Follow by Email

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gail Collins, "The Curse of the Mitt": Seamus the Dog for the Twenty-Second Time

Over the course of several months, we were told that Gail Collins was busy writing a book and would not be attending to her bi-weekly New York Times op-ed column. Well, she's back, and in my opinion, she needs some more time away.

This past Wednesday, Gail published an op-ed entitled "Happy Tidings from the Hill" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/29/opinion/collins-happy-tidings-from-the-hill.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), which, try as I might, I was unable to finish. I recall some meandering blather with references to "Willow the cat."

Today, Gail has blessed us with "The Curse of the Mitt" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/opinion/collins-the-curse-of-the-mitt.html?_r=1&hp), which I suppose is intended as a follow-up to a prior Collins gem labeled "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/04/gail-collinss-mitt-mitt-mitt-once-was.html).

Unlike "Happy Tidings from the Hill," I was able to read through "The Curse of the Mitt," but just barely. It consisted of a series of disconnected paragraphs explaining how Romney is overwhelming a currently underwhelming field of G.O.P. presidential candidates, questioning facetiously whether Romney has been responsible for the collapse of the Boston Red Sox this season, and warning Chris Christie to avoid the presidential race owing to Romney's peculiar powers. And yes, you guessed it, she couldn't help indulging her own personal obsession with yet another reference to the Seamus story:

"Is there a way to work the fact that [Romney] drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof of the car into this story?"

Answer to Gail: Actually, no. My understanding is that this is the twentieth time Collins has referred to the story (see: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/sep/13/gail-collins/mitt-romney-and-dog-car-roof-one-columnists-obsess/).

Wait, I stand corrected -- this is the twenty-first time. In a September 23, 2011 op-ed entitled "Perry's Bad Night" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/opinion/perrys-bad-night.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), i.e. just a week ago, Collins again wrote:

"For one thing, I don’t want to believe I live in a country that would seriously consider bestowing the nation’s highest office on a man who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car."

I'm sorry, hold the press! A FORA.tv video (http://video.answers.com/why-mitt-romney-will-not-be-president-517000725) has Collins, perched on the edge of her seat, recounting the story for a twenty-second time.

Sad.

Andrew Rosenthal will never allow me a guest column on the op-ed page of The New York Times. My views are not in keeping with the leftist editorial leanings of the ever more decrepit Gray Lady. However, as regards Gail, there is a whole world out there to write about, which extends far beyond Democrats and Republicans, and I am saddened to see how a column, which can impact many lives, is squandered from week to week.

"Chris Christie’s big problem": WAPO's Eugene Robinson Expresses Concern Over Chris Christie's Weight

In a Washington Post op-ed entitled "Chris Christie’s big problem" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chris-christies-big-problem/2011/09/29/gIQAAL7J8K_story.html?hpid=z2), Eugene Robinson would have us believe that New Jersey's Chris Christie is not fit to serve as president:

"Chris Christie needs to find some way to lose weight. Like everyone else, elected officials perform best when they are in optimal health. Christie obviously is not."

The Democrats can't afford to lose New Jersey in 2012 (they never even seriously considered the possibility, see: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/30/us/politics/keys-to-victory.html), and they are obviously hitting the panic button. The Republicans might have a winner, albeit several pounds heavier than his optimal fighting weight.

Palestinian New Year's Greetings: More Rocket Fire

As Jews in Israel prepared for Rosh Hashana, Palestinians in Gaza made certain to send greetings across the border: Two Qassam rockets targeting civilians were fired into southern Israel on Tuesday, and a third rocket was fired into Israel on Thursday evening.

Do you remember what Palestinian President Abbas told a cheering UN General Assembly one week ago:

"The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms."

Yeah, right.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paul Krugman, "Phony Fear Factor": Blame the Republicans for Unemployment

In his New York Times op-ed "Phony Fear Factor" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/opinion/krugman-phony-fear-factor.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), Paul Krugman tells us that the fear of "costly regulations and higher taxes" is not responsible for the lack of hiring, as Republicans would have us believe, and that blaming the Obama administration for unemployment is unfair:

"Never mind the fact that the housing bubble, the debt explosion and the financial crisis took place on the watch of a conservative, free-market-praising president; it’s that Democrat in the White House now who gets the blame."

I'm not a Republican, and I don't blame Obama for weak job growth. I believe that we have entered a new era in which computers, robotics, automation and information technology are responsible for an efficacy which has made many jobs redundant. I do not foresee future demand for unskilled labor. For that matter, I believe that even with respect to skilled labor, mediocrity will no longer suffice in the marketplace.

Which is not to say that I don't blame Obama for the economic mess currently faced by the US. The US budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in 2011 for the third straight year; prior to Obama, the deficit never exceeded $1 trillion. Moreover, during Obama's time in office, America has increased its debt by $4 trillion. Sorry, Paul, but with no economic recovery in sight, this is catastrophic. The sale of Plum Island and other odds and ends by the federal government for $22 billion (see: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44724162/ns/politics-the_new_york_times/#.ToVKl9QjKuI) is not going to make a dent in this shortfall.

For that matter, even Vice President Biden acknowledged on a Florida radio station on Thursday that the economy is now Obama's fault and not that of Bush (see: http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2011/09/29/biden-economy-our-fault-not-bush.html?obref=obnetwork).

Obama promised hope and change, but didn't deliver. In 2009, Obama signed the biggest economic stimulus plan in US history, and pledging to create or save 600,000 jobs, he declared, "Now we're in a position to really accelerate." Well now, in 2011, the president and Krugman are back to blaming Bush. I suppose this is the problem inherent in being a phony messiah.

Iran Threatens US Atlantic Coast: Thanks, Obama

I am angry. Correction: I am furious.

Iran is threatening to deploy warships opposite the US Atlantic coast purportedly owing to the presence of the US Navy in the Persian Gulf. The official Islamic Republic News Agency quotes Iranian Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying:

“Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders.”

Sayyari's threat came in parallel with the announcement by the Iranian defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, that Tehran will begin to mass-produce cruise missiles with a 124-mile range, which can "sink giant warships."

And if that is not enough, America's ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who has yet to be recalled from Damascus, was today assaulted with stones and tomatoes while visiting Hassan Abdel-Azim. Abdel-Azim, a centrist politician, has been demanding an end to Assad's crackdown on dissidents, which has claimed over 3,000 Syrian lives in recent months.

Yes, a tomato is a fruit, and we are now witnessing some of the fruit reaching the market from Obama's outreach program to the world's "misunderstood" tyrannies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "2 for 2, or 2 for 1?": Shameless Twaddle

Rarely have I been so sickened by a Friedman op-ed.

In his latest New York Times column entitled "2 for 2, or 2 for 1?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/opinion/friedman-2-for-2-or-2-for-1.html?_r=1&hp), would-be Middle East expert Friedman places equal blame on Palestinian Authority President Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Obama for the stalemate in the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Friedman begins:

"Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and President Obama all spoke at the U.N. last week and, honestly, it is hard to decide whose speech was worse. Netanyahu’s read like a pep rally to the Likud Central Committee. Abbas’s read like an address to an Arab League meeting. Obama’s read like an appeal to Jewish voters in Florida."

Friedman would have us believe that Netanyahu’s speech to the UN "read like a pep rally to the Likud Central Committee." Oh, really? Let's look at some of that speech:

"The settlements have to be -- it's an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of negotiations.

. . . .

President Abbas, stop walking around this issue. Recognize the Jewish state, and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects. They should live in a free state of their own.

. . . .

The day I came into office, I called for direct negotiations without preconditions. President Abbas didn't respond. I outlined a vision of peace of two states for two peoples. He still didn't respond. I removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, to ease freedom of movement in the Palestinian areas; this facilitated a fantastic growth in the Palestinian economy. But again -- no response. I took the unprecedented step of freezing new buildings in the settlements for 10 months. No prime minister did that before, ever. [Scattered applause.] Once again -- you applaud, but there was no response. No response.

In the last few weeks, American officials have put forward ideas to restart peace talks. There were things in those ideas about borders that I didn't like. There were things there about the Jewish state that I'm sure the Palestinians didn't like.

But with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward on these American ideas.

. . . .

In two and a half years, we met in Jerusalem only once, even though my door has always been open to you. If you wish, I'll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We've both just flown thousands of miles to New York. Now we're in the same city. We're in the same building. So let's meet here today in the United Nations. Who's there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations?"

Excuse me, Tom, but you would have us believe that this is the voice of intransigence?

Now let's have a look at a single paragraph from Abbas's speech to the UN, which explains in a nutshell why the Palestinian leadership continues to reject any peaceful settlement with Israel:

"I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence."

Or in other words, both Christians and Muslims have deep ties to the Holy Land, but there can be no recognition of the Jews' historical link to the same region.

The reality here is that both Arafat and Abbas have consistently rejected peace with Israel based upon the 1967 lines. Moreover, Abbas is now saying that he will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that a future Palestinian state will have no Jews within its borders.

Abbas does not want peace, and in the past he has indicated that he is perfectly content with the status quo (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/08/new-york-times-editorial-new-chance-for.html) However, Abbas does wish to preserve his authoritarian rule. Elected to serve as the president of the Palestinian Authority until January 2009, Abbas continues in his current position without a mandate.

I have no affinity for the Likud, but I am forced to admit that Netanyahu made a lot of sense in his UN speech. I want a two-state solution, I want the Palestinians to live securely in their own nation structured along the 1967 lines with land swaps acceptable to both parties, but I also wish to see an Israel free from the threat of rocket fire directed at its towns and cities.

I have witnessed from up close too many wars, and I want peace for my children and all in the Middle East; however, Friedman's pretentious pontifical bull (as in papal bull) from his Maryland mansion, safe from missiles, rockets, mortar shells and suicide bombers, makes me ill.

Monday, September 26, 2011

David Brooks, "The Lost Decade?": A Savage Rebuke to Friedman and Krugman

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Lost Decade?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/opinion/brooks-the-lost-decade.html?_r=1&hp), David Brooks opines that there is no individual factor which is alone responsible for the disastrous state of the global economy and further states that there is no individual problem which is prolonging the crisis:

"This crisis has many currents, which merge and feed off each other. There is the lack of consumer demand, the credit crunch, the continuing slide in housing prices, the freeze in business investment, the still hefty consumer debt levels and the skills mismatch — not to mention regulatory burdens, the business class’s utter lack of confidence in the White House, the looming explosion of entitlement costs, the public’s lack of confidence in institutions across the board.

No single one of these currents prolongs the crisis. It is the product of the complex interplay between them. To put it in fancy terms, the crisis is an emergent condition — even more terrible than the sum of its parts."

Brooks, who appears to perceive the crisis as a "perfect storm," goes on to attack those who believe that bandaging any one of these contributory ills will result in a cure:

"Yet the ideologues who dominate the political conversation are unable to think in holistic, emergent ways. They pick out the one factor that best conforms to their preformed prejudices and, like blind men grabbing a piece of the elephant, they persuade themselves they understand the whole thing.

Many Democrats are predisposed to want more government spending. So they pick up on the one current they think can be cured with more government spending: low consumer demand. Increase government spending and that will pump up consumer spending.

. . . .

Many Republicans, meanwhile, are predisposed to want lower taxes and less regulation. So they pick up on the one current they think can be solved with tax and regulatory cuts: low business investment. Cut taxes. Reduce regulation. All will be well."

Brooks's solution?:

"We need an approach that is both grander and more modest. When you are confronted by a complex, emergent problem, don’t try to pick out the one lever that is the key to the whole thing. There is no one lever. You wouldn’t be smart enough to find it even if there was.

Instead, try to reform whole institutions and hope that by getting the long-term fundamentals right you’ll set off a positive cascade to reverse the negative ones."

I agree with Brooks, but note the distance between his viewpoint and that of Krugman, who has consistently advocated increased spending, and only yesterday, in "Euro Zone Death Trip" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/26/opinion/euro-zone-death-trip.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), focused upon the European aspect of this dilemma, in which he rejected the "hard-money-and-austerity dogma" of the "European policy elites."

Similarly, Brooks is at odds with Friedman, who, in "Help Wanted: Leadership" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/Friedman-help-wanted-leadership.html?_r=1), would have us believe that all that is needed is a "Grand Bargain," including "short-term stimulus to ease us through this deleveraging process, debt restructuring in the housing market and long-term budget-cutting to put our fiscal house in order." Were it only so simple as Friedman would have us believe.

However, I do agree with Friedman insofar as he believes that "leadership," which he fails to define (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/09/thomas-friedman-help-wanted-leadership.html), is required to lead us out of this quandary. Sadly, Obama is currently busy playing the blame game to remain in office: he inherited the problems from Bush, and now it is necessary to increases taxes on the heartless billionaires who brought about this debacle.

Change is indeed required in the White House, but it is nowhere in sight.

Anthony Shadid, "In Mideast Riddle, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer": Barely a Mention of the Kurds

In a New York Times article entitled "In Mideast Riddle, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/world/europe/in-mideast-riddle-turkey-offers-itself-as-an-answer.html), Anthony Shadid describes the ascendancy of Turkey in a Middle East power vacuum:

"But in an Arab world where the United States seems in retreat, Europe ineffectual and powers like Israel and Iran unsettled and unsure, officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision for what may emerge from turmoil across two continents that has upended decades of assumptions.

. . . .

'We’re not out there to recreate the Ottoman Empire, but we are out there to make the most of the influence we have in a region that is embracing our leadership,' said Suat Kiniklioglu, the deputy chairman of external affairs for Mr. Erdogan’s party."

Shadid writes in his penultimate paragraph:

"And across the spectrum in Turkey, still wrestling with its own Kurdish insurgency in the southeast, critics and admirers acknowledge that the vision of a Turkish-led region, prosperous and stable, remains mostly a fleeting promise amid all the turmoil."

I ask myself, how is it possible to write such an article and relegate the Kurdish issue to a single sentence? There are 30 million Kurds in the Middle East who have been perpetually abused and demeaned, of whom some 14 million live in Turkey. Notwithstanding Turkey's purported outrage over conditions in Gaza and its shipment of aid to Palestinians, Turkey's Kurds have a lower standard of living, a lower life expectancy and lower rate of live births than persons living in Gaza. Blind to the poverty of its Kurdish minority, Turkey has threatened to send warships to the eastern Mediterranean to ensure that future shipments of aid by sea to Gaza are delivered without impediment.

While Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan continues to demand an apology for the death of nine Turks aboard the Marmara, which was attempting to break the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza, he refuses to apologize for the Armenian Genocide.

The recipient of the 2010 Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, Erdogan refused to take an active role in NATO's recent operations to remove Libya's despot.

Of late, Turkey is engaged in saber rattling over offshore drilling for natural gas by both Cyprus and Israel.

A Middle East power vacuum has been created by President Obama, and both Turkey and Iran are rushing to fill the void. How has Obama responded to Erdogan's power drunk shenanigans? Several days ago, Erdogan announced that the US had agreed to supply him with Predator drones to fight the Kurds.

Given the financial crisis enveloping both the US and Europe, Ankara can probably continue to engage without scrutiny or opposition in this adventure, which for many Erdogan admirers amounts to a romantic resurgence of the Ottoman Empire, or at least until another nationwide banking crisis brings Turkey to its knees.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "Help Wanted: Leadership": But Where Is Leadership Defined?

I read the title of Thomas Friedman's latest New York Times op-ed, "Help Wanted: Leadership" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/Friedman-help-wanted-leadership.html?_r=1) with excitement. After all, I have long been bemoaning the lack of leadership in the White House and wrote of this flagrant failure more than a year and a half ago in a blog entry entitled "Did You Take Leadership 101 in College" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/did-you-take-leadership-101-at-college.html):

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

Regrettably, Obama has done little in the interim to dispel this assessment, and I wondered whether Friedman had reached a similar conclusion, albeit belatedly. But having read through Tom's column and conducted a word search, the word "leadership" appears only twice in the text of the op-ed, and there is no attempt at a definition.

So what does Friedman say in his essay? Sadly, we are presented with the usual tripe involving a "Grand Bargain":

"We know what to do — a Grand Bargain: short-term stimulus to ease us through this deleveraging process, debt restructuring in the housing market and long-term budget-cutting to put our fiscal house in order. None of this is easy and the economy will not be fixed overnight; it will take years. But there is every chance it will get healed if our two parties construct the Grand Bargain we need."

We know what to do? Who is this mysterious we? Apparently Tom thinks he knows what to do. As I understand it, Tom equals we.

But where is there anything novel in what Friedman suggests? We've already seen short-term stimulus, which included money showered upon the Department of Energy, which gave rise to Solyndra, and funds shoveled into the maw of the Justice Department, which spawned $16 muffins. As billionaire Solyndra investor and major Obama campaign contributor George Kaiser stated following the announcement of Obama's 2009 stimulus package:

"There's never been more money shoved out of the government's door in world history and probably never will be again than in the last few months and the next 18 months."

A lot of good that did us, and today, to the chagrin of fellow Democrats, Obama appears to have reversed course, and is focused on budget-cutting.

There are ordinarily many different routes to achieve any given goal, but leadership is demanded by those at the head of the convoy. What is leadership? Friedman fails to provide an answer. Again, as observed in "Did You Take Leadership 101 in College" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/02/did-you-take-leadership-101-at-college.html):

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

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

Although intelligent and a talented orator, Obama is a procrastinator and not capable of leadership. Can he guide us through the current economic morass? Probably not; however, time and seasonality will also play their role in an ultimate recovery.

Meanwhile, the Republicans appear hard pressed to offer anything more palatable. Is Romney really the best leader they can offer?

Nocera, "The Phony Solyndra Scandal": Joe Decides It Wasn't Criminal

I observed in a previous blog entry how the op-ed pundits of The New York Times were maintaining a stony silence concerning the Solyndra scandal. Well, Joe Nocera, in a column today entitled "The Phony Solyndra Scandal" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/opinion/the-phony-solyndra-scandal.html?hp), has now broken that silence and informed us that there was no scandal at all, and that he will stand on his head in Times Square if former Solyndra executives spend a day in prison. Nocera writes:

"It’s not going to happen, for one simple reason: neither they, nor anyone else connected with Solyndra, have done anything remotely criminal."

These are bold words coming from a journalist, as opposed to an attorney specializing in criminal law, particularly before all of the facts are known. Nothing "remotely criminal"? Perhaps. However, the FBI took the trouble to raid the home of one of these executives, and I would guess that the FBI, which presumably obtained a court order to conduct the raid, does not agree with Nocera.

Nocera goes on to say:

"The company’s recent bankruptcy — which the Republicans are now rabidly 'investigating' because Solyndra had the misfortune to receive a $535 million federally guaranteed loan from the Obama administration — was largely brought on by a stunning collapse in the price of solar panels over the past year or so.

The company’s innovative solar panels, high-priced to begin with, became increasingly uncompetitive in the marketplace. Solyndra didn’t have enough big commercial customers to create the necessary economies of scale. And although Harrison and Stover remained optimistic up to the bitter end — insisting six weeks before the late-August bankruptcy filing that the company was going to be fine — they ultimately failed to raise additional capital that would have allowed Solyndra to stay in business."

Solyndra had the "misfortune" to receive a half billion dollar federally guaranteed loan? There are thousands of US companies which would go to enormous lengths to obtain such funding.

Moreover, if the company's "innovative" solar panels were "high-priced to begin with," why would the company seek to manufacture something that is not competitive in the market place? As solar industry analyst Peter Lynch explained to The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/solyndra-solar-company-fails-after-getting-controversial-federal-loan-guarantees/2011/08/31/gIQAB8IRsJ_story_1.html):

“'You make something in a factory and it costs $6, you sell it for $3, but you really, really need to sell it for $1.50 to be competitive,' Lynch said of Solyndra. 'It was an insane business model. The numbers just don’t work, and they never did.'”

Given that Solyndra's panels had, as acknowledged by Nocera, grown "increasingly uncompetitive," and given that they had already drawn drawn all but $8 million of the $535 million loan before filing for bankruptcy (see: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/211417/20110909/solyndra-ceo-brian-harrison-bankrupt-layoffs-solar-green-energy-stimulus-package-obama-greentech-med.htm), Nocera would have us believe that Solyndra's executives "remained optimistic "up to the bitter end"? I don't know about you, Joe, but I would not feel "optimistic" after consuming almost all the cash from a half billion dollar loan while continuing to manufacture an uncompetitive product. Who in their right minds would extend more cash to such a company?

Needless to say, no mention by Nocera that "the Government Accountability Office issued an unusually blunt assessment of the Energy Department's loan program in general, concluding that the department had 'treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others'" (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/solyndra-collapse-waste-half-billion-obama-gop-critics/story?id=14424323&page=2).

Sorry, Joe, but criminal or not, Solyndra needs to be investigated, and the basis for the inquiry has absolutely nothing to do with embarrassing the president, as you would have us believe.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New York Times Editorial, "The Palestinians' Bid": Beyond Naive

The editorial board of The New York Times, in "The Palestinians' Bid" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/opinion/the-palestinians-bid-for-statehood.html?hp), has once again demonstrated that it is incapable of breaking with its tradition of lauding Obama, empathizing with Abbas, and excoriating Netanyahu:

"Mr. Obama had no choice but to stand by Israel, this country’s historic ally. And we agree that a negotiated deal is the only way to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state, guarantee Israel’s security and build a lasting peace.

. . . .

There is plenty of blame to go around. The main responsibility right now belongs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel who refuses to make any serious compromises for peace.

. . . .

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is understandably frustrated, has forced a process that holds high risks for him as well."

No mention by The New York Times that:

• Abbas refuses to allow Jews to live in a new Palestinian state.
• Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Abbas also refused Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace offer, which, as recently described by the former Israeli prime minister in a New York Times guest op-ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/opinion/Olmert-peace-now-or-never.html), included:

• A “Palestinian state on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that take into account the new realities on the ground.”
• A shared Jerusalem, whereby “the Jewish areas would be the capital of Israel and its Arab neighborhoods would become the Palestinian capital” and the city’s holy places “would be administered jointly with the assistance of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.”
• The absorption of Palestinian refugees by the new Palestinian state with Israel also absorbing “a small number of refugees on humanitarian grounds.”

Also no mention by The New York Times that when Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month moratorium of housing construction in the West Bank in 2009, as demanded by Obama, Abbas refused to enter into peace negotiations until one month prior to the expiration of the settlement freeze.

Although the New York Times editorial board still “doesn’t get it,” Abbas is not interested in a peace agreement. He does, however, seek to play to the Arab street and preserve his authoritarian rule. Elected to serve until January 2009, Abbas unilaterally extended his term for another year and continues in office even after the expiration of the new deadline for elections. Nevertheless, The New York Times faults only Netanyahu with an overriding concern for his political survival.

Naivete on the part of The New York Times? Sometimes one wonders whether their editorial board is primarily concerned with Obama's political survival, who in their eyes, can do no wrong.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "Are We Going to Roll Up Our Sleeves or Limp On?": And the Name of the Mysterious Third Party Candidate?

Thomas Friedman has outdone himself in his most recent New York Times op-ed entitled "Are We Going to Roll Up Our Sleeves or Limp On?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/opinion/friedman-are-we-going-to-roll-up-our-sleeves-or-limp-on.html?hp), in which he savages Republicans and Obama, and again suggests the alternative of a mysterious third party challenge:

"We can either roll up our sleeves and do what’s needed to overcome our post-cold war excesses and adapt to the demands of the 21st century or we can just keep limping into the future.

Given those stark choices, one would hope that our politicians would rise to the challenge by putting forth fair and credible recovery proposals that match the scale of our debt problem and contain the three elements that any serious plan must have: spending cuts, increases in revenues and investments in the sources of our strength. But that, alas, is not what we’re getting, which is why there remains an opening for an independent Third Party candidate in the 2012 campaign.

The Republicans have come nowhere near rising to our three-part challenge because the G.O.P. is no longer a 'conservative' party, offering a conservative formula for American renewal. The G.O.P. has been captured by a radical antitax wing, and the party’s leaders are too afraid to challenge it. What would real conservatives be offering now?"

Three questions for Tom:

- I don't think that I'm a "real conservative," notwithstanding the claims of my detractors who have positioned me a notch to the right of Genghis Khan, and I'm puzzled by what a "real conservative" looks like. Does he look anything akin to a "real newspaper columnist"?

- Tom tells us, "The Republicans have come nowhere near rising to our three-part challenge." Our three-part challenge? Who is this we?

- Tom would have us know that there remains an opening for an independent third party candidate in 2012, but who is this masked man or woman?

Maybe Friedman is saving the surprise identity of the third party hero or heroine for a future column, but might the first name of this omniscient master of economics and foreign policy, who has come to save not just the day but the century, begin with the letter "T"?

I await this revelation with bated breath . . . not.

Maureen Dowd, "The Re-election Tango": Waxing Nostalgic Over the Clinton Years Without Mention of Lewinsky's Dress

In her most recent New York Times op-ed entitled "The Re-election Tango" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/opinion/dowd-the-re-election-tango.html?hp), Maureen Dowd waxes nostalgically over the Bill Clinton presidency:

"Whether Bill Clinton is being mischievous or helpful is never entirely clear. But the former president often manages to show the current president just how the game should be played."

Observing recent allegations in Suskind’s new book, “Confidence Men,” that Obama has caused women to feel less than equal in the West Wing, Dowd also reminds us of Bill Clinton's way with women:

"When a woman in the audience asked if he’d do 'Dancing With the Stars,' he said they had petitioned him but that he was too busy to train. "I would like to master the tango,' he said, adding: "Last night, Hillary said to me, ‘You know, when I’m not secretary of state anymore, we should go take dancing lessons.’ ”

The audience swooned."

Dowd concludes:

"The Aloof One has to convince voters that he can connect emotionally. In a way, his relationship with Americans now is analogous to a marriage that’s not working. He’s the detached husband; we’re the neglected wife."

Sorry, Maureen, but it is no longer a matter of "connecting emotionally." Rather, it has become a matter of placing a credible economic plan on the table, and the Aloof One has demonstrated that he is plain old incompetent.

But one thing in Obama's favor when comparing him with Bill: There might be a Solyndra, but there's been no Lewinsky dress.

Monday, September 19, 2011

David Brooks, "Obama Rejects Obamaism": Brooks Is a Sap?

In the past we have been told that Obama respects the opinions of David Brooks (see: http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1010/What_Obama_reads.html). I reiterate, in the past.

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Obama Rejects Obamaism" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/opinion/brooks-obama-rejects-obamaism.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks trumpets noises which are certainly not music to the president's ears:

"I liked Obama’s payroll tax cut ideas and urged Republicans to play along. But of course I’m a sap. When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill.

It recycles ideas that couldn’t get passed even when Democrats controlled Congress. In his remarks Monday the president didn’t try to win Republicans to even some parts of his measures. He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.

He claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)

. . . .

The White House gives moderates little morsels of hope, and then rips them from our mouths. To be an Obama admirer is to toggle from being uplifted to feeling used."

Wow!

Well, I don't feel like a sap, and I don't feel used, because I never believed "the president’s soul would like to do something about the country’s structural problems." Rather, I was convinced early on that the Obama administation was never about government of the people, by the people, for the people. Rather, the Obama administration has been about feeding the narcissism of a photogenic young man, abandoned in his youth by both father and mother, who became president, notwithstanding his tissue paper-thin resume, owing to the incompetence of the prior administration.

The pendulum swung from right to left, and is now ready to swing back to the right in the absence of improved employment statistics, and Obama is growing more desperate by the hour. If it requires class warfare in order to preserve his presidency, so be it. However, Obama has yet to learn that calls to kill the kulaks or to bludgeon the bourgeois often have unexpected and undesired consequences.

Mr. Brooks still believes "in the governing style Obama talked about in 2008"? Yes, David, you are a sap.

Hold your horses! Or better still, keep your hounds at bay! Arnold, who is seeking to be the first canine candidate short-listed for a Nobel Peace Prize ("What did Arnold ever do?," you ask, to which Arnold replies, "What did Obama ever do?") tells me that I am being too harsh on Brooks.

"What's that Arnold? You say he's not a sap?"

"As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined."

"Your point?"

"You can't see the wood for the trees."

"I'm still not following you, Arnold."

"You never were terribly bright, Jeffrey. All I'm saying is that you're barking up the wrong tree."

"Yeah, all that and money doesn't grow on trees."

"Go chase yourself, Jeffrey."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paul Krugman, "The Bleeding Cure": But in the 21st Century Doctors Place Their Patients on Diets

Who would ever imagine? Paul Krugman for the umpteenth time is calling upon the US and Europe to spend their way out of the recession. However, this time, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Bleeding Cure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/19/opinion/economic-bleeding-cure.html?_r=1&hp), Krugman draws a medical analogy and reminds us how doctors in prior centuries would barbariously bleed their patients in an effort to cure their ills:

"Doctors used to believe that by draining a patient’s blood they could purge the evil 'humors' that were thought to cause disease. In reality, of course, all their bloodletting did was make the patient weaker, and more likely to succumb.

Fortunately, physicians no longer believe that bleeding the sick will make them healthy. Unfortunately, many of the makers of economic policy still do. And economic bloodletting isn’t just inflicting vast pain; it’s starting to undermine our long-run growth prospects."

Well, Paul, this is no longer the 19th century, but rather the 21st century, and today doctors indeed place their patients on diets in order to deal with a host of ailments resulting from obesity.

No, unlike Paul, I'm not saying that there is only one way out of this mess. Moreover, no two patients are identical, and there are many possible routes to the destination. I recall in particular an old Russian proverb that tells us that the best way to a given destination is the known route.

Unfortunately, however, in this instance we are crossing uncharted territory, given the effects of globalization and technologies never before imagined, which have made many jobs redundant. In such instances, confidence in the navigational skills of the driver is a prerequisite, yet in this instance, confidence in America's omniscient president is lacking, and his advisors, confused, divided and pulling in different directions, are prone to backtracking.

Often, I test my thoughts upon others before drawing conclusions, and in this instance I read Krugman's column to Winnie so as to obtain her opinion. Winnie's response was quick in coming:


Next time, I'll allow Arnold, my other dog, to expand upon his answer, which is, "Time heals all wounds." But what does he know? He's only a puppy.

"I'm sorry, what's that you said, Arnold? The economy is stone-dead, and you can't get blood from a stone"?

Interesting. In a few months, this hound might also be in the running for a Nobel prize . . .

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "Israel: Adrift at Sea Alone": With Friends Like Friedman, Who Needs Enemies

Thomas Friedman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Israel: Adrift at Sea Alone" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/opinion/sunday/friedman-israel-adrift-at-sea-alone.html?ref=opinion), would have us believe that he is deeply disturbed by Israel's future:

"The crumbling of key pillars of Israel’s security — the peace with Egypt, the stability of Syria and the friendship of Turkey and Jordan — coupled with the most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent government in Israel’s history have put Israel in a very dangerous situation.

This has also left the U.S. government fed up with Israel’s leadership but a hostage to its ineptitude, because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America’s."

I assume that when Friedman refers to the frustration of the "U.S. government," he is referring to his friend Obama, who hardly comprises the entirety of the U.S. government, although perhaps both Friedman and Obama think he does.

Although Friedman acknowledges that Israel is not to blame for the chaos that envelops Egypt, the mass murder and violent repression of Syria's civilian population, the attempts by Erdogan to fill the Middle East power vacuum created by Obama notwithstanding Turkey's own problems with the Kurds, or the friction between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank, he still holds Netanyahu accountable for failing to respond to any of these problems with a strategy. In particular, Friedman castigates Netanyahu for not "putting a real peace map on the table."

A "real peace map on the table"? I thought this was what Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert offered to Arafat and Abbas, respectively, when they agreed to return to the 1967 lines with land swaps and to share Jerusalem. Unfortunately, neither Arafat nor Abbas was capable of accepting the offers.

No mention by Friedman that Abbas is unwilling to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Also no mention by Friedman of recent declarations by Fatah that a future Palestinian state will allow no Jews within its borders. This is what should truly be worrying Tom.

Indeed, these are dark times for Israel. Israel is facing existential threats from Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. Egypt is teetering on disavowal of its peace treaty with Israel. No one knows what will emerge in Syria after Assad is ultimately forced to leave the country. Rockets and mortar shells continue to be fired at civilian targets in the south of Israel from Gaza.

I make no secret of it: I am no great fan of Netanyahu. On the other hand, there is also no denying the restraint demonstated by the man in the face of repeated rocket attacks from Gaza.

Should Netanyahu repeat the peace offer made by Barak and Olmert? He can do that, but it will be rejected by Abbas. There is a reason why Abbas waited nine months before coming to the negotiating table after Obama arranged a ten-month moratorium on the construction of new Israeli housing in the West Bank. Abbas is not interested in peace. He is, however, interested in holding onto the reins of power and avoiding the fate of fellow despots in nearby Arab countries.

Frankly, Tom, I am not as concerned as you are from your mansion in Maryland with Israel's "deeper global isolation." Israel is going to be hated by its Middle East neighbors and much of Europe no matter what it does. My pressing concern is Israel's physical survival, and although I favor a two-state solution, Israel currently has no partner for peace in either Gaza or the West Bank. And while this ugly reality has escaped your blinkered field of vision, it has not been lost upon the American electorate, which continues to support Israel by an overwhelming majority.

Maureen Dowd, "Egghead and Blockheads": America Headed for No Desirable Choice in 2012?

In her latest op-ed "Egghead and Blockheads" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-egghead-and-blockheads.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Maureen Dowd compares the plot line of the 1962 film "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" with the duel she envisages for the 2012 presidential election:

"At the cusp of the 2012 race, we have a classic cultural collision between a skinny Eastern egghead lawyer who’s inept in Washington gunfights and a pistol-totin’, lethal-injectin’, square-shouldered cowboy who has no patience for book learnin’."

Obama is "inept in Washington gunfights"? Sorry, Maureen, but given what we know at this early stage of the Solyndra scandal, I think you could have shortened the sentence to "inept in Washington," or shorter still, "inept."

I also hate to break the news to Maureen, but we have yet to see the results of a single primary. Sure, there have been polls, but the Republican convention is months away, and Perry is less than a shoo-in as his past antics become better known to the national electorate.

Dowd would have us believe that "Republicans are now the 'How great is it to be stupid?' party." She concludes:

"So we’re choosing between the overintellectualized professor and blockheads boasting about their vacuity?

The occupational hazard of democracy is know-nothing voters. It shouldn’t be know-nothing candidates."

I agree that the current Republican field of presidential candidates induces stupefaction: If the Republicans were only to nominate someone of substance, the presidency would be theirs for the taking. However, I also don't think it's fair to label the likes of Bobby Jindal (accepted by both Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, and ultimately a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford) as a "blockhead." Paul Ryan and Chris Christie are also no dunderheads, yet not one of these three young men is willing to step forward and offer America a viable alternative to the change we once believed in.

Sad, yet can you blame them?

[As kindly observed by a reader, Mitt Romney received simultaneous JD and MBA degrees from Harvard, graduating with honors from the law school and finishing as a Baker Scholar at the business school. He is obviously no "blockhead."]

New York Times Editorial "Tehran's Ambitions": Testing the Envelope for Fatuity

The editorial board of The New York Times is back with another penetrating opinion concerning events in the Middle East entitled "Tehran's Ambitions" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/17/opinion/tehrans-ambitions.html?ref=opinion). The editorial begins:

"Five years after the United Nations Security Council ordered it to halt, Iran is still enriching uranium and refusing to come clean about its nuclear program. Tehran is clearly hoping the world will either forget or acquiesce. That would be very dangerous."

Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran's mullahs would be "very dangerous"? You don't say. But wait, there's more. The editorial concludes:

"We’re not sure any mix of sanctions and inducements can work. We are sure that less pressure will guarantee that Iran will keep pushing its nuclear program ahead. The United States and its allies should go back to the Security Council and argue for even tougher punishments — it has been 15 months since the last round of sanctions. That is the only chance of getting Tehran’s attention."

It's been 15 months since the last round of sanctions? Really? Peculiar, but this is the same editorial board that told us two and a half years ago in an editorial entitled "Mr. Obama and Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/opinion/09mon1.html):

"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.'”

Queries: Could it be that Bush was right all along concerning Iran? And where has Obama been for the past 15 months?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Joe Nocera, "Killing Jobs and Making Us Sick": What About "Creating Jobs and Making Us Sick" at Solyndra?

In a previous op-ed, Joe Nocera described a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board brought against Boeing for opening a plant in nonunion South Carolina. Nocera said that the N.L.R.B. action exemplified how Democrats hurt job creation and promised in a future column to show how Republicans are also guilty of standing in the way of employment. Today, in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled "Killing Jobs and Making Us Sick" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/17/opinion/nocera-killing-jobs-and-making-us-sick.html?_r=1&hp), Nocera alleges that the Republicans' refusal to properly fund the new food safety law is just such an example:

"For years, the food industry and consumer groups have been aligned on the need to modernize the nation’s food safety inspection system. “Food-borne illnesses” — an outbreak of salmonella or E. coli, for instance — are a problem not just for consumers but for industry as well. Recalls are expensive. Sales shrink, even for companies not involved in the recall. Lawsuits ensue. Employees lose their jobs. It can take years to recover from a food scare.

. . . .

When President Obama submitted his 2012 budget to Congress, he asked for $955 million for food safety, a $120 million increase. The increase was necessary, of course, because without the fee, the F.D.A. was going to be hard-pressed as it began the expensive process of changing how it inspected food.

Needless to say, that increase never had a chance either. With the House firmly in Republican hands, it slashed the agency’s food budget by $87 million, to $750 million. That was a staggering $200 million less than the White House had requested, an amount so low that it will make the F.D.A.’s already difficult task nearly impossible."

Well, as someone who almost died from E. coli poisoning earlier this year (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/02/israel-apartheid-e-coli-and-jimmy.html), I am fully cognizant of the danger from E. coli outbreaks. On the other hand, nowhere in Nocera's column does he detail the number of jobs not being created owing to the reduction of the F.D.A.'s budget for food safety.

Of course, Nocera does tell us that when food-borne illnesses occur, corporate sales shrink, lawsuits ensue and employees lose their jobs - all the more reason for grocery manufacturers to carefully test all their ingredients. Regrettably, however, this does not cause Americans to eat less. If a product of Company X is found to be tainted, Americans are not going to stop eating. Rather, they will more likely to buy instead from Company Y or Company Z. How does this impact upon the job market? Forgive me for being irreverent, but if anything, an E. coli outbreak keeps the lawyers and the legal system busy for years to come.

Moreover, does Nocera wish to claim that there is no fat to be trimmed from the F.D.A.'s food budget? Is the F.D.A. so efficiently run that a 9% cut in its budget is going to destroy its ability to operate? Facts and statistics please.

Sorry, Joe, I would have liked to see you make your point, but this column is a non sequitor.

But as long as we're discussing job creation and the involvement of the federal government, where, Joe, is your column about Solyndra. For that matter, where is there an op-ed from any of the pundits of the New York Times analyzing this scandal, which is certain to rock the Obama administration over the coming year.

Jon Stewart was not afraid to poke fun at this pustule (see: http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/09/16/140534741/jon-stewart-skewers-white-house-on-solyndra); however, as best I can see, The New York Times seems to be avoiding the issue like the plague, or apropos Nocera's column of today, like a salmonella outbreak.

But then why would The New York Times not wish to delve into this delicate matter, which could well prove the final nail in Obama's 2012 coffin (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/09/solyndra-final-nail-in-obamas-coffin.html)? Has The New York Times grown overly politicized? My goodness, who would have ever imagined?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paul Krugman, "Free to Die": Heartless Republicans

Paul Krugman today lambasts Republican's for their willingness to cut Medicaid and Medicare benefits in his New York Times op-ed entitled "Free to Die" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/16/opinion/krugman-free-to-die.html?_r=1&hp). Krugman tells us that Republicans lack compassion as a matter of principle:

"Given the agreed-upon desirability of protecting citizens against the worst, the question then became one of costs and benefits — and health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money. As many observers have pointed out, the Obama health care plan was largely based on past Republican plans, and is virtually identical to Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts.

Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base."

That's pretty easy even for a lummox like me to remember: Democrats good, Republicans bad. It even rings similar to "Four legs good, two legs bad!"

A fly in the ointment? Always. In a September 13 article in Krugman's own newspaper (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/politics/obamas-expected-plan-for-entitlement-savings-worries-democrats.html), Robert Pear wrote:

"As Congress opens a politically charged exploration of ways to pare the deficit, President Obama is expected to seek hundreds of billions of dollars in savings in Medicare and Medicaid, delighting Republicans and dismaying many Democrats who fear that his proposals will become a starting point for bigger cuts in the popular health programs.

The president made clear his intentions in his speech to a joint session of Congress last week when, setting forth a plan to create jobs and revive the economy, he said he disagreed with members of his party 'who don’t think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid.'

Few Democrats fit that description. But many say that if, as expected, Mr. Obama next week proposes $300 billion to $500 billion of savings over 10 years in entitlement programs, he will provide political cover for a new bipartisan Congressional committee to cut just as much or more.

And, they say, such proposals from the White House will hamstring Democrats who had been hoping to employ Medicare as a potent issue against Republicans in 2012 campaigns after many Congressional Republicans backed a budget that would have substantially altered Medicare by providing future beneficiaries with a subsidy to enroll in private health care plans."

Now I'm confused. Will we soon be hearing, "Four legs good, two legs better"?

Weprin Loses: Schumer Says the 9th Is Not a "Bellwether District"

The New York 9th district election plainly has Democrats shaken. Yesterday, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was quick to blame Orthodox Jewry for Weprin's defeat (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/09/weprin-loses-debbie-wasserman-schultz.html). Now, Senator Charles Schumer is also seeking to make light of the debacle and is quoted by The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/us/politics/obama-israel-policies-may-cost-democrats-votes.html?_r=1&hp) as saying:

"'It is not a bellwether district,' said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. 'I don’t think there’s another district like that in America.'”

Hey, Chuck, how have you been keeping? We had lunch on the north shore of Long Island almost 30 years ago. The 9th is "not a bellwether district"? Good to know, but maybe you've forgotten that it was carried by Obama by 11 points in 2008.

"There's not another district like that in America"? Maybe not. Each district has its own special attributes, but they're all suffering from unemployment and a disastrous economic downturn.

Sorry, Chuck, you can try spinning it any way you choose, or even blame the Orthodox Jews as did Debbie, or supporters of Israel as did the pathetic editorial board of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/opinion/israel-and-new-yorks-ninth-district.html?hp), but it's not going to help. It's all about jobs, and the failure of "Change we can believe in."

The writing is on the wall for those willing to open their eyes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Solyndra: The Final Nail in Obama's Coffin?

If you thought that the defeat of Democrat David Weprin in New York's 9th district is Obama's biggest concern, you are mistaken. The stench from the half-billion-dollar loan to bankrupt solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra continues to grow. In a Washington Post article entitled "Solyndra loan: White House pressed on review of solar company now under investigation" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-pushed-500-million-loan-to-solar-company-now-under-investigation/2011/09/13/gIQAr3WbQK_story.html?hpid=z1), written by Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig, we now learn that WAPO is in possession of e-mails that are highly incriminatory of the White House:

"The August 2009 e-mails, released exclusively to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB [Office of Management and Budget] reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company’s project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators.

. . . .

'We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week),' one official wrote. That Aug. 31, 2009, message, written by a senior OMB staffer and sent to Terrell P. McSweeny, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, concluded, 'We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews.'

White House officials said Tuesday that no one in the administration tried to influence the OMB decision on the loan. They stressed that the e-mails show only that the administration had a 'quite active interest' in the timing of OMB’s decision."

This scandal is not going to disappear and will accompany Obama throughout the 2012 campaign. It will be interesting to witness the administration's attempts at damage control, which will ultimately necessitate firings of senior West Wing staff.

Watch Obama's hair grow grayer in the coming months, as the dark side of solar energy panels emerges.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weprin Loses: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Blames Orthodox Jews

Bob Turner, an obscure, 70-year-old, retired cable television executive, running on the Republican ticket, has just defeated Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin in a race for the House seat vacated by Anthony Weiner. This marks the first time in 80 years that a Republican has been elected to represent New York's 9th district in an election widely considered as a referendum on Obama's policies.

According to The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/nyregion/ny-democrats-try-to-avoid-upset-in-special-election.html?hp), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was quick to blame Orthodox Jewry for Weprin's defeat:

"But Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the district’s large concentration of Orthodox Jews made it unusual and meant the race had few national ramifications.

'In this district, there is a large number of people who went to the polls tonight who didn’t support the president to begin with and don’t support Democrats — and it’s nothing more than that,' she said in a telephone interview."

Yeah, right, Debbie, it had absolutely nothing to do with unemployment and the state of the economy. This is almost as believable as "Change we can believe in." But thanks anyway for blaming the Orthodox Jews in the district. I'm sure this will lead to greater tolerance and understanding throughout the US.

Thomas Friedman, "Is It Weird Enough Yet": Let's Keep Obama Out of It

In his New York Times op-ed "Is It Weird Enough Yet" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/opinion/friedman-is-it-weird-enough-yet.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fopinion%2Findex.jsonp%3F8dpc), Thomas Friedman lectures us that global warming is a reality and pokes fun at Republican presidential candidates Perry and Bachmann:

"Every time I listen to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota talk about how climate change is some fraud perpetrated by scientists trying to gin up money for research, I’m always reminded of one of my favorite movie lines that Jack Nicholson delivers to his needy neighbor who knocks on his door in the film 'As Good As It Gets.' 'Where do they teach you to talk like this?' asks Nicholson. 'Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.'”

Peculiar, however, how Tom forgets to mention that this past Friday Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to drop a proposed rule to combat smog.

A little further down, Friedman complains that green jobs are under attack:

"Not only has the science of climate change come under attack lately, so has the economics of green jobs. Here the critics have a point — sort of. I wasn’t surprised to read that the solar panel company Solyndra, which got $535 million in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy to make solar panels in America, filed for bankruptcy protection two weeks ago and laid off 1,100 workers. This story is an embarrassment to the green jobs movement, but the death by bankruptcy was a collaboration of the worst Democratic and Republican impulses."

Solyndra? Excuse me, but wasn't Obama somehow involved in that fiasco? As reported in an NBC Bay Area article entitled "Solyndra Filing a Disaster for Obama" (http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Solyndra-Filing-a-Disaster-for-Obama-128816968.html) by Scott McGrew:

"During a visit to the Fremont facility in spring of 2010, the President said the factory 'is just a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world.'

It's not his statements the administration will regret; it's the loan guarantees. The President was celebrating $535 million in federal promises from the Department of Energy to the solar startup. The administration didn't do its due diligence, says the Government Accountability Office."

Sure, Tom, we all make mistakes. But wait, there's more. Friedman concludes:

"Would you rather cut Social Security and Medicare or pay a little more per gallon of gas and make the country stronger, safer and healthier? It still amazes me that our politicians have the courage to send our citizens to war but not to ask the public that question."

Excuse me, again, but wasn't it Obama who decided to escalate that nasty little engagement in Afghanistan at a cost of billions of dollars?

I'm no fan of Rick Perry, but let's also give Obama the "credit" (not carbon credit) that he's due.

Maureen Dowd, "Memoirs of a Geisha": Same in Our Household

Maureen Dowd, in her latest New York Times op-ed "Memoirs of a Geisha" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/opinion/dowd-memoirs-of-a-geisha.html?ref=opinion), reviews the much-talked about book and audio recording, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy.” Dowd writes of the former first lady:

"She said she considered her main job to be distracting and soothing her husband and making sure the children were in a good mood when the leader of the free world got home. She did not see herself as an Eleanor Roosevelt, wanting to pester him about some pressing political matter.

'I remember I said it in an interview once,' she recalled, 'and all these women — we got all these irate letters — someone said, ‘Where do you get your opinions?’ And I said, ‘I get all my opinions from my husband.’ Which is true. How could I have any political opinions, you know? His were going to be the best. And I could never conceive of not voting for whoever my husband was for.'”

Well, in case you didn't know, my household operates on the same principles, apart from the fact that in the last election, three of us (my eldest son had come of voting age) voted for three different candidates.

Now, if you'll excuse me for just a moment, I think my wife is calling, and I'll continue with this blog entry in just a moment . . .

"Yes, dear. Coming, dear. I'll have the garbage out in a moment, dear . . . .

"The dishes, dear? Of course, dear. Sorry, dear . . . .

"What have I been doing for the past hour? You remember, dear, I promised to train the dogs. No, dear, honestly. Come and see how obedient they've become. Really, dear, remarkable how they listen to me . . .

"Winnie, sit! . . . .


Moments later, he could be heard singing "Camelot! Camelot! . . .," as he removed the trash.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New York Times Editorial "Palestinian Statehood": Despicable

An abbreviated inoffensive version of the following blog entry was sent online in response to The Times editorial. It was . . . you guessed right . . . censored.

In knee-jerk fashion, The New York Times , in an editorial entitled "Palestinian Statehood" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/opinion/palestinian-statehood.html?hp), is again quick to blame Netanyahu for thwarting peace negotiations. The editorial observes:

"Since President Obama took office, the only direct negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mr. Abbas lasted a mere two weeks in September 2010."

The editorial board of The New York Times does not bother telling us that in 2010 Netanyahu honored Obama's request for a 10-month freeze in settlement constuction, but that the Palestinian Authority delayed beginning talks with Israel until the last month of the moratorium. A mere trifling detail? What does this say about the desire of the Palestinian Authority to negotiate a peaceful settlement?

No mention by The Times editorial board that although the Palestinian Authority will not brook the presence of a single Jew in their new state, they have gone on record as saying that they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Again, just a trivial issue?

The Times editorial board also forgets to mention that when Palestinian terrorists attacked Israeli buses carrying civilians on August 18, 2011 from across the Egyptian border, the Palestinian Authority never forthrightly denounced the terror attack, which killed 8 and wounded 20. Apparently, The Times editorial board also believes that this conduct on the part of the Palestinian Authority has no bearing on their purported desire for peace.

What does this all say about the leanings and objectivity of the New York Times? In the past, I evidenced the past willingess of this newspaper to brook the vilest expressions of anti-Semitism in their online readers' comments. Why, of all minorities, could only the Jews be targeted?

Actually, this most recent depraved distortion of the facts by The New York Times should come as no surprise. Observe a recent tweet (http://twitter.com/#!/andyrNYT) by New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal:

"Perry announce speech. Did he miss a GOP cliche? One fave: Isreal [sic] won't have to worry about him. As if it ever has to worry about a US prez."

Apart from misspelling "Israel," Rosenthal displayed appalling ignorance concerning Israel's relationships with past US presidents. As observed in an earlier blog entry, Israel's relationships with Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama have often been less than amicable (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/08/compare-max-frankel-with-andrew.html).

Omri Ceren of Commentary recently wrote in "Contentions" in a post entitled "The Times' Spectacular Bias Against Israel" (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/09/08/ny-times-bias-israel/):

"I was hoping I could begin this post with an opening like 'Day 2 of this nonsense.' But I checked, and technically this is only the second time in three days that the New York Times has displayed spectacular bias against Israel, borne of something between poor judgment and a wholly absent sensitivity to Jewish sensibilities. Again it involves a spy case, again Scott Shane is the author, and again there are brief but pointed insinuations of American-Jewish collusion with Israel.

In contrast to Tuesday’s nonsense, though, there’s nothing particularly subtle about the bias on display. It’s simply a case of the Times throwing around an anti-Semitic dual loyalty accusation – which is also becoming kind of a thing in certain corners of the public sphere – with quite literally no justification. A White House scientist tried to sell classified data to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli spy, and he was arrested and duly convicted.

But the case as such never involved Israel, and the way you tell that is because it says so right there in the story.

. . . .

Now it’s true the convicted spy himself had once worked as a totally legal consultant for an Israeli firm until 2008. But that had precisely as much to do with the spy case as the fact he once attended MIT. And yet the Times’ headline didn’t say the spy case was tied to MIT, because that aspect of his past life wasn’t relevant to the spy case.

Of course, linking the case to MIT wouldn’t have injected a sensationalist century-old anti-Jewish canard – and an ever-popular anti-Israel theme – into public discourse. So that wouldn’t have been as exciting.

Honestly, what the hell is going on over there?"

What the hell is going on over at The Times? Sadly, nothing new. A mere lack of objectivity, or something far more malicious? You decide.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Maureen Dowd's "Sleeping Barry Awakes": Actually, He's Been Busy Gazing Into the Magic Mirror

I don't like politicians. Some 30 years ago, I was invited by a dear friend to a luncheon at his home with a group of young Democratic congressmen and their families. Perhaps it was expected that I could provide insights involving a certain Middle East trouble spot with which I had become intimately acquainted. I remember in particular the behavior of one representative, who couldn't give me the time of day, and I observed to myself that this man, who was deeply in love with himself, was going places. Sure enough, today he is a powerful senior senator from a populous state.

With every passing day I feel more like an anachronism: My values are not in keeping with the times, and my efforts to effect change on a minimalistic level, even as they affect hiring practices by government bodies, are best described as quixotic. I cancelled my Facebook page, I can't spend more than 10 minutes in a shopping center without losing my sense of decorum, and my irreverence and impatience grow by the hour.

I liked Maureen Dowd's New York Times "Sleeping Barry Awakes" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/opinion/sunday/dowd-sleeping-barry-awakes.html), in which she portrays government for what it is:

"Congressional Republicans, heeding polls indicating that their all-out assault on President Obama was risky, finally tempered their public comments after the jobs speech on Thursday and stopped acting like big jerks.

Obama, heeding plummeting polls and beseeching voices from his despairing base, finally deigned to get tough.

In the capital of political tactics, it was just another fine day of faking it.

. . . .

So while the country has grown ever more scared, miserable, broke and broken, the president has too often been absent, quiet, ambivalent, impenetrable and inscrutable.

. . . .

It’s still impossible to sum up what Obama’s presidency is about right now, except saving his own job."

But why be so hard on Obama? Is he really any different from anyone else on Capitol Hill? Sure he promised answers, but it demanded an incredible level of stupidity and frustration to believe that a charismatic community organizer with no decision-making or executive skills could deliver on his promises.

The new Obama jobs plan? Show it to me on paper. How does it differ from the stimulus plan, almost twice as expensive, that was passed soon after Obama took office in 2009? As observed in an earlier blog entry, it's like pouring gasoline on a dying fire: without additional timber, the flames expire that much sooner.

Where was the candid discussion in Obama's speech concerning the problems that got us into our current mess? No mention of American reliance upon expensive foreign oil. No mention that America is being forced to compete with countries, e.g. China and Pakistan, whose products are manufactured by slave labor. No mention of the predatory financial practices that are destroying investment in innovative businesses. No mention of the chaos that has been fostered across the globe by the unchecked conduct of Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Erdogan. No mention of the war in Afghanistan, whose escalation by Obama is bleeding the US dry.

Obama wants "to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers"? Well, no one is going to buy Fords and Chevys and Chryslers in South Korea unless they offer competitive advantages over their competition. The question then is how to induce American industry to build a better car that is going to leave the competition in the dust. One possible answer: Reward those US companies which are able to obtain better fleet mileage with tax credits.

Education? Reward those schools that are better able to motivate their students with grants.

Higher education? Subsidize advanced degrees in fields, e.g. engineering, which are needed to promote long-term growth.

And bring back the uptick rule to prevent predatory hedge funds from destroying promising hi-tech firms in their infancy (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/08/paul-krugman-hijacked-crisis-paul-heres.html).

It can all be done, but a leader is needed in the White House, not a narcissist. Where is such a leader to be found in either party? Regrettably, there is no prince or princess charming anywhere on the horizon ready to rescue the nation.

New York Times Editorial, "A New Start for Libya": Road Apples

Those desk jockeys over at the New York Times editorial board are at it again, telling us from New York in "A New Start for Libya" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/10/opinion/a-new-start-for-libya.html?_r=1&hp) that in post-Qaddafi Libya, there are encouraging "signs of progress on military, diplomatic, economic and political fronts." Of course, they do happen to mention:

"Nonetheless, the new regime faces many challenges. Among the most troubling developments is the brutal treatment of dark-skinned Africans rounded up by vigilantes and the regime’s security forces.

The overwhelming majority of sub-Saharan Africans in Libya are migrant workers. Two and a half million worked there before the rebellion. Roughly two million remain. Colonel Qaddafi is thought to have hired several thousand Africans to fight for him in February. How many stuck with him to the end is unclear. But Western journalists saw no evidence of mercenaries in Tripoli when the city fell.

What they have seen is Africans being rounded up and treated differently from Libyans who fought for the dictator, many of whom have already been set free. Some Africans accused of being mercenaries were lynched after the rebels captured Benghazi in February. To maintain its international credibility, the transitional government must release innocent Africans and make sure that those who fought for Colonel Qaddafi are treated fairly."

Imprisonment, torture and murder of dark-skinned Africans by the Libyan rebels? Why should that interfere with the determination by the New York Times editorial board that progress is being made?

However, as observed in a Washington Post article entitled "In Libya, the peril of being black" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/in-libya-the-peril-of-being-black/2011/09/09/gIQAY2FoFK_story.html?hpid=z3), written by Leila Fadel from Tripoli (Fadel grew up in Saudi Arabia and of course speaks Arabic), a somewhat different picture is being painted:

"More than 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans are thought to work in Libya, a country of 6.5 million, according to Refugees International, most of them as day laborers in low-paid jobs. The International Organization for Migration said that it has evacuated about 1,400 migrants from the capital and that about 800 others have taken refuge in the fishing port of Janzour, just west of the city.

. . . .

At a makeshift camp in the port, the migrants sleep under decrepit boats hung with blankets and cook in tin pots over fires. Some said they were forced out of their homes at gunpoint. Others said they ran when they lost family members or heard of friends being killed. With no money, they say, they don’t want to go home but feel that they cannot stay in Libya.

Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, said there was violence throughout the uprising against black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans in the capital, adding that his group had confirmed Gaddafi’s use of foreign mercenaries there. The persecution, he added, was still going on.

'It really is racist violence against all dark-skinned people,' Bouckaert said. 'This situation for Africans in Tripoli is dire.'”

Also, there is no mention by the editorial board of The New York Times of past links between Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj and al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or of the heat-seeking missiles, which can be used to down airliners, that have gone missing from Qaddafi's warehouses.

But why should any of this darken the Manhattan skyline?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Paul Krugman's "Setting Their Hair on Fire": Obama Goes "Bigger and Bolder"?

In his New York Times op-ed "Setting Their Hair on Fire" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/opinion/setting-their-hair-on-fire.html?_r=1), Paul Krugman would have us believe that there was something new in Obama's "jobs plan," which has yet to be fleshed out on paper. According to "The Conscience of a Liberal":

"The good news in all this is that by going bigger and bolder than expected, Mr. Obama may finally have set the stage for a political debate about job creation."

Bigger and bolder? Yeah, right. Have a look at Glenn Kessler's "Obama’s jobs speech: deja vu all over again?" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/obamas-jobs-speech-deja-vu-all-over-again/2011/09/08/gIQA9amvDK_blog.html) in The Washington Post. As aptly illustrated by Mr. Kessler, it is extremely difficult to find the differences between Obama's latest "job plan" and "the $800 billion stimulus plan passed shortly after he took office."

Although Krugman waxed eloquent over Obama's treacle, world financial markets obviously had a different opinion.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

David Brooks, "Stimulus for Skeptics": Actually, More Like Pouring Gasoline on a Dying Fire

Do you like camping? I don't. I've spent more nights in the field, sleeping in the rain without a tent and with rocks jutting into my ribs, than I care to remember. But never mind that. I'm sure you all have experience with campfires. Imagine pouring gasoline on a dying fire with no wood to sustain it. Yes, for an instant there is a brilliant flash as the gasoline goes up in flames, but ultimately the fire dies that much faster. This is the problem with Obama's $447 billion stimulus plan: It doesn't address the lack of wood.

Listen to the president's speech again -- it's the "planes, trains and cars with a few teachers temporarily thrown into the bargain" solution that I feared (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/09/paul-krugmans-fatal-distraction-nobel.html).

Where is the candid discussion in Obama's speech concerning the problems that have gotten us into our current mess? No mention of American reliance upon expensive foreign oil, which is destroying the US balance of trade. No mention that America is being forced to compete with countries, e.g. China and Pakistan, whose products are manufactured and subsidized by slave labor. No mention of the predatory financial practices, e.g., share manipulation via unrestricted short sales, that are destroying investment in innovative businesses.

David Brooks, whom I respect, has responded enthusiastically to Obama's speech in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Stimulus for Skeptics" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/opinion/brooks-stimulus-for-skeptics.html?_r=1&ref=opinion). Brooks writes:

"Suppose in the middle of the winter of recuperation the economy stops recuperating? Suppose instead of grinding forward, the economy starts sliding back? In these circumstances, do you still have the luxury of thinking about the long term? Don’t you have to try to reverse things here and now?

This is the problem the Obama administration is facing. Like everybody else, it has seen a sluggish economy come grinding to a halt. There is clearly now a significant risk of a double-dip recession. That would be terrible for America’s workers, fiscal situation and psyche. This prospect is enough to shock even us stimulus skeptics out of our long-term focus. It’s enough to force us to contemplate the possibility of another stimulus package."

Brooks in essence is responding out of fear. Sorry, but I try not to respond to fear with a panic-stricken response catering to short-term concerns. Rather, I would be turning to industry and America's educational system with a long-term carrot and stick approach.

In his speech, Obama says:

"If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers."

Well, no one is going to buy Fords and Chevys and Chryslers in South Korea unless these American cars offer competitive advantages, e.g., price, safety and fuel economy, over their foreign competition. The question then is how to induce American industry to build a better car that is going to drive the competition off the side of the road. Answer: Reward those US companies which are able to obtain better fleet mileage with tax credits. Moreover, the prospect of heightened sales will also bring hiring, first the engineers needed to design these cars, then the assembly line workers.

Education? Reward those schools that are better able to motivate their students with grants. Sure, there will be cheating in order to obtain better results on standardized tests, but employment benefits will also be realized, as schools hire teachers, particularly talented ones.

Higher education? Subsidize advanced degrees in fields, e.g. engineering, which are apt to promote long-term growth. Keeping students in school and temporarily out of the work force is a better alternative to reducing working hours to maintain jobs.

And it's also high time to bring back the uptick rule to prevent predatory hedge funds from destroying promising hi-tech firms in their infancy (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/08/paul-krugman-hijacked-crisis-paul-heres.html).

Sorry to be a naysayer, David, but Obama's latest $447 billion stimulus plan is just a boodoggle, born out of panic, which does not address the roots of the problem.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nicholas Kristof, "Finding Hope in Libya": What Kristof Is Not Telling You

Nicholas Kristof, having wandered about Libya, tells us in his latest New York Times op-ed, "Finding Hope in Libya" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/opinion/finding-hope-in-libya.html?_r=1&hp), of his "sense" that Libya is "muddling along toward a future far better than its oppressive past." He observes that while passing through rebel checkpoints, he "was never once asked for a [sic] 'baksheesh,' meaning bribe or gift." He also tells us that we should not be worried by the background of the Libyan rebel leadership:

"Some Americans have fretted that Islamic extremists will take over Libya, but very few of the rebel leaders have been associated with Islamic fundamentalism. One exception is Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a military commander in Tripoli, who says he was tortured by the C.I.A. in 2004. Yet he told my Times colleague Rod Nordland that all is forgiven and that he appreciates the American role in the Libyan revolution.

Frankly, any representative Libyan government needs to include fundamentalists like Mr. Belhaj, who were particularly brave in standing up to the Qaddafi regime."

What is Kristof not telling you? From a very recent BBC article entitled "Profile: Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14786753):

"Mr Belhaj - known in the jihadi world as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq - commanded the now defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

The group was formed in 1990 by Mr Belhaj and other Islamist Libyans who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s.

. . . .

By 1998, the group was crushed. Most of its leaders fled to Afghanistan and joined forces with the Taliban. There, Mr Belhaj is alleged to have developed 'close relationships' with al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban chief Mullah Omar, according to an arrest warrant issued by the Libyan government in 2002.

The warrant says that he was based in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, from where he ran and financed training camps for Arab mujahideen fighters.

. . . .

The warrant says Mr Belhaj travelled widely, spending time in Sudan, Pakistan, Syria and Iran. He is also said to have visited Turkey, London and Denmark.

After the 11 September attacks and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, he and most of the LIFG leaders fled that country as well, only for Mr Belhaj to be arrested in 2004 in Thailand by the CIA and then handed over to Col Gaddafi's government."

Captured by the CIA and flown back to Libya, Belhaj was allegedly tortured in the presence of CIA agents:

"'What happened to me was illegal and deserves an apology,' he told the BBC's Jeremy Bowen in Tripoli.

. . . .

For his part, Mr Belhaj has said that the revelations would not stop Libya's new rebel leadership - the National Transitional Council - from having 'orderly relations' with the US and Britain.

. . . .

According to Arabic press reports, Mr Belhaj has two wives, one Moroccan and one Sudanese."

So which is it? According to Kristof's account, Belhaj has no score to settle with the CIA, whereas the BBC tells us that he is waiting for an apology. Note also how the sanguine Kristof account never once mentions Belhaj's past ties to the Taliban or his two wives.

What exactly does Belhaj mean when he says that he is willing to have "orderly relations" with the US and Britian? Excuse me, but there is a wide gulf separating "orderly" and "friendly."

What else does Kristof fail to observe? No mention in his jolly rendition that advanced Russian-made heat-seeking missiles are now missing from Libyan warehouses (see, from Kristof's own newspaper: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/world/africa/08missile.html?_r=1&hp). Some of these missiles, which can be used to down airliners, will reappear soon enough in Gaza and along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. Sorry to spoil the party, but this amounts to a security lapse by the Obama administration.

"Any representative Libyan government needs to include fundamentalists"? Yeah, right, and maybe there should also be radical Islamists in the US Congress. But never mind any of this: We wouldn't want to ruin Nicholas's perfect storybook ending.