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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paul Krugman's "To the Limit": "The Conscience of a Liberal" Loses Patience With Obama

As observed in a prior blog entry (, the uber-left op-ed page of The New York Times is distancing itself from Obama. Earlier this week, Maureen Dowd ("Our president likes to be on both sides at once,", and Roger Cohen ("It’s past time for Obama to lead in these areas [energy and industrial policy]," came down hard on the president. Today, in his column entitled "To the Limit" (, it is Paul Krugman's turn to question Obama's ability to govern.

Krugman's message today is not new, i.e. stale: The U.S. needs to spend its way out of the recession, and to that end, the federal debt ceiling must be raised. Krugman again posits that Republican reluctance to accede to Obama's request amounts to partisan petulance, which amounts to playing with fire. Yawn. Novel, however, is Krugman's annoyance with Obama:

"The president’s response seemed clueless even then.

. . . .

Republicans believe, in short, that they’ve got Mr. Obama’s number, that he may still live in the White House but that for practical purposes his presidency is already over. It’s time — indeed, long past time [Italics added - observe the similarity to the Cohen quote, above] — for him to prove them wrong."

Apparently, even the patience of "The Conscience of a Liberal" has its limits. Yet, regardless of whether he is able to raise the debt limit, Obama's goose is cooked. As observed by Peter Wehner in Commentary (

"With ownership comes responsibility, of course, so let’s run through, one more time, some of what the president owns:

•An unemployment rate of 9.1 percent;
•28 straight months of unemployment being above 8 percent, a post-World War II record;
•Chronic unemployment worse than during the Great Depression (about 6.2 million Americans, 45.1 percent of all unemployed workers in this country, have been jobless for more than six months);
•A nation in which 2.5 million fewer people are employed than when the president was sworn in and which has seen only 600,000 jobs created during our two-year “recovery”;
•A housing crisis that has recently entered a double dip and is now worse than the Great Depression;
•A record $1.65 trillion deficit this year;
•A record $14.3 trillion debt;
•First quarter growth in 2011 of only 1.8 percent;
•A presidency in which real annual growth in GDP averages 1.5 percent, just barely above what it was during the decade of the Great Depression (1.3 percent); and
•Gas prices roughly doubled what they were when Obama took office."

Obama's only option is to blame Bush and Republican billionaire-backed intransigence for the quandary and to claim that it would all be much worse had he not come to the rescue. Bush is ancient history, and Obama owned both houses of Congress for two years and still couldn't bring about "change."

With campaign season just around the corner, no economic voodoo is going to forestall the moving vans from arriving at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in January 2013. Obama's only prayer is that the Republican's nominate Sarah Palin as his opponent.

U.S. Approves U.N. Tribunal's Indictments: When Will Ambassador to Damascus Be Recalled?

As reported by Yahoo News (

"The United States on Thursday welcomed a U.N.-backed tribunal's indictments in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri and urged Lebanon's government to act on them.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the indictments and four arrest warrants marked 'an important step towards justice and ending impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon.'

. . . .

'It's important that the indictments now handed over to the special prosecutor now be acted upon. Obviously we want to see this chapter in Lebanon's history closed, and that closure involves taking the next steps,' Toner said.

'The sealed indictments have been handed over. We're now going to look to see what the Lebanese government does next. We're looking for it to take action,' he said."

The U.S. is looking for the Lebanese government "to take action"? When does the U.S. recall its ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, given Assad's involvement in the murder?

Bypassing Senate confirmation and seeking to avoid public scrutiny by acting while many were on holiday, Obama appointed Ford as ambassador to Syria at the end of December 2010 (see:

There had been no ambassador to Syria following the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a friend of the West, which was carried out at the behest of Damascus.

Sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Obama administration.

Turkey and Israel: A Sea Change in Relations

After years of deteriorating relations between Jerusalem and Ankara since the AKP came to power in Turkey, there suddenly appears to be a sea change, owing to the current tempest in Syria. With thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing to the Turkish border, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is no longer cooing over his fraternal relationship with Syria's Assad. Quite the contrary: Two weeks ago, Erdogan labeled the conduct of Syria's army "barbaric" (see:, and when Assad called Erdogan to congratulate him on the AKP's June national election victory, Assad received a tongue-lashing (see:

How has the turmoil in Syria impacted upon Turkey's relationship with Israel? First, the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which had been expected to carry hundreds of protesters, suddenly abandoned the upcoming Gaza flotilla without good reason. Turkey is even acknowledging that the flotilla is unnecessary and could prove counterproductive:

"Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference was quoted in the Turkish media on Tuesday saying that 'a return of last year’s events may lead to problems that will be impossible to solve. There is no need for that.'

He said humanitarian aid was continuing to be brought in the Gaza Strip over land."

More recently, it was reported that Turkey conveyed an Israeli warning to Assad not to initiate hostilities in order to halt the ongoing insurrection. As reported by The Jerusalem Post (

"Israel sent a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent days, warning him that if he started a war with the Jewish state in order to divert attention from domestic problems, Israel will target him personally, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the personal warning was sent through Turkey following intelligence reports of unusual Syrian troop movements, including the moving of long-range ballistic missiles that could be used to target Israel."

Never a dull moment in the Middle East.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Benny Morris Harassed in London

The Jerusalem Post has reported that Professor Benny Morris, his wife and another woman were harassed by a group of Muslims on his way into the London School of Economics in order to give a lecture on the Israeli War of Independence. Morris, one of Israel's "New Historians," is the author of "1948" (which I read), a controversial account of the first Arab-Israeli war, which was declared "fair minded" by both The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review.

In The Jerusalem Post article written by By Mackenzie
Green (, Morris is quoted as saying of those who accosted him:

“'They crowded around me in a threatening way, calling me ‘racist’ and ‘fascist.’”

. . . .

'It sounded a bit like Nazis hounding a Jew on the streets of Berlin.'

. . . .

'They feel free to break the law in this way and threaten people. The idea is to threaten people so they don’t show up again. With the increase in the number of Muslims and their power in Britain and around the world, they will feel more emboldened to harass those they disagree with. This will curtail the freedom to speak freely in Britain and in Western Europe as a whole.'”

Freedom of speech is only being threatened in Western Europe by Muslim fanatics and their leftist allies? Observe the attempts to interfere with the speech of Netanyahu before the U.S. Congress and with the speech of Ambassador Michael Oren at The University of California at Irvine (see: At least in the U.S. as opposed to the U.K., those attempting to interfere with the right of free speech still face criminal charges (see:

Why Is the House Ethics Committee Not Beginning an Inquiry Concerning Kucinich's Meeting With Assad?

Although the House Ethics Committee was swift to begin an inquiry concerning the revolting behavior of Congressman Anthony Weiner, I have yet to see any demand for an inquiry concerning the insidious journey by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, together with his wife, to Damascus in order to meet with President Assad. Apparently, Congress believes it is far more odious for a representative to Tweet a picture of his private parts than for one of its members to meet with a mass murdering dictator, thereby providing the monster with legitimacy.

Kucinich's website ( has confirmed the visit:

"At the request of many of his constituents, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is currently on a fact-finding mission to Syria and Lebanon. He is accompanied by a small delegation which includes his wife, Elizabeth.

Congressman Kucinich, who represents a district that includes many Arab-Americans, was asked by his constituents to investigate conditions on the ground in Syria and to see if resolution of a situation where violence has been spiraling and events are spinning out of control is possible.

During this working trip, Kucinich will meet with democracy activists, non-governmental organizations, small business owners, civilians as well as government officials. In his trip he expects to meet the Presidents of both Syria and Lebanon.

'Peace is not just the absence of war,' said Kucinich of his trip. 'Peace is a conscious, active pursuit that requires work and communication. My work as a member of Congress requires that I learn first hand about events in order to better understand policy alternatives for America and other nations.'

Congressman Kucinich, a proponent of peace and nonviolence, is one of a few Members of Congress who have traveled in the region to gather information to better understand local conditions."

"Many" of Kucinich's constituents asked that he travel with his wife to meet with Assad in Damascus? Please tell us how many.

Kucinich should also let us know all the "facts" that he learned by meeting with Assad. Assad, of course, has a reputation for telling the undivided truth.

Finally, Kucinich should provide us with a list of the Syrian "democracy activists" that he met, who risked, following their meetings, being chopped into pieces by Assad's security apparatus.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich Meets With Mass Murderer Assad: Imagine If Kucinich Had Become President in 2008

Notwithstanding the thousands of persons Syrian President Assad has butchered, imprisoned and tortured over recent weeks, U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich deemed it appropriate to meet with this monster in Damascus on Monday. As reported by the Syrian Arab News Agency (

"President Bashar al-Assad on Monday stressed the importance of differentiating between the people's legitimate demands to which the State responded through issuing decrees and laws and the organized armed groups which utilized these demands to create chaos and destabilize the country.

Meeting U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the accompanying delegation in the morning and holding another meeting with British Conservative Party MP Brooks Newmark, President al-Assad reviewed the recent events taking place in Syria and the advanced steps achieved in the comprehensive reform program."

As if this was not enough, Kucinich initiated a letter to Hillary Clinton, also signed by five other representatives, asking that she "do everything in [her] power" to help "ensure the safety of all American citizens on board The Audacity of Hope," which is seeking to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza (see:

Did it occur to Kucinich that it might make more sense to warn the radicals participating in the Gaza flotilla, some of whose names appear on the FBI Watch List, that any attempt to breach this blockade, intended to prevent Hamas from receiving advanced weaponry, recklessly endangers lives and is contrary to American interests?

Kucinich was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2004 and 2008 elections. Imagine the consequences if he had won the nomination and election in 2008.

Equally appalling, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, participated this week in a tour of northern Syria sponsored by Assad. As reported by Yahoo News in an article written by Bradley Klapper, entitled "US defends participation in Syrian-organized tour" (

"The Obama administration struggled Tuesday to explain why its ambassador to Syria participated in a sanitized trip to the country's restive north that was sponsored by President Bashar Assad's regime to attempt to justify its military crackdown.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday's trip to the abandoned town of Jisr al-Shughour allowed Ambassador Robert Ford to 'see for himself the results of the Syrian government's brutality.'

Yet it was unclear how Ford would have gathered such evidence on the government-organized tour."

Bypassing Senate confirmation and seeking to avoid public scrutiny by acting while many were on holiday, Obama appointed Ford as ambassador to Syria at the end of December 2010 (see:

There had been no ambassador to Syria following the murder in 2005 of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a friend of the West, which was carried out at the behest of Damascus.

To her credit, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is demanding that Obama immediately recall Ford (see:

Monday, June 27, 2011

David Brooks, "Convener in Chief": Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?

The presidency is foundering.

When former Obama cheerleaders Maureen Dowd ("Our president likes to be on both sides at once,", and Roger Cohen ("It’s past time for Obama to lead in these areas [energy and industrial policy]," both razz the president within the space of a week from the uber-left op-ed page of The New York Times , you know that his chances of reelection are dimming. David Brooks in his column of today's date entitled "Convener in Chief" (, only adds to the chorus.

Brooks writes:

"Now Obama is compelled to engage. If ever there was an issue that called for his complex, balancing approach, this is it. But, to reach an agreement, he will have to resolve the contradiction in his management style. He values negotiation but radiates disdain for large swathes of official Washington. If he can overcome his aloofness and work intimately with Republicans, he may be able to avert a catastrophe and establish a model for a more realistic, collegial presidency.

The former messiah will have to become a manager."
Yeah, right, Obama is going to become a "manager," i.e. leader, two and a half years into his presidency with the economy tanking, elections looming and the Republicans smelling blood. It's not going to happen.

Popeye was famous for saying, "I 'yams what I ams, and dats all that I 'yams!" Similarly, Obama is what he is - intellectual, arrogant and prone to protacted rumination - and there is no effectiveness seminar that is going to change his ways. Obama likes to watch.

All that's really left to be seen is whether the Republicans commit hari kiri by nominating a presidential candidate from the looney far right, who frightens the American electorate into bestowing upon Obama four more years of contemplative indecision.

The New Gaza Flotilla: Lyn Adamson and Her Ship of Fools

In a Haaretz article entitled "In preparations for Gaza Flotilla, passengers briefed how to face Israeli soldiers" (, a Canadian participant in the upcoming flotilla attempts to explain why she is sailing to Gaza:

"'I'm appalled, as are many friends and colleagues, by the conditions in Gaza and by the silence of the international community regarding the ongoing blockade in Gaza,' says Lyn Adamson, trying to explain why they are taking this calculated risk.

Adamson, 59, a Quaker from Toronto, is active in a number of social justice advocacy groups.

'In the absence of effective action by the international community to pressure Israel and Egypt to change their policies ... we, at the grass roots, must take action,' she says."

Needless to say, no mention by Adamson of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held without visits by the Red Cross for more than five years; "honor killings" perpetrated against women in Gaza; the persecution and murder of Christians in Gaza; the persecution and murder of homosexuals in Gaza; the incarceration and murder of dissidents in Gaza; or the thousands of mortar shells, rockets and missiles fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets in recent years.

As can be expected, also no mention by Adamson of:

• the two luxury hotels opening in Gaza later this month;
• the gourmet restaurants (e.g., Roots, Carino's) to be found in Gaza;
• the three-story, $2 million wedding hall under construction in Gaza;
• the Mercedes and hot tubs that passed into Gaza last week via Israel;
• the hundreds of BMWs and pickup trucks that have been imported into Gaza in recent months;
• the opening of a second new shopping mall with escalators from Israel next month;
• the abundance and widespread use of cell phones and personal computers throughout Gaza;
• that all 130 engineering firms in Gaza are busy with work;
• that hundreds of new homes are being built;
• that two dozen new schools are about to go up;
• that unemployment has fallen dramatically to 25% according to Hamas's economic minister, Ala al-Rafati;
• that statistics for literacy, live births and longevity are better in Gaza than in Turkey or in most of the surrounding Arab countries;
• that health conditions are far superior to most of the developing world.

See, inter alia:

Suggestion: Compare unemployment in Gaza with that in Spain, which is higher than 21% - not much difference.

But why bother with details such as these, given the opportunity to create a self-serving provocation, which could, depending upon the conduct of the flotilla's participants, spiral out of control and jeopardize the well-being of fellow passengers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Maureen Dowd, "Why Is He Bi? (Sigh)": A Metaphorical Call for Obama to "Come Out of the Closet"

What has come over Maureen?

On Wednesday, in an op-ed entitled "Sing Out, Hillary," she held the Saudis' sandaled feet to the fire for their barbaric treatment of women (see: Today, in her New York Times op-ed entitled "Why Is He Bi? (Sigh)" (, she chastises Obama for playing both sides of the fence on most issues:

"Our president likes to be on both sides at once.

In Afghanistan, he wants to go but he wants to stay.

. . . .

On Libya, President Obama wants to lead from behind.

. . . .

On the budget, he wants to cut spending and increase spending. On the environment, he wants to increase energy production but is reluctant to drill. On health care, he wants to get everybody covered but will not press for a universal system. On Wall Street, he assails fat cats, but at cocktail parties, he wants to collect some of their fat for his campaign."

Dowd concludes that Obama is shielding his identity and demands that he "come out of the closet" and declare his true political self. However, that, too, requires a decision on Obama's part.

So why is Obama "bi"? It's probably a combination of genes and environment. But not to worry, Maureen. My instincts tell me that if he is reelected and no longer has anything to lose, all of Obama's pent-up radicalism will come gushing out with significant consequences for the U.S. economy and American foreign affairs.

It isn't going to be pretty.

Does Alice "The Color Purple" Walker Care About Gilad Shalit?

As observed in my prior blog entry (, Alice Walker, the 67-year-old author of "The Color Purple," seeks to explain her participation in the latest Gaza flotilla in a CNN piece entitled "Why I'm Sailing to Gaza" ( Walker, invoking the names of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, would have us believe that she is a martyr in the making:

"Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?"

Letters to the people of Gaza expressing solidarity and love? Very touching. But where is Walker's love for the Israeli children living in the proximity of Gaza, who have been forced to endure thousands of mortar shells, rockets and missiles fired from Gaza at their homes?

Also, where is Walker's love for Gilad Shalit, who was abducted from Israel on June 25, 2006 by Hamas, and who has been held hostage ever since in Gaza without visits from or contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross in violation of international law?

Notwithstanding Walker's apparent indifference to Shalit's plight, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday called upon Hamas to free this young man:

“Nearly five years have now passed since Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel and abducted Gilad Shalit. During this time, Hamas has held him hostage without access by the International Committee of the Red Cross, in violation of the standards of basic decency and international humanitarian demands. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms his continued detention, and joins other governments and international organizations around the world in calling on Hamas to release him immediately.”

The U.S. has now joined France, the European Union and Ban Ki-moon of the UN in calling for Shalit's immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

Walker and her friends from the far left, however, are too busy pretending that they are heroines and heroes to acknowledge this travesty. This is not surprising given Walker's position that Israel, because of alleged human rights abuses, should not exist as an actual land for the Jewish people, but should be theoretical "in our minds" (see:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alice Walker: "Why I'm sailing to Gaza": What Color Is Evil?

In a June 21, 2011 "Special to CNN" (, Alice Walker, the 67-year-old author of "The Color Purple," seeks to explain why she is participating in the flotilla to Gaza planned for later this month. In a cynical message in which she struggles to interject the names of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, James Cheney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman (Schwerner and Goodman were Jews who were murdered in Mississippi when they drove south with Cheney to protest racial discrimination in the U.S. - yes, Walker would have us believe that she's participating in the flotilla in memory of these Jews), Walker writes:

"And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our President's latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorized, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the U.S. Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

. . . .

As adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child, etc., is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to cease the behavior that makes children everywhere feel afraid."

So bottom line, we are to understand that Walker will be participating in this flotilla for the benefit of the world's children, including Jewish and Israeli children. Sorry, Alice, but I don't buy it.

Naturally, there is no mention in Walker's piece about the advanced anti-tank missile, which was smuggled into Gaza and fired at a yellow Israeli school bus two months ago, killing one Israeli child.

And what about the some 12,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets in recent years, many timed for when children in southern Israel traveled to school in the morning? No mention by Walker of how Israeli children living in the proximity of Gaza preferred to wet their beds at night rather than risk leaving a "safe room" in their homes in order to relieve themselves, thus avoiding the need to find shelter within 15 seconds if a rocket was launched.

No mention, either, of the countless Palestinian suicide bombers, who took great efforts to detonate themselves at the entrances to shopping centers, where young women and their children congregated (see, for example:,7340,L-3179915,00.html).

No discussion, of course, by Walker of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted from Israel into Gaza by Hamas, which over the course of five years has refused to allow the Red Cross or anyone else to see him (see:

But wait, there's more. Walker's CNN piece refers us to her blog (, where she further describes her experience of waiting on line to enter the West Bank from Jordan and being questioned by an Israeli at the border:

"At some point I said to him, seeing him really as I might have seen my own (misguided) son: Don't you realize this behavior, of making old men, mothers, little children, wait in long lines pleading with you to visit their families is wrong and is bad for you? I couldn't bring myself to use the "N" [Nazi] word, but I did say: Don't you think this behavior - insulting, threatening, humiliating - makes you all seem German-esque? I meant the old German-esque, of the late Thirties and Early Forties, not the current German-esque."

So here we have it again: Walker waited in line (she didn't make use of the lounge), the passport control persons were not nice (sometimes they're not nice to me), and she was questioned at length, and on this basis Israelis are being compared with Nazis, although Walker makes certain not to disparage Germans of today.

I wonder if Walker had ever seen the aftermath of a Palestinian suicide bombing and had been forced to retrieve the limbs of "old men, mothers and little children," whether she would persist in this vein. Afterall, it was Palestinian suicide bombings which resulted in the closure of the border between Israel and Gaza, through which thousands of Palestinians workers once passed each day on their way to jobs in Israel.

But let's examine Walker's Nazi analogy a bit further. In the 1933 German democratic federal elections, the Nazis emerged as the largest party and came to power. In the 2006 democratic elections in Palestine, Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis) and the obliteration of Israel, swept to power in Gaza. No mention of the Hamas charter or even Hamas in Walker's blog entry.

In addition to Jews, whom else did the Nazis persecute? Answer: among others, homosexuals. The attitude of Hamas toward homosexuals? According to Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and a member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, who was asked whether homosexual marriage would be permitted in Gaza (

"Are these the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick?”

Needless to say, there is no mention in Walker's blog item of Palestinian persecution and murder of gays.

And if that is not enough, Walker also doesn't bother to mention how women in Gaza and the West Bank are repeatedly the victims of "honor killings" by male relatives, who have been punished with sentences of six months or less for such atrocities.

I favor a two-state solution to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis along the 1967 lines with land swaps, but I also have no illusions about the intentions of Hamas. And whereas I want the Palestinians to live in dignity and independence in their own land, neither Fatah nor Hamas is prepared to acknowledge the right of tiny Israel (nine miles wide at its waist) to exist within any borders whatsoever.

This upcoming voyage to Gaza by Walker is not about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cheney, Schwerner or Goodman, as Walker would have us believe. Rather, this is about the blind refusal to seek balance and acknowledge evil, which is to be found aplenty in Alice's beloved Gaza.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The EU Dinner Without Israel: Prostitution Is Legal in Much of Europe

As reported in an article entitled "Israel served as ‘main course’ at EU dinner, official says", written by Herb Keinon, in the Jerusalem Post:

"Israel’s frustration with the EU, or at least with part of the EU, was highlighted this week when Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who was hosting the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers, held an informal dinner Sunday night on the Middle East with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at which he invited representatives from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Russia, the US, Indonesia, the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority – but not Israel."

Why should this come as a surprise? Prostitution is legal in much of Europe.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thomas Friedman's "100 Days": The Constitution Is to Blame, Not Obama

In his New York Times op-ed "100 Days" (, Thomas Friedman begins by acknowledging the demented state of the world:

"Our fiscal condition continues on an unsustainable path, the European currency is heading for a crackup, the Arab world is in the midst of a crackup, unemployment is creeping upward and basically our two parties are telling us that they will not make the reforms that we know are necessary because it would involve too much pain and could imperil their chances of winning the presidency in 2012."

"The Arab world is in the midst of a crackup"? Excuse me, Tom, what happened to all that past froth about the Arab Spring?

But let's not get caught up in asides. Friedman proceeds to acknowledge that his friend Obama has done almost next to nothing in his first two and a half years as president in order to address these problems:

"Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legendary 'First 100 Days' in office — which stabilized a country ravaged by the Depression — the first 100 days of every president have been used as a measuring stick for success.

. . . .

Really — it feels as if Barack Obama had 100 days to push through the basics we needed to stabilize the economy and then lay the basis for his one big initiative — health care reform — and then he was preparing for the midterms, and then he was recovering from his midterm losses and then he was announcing his re-election bid . . ."

Yup, Tom, you're right. Obama has achieved next to nothing. Unemployment and federal debt are worse than ever, and the U.S. is still stuck in an Afghani quagmire. However, Friedman would hold Obama blameless:

"There is no way that America can remain a great country if the opportunities for meaningful reform are reduced to either market- or and climate-induced crises and 100 working days every four years."

The system's defective, not Obama? So let's rewrite Article 2, Section 1 of the Consitution, which provides:

"The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years . . ."

You see, Obama can't possibly be culpable for our current mess. It's all the fault of the Constitution.

Maureen Dowd's "Sing Out, Hillary": Saudi Arabia's Barbarous Treatment of Women

In the past, I have been very critical of Maureen Dowd for failing to address the enormity of Saudi persecution of women, which extends far beyond a ban on driving (see, for example: Today, however, she went a long way toward correcting this deficiency in her New York Times op-ed entitled "Sing Out, Hillary" ( Dowd writes:

"Given the king’s declining health and the illness of his half-brother, the Crown Prince Sultan, the chance to give women any rights may be running out. [Prince] Nayef, who has long been in charge of the roaming odious religious police who let those schoolgirls die in the fire in Mecca because they didn’t have their headscarves on, is a contender to replace the crown prince, and it’s unlikely he’ll pull a Nixon-in-China move on women’s freedom."

As a result of this long overdue op-ed, Dowd will probably become persona non grata in the Desert Kingdom for many years to come, and she deserves praise for taking this stand.

Dowd further writes:

"No one expected Hillary to be as exuberant as the Ukrainian feminists who cruised in solidarity around the Saudi Embassy in Kiev, covering their faces and baring their breasts."

I suppose we should be even more grateful to Hillary for sticking to her course of quiet diplomacy and not mimicking the ladies of Kiev outside the Saudi embassy in Washington.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ross Douthat's "Rand and Rubio": Make Way for China

Ross Douthat, the token conservative who writes a once-weekly New York Times column, today examines division within the Republican Party concerning U.S. foreign policy in an op-ed entitled "Rand and Rubio" ( According to Douthat:

"But while this division shows up in the current presidential field, it’s distilled to its essence in two high-profile Republicans who aren’t running (not in 2012, at least): Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

. . . .

Rubio is the great neoconservative hope, the champion of a foreign policy that boldly goes abroad in search of monsters to destroy. In the Senate, he’s constantly pressed for a more hawkish line against the Mideast’s bad actors. His maiden Senate speech was a paean to national greatness, whose peroration invoked John F. Kennedy and insisted that America remain the 'watchman on the wall of world freedom.'

Paul, on the other hand, has smoothed the crankish edges off his famous father’s antiwar conservatism, reframing it in the language of constitutionalism, the national interest and the budget deficit."

Douthat tells us that the U.S. is tired of war, and unable to still share in Marco Rubio's vision, he concludes that Rand Paul is right.

First, as a minor aside, I believe that Marco Rubio will be running in 2012 -- as the Republican vice presidential candidate. He could well prove the key to garnering Hispanic votes, and, if a viable Republican presidential candidate is selected, Rubio could make the difference between victory and defeat.

But on a more substantive note, although Americans are indeed tired of the protracted involvements in Afghanistan (I have consistently opposed the U.S. ground presence in Afghanistan) and Iraq, why should this mean that the U.S. need to shift to the other extreme: isolationism. Submerged in a recession and with no signs of "change" promised by Obama, has the time come to throw in the towel and step aside for Communist China?

Indeed, the Chinese are preparing to assume this leadership role and have just revealed that they are launching their first aircraft carrier (see:, as they continue to terrorize Tibet and lead the world in executions (see:

Maybe it's because I'm getting old and rigid, but I remain a firm believer in American exceptionalism. This is not going to change. Not now, not ever.

However, concerning U.S. involvement in future conflagrations, you have to choose your fights carefully, and when you do step into the ring, you need to move swiftly and decisively. Protracted involvements without realizable defined goals, e.g., Afghanistan, are a recipe for ruin.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thomas Friedman's "What to Do With Lemons": A Lemon of a Proposal

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "What to Do With Lemons" (, Thomas Friedman proffers a "different approach" to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which, he would have us believe, is "much bigger and with more imagination" (Tom is a modest man). Friedman suggests that U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine in 1947 into independent Jewish and Arab states, now be reaffirmed by the Security Council based upon the 1967 borders with land swaps and security arrangements:

"Each side would get something vital provided it gives the other what it wants. The Palestinians would gain recognition of statehood and U.N. membership, within provisional boundaries, with Israel and America voting in favor. And the Israelis would get formal U.N. recognition as a Jewish state — with the Palestinians and Arabs voting in favor.

Moreover, the Palestinians would get negotiations based on the 1967 borders and Israel would get a U.N.-U.S. assurance that the final border would be shaped in negotiations between the parties, with land swaps, so theoretically the 5 percent of the West Bank where 80 percent of the settlers live could be traded for parts of pre-1967 Israel.

. . . .

Meanwhile, the U.S., rather than being isolated in a corner with Israel, can get credit for restarting talks — without remaining stuck on the settlements issue."

"Very simple," the Gray Lady's wizard informs us. Wow, why didn't I think of that? Actually, I can think of a number of reasons why I didn't think of it.

As reported earlier this month by Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post (, Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah Central Committee who is closely associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, informed the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that "Fatah has never recognized Israel and will never do so." Somehow I don't find that reassuring.

Then, too, there was the unity deal between Fatah and Hamas signed at the end of April. At the risk of sounding redundant, the Hamas charter calls for the murder of all Jews, rejects any negotiated settlement with Israel, and demands that Israel be eliminated by jihad, i.e. holy war, an oxymoron if ever there was one. With Fatah embracing Hamas, which has been recognized as a terror organization by the U.S., the E.U., Canada and Japan, is this the time to believe that territorial compromise by Israel will bring enduring peace with the Palestinians?

Don't get me wrong: I favor a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines with land swaps. But let's not forget how Israel was rewarded with mortar shells and missiles when it unilaterally evacuated Gaza in 2005. I am also painfully aware that Israel is nine miles wide at its waist, and any withdrawal to the 1967 lines will leave Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Netanya at the mercy of Qassam rockets.

Friedman would have Israel return to the 1967 borders with "mutually agreed border adjustments and security arrangements." Well, I'm ready for this, Tom, but first explain to me those very simple "security arrangements." You see, I personally witnessed some of those 12,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles hit civilian targets in southern Israel, yet a cynical world never cared, demanding only that Israel respond "proportionately."

So what is the solution? Perhaps there is no current solution. Given the violence, upheaval and uncertainty surrounding the so-called "Arab Spring," Fatah and Hamas, both struggling to remain in power, are at the moment prevented from reaching any compromise with Israel. In the real world, as opposed to the Merry Old Land of Oz located in Maryland just outside of Washington, timing is critical.

Let's first hear from either Fatah or Hamas that they are prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist within any boundaries whatsoever, and then let's start to talk. Unfortunately, this is a precondition that neither Fatah nor Hamas can presently accept.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Turkey's IHH Pulls Out of Gaza Flotilla

IHH, a Turkish organization linked to al-Qaeda (see:, has pulled out of the Gaza flotilla planned for later this month. According to IHH, their ship, the Mavi Marmara, which participated in the prior flotilla, did not get the necessary approval from Turkish port authorities to depart. Yeah, right.

Make no mistake about it: IHH receives marching orders from Turkey's ruling, Islamic, AKP Party, and the IHH cancellation follows Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's "suggestion" to IHH that they reconsider their participation in the flotilla (see:

The chaos and rioting in Syria, which have brought thousands of Syrian refugees to the Turkish border, have sparked tension between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his heretofore "dear friend" Assad. Erdogan is now accusing Assad of "barbarism" (see:

It could prove extremely embarrassing for Erdogan if IHH were to sail to Gaza, given the emerging humanitarian crisis on Turkey's border with Syria. It was already embarrassing enough that longevity, live births and literacy are higher in Gaza than in all of Turkey without even drawing comparisons with Turkey's disadvantaged Kurdish population.

Erdogan is carefully watching the response of Syria's oppressed Kurdish minority to the rioting. Erdogan is concerned that a Kurdish insurrection in Syria could spread to the significant Kurdish minority in Turkey, who were already outraged by the ban on their candidates' participation in national elections earlier this month (see: Erdogan does not need to be bothered by the distraction of another flotilla, given the real crisis on the Syrian border.

Also, the U.S. is now scrutinizing the conduct of Turkey, which did not provide NATO with assistance to contend with Libya's Qaddafi. Parallels will necessarily be drawn between the AKP's interaction with the IHH and the Pakistani government's "arrangements" with the Taliban and al-Qaeda (see: It would appear that both Pakistan and Turkey are adept at playing both sides of the fence.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maureen Dowd, "Camel’s Nose Under the Wheel?": A Whitewash of the Persecution of Women in Saudi Arabia

In a New York Times op-ed humorously entitled "Camel’s Nose Under the Wheel?" (, Maureen Dowd tells the story of Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia after posting a YouTube video of herself driving in a country where women are forbidden behind the wheel. Dowd writes:

"She was put in jail for a week and forced to sign a document agreeing not to talk to the press or continue her calls for reform. This had a chilling effect on women.

But, this week, Reem al-Faisal, a princess, activist and Jidda photographer who is the granddaughter of the late King Faisal and the niece of the Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, spoke out, writing in The Arab News that 'it is truly tragic that we have to fight for such an essential yet mediocre right' and be treated as 'eternal minors.'”

Is it only the ban on driving which has a "chilling effect on women" in the desert kingdom? This is a whitewash.

Note this March 2011 item from the Los Angeles Times (

"Last week, a 75-year-old Saudi woman was sentenced to 40 lashes and four months in prison for receiving two unrelated men in her home.

It didn't matter that they were only delivering bread, or that she is elderly and practically raised one of the men as her son. In Saudi Arabia, the law strictly bans a woman from mixing with men unrelated to her by blood or marriage."

Another example of the miscreant treatment of women in Saudi Arabia? As reported by GMA News in 2010 (

"An overseas Filipino worker languishing in a Saudi Arabian jail suffered miscarriage and now fears getting a hundred lashes before finally being freed.

Camille (not her real name) has been in prison since August last year after her employer turned her over to authorities because she got pregnant out of wedlock by a co-worker who raped her.

. . . .

The Shari’ah or Islamic law imposes imprisonment for women who get pregnant out of wedlock and, after giving birth, a penalty of lashes to be determined by courts before being freed."

More? As reported by the Saudi Gazette in 2009 (

"A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed.

According to the ruling, the woman will be sent to a jail outside Jeddah to spend her time and will be lashed after delivery of her baby who will take the mother’s last name."

Where were Dowd's reports on these occurrences? Had these events found their way into her New York Times column, she would never again have been permitted into Saudi Arabia.

Yes, Maureen, we all face difficult choices in our lifetimes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

David Brooks, "Pundit Under Protest": You Doth Protest Too Much

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Pundit Under Protest" (, David Brooks bemoans the state of the union as we approach the 2012 U.S. presidential election:

"The election is happening during a downturn in the economic cycle, but the core issue is the accumulation of deeper structural problems that this recession has exposed — unsustainable levels of debt, an inability to generate middle-class incomes, a dysfunctional political system, the steady growth of special-interest sinecures and the gradual loss of national vitality."


Mr. Brooks also observes that he would favor a pro-market, pro-government Hamiltonian alternative to the tired, unsavory fare being offered to voters and concludes:

"In 2012, on the other hand, we’re going to see another clash of the same old categories. I’ll be covering it, but I protest."

David, your protest has been registered, but . . .

I find it appalling that the Republican Party is unable to offer any viable candidates capable of shaking up the status quo, unless Paul Ryan changes his mind and makes a bid for the presidency.

On the other hand, should Obama be reelected, I question whether we will be seeing more of the same. Has he indeed moved to the center, or, given another four years and unshackled by the need to be reelected, might he resort to the radicalism of those with whom he associated in years past?

There is more at stake than meets the eye.

Roger Cohen's "Iran Without Nukes": He's Back!

He's back! Not Freddy Kreuger, but Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen, again foisting his own special brand of inanity upon us with respect to Iran. In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Iran Without Nukes" (, Cohen begins by inquiring:

"Remember Iran?"

How could we possibly forget? During the first six months of 2009, Cohen, a man on a mission, sought to have us believe that Iran was not a tyrannical Axis of Evil charter member, as professed by the Bush administration, but merely misunderstood. All but ignoring Iran's savage persecution of its Baha'i, Kurdish and Sunni minorities in multiple op-eds from Teheran, Cohen supported Obama's outreach to the Islamic Republic of Iran, but was ultimately mugged by the reality of the tainted June elections, which were followed by violent suppression of dissidents and the Green Movement.

Any other mortal would acknowledge that he was wrong all along, and shy away from further pronouncements, but not Cohen. Cohen now tells us that Iran is not building nuclear weapons and that it is once again time to pursue a relationship with Tehran:

". . . Seymour Hersh concludes in a New Yorker article this month that, as he put it in one interview, 'There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon.'

His reporting reveals that the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) of 2007 — which concluded 'with high confidence' that Iran had halted a nuclear-weapons program in 2003 — still pertains in the classified N.I.E. of 2011. As a retired senior intelligence official put it to Hersh, there’s nothing 'substantially new' that 'leads to a bomb.'

. . . .

The nuclear bogeyman obsession has been a distraction from the need to try to tease out a relationship with Tehran, see Iran as it is. Only the most flimsy efforts have been made, insufficient to test the waters."

I suppose Roger didn't read the editorial published by his newspaper earlier today, entitled "What the Inspectors Say" (

"Iran continues to stonewall about its illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn’t falling for it. Nobody should.

The agency’s latest report is chilling. While Tehran claims that its program has solely peaceful ends, it lists seven activities with potential 'military dimensions.' That includes 'activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile'; new evidence that Iran has worked on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology; and research on missile warhead designs — namely 'studies involving the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab 3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.'”

Concerning the nuclear triggering technology to which the I.A.E.A. makes reference, Cohen's own newspaper also had this to say in a May 24, 2011 article entitled "Watchdog Finds Evidence That Iran Worked on Nuclear Triggers" (

"The [I.A.E.A.] report said it had asked Iran about evidence of 'experiments involving the explosive compression of uranium deuteride to produce a short burst of neutrons' — the speeding particles that split atoms in two in a surge of nuclear energy. In a bomb, an initial burst of neutrons is needed to help initiate a rapid chain reaction.

Harold M. Agnew, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory, said the compression of uranium deuteride suggested work on an atomic trigger.

'I don’t know of any peaceful uses,' he said in an interview."

So whom do you believe: Roger, Seymour and some anonymous retired intelligence official or the I.A.E.A.?

Sorry, Roger, but keep up the good work. Even a broken clock is right twice each day, and you could still get lucky.

[This blog entry, submitted as an online comment in response to Cohen's op-ed, was censored by The New York Times.]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ross Douthat's "The Online Looking Glass": The Plague of Narcissism

Although I generally don't see eye to eye with Ross Douthat, or for that matter with any of the op-ed writers of The New York Times, Douthat has written what I believe to be a fascinating interpretation of the conduct of Anthony Weiner in his column entitled "The Online Looking Glass" (

"In the sad case of Representative Anthony Weiner’s virtual adultery, the Internet era’s defining vice has been thrown into sharp relief. It isn’t lust or smut or infidelity, though online life encourages all three. It’s a desperate, adolescent narcissism.

. . . .

His 'partners' existed less to titillate him than to hold up mirrors to his own vanity: whether the congressman was tweeting photos of his upper body or bragging about what lurked below, his focus was always squarely on himself.”

Bravo, Mr. Douthat. As I stated in a prior blog entry (

"Will Weiner voluntarily resign? No way. Weiner is consumed with self-interest and is yet another poster boy for narcissism, the plague of the 21st century."

But what about the causes of narcissism and the damage that it does to those living with persons afflicted with the disease? I strongly recommend reading Dr. Richard Grossman's essay "Voicelessness: Narcissism" (, which states in part:

"Many people spend a lifetime aggressively trying to protect an injured or vulnerable 'self.' Traditionally, psychologists have termed such people 'narcissists,' but this is a misnomer. To the outside world it appears that these people love themselves. Yet, at their core they don't love themselves--in fact their self barely exists, and what part does exist is deemed worthless. All energy is devoted to inflating the self, like a persistent child trying to blow up a balloon with a hole.

Because they need continuous proof of the significance of their voice, narcissists must find people, particularly important people, to hear and value them. If they are not heard, their childhood wound opens, and they quickly begin to melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West. This terrifies them. Narcissists use everyone around them to keep themselves inflated. Often they find flaws in others and criticize them fiercely, for this further distinguishes them from those who are defective."

In my opinion, Weiner's refusal to resign as a congressman is just one more manifestation of his ailment, which causes him to place "self" at the epicenter at the expense of all around him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "The Uncertainty Tax": We Need to Be Retooled

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Uncertainty Tax" (, Thomas Friedman divulges the secret to reduce U.S. unemployment:

"Thanks to a credit bubble over the last decade, we created a lot of jobs for people — in construction and retail — who did not have globally competitive skills or post-high school degrees. Those workers will need retooling.

. . . .

Any good news? Yes, U.S. corporations are getting so productive and sitting on so much cash, just a few big, smart, bipartisan decisions by Congress on taxes and spending (and mortgages) and I think this whole economy starts to improve again."

Holy cow! Salvation is just around the corner! It only demands that you and I be "retooled" and "a few big, smart, bipartisan decisions by Congress."

I don't know about you, but I'm fast entering into the "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" stage of my life. Yet don't let that bother you, Tom. Run to the president and let him know the good news about "retooling." You've hit upon the case breaker!

But wait. Before you hurry off to Obama, what about that other prerequisite, "smart, bipartisan decisions by Congress"? Are these decisions to be reached when congressmen are not busy tweeting pictures of their genitals? I suppose this is the hard part.

Maureen Dowd "Newt Loves Callista": The Joke Is on Us

The New York Times op-ed roster never had much slugging power, but with perennial Republican haters Frank Rich and Gail Collins on permanent and temporary leave, respectively, and no replacements coming up from the minors, their op-ed page has been sinking to the bottom of the standings. Today, Maureen Dowd came trotting out of the dugout to pinch-hit for these two absent pundits and took a mighty swing at would-be Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich in "Newt Loves Callista" ( Dowd writes:

"Funnily enough, none of his sexual transgressions — even when he was pushing Clinton’s impeachment while he himself was cheating with Callista, then a 20-something aide on the House Agriculture Committee — landed him in as much political trouble as being loyal to his wife.

He thought his devotion to Callista would bring him political redemption. Instead, it has brought him political reduction. His campaign now boils down to the two of them."

"Funnily enough"? There is nothing funny at all when the United States is beset with unemployment of over 9%, no relief is expected for the next decade, and the Republican Party is unable to field anyone better than the likes of Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin to run against an incumbent who has dismally failed to deliver. Yeah, sure there is Mitt Romney, who is "almost credible," but "almost credible" doesn't cut it in these times.

You want "funny"? I thought it was laughable that the outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense needed to decry the failure of America's NATO allies to assist against Libyan tyrant Qadaffi, when earlier in the week President Obama hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a gala Rose Garden dinner and presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom before more than 200 VIP guests. Germany, NATO’s biggest historic beneficiary, has refused to assist the U.S. in freeing Libya. Hillarious, isn't it?

At least the leading ladies of Washington were able to dust off their gowns and fancy shoes for a gaggle of waiting photographers.

So when does a reputable Republican step up to the plate and offer a viable alternative? Is he/she so hard to find? This time around, with the U.S. facing an economic abyss, the stakes are indeed high.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New York Times "Talking Truth to NATO": More Hypocrisy from Obama

In an editorial entitled "Talking Truth to NATO" (, The New York Times commends outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates for publicly criticizing America's allies which have not done their fair share in the struggle against Qaddafi. The editorial states:

"Fewer than half of NATO’s 28 members are taking part in the military mission. Fewer than a third are participating in the all-important airstrikes. British and French aircraft carry the main burden. Canada, Belgium, Norway and Denmark, despite limited resources, have made outsized contributions. Turkey, with the alliance’s second-largest military, has remained largely on the sidelines. Germany, NATO’s biggest historic beneficiary, has done nothing at all."

Well, this didn't stop President Obama from hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a gala Rose Garden dinner on Tuesday and presenting Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom before more than 200 VIP guests.

I suppose freedom doesn't apply to Libya.

But Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, and what has he achieved?

Then, too, Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson in 2009, despite her meetings with Hamas, her historic antagonism to the U.S., and her involvement in the 2001 World Conference against Racism in Durban, which degenerated into an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate fest.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Paul Krugman's "Rule by Rentiers": It's All a Big Conspiracy

Paul Krugman in his latest New York Times op-ed, "Rule by Rentiers" (, acknowledges that there is no end in sight to America's unemployment problem and again demands that the federal government spend its way out of the conundrum:

"Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree."

This must be Krugman's umpteenth op-ed calling for increased deficit spending, but this time there is a twist, or a villain behind the plot, i.e. the "rentiers":

"What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

. . . .

Who are these creditors I’m talking about? Not hard-working, thrifty small business owners and workers, although it serves the interests of the big players to pretend that it’s all about protecting little guys who play by the rules. The reality is that both small businesses and workers are hurt far more by the weak economy than they would be by, say, modest inflation that helps promote recovery.

No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios."

Forgive me, Paul, but I'm a little confused here. I'm no fan of banks (I wasted too many years of my life working for one), but I always thought that healthy economies meant lower credit risk, less doubtful debt, and better opportunities for financial institutions to lend money and improve their balance sheets.

"Wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios"? I would think that they would also be happier if economies would expand with a corresponding increase in bond yields.

But someone must be blamed for America's economic woes, and rather than point a finger at Obama, whose name never once appears in Krugman's op-ed, let's impugn those elusive "rentiers."

David Brooks, "Politicians Behaving Well"

In his latest New York Times column, "Politicians Behaving Well" (, David Brooks reminisces over a time when politicians behaved themselves. Devoting much of his op-ed to Trollope’s Phineas Finn, who entered Parliament determined to obey his conscience, Brooks writes:

"One reason many politicians behave badly these days is that we spend less time thinking about what it means to behave well. This was less of a problem in past centuries when leaders, teachers and clergy held detailed debates over what it meant to have good character.

. . . .

Trollope’s ideal leaders are not glamorous celebrities of the sort we have come to long for since J.F.K. They are more like seamen or carpenters. They are judged by their professional craftsmanship.

They are thin-skinned about any moral transgression they might commit and rigorously honest when judging themselves."

Regrettably, Phineas Finn is a figment of Trollope's imagination, and I don't remember a time when politicians as a whole behaved well, with the exception of America's founding fathers. The difference is that in the past they did not leave computerized fingerprints.

Brooks concludes:

"And if more people spent their evenings at least thinking about what exemplary behavior means, they might be less likely to find themselves sending out emotionally stunted tweets late at night."

But how will people learn to spend their evenings turning inwards and contemplating virtue in an age of narcissism, when books, including those of Trollope, are no longer read, classical concerts are no longer attended, and "American Idol" is all the rage. For the most part, politicians, with some notable exceptions, are the bottom of the barrel.

Me? I will never forget a conversation I held with U.S. Congressman Al Lowenstein, who, some 35 years ago, berated me for commuting every day in my battered Mercury Cougar to law school. "What a waste of gasoline," he declared to all within earshot. At the time, I didn't have the cohones to tell him that there was no public transportation that could get me to classes and that the overseas conference that he had just attended had also been a monumental waste of energy, but I doubt he would have cared. He was too in love with himself to listen.

Roger Cohen, "When Fear Breaks": An Untraditional Haiku

After long puzzling over Roger Cohen's latest New York Times op-ed, "When Fear Breaks" (, I have come to the conclusion that within this chaotic stream of consciousness there is an untraditional haiku. Poetry is certainly not my thing, but allow me this attempt at translating Cohen:

I'm in Canada,
people are nice and decent,
outside things are tense.

Muslim defiance,
Ineffable potential,
the Arab surprise.

Europe saves euro,
Chinese emergence on stage,
Freedom is a bless.

The New York Times op-ed roster never had much slugging power, but with perennial Republican haters Rich and Collins on permanent and temporary leave, respectively, and no replacements coming up from the minors, their op-ed page is sinking to the bottom of the standings.

Nicholas Kristof's "Release My Friend!": Sorry, Nick, It's Not All About You and Your Friends

Dear Nicholas,

I just read your New York Times op-ed "Release My Friend!" (, which, in the form of an open letter to King Hamad of Bahrain, requests the release of Hassan al-Sahaf.

Don't misunderstand me, Nick. I hope your friend has not been tortured in his Bahraini prison cell, and I pray that he will be swiftly released. But this world is not all about you and your friends, and there are hundreds of thousands of persons like Hassan al-Sahaf being abused and murdered in prisons throughout the Muslim Middle East.

Let's talk about another one of your friends, Roger Cohen. In June 2009, in a New York Times item entitled "Questions About Iran? Ask a Witness" in your column "On the Ground" (, you wrote:

"I’m delighted to welcome back Roger Cohen, my fellow Times columnist, from Iran. For the last couple of weeks, frankly, I’ve been gnashing my teeth with jealousy, both over Roger’s two-week visa to Iran (which left him there after other reporters had to leave) and over his superb columns and videos.

He has agreed to take your questions about Iran and what it was like there, so fire away.

But since I’m here at the keyboard, I get first dibs…"

"Superb columns"? Not a mention of how Cohen attempted to persuade his readership over the course of some six months that "Iran is not totalitarian." Not a mention of how Cohen largely ignored Iran's horrific persecution of Baha'is, Kurds, Sunnis and homosexuals. Not a mention of how Cohen wrote an op-ed "What Iran's Jews Say," but failed to state that his interviews were conducted via a government-appointed interpreter (see:

But why should Cohen's coverage of Iran disturb you? Although you covered events at Tahrir Square at great length, you ignored the ongoing persecution and murder of Egypt's Christian Copts. Was it because this didn't comport with your storyline exalting the Arab Spring?

Back to your Bahraini friend, Hassan al-Sahaf: I fervently hope that he will soon be released, but, as earlier stated, he is only one of hundreds of thousands of persons jailed and undergoing torture throughout the Muslim Middle East. The Arab Spring notwithstanding, murder and intolerance persist in Egypt and Tunisia.

Nick, where are your columns on the Kurds, Copts and Baha'is?

It's not all about you and your friends.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Maureen Dowd, "Your Tweetin’ Heart": Who Cares About Weiner's Motivation?

In her New York Times op-ed of today's date, "Your Tweetin’ Heart" (, Maureen Dowd explores the motivation underlying Congressman Anthony Weiner's online relationships with women:

"Often powerful men crave more than love and admiration from The Good Wife. Sometimes they want risk, even danger. Sometimes they’re turned on by a power differential. They adore a fan reaction like the one from Lisa Weiss, the Vegas blackjack dealer, who flirted with Weiner on Facebook: 'you are sooo awesome when you yell at those fox news' pundits, and 'I bet you have so many chicks after you! you are our liberal stud.'"

Unlike Ms. Dowd, however, I am not interested in Weiner's motivation. Weiner should go for psychological counseling and attempt to save his marriage, if there is anything left of it. More important, he should resign from the House immediately, inasmuch as the U.S. Congress, seeking to avert an economic meltdown, need not be distracted by Weiner's antics.

Will Weiner voluntarily resign? No way. Weiner is consumed with self-interest, and is yet another poster boy for narcissism, the plague of the 21st century (see: Surely Weiner must be asking himself, if Barney Frank managed to remain in Congress, why should he have to go? Good question.

Meanwhile House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is demanding a House ethics committee probe into whether official resources were mishandled by Weiner. This is the same Pelosi who labeled Syria's Bashar al-Assad a "model Arab leader." In my opinion, Weiner's miscreant conduct pales in comparison with Pelosi's indiscretion, but I don't imagine we'll be hearing a mea culpa from Nancy anytime soon.

Just another case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Thomas Friedman, "The Earth Is Full": Tom Is Full of Himself

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Earth Is Full" (, Thomas Friedman temporarily abandons the Arab Spring, which is fast degenerating into a Middle East ice age, and is back to telling us that we are in denial about the severity of the climate crisis and the needed response. Throughout his column, Friedman cites Paul Gilding, "the veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur," who calls for a world in which its human inhabitants live a fuller life with less "stuff":

"We will realize, he [Gilding] predicts, that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less."

Query: Does this mean that Friedman is prepared to share his mansion with a dozen tenement dwellers from Washington, D.C.?

Friedman writes:

"We’re currently caught in two loops: One is that more population growth and more global warming together are pushing up food prices; rising food prices cause political instability in the Middle East, which leads to higher oil prices, which leads to higher food prices, which leads to more instability. At the same time, improved productivity means fewer people are needed in every factory to produce more stuff. So if we want to have more jobs, we need more factories. More factories making more stuff make more global warming, and that is where the two loops meet."

Well, not quite, Tom. For example, if oil prices remain high, shale oil, of which there are world reserves exceeding 3 trillion barrels, will become commercially viable. And guess who owns most of it? More than 60% of world deposits are located in the U.S., primarily in the Green River Formation. Indeed, better answers will need to be found to extract the shale oil without damaging the environment, but what better way to create a vast new industry, offering both hi-tech and low-tech jobs?

Tom tells us that more jobs demand more factories, which make for more global warming. Well, not exactly. Take, for example, the Kindle, which allows its owners to read books, newspapers, magazines and blogs without cutting down trees for paper.

Tom also tells us:

"While in Yemen last year, I saw a tanker truck delivering water in the capital, Sana. Why? Because Sana could be the first big city in the world to run out of water, within a decade."

Indeed, Yemen could run out of potable water within a decade unless it purchases several Israeli desalination plants, which will prevent this from happening. Yes, I know -- Yemen will have a problem buying anything from Israel, but at least in my view, Middle East cooperation in managing water resources might hold the key to peace between Arabs and Israelis (see:

Don't misunderstand me: The earth is overcrowded, and population control is demanded in order to promote economic and political stability. However, Friedman fails to observe that larger families are at the expense of education and nurturing for the world's children. As trite as it may sound, love is the key to many of our ills. We can overcome technological and economic problems, but there is never enough love to go around.

Naksa Day Clashes on Israeli Border Backfiring on Syria

Earlier this week the Assad regime sent hundreds of Palestinians to storm the Israeli border with Syria, resulting in the death of several Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians died after throwing Molotov cocktails, which started a fire that spread to the Syrian side of the border and set off land mines.

This calculated attempt to distract the Arab street from the slaughter of protesters in Hama and elsewhere throughout Syria by Assad's security forces, appears to be backfiring on Assad. As reported by the Jerusalem Post (

"Fourteen people were reportedly killed and 43 injured Monday after violence erupted in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

The violence broke out in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus when thousands of refugees attacked the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Commend (PFLP-GC) after a funeral was held for Palestinians killed by IDF fire during 'Naksa' Day clashes earlier this week.

The mourners at the funeral accused the PFLP leadership of sending their 'sons' to the border clashes.

. . . .

Reports also said that the mourners attacked Palestinian leaders including the head of Hamas's political bureau Khaled Mashaal, who came to express his condolences."

Apparently, Palestinians living in Syria have decided that they are not willing to become Assad's expendable pawns.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Roger Cohen, "The Spirit That Binds": The Ideology That Blinds

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "The Spirit That Binds" (, Roger Cohen, writing from Venice, would have us believe that the United States and Europe are bound by "values of human dignity and freedom." Absent from this lofty prose is any reference whatsoever to the silence of the West concerning the ongoing slaughter of innocents in Syria by Bashar al-Assad, once a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. Yes, I know, Assad has effectively kept the media from recording the horrors of Hama and Daraa, and if a tree falls in a forest without anyone there to witness it, did it really happen? Answer: Yes.

Also absent from Cohen's piece is the willingness of Germany, for example, to avoid imposing economic sanctions on that other regime from hell, Iran, which, Cohen for so many months informed us, is "not totalitarian." Apparently "human dignity and freedom" pale before greed.

Cohen writes:

"There are three priorities. End the war in Libya in short order with the departure of Muammar el-Qaddafi. Ensure democratic change equals opportunity for young societies: Europe needs to help create a regional investment bank similar to the one that helped fulfill the promise of the last spring — of 1989. And remember the Arab Spring’s bumper sticker, 'It’s Egypt, stupid.' Egypt is the pivot.

I’d argue that Egypt is now more important to America than Afghanistan. Its success in a democratic transition would be the best antidote to the frustrations in the Arab world that led to 9/11."

A European investment bank serving the needs of the Muslim Middle East? Forgive me, but can Europe even afford such a vehicle given the economic problems mushrooming across the continent? Europe, like the United States, is buckling under its debt load.

"It's Egypt, stupid"? Stupid here would argue that Egypt could prove a larger sinkhole than Afghanistan, given its spiraling birth rate, unemployment, innate religious fanaticism, and high level of illiteracy. This is not fertile ground for democracy, nor will it ever be.

Enjoy the canals of Venice, Roger, and keep up the good work.

JG, Caesarea News Alert: Anthony Weiner Offered to Host News Discussion Program

Having acknowledged that he had inappropriate online relationships with women and indeed sent a lewd photo over Twitter, Anthony Weiner has stated that he will not resign from the U.S. House of Representatives.

This has prompted House Minority Leader Nancy "Assad is a model Arab leader" Pelosi (D-Calif.) to ask for a House ethics committee probe into whether official resources had been mishandled.

Meanwhile, I have it from a highly unreliable source that Weiner is considering an offer to follow in the footsteps of Eliot Spitzer and host a news discussion show to be entitled "The World in Briefs". Just imagine:

"You give us five minutes, and we'll give you the world . . . in briefs."

Naksa Day: Israel Responds to Syrian Casualty Figures

In response to the claims of Syrian Health Minister Wael al-Halki that 23 persons storming Israel's border with Syria yesterday were killed, and 350 were wounded, in commemoration of Yawm an-Naksa, i.e. the "day of the setback," referring to the 1967 Six Day War, Israel finally got around to responding (

"[Israeli Defense Minister] Barak told Israel Radio that he believed the death count was under 20.

The Army said that at least eight protesters who died in Naksa Day border clashes were killed by land mines that exploded on the Syrian side of the border, after the rioters threw gasoline bombs, which exploded in a field, starting a fire that then set off the mines."

Israel still hasn't learned that this is a "real-time" world, and this highly relevant information should have been conveyed to the media much earlier.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Golan Heights Violence: CNN Changes Its Home Page Headline

Earlier today CNN ran the following headline on the home page of its website:

"4 killed, many injured in Golan Heights protests

Four protesters were killed and nine wounded when they attempted to cross the heavily-fortified Golan Heights between Syria and Israel."

I contacted CNN:

"This [the alleged number of dead] is based upon Syrian television, which is notoriously inaccurate and attempting to distract the Arab street from what is occurring within Syria. Four died? Did a CNN reporter see the bodies? Their names please? Or does CNN also seek to participate in the incitement?"

CNN has now changed the home page headline:

"20 reported killed as protesters, Israeli forces clash

Twenty protesters were killed today in Golan Heights clashes between Israeli forces and pro-Palestinian demonstrators, Syrian TV reported."

I don't know if I am responsible for the change in the headline. However, I am surprised Syrian TV is not claiming 1,000 dead among those bussed by the Assad regime to the Syrian border with Israel to commemorate Yawm an-Naksa, i.e. "day of the setback," referring to the 1967 Six Day War.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "Advice for China": Look to Tunisia

In his latest New York Times tour de force entitled "Advice for China" (, Thomas Friedman recommends that China heed the Arab Spring, which, according to Tom, is all about human dignity:

"If you want to know what brings about revolutions, it is not G.D.P. rising or falling, says [Russian historian] Aron, 'it is the quest for dignity.' We always exaggerate people’s quest for G.D.P. and undervalue their quest for ideals. 'Dignity before bread' was the slogan of the Tunisian revolution. 'The spark that lights the fuse is always the quest for dignity,' said Aron. 'Today’s technology just makes the fire much more difficult to put out.'”

Very inspiring, Tom, and I, too, seek out the assistance of Russian historians when attempting analysis of events in the Middle East. But let's also have a look at what's really happening in Tunisia. As reported by Reuters yesterday (

"Three people were killed and 90 wounded after rival clans clashed over access to jobs in the central Tunisian mining town of Metlaoui, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.

Clan members used homemade bombs, guns and iron bars against each other after a rumor spread in the town that only certain tribes would be offered jobs at the nearby Gafsa phosphate complex. Shops were looted and set on fire."

Indeed, just another example of "dignity before bread." By the way, this was not the first such "dignified" occurrence in Metlaoui since the January uprising, which was largely prompted by joblessness.

Incidentally, I just spoke over a noisy "monitored" line (my hearing has been damaged over the years, and I had trouble understanding everything that was said) with a grumpy senior official from the menacing Ministry of State Security in Beijing, who extended his gratitude to Tom for this gratuitous advice, mentioned something about a terrible haircut (What does my hair have to do with human dignity?), and mumbled "fàng pì" (I have since learned the translation) when hanging up the phone.

New York Times Editorial, "President Assad’s Bloody Hands": A New Level of Hypocrisy

In an editorial entitled "President Assad’s Bloody Hands" (, The New York Times decries the failure of the United Nations Security Council to condemn the murder of civilians in Syria:

"Most appalling, the United Nations Security Council is unable to muster the votes to condemn the bloodshed much less impose sanctions. Russia, cynically protecting longstanding ties with Damascus, is blocking meaningful action and China has fallen in lockstep. India is also reluctant to act — a shameful stance for a democracy that has been bidding for a permanent seat on the Council."

Remarkably, this editorial never once mentions Obama's appointment of Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria or Obama's failure to recall him.

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 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: This move has now backfired on Obama, leaving him in a quandary how to clean up the mess.

The New York Times Editorial additionally states:

"After the killing began, the United States and Europe imposed sanctions — mostly travel bans and asset freezes — on certain key regime officials while exempting Mr. Assad. Only later did they add his name to the list. The rhetoric is stiffening. On Thursday Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that Mr. Assad’s legitimacy is 'if not gone, nearly run out.' But some American and European officials still buy the fantasy that Mr. Assad could yet implement reforms."

Assad's legitimacy has "nearly run out"? Hillary's rhetoric is "stiffening"? Hillary's declarations are as stiffening and useless to the protesters in Hama as a bottle of Viagra. Recall Hillary's declaration in late March in which she sought to shield Assad from disapproval (

"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."

Once again, the U.S. ambassador to Syria should have been recalled months ago without consideration for what the United Nations Security Council does or does not do. Shame on Obama, shame on Hillary, and shame on The New York Times!

Obama, Recall Ambassador Ford from Syria!

Sixty-three protesters were murdered throughout Syria yesterday by Assad's security forces, but mostly in Hama, in the worst outbreak of violence since the beginning of unrest in this country. The horror came as no surprise (see:

Homework: Go the website of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria ( Although there is a very lovely picture of Ambassador Robert Ford, do you see any mention of the violence sweeping Syria?

Now click on "News & Events" in this website. Do you see any mention of unrest? I don't. Sickening.

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: It's high time for Obama to acknowledge his mistake in reaching out to the world's most barbarous regimes and immediately recall Ambassador Ford.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

David Brooks, "The Depravity Factor"

Bless you, David Brooks!

I am usually critical of almost everything that finds its way onto the op-ed page of The New York Times; however, Brooks's "The Depravity Factor" ( was a startling exception.

Brooks tells us that there won’t be peace so long as depraved regimes, such as Syria and Libya, and depraved organizations, such as Hamas, are "part of the picture." He tells us "to focus on the nature of regimes, not only the boundaries between them." And he concludes that the "Arab reform process," rather than negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, "is the peace process."

Brooks begins:

"By now you have probably heard about Hamza Ali al-Khateeb. He was the 13-year-old Syrian boy who tagged along at an antigovernment protest in the town of Saida on April 29. He was arrested that day, and the police returned his mutilated body to his family a month later. While in custody, he had apparently been burned, beaten, lacerated and given electroshocks. His jaw and kneecaps were shattered. He was shot in both arms. When his father saw the state of Hamza’s body, he passed out."


I would add that this is far from the only graphic evidence of the brutality of the Assad regime (see:, and I have been calling upon the Obama administration to recall the U.S. ambassador to Syria for the past two months, but to no avail (see: 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, and Obama is reluctant to acknowledge his mistake (see:

Brooks states:

"World leaders have tried sweet-talking Syria, calling Bashar al-Assad a friend (Nancy Pelosi) or a reformer (Hillary Clinton)."

But among Americans, Pelosi and Clinton are not the only ones who should be ashamed. Consider the conduct of Senator John Kerry, whose special relationship with Assad was scrutinized by The Boston Globe (

"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."

Kerry wants to be the next secretary of state?

And what about Jimmy Carter, who has often met with Assad and bragged that he has known the Syrian leader since he was a college student (see Peggy Shapiro's "Assad: Fooled us twice, shame on us":

Today, I am expecting a bloodbath in Syria when Syrians leave the mosques and confront Assad's security forces, which are being assisted by thugs from Hezbollah and counterinsurgency experts from Iran. As I have stated in the past, Assad's days are numbered, notwithstanding the indifference of the Obama administration to this human tragedy.

[To my "friends" from Assad's security apparatus in Damascus who regularly read this blog: Time to start packing your bags, boys.]