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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Maureen Dowd, "She Made Me Run!": Sorry, Maureen, But Mitt Is No Flip-Flopper in Bed

I am not enamored of the lackluster crop of Republican presidential candidates. I would have been happier if Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie had all thrown their hats in the ring. And in my humble opinion, there are those past and present candidates, including Donald Trump, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, who have embarrassed themselves by suggesting that they are fit to serve as chief executive of the United States. However, Maureen Dowd stepped over the line by casting aspersions on the commitment of Ann Romney, Mitt's wife, who suffers from MS, to her husband's candidacy.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "She Made Me Run!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/opinion/sunday/dowd-she-made-me-run.html?_r=1), Maureen Dowd writes of Mrs. Romney:

"At Iowa campaign stops, the elegant Ann introduces her husband by describing how steadfast he has been as she fought her disease. In the post-Elizabeth Edwards age, candidates can’t risk looking as if they are placing their ambition ahead of a spouse’s health. So it’s a calculation for Romney’s image that Ann be seen as a driving force rather than a victim."

Dowd then pokes fun at Callista Gingrich, whose "stubbornness" is purportedly keeping Newt in the race, and mocks Donald Trump's current wife, Melania, who seems to be claiming that America hungers for Donald as president, before concluding:

"You don’t become president without clawing your way into the Oval Office, but voters prefer pols like J.F.K., Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama who wear their ambition lightly.

The key to ambition is the ability to cloak it. Better yet, attribute it to your wife."

Personally, I find the juxtaposition of Mitt Romney's mariage with the turbulent matrimonial relationships of Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump and John Edwards to be inapt to say the least. Although Mitt has been accused of being a flip-flopper, no one has questioned his commitment to his wife.

Moreover, given the debilitating effects of MS, there is no doubt in my mind that Ann Romney is indeed devoted to her husband's candidacy. Should she become First Lady, her physical suffering will be placed front and center before the nation, and her fortitude and dedication are only to be commended.

In her prior op-ed, Dowd highlighted the courage of her brother, Kevin, a cancer survivor. Today, however, she would make light of the hardship of those suffering from MS. Sorry, Maureen, but this is an instance where Ann and Mitt Romney deserve our admiration.

Inevitable War Between the US and Iran

Tensions between the US and Iran continue to mount. After threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, thereby choking off oil to the West, Iran has begun a 10-day naval exercise, during which various long-range and short-range missiles will be fired. Explaining the rationale for the exercise, Iran is saying that the "drills are defensive in nature and intended to convey a message of peace and friendship to the countries in the region" (http://www.presstv.ir/detail/218615.html). A "message of peace of friendship"? This display of fire power in the Persian Gulf, oozing harmony and amity, is not likely to act as a salve for Saudi concerns involving Iran's irenic intentions.

For its part, the US has announced a $30 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, including 84 new F-15 fighters (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/iran-and-obama-administration.html), which according to Andrew Shapiro, US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, is intended to "send a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East," but "not solely directed toward Iran" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/us-saudi-arabia-strike-30-billion-arms-deal/2011/12/29/gIQAjZmhOP_blog.html?hpid=z4). "Not solely directed toward Iran"? Yeah, right.

The US arms deal with the Saudis has now been supplemented by the announcement of a $3.48 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates, also concerned by Iranian nuclear ambitions, and will include a Lockheed Martin Terminal High Altitude Area Defense ("THAAD") weapon system (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-seals-deal-on-348-billion-sale-of-missiles-technology-to-uae-a-close-ally-in-mideast/2011/12/30/gIQAukcYRP_story.html).

Meanwhile, in yet another bid to buy time for the game-changing development of its nuclear arsenal, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun in Tehran on Thursday that Iran is ready to resume negotiations concerning its nuclear program with the 5+1 group (the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) (see: http://www.tehrantimes.com/politics/94057-iran-ready-to-resume-g51-talks-salehi-).

In addition, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Saturday that Jalili will soon write to the EU's neophyte foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, "to express Tehran's readiness for fresh nuclear talks with major powers" (see: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/iran-send-letter-eus-ashton-over-resumption-nuclear-064018416.html). Let's see if the the Hideous Baroness of Upholland (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/12/catherine-ashton-hideous-baroness-of.html) is once more willing to bite at the bait.

Indeed, Iran is very close to assembling its first atomic weapon, which is the reason for its desire to engage in maundering negotiations predestined to fail. As observed by Yossi Melman, the intelligence and military affairs correspondent for Haaretz, in a blog entry entitled "2012: The year that could bring a U.S. strike of Iran" (http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/the-arms-race/2012-the-year-that-could-bring-a-u-s-strike-of-iran-1.404390):

"Iran is, in all honesty, fairly close to its own 'year of reckoning.' It has already passed the 'technological threshold.' It knows how to enrich uranium, and has carried out experiments where uranium was enriched to 90%, as well as experiments with explosives to generate chain explosions. It carried out computer simulations of nuclear explosions. There is a general consensus that by the year 2012, and 2013 at the latest, Iran will be able to put together a nuclear weapon."

Bottom line: Notwithstanding short-term satisfaction over their purchase of top-of-the-line F-15 fighters, the Saudis will ultimately again insist that the US destroy Iran's nuclear development facilities. My understanding, however, is that President Obama, America's Procrastinator-in-Chief, is weighing whether such a strike undertaken prior to November 2012 best serves his chances of re-election.

Yes, 2012 stands to be interesting.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Iran and Obama Administration Doublespeak

Awakening to the imminent threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran's crazy mullahs, troubled by Saudi threats to obtain their own nuclear arsenal in response to Iran's nuclear aspirations, and concerned by the milquetoast image projected by the president toward this rogue Islamic regime ("Oh, pretty please, can we have our drone back?") as the 2012 election nears, the Obama administration has begun to talk tough. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reversed course and is now saying that a military option remains open (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/us-secretary-of-defense-reverses-course.html); however, Obama still can't bring himself to sanction Iran's central bank.

Meanwhile, Tehran has responded to Obama's attempts at demonstrating that he is indeed a vertebrate by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz.

In an effort to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, damaged by Obama's demand that Egypt's Mubarak step down during the Tahrir Square protests, and to counter Iran's warning, the US announced a $30 billion arms deal with Riyadh, including 84 new F-15 fighters, but note the attempt by the Obama administration to obfuscate this message. As reported by The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/us-saudi-arabia-strike-30-billion-arms-deal/2011/12/29/gIQAjZmhOP_blog.html?hpid=z4):

"'This sale will send a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East,' Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters.

. . . .

'Clearly, one of the threats that [the Saudis] — that they face, as well as other countries in the region — is Iran,' Shapiro said. 'But ... this is not solely directed toward Iran. This is directed toward meeting our partner Saudi Arabia’s defense needs.'"

Not solely directed toward Iran, but directed toward meeting Saudi Arabia’s defense needs? Yeah, right. Believe me, the implications of the sale were not lost upon Tehran, and if Obama has indeed decided to walk the walk, he also needs to talk the talk, which raises the question of his commitment to confronting Iran.

Meanwhile, The New York Times, the unofficial mouthpiece of the Obama adminstration, has this to say in a mealymouthed editorial entitled "Iran and the Strait" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/opinion/iran-and-the-strait.html?ref=opinion), concerning the deteriorating situation in the Persian Gulf:

"The new sanctions Tehran hopes to fend off are a United States law that would penalize foreign companies that do business with Iran’s central bank — which they must do to buy Iranian oil — and a tough new round of punishments, possibly including an oil embargo, now being considered by the European Union.

We strongly support applying maximum economic pressure to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But we think Washington penalizing foreign companies for engaging in otherwise lawful commerce with Iran is not the right way to go about it and could backfire, alienating European allies at a time when they are preparing to impose their own stronger sanctions. President Obama can limit the damage by making full use of a waiver, which allows him to block the penalties if they would threaten national security or cause oil prices to soar.

. . . .

Tehran’s latest threat to block global oil shipping should leave no doubt about its recklessness and its contempt for international law. This is not a government any country should want to see acquire nuclear weapons."

Provide the president, famous for his wavering, with a waiver? If Iran is indeed a country which should not be allowed nuclear weapons, the last thing Obama needs is wiggle room. Oil prices could soar? My understanding is that this undesirable outcome is covered by the arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which is prepared to increase oil production in response to any Iranian outrage.

Storm Cloud Over Gaza

More of the same in the south of Israel over the past 24 hours: Four rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli agricultural settlements last night, a retaliatory attack by the Israeli air force against a tunnel leading from Egypt into Gaza, and another rocket fired from Gaza at an Israeli kibbutz this morning. However, this pattern of rocket attacks followed by reprisals is not destined to continue much longer.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=251378):

"Speaking on the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead Tuesday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said that Israel will 'sooner or later' need to launch a large-scale operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

'I believe that the State of Israel cannot continue to live under the active threat of Hamas in the Gaza Strip,' Gantz said.

'Sooner or later, there will be no escape from conducting a significant operation. The IDF knows how to operate in a determined, decisive and offensive manner against terrorists in the Gaza Strip.'"

This missile fire out of Gaza, which now threatens more than a million Israelis, persists notwithstanding significant improvement in Gaza's economy. Although unemployment is still high by world standards, i.e. some 25%, it is now at its lowest level in over a decade, and Gaza's GDP has grown by more than 30% over the past year. In the month of November alone, 5,390 trucks carrying 149,165 tons of goods entered the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing, bringing food, construction materials, agricultural inputs, clothing, electrical products, sports equipment, vehicles, washing machines, refrigerators, ceramics and plumbing.

All of this progress will soon come to a screeching halt, and the world, blind to missile strikes against Israeli civilians, will again condemn Israel for seeking to end this reign of terror financed by Iran.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Maureen Dowd, "Kevin Warns Republicans": Obama's Looming Crisis With Iran

In "Kevin Warns Republicans" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/28/opinion/kevin-warns-republicans.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Maureen Dowd allows her brother Kevin, whom Maureen terms her "favorite conservative," to write a column, which, just this once, provides some much needed balance to the lopsidely liberal New York Times opinion page. Maureen tells us that Kevin has survived kidney cancer, and I would like to wish him a speedy and complete recovery and many more joyous Christmases with his family.

With a razor-sharp wit akin to that of his sister, Kevin aptly observes:

"It will be easy to benchmark [Obama's job performance as president] since he left office after two years and nine months to campaign full time for the same job but this time as the Republican populist Teddy Roosevelt."

Obama, who is a virtuoso campaigner, yet a dilettantish executive, indeed wishes this were so. Unfortunately for the president, he is soon to face a crisis with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is likely to define his presidency.

As reported yesterday by CNN (http://money.cnn.com/2011/12/27/markets/oil_iran/index.htm):

"'If Iran oil is banned, not a single drop of oil will pass through Hormuz Strait,' Iran's 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said Tuesday, according to the Iran State News Agency.

Iran is also currently conducting Naval exercises in and around the Strait.

. . . .

Investment bank Merrill Lynch predicts a $40 rise in oil prices if the country's 2.2 million barrels day of crude are shut off completely."

This Iranian threat follows a dramatic change of heart by the Obama administration concerning Iran's development of nuclear weapons (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/us-secretary-of-defense-reverses-course.html). After learning that Iran is further along with its development program than previously thought and after being warned that Saudi Arabia will also seek such weapons if the Iranians are not stopped, Obama has belatedly begun to talk tough. In response, however, the Iranians have upped the ante and are talking even tougher.

Who blinks first? The stakes -- including the health of the American economy -- are high, and this could well prove to be Obama's "Cuban Missile Crisis." Moreover, his handling of this predicament will determine whether Obama is awarded a second term in office.

Interesting, also, is the timing of the "Austere Challenge" joint missile defense exercise planned by the U.S. and Israel for April 2012. The exercise is large, and is also being afforded publicity never seen in the past (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/joint-israelus-missile-defense-exercise.html).

Obama's fate now rests in his own hands and will not be determined by the quibbling of a lackluster Republican field of presidential candidates. He will not be able to escape the rigors of government and the taxing demands placed on the commander-in-chief during the coming year, as Tehran puts his rickety backbone to the test.

Monday, December 26, 2011

All Religions Believe in Peace, Compassion and Kindness? An Opinion That Will Never See the Light of Day in The New York Times

Do you remember Obama's June 4, 2009 Cairo University speech (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-cairo-university-6-04-09), during which the president declared:

"As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities -- it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."

Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality? Yeah, right.

Maybe you will also recall Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery? World outrage had prevented the Islamic Republic of Iran from proceeding with this abomination, but now her execution is again drawing near (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/25/iran-stoning-woman-adultery_n_1169429.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000002):

"Authorities in Iran said Sunday they are again moving ahead with plans to execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning on an adultery conviction in a case that sparked an international outcry, but are considering whether to carry out the punishment by hanging instead.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is already behind bars, serving a 10-year sentence on a separate conviction in the murder of her husband. Amid the international outrage her case generated, Iran in July 2010 suspended plans to carry out her death sentence on the adultery conviction.

On Sunday, a senior judiciary official said experts were studying whether the punishment of stoning could be changed to hanging."

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, a woman named Amina bin Salem Nasser was executed in the northern province of al-Jawf for practicing "witchcraft and sorcery" (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/8952641/Saudi-Arabia-execution-of-sorcery-woman-condemned.html). This execution brought the number of persons beheaded in Saudi Arabia in 2011 up to 73. This should give Obama food for thought the next time he considers bowing to Saudi King Abdullah.

In Egypt, liberal commentators are stunned by election results providing the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis with some two-thirds of the vote. In fact, these results should never have come as a surprise, given the statistics issued in December 2010 by the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/):

"About eight-in-ten Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan (82% each) endorse the stoning of people who commit adultery; 70% of Muslims in Jordan and 56% of Nigerian Muslims share this view. Muslims in Pakistan and Egypt are also the most supportive of whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery; 82% in Pakistan and 77% in Egypt favor making this type of punishment the law in their countries, as do 65% of Muslims in Nigeria and 58% in Jordan.

When asked about the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion, at least three-quarters of Muslims in Jordan (86%), Egypt (84%) and Pakistan (76%) say they would favor making it the law; in Nigeria, 51% of Muslims favor and 46% oppose it."

Time for Obama, a self-anointed "student of history," to wake up and smell the coffee.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Austere Challenge": Massive Israel/US Missile Defense Exercise in April

Yaakov Katz writes in a Jerusalem Post article entitled "US commander visits Israel to finalize missile drill" (http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=250249) that Israel and the US are planning a joint missile defense exercise in April 2012:

Last week, Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.

The drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.

The US will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel.

The American systems will work in conjunction with Israel’s missile defense systems – the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome.

As reported by the Israeli Air Force (http://iaf.org.il/4376-38307-en/IAF.aspx):

"The purpose of [Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc's] visit is to practice commands and mutual regulations, in the fields as well as in the command center, as a part of preparation for the ["Austere Challenge" exercise]", says Lieutenant Colonel Dedi Meiri, Commander of the Flight Squadron in the Active Defense Wing. "We're showing the General the fields, what really goes on in the batteries. Then we'll practice system cooperation and coordination in the ITB, such as 'Arrow' and 'David's Sling'".

The Lieutenant General's tour began at Battery A' of the "Iron Dome", which intercepted a rocket fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past weekend.

Lieutenant General Gorenc was hosted by Brigadier General Doron Gavish, Commander of the Aerial Defense Formation, who also led the tour. At the battery, the Lieutenant General met with Lieutenant Colonel Gilad Biran, Commander of the "Iron Dome" Unit and with Captain Elad Tzinamon, Commander of the Battery, who explained to him the structure of the battery, how the system works and the "Discovery to Warning" system.

The fanfare attending the upcoming "Austere Challenge" exercise is unusual. Israeli is deeply indebted to the US for this show of support, given the imminent threat of combined missile attacks from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

Enough said.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Krugman, "The Post-Truth Campaign": Paul Bends the Truth

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "The Post-Truth Campaign" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/23/opinion/krugman-the-post-truth-campaign.html?hp), Paul Krugman would have us believe that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is incessantly falsifying President Obama's record. Specifically, Krugman slams Romney for falsifying Obama's foreign policy:

"Then there’s Mr. Romney’s frequent suggestion that the president has gone around the world 'apologizing for America.' This is a popular theme on the right — but the so-called Obama apology tour is a complete fabrication, assembled by taking quotes out of context."

Before delving into the issue of whether Obama has been "apologetic," let's begin by examining whether Obama himself has been "honest" when publicly presenting the principles guiding his foreign policy. In a March 28, 2011 Huffington Post article entitled "Obama's Libya Speech Fact Checked: How The Claims Fit The Facts" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/29/obama-libya-speech-fact-check_n_841920.html), Calvin Woodward and Richard Lardner write:

"Here is a look at some of Obama's assertions in his address to the nation Monday, and how they compare with the facts:

. . . .

OBAMA: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

THE FACTS: Mass violence against civilians has also been escalating elsewhere, without any U.S. military intervention anticipated.

More than 1 million people have fled the Ivory Coast, where the U.N. says forces loyal to the incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, have used heavy weapons against the population and more than 460 killings have been confirmed of supporters of the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara.

The Obama administration says Gbagbo and Gadhafi have both lost their legitimacy to rule. But only one is under attack from the U.S."

Subsequent to the Woodward and Lardner article, Obama also turned a blind eye to ongoing atrocities committed by Syrian President Assad, whom Obama had been courting since his inauguration (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-york-times-editorial-killing-in.html).

Consider also Obama's craven 2009 bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEUif1--r38), which this year has beheaded almost a hundred persons, some of them for "witchcraft." There was also Obama's bow to Japan's Emperor Akihito (see: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/11/obama-emperor-akihito-japan.html).

Yes, there is a difference between "goveling" and "apologizing," so let's have a look at Obama's 2009 Cairo University speech (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-cairo-university-6-04-09):

"The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

. . . .

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

. . . .

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

. . . .

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."

Not apologetic? Have I taken quotes out of context? Decide for yourself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gail Collins, "Housebound for the Holidays": What Gail Isn't Telling You

In her Thursday New York Times op-ed, "Housebound for the Holidays" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/22/opinion/collins-housebound-for-the-holidays.html?_r=1&hp), Collins trots our more tripe regarding recent Republican braggadocio in the House and Senate. No mention of Romney's dog, which she will so cleverly inject into her Saturday column.

But what is missing from Collins's column? You want empty braggadocio? What about Obama's recent claim regarding his White House achievements, which was "conveniently" edited out of “60 Minutes” (see: http://ology.com/politics/ego-watch-cbs-refuses-air-obamas-claim-be-fourth-best-president-history/12202011):

“As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history."

Apparently, Obama, surrounded by flunkeys, has grown delusional. This is beyond a narcissistic personality disorder. Where is Jon Stewart when we need him?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "The End, for Now": Another Titillating Brain Teaser

Thomas Friedman, still showing no signs of remorse following his travesty of an op-ed, "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/thomas-friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and.html), again titillates us with his inestimable wit in his latest New York Times opinion piece, "The End, for Now" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/opinion/friedman-the-end-for-now.html?ref=opinion). Waxing philosophic and bringing to bear all of his considerable Middle East acumen on the topic of what will next happen in Iraq, Friedman poses the following brain teaser:

"Can the Arab world develop pluralistic, consensual politics, with regular rotations in power, where people can live as citizens and not feel that their tribe, sect or party has to rule or die?"

In case there is anyone out there who doesn't already know, the answer is . . . a drumroll, please . . . "No."

[In an interview with the Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week (http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/breaking_news/times_friedman_regrets_israel_lobby_phrase_0), Friedman, referring to his declaration that Congress's standing ovation for Netanyahu "was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," stated: “In retrospect I probably should have used a more precise term like ‘engineered’ by the Israel lobby — a term that does not suggest grand conspiracy theories that I don’t subscribe to.” However, as aptly observed by Jonathan Tobin of Commentary (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/12/20/friedman-slur-israel-lobby/), "this weasel-worded attempt at walking back his brief foray into anti-Semitism shouldn’t convince anyone.”]

Maureen Dowd, "Separation of Newt and State": Akin to Professional Wrestling

Some 40 years ago I was working in Manhattan, and one of my bosses, who had bought a ticket to see professional wrestling at Madison Square Garden, suddenly had family obligations that evening, and he offered me the ticket instead. I had never before gone to a professional wrestling match, but suddenly I was in the midst of thousands of screaming fans watching grown men with names such as Bruno Sammartino, Ivan "the Russian Bear" Koloff, and Ivan "the Polish Hammer" Putsky get sweaty in their jockey shorts and outrageous leotards, locking arms and doing somersaults across the ring.

But that was only half the fun . . .

The real entertainment came from the fans seated around me, who frothed at the mouth, screaming, "Hair, ref! Hair!", when Gorilla Monsoon pulled his opponent to the mat in unsportsmanlike fashion. And there was the woman ready to swoon, when phony blood spurted from the face of one of her heroes. And how the crowd went bananas when one of the arch-villains removed a small packet of powder from his crotch and tossed the noxious substance in the face of his unsuspecting opponent.

In "Separation of Newt and State" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/opinion/dowd-separation-of-newt-and-state.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd again regales us with the antics of Newt Gingrich. Let's be honest: Gingrich doesn't stand a chance of winning the Republican nomination and never did, but this doesn't stop Maureen from entertaining the "fans" with her blow by blow description, as Newt at first seems on the verge of winning the championship belt, only to succumb suddenly to a pin.

Unlike professional wrestling the Republican primaries are presumably not "fixed," yet by this point we all know the outcome in advance. It's hard to create drama where none exists.

The Republican primaries and professional wrestling: You might want to visit once for the anthropological experience, but beyond that? Yawn.

US Secretary of Defense Reverses Course on Iran

Just over a month ago, recently appointed US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned at a Pentagon news conference that an attack on Iran's nuclear weapons development facilities could have "unintended consequences":

"You've got to be careful of unintended consequences here. And those consequences could involve not only not really deterring Iran from what they want to do, but more importantly, it could have a serious impact in the region and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region."

However, interviewed yesterday by CBS News, Panetta reversed course (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57345322/panetta-iran-will-not-be-allowed-nukes/):

"The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis.

. . . .

If they [Iran] proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."

So what's caused the change of heart? If I tell you, I will have to kill you . . .

Monday, December 19, 2011

The New York Times Sanitizes Critical Response to Thomas Friedman's Anti-Semitic Tirade

There can and will be no forgetting Thomas Friedman's anti-Semitic tirade in his op-ed, “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/opinion/friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and-vladimir.html?_r=1&hp), in which he declared:

"I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

It now turns out that The New York Times was only willing to publish one letter-to-the-editor in response to Friedman's racist rant, which was submitted by the American Jewish Committee (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/opinion/us-support-for-israel.html). However, The New York Times "sanitized" this reply.

As reported by David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, in The Jerusalem Post (http://blogs.jpost.com/content/new-york-times-columnist-tom-friedman-crossed-line), the following is the original letter-to-the-editor submitted by the AJC to The Times:

“Tom Friedman is entitled to his opinion about the pro-Israel statements of Republican presidential candidates. But his assertion that the standing ovation Congress gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a few months ago was ‘bought and paid for by the Israel lobby’ is both inaccurate and shockingly insidious. Public opinion polls consistently show a high level of American (and, yes, American Jewish) support for and identification with Israel. This indicates that the people’s elected representatives are fully reflecting the will of the voters. Friedman’s identification of a rich and powerful ‘Israel lobby’ conjures up the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes. Does he identify with those who traffic in such rhetoric, notably Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who coauthored a book by that name? One surely hopes not.”

Now contrast this with what was published by The Times:

“Thomas L. Friedman is entitled to his opinion about the pro-Israel statements of Republican presidential candidates. But we strongly object to his assertion that the standing ovation that Congress gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few months ago ‘was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.’ Public opinion polls consistently show a high level of American (and, yes, American Jewish) support for and identification with Israel. This indicates that the people’s elected representatives are fully reflecting the will of the people.”

In short, The New York Times redacted the AJC's observation that Friedman "conjures up the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes."

In the past I have noted the proclivity of The Times to engage in censorship of online responses that are critical of its editorials or the opinions of its columnists (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-1-to-clark-hoyt-public.html). However, this reformulation of the AJC's letter goes far beyond the pale of ethical journalism. What a surprise . . .

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Israel Bonds Advertises in The New York Times

Open Letter to the Development Corporation for Israel

Dear Madam/Sir,

This morning I was astounded to see that the Development Corporation for Israel is advertising online in The New York Times to sell Israel Bonds, notwithstanding that this newspaper has become a leading proponent of the new anti-Semitism and that many of its subscribers have cancelled their subscriptions for this reason.

As you are surely aware, Thomas Friedman last week wrote a New York Times op-ed (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/thomas-friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and.html) in which he declared:

"I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

This was not an isolated instance of the new anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head at The New York Times. In fact, it came on the heels of Sarah Schulman's recent New York Times contributor op-ed entitled "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'", in which Israel is assailed for safeguarding gay rights allegedly in order to disguise abuse of Palestinian rights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just refused an offer by The New York Times to write a contributor op-ed for them. Explaining Prime Minister Netanyahu's refusal, Netanyahu's senior adviser, Ron Dermer, provided concrete evidence that antagonism to Israel on the opinion pages of The New York Times has reached epic proportions:

"I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, 'positive' and 'negative,' with 'negative' meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were 'negative.'

The only "positive" piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid. Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone's previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position."

Needless to say, the obsessive hostility to Israel of New York Times columnists Roger Cohen, Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman and Robert Mackey has become legendary.

Moreover, The New York Times has persisted in posting vile anti-Semitic online readers' comments by its "moderators," notwithstanding its purported policy that "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-2-to-clark-hoyt-public.html).

Let there be no doubt: The New York Times is anti-Semitic (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-york-times-and-israel-bashing-yes.html), and I have asked readers of my blog to boycott corporations and organizations that advertise in The New York Times (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/boycott-new-york-times-advertisers.html).

As such, I ask that the Development Corporation for Israel immediately cease to advertise with The New York Times. I cannot ask my readers to boycott corporations advertising with this anti-Semitic newspaper when the Development Corporation for Israel uses this newspaper's services.

I await your urgent response, which I will post on my blog.

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Maureen Dowd, "The Pungent Aroma of Paranoia": An "Acceptable Ending" to the War in Iraq?

In her latest New York Times opinion piece, "The Pungent Aroma of Paranoia" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-the-pungent-aroma-of-paranoia.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd would have us believe that Obama and Biden have brought the war in Iraq to an "acceptable ending":

"You’d never know it, given Republicans’ churlish silence and unseemly sniping, but the president and the vice president have stumbled and bumbled their way to an acceptable ending to the war that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney so recklessly started."

I opposed the Second Gulf War, given the likelihood that it would upset the delicate equilibrium of power between Saddam in Iraq and the mullahs in Iran, but will we now see an "acceptable ending"? I doubt it. I anticipate renewed fighting among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and that Iraq's 400,000 Christians will soon begin a mass exodus from the country.

The door has also been opened for Iran to expand its sphere of influence, as evidenced by Ahmadinejad's plans to visit Iraq's Kurdistan Region "to discuss the nature of border problems between both sides and to develop bilateral trade relations" (http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2011/11/state5601.htm). This is all the more remarkable given Iran's history of persecuting its own Kurdish minority.

As acknowledged by Dowd:

"The White House knows that, while politics has broken out in Iraq, there are multiple flashpoints in the next year that, if not controlled, could blow up and bring down the precarious house of cards. They can only pray that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki keeps his promises about Iran. And that, before some firefight between rival groups spins out of control, the various Iraqi tribes consider the costs of pulling the plug."

Sorry to be a pessimist, but you can count on that ugly firefight, which is the only way things get "resolved" in this region. Iraq's Sunni elite will not surrender their socioeconomic power to the Shiite majority, as evidenced what is happening on a micro scale in Bahrain, and the Kurds will fight to the end to preserve their autonomy in the north.

An "acceptable ending"? No way, but perhaps there is no "acceptable ending." Given Iran's provocative behavior of late, which has gone unchecked by Obama, who refuses to sanction the Iranian central bank, the timing of American withdrawal could not be worse; however, as the immortal W.C. Fields once said:

"There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation."

Notwithstanding the sign on the door, "you broke it, you bought it," perhaps it's long past time to hightail out of there, before its costs, combined with those from the inane ground war in Afghanistan, swallow the American economy whole.

Thomas Friedman, "Help Wanted": A Lack of Leadership at The New York Times

Today, Thomas Friedman is back with a New York Times op-ed entitled "Help Wanted" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/opinion/sunday/friedman-help-wanted.html?ref=opinion), in which he writes his usual tired spiel about the empowerment of individuals by globalization and the Information Technology revolution. Friedman pompously advises Vladimir Putin that this shift of power to the people demands that leaders "get the best of what is coming up from below and then meld it with a vision from above." He then concludes this flatulent opus by recommending that Egypt find this new kind of leader:

"One can see this vividly in Egypt, where the bottom-up democracy movement was strong enough to oust Mubarak but now faces the long, arduous process of building new institutions and writing a new social contract from a democracy coalition that encompass [sic] Muslim Brothers, Christian liberals, Muslim liberals, the army and ultraconservative Muslim Salafis.

Getting all those fish back and swimming together in one aquarium will be no small task — one that will take a very courageous and special leader. Help wanted."

Excuse me, but what a load of horse apples! With the departure of strongman Mubarak, who kept something of a lid on violence between Muslims and Christian Copts, and with the Egyptian economy sinking into the muddy depths of the Nile (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=248066), there is no chance whatsoever that a Western-style democracy will evolve in Egypt. My sources tell me that wealthy Egyptians are busy moving funds out of the country and investing in London real estate.

What else do Russia and Egypt have in common? In prior opinion pieces, Friedman blamed -- you guessed it -- tiny Israel for not siding with protestors in both these countries. In "Postcard From Cairo, Part 2" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/opinion/13-friedman-Web-cairo.html?pagewanted=all), Friedman devoted an entire op-ed to castigating Israel for not siding with Egypt's "democracy youth" in Tahrir Square. In "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/opinion/friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and-vladimir.html?_r=1&hp) earlier this week, Friedman complained that Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, had met with Putin and declared that the recent elections had been fair. Friedman always discovers a way to find Israel, but not Luxembourg or Liechtenstein, at fault.

Friedman, of course, touched off a firestorm in "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir" by scandalously alleging:

"I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

Needless to say, Friedman doesn't have the courage to address the outrage caused by this slimy remark, which sounds like something taken from that hoary anti-Semitic forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." But I suppose we shouldn't be expecting an apology from this windbag.

I shot off a complaint by e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times, with a copy to the their public editor, in which I complained of Friedman's filthy remark, but good ol' Andy has yet to respond, nor do I think he will.

Both Friedman and Rosenthal have their heads buried in the sand, and I wonder if the management of The Times will ever listen to the protests "coming up from below."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Obama, "No US Administration Has Done More in Support of Israel's Security Than Ours": Yeah, Right

Speaking to the Union for Reform Judaism on Friday, President Obama declared (http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=249771):

"No US administration has done more in support of Israel's security than ours. None. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. It is a fact."

Forgive me, but I'm going to say otherwise.

Yes, Obama has helped fund Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system, and indeed, Netanyahu thanked Obama for his help in rescuing trapped personnel from Israel's Cairo embassy, when it came under attack by thousands of rioting Egyptians in September. Also in September, Obama acted to oppose the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood via the UN Security Council.

But now let's look at the flip side of the coin . . .

Obama visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in 2009, but refused to step foot in Israel. Since becoming president, Obama has visited some 30 different countries, several of them more than once, but Israel has never been on his agenda.

In 2010, Obama sought to humiliate Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, when he visited the White House. As reported by Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/03/25/president-allegedly-dumps-israeli-prime-minister-dinner/):

"For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Benjamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation."

Obama's contemptuous treatment of Netanyahu has continued unabated, culminating in the recent open microphone gaffe, when Obama bitterly said of Netanyahu to French President Sarkozy:

"You're fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day."

Obama has yet to apologize or attempt to explain away this remark.

Over the past month, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blamed Israel for its isolation (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/03/world/middleeast/panetta-says-israel-must-mend-ties-with-arab-neighbors.html?_r=1&hp), and indicated at a Pentagon news conference that the US is not weighing a military option to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/11/us-secretary-of-defense-panetta.html).

And although the Obama administration is planning sanctions against Iran's petrochemical sector, it is unwilling to take action against Iran's central bank (see: http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=246117).

Meanwhile, after reading of an isolated incident where several ultra-Orthodox soldiers walked out of an Israeli army concert where women sang, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month compared Israel with Iran and warned of the erosion of democratic values in Israel (see: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/clinton-warns-of-israel-s-eroding-democratic-values-1.399543).

Consider also the lurking influence on American Middle East policy of senior Obama advisor and Israel-hater, Samantha Power, who in the past contemplated depriving Israel of military aid and investing billions of dollars to create a "protection force" to prevent Israel from perpetrating "genocide" against the Palestinians (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O5XxXm8wPE).

Bottom line: Obama may have provided assistance for Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system, but he and his cabinet have dramatically undermined Israel's legitimacy over the past three years. There is a good reason Obama is not visiting Israel. Freed from the constraints of re-election, no one knows what life-threatening concessions Obama might seek to wring from Israel.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

BOYCOTT NEW YORK TIMES ADVERTISERS!

Since creating this blog, I have persistently warned of frightening anti-Semitic trends at The New York Times. As I have stated in the past, New York Times "moderators" have repeatedly posted the vilest expressions of anti-Semitism in online readers' comments, notwithstanding the purported policy of The Times that "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive" (see, for example: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-2-to-clark-hoyt-public.html).

I have also noted the overwhelming number and preponderance of op-ed and editorial opinions hostile to Israel, which are fond of distorting facts and of focusing on occurrences that don't reflect reality in this country (see, most recently: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-york-times-and-israel-bashing-yes.html). As observed by a senior adviser to Netanyahu, Ron Dermer, in a letter (see below in its entirety) to The New York Times, in which he declines their offer to publish a contributor op-ed to be written by Netanyahu (http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=249724), antagonism to Israel on the opinion pages of The New York Times has reached epic proportions:

"I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, 'positive' and 'negative,' with 'negative' meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were 'negative.'

The only "positive" piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid. Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone's previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position."

Needless to say, the obsessive hostility to Israel of Roger Cohen, Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman and Robert Mackey has become legendary.

After reading Sarah Schulman's recent New York Times contributor op-ed entitled "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/11/sarah-schulman-israel-and-pinkwashing.html), in which Israel is assailed for safeguarding gay rights allegedly in order to disguise abuse of Palestinian rights, I was of the opinion that The Times had reached a new journalistic nadir and wondered how even Andy Rosenthal and friends could publish this highly politicized tripe. However, the baseness of Schulman's opinion piece has now been surpassed by Thomas Friedman's "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/thomas-friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and.html), which, calling to mind the rabidly anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," claims:

"I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

Enough! Most in the US who read this blog have long ago cancelled their subscriptions to The New York Times. It is now time to contact companies and organizations advertising in The Times and to demand in no uncertain terms that they cease advertising with The Times until anti-Semitism at The Times is extirpated, and until an apology is received from Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of this befouled newspaper.

The Times is of course free to continue to serve as the mouthpiece of the new anti-Semitism, and it could well be that they have made a calculated decision that the radical left comprises their core market. However, those advertising with The Times should be made to know that there is a price for subsidizing racism.

Ron Dermer's important letter to The New York Times, published by The Jerusalem Post:

Dear Sasha,

I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times. Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan's admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

"It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued."

This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state. It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.

The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known. They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace. They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole. Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby" rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.

Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel. Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.

Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”

The only "positive" piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid. Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone's previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position. According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.

Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply. It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions. In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.

So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer. We wouldn't want to be seen as "Bibiwashing" the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Sincerely,

Ron Dermer
Senior advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu

Paul Krugman, "G.O.P. Monetary Madness": "Great Depression, here we come"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "G.O.P. Monetary Madness" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/opinion/gop-monetary-madness.html?ref=opinion), Paul Krugman would have us know that expansion of the monetary base in recent years by the Federal Reserve has not resulted in significant inflation and debasement of the dollar, as predicted by Ron Paul and Paul Ryan. (That's a helluva lot of Pauls in one sentence.) Krugman asks, "Who could have predicted that printing so much money would cause so little inflation?" The Great and Powerful One's answer? You guessed it:

"Well, I could. And did."

Krugman concludes his opinion piece by observing:

"Now, it’s still very unlikely that Ron Paul will become president. But, as I said, his economic doctrine has, in effect, become the official G.O.P. line, despite having been proved utterly wrong by events. And what will happen if that doctrine actually ends up being put into action? Great Depression, here we come."

Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't even want to imagine Ron Paul as president. On the other hand, I thought the US was already in something approximating a depression, and as acknowledged by Krugman in his prior op-ed, "Depression and Democracy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/opinion/krugman-depression-and-democracy.html?_r=1&ref=opinion):

"It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression."

As pointedly observed by Peter Wehner of Commentary in his August 2011 "Contentions" opinion piece entitled "Answering Jonathan Alter's Challenge" (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/08/26/jonathan-alter-challenge/):

"* Under Obama’s stewardship, we have lost 2.2 million jobs (and 900,000 full-time jobs in the last four months alone). He is now on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era.

* The unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent v. 7.8 percent the month Obama took office.

* July marked the 30th consecutive month in which the unemployment rate was above the 8 percent level, the highest since the Great Depression.

* Since May 2009 — roughly 14 weeks into the Obama administration — the unemployment rate has been above 10 percent during three months, above 9 percent during 22 months, and above 8 percent during two months.

* Chronic unemployment is worse than during the Great Depression.

* The youth employment rate is at the lowest level since records were first kept in 1948.

* The share of the eligible population holding a job has declined to the lowest level since the early 1980s.

* The housing crisis is worse than in the Great Depression. (Home values are worth roughly one-third less than they were five years ago.)

* The rate of economic growth under Obama has been only slightly higher than the 1930s, the decade of the Great Depression. From the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011, we experienced five consecutive quarters of slowing growth. America’s GDP for the second quarter of this year was a sickly 1.0 percent; in the first quarter, it was 0.4 percent.

* Fiscal year 2011 will mark the third straight year with deficits in excess of $1 trillion. Prior to the Obama presidency, we had never experienced a deficit in excess of $1 trillion.

* During the Obama presidency, America has increased its debt by $4 trillion.

. . . .

* America saw its credit rating downgraded for the first time in history under the Obama presidency.

* Consumer confidence has plunged to the lowest level since the Carter presidency.

* The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.

* A record number of Americans now rely on the federal government’s food stamps program. More than 44.5 million Americans received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a 12 percent increase from one year ago."

In many respects, this economic data points to a situation worse than the Great Depression.

True, as Krugman observes, over the past three years "consumer prices have risen just 4.5 percent, meaning an average annual inflation rate of only 1.5 percent." However, Krugman fails to factor into the equation how much less Americans have to spend, owing to persistent unemployment. By way of comparison, there was deflation during the Great Depression.

Looking ahead with respect to debasement of the dollar, I believe that if Obama oversees several more trillion dollar deficit years, the US currency will indeed lose much of its value. Moreover, if this happens, I, the Gray Wizard of Caesarea, can predict the next great growth industry: wheelbarrows, needed to haul dollar bills to the grocery store to purchase bread.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stock Market Manipulation: A New Shorting Technique

As noted in an earlier blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/Uptick%20Rule), I do not advocate an outright ban on short sales in the US, as this would interfere with the efficiency of markets, i.e. interfere with the pricing of shares in accordance with their true value. I do, however, support reinstatement of the "Uptick Rule," which would prevent downward manipulation of share prices by market sharks, which has cost many small companies their lives, thereby adding to unemployment.

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

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

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

Since the cancellation of the Uptick Rule, I have seen instances where hedge funds have shorted shares of a given company and have then consistently sold additional shares of that company into the market every day during the last seconds of trading, i.e. the closing, to provide the impression that the shares are trending downward. This illegal technique, which has been around for decades, is known as "painting the tape."

More recently, I have observed that certain "creative" hedge funds, which have shorted shares in a given company, are engaged in a new manipulative technique: Every time the shares of the company rise on the market, they sell short an additional 100 shares at the bid, so that investors will not perceive any upward movement in the shares.

Where are the market regulators?

Thomas Friedman, "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir": Israel Doesn't Need Your Love

What a surprise: Israel is again under assault on the op-ed page of the New York Times. I had naively hoped that one of this newspaper's pundits might consider writing about the Nobel Prize just awarded to Professor Dan Shechtman of Haifa's Technion for his work in the field of crystallography, or about the total of ten such prizes awarded to citizens of Israel over the course of the country's 63 years of existence, but this was not meant to be.

Instead, in his latest opinion piece entitled "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/opinion/friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and-vladimir.html?_r=1&hp), Thomas Friedman declares that he loves "both Israelis and Palestinians," but then goes to great lengths to malign only Israel. Claiming that he is "deeply worried about where Israel is going today," Friedman says of Netanyahu's speech before the US Congress:

"I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

The Israel lobby is paying off the US Congress? It sounds a bit like the bogus anti-Semitic allegations to be found in "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It obviously never occurred to Friedman that the ovation received by Netanyahu could possibly have had anything to do with the fact that Israel is among Americans’ most favored countries (see: http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/news/9084/popularity_of_israel_in_america_at_all_time_high), or that Israel consistently votes with the US in the UN more than almost all other countries (see: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/162416.pdf).

Friedman's alleges that Israel is headed in the wrong direction and cites the following evidence:

• The support of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, for Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, following Russia's recent elections.
• Fisticuffs between right-wing Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers on an Israeli army base.
• Segregation of men and women on Israeli buses serving the ultra-orthodox community.

Let's get this straight: I am no fan of Avigdor Lieberman, and I believe that he should not be serving as Israel's foreign minister. On the other hand, Israel must still contend with life-threatening armaments being sent by Russia to, for example, Syria (see: http://news.yahoo.com/russia-delivers-missiles-syria-170047738.html), and unseemly bargains must sometimes be struck with the devil in order to survive.

Regarding the attack against the Israeli army base by the extremists, Netanyahu ordered Israeli security forces to take immediate action against the perpetrators, and Netanyahu's outrage was felt throughout Israel across the entire political spectrum (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/netanyahu-right-wing-leaders-condemn-attack-on-idf-base-in-west-bank-1.401167).

With respect to segregation between the sexes by the ultra-Orthodox minority, I suggest Friedman also seek to sanction the ultra-Orthodox community in the US for the same behavior. Personally, I recall one instance where an American ultra-Orthodox woman seated next to me on an El Al flight asked me to change my seat, but I refused. End of story.

On the basis of these three examples, Friedman would have the readership of The New York Times believe that Israelis are questioning, "Who are we?" The reality is that most Israelis whom I know are constantly questioning who they are, where they are going, and how they can make things better. They live in a vibrant society under constant existential threat from their neighbors, yet are still able to produce Nobel Prize winners, medical breakthoughs, software and algorithmic wizardry, and achievements in the arts.

Let's turn the tables: Would Tom dare seek to calumniate America for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting; for violent assaults upon abortion clinics; for Senator John Kerry's cordial meetings with Syrian president Assad; or for Obama's bow to Abdullah, king of Saudi Arabia, where persons are routinely convicted of witchcraft and beheaded (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/witchcraft-no-defense-for-it-in-saudi.html)? I think not. Moreover, such aberrant instances of evil are in no way indicative of basic American tolerance and virtue.

Sorry, Tom, but Israel doesn't need your love. I suggest you continue saving it for yourself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Witchcraft: No Defense for It in Saudi Arabia

Do you remember Obama's infamous bow to Saudi Arabia? Going much further back in time, do you recall the Frank Sinatra 1957 hit "Witchcraft," which begins:

Those fingers in my hair
That sly come-hither stare
That strips my conscience bare
It's witchcraft

And I've got no defense for it
The heat is too intense for it
What good would common sense for it do?

Well, there is also "no defense for it" in Saudi Arabia. Although many in the West posit that all religions promote tolerance, love and understanding, consider the following item from Reuters published yesterday by The Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=249247):

"Rights group Amnesty International has described as "deeply shocking" Saudi Arabia's beheading of a woman convicted on charges of "sorcery and witchcraft", saying it underlined the urgent need to end executions in the kingdom.

Saudi national Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was executed on Monday in the northern province of al-Jawf after being tried and convicted for practicing sorcery, the interior ministry said, without giving details of the charges."

Just an isolated instance of injustice in the desert kingdom? Yeah, right. As reported by the Saudi Gazette less than three months ago (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=20110921109257&archiveissuedate=21/09/2011):

"A Sudanese man was beheaded Monday in Madina after he was convicted of practicing sorcery, the Interior Ministry announced. Abdul Hamid Al-Fakki “practiced witchcraft and sorcery,” which are illegal under the Shariah law, said a ministry statement. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the Shariah law enforced strictly in the Kingdom."

Now consider that Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser of the Department of State, is alleged to have said, while addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, that "in an appropriate case, he didn't see any reason why sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States" (see: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/item_yyMKJnrmyV5g5MZlhheZOP;jsessionid=B3AF1EE6089A1D7DC426F0892160E371). It would be interesting to know what Koh regards as an "appropriate case."

In any event, as aptly suggested by the Sinatra lyrics, there is no defense for witchcraft in Saudi Arabia, and "common sense for it" in that country would indeed do no good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Next War: Hamas and Hezbollah Don't Hesitate to Use Human Shields



After some 20 rockets were fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel over the past weekend, the Israeli airforce retaliated during the hours of the night between Saturday and Sunday. The video above shows a weapons depot in Gaza being targeted by the IDF during this action. In the video, observe the two red circles: the upper red circle encloses civilian dwellings, whereas the lower red circle demarks the warehouse containing the weaponry, which included rockets. Note the secondary explosions as the munitions go up in flames.

Despite the precision of Israeli airforce attacks, there will inevitably be wounded civilians owing to the proximity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad weapons depots in Gaza, and of Hezbollah weapons depots in southern Lebanon, to civilian dwellings. Make no mistake about it: Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah welcome civilian casualties, in order to convince a gullible West of Israeli brutality.

Needless to say, Palestinian medical sources, crying crocodile tears, bitterly complained that one civilian had been killed and 13 others had been wounded during the Israeli raid (see: http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=248808).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Paul Krugman, "Depression and Democracy": No Mention of Anti-Semitism at The New York Times

Yet another instance of the pot calling the kettle black?

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Depression and Democracy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/opinion/krugman-depression-and-democracy.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), Paul Krugman tells us, "It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression." He goes on to express concern over Europe and the euro, and devotes much of the remainder of his opinion piece to the contention that democratic institutions are being undermined in Hungary:

"One of Hungary’s major parties, Jobbik, is a nightmare out of the 1930s: it’s anti-Roma (Gypsy), it’s anti-Semitic, and it even had a paramilitary arm. But the immediate threat comes from Fidesz, the governing center-right party.

Fidesz won an overwhelming Parliamentary majority last year, at least partly for economic reasons; Hungary isn’t on the euro, but it suffered severely because of large-scale borrowing in foreign currencies and also, to be frank, thanks to mismanagement and corruption on the part of the then-governing left-liberal parties. Now Fidesz, which rammed through a new Constitution last spring on a party-line vote, seems bent on establishing a permanent hold on power."

Sure, Paul is correct: Economic hardship spawns political radicalism. But why does he only focus on Hungary?

Elsewhere in Europe, under the ruling Islamist AK Party, Turkey has become the world leader in "imprisoned journalists" (http://archive.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=ipi-report-declares-turkey-world-leader-of-imprisoned-journalists-2011-04-08), while Turkish Kurds are denied their freedom, and women's rights are swept under the rug (e.g., murders of women have increased by 1,400 percent under the AK government, and only two of Turkey’s 26 ministers -- those responsible for education and women’s affairs -- are women). But why should Turkey trouble the "Conscience of a Liberal"? "Liberals" are apparently only concerned with injustices perpetrated by rightist, not Islamist, governments.

Much closer to home, Krugman is apparently indifferent to manifestations of anti-Semitism at his own newspaper (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-york-times-and-israel-bashing-yes.html). The publication of anti-Semitic, purportedly "moderated," online readers' comments by The Times, and the obsessive need of his newspaper's editorial department to regularly publish derogatory opinion pieces concerning Israel, lacking an iota of balance, are symptomatic of the "new" anti-Semitism of the left, which is also being fueled by economic decline.

It was remarkable how left-leaning columnists from The New York Times , including Krugman who visited the Zuccotti Park encampment of Occupy Wall Street (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/21/paul-krugman-visits-occup_n_1023812.html), pointedly refused to acknowledge the anti-Semitism being disseminated by this group (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/10/11/occupy-wall-street-has-an-anti-semitism-problem/). Is anti-Semitism less worrisome when it issues from the left?

Sorry, Paul, don't lecture me on anti-Semitism in Budapest, when it's right under your nose at The New York Times.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "The Next First (and Only) 100 Days": Running Hot and Cold on Obama

Thomas Friedman has become a bit mercurial of late.

Less than three weeks ago, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Go Big, Mr. Obama" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/opinion/friedman-go-big-mr-obama.html?ref=opinion), Friedman croaked paeans to the president:

"I voted for Barack Obama, and I don’t want my money back. He’s never gotten the credit he deserves for bringing the economy he inherited back from the brink of a depression. He’s fought the war on terrorism in a smart and effective way. He’s making health care possible for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and he saved the auto industry. This is big stuff."

. . . .

Go big, Mr. President. You will win, and so will America."

Today, however, in "The Next First (and Only) 100 Days" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-next-first-and-only-100-days.html?ref=opinion), Friedman appears to reverse course and voices disappointment with Obama:

"If we had a stimulus focused on 21st-century jobs, and a credible long-term fiscal reform plan, it would unlock the scale of investment we need to revive the employment market today and address the future. If Obama ran on that big plan, he would win and have an electoral mandate to implement it in his only 100 days. Sadly, he seems intent on playing small ball. He is capable of, and the country needs, much bolder leadership.

Oh, well. There’s always the first 100 days of 2017."

Disappointed by Obama's "small ball," but always ready with his own nifty answers to revive America's ailing economy, Friedman, quoting Harvard labor economist Lawrence Katz, calls for the creation of "hubs":

"We need to think of the future middle class as being generated not by factories 'but by hubs,' argues Katz. These are networked urban areas like Austin, Silicon Valley and Raleigh-Durham, where people learn, imagine and create value rapidly by combining universities, high-tech manufacturers, software/service providers and highly nimble start-ups that collaborate and compete to invent things that make people’s lives more entertained, productive, healthy, educated and comfortable.

. . . .

To spawn more of these hubs, big and small, any stimulus should focus on building telecommunications and infrastructure to support networked cities and on getting more young people access to vocational or college training."

Hubs to support networked cities such as Austin, Silicon Valley and Raleigh-Durham? Sounds a bit utopian to me. I wonder who will create the networking for Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Philadelphia, where Americans are "most likely to be murdered, raped, robbed or have their car stolen" (see: http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/LifeStages/americas-dangerous-neighborhoods-areas-violent-crime/story?id=11803334).

If either Obama or Newt is elected in 2012, I propose investing in pubs, not hubs.

Maureen Dowd, "Fire and Ice": Fueling the Need for Clothespins

Who would ever imagine that Obama and Newt might cause a spike in the sale of clothespins in 2012?

In her Sunday op-ed entitled "Fire and Ice" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/opinion/sunday/dowd-fire-and-ice.html?ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd contemplates the possibility that Newt Gingrich will run against Obama in 2012:

"A match between Gingrich and Obama would be fascinating: two men who grew up without their hot-tempered, hard-drinking fathers, vying to be the nation’s patriarch.

The Drama Queen versus No Drama Obama. The apocalyptic prophet versus the ambiguous president."

A "Fascinating" match? It seems more like the plot of a stinker horror film, which shafts the entire audience.

Would someone please convince Chris Christie that there's still time for him to change his mind?

Clothespins? The next growth industry. Barring a miracle, most Americans will need to place them over their noses as they enter voting booths in 2012.

Barbara Walters Interviews Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: A "Disconnect"

Earlier this month, Barbara Walters of ABC News returned from an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which began with a warm handshake, to a heroine's welcome on a special edition of "Nightline" (http://abcnews.go.com/International/defiant-syrian-president-bashar-al-assad-denies-ordering/story?id=15098612). Observing that "Barbara is the first American television journalist allowed access to the country since a nine-month old revolution began," Bill Weir asked 82-year-old Walters how Assad compares with Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi and Mubarak. Walters's response:

"He is not a grim, strong man the way Mubarak was. He is not a wild crazy person -- at least that's the way Qaddafi seemed to us. He is calm, he is soft spoken, he is articulate, he speaks very good English, there were no ground rules, he answered every question, but there is this disconnect, Bill, between what we hear about this country -- the reports that we have seen -- and what he says, and it's hard to put the two things together."

This is not Walters's first encounter with Assad. In 2008, Walters vacationed in Syria and had a "very long lunch" with Assad and his wife, some three years after Assad ordered the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut. Following her meal, Walters reported back on her impressions of the Assads at that time (http://newsbusters.org/blogs/justin-mccarthy/2008/07/07/barbara-walters-syrian-dicator-charming-intelligent):

"From my experience, he was a very intelligent, a well informed, thoughtful, we spoke perfect English, wants very much to have relations with this country, has some solutions for ending the war in Iraq. She was educated in England, worked in this country, speaks English the way I’m talking to you, lovely, intelligent. I don’t want people to say 'oh you’re brainwashed.' But that was not it. They just were very charming, intelligent. She has a cooperative, a group teaching children to be entrepreneurs with Harvard University, was raised in England, worked in this country. So this is not what we expected in terms of the leaders."

Do Walters's thoughts sound familiar to you? They should. They echo the sentiments of former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, after meeting with Assad in Damascus in 2007, labeled Assad a "model Arab leader" (http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/03/assad_fooled_us_twice_shame_on.html).

Now consider Nicholas Kristof's most recent New York Times op-ed, entitled "Joining a Dinner in a Muslim Brotherhood Home" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/opinion/kristof-joining-a-dinner-in-a-muslim-brotherhood-home.html?hp#comments), in which Kristof describes his chatter over dinner with an educated, 24-year-old hostess, who seeks to allay Western anxiety over the Muslim Brotherhood's goals in Egypt, leading Kristof to conclude:

"So a bit of nervousness is fine, but let’s not overdo the hand-wringing — or lose perspective. What’s historic in Egypt today is not so much the rise of any one party as the apparent slow emergence of democracy in the heart of the Arab world."

On the basis of his dinner banter, Kristof would have his readership ignore the Brotherhood's long history of hostility to Western values, women's rights and religious freedom (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/nicholas-kristof-joining-dinner-in.html).

Meanwhile, in an article published in Asharq al-Awsat yesterday, Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood's secretary-general, suggested that the Brotherhood would annul Egypt's peace treaty with Israel (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/muslim-brotherhood-egypt-israel-peace-treaty-needs-to-be-reviewed-1.400541).

Barbara Walters on "Nightline" is now claiming that there is a "disconnect" between the current ruthlessness in Syria and the manner in which Assad perceives this barbarism. In fact, there is no such disconnect. Assad is a cold-blooded murderer and an accomplished liar. The only "disconnect" is to be found in gullible liberal media personalities, such as Walters and Kristof, and left-leaning politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Jimmy Carter, who, after being wined and dined by well-mannered persons with Western academic degrees and near perfect English in the Muslim Middle East, cannot comprehend how these people are capable of such boundless savagery.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Paul Krugman, "All the G.O.P.’s Gekkos": Was Obama the Beneficiary of a Gift That Should Have Been Reported to the IRS?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "All the G.O.P.’s Gekkos" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/opinion/krugman-all-the-gops-gekkos.html?hp), Paul Krugman compares Mitt Romney’s lucrative business activity at Bain Capital with the greed and malfeasance of Gordon Gekko, the fictional antagonist in Oliver Stone's movie "Wall Street.” Acknowledging toward the end of his opinion piece that Romney is not a villain, Krugman concludes:

"The truth is that what’s good for the 1 percent, or even better the 0.1 percent, isn’t necessarily good for the rest of America — and Mr. Romney’s career illustrates that point perfectly. There’s no need, and no reason, to hate Mr. Romney and others like him. We do, however, need to get such people paying more in taxes — and we shouldn’t let myths about 'job creators' get in the way."

"Such people" should be paying more in taxes? I agree, and this includes persons such as Obama supporters George Soros and Jon Corzine.

And what about millionaire Barack Obama himself?

On the same day Obama purchased his Chicago mansion, the wife of convicted felon Tony Rezko bought the adjacent empty lot from the same seller, who wanted to sell both properties together. However, as reported by ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4111483&page=1):

"While Rezko's wife paid the full asking price for the land, Obama paid $300,000 under the asking price for the house. The house sold for $1,650,000 and the price Rezko's wife paid for the land was $625,000.

Obama denies there was anything unusual about the price disparity. He says the price on the house was dropped because it had been on the market for some time but that the price for the adjacent land remained high because there was another offer."

"Nothing unusual about the price disparity"? As reported by The Washington Times in 2008 (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/04/fbi-asked-questions-on-rezko-land-deal/?page=all), a Chicago real estate specialist claimed that the price paid by Rezko's wife for the adjoining property was excessive, whereas Obama paid significantly less than market value:

"A former Illinois real estate specialist says FBI agents have questioned him about a Chicago property that had been bought by convicted felon Tony Rezko’s wife and later sold to the couple’s next-door neighbor, Sen. Barack Obama.

. . . .

'Agents and I talked about payoff, bribe, kickback for a long time, though it took them only a short number of minutes of talking with me while looking at the appraisal to acknowledge what they already seemed to know: The Rezko lot was grossly overvalued,' Mr. Conner told The Washington Times Monday.

'Rezko paid the asking price on the same day Obama paid $300,000 less than the asking price to the same seller for his adjacent mansion,' he said. 'This begs the question of payoff, bribe, kickback.'

In a wrongful-termination complaint filed last month in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Mr. Conner said his appraisal of the Rezko property, held in Rita Malki Rezko’s name, was replaced with a higher one and he was fired when he questioned the document."

Let's ignore any possible allegation of a bribe or kickback and also not examine the question of how community organizer Barack Obama and his wife managed to finance a $1,650,000 house. Instead, let's focus on whether Obama received a gift, which went unreported to the IRS. According to the IRS (http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=108139,00.html#2), a gift is defined as "Any transfer to an individual, either directly or indirectly, where full consideration (measured in money or money's worth) is not received in return."

In 2005, when the Obama/Rezko real estate transaction was consummated, there was an annual exclusion of $11,000 to each donee. Did Obama receive a "gift" in excess of $11,000? Should a Form 709 have been filed by the Rezkos, listing Obama as a "donee"?

Meanwhile, a hypocritical Paul Krugman would only have us examine Republican avarice. The reality is that the stench of politics permeates both sides of the aisle.