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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roger Cohen's "My Libya, Your Libya, Our Libya": Indeed, Let's Shine a Light

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "My Libya, Your Libya, Our Libya" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01cohen.html?hp), Roger Cohen describes his visit to Qaddafi's bunker in Bayda, Libya:

"I descended 55 steps into the labyrinth of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s mind. The glow of cellphones and a feeble flashlight lit a passage into the darkness. A netherworld unfolded — bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, even saunas — linked by tunnels with six-inch-thick metal doors agape at their mouths."

Cohen proceeds to construct an analogy between his bunker visit and the need to illuminate the Middle East:

"So, having been in Tunisia and Egypt and now Libya during this Arab Spring, I say, Shine a light — into Qaddafi’s bunkers and everywhere. Let people out of their dark houses. Allow them to participate in the making of their societies."

These are indeed bold words from a journalist who spent some six months writing op-eds from Iran in 2009, yet never deigned to "shine a light" on the brutal oppression of Iran's Baha'is, while declaring that Iran is "not totalitarian".

Similarly, Cohen failed to "shine a light" on Iran's persecution of its Kurdish minority, its stoning to death of alleged adulterers (mostly women), or its hanging of homosexuals.

Yes, Cohen was recently in Egypt, but did he "shine a light" on the violence perpetrated upon Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which has persisted even after the uprising?

Did Cohen "shine a light" on the brutal subjugation of women in Egypt, where 97% of its women have undergone female genital mutilation?

Did Cohen "shine a light" on the vile practice of honor killings perpetrated against women in Egypt and elsewhere throughout the Muslim Middle East?

Then, too, there are the statistics released by the Pew Research Center on December 2, 2010 (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/), which also deserve scrutiny:

"At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion."

As per the Pew data, unshackled Egyptian "democracy" would see the ongoing brutalization of women, who are inevitably the primary victims of stoning, and hordes of limbless waifs. Also without freedom of religion, this brave new world, expressing the will of the majority emerging from "their dark houses" and actively "participat[ing] in the making of their societies," would be distant from anything approximating Western ideals.

Cohen writes:

"Take the disgruntled and give them opportunities."

But what of women, Baha'is, Kurds, Christians, homosexuals and so-called "apostates" (i.e. persons who have abandoned Islam) in Cohen's "evolving Middle East"? Don't they also deserve their freedom and dignity?

I have never understood why he has chosen to ignore them, and in order to arrive at the reason, perhaps we would need to descend 55 steps into the labyrinth of Roger Cohen's mind.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The New York Times: Obama in Retrospect "Naïve"

In a New York Times editorial entitled "President Assad's Crackdown" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/opinion/29fri1.html), the Gray Lady finally acknowledged that Obama had blundered in Syria and that his policy in retrospect "looks naïve", but not without peevishly alleging that Bush had done no better:

"President Obama came into office determined to engage Syria and nudge it away from Iran and toward political reform. Even after the violence began, Mr. Obama and his aides kept quietly nudging in hopes that Mr. Assad would make the right choice.

In retrospect, that looks naïve. Still, we have sympathy for Mr. Obama’s attempts. Years of threats from the George W. Bush administration only pushed Syria further into the arms of Iran — and did nothing to halt the repression or Syria’s support for Hezbollah."

Nothwithstanding his faux pas, The New York Times editorial board attempted to present Obama in a positive light and to observe what measures could still be taken by the president:

"The president’s patience has apparently run out. Last Friday — the bloodiest day of the uprising — he issued a statement condemning the violence and accusing Mr. Assad of seeking Iranian assistance in brutalizing his people. That is a start, but it is not nearly enough.

. . . .

What the United States and its allies can do (British, French and Italian leaders have also been critical) is rally international condemnation and tough sanctions. They can start with their own unilateral punishments — asset freezes and travel bans for Mr. Assad and his top supporters and a complete arms embargo."

There was no call by the editorial board for Assad's ouster, but why should this come as a surprise? Obama is also not calling for Assad's ouster. Nor is Hillary, who referred to this monster as a "reformer". Nor is Senator John Kerry, whose special relationship with Assad was recently scrutinized by The Boston Globe (http://articles.boston.com/2011-04-28/news/29483723_1_assad-senator-john-kerry-damascus):

"Kerry, a leading proponent of the Obama administration’s controversial attempt to improve relations with Syria, has publicly warned Assad not to kill his own people. But Kerry has not called for him to step down, as he did with embattled leaders in Egypt and Libya."

How charming of the man who wishes to be the next secretary of state.

But what about the sanctions sought by the editorial board of The New York Times? We are told by the Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=218494):

"US President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier on Friday imposing new sanctions against Syria's intelligence agency and two relatives of Assad in response to a crackdown on protests, senior US officials said.

Assad was not among those targeted for the sanctions, which will include asset freezes and bans on US business dealings, but he could be named later if violence by government forces against pro-democracy protesters continues, the officials said."

In short, Obama is still seeking to mollify Assad. Meanwhile, at least 62 more civilians were shot dead by Assad's security forces yesterday (see: http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Video/Article.aspx?id=218480).

This is no longer "naiveté" on Obama's part. This is "immorality".

Compugen Discloses Splice Variant Based Program to Discover Superior Oncology Drug Targets for mAb Therapy

On Wednesday, Compugen issued a press release which disclosed a splice variant based program to discover superior oncology drug targets for monoclonal antibody therapy. The press release stated in part:

"Compugen . . . announced today that it is utilizing its proprietary in silico human transcriptome and proteome and additional computational systems to discover splice variants of known drug targets of high industry interest and of other known proteins with potential to become cancer targets for mAb therapy. This program has resulted so far in the discovery of four novel splice variant proteins predicted to be superior oncology targets compared with the previously known proteins. These four splice variants have entered Compugen’s Pipeline Program and are at various stages of validation.

. . . .

Dr. Zurit Levine, Compugen’s VP of R&D, stated, 'We first selected a list of known proteins and drug targets that meet industry therapeutic criteria. Challenging traditional experimental discovery methods, we then utilized our in silico predictive human transcriptome and proteome, and additional proprietary discovery tools, to systematically discover previously unknown splice variants, which, although expressed by the same genes as the known proteins, have a unique epitope within their extracellular region which would allow the development of specific mAbs. Next, we tested their predicted expression, function and certain other properties compared with the known proteins. For example, several of these candidate targets exhibited a potential unique expression pattern, while others exhibited a potential superiority in their functional or structural characteristics. To date, this process has resulted in four candidate targets with predicted superiority compared with the existing proteins.'”

By way of explanation, over a decade ago it was believed that for every protein in the human body, there was a corresponding gene. Accordingly, we haughty humans believed that our more evolutionarily advanced bodies contained a far greater number of genes than, for example, mice or worms. However, it was also known at the time that in extremely rare instances, a gene could give rise to more than one protein by means of "alternative splicing".

Alternative splicing is a process by which exons of messenger RNA (mRNA), produced by the transcription of a gene and which encode the blueprint for proteins, are reconnected in different ways, resulting in multiple mRNA transcripts and ultimately multiple proteins from the same gene. Alternative splicing had been considered the exception and not the rule, but then along came Compugen.

Based upon its computerized analysis of the data available at the time, Compugen told the scientific world that they were wrong. Compugen initially claimed to the bemusement of experts that alternative splicing occurred in some 30% of human genes. Lo and behold, the Human Genome Project determined that fewer genes exist in the human genome than previously believed, and Compugen was proven correct.

Today, it is thought that more than 90% of multiexonic genes are alternatively spliced, and it is also known that abnormally spliced mRNAs are found in a high proportion of cancerous cells.

The significance of Compugen's announcement on Wednesday? As a result of its decade-long research involving biological phenomena on the molecular level and its mapping of the transcriptome and proteome (all mRNAs and proteins present in the human body), Compugen is saying that it can predict in silico (by computer) and discover splice variant proteins of known monoclonal antibody therapeutic (mAb) targets. In addition, Compugen can predict those splice variants having a unique extracellular epitope, a prerequisite for mAb therapy. Thus far, four of these Compugen-discovered splice variant proteins have been predicted by Compugen to be superior to known protein targets.

Superior mAb oncology targets can mean better specificity, with resultant higher efficacy and fewer side effects.

Monoclonal antibody drugs, which primarily target cancer and autoimmune disorders, today amount to more than 30% of the global biologic drug market and could have total sales of some $50 billion by 2013. Without mAb targets, one of Compugen's areas of expertise, there can be no mAb therapeutics. (For an explanation concerning mAbs, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/10/monoclonal-antibodies-mabs-for-dummies.html)

What significance might this hold for pharma companies developing mAb therapies? Compugen believes that it can provide the pharma industry with multiple mAb target candidates. Moreover, before spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars developing a mAb therapy based upon a potential target, pharma companies can consult with Compugen and learn whether there might be splice variants or protein family members that could result in better therapies.

[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.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama, Iran and Twittergate: J'accuse!

J'accuse! The cat is out of the bag.

This has nothing to with Donald Trump and the inanity involving Obama's birth certificate. Rather, this has everything to do with the duplicity of Obama's decision to abandon those who took to the streets of Iran during the 2009 Green Revolution, owing to the president's belief in his own omniscience.

This also has everything to do with further attempts by the Obama administration to depict another murderer, Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, as a "reformer", and Obama's delay in responding to the plaintive cries of those being gunned down in Daraa, Izraa and Homs.

Obama was sworn in as president on January 20, 2009, and exactly two months later, on March 20, 2009, he extended a new year's ("Nowruz") greeting to the Islamic Republic of Iran whereby he sought reconciliation with the mullahs:

"So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.

You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace."

This was all part of Obama's agenda to prove that there was a different way to approach the world's tyrannies, and that with kindness and humility they could be brought into the fold. Obama was determined to demonstrate the error in Bush's ways, that only he knew best, and that what had been deemed the "axis of evil" by the former president would, like the American electorate, succumb to his charm.

On June 4, 2009, still courting Iran and seeking to smooth out any remaining differences, Obama declared from Cairo:

“I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”

During these same months, just by chance, Roger Cohen of The New York Times was busy writing innumerable op-eds from Tehran, disseminating the message that Iran is "not totalitarian".

During these same months, just by chance, The New York Times published two guest op-eds by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett seeking "a new approach toward Iran."

And if that was not enough, even the editorial board of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/opinion/09mon1.html), as early as February 8, 2009 (only three weeks after Obama's inauguration), just by chance, got into the act and stated:

"President Obama has set a constructive new tone for trying to engage Iran. He told an Arabic-language TV network: 'If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.' And he showed refreshing humility after the Bush administration’s arrogance: 'Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes.'”

Rapprochement with Iran was clearly the keystone of Obama's revolutionary foreign policy, and he was getting all the support from the press that he could possibly imagine.

But then came the fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in June 2009, when Iranian protesters took to the streets in what became known as the "Green Revolution" or "Twitter Revolution", owing to the reliance of the protesters upon Twitter and the Internet to communicate with one another. Brutally beaten, imprisoned, tortured and murdered, the protesters called out Obama's name from the streets of Tehran, but Obama ignored their pleas for help, refusing even to bring the matter before the United Nations.

Was Obama's failure to respond to the pleas of the Iranian protesters simply a matter of inexperience? Sadly, we are now learning that Obama's indifference to the Green Revolution was a calculated decision to adhere to his policy of currying favor with the mullahs, as evidenced by a New Yorker article entitled "The Consequentialist" (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/02/110502fa_fact_lizza?currentPage=all), written by Mr. Ryan Lizza:

"A week later [after Obama's Cairo speech], however, a disputed Presidential election in Iran triggered large demonstrations there, which were soon labelled the Green Revolution. For the first five months after his Inauguration, Obama had tried to engage with the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an effort to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Now he faced the choice between keeping his distance and coming to the aid of the nascent pro-democracy movement, which was rallying behind Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who had finished second behind Ahmadinejad. Obama chose to keep his distance, providing only mild rhetorical support. In an interview with CNBC after the protests began, he said that 'the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised.'

During the peak of the protests in Iran, Jared Cohen, a young staffer at the State Department who worked for Slaughter, contacted officials at Twitter and asked the company not to perform a planned upgrade that would have shut down the service temporarily in Iran, where protesters were using it to get information to the international media. The move violated Obama’s rule of non-interference.

White House officials 'were so mad that somebody had actually ‘interfered’ in Iranian politics, because they were doing their damnedest to not interfere,' the former Administration official said. 'Now, to be fair to them, it was also the understanding that if we interfered it could look like the Green movement was Western-backed, but that really wasn’t the core of it. The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters. . . . The official said that Cohen 'almost lost his job over it. If it had been up to the White House, they would have fired him.'”

Interviewed by Mr. Hugh Hewitt (http://www.hughhewitt.com/transcripts.aspx?id=daf95729-9b04-484a-acb3-6c834217a155) and as noted by Mr. Rick Richman of Commentary in an "Contentions" item entitled "Leading from Behind 2.0" (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/04/27/leading-from-behind-2-0/), Mr. Ryan Lizza further explained in this regard:

"I was very surprised to find that this young guy, Jared Cohen, who unilaterally, essentially all by himself, contacted Twitter, and told them to delay a scheduled maintenance upgrade so that the Iranians could continue to use Twitter. It was a very controversial, I mean, inside, someone at the White House referred to it as, when I asked about it, they said oh yeah, you’re talking about Twittergate, right?"

Needless to say, Obama's refusal to support the protesters did not earn him any credit with Ahmadinejad or Khameini.

But that did not prevent Obama from persisting in his ways and seeking to win over Syria. He repeatedly sent Kerry to Damascus. He ignored the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by Assad in 2005 and appointed a new ambassador to Syria. He ceded Lebanon to Hezbollah. Notwithstanding the murder of protesters, Hillary saw fit to refer to Assad as a reformer, and now Obama has allowed Europe to take the lead in condemning the massacre of unarmed civilians.

Obama has proven himself a prisoner of his own narcissism and conceit, incapable of remorse, and unable to acknowledge his errors, which continue to exact a high toll of innocent bloodshed, but which go ignored by his fawning admirers.

To the Syrian Security Service: Go Play in Traffic!

Over the past several days, when they have not been too busy killing unarmed protesters in Daraa, Izra and Homs, Syrian security service employees have been avidly reading this blog. My message to these stalwart gentlemen of sterling values:

Find a busy intersection and go play in traffic!

The Murder of Vittorio Arrigoni: Wise Words from Fiamma Nirenstein

Earlier this month, an Italian national and pro-Palestinian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, was strangled to death in Gaza. Tawhid wal-Jihad, an al-Qaeda-linked group, had acknowledged that it was holding Arrigoni, whom they said would only be released if their own leader was freed by Hamas (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/04/italian-national-vittorio-arrigoni.html). Notwithstanding this admission by Tawhid wal-Jihad and the video clip of the bruised and blindfolded Arrigoni it released on the Internet, Hamas, the International Solidarity Movement and various leftist polticians in Europe (see: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=217667) have seized upon the opportunity to blame Israel for Arrigoni's death.

Ms. Fiamma Nirenstein, Vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, has responded to these obscene allegations in an essay appearing in her website (http://www.fiammanirenstein.com/articoli.asp?Categoria=3&Id=2577), which states in part:

"To understand the death of this Italian activist, one important fact must be grasped: his death was triggered by the spurious way he mixed his humanitarian ideals with the cause of fundamentalist Gaza, by the fact that he mixed his life with that of his potential enemies, that he thought about as his best friends. But fundamentalists do not have stable affinities. Only their interpretation of Quran counts. Hamas Gaza, where Arrigoni has been killed, is for us a land ruled by awful and distant laws. Arrigoni loved the Palestinians, but he remained a total foreigner for them. It is for us unconceivable, even if you are a militant like Arrigoni, to live alongside those who fire missiles on civilians, wear belts packed with explosives and hand out sweets when an Israeli family is killed in Itamar, including a three months baby, a four years old child and another of nine.

This is a crucial issue: when you go to Gaza, or Afghanistan, you have to realise that our conception of life, is complitely different from any Islamic political conception of life. You can die because you are Jewish, because you are Italian, or Christian, because you are an apostate, or a corrupt Westerner... the extremist mentality, make no bones about it, cancels out friends and allies. No matter how much you have worked against the «Zionist power» or that you have called Zionists «rats» (and Arrigoni did this), nothing is of any worth if you break their rule, a rule which will remain unclear until the knife blade comes. Arrigoni was [a] fan of political Islamism because he was an enemy of the Jews, but this did not save him from a cruel execution in front of the camera, just as the one of many others friends or enemies of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, never mind.

So it is intellectually sad and even dangerous that a demonstration in front of the Italian Parliament blamed Israel and Italy for Arrigoni’s death; or that the ISM, the pro-Palestinian NGO Arrigoni belonged to, attributed «moral responsibility to the State of Israel». These reactions seem to be triggered only by ideological hatred. But what is more striking still, with sincerest respect for the figure of the President of Republic, was the statement of condolences which Giorgio Napolitano rightly delivered; instead of laying the blame on Islamic fundamentalism, he asked that «a negotiated solution be found to the conflict which sees bloodshed in the region». With the same coherence, he could have invoked any good cause: the fight against world hunger, or child prostitution. Yet instead, Israel is being summoned to face some mysterious responsibility. But the fault is only of Islamic fundamentalism; what is the point of dragging the pained witness and victim of Hamas terrorism into the question?"

I strongly recommend reading Ms. Nirenstein's essay in its entirety .

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Egypt: Is The New York Times Slanting Its Coverage?

You might expect New York Times op-ed columnists to be given more "slack" with respect to the facts, because they are writing "opinion pieces".

Roger Cohen mentioned oppression of Iran's Baha'is only once in a single sentence in his 2009 series of op-eds from Tehran, in which he attempted to convince the New York Times readership that Iran is "not totalitarian". Moreover, in an op-ed entitled "What Iran's Jews Say" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/opinion/22iht-edcohen.3.20350579.html), Cohen never acknowledged that his interviews were being conducted via an Iranian government appointed translator reporting back to the government (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/was-roger-cohens-what-irans-jews-say-in_17.html). Today, Cohen would have us believe that the Egyptian uprising is all about "freedom, representation and the rule of law" (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/opinion/26iht-edcohen26.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss) and has nothing to do with crushing poverty and unemployment.

In a similar vein, I do not recall Nicholas Kristof, who spent weeks cheerleading the birth of Egyptian "democracy" from Tahrir Square, ever devoting a single op-ed to the persecution of Egypt's Christian Copt minority.

But is this prejucial reporting limited to the op-ed page of The New York Times?

On April 25, a story entitled "Poll Finds Egyptians Full of Hope About the Future" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/world/middleeast/26poll.html?_r=2&ref=islam) appeared prominently on the New York Times online home page. The article begins:

"Egyptians are looking forward with extraordinary confidence and enthusiasm to their first free and fair elections this fall after the defining revolution of the Arab spring, according to the first major poll since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. But they remain deeply divided over the role of Islam in their public life.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center and based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 Egyptians, is the first credible survey since the revolution lifted many restrictions on free expression. It is also the first to directly address Western debate over whether the revolution might drift toward Islamic radicalism.

The poll found about 30 percent of Egyptians have a favorable view of Islamic fundamentalism and about the same number sympathize with its opponents. About a quarter have mixed views."

But now look at the heading of the Pew Research Center report (http://pewglobal.org/2011/04/25/egyptians-embrace-revolt-leaders-religious-parties-and-military-as-well/) upon which The New York Times article is premised:

"U.S. Wins No Friends, End of Treaty With Israel Sought
Egyptians Embrace Revolt Leaders, Religious Parties and Military, As Well"

Whereas, the New York Times article emphasizes Egyptian "hope" in its headline, the Pew Research Center report heading tells us:

1. U.S. Wins No Friends;
2. End of Treaty With Israel Sought;
3. Egyptians Embrace Revolt Leaders, Religious Parties and Military.

More than a slight difference in emphasis in headings, yet perhaps, in this regard, The New York Times can be excused. But headings aside, the full text of the New York Times article never mentions the enmity of Egyptians toward the U.S., which was revealed by the Pew Research Center report:

"Only 20% of Egyptians hold a favorable opinion of the United States, which is nearly identical to the 17% who rated it favorably in 2010.

. . . .

Looking to the future, few Egyptians (15%) want closer ties with the U.S., while 43% would prefer a more distant relationship, and 40% would like the relationship between the two countries to remain about as close as it has been in recent years."

Why was this enmity toward the U.S. entirely ignored by the New York Times article? Can this omission be deemed irrelevant to American readers given the billions of dollars of aid being provided by the U.S. to Egypt? Or was this a mere "oversight"?

You decide.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Roger Cohen's "The Arab Gyre": More Inanity from the Master

What does Yeats have to do with Yemen?

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Arab Gyre" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/opinion/26iht-edcohen26.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Roger Cohen writes from London (not Yemen, not Tripoli, not Damascus):

"W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, had a theory of history that centered on the movement of gyres. It was a confused and mystical idea that inspired some great lyrical verse, so the confusion doesn’t really matter. What matters are lines like: 'Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer.'

. . . .

Gyres reflect deeper forces. These revolutions are post-Islamist in the sense that they are driven not by young Muslims seeking an authentic identity and escape from perceived Western humiliation through political identification with Islam — as in Tehran in 1979 — but by young Muslims demanding freedom, representation and the rule of law."

Come again? These revolutions only involve demands for "freedom, representation and the rule of law"?

Notably absent from Cohen's list and vitiating the credibility of his op-ed are jobs, which unfortunately are not being created by any of this turmoil. Quite the contrary: Egypt's economy is dependent upon tourism, which has lost $1 billion a month since the revolution (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/world/middleeast/24iht-m24late.html).

But back to Yeats. What does Yeats have to do with, for example, the tribal conflagration in Libya? What does the Irish poet and playwright have to do with the fact that Shiites, who comprise the majority of the population in Bahrain, object to being ruled by Sunnis? What does he have to do with the revolt in Syria by a Sunni majority against an Alawite tyrant against the backdrop of a drought that has destroyed the agrarian sector of Syria's economy? What does he have to do with the uprising of Egyptians mired in poverty and hopelessness against Mubarak? Answer to all of the above questions: Nothing.

Cohen still can't fathom that all these uprisings and conflicts involve a struggle between haves and have-nots and how the pie is ultimately carved up.

Leaving no rock unturned, I again called my mentor, 87-year-old King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and asked him what he thought of gyres and the relationship between Yeats and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting a war that has gone largely unnoticed by the West (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/11/middle-east-war-in-yemen-goes-unnoticed.html). After nearly hanging up the phone on me (he was late to prayers), Abdullah politely asked that I remove my head from a certain dark place.

On a more serious note, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal are asking the UN Security Council to condemn Syria's massacre of protesters, whereas the U.S. is finally coming around to considering "targeted sanctions" (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13188920).

Come again? "Targeted sanctions"? Apparently, this is another example of the policy guiding Obama in Libya, i.e. "leading from behind", as just disclosed by one of the president's advisers (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/04/25/obama-leading-from-behind/). I am not joking.

Also, on a more serious note, for the first time this blog is being read by "friends" from Assad's security service in Damascus. Make no mistake, boys, the days remaining to your boss's regime are numbered, and I have it on good authority that Bashar and Qaddafi together plan to go apartment shopping in Tehran.

Assad's Tanks Firing on Daraa in Syria: Another Hama Massacre?

In February 1982, President Hafez al-Assad of Syria destroyed much of the town of Hama, killing anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians, in order to quash a revolt by its Sunni Muslim inhabitants.

Today, Hafez al-Assad's son, Bashar al-Assad, is sending his tanks against the southern Syrian town of Daraa, and the bodies of civilians are again lying in the street (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/25/us-syria-idUSLDE73N02P20110425).

Why has Obama not recalled the ambassador he appointed to Syria in December without U.S. Senate confirmation (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/04/recall-us-ambassador-to-syria-now-shame.html)?

Where is Hillary Clinton, who referred to Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer"? Where is John Kerry, who, together with his wife, repeatedly enjoyed the hospitality of Assad in Damascus? And where is Nancy Pelosi, who labeled Assad a "model Arab leader"?

We do know the whereabouts of Jimmy Carter, who has often met with Assad and bragged that he has known the Syrian leader since he was a college student. Carter and his traveling troupe, "The Elders", is now off to North Korea, although he doesn't know whom he will be meeting there (see: http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=217784).

Instead of Pyongyang, how about another trip to Damascus, Jimmy, to meet with your good friend Bashar? You might even ask him to stop killing his countrymen.

Paul Krugman's "Let’s Take a Hike": The Professor Reverses Course

In his New York Times op-ed entitled "Let’s Take a Hike" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/25/opinion/25krugman.html?_r=1&hp), Paul Krugman takes yet another obsessive swipe at Congressman Paul Ryan:

"The point is that we aren’t that heavily taxed, either by historical standards or in comparison with other nations. So if you’re truly horrified by the budget deficit, why not propose tax increases as part of the solution?

. . . .

And that’s why the only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget is the one that includes significant tax increases: the 'People’s Budget' from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which — unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.

. . . .

We do need to bring the deficit down, although we aren’t facing an immediate crisis."

Excuse me, Dr. Krugman, you're suddenly acknowledging that the U.S. might need to balance its budget? A sea of deficit spending is no longer the cure for American economic ills?

Say what Krugman might about Congressman Ryan, he has forced both Obama and the professor to reexamine policies that are taking the U.S. to an abyss from which it cannot emerge.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recall the U.S. Ambassador to Syria Now! Shame on Obama and Hillary!

Yesterday, at least 88 more protesters were murdered in Damascus, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Izra'a by Syrian security forces at the behest of President Bashar al-Assad. In response, President Obama issued a written statement (see: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/04/obama-condemns-violence-in-syria/1):

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators. This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now.

. . . .

Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies. We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people."

A well-drafted declaration by Obama, but the American president is not:

1. recalling the U.S. ambassador to Syria;

2. seeking economic sanctions against the Assad regime;

3. condemning Assad at the United Nations.

All of the above measures are being demanded by former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (see: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110422/ap_on_el_ge/us_syria_pawlenty_1), but the Obama administration is ignoring these requests.

Why doesn't Obama bring the U.S. ambassador to Damascus home? Answer: The recall of the U.S. ambassador would amount to tacit acknowledgment of the failure of Obama's foreign policy.

In 2005, Assad explicitly approved the murder by Hezbollah of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a friend of the West, and the U.S. ambassador to Syria was recalled by President Bush. Obama, however, made it the cornerstone of his foreign policy (the "Obama Doctrine") to reach out in friendship to heretofore "misunderstood" tyrannies, e.g., Iran and Syria. In furtherance of this revolutionary foreign policy, Obama repeatedly sent Senator John Kerry, who aspires to be the next U.S. secretary of state, to court Assad in Damascus.

Bypassing Senate confirmation and seeking to avoid public scrutiny by acting while many were on holiday, Obama appointed Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria at the end of December 2010 (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/29/AR2010122904168.html). Three months later, this move had backfired on Obama, leaving him in a quandary how to clean up the mess.

By way of explanation for Obama's inaction in the face of Assad's coldblooded murder of civilians, Hillary Clinton sought to shift the blame for the gaff by declaring in late March (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/27/ftn/main20047627.shtml):

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

A "reformer"? How about a butcher? Meanwhile, Obama hopes that his display of naiveté and duplicity will have been forgotten by November 2012.

Homework: Go the website of the U.S. embassy in Damascus (http://damascus.usembassy.gov/). See if you can find a single mention of the current unrest in Syria. Next, go to the "interesting articles" listed by by embassy (http://damascus.usembassy.gov/media/pdf/press-releases-pdf/intersting-articles.pdf): At the top of the list is the inane New York Times op-ed, "Hoping for Arab Mandelas", written by -- you guessed it -- Thomas Friedman.

Does the U.S. embassy in Damascus still harbor any illusion that Assad is a "reformer" or could become an "Arab Mandela"? Sickening.

Paul Krugman's "Patients Are Not Consumers": Patients Incapable of Deciding for Themselves

In his New York Times op-ed entitled "Patients Are Not Consumers" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/opinion/22krugman.html?hp), Paul Krugman tells us that he has reexamined Republican arguments against Obama's Independent Payment Advisory Board, and objects to Republican efforts to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice.” Krugman asks:

"How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as 'consumers'?"

Krugman questions whether patients should even be allowed to have a say regarding their medical care:

"Medical care, after all, is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made. Yet making such decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge. Furthermore, those decisions often must be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping."

Patients are not consumers? Get real, Paul. Patients are forever seeking:

• the best primary care physician for their particular needs;
• the best specialist;
• the best surgeon;
• the best hospital;
• the best recovery facility;
• the best medicine, branded or generic.

Krugman appears to want to take that choice away from patients, who, he believes, are incapable of reaching intelligent decisions, owing to ignorance, stress, incapacity or insufficient time to reach the correct determination.

Is Krugman correct? It stands to reason that this issue will figure highly in the American public's decision whether or not to reelect President Obama in 2012. However, given the crux of Krugman's argument, perhaps even this fundamental right should also be taken away from the American public, given that Americans are incapable of reaching knowledgeable life and death decisions, owing to stress, incapacity and insufficient time, and the choice of a president should also be handed over to a committee.

Obama is running scared. His popularity has plummeted, and although a viable Republican has yet to declare his or her candidacy for president, Obama and his acolytes from The Times are hard at work smearing Paul Ryan. See Krugman's "Who's Serious Now?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/opinion/15krugman.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), where Ryan is named ten times, and Dowd's "Atlas Without Angelina" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/opinion/17dowd.html?hp), where Ryan is accused of "trying to push the cost of Medicare and Medicaid onto the old, the sick and the disabled while rewarding insurance companies with bigger profits".

Obama and friends apparently have already seized upon the Republican posing the greatest threat in 2012.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Abdullah Gul's "The Revolution’s Missing Peace": People Who Live in Glass Houses Should Not Throw Stones

Abdullah Gul, the president of Turkey, has written a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Revolution’s Missing Peace" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/opinion/21gul.html?hp=&pagewanted=print), in which he claims that an Israeli-Palestinian deal is essential for peace in the region and that Turkey can help make it happen. Let's look together at what Gul writes:

"THE wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa is of historic significance equal to that of the revolutions of 1848 and 1989 in Europe. . . . But whether these uprisings lead to democracy and peace or to tyranny and conflict will depend on forging a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and a broader Israeli-Arab peace."

Excuse me, dearest Abdullah, but what have you been smoking? What does Israeli-Palestinian peace have to do with, for example, the tribal conflagration in Libya? What does Israeli-Palestinian peace have to do with the fact that Shiites, who comprise the majority of the population in Bahrain, object to being ruled by Sunnis? What does Israeli-Palestinian peace have to do with the revolt in Syria by a Sunni majority against an Alawite tyrant against the backdrop of a drought that has destroyed the agrarian sector of Syria's economy? What does Israeli-Palestinian peace have to do with the uprising of Egyptians mired in poverty and hopelessness against Mubarak? Answer to all of the above questions: Nothing.

Gul continues:

"The plight of the Palestinians has been a root cause of unrest and conflict in the region and is being used as a pretext for extremism in other corners of the world."

Ah, yes, the fabled "plight of the Palestinians," but my friend Abdullah doesn't trouble himself to mention that in Turkey, life expectancy is 72.23 years and infant mortality is 24.84 per 1,000 births, whereas in Gaza, life expectancy is 73.68 years and infant mortality is 17.71 per 1,000 births. Abdullah also forgets that Turkey has a literacy rate of 88.7%, while in Gaza it is 91.9%.

Needless to say, Abdullah also doesn't mention the horrors perpetrated by Turkey upon its Kurdish minority. If the comparison involving life expectancy and infant mortality was to be drawn between Gaza's population and Turkey's Kurdish minority, the readership of The New York Times would be truly in for a surprise.

Brother Adullah further states:

"Sooner or later, the Middle East will become democratic, and by definition a democratic government should reflect the true wishes of its people."

Absolutely, a democracy should reflect its people's wishes. But consider the following statistics released by the Pew Research Center on December 2, 2010 (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/): "At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion." That should reassure the kind-hearted readers of The New York Times concerning the direction of Muslim "democracy" in the Middle East.

Abdullah, in all of his benevolence, goes on to say:

"I call upon the leaders of Israel to approach the peace process with a strategic mindset, rather than resorting to short-sighted tactical maneuvers. This will require seriously considering the Arab League’s 2002 peace initiative, which proposed a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders and fully normalized diplomatic relations with Arab states."

Peculiar, but isn't a return to the pre-1967 borders with land swaps what two Israeli prime ministers, Barak and Olmert, proposed to the Palestinians, but whose offers were refused by Arafat and Abbas? And if we turn our attention briefly to Hamas, it is difficult to negotiate a solution with an organization whose charter repudiates peaceful negotiation and calls for the murder of all Jews and not just Israelis.

Abdullah, in his infinite wisdom, proceeds to say:

"Israel cannot afford to be perceived as an apartheid island surrounded by an Arab sea of anger and hostility."

Israel is perceived as "apartheid"? If he wants an answer to this slur, Abdullah might well want to note that earlier this month an African American students group took out ads in college newspapers blasting “Israel Apartheid week” organizers for abusing the term. Vanguard Leadership Group accused Students for Justice in Palestine of a “false and deeply offensive” characterization of Israel, and demanded that they "acknowledge that the Arab minority in Israel enjoys full citizenship with voting rights and representation in the government.” Abdullah might also take the time to read: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/02/israel-apartheid-e-coli-and-jimmy.html

Abdullah next declares:

"Moreover, it is my firm conviction that the United States has a long-overdue responsibility to side with international law and fairness when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

Yeah, right, the United States knows nothing of international law and fairness. Strange, however, how Turkey, that bastion of truth and fairness, now leads the world in jailing journalists (see: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=215997).

Saving the best for last, Abdullah concludes:

"It will be almost impossible for Israel to deal with the emerging democratic and demographic currents in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. Turkey, conscious of its own responsibility, stands ready to help."

Surely even in Turkey they tell the joke about the man who knocks on the door and says, "I'm from the tax authority, and I'm here to help." Well thanks anyway, Abdullah, but I think you should start by dealing with your problems at home before offering assistance elsewhere. But next time you're in the neighborhood, please come by the house for coffee. I just saw "Midnight Express" again, and I don't think I'll be visiting Ankara anytime soon.

Maureen Dowd's "Stripped of Dignity": Another Hatchet Job

After reading Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Stripped of Dignity" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/opinion/20dowd.html?hp), I could barely contain my rage at the T.S.A., which, according to the columnist, had given a 6-year-old girl a "deep probe":

"Consternation crackled again last week when a Kentucky couple posted video of their 6-year-old daughter being given the deep probe by a female T.S.A. agent in New Orleans."

I was convinced by Dowd's description that the T.S.A. had ruthlessly examined the little girl's body cavities, but the YouTube video that I subsequently watched, showed the child being given a pat-down. Although I am certain that the T.S.A. check disturbed the parents and the child, and we can also debate the appropriateness of subjecting children, particularly 6-year-olds, to such examinations, this was not a "deep probe".

In an AP article entitled "Video of TSA frisking 6-year-old sparks anger", appearing in Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110413/ap_on_re_us/us_tsa_child_frisked), it is reported:

"Jennifer Mitchell, a child safety advocate who watched the video, said the pat-down seemed 'a little invasive.'

'This is a hard issue because we have national security on one hand... and children's safety on the other,' said Mitchell, co-president of Child Lures Prevention, a Shelburne, Vt., organization that works to prevent crimes against children.

Mitchell recommended that parents tell children before going to the airport that they may get a pat-down. But children should be told 'the only reason it would be allowed is the parents are right there, the clothes are not being removed, the parents are watching to make sure it's done ok,' Mitchell said."

There is an enormous difference between "a little invasive" and a "deep probe".

The AP story on Yahoo News story goes on to say:

"Martin Macpherson, the director of the London-based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, said he is not aware of instances when terrorists have used children as young as six in an attack."

Regrettably, however, children, the mentally infirm and crippled persons are used by terror organizations to perpetrate their ghoulish acts (see, for example: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2003/1/The+Exploitation+of+Children+for+Terrorist+Purpose.htm).

In a perfect world without terror attacks, children would never have to be subjected to such examinations, and perhaps in this instance, discretion should have been exercised and the child excused from the pat-down. However, the world's terror organizations are also constantly probing the soft underbelly of Western sensitivities.

The Israeli system of airport security, premised upon profiling, intelligence and highly motivated young employees, many of them college students, works well. However, if mimicked in the U.S., it could well give rise to charges of discrimination.

Bottom line: We live in an ever more challenging world with no easy answers. I can appreciate the sensitivities of this 6-year-old and her parents, yet if Ms. Dowd were to have personally witnessed a suicide bombing, when bloodied limbs and torn clothing are scattered to the wind, perhaps she could better understand the true meaning of being stripped of one's dignity.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Democracy in Egypt: A Mission in Qena for the Men of The New York Times

I didn't trouble myself to count the number of columns written by New York Times pundits Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof and Roger Cohen while covering recent events in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Busy interviewing English speaking professionals with higher educations who had come to demonstrate, while demonstrably ignoring the primitive sorts from the Muslim Brotherhood (I am surprised Friedman, Kristof and Cohen didn't interview themselves), the Men of The Times had us believing that with the demise of Egyptian strongman Mubarak, we were witnessing the birth of Egyptian democracy, which would be ushered in by the upper echelons of the army.

Well, JG Caesarea has a mission for Friedman, Kristof and Cohen, if they choose to accept it: Fly to Cairo, take a train to the southern Egyptian city of Qena, and report back your findings. The only problem they might discover in reaching Qena is that the railroad tracks are now being blocked by demonstrators demanding the removal of the city's new Christian Copt governor and the imposition of Islamic law.

As reported in an Associated Press article appearing in Ha'aretz (http://www.haaretz.com/news/international/southern-egypt-demonstrators-demand-islamic-law-1.356717):

"Protesters led by hardline Islamists in southern Egypt held their ground Monday, saying they won't end their campaign of civil disobedience until the government removes a newly appointed Coptic Christian governor.

The protesters, many from the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam, have been sitting on train tracks, taken over government buildings and blocked main roads in the southern city of Qena, insisting the new governor won't properly implement Islamic law.

. . . .

They started out by camping at the local government's office. Then they set up a tent on the railroad tracks, said local resident Wafy Nasr. They also tried to block the road and stopped buses to separate men and women passengers.

He said tensions were so high that the local Christian residents had to stay inside and couldn't go to church to celebrate Palm Sunday.

. . . .

A senior group leader caused an uproar after he was quoted in local papers as saying his group seeks to establish an Islamic state, imposing Islamic punishments - including amputating hands for theft."

So, what say you, Men of The Times? Are you prepared to journey down to Qena and report back with your findings? I await a profusion of op-eds describing the sweet fruit of nascent democracy in Egypt.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taqiyya: When Lying Is Ordained from Above

The West is blissfully ignorant of a concept, taqiyya, prevalent in the Muslim Middle East, which permits lying to non-believers in order to defeat them in battle. I observed in a January blog entry how the Egyptian governor of south Sinai alleged that a series of shark attacks against tourists visiting the Red Sea were the result of a plot by the Israeli Mossad (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/shark%20attacks). Inane? Just a one-time contrivance? Consider more recent instances of prevarication from the Palestinian territories:

Last week, Italian national and pro-Palestinian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, was abducted and strangled to death in Gaza. Tawhid wal-Jihad, an al-Qaeda-linked group, acknowledged that it was holding Arrigoni, whom they said would only be released if their own leader was freed by Hamas, but this did not prevent Hamas from subsequently accusing Israel of the murder (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/04/italian-national-vittorio-arrigoni.html).

On April 7, Hamas terrorists fired an advanced laser-guided anti-tank missile from Gaza at a yellow school bus in southern Israel. Hamas had already learned in early March that Israel's Trophy anti-tank missile defense system, now protecting Israel's frontline Merkava tanks, is effective, so instead, they took aim at defenseless children. An Israeli 16-year-old boy died yesterday as the result of wounds sustained in the attack. Hamas claimed it didn't know the yellow bus was transporting school children (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/hamas-says-didn-t-mean-to-target-israeli-school-bus-1.354967).

In March, five members of an Israeli family were stabbed to death in their sleep by two Palestinians in the Israeli settlement of Itamar. Yesterday Israeli announced that they had apprehended the murderers, who had confessed to their crime. The Palestinian Authority had sought to blame a disgruntled Thai worker for the grisly killings (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=212177).

Although much of the West still does not grasp taqiyya,
there should be no excusing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent declaration (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/27/ftn/main20047627.shtml):

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

John Kerry, principally responsible for convincing Hillary of Assad's moderation, wants to be the next Secretary of State. Kerry has repeatedly visited Damascus on behalf of Obama and favored sending a U.S. ambassador to Damascus for the first time in five years following the murder by Assad of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. I suggest that Kerry find something else to do in life that is more in keeping with his limited ken.

[Assad's security forces shot to death 12 more protesters in Homs last night. It is only a matter of time before the Syrian Ba'athist regime collapses.]

Paul Krugman's "Let’s Not Be Civil": An Ode to Intolerance

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Let’s Not Be Civil" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/opinion/18krugman.html?_r=1&hp), Paul Krugman denounces Republicans as brutal troglodytes, who should be treated accordingly:

"The point is that the two parties don’t just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose.

. . . .

So let’s not be civil. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters."

Sorry, Paul, I'm missing something here.

I understand your point, professor, that the two parties live in different moral and intellectual universes: Democrats are ethical and smart, while Republicans (e.g., Rhodes Scholar Bobby Jindal) are evil and dumb.

However, I don't understand why debate necessitates incivility.

Personally, I was impressed by the analysis of Paul Ryan's deficit reduction proposals by Ted Gayer, the co-director of the Economic Studies program and the Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, who is certainly not an expert in the Republican "stable" (http://taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org/2010/08/06/in-defense-of-congressman-paul-ryan/):

"Given that columnist Paul Krugman relied on Tax Policy Center estimates to level claims that Congressman Paul Ryan is a 'flimflam man' and that Ryan’s plan to address our fiscal problems is a 'fraud,' I think a defense of the Congressman is in order.

First, it is worth citing budget estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). According to CBO, Congressman Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future Act would dramatically reduce the build up of America’s debt.

. . . .

On the spending side, Congressman Ryan’s plan achieves these substantial reductions in our long-term debt through such things as progressive reductions in Social Security benefits, increases in the eligibility age for Medicare, and the replacement of Medicare benefits with a voucher starting in 2021 (with an average initial voucher value for 65-year-olds of $5,900 in 2010 dollars).

On the revenue side, Ryan has proposed creating an alternative income tax system that has two marginal tax rates, eliminates most deductions and credits, and exempts all interest, dividends, and capital gains from the individual income tax.

. . . .

Ryan’s vision of broad-based tax reform, which essentially would shift us toward a consumption tax, needs to be adjusted in order to meet his stated goal of matching historical levels of revenue as a proportion of GDP. This indeed poses a challenge to Congressman Ryan to make specific changes to his tax reform plan in order to meet his revenue goal. Reasonable people can disagree about whether we should close our long-term fiscal gap primarily through spending reductions or tax increases, but Congressman Ryan’s proposal makes a useful contribution to this debate."

Republicans are "talking cruel nonsense"? Mr. Gayer doesn't think so.

But more to the point, I think it is possible for two adults to engage in a rational discussion without labeling someone a "flimflam man". Personally, I have always been concerned that incivility leads to intolerance, which in turn can bring about violence.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Maureen Dowd's "Atlas Without Angelina": A Potshot at Paul Ryan

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Atlas Without Angelina" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/opinion/17dowd.html?hp), Maureen Dowd takes aim at Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, belittling the message of this 1,200-page novel first published in 1957:

"You’d think that our fiscal meltdown would have shown the flaw in Rand’s philosophy. She thought we could derive morals from the markets. But we derived immorality from the markets."

But the real reason for her op-ed was not to demean a book, which has been around for more than 50 years, but rather to take a potshot at Paul Ryan, who obviously has the White House worried as we near November 2012. Observing that Paul Ryan is an admirer of "Atlas Shrugged", Dowd lashes out at the Wisconsin congressman:

"Obama is antithetical to Rand’s ideal man, Howard Roark, the architect of skyscrapers who violently refuses to exist for others. Paul Ryan, trying to push the cost of Medicare and Medicaid onto the old, the sick and the disabled while rewarding insurance companies with bigger profits, would be more up her alley."

That's it? We are to agree with Dowd that Paul Ryan is a monster, intent upon improving the bottom line of the insurance companies at the expense of the sick and elderly? It must be true. After all, Mr. Ryan read and liked "Atlas Shrugged".

But wait. Before passing judgment on Mr. Ryan on the basis of this one-liner from Dowd, shouldn't we take even a minute to consider the concerns of this congressman regarding ObamaCare? Paul Ryan writes (http://paulryan.house.gov/Issues/Issue/?IssueID=9978):

"The [health care] law relies on 10 years of tax increases to pay for six years of new spending. It double-counts more than $520 billion as both spending cuts and payments to beneficiaries and ignores $208 billion needed to avert cuts to Medicare physicians. Even the $115 billion in implementation costs are hidden behind budgetary gimmicks and Washington-style accounting rules.

In addition to its impact on the deficit, the health care law is damaging to job creation and economic growth. Its dizzying maze of mandates and thousands of new regulations threaten to cripple businesses both large and small. The bill also hurts workers by encouraging employers to drop coverage and dump employees into a government-controlled exchange rather than pay the increased rates associated with new mandates in the bill.

The bill also contains more than $500 billion in new tax hikes on individuals and businesses. With the national unemployment rate at 8.8 percent, keeping a job-destroying, spend-and-tax law on the books would be irresponsible and would further diminish the prospects of a robust economic recovery.

I raised these concerns with the President at the 2009 Blair House Summit and again when Congress took up the bill. Since then, the Administration’s own Chief Actuary, along with a host of other independent studies, have raised many of the same concerns. A gimmick-free estimate from the House Budget Committee pegs the price tag of the health care law near $2.6 trillion when fully implemented, with $700 billion in new deficit spending."

Yes, I know, Maureen, Paul Ryan is a Republican, he is only interested in crushing poor people, and everything he says is just a capitalist smokescreen.

This blog entry is not intended as a critique of the pluses and minuses of ObamaCare or the value of Paul Ryan's alternative proposals. And although I agree that the late-2000s financial crisis exposed greed and immorality that had infected the U.S. economy, do we now throw the baby out with the bath water, nationalize banks and insurance companies, and turn to socialism?

Dowd is incapable of comprehending that one need not agree with all that Paul Ryan says in order to appreciate the value of a free interchange of ideas and the resultant contribution to problem-solving and the refinement of solutions.

It is no accident that President Obama is finally attempting to address the federal budget deficit, which is indeed – Mr. Ryan is correct - unsustainable.

Gail Collins's "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!": Once Was More Than Enough

With Frank Rich gone and his replacement, Joe Nocera, writing business essays that leave me impassive (if I have trouble sleeping, I take melatonin and read a Nocera op-ed 20 minutes before bedtime), New York Times columnist Gail Collins is now left holding the bag (with occasional help from Maureen Dowd) for those pleasured by reading about the follies of dubious Republican presidential hopefuls. In her latest Times op-ed, "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/opinion/16collins.html?hp), Collins does not disappoint her readership:

"My job today is to give you a run-through of every book Mitt Romney has ever written. Fortunately, there are only two: 'Turnaround,' which is about his stint as the leader of the troubled 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, and 'No Apology,' his campaign tome, which used to be subtitled 'The Case for American Greatness' but is now 'Believe in America.'”

Apparently it is also Collins's job today to remind us again how Romney mistreated his dog:

"Also, there is not a single mention in 'No Apology' of the fact that Romney once drove to Canada with the family Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car. I regard this as a critical oversight, although perhaps it was Seamus that Romney was thinking of when he chose his title."

As much as I am impassioned about animal welfare, perhaps it is my job today to remind Ms. Collins that this story is getting stale. In a February 2008 New York Times op-ed entitled "The Revenge of Seamus" (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/09/opinion/09collins.html), Collins already wrote:

"Oh, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. [Note the similarity of the opening of this column to the title of today's op-ed.]

Losing Mitt Romney from the presidential race is not just a matter of another Republican biting the dust. It’s all those dozens and dozens of future incarnations that we may never have a chance to meet. I was hoping that someday we’d get a Libertarian Mitt, or maybe a cowboy.

Worst of all, I’m going to have to get through the rest of the year without ever again referring to the fact that Romney once drove to Canada with the family dog, Seamus, strapped to the roof of the car."

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I am not interested in Mitt Romney. I am also not interested in Collins's bickering with Donald Trump.

I have not read either of Romney's books, nor will I ever do so. (I am currently reading an 800-page history of the Thirty Years War.)

I have also not read either of Obama's books about himself, nor will I ever do so. There is too much important literature waiting to be read and so little time.

I envy the pulpit given to Collins, from which she can influence the lives of millions of people. Instead, we are twice-weekly buffeted with politicized tripe. I can only imagine what I would write if given a one-time opportunity to guest author a New York Times op-ed. Would I discuss science, history, medicine, events in the Middle East?

Dream on, Jeffrey. You have trouble getting even your New York Times online comments past their thought police, i.e. their anything but moderate "moderators".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Italian National Vittorio Arrigoni Murdered in Gaza: Hamas Blames - You Guessed It - Israel


An Italian national and pro-Palestinian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, was strangled to death in Gaza, and his body was discovered this morning in an abandoned house. Tawhid wal-Jihad, an al-Qaeda-linked group, had acknowledged that it was holding Arrigoni, whom they said would only be released if their own leader was freed by Hamas. As reported by the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13088630):

"Vittorio Arrigoni was seized by Salafist radicals, an Islamist movement itself that considers Hamas as too moderate, BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison says.

The Salafists had threatened to execute Mr Arrigoni by 1400 GMT on Friday unless several prisoners, including their leader, Sheikh Abu Walid al-Maqdasi, were released. Sheikh Maqdasi was arrested by Hamas police last month in Gaza City.

In a video posted on YouTube, Mr Arrigoni appeared to have been beaten and his eyes were covered with thick black tape.

A caption on the video read: 'The Italian hostage entered our land only to spread corruption.' The video called Italy 'the infidel state'.'

Tawhid wal-Jihad, however, is now distancing itself from the murder, and Hamas is now blaming Israel (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=216777).

Hamas is saying that the murder of Arrigoni was a "shameful act, contrary to the tradition of the Palestinian people." Oh, really? Was the shooting by Hamas of an advanced Kornet anti-tank missile last week at an Israeli school bus (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/04/war-that-wasnt-netanyahu-demonstrates.html) more in keeping with the tradition of the Palestinian people?

Who would believe that any Palestinian political faction could make Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis), look moderate?

Meanwhile, two Grad missiles were fired from Gaza this afternoon at the Israeli city of Ashdod. Hamas is demonstrating that it cannot even keep its own military wing in check, and a broader conflict is only a matter of time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kazakhstan: Muslim, Ethnically Diverse, Prosperous, Calm

In his New York Times op-ed "Pray. Hope. Prepare." (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/opinion/13friedman.html?hp), Tom Friedman stated:

"That is to say, in Europe, when the iron fist of communism was removed, the big, largely homogenous states, with traditions of civil society, were able to move relatively quickly and stably to more self-government — except Yugoslavia, a multiethnic, multireligious country that exploded into pieces.

In the Arab world, almost all these countries are Yugoslavia-like assemblages of ethnic, religious and tribal groups put together by colonial powers — except Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, which have big homogeneous majorities. So when you take the lid off these countries, you potentially unleash not civil society but civil war."

Is Friedman correct? If so, what about Kazakhstan? Why have there been no disturbances in this central Asian country, where 70% of the population is Muslim, and where 70-year old President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled for the past 20 years? If Friedman was on the mark, Kazakhstan, which is home to 131 nationalities (Kazakhs comprise only some 60% of the population), would now be awash with tumult.

As reported by Ms. Kathy Lally in a Washington Post article entitled "Kazakh president holds fast as Arab revolutions topple others
" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/kazakh-president-holds-fast-as-arab-revolutions-topple-others/2011/04/11/AFNvnCWD_story.html?hpid=z3):

"Nazarbayev has ruled since 1989, when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union and he was its party secretary. He is the country’s only directly elected official. His domination has been so complete that no serious political competition has emerged and so adroit that much of the population reveres him.

'He’s more than the leader of our country,' said Erlan Karin, secretary of Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party. 'People see him as a symbol of Kazakhstan’s development, independence and success.'

Local officials, all appointed by Nazarbayev, compete to get out the vote and get it right. 'Here, 99 percent voted for the president,' said a triumphant Turkbenuli Musabayev, mayor of the small, depressed southwestern town of Aralsk. 'He has visited us, and people know he cares.'

Kazakhstan’s 16 million people live on a landscape the size of Western Europe. Corruption is high, but oil and gas reserves have helped Nazarbayev bring the per-capita gross domestic product from $700 in 1994 to $9,000 now.

. . . .

Rather than envy the revolutions of the Arab world, people are grateful that they have avoided the turmoil besetting neighboring countries. Tajikistan endured a costly civil war, and Uzbekistan, where the president is as long-serving but far more ruthless, has suffered civil strife."

Although, according to Ms. Lally's article, Kazakhstan is not free of corruption, there has been no meaningful challenge to President Nazarbayev, and the reason for Kazakhstan's tranquility is plain for all to see: The steep rise in per-capita GDP, which starkly contrasts with the economic malaise that pervades much of the Muslim Middle East.

As I stressed in my prior blog entry, the turmoil in the Muslim Middle East has little to do with a desire for democracy and freedom, but rather is the consequence of crushing poverty, which has given rise to furor and despair.

[It has been years since I was last in Almaty, and I miss looking out my window at the snow-capped mountains . . .]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thomas Friedman's "Pray. Hope. Prepare.": But Let's First Get the Facts Straight

The following blog entry, which was submitted as an online comment in response to Thomas Friedman's op-ed, "Pray. Hope. Prepare.", was censored by The New York Times:

Tom Friedman's concludes his New York Times op-ed "Pray. Hope. Prepare." (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/opinion/13friedman.html?hp) by stating:

"Make no mistake where my heart lies. I still believe this Arab democracy movement was inevitable, necessary and built on a deep and authentic human quest for freedom, dignity and justice. But without extraordinary leadership, the Arab transitions are going to be much harder than in Eastern Europe. Pray for Germanys. Hope for South Africas. Prepare for Yugoslavias."

An Arab democracy movement "built on a deep and authentic human quest for freedom, dignity and justice"? Please, Tom, give it a rest. The unrest in the Muslim Middle East has little or nothing to do with democracy.

Friedman focuses on Egypt, where he believes a homogenous population makes the country ripe for a "peaceful Arab democracy revolution".

Indeed, let's have a look at Egypt, where 82% of the population favors stoning people who commit adultery, where 84% favor the death penalty for people who abandon Islam, and where deadly clashes between Muslims and Christian Copts persist even after the events at Tahrir Square.

A "Million Woman March" for "fair and equal opportunity for all Egyptian citizens -- beyond gender, religion or class" brought less than 1,000 participants, who soon found themselves engaged in fisticuffs and shouting matches with their opponents.

Egypt has an annual population growth rate of some 2.0%, which, coupled with an economy dependent upon tourism (11% of GDP during quiet times) preordains that Egypt will not emerge from its indigence. Some 18% of the population still lives below the poverty line, and official unemployment is in the double-digits. Youth unemployment in particular has been labeled a "time bomb" by IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (http://www.cnbc.com/id/41363921/Egypt_Youth_Unemployment_Was_Time_Bomb_IMF_Head).

In short, the unrest in Egypt has little to do with "democracy" and everything to do with poverty and the absence of economic opportunity, i.e. a struggle between haves and have-nots.

"Prepare for Yugoslavias"? Although recent events in the Muslim Middle East also bring to the fore festering ethnic (e.g., Arabs discriminating against Kurds) and religious (e.g., Sunnis seeking to dominate Shiites, Alawites seeking to retain control over Sunnis, Sunnis attacking Christian Copts, Shiites persecuting Baha'is) conflicts, the turbulence also stems from joblessness with no solution in sight.

Democracy and a "quest for freedom, dignity and justice" barely enter into the equation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Maureen Dowd's "Giving Doctors Orders": Physicians Her Latest Prey

Almost everyone can recount a story where a doctor behaved arrogantly or erred, and doctors as a group are an easy target for an op-ed. In her latest New York Times op-ed "Giving Doctors Orders" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/opinion/13dowd.html), Maureen Dowd observes:

"When my brother went into the hospital with pneumonia, he quickly contracted four other infections in the intensive care unit.

. . . .

Michael died in that I.C.U. A couple years later, I read reports about how neckties and lab coats worn by doctors and clinical workers were suspected as carriers of deadly germs. Infections kill 100,000 patients in hospitals and other clinics in the U.S. every year."

I am, of course, sorry about Ms. Dowd's loss of her brother, but are deadly infections in hospitals mostly caused by doctors' unwashed hands, dirty neckties and lab coats, or is something else happening?

Regrettably, Dowd does not trouble herself to mention the frightening evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Examples:

• MRSA bacteria, found on the skin and in the noses of healthy persons, can cause infection if they penetrate the body during surgery or following insertion of a catheter. Although penicillin was once effective against these bacteria, most strains must now be treated using next generation antibiotics through an IV.

• VRE bacteria can sit dormant in a person's intestines until administration of an antibiotic. Given that many patients in hospitals receive antibiotics, VRE infections are common in hospitals.

Sure, hospital hygiene is important, and unnecessary administration of antibiotics, often at the demand of patients and parents, has also contributed mightily to the problem over the years, but to put the blame on doctors is absurd.

There is an evolutionary arms race between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the ability of the pharma companies to create new drugs capable of fighting off these microbes. Unfortunately, no one knows which side will ultimately prevail in this war.

Roger Cohen, Filastin and Goldstone: Draw Your Own Conclusions

From Roger Cohen's New York Times op-ed entitled "The Goldstone Chronicles" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen08.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss):

"We have a new verb, 'to Goldstone.' Its meaning: To make a finding, and then partially retract it for uncertain motive. Etymology: the strange actions of a respected South African Jewish jurist under intense pressure from Israel, the U.S. Congress and world Jewish groups."

From Filastin, the Hamas newspaper in Gaza, the following "cartoon":

















Draw your own conclusions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The War That Wasn't: Netanyahu Demonstrates Leadership

Last Thursday, Hamas terrorists fired an advanced Kornet anti-tank missile from Gaza at a yellow school bus in southern Israel. Hamas had already learned in early March that Israel's Trophy anti-tank missile defense system, which is now protecting Israel's frontline Merkava tanks, is effective (see: http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=210366), so instead, they took aim at defenseless children. If the bus had still been full when the missile struck and many more children had been wounded and had died, Israel would again have gone into Gaza with its armor and ground forces.

Over this past weekend, some 120 mortar shells, rockets and missiles were fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel. Israel's new Iron Dome defense system against short-range missiles and mortar rounds, which had been deployed only days earlier, intercepted almost a dozen missiles headed for the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva.

Notwithstanding the enormity of the provocation, Israel retaliated with pinpoint strikes against terrorist targets, killing two Hamas military commanders, Rayid Shehadeh and Tayser Abu Snima. Its attacks having proven futile and blunted, Hamas appealed for a truce on Israeli radio (see: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/04/10/hamas-israel-palestinian-ceasefire.html).

This was not an appropriate time for another Israeli ground operation in Gaza. The Ba'athist regime in Syria is teetering as a result of broadening internal protest, and Assad would have welcomed the opportunity created by a war in Gaza by calling for pan-Arab unity in the face of the Zionist aggressor and instructing Hezbollah to fire at Israel from Lebanon.

Netanyahu, who has many detractors both inside and outside of Israel, demonstrated admirable restraint during this difficult period. Without delving into personalities or politics, I believe that Obama, who detests Netanyahu, could learn much from this example of leadership and decision making under fire.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paul Krugman's "The President Is Missing": Eating Orange Yogurt Cake and Having It, Too

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The President Is Missing" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/opinion/11krugman.html?hp) Paul Krugman, furious with Barack Obama for making budget concessions and reaching a compromise agreement with Republicans, asks:

"What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected?"

Answer: 0 is still . . . . Oops, I typed a zero, instead of an "O". Let's start again. O is still there, the same inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected, but he is busy:

• polishing his oratorical skills in front of a teleprompter;
• eating orange yogurt cake with baked apples and having it, too;
• hugging Hugo Chavez, shaking hands with Qaddafi, and bowing to King Abdullah;
• playing golf and basketball;
• vacationing with Michelle;
• and most of his remaining free time writing another book about himself, "The Mendacity of Hope".

Seeking to be inspired? Axelrod will have him primed and ready by 2012.

Substance? What did you expect from a freshman senator from Illinois with no voting record or experience. Lighten up Professor Krugman. Give him four more years. Something could still happen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Maureen Dowd's "Blowin’ in the Idiot Wind": The Pot Calls the Kettle Black

[An abridged version of this blog entry was posted as New York Times reader's comment no. 7 to Dowd's op-ed, "Blowin' in the Idiot Wind". So as not to run afoul of their so-called "moderators", who have proven themselves anything but moderate and who have a penchant for rejecting my submissions, I did not include in my NYT reader's comment the penultimate paragraph below concerning Dowd's op-eds from Saudi Arabia.]

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Blowin’ in the Idiot Wind" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/opinion/10dowd.html), Maureen Dowd reproaches Bob Dylan, soon to be 70, for not singing protest songs in China in accordance with the wishes of his Communist hosts. Dowd writes:

"The idea that the raspy troubadour of ’60s freedom anthems would go to a dictatorship and not sing those anthems is a whole new kind of sellout".

Sorry, Maureen, but don't you think your disappointment at Dylan's failure to sing protest songs should have been directed at President Obama, who, when visiting China and better positioned to denounce human rights abuses directly to the party bosses, never said a word?

And let's not forget how, in order to further appease the Chinese, Obama saw the Dalai Lama in the Map Room and not the Oval Office. There was no official welcome, the meeting was closed to the press, only a single White House photo was released, and the Dalai Lama was sent out of the White House via a back door, where a pile of trash was unceremoniously waiting for him.

Better yet, let's not forget Maureen Dowd's visit to Saudi Arabia in 2010. Writing a series of op-eds from the desert kingdom, she never once mentioned the practice of "honor killings" in Saudi Arabia. She never described how women who are gang raped are sentenced to prison and lashings. She never mentioned the problem of "child brides".

Truly an instance of the pot calling the kettle black.

Over 50 Rockets Fired From Gaza at Israel: No Mention by CNN or The New York Times

Thus far today, more than 50 missiles have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel; however, there is currently no mention of this on the home pages of the websites of CNN or The New York Times. Apparently when civilian targets in Israel are under attack, this is not newsworthy for these organizations.

Would any European or North American nation tolerate such a bombardment?

[Ultimately over the course of Israel's weekend which ended on Saturday, more than 120 missiles, rockets and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel. This, of course, is in addition to the anti-tank missile fired by Hamas at an Israeli school bus on Thursday.]

Did Roger Cohen's "The Goldstone Chronicles" Violate the Policy on Ethics in Journalism of The New York Times?

OPEN LETTER TO MR. ANDREW ROSENTHAL, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, AND MR. ARTHUR BRISBANE, PUBLIC EDITOR, OF THE NEW YORK TIMES

Re: Request for Correction

Dear Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Brisbane,

In Roger Cohen's op-ed "The Goldstone Chronicles" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen08.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), published online by The New York Times on April 7, 2011, he writes:

"Israel is celebrating what it calls a vindication. It is preparing to welcome Goldstone. It is demanding nullification of the report, even though Goldstone is only one of its four authors. Meanwhile the facts remain: the 1,400 plus Palestinian dead [italics added], the 13 Israelis killed, the devastation, the Hamas rockets — and the need for credible investigation of what all evidence suggests were large-scale, indiscriminate, unlawful Israeli attacks in Gaza, as well as Hamas’ crimes against civilians."

Where did this so-called "fact" regarding Palestinian dead come from?

According to the Israeli army, the total number of Palestinians who died was 1,166, consising of 709 "Hamas terror operatives", 162 men killed during the operation who "have not been yet attributed to any organization", and 295 civilians (see: http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=137286).

There is a large difference between "1,400 plus Palestinian dead" and 1,166, particularly given that Hamas now agrees (see Richard Goldstone's recent Washington Post op-ed: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html), that the number of dead Palestinian militants determined by the Israeli army was correct, i.e. the preponderance of Palestinian fatalities consisted of militants.

Cohen purposefully ignores any mention in his op-ed that the Palestinian dead included combatants.

Cohen obviously decided to disregard the Israeli army figures and to cite Palestinian figures, notwithstanding allegations that the Palestinian figures were inflated (see: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3660423,00.html), and notwithstanding past instances where Palestinian figures were shown to be fabricated, e.g., casualty figures for the purported 2002 Jenin "massacre", which was subsequently proven to have been a hoax (see: http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/charleskrauthammer/2002/05/03/the_jenin_massacre_hoax?page=full&comments=true).

Of course, "The Goldstone Chronicles" is an opinion piece, and Cohen is entitled to choose to believe the Palestinian figures; however, this this does not give Cohen the right to describe the Palestinian figures as a "fact", particularly given that he was not in Gaza during the war.

Questions:

• Does a New York Times op-ed writer have an obligation to state that the number of dead cited by him includes combatants?

• Does a New York Times op-ed writer have an obligation to state the source of his "fact", i.e. the number of Palestinian fatalities, particularly when this so-called "fact" is in dispute?

• Does a New York Times op-ed writer have an obligation to state that a "fact" being cited by him is in dispute?

According to "The New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism" (http://www.nytco.com/press/ethics.html):

"17. As journalists we treat our readers, viewers, listeners and online users as fairly and openly as possible. Whatever the medium, we tell our audiences the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. We correct our errors explicitly as soon as we become aware of them. We do not wait for someone to request a correction. We publish corrections in a prominent and consistent location or broadcast time slot."

I think it is abundantly clear that The New York Times, pursuant to its own set of journalistic ethical standards, is required to publish an immediate correction concerning Roger Cohen's purported "fact".

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey