but really just being stupid, selfish and unfair, can run enormous fortunes into the ground and make enemies out of old friends."

Response: Once again, the revolting Jews, who claim to be God's chosen people, were responsible for the most recent economic downturn. When did we last hear this in Europe in the not too distant past?

From comment No. 8: "Curiously, Israel’s great success has been, as David Brooks suggests, an entirely different story. In the world of commerce and trade, especially at the consumer level, Israel’s influence has been negligible. There are hardly any Israeli consumer goods to be found in the world’s shopping centers and malls. Where are Israeli writers, poets, entertainers, artists, philosophers, foundational thinkers in the humanities and sciences?"

Response: I don't know if this amounts to anti-Semitism or mere stupidity. Obviously the author of this comment is unaware of the Israeli invented chips powering many computers. He is unaware of Israeli medical devices and medicines. He is unaware of Israeli authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua. He is unaware of Israeli violinists Pinkas Zuckerman and Itzhak Perlman, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, and the Israeli Philharmonic. He is unaware of the Batsheva Dance Company. And the list continues ad nauseam in response to this nauseating comment.

From comment No. 20: "'Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies.' I'm not sure if this is an indication of academic excellence or academic favoritism. In any event this statistic is the most troubling of all that were offered."

Response: How strange! I can still remember a time when certain Ivy League schools restricted the number of Jews they were willing to accept. Now these same schools are controlled by manipulative Jews? Let's immediately commission an investigation!

From comment No. 21: "And it is the tail that wags the American dog."

Response: Why does this smack of "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion", a text purporting to describe a plan to achieve global domination by the Jewish people? And here I always thought that the U.S. and Israel were bound by common democratic values and mutual admiration. How foolish could I possibly be!

From comment No. 16: "The Goldstone report (1100 civilians killed) and recent desperate peace missions to Gaza (Israel's open air prison where Palestinians are freezing and starving) might paint a different picture of the current state of affairs in that proud nation."

Response: According to IDF figures, of the 1,166 Palestinian deaths during Operation Cast Lead, only 295 were civilians. Palestinians are freezing and starving in Gaza? It has been a moderate winter on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, and I am not aware of anyone freezing. Likewise, although there is indeed much poverty in Gaza, I have not heard of a single person starving. According to the CIA World Factbook, Gazans have a life expectancy of 73.42 years at birth.

From comment No. 7: "You also do not mention that Israel is by far the largest recipient of foreign aid from the US of any nation, and has been for a long time. No wonder they don't have to worry about bailouts! And that the big, wealthy Jewish lobbying group, AIPAC, has the power to make or break any politician in this country! And has! . . . High tech creativity is terrific, but it should not be celebrated when it is on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised!"

Response: Pakistan and Egypt are both receiving billions of dollars of aid from the U.S., but there is no nascent hi-tech. U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum and U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison are no friends of Israel, but that nasty cabal named AIPAC has not broken them. Hi-tech "on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised"? I am an external advisor to an Israeli hi-tech firm seeking to be the world leader in the discovery of product candidates for the drug and diagnostic industry, and here, all this while, I thought this company's remarkable therapeutic candidates were intended to benefit all of mankind. Silly me! The "disenfranchised"? Some 60% of Israel's population consists of Jews who were deprived of all their belongings and physically evicted from their homes in the surrounding Arab countries.

From comment No. 19: "They must persuade the Israeli government to end the occupation and end the apartheid."

Response: Apartheid is premised upon the notion of racial superiority. Some Israelis have racist attitudes toward Arabs, but the official philosophy of the government is quite the opposite. Arabs vote, they have their own political parties, and are capable of influencing who will compose the government. There are no separate buses for Arabs or separate toilets. Ask Israeli Arabs if they would like to become part of the Palestinian Authority as part of an ultimate land swap for peace - they will have no part of it.

Bottom line: How did The New York Times, which claims to "moderate" online comments and purports to reject those which are abusive, see fit to publish all of the above on the first page of comments? Some of this is far worse than juvenile. Some of the above amounts to picture perfect examples of the "new" anti-Semitism of the Left. More to the point, would The Times agree to publish such abuse were it directed at any other people?

I'm not attacking you, _____. I am just trying to show you that perhaps things have not improved all that much.

Jeffrey

**********

Wednesday, February 3

Dear _____,

I know that you are busy, but I am still hoping to hear back from you. It would be great to hear the reasons for the rejection of my comment concerning Ms. Collins' op-ed, but this is not critical. The world will go on without my comment.

Far more important to me, however, is your response to the continued willingness of The Times to post comments, such as: ". . . as our great nation the USA has recently shown, cheered on by one bright jew david brooks, a small bunch of stupid men claiming to be closer to god but really just being stupid, selfish and unfair, can run enormous fortunes into the ground and make enemies out of old friends."

This is far worse than "trite" or "juvenile". Sure, it's only a comment, but I find it beyond comprehension that your "moderators" believe that this is not abusive and not anti-Semitic. How can a national newspaper with its offices in NY employ persons who condone such outrages? Do they believe that this comment falls within the bounds of accepted mores? Because this is a so-called "moderated" comment, it reflects on the newspaper's values, goes noticed by your readership, and informs the public what is acceptable and unacceptable at The Times.

We are more or less the same age, and I "grew up" with The Times in NY. It is saddening to witness this phenomenon.

Best,
Jeffrey

**********

Friday, February 5

Dear _____,

An answer from the persons responsible for comments? Thanks!

Best,
Jeffrey

Silence. No answer from The Times. Is there any acceptable answer?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Obama in Cahoots with Ellison/McDermott?

Apparently the timing and contents of the Ellison/McDermott letter to Obama, signed by 54 members of Congress and J Street and calling for Israel to ease the "unabated suffering" of Gazans, were no accident.

Last week an Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation met in Washington with officials from the State Department and the White House, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner, and President Barack Obama's adviser on human rights, Samantha Power. According to an article in Haaretz entitled "U.S.: Easing Gaza siege would help counter Goldstone":

Power did not hide her criticism of Israel's handling of the Goldstone report; she asked whether Israel's thinking on the issue was "strategic or tactical."

"Is the correct strategy fighting Goldstone on all fronts?" she asked.

. . . .

Posner, who had held talks on the Goldstone report in Jerusalem a month ago, stressed that the document has two angles: "one humanitarian the other multilateral. Improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza may be an important component of the change in the attitude of the international community toward Israel and will be very helpful against the Goldstone report."

The Americans said they do not believe in the policy of preventing goods from reaching the Gaza population because of the political situation there. "We do not accept the current situation at the Gaza crossings," one of them said.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1147463.html

You will recall that Power was forced to leave Obama's presidential campaign after labeling Hillary Clinton a "monster". I would answer her question as to whether it is the correct strategy to fight Goldstone on all fronts with my own question: Is it the correct strategy to fight anti-Semitism on all fronts? The Goldstone Report is the real "monster".

Open the borders to Gazans and show them the benefits of voting for Hamas and firing rockets at Israel without freeing Gilad Schalit? Posner has obviously never spent meaningful time in the Middle East and doesn't have the remotest notion how this unilateral act would be interpreted: kindness, or, more likely, weakness? Moreover, it doesn't matter what Israel will do vis-à-vis the international community. Jews will always be hated, and there will always be those who would deny them their right to a homeland.

Obama is no friend of Israel and has surrounded himself with persons hostile to Israel. It's not going to get any easier during the next 1,000 days.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What If Israel Threatened Syrian Cities?

At a press conference on Wednesday in Damascus with Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Mouallem stated:

"Israel is indeed planting the seeds of war in the region, I would tell them stop playing the role of thugs in the Middle East. . . . Don't test, you Israelis, the determination of Syria. You know that war this time would move to your cities. . . . No doubt, if we assume that this war would erupt - and we should not exclude this possibility from an entity established on expansion - I would say it is going to be a comprehensive war, whether it starts in the south of Lebanon or from Syria."

Spain's Moratinos had the presence of mind to interject:

"I came in from Israel after meetings with most senior officials there, and I would tell you that I heard no drums of war, rather I felt a desire for peace."

Can you imagine the international uproar if Israel's foreign minister were to threaten Syrian cities with devastation? If this were to happen, his remarks would make headlines throughout the world; however, when Israeli civilians are being threatened, there is worse than a deafening silence.

Why worse than a deafening silence? Because the U.S., pursuant to the Obama Doctrine of reaching out in friendship to heretofore "misunderstood" tyrannies, continues to seek rapprochement with Syria. At this same press conference, Syrian Foreign Minister Mouallem said:

"The United States has nominated an ambassador. This is an American sovereign issue and it is Syria's right to study the nomination."

The U.S. recalled its ambassador from Damascus after the February 2005 Syrian assassination in Beirut of former pro-Western Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Following Hariri's murder, there was a string of "mysterious" killings involving Lebanese civilians opposed to Syria's presence in Lebanon: Samir Kassir, a journalist, died from a car bomb; George Hawi, former secretary general of the Lebanese Communist Party, was assassinated by a car bomb; and Jubran Tweini, the editor of al-Nahar, was also murdered. May Shidiaq, who worked for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company and condemned Syrian intervention in Lebanon, escaped assassination, but she was critically wounded.

Obama is sending the message to Syria that all is forgiven, all is forgotten. Damascus, however, is unexpectedly (at least in the eyes of Obama's foreign relations advisers, who are clueless about the Middle East mindset) playing hard to get, as it continues to train Hezbollah on modern, Russian-made antiaircraft systems (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3838871,00.html). It is widely recognized that introduction of these antiaircraft systems into Lebanon by Hezbollah is a red line for Israel, which cannot be crossed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Compugen: An Industrial Revolution

Looking for stock market advice? Stop! This blog is not for you. I do not provide stock market advice. Moreover, I am biased (see caveats below) and blinded by my love of Compugen's science and mission.

What? You're not seeking stock market advice and still reading? Okay, let's look at today's press release concerning the discovery and experimental validation of CGEN-15001 for the treatment of autoimmune disorders, but first a little background information.

Our immune systems must differentiate between foreign pathogens and self-antigens – no simple task. Failure to recognize foreign pathogens results in infection and disease, whereas an inappropriate response to self-antigens can lead to autoimmune disease, e.g. multiple sclerosis.

T-cells, also known as T lymphocytes (the "T" stands for "thymus", the organ in which these cells mature), are white blood cells that adapt the body's immune response to specific pathogens. From the thymus, T-cells are sent to peripheral tissues or circulate in the blood or lymphatic system.

B7/CD28 protein family members can augment or antagonize T-cell receptor signaling and influence autoimmune attack. The B7/CD28 family of molecules is one of the most intensively studied receptor-ligand systems in the field of immunology.

So what is special about Compugen's announcement today?

Compugen's predictive discovery of the parent protein in a field that has been systematically picked over by pharma giants is in and of itself noteworthy. The subsequent predictive discovery of CGEN-15001, a novel soluble recombinant fusion protein corresponding to the extracellular region of the Compugen discovered parent protein, and the results of the in vivo testing conducted by Professor Stephen Miller of Northwestern University speak for themselves.

Equally important, however, is to place today's announcement within the context of previous announcements. The initial product candidates emanating from and intended to validate Compugen's discovery platforms do not seek to extend life expectancies by weeks or months and are not mere enhancements of existing medicines. Rather, we are seeing a growing list of new product candidates, tested by leading authorities, some of which hopefully will provide meaningful solutions for widely prevalent conditions for which medicines are lacking, e.g., pulmonary fibrosis, IBD, retinopathy, epithelial tumors and MS.

In addition, examine today's announcement together with earlier announcements, and you cannot help but notice the broad applicability of Compugen's science. Compugen's understanding of biological phenomena on the molecular level has implications extending far beyond any single disease or disease category.

How often can you enter into a conversation with a group of people and take enormous satisfaction in being able to acknowledge your own ignorance? This is what routinely happens to me when I visit Compugen, and I couldn’t be more pleased. If there is to be a new industrial revolution, i.e. a revolution in the pharma industry, involving a shift away from trial and error to predictive discovery, it will require a combination of creativity and brain power beyond my meager means, but which I am privileged to witness and admire at Compugen.

[As noted in prior blog entries, 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 are based on publicly available information. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Compugen.]