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Monday, January 31, 2011

Nicholas Kristof's "Exhilarated by the Hope in Cairo": Giddy in Tahrir Square

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Exhilarated by the Hope in Cairo" (, Nicholas Kristof writes:

"As I stand in Tahrir Square on Monday trying to interview protesters, dozens of people surging around me and pleading for the United States to back their call for democracy, the yearning and hopefulness of these Egyptians taking huge risks is intoxicating."

Kristof, who acknowledges that he might be "too caught up in the giddiness of Tahrir Square", tells us of a "pro-democracy movement, full of courage and idealism and speaking the language of 1776". Mr. Kristof quotes "Dr. Mahmood Hussein, a physiology professor", and "Ahmed Muhammad, a medical student". Mr. Kristof tells us that he finds "it sad that Egyptians are lecturing Americans on the virtues of democracy."

However, nowhere in Kristof's op-ed is there a mention of the Muslim Brotherhood and the risk that the overthrow of Mubarak's repressive regime could give rise to something far worse. The masses behind the protests are not all professors and medical students, as this op-ed might have us believe (in fact, they are a tiny minority), and Mr. Kristof nowhere mentions that the protesters have the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Kristof nowhere takes into consideration that if an Islamist regime, supported by the masses, arises from this chaos, Egyptians will not be "speaking the language of 1776", but rather the language of the year 776.

One can only ask where was Kristof and where were these fervent advocates of freedom and democracy when 21 Christian Copts were murdered by Islamist extremists in Alexandria one month ago (see: I didn't witness any protests then. Will these attacks against the Copts end with the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, or will there be a far greater level of intolerance, soon to be officially sanctioned, against this minority comprising some 10% of Egypt's population?

Sorry, Mr. Kristof, but it's not always black and white. Enjoy your "giddiness" while you can. If the Muslim Brotherhood ultimately gains control of Egypt, there will be nothing "intoxicating", literally or figuratively for your consumption, but rather a heretofore unknown level of oppression and suffering for Egypt's Christians, women, dissidents, gays and journalists.

[Kristof's "giddy" column reminds me of Roger Cohen's 2009 op-ed entitled "Iran Awakens Yet Again" (, in which we were told: "Iran, its internal fissures exposed as never before, is teetering again on the brink of change. For months now, I’ve been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state. Seldom has the country looked less like one than in these giddy June days." Regrettably, my guess is that Kristof, exhilarated by the protesting masses, will prove as much on the mark as Cohen.]

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Egypt Ready for Democracy?

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei is returning to Egypt to participate in anti-government protests. ElBaradei is quoted by Time as saying:

"The priority for me is to -- is to shift Egypt into a democracy, is to catch up with the 21st century, to get Egypt to be a modern and moderate society and respecting human rights, respecting the basic freedoms of the people."

But is Egypt ready for democracy? Consider the following statistics:

Population: Some 80 million
Annual population growth: Some 2%
Illiteracy: 17 million adult Egyptians can't read or write
Unemployment: Some 9.4%

Mohamed ElBaradei is a brave man facing what might prove insurmountable obstacles, and who is also caught between the desire of 82-year-old Hosni Mubarak to install his son, Gamal, as Egypt's next president, and the repressive theological designs of the Muslim Brotherhood. Let's see what happens on Friday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Palestinian Authority: Obama Has No Credibility in the Middle East

As I observed in yesterday's blog entry:

"Obama has done almost nothing to stop the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons, and his wavering, perceived as impotence throughout the Middle East, is destabilizing Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt."

You didn't believe me? Then read what Saeb Erekat, chief of the Fatah Steering and Monitoring Committee, told George Mitchell about Obama during negotiations in October 2009, according to Palestinian documents leaked to Al-Jazeera and the Guardian:

“It’s not up to me to decide your credibility in the Middle East. He [Obama] has lost it throughout the region.

. . . .

[P]eople in the Middle East are not taking Barack Obama seriously. They feared Bush, despite everything. This is important. BO [Obama] has lost it with the decision-makers, although not the street.”


Welcome to the savage world of the Middle East, where expressions of kindness and empathy are treated as frailty and naivete. Obama and his administration have yet to learn that "making nice" to poor misunderstood despots while "beating up" on longstanding allies - what I have labeled the "Obama Doctrine" in prior blog entries - leads nowhere.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obama Touts Sanctions Against Iran: Yeah, Right!

Yesterday, in his State of the Union address, President Obama touted the efficacy of the sanctions being imposed against Iran to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions:

"Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions and tighter sanctions than ever before".

Although sanctions are having an effect on the Iranian economy and have caused Iran to reduce aid to Hezbollah by 40% (see:, sanctions are having no effect on Iran's efforts to manufacture an atomic weapon, as evidenced by the swift failure of the P5+1 talks in Istanbul, brokered by her Hideousness Catherine Ashton, this past weekend. Also note what Israel's new head of Military Intelligence, Maj-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday:

"The sanctions have had an impact on the Iranian economy, but they have had no impact on Iran’s nuclear program."


Let's be honest: Obama has done almost nothing to stop the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons, and his wavering, perceived as impotence throughout the Middle East, is destabilizing Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Yesterday's rioting in Egypt, which led to three deaths, has Israel worried that the Muslim Brotherhood might ultimately succeed in deposing Mubarak.

Might Iran gain control of the Suez Canal? Chicken Little telling you that the sky is falling, or is this no longer such an outlandish scenario?

Dr. Francis S. Collins, Please Meet with Compugen

A January 22 New York Times article entitled "Federal Research Center Will Help Develop Medicines" (, written by Gardiner Harris, informs us that the Obama administration is perturbed by the slowing discovery of new drugs and intends to finance a new billion-dollar center to address this dilemma:

"The Obama administration has become so concerned about the slowing pace of new drugs coming out of the pharmaceutical industry that officials have decided to start a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines.

. . . .

The National Institutes of Health has traditionally focused on basic research, such as describing the structure of proteins, leaving industry to create drugs using those compounds. But the drug industry’s research productivity has been declining for 15 years, 'and it certainly doesn’t show any signs of turning upward,' said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the institutes.

The job of the new center, to be called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, is akin to that of a home seller who spruces up properties to attract buyers in a down market. In this case the center will do as much research as it needs to do so that it can attract drug company investment.

That means that in some cases, the center will use one of the institutes’ four new robotic screeners to find chemicals that affect enzymes and might lead to the development of a drug or a cure. In other cases, the center may need to not only discover the right chemicals but also perform animal tests to ensure that they are safe and even start human trials to see if they work."

Is a new billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines a good idea? Let's test the issue with an example.

It is known that in order to prevent certain diseases you need to find a means to prevent a specific protein from folding into its disease-associated conformation. With respect to these diseases, how does the federal government propose to address the problem? By using more efficient robotic screeners to throw ever larger libraries of molecules at the target protein? In essence, this is what Big Pharma has been doing for the past twenty years, and as can be seen in the charts accompanying the New York Times article, this effort is failing.

Is there an alternative? Absolutely.

A decade ago, a tiny Israeli biotech company predicted that Big Pharma would hit the wall in its drug discovery efforts, and undertook a long lonely effort to create discovery platforms which could accurately model biological processes at the molecular level and enable the computerized prediction and selection of therapeutic and diagnostic product candidates. Foreseeing that the era of trial and error in the world of drug discovery was yielding diminishing returns, Compugen sought to harness advanced mathematics and computer science to create the next generation of drugs addressing unmet medical needs. Compugen's "Blockers of Disease-Associated Conformation" Platform ("DAC Blockers" Platform), only one of the company's growing number of discovery platforms, was developed to identify synthetic peptides that could prevent proteins from folding into their disease-associated conformations.

What was required to create the DAC Blockers Platform? Among many other things, Compugen needed to map all proteins in the human body. Compugen also needed to identify the cleavage points for all of these proteins in order to map all peptides in the human body. Moreover, Compugen needed to know the exact locations where proteins fold into their disease-associated conformations so as to predict synthetic peptides that could block this folding.

Does Compugen's DAC Blockers Platform work, given that even a single mistake along the way would render all of Compugen's predictions meaningless? According to the company:

"Initial runs of the discovery platform resulted in the in silico prediction of therapeutic peptide candidates for approximately 40 drug targets of interest with potential usage for various indications, including solid cancers, inflammatory diseases, septic shock and viral diseases. Eleven of these drug targets were selected for initial experimental validation and potential peptide blockers were found for all eleven targets."

Can the federal government replicate Compugen's work? No, because the federal government is not playing with a full deck of cards, i.e. it is lacking proteins, cleavage points, peptides, folding sites, and the integrative knowledge which gave rise to this body of information. Sure, there might be isolated instances where robots might toss a molecule at a target and notice some sort of change, but this is the approach used by Big Pharma for the past 20 years, and as evidenced by Big Pharma's rising expenses and declining rates of discovery, it is headed for extinction.

On the other hand, there could much value in having the U.S. federal government shepherd the unlimited number of drug candidates which today can be obtained via predictive discovery through the "Valley of Death", i.e. the period of transition when a candidate is thought to be promising, but at too early a stage to validate its commercial potential and attract necessary capital for continued development.

Predictive drug and diagnostic discovery is finally proving its worth, and I believe that if Dr. Collins were to meet with Compugen's scientists, he would learn that there are indeed signs that drug research productivity is turning upward. Should Dr. Collins meet with Compugen before initiating this new billion-dollar project? You bet!

[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.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Violence Against Muslim Women Again Rears Its Ugly Head in the West

An Iraqi immigrant to the U.S. is set to go on trial in Arizona for allegedly murdering his daughter by running her over with a Jeep. The reason given for the murder:

"Almaleki told detectives and witnesses that he was angry at his daughter because she was 'too Westernized,' and he felt she was defying Iraqi and Muslim values, said Jay Davies, a spokesman for the Peoria Police Department.

The daughter had shunned an arranged marriage, and was living with her boyfriend and his mother, police said."

If convicted, Almaleki faces life in prison.

On the other side of the pond, the brother of an actress who appeared in several Harry Potter movies was sentenced to six months in jail for attacking his sister. The reason given for the assault was that his sibling was dating a non-Muslim:

"According to the Press Association, she was punched, dragged around by her hair and strangled by her brother Ashraf Azad, 28, who threatened to kill her after he found her talking on the phone to her Hindu boyfriend.

The assault occurred during a dispute at the family home in Longsight, Manchester, which also involved her mother and father. During the row she was branded a "slag" (slut) and a "prostitute" and told: 'Marry a Muslim or you die!'"

Only six months in prison? Although the defendant did not kill his sister, this sentence appears extremely lenient, and I wonder whether this will dissuade other would-be attackers from abusing their female relatives in the U.K.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Palestinian Torture of Prisoners: The Story Nicholas Kristof Didn't Investigate

You will recall how in July of 2010 Nicholas Kristof made a pilgrimage to the Palestinian Authority, this time with his family, to report, inter alia, on the weekly demonstration against the separation fence at Bilin ( Kristof proudly reported on having been "stoned and tear-gassed on this trip" and announced that "some Palestinians are dabbling in a strategy of nonviolent resistance that just might be a game-changer."

But instead of the fence, let's talk for a minute about what Kristof didn't have the شجاعة or אומץ or cojones to investigate, which would have required a mere 15-minute detour from Bilin.

An article entitled "PA has been torturing prisoners for years, UK group says" (, written by Khaled Abu Toameh for The Jerusalem Post , describes the horrors being perpetrated in Palestinian Authority prisons and places Kristof's contention that "nonviolent resistance . . . might be a game-changer" in proper perspective. As reported by Abu Toameh:

"The Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have been using torture on a widespread and systematic basis for several years, according to a report by the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain.

Torture techniques used in PA prisons included shabh (hanging) of all kinds, beatings with cables, pulling out nails, suspension from the ceiling, flogging, kicking, cursing, electric shocks, sexual harassment and the threat of rape, the report found.

. . . .

At least six Palestinians have died under torture in PA prisons and many former detainees have permanent physical disabilities, the report found."

Disturbing? Absolutely, and I hasten to add that the conditions faced by those unfortunates doing time in Hamas prisons, which Kristof also didn't visit this past July while in Gaza, are actually worse.

Hey, Nicholas, how about some nonviolent resistance against the abuses of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas? Do you think it might work? Could this also prove a "game-changer"? Sorry, not a chance. Play these games with the PA or Hamas and the likelihood is that you will also be hanging upside down ("shabh"), or worse.

Meanwhile, Kristof, in the company of his family, prefers to divert our attention to a separation fence, which continues to serve as a highly effective deterrent to suicide bombings (see:

Nuclear Talks with Iran Collapse

Two days of talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul, intended to curb Iran's nuclear development program, collapsed today, although their failure probably took no one, other than her Hideousness, Catherine Ashton, by surprise. This past November, Ashton characterized the talks as "a very important development" (

Following termination of the talks in Istanbul, Ashton stated:

"Our proposals remain on the table. Our door remains open. Our telephone lines remain open."

Thanks, Catherine, for informing us that everything remains open -- all very encouraging. Now if you can only keep your mouth shut and spare us your drivel.

Blair Cautions Obama and Her Hideousness, Catherine Ashton, on Iran

As her Hideousness, Catherine Ashton, poses smiling (fortunately for us with her mouth closed) beside her Iranian counterpart at talks in Istanbul aimed at curbing the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons ambitions, Tony Blair had this to say about Iran:

"'It [Iran] has to be confronted and changed. Iran is a looming challenge. It is negative and destabilizing. It supports terrorists,' said Blair on Friday during his remarks at the Chilcot inquiry, the British inquiry into the war in Iraq.

'I say this to you with all of the passion I possibly can -- at some point the West has to get out of what I think is a wretched policy or posture of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing,' said Blair who serves as the Quartet representative to the Middle East.

Blair stated that he could see the 'impact and the influence of Iran everywhere.'"

Is Blair correct? Can the impact and influence of Iran be felt everywhere? You darn well better believe it.

As previously observed in this blog, the West is well on its way to losing Jordan. (See: Not surprisingly, protestors, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, took to Jordan's streets on Friday, demanding that the government step down.

Also, yesterday, Walid Jumblatt, head of Lebanon's Druze, ominously declared on Friday that he would side with Syria and Hezbollah, i.e. Iran, in forming a new Lebanese government. Jumblatt, the ultimate survivor and weathervane in Lebanon, has acknowledged that he is fearful that Hezbollah might seek to harm Lebanon's Druze minority (see: and has abandoned Saad Hariri.

How long until Obama gets tough? Is he even capable of standing up to Ahmadinejad? As further stated by Blair:

"President Obama - not President Bush - goes in March 2009 to Cairo, right in the heart of Islam. He makes a speech where he says effectively 'put aside the Bush era, I'm now offering the hand of friendship, you, Iran can come into partnership, you are an ancient, proud civilisation.'

What's the response he gets? They carry on with the terrorism, they carry on with the destabilisation, they carry on with the nuclear weapons.

At some point we have to get our head out of the sand and understand they are going to carry on with this."

Stay tuned . . .

A Smiling Catherine Ashton Poses with Iran's Nuclear Negotiator Jalili

Yet another instance where I find myself urgently in need of a Bathurst-Norman Bag for Internet sickness (see:

As reported yesterday from Istanbul by Yahoo News in an article entitled "Iran nuclear talks avoid collapse" (

"Talks between Iran and world powers seeking to persuade the Islamic Republic to curb its nuclear program came close to collapse on Friday, but would resume on Saturday, a western official said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton convinced the Iranian delegation to remain at the talks, which will go into a second day on Saturday with little prospect of concrete progress beyond entrenched positions in the eight-year-old dispute."

Observe the pictures of a grinning Catherine Ashton with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in the Yahoo News article and in other related news items to be found throughout the Internet. How does Ashton ignore Iran's latest series of murders of political opponents? As described in a superb Jerusalem Post article entitled "Muslim World: Iran’s execution binge" (, written by Jonathan Spyer:

"In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 15 in the isolated and overcrowded Urumiya prison in western Iran, the authorities hanged one of their opponents.

Hossein Khazri, an alleged activist with the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), was 29. He had been in custody since early 2009. His crime, of which he was convicted on July 11, 2009, was that of being an 'enemy of God' in the eyes of the Islamic Republic.

Khazri’s specific activities against the deity worshiped by the rulers of Iran appear to have consisted of political agitation for democracy and federalism in the country of his birth.

In the course of his incarceration, in prisons administered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Intelligence Ministry, Khazri had been severely tortured, according to human rights organizations. His hanging was the latest in a wave of executions of Kurdish activists and other opponents of the regime carried out in recent weeks. Fourteen other Kurdish activists are currently on death row, condemned for their political activities.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran this week described the authorities as on an 'execution binge,' orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies."

Does her Hideousness, the smiling Catherine Ashton, even care about these murders? At least Ashton did us the courtesy of smiling with her mouth closed and sparing us having to look at her crooked teeth.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Roger Cohen's "Tunisian Dominoes?": The Beginnings of the Next Fairytale

Roger Cohen has breezed into Tunisia, and today, in an op-ed entitled "Tunisian Dominoes?" (, he tells us:

"These are heady days in the Arab world’s fragile democratic bridgehead."

Cohen concludes:

"There will, in coming weeks, be agents provocateurs bent on the worst, and the usual Muslim-hating naysayers. Arab democracy is threatening to a host of vested interests and glib clichés. It is also the only way out of the radicalizing impasse of Arab klepto-gerontocracies and, as such, a vital American interest."

Lest we forget, in 2009, in an op-ed entitled "Iran Awakens Yet Again" (, Cohen, who doesn't speak Farsi, informed us:

"Iran, its internal fissures exposed as never before, is teetering again on the brink of change. For months now, I’ve been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state. Seldom has the country looked less like one than in these giddy June days."

So, in Iran Cohen witnessed "giddy" days, and now in Tunisia Cohen is witnessing "heady" days.

Unfortunately for Roger and the rest of the world, his Iranian bubble burst, but this did not prevent him from ignoring the agony of Iran's Baha'is, Kurds, homosexual community, Sunnis and political dissidents, while fabricating that fairytale. Today, in making the case that Tunisia is the Arabs' "Gdansk", which will bring democracy and freedom to the Arab world, Cohen is again choosing to ignore the inconvenient.

Hamas, which came to power in Gaza by way of democratic elections in 2005, is not willing to hold new elections. Instead, they are still busy consolidating power in the Gaza Strip by imprisoning and executing Fatah opponents, while persecuting Christians and gays. For the record, the Hamas leadership does not consist of aging despots clinging to power; rather, its leadership consists of brutal Islamists, who do not hesitate to kill and terrorize in order to maintain power.

Cohen disparages 82-year-old Hosni Mubarak, but fails to acknowledge the brutal massacre of Egypt's Christian Copts outside a church in Alexandria earlier this month, which left 25 persons dead. When Mubarak departs the scene, Cohen does not tell us what the Muslim Brotherhood, if they come to power in Egypt via democratic elections or otherwise, has planned for Egypt's Copts, who comprise some 10% of Egypt's population.

In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Hezbollah party (i.e. Party of God) and far from being "old", just brought down the Lebanese government, owing to a draft indictment by a UN tribunal, pinning Hezbollah with responsibility for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Saad Hariri, Rafik's son and no "oldster", has thus far not caved in to Hezbollah; however, this past week Hezbollah threatened a coup, when it sent its "blackshirts" throughout Beirut in a display of force.

Tunisia is the Arab world's "democratic bridgehead"? Roger, don't you think it's a little early to be making such pronouncements? Don't you think before doing again what you did in Iran, you should first take several years to learn more about this country?

Forgive me, Roger, for suggesting that one need not be an "agent provocateur" or "Muslim-hating naysayer" in order to disagree with your latest analysis, particularly given how wildly off the mark your past analysis has proven. It could just well be that much of the Arab Middle East is currently not ready for freedom of thought and expression, which are the hallmarks of western democracy.

Farewell to Sonia Peres

Sonia Peres, wife of Israel's President Shimon Peres, died today at 87 years of age.

I was privileged to have known Sonia and to have experienced her intelligence, honesty, courage and refreshing modesty.

And then there was also her kindness -- how she several times invited our first born child, then a toddler, to her kitchen in Ramat Aviv to enjoy a snack.

Enough said. My heartfelt condolences to the Peres family. We will miss you, Sonia.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hezbollah Threatens Coup in Lebanon

On Monday, the U.N. tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri provided pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen with a draft indictment, which is said to implicate Hezbollah and Iran in the murder. Yesterday morning, Hezbollah responded by wreaking havoc in Beirut, when it sent its membership, dressed in black throughout Lebanon's capital. As reported by Lebanon's The Daily Star:

"Groups of Hizbullah members, clad in black uniforms, fanned out in several neighborhoods in West Beirut early Tuesday, creating panic among the residents and leading parents to pick up their children from schools, security sources and witnesses said. The unarmed men, carrying wireless sets and handy phones, were seen in areas from the southern suburb of Hadath to Beirut’s Downtown district.

The men appeared to be well-organized and trained for fighting, the sources said. The groups, which began fanning out at 3.00 a.m. Tuesday, disbanded at 7.00 a.m. after troops and security forces deployed in the areas, the sources said. No trouble was reported during the street gatherings which were apparently linked to mounting tension over the S.T.L.’s indictment.

Hizbullah has made no comment on Tuesday’s incident or on Monday’s indictment handover to Fransen. But a source close to Hizbullah described Tuesday’s public gatherings as 'a small message to say that the time for talk is over.'”

Following his op-ed in yesterday's New York Times entitled "The Arab Gdansk" (, I recommend that Roger Cohen inform Hezbollah that "Islamist parties must commit to democracy rather than exploit democracy for despotic ends." I am confident Hezbollah will be all ears.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Roger Cohen's "The Arab Gdansk": More Penetrating Wisdom from The New York Times's "Globalist"

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "The Arab Gdansk" (, Roger Cohen writes:

"Islamist parties must commit to democracy rather than exploit democracy for despotic ends."

A remarkable thought! Imagine: If only Mr. Cohen had been around to tell Hitler in 1932, after the Nazis became the largest party in the Reichstag, that his National Socialist Party must "commit to democracy rather than exploit democracy for despotic ends," perhaps World War II could have been avoided.

Never mind. World War II is water under the bridge. Meanwhile, I spent last night soliciting the opinions of various Islamist parties around the Middle East regarding Cohen's demand that they commit to democracy.

Hamas, which came to power in Gaza by way of democratic elections in 2005, is not willing to hold new elections. Instead, they are still busy consolidating power in the Gaza Strip by imprisoning and executing Fatah opponents, while persecuting Christians and gays.

I spoke with acquaintances in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who can't wait for the opportunity to take power once 82-year-old Hosni Mubarak departs the scene. Meanwhile, however, they stay busy by persecuting Egypt's Christian Copt minority, as evidenced by the massacre outside a church in Alexandria earlier this month, which left 25 persons dead.

As Roger himself can tell you today, after trying to explain to us for the better part of 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian", Iran is indeed totalitarian, and there is no place for political moderation or freedom of speech in that country, where murder and torture of Baha'is, Kurds, Sunnis, homosexuals, women, journalists and political dissidents is the name of the game.

I tried to speak with Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, whose Hezbollah party (i.e. Party of God) just brought down the Lebanese government, owing to a forthcoming indictment by a UN tribunal, pinning Hezbollah with responsibility for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Unfortunately, Nasrallah was not willing to emerge from his bunker to answer my call.

Finally, I did manage a word with Libya's dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, who voiced avid support for Cohen's suggestion. Qaddafi referred me to his speech broadcast by Al Jazeera on April 10, 2006 in which he stated:

"Some people believe that Muhammad is the prophet of the Arabs or the Muslims alone. This is a mistake. Muhammad is the Prophet of all people. He superseded all previous religions. If Jesus were alive when Muhammad was sent, he would have followed him. All people must be Muslims. . . . We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquests."

At least Qaddafi, the butcher of Lockerbie, able to perceive the hidden value of democracy, was willing to listen to Cohen's voice of reason.

[The New York Times refused to post this comment online in response to Cohen's op-ed.]

The Telegraph: Russia Warns of Meltdown at Iran's Bushehr Reactor

In an article in The Telegraph entitled "Stuxnet virus attack: Russia warns of ‘Iranian Chernobyl'" (, Con Coughlin writes:

"Russian nuclear officials have warned of another Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster at Iran's controversial Bushehr reactor because of the damage caused by the Stuxnet virus, according to the latest Western intelligence reports.

. . . .

Bushehr is due to produce its first electricity for Iran's national grid this summer after Russian technicians started loading the first nuclear rods into the reactor last October.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's foreign minister who also serves as head of the country's Atomic Energy Organisation, rejected suggestions earlier this month that the Bushehr opening schedule should be postponed. 'All the rumours related to the Westerners' claims that Stuxnet had caused damage to the nuclear plants are rejected,' he said.

However, Russian scientists working at the plant have become so concerned by Iran's apparent disregard for nuclear safety issues that they have lobbied the Kremlin directly to postpone activation until at least the end of the year, so that a proper assessment can be made of the damage caused to its computer operations by Stuxnet."

Perhaps you thought I was joking when I wrote in November:

"Will there be additional surprises awaiting this Iranian enterprise? Sadly, I have already expressed my regrets to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that I will not be able to attend the opening ceremony for the Bushehr power plant - if they ever decide they have removed all the bugs from the operational software - but will send Hugo Chavez in my stead, and when they press the button activating the reactor, I will be pleased to toast their success at a distance of several hundred miles from the meltdown."

No joke was intended, and I have cancelled my vacation plans in Iran . . .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The New York Times: A "Politically Confident" Iran

In an article appearing in today's New York Times entitled "Politically Confident, Iran Cuts Subsidies on Prices" (, William Yong writes:

"TEHRAN - After months of false starts, dire warnings and political wrangling, Iran has embarked on a sweeping program of cuts in its costly and inefficient system of subsidies on fuel and other essential goods that has put a strain on state finances and held back economic progress for years.

The government’s success in overcoming political obstacles to make the cuts and its willingness to risk social upheaval suggest that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have consolidated power after the internal fractures that followed his bitterly disputed re-election in 2009 — a development that some analysts believe could influence Iran’s position at nuclear talks in Istanbul this month."

A "politically confident" Iran? Yeah, right. That's why its per capita capital punishment rate is among the highest in the world. "Ahmadinejad may have consolidated power"? Is this another way of saying that many of his opponents are now languishing in Evin Prison?

According to this article written from Tehran, "the subsidy reforms could be a political victory for Iran’s new right wing — a success for Mr. Ahmadinejad where liberals, now almost entirely excluded from Iran’s political scene, had failed." Liberals have been "excluded" from Iran's political scene? That is a very kind way of putting it.

This article also states: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said recently that international sanctions had slowed Iran’s nuclear program". Oddly, this article never once mentions the Stuxnet worm (, which has wrecked havoc with Iranian centrifuges.

Also no mention in this article of potential fallout from the forthcoming findings of the U.N. tribunal investigating the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which was undertaken with the approval of Tehran.

Robert Ford, First U.S. Ambassador to Syria Since Murder of Rafik Hariri, Arrives in Damascus: Thanks, Obama!

Bypassing Senate confirmation and seeking to avoid public scrutiny by acting during the Christmas holiday, Obama appointed Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria. Ford arrived today in Damascus.

Talk about bad timing: Tomorrow the U.N. tribunal could be releasing its recommendations, which are said to hold Hezbollah, as well as Syria and Iran, responsible for the assassination of pro-Western Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005.

So, given the timing of Ford's arrival in Damascus, just what is Obama's message? Go ahead, continue to murder our allies, and all will be forgiven?

Yeah, I know. Obama is trying to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. Sorry, it's not going to happen. Assad can smell Obama's timidity and weakness from thousands of miles away, which is why Jordan is also now gravitating toward Iran (see:

Yet another Obama administration foreign policy fiasco.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lebanon, the U.N. Hariri Tribunal and the Crisis within Hezbollah

Lebanon’s national unity government fell last week owing to a crisis precipitated by the expected indictment by a U.N. tribunal of members of Hezbollah for the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005. Western news analysis of developments leading up to and subsequent to this crisis have, in my opinion, strayed completely off the mark.

Regarding news analysis (forget intelligence assessments - this is not WikiLeaks), over the past week there were two items appearing in The New York Times, which attempted to summarize and make sense of events in Lebanon. In an op-ed entitled "Hezbollah's Latest Suicide Mission" ( published on January 12, 2011, guest op-ed contributor Thanassis Cambanis wrote:

"THE collapse of Lebanon’s government on Tuesday signaled the final stage in Hezbollah’s rise from resistance group to ruling power. While Hezbollah technically remains the head of the political opposition in Beirut, make no mistake: the Party of God has fully consolidated its control in Lebanon, and will stop at nothing — including civil war — to protect its position.

. . . .

Hezbollah, re-armed and resurgent after the war with Israel in the summer of 2006, has had a string of political and popular victories. The influence of its sponsors, Syria and Iran, has only grown. And talks between Syria and Saudi Arabia that might have stabilized the government fell apart this week.

Why, then, would Hezbollah change the political dynamic now?

Simply put, Hezbollah cannot afford the blow to its popular legitimacy that would occur if it is pinned with the Hariri killing. The group’s power depends on the unconditional backing of its roughly 1 million supporters. Its constituents are the only audience that matters to Hezbollah, which styles itself as sole protector of Arab dignity from humiliation by Israel and the United States."

Has the influence of Hezbollah's sponsor, Iran, indeed only grown, as claimed by Cambanis? As of last week, no.

In an article entitled "For Hezbollah, Claiming Victory Could Be Costly" (, published by The New York Times on January 13, 2011, Anthony Shadid wrote from Beirut:

"Hezbollah has evolved from a shadowy organization blamed for two attacks on the American Embassy and the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks here, killing 240 soldiers, into an expansive movement with an armed militia more powerful than the Lebanese Army and a sprawling infrastructure that delivers welfare to its Shiite constituency, Lebanon’s largest community. Over those decades, its political role has grown, as well, particularly when it has felt vulnerable, as was the case with the Syrian withdrawal.

Even its supporters acknowledge its vulnerability now. Not that it fears that the tribunal would try its members — the prospect of their arrest is almost impossible to fathom, given Hezbollah’s discipline. Rather, it is concerned about the impact of the indictments on its standing in the Arab world. Both it and its allies worry about the reach, too, of the tribunal, a body whose foreign backers (France and the United States) and supporters here (Mr. Hariri’s allies) have seen as serving their interests."

This news analysis only mentioned Iran once:

"Hezbollah, analysts say, had hoped for an agreement mediated by Syria — with Iran, Hezbollah’s ally — and Saudi Arabia, the patron of Mr. Hariri."

Although this analysis correctly observes that Hezbollah supports "a sprawling infrastructure that delivers welfare to its Shiite constituency", it fails to note where the funds for this infrastructure derive, i.e. Iran.

Neither of these two items from The New York Times relate to the recent antagonism which has developed between Hezbollah and Iran.

In an excellent article entitled "Iran said to have cut Hizbullah aid by 40%" (, published by The Jerusalem Post on December 16, 2010, Yaakov Katz writes:

"Iran has cut the annual budget it provides Hizbullah by over 40 percent, stirring an unprecedented crisis within the Lebanese Shi’ite guerrilla organization.

. . . .

Iran has in recent years provided Hizbullah with close to $1 billion in direct military aid, but due to the impact of the recent round of international sanctions, the Islamic Republic has been forced to cut back on the funding. The money is used by Hizbullah to buy advanced weaponry, train and pay its operatives and establish military positions and sustain them throughout Lebanon.

The cuts in the budget has stirred tension between Hizbullah and its Iranian patrons, further fueled by disagreements between the top Hizbullah leadership and the Revolutionary Guard Corps officer who was appointed earlier this year to oversee Hizbullah operations on behalf of the Islamic Republic.

That officer is Hossein Mahadavi, and his official title is 'commander of Iran’s overseas division,' which in this case is Hizbullah.

Mahadavi is believed to maintain an office in Beirut and is a senior member of the Guard’s Al-Quds Force, which is responsible for Iran’s overseas operations.

. . . .

According to information that has reached Israel, Mahadavi has clashed with senior Hizbullah officials, including its Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, on critical issues pertaining to the group, which is refusing to accept the Iranian’s authority."

Bottom line: It's all about the money. Not only has the money provided by Iran to Hezbollah been used for weaponry, to train and pay operatives and to establish military positions, as observed by Katz, it has also been used by Hezbollah to support its social welfare infrastructure, as noted by Shadid.

In a nutshell: Without the funds to support this social welfare infrastructure, Hezbollah is on the verge of collapse, and hence the tension with Mahadavi.

Query: How does Hezbollah respond to this financial crisis that threatens it with bankruptcy? In desperation, does it stage a coup and fund itself from Lebanese government sources? Does it start a war with Israel and demand additional funding from Iran for its "heroism"? There is a good reason why the IDF is on alert in the north (see:

Additional query: Why has the U.S. delayed sanctioning the Lebanese banks through which Iranian funding has passed to Hezbollah? It would be simple to implement this strategy, inexpensive and bloodless, but sometimes common sense solutions go ignored.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"A Flood Tide of Murder": Open Letter to Bob Herbert

Dear Mr. Herbert,

In your op-ed, "A Flood Tide of Murder" (, you write:

"The overwhelming majority of the people who claim to be so outraged by last weekend’s shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others — six of them fatally — will take absolutely no steps, none whatsoever, to prevent a similar tragedy in the future."

Forgive me for being blunt, Mr. Herbert, but what do you intend to do? Are you aware the Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish? Are you aware that your newspaper publishes despicable anti-Semitic comments in response to op-eds and other columns, notwithstanding its purported policy that "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are . . . not abusive"?

You don't believe me? I have regularly written concerning this "phenomenon" to ________________, who removed some of these comments long after they were published by The Times, and also to your public editor; however, in my opinion, the problem at The New York Times persists. Take a minute and read, for example,, then, if you wish to learn more, wade through for further examples.

Mere reader comments and not reflective of New York Times thought or policy? Nonsense! The moment this hatred is published by The Times, it can only be deemed by the readership of The Times as not "abusive".

On April 29, 2009, in response to Maureen Dowd's "Vice's Secret Vices", the following comment, no. 8, was posted by The New York Times:

"I think writing about Dick Cheney is at bottom passe Maurine. If you can't get the balls to but a material bullet between his eyes,,go away." [sic, in more ways than one]

I immediately contacted _____________, and ultimately this purportedly "moderated" comment was removed. But what does the posting of this comment say about the extreme politicization of The Times?

Yesterday I submitted two online comments in response to the New York Times editorial "Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona" and to Paul Krugman's op-ed "Climate of Hate", containing the above message. Both of these comments were censored by the "moderators" of The Times.

In light of the above, what steps do you believe need to be taken by your newspaper to stem this flood tide of murder and to prevent a similar tragedy in the future?

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona": Shame on the Editorial Board of The New York Times (and Shame on Paul Krugman, Too)!

Today, in an editorial entitled "Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona" (, the editorial board of The New York Times writes:

"But [Loughner] is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery."

It's a pity the editorial board does not take the time to examine the conduct of its own newspaper. On April 29, 2009, in response to Maureen Dowd's "Vice's Secret Vices", the following comment, no. 8, was posted by The New York Times, notwithstanding it policy that "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive":

"I think writing about Dick Cheney is at bottom passe Maurine. If you can't get the balls to but a material bullet between his eyes,,go away." [sic, in more ways than one]

I immediately contacted a very senior editor of The New York Times, and ultimately this purportedly "moderated" comment was removed.

The editorial board also ignores the fact that Ms. Giffords is Jewish and that Loughner had listed "Mein Kampf" as one of his favorite books (see: Over the past two years The New York Times has posted despicably vile anti-Semitic comments in response to various op-eds, notwithstanding its policy regarding the moderation of comments. Again, I have regularly written to the same very senior editor of The New York Times, who removed many of these comments, and also to its public editor; however, in my opinion, the problem at The New York Times persists. See, for example,, then wade through for further examples.

Perhaps The New York Times should begin to address the "widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance" by first examining its own extremely politicized behavior.

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Climate of Hate" (, Krugman writes in the same vein:

"So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders."

It's a pity Krugman also does not take the time to examine the conduct of his own newspaper and ignores the possible anti-Semitic dimension of this abominable crime. Krugman fails to realize that the polarization of the United States is not just a "Republican problem" and that the space for moderate voices is steadily shrinking.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Robert Gibbs Leaving the White House: The Privilege Was All Yours

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is the latest Obama apointee to announce his departure. Are the rats leaving a sinking ship? Or is this yet a further acknowledgment by the Obama administration that prepackaged messages provided during the campaign, immune to inquiry, have antagonized the press corps and isolated the president? Or both?

As reported by CNN:

"Gibbs said he will leave the podium after the upcoming State of the Union address -- but will remain in the Washington area as a pundit, supporting White House positions on cable television and in speeches.

'It's a remarkable privilege. It is in may ways the opportunity of a lifetime,' he told reporters at the daily White House briefing. But he added, 'We've been going at this pace for four years.'

No decision has been made about his replacement, he said.

In a written statement, Obama hailed Gibbs as 'a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium.' But he said it was 'natural' for his longtime aide 'to want to step back, reflect and retool.'"

It was "natural" for Gibbs to step away from the "opportunity of a lifetime"? "Natural" my eye!

Even Maureen Dowd in a New York Times op-ed entitled "No Love From the Lefties" (, had declared in August that "Robert Gibbs should be yanked as White House press secretary," and concluded by stating:

"Let someone who shows less disdain for the press work with the press, and be the more engaging face of the White House."

Dowd contended that Gibbs had created a "moat" between the press and the presidency, but failed to comprehend that Gibbs was no more than the messenger, chosen to stymie discourse.

Listen to Anita Dunn, Obama's former Communications Director ("yanked" when she declared that mass murderer Mao Tse-Tung is one of her favorite political philosophers) explain how during the presidential campaign "very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control." (

With the 2012 election fast approaching, the Obama West Wing understands that whereas "absolute control" may have worked during the campaign when voters were flush with idealism, faith and hope, it no longer works two years later in an atmosphere of disillusionment, doubt, debt and despair.

Who will be next after Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs? When will Hillary make her move?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Israeli Economics 101, Introduction, 2011

Yesterday, I was required to drive into and out of Tel Aviv during rush hour, and even without accidents, traffic was horrific. Given my impatience, I was driven mad by the congestion; however, I was also consoled by the thought that there is no better indication of torrid economic growth. (For those of you who have spent time in Turkey, recall traffic in and out of Istanbul before and after the 2000-2001 Turkish financial crisis.) Spurred by hi-tech, the Israeli economy was barely grazed by the worldwide financial crisis of 2007-2010, which saw the collapse of household-name financial institutions, plummeting stock market prices, and soaring unemployment. Israeli unemployment has steadily fallen from 10.7% in 2005 to some 7.0% in 2010, with the Bank of Israel predicting 6.7% unemployment in 2011.

Another indication of Israel's buoyant economy? The average shekel-dollar exchange rate in 2005 was NIS 4.4878/$. This morning, the shekel-dollar exchange rate was NIS 3.5297/$.

If you wish to learn more about the Israeli hi-tech miracle, buy a copy of George Gilder's excellent book, "The Israel Test". On a more personal, micro level, those who read this blog are familiar with prior posts expressing my thrill at being able to work as an outside consultant for Compugen, which aims to be the world leader in the discovery and licensing of product candidates to the drug and diagnostic industry (see:, and for Nano Retina, which is developing an ultra small bionic retina designed to restore sight to those suffering from retinal degenerative diseases (see:

Now add to this ebullient mixture the recent discovery of significant natural gas reserves some 81 miles off Israel's coast, which potentially could transform tiny Israel into a natural gas exporting nation (see: The gas reserves, estimated to be worth more than $95 billion, comprise the largest amount of natural gas discovered in the world in the last decade.

A fly (or flies) in the ointment? Always.

As reported in a Jerusalem Post article entitled "1 in 5 Israeli families turned to social services in 2009" ( by Ruth Eglash, Israel also has its share of needy and underprivileged persons:

"More than 433,000 families, or one in every five Israeli households, received help from social welfare services in 2009, marking a dramatic increase over the past decade, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry reported on Tuesday.

. . . .

Difficulties parenting or behavioral problems with youth accounted for 35.2 percent of all case files; poverty or unemployment made up 34.4%; 33.3% dealt with elderly people considered at risk; while disabilities, both mental and physical, comprised 31.9% of case files."

In addition, Hamas continues to fire Qassam rockets at southern Israeli communities with increasing regularity (concerning yesterday's incident, see:, and peace talks with the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank are stalled.

On the other hand, one cannot help but notice Israeli/Palestinian symbiosis on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority is quietly permitting Palestinians to work on Israeli West Bank construction projects (, while hiring Israeli construction companies to assist in the building of Rawabi, 20 miles north of Jerusalem, the West Bank's first modern Palestinian city (

Never entirely logical. Never a dull moment.

[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.]

Monday, January 3, 2011

Having a Bad Day in Egypt? Blame the Jews!

In early December sharks attacked visitors swimming in the sea along the Egypt's Sinai coast, leaving one woman dead and several other persons seriously injured. Of course, someone needed to be blamed for the incidents, which were apt to dampen tourism, and who was chosen for the role of scapegoat? You guessed right! As reported by BBC News (

"Israel has dismissed Egyptian claims that a series of shark attacks in the Red Sea could have been the result of a plot carried out by its foreign intelligence agency, Mossad.

The reports - apparently quoting the South Sinai governor - have been picked up by the Israeli media.

An elderly woman was killed by a shark in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

Several other swimmers have been mauled in the past week.

. . . .

Rumours had circulated in Egypt that there could be an Israeli connection to this unusual spate of Red Sea shark attacks.

However, it was comments attributed to the South Sinai governor, Mohamed Abdul Fadil Shousha, carried on an official Egyptian news site that drew attention.

'What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm,' he is reported to have said."

But if the link between the Mossad and the shark attacks suggested by South Sinai's governor was not sufficiently inane, we were treated to more poppycock from a group of Egyptian lawyers claiming that last week's attack on Egypt's Copts (see: was also fomented by the Mossad. As reported by The Jerusalem Post (

"A coalition of Egyptian lawyers accused Israel of being behind an terror attack in Alexandria that killed 22 members of the Christian Copt sect, Army Radio reported Monday.

'The Mossad carried out the the operation in a natural reaction to the latest uncovering of an Israeli espionage network,' the lawyers accused at a rally in memory of the victims, organized by the Egyptian Bar Association, according to the report.

At the gathering, aid to former Egyptian foreign minister Abdallah al-Ashal called for Cairo to reconsider its relations with Jerusalem, according to Army Radio."

Unfortunately, there is an immense market for this nonsense, intended to enflame the masses in Cairo. Although a peace treaty was signed in 1979 between Egypt and Israel by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, it is little wonder, as revealed by WikiLeaks, that the Egyptian armed forces continue to view Israel as its primary adversary (see:

Which leaves one to wonder what will happen when Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, soon to be 83-years-old, leaves the scene.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"How to Stay Friends with China": The New York Times Provides Brzezinski with a Pulpit

In a guest op-ed entitled "How to Stay Friends with China" ( in today's New York Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, tells us how to handle President Hu Jintao of China when he arrives in Washington later this month. Brzezinski is famous for not long ago recommending that the United States shoot down Israeli warplanes over Iraq should they seek to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities (

But his hatred of Israel aside, what does Brzezinski think Obama should say to China's president concerning an increasingly belligerent North Korea, which threatens the entire Far East? Brzezinski answers in two sentences:

"China’s seeming lack of concern over North Korea’s violent skirmishes with South Korea has given rise to apprehension about China’s policy on the Korean peninsula. And just as America’s unilateralism has in recent years needlessly antagonized some of its friends, so China should note that some of its recent stands have worried its neighbors."

Or in other words, in keeping with prevailing Obama administration thought, China is no better and no worse than the U.S. This conciliatory attitude is further highlighted by Brzezinski's observation:

"Longstanding differences between the American and the Chinese notions of human rights were accentuated by the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident."

Mere "longstanding differences"? Is Brzezinski seriously contending that differences between American and Chinese "notions" of human rights are merely cultural in origin? Tell it to Tibet. And afterwards consider how China executes more people annually than any other country in the world, although Iran admittedly has a higher per capita execution rate.

Brzezinski's conclusion:

"For the visit to be more than symbolic, Presidents Obama and Hu should make a serious effort to codify in a joint declaration the historic potential of productive American-Chinese cooperation.

. . . .

Such a joint charter should, in effect, provide the framework not only for avoiding what under some circumstances could become a hostile rivalry but also for expanding a realistic collaboration between the United States and China. This would do justice to a vital relationship between two great nations of strikingly different histories, identities and cultures — yet both endowed with a historically important global role."

Yeah, right. A joint charter will rein in North Korea. Which has me wondering whether I should reread Hegel in search of a multi-syllable Teutonism denoting the philosophical significance of bubbles in a bathtub.