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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Who’s Tough Enough?": Obama Is a Ramrod, Not a Pussy

Obama is obviously troubled by Republican chatter that he isn't strong enough to lead, and, as observed by Maureen Dowd in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Who’s Tough Enough?" (, Joe Biden has been delegated the job of telling anyone who will listen that the president is a "ramrod." Dowd describes assurances given by the vice president to House Democrats:

"'I just want to tell you, this guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,' the vice president assured House Democrats last week at a retreat in Cambridge, Md.

He repeated a line he’d heard to sum up what his party should campaign on: 'Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.'

. . . .

The vice president concluded triumphantly: 'This guy doesn’t lead from behind. He just leads.'"

Obama's decision to assassinate bin Laden was indeed gutsy, and General Motors is still building cars owing to Obama's praiseworthy intervention. So why are the Democrats disturbed? Maybe because the president has proven incapable of standing up to Iran and Russia.

US Defense Secretary Panetta acknowledged two weeks ago that Iran is only a year away from building a nuclear weapon (see:, yet Obama continues to send mixed signals to Tehran concerning American resolve to prevent this nightmarish scenario from becoming a reality (see: Obama's refusal in 2009 to provide anti-government protestors in Iran with any sign of support remains a stain upon his administration's record. Similarly, Obama's delay in condemning atrocities perpetrated by Syria's Assad, an ally of Tehran, against unarmed opponents, also does not bespeak courage.

Determined to "reset" US relations with Russia, Obama cancelled the erection of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, which Putin opposed. Appeasement in this instance, at the expense of Central European allies, has been rewarded by Moscow's refusal to assist in implementing sanctions against Iran and by continued arms sales to Syria.

Obama's attempt at bullying Israel at the beginning of his first term? We can only wonder how Obama will "ramrod" Israel if he is re-elected.

Obviously, there is a reason Democrats are worried by allegations that Obama has no spine. Moreover, Joe Biden should be watching his own back: It remains to be seen whether Obama will diss Biden as his running mate later this year in favor of Hillary Clinton.

David Brooks, "The Great Divorce": Have a Look at Israel

A National Service Program for all Americans?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Great Divorce" (, David Brooks proposes this solution to remedy inequality in the US. Citing Charles Murray’s new book “Coming Apart,” Brooks asserts:

"Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness."

How to fix this mess? Brooks writes:

"I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement."

Well, that "National Service Program" already exists in Israel, and it's called the Israel Defense Forces ("IDF").

There is significant economic inequality in Israel that has regrettably been perpetuated by the government. Much of Israeli industry is owned by several dozen families, and even companies whose shares are traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange are often majority-owned or controlled by these families.

Notwithstanding this economic inequality in Israel, the IDF is indeed a place where, as Brooks puts it, "the tribes get jammed together." Upon induction, Israeli youngsters who grew up in wealthy neighborhoods often meet for the first time in their lives underprivileged youths and newcomers from Russia and Ethiopia, with whom they quickly learn to work and sweat together.

To smooth this interaction, children inducted into the IDF without adequate schooling are given remedial courses. Special efforts are made by the IDF to assist children from troubled families with their emotional problems.

Beyond compulsory service, the IDF continues to serve as a mixing pot for Israelis from all strata of society. For almost 20 years I served in a reserve artillery unit, which demanded both brains (to operate the computer assisted firing systems) and brawn (to lug the shells). For up to two months each year, I strained night and day and bonded with other reservists who, in civilian life, I would never encounter in my line of work.

The other advantage of a National Service Program, which goes unmentioned by Brooks, is that it would delay the entry of a significant number of young people into the workforce, thereby reducing unemployment.

Might this be practical in the US? Would privileged families in the US agree to send their children away for two or three years to engage in community work or forestry and not seek exemptions? You tell me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paul Krugman, "The Austerity Debacle": Worse Than the Great Depression?

Paul Krugman is back to telling us -- you would never guess in a million years -- that the US and Europe need to spend their way out of the current economic malaise.

In "The Austerity Debacle" (, Krugman observes that the UK did a better job recovering in the 1930s from its economic woes than today. Citing a chart released by National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Krugman observes:

"Britain is doing worse this time than it did during the Great Depression. Four years into the Depression, British G.D.P. had regained its previous peak; four years after the Great Recession began, Britain is nowhere close to regaining its lost ground."

Krugman claims that the "policy elite" in the UK and elsewhere threw "hard-won knowledge out the window" by slashing spending to promote economic growth. And although the US federal government "avoided all-out austerity," state and local governments are running out of federal aid and being forced to reduce their budgets, thus creating "a major drag on the overall economy." Krugman concludes:

"The infuriating thing about this tragedy is that it was completely unnecessary. Half a century ago, any economist — or for that matter any undergraduate who had read Paul Samuelson’s textbook 'Economics' — could have told you that austerity in the face of depression was a very bad idea. But policy makers, pundits and, I’m sorry to say, many economists decided, largely for political reasons, to forget what they used to know. And millions of workers are paying the price for their willful amnesia."

But have conditions changed since the Great Depression? Manufacturing jobs are being eliminated by robotics. Even in the pharma industry today, one exceptional scientist empowered by a laptop, is worth more than an entire mediocre R&D army.

Could it be that in today's brave new world, money spent on infrastructure, e.g., bullet trains, and education no longer ensures the creation of sustainable jobs? Whereas I agree with Krugman that spending cuts do not create jobs, I am far from convinced that government spending 80 years after the Great Depression necessarily gives rise to sustainable employment.

Sadly, the US may never again see anything approaching full employment, with or without deficit spending.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Made in the World": It's Raining Twaddle at The New York Times

It's raining twaddle at The New York Times.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Made in the World" (, Thomas Friedman makes the case for global outsourcing. Friedman refers to a February 2011 meeting between Obama and Apple's Steve Jobs:

"The president, understandably, asked Jobs why almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were made overseas. Obama inquired, couldn’t that work come back home? 'Those jobs aren’t coming back,' Jobs replied."

Moreover, Friedman sees no danger in US outsourcing of manufacturing, owing to talented immigrants arriving on America's shores, IP protection, secure capital markets, high returns on innovation, government funding of new techology, and logistics jobs available to middle-class workers.

So the US should forfeit its manufacturing muscle and enjoy the cheap benefits of Chinese and Pakistani slave labor (see:, and the middle-class should be content with finding work with FedEx and U.P.S. Sorry, but I will never accept this, even if it means doubling the price of iPhones.

Friedman concludes:

"If only — if only — we could come together on a national strategy to enhance and expand all of our natural advantages: more immigration, most post-secondary education, better infrastructure, more government research, smart incentives for spurring millions of start-ups — and a long-term plan to really fix our long-term debt problems — nobody could touch us. We’re that close."

Or in other words, Friedman would have the US spend trillions of dollars on a dozen different programs while somehow reducing long-term debt. "We're that close"? Yeah, right. For now, I would prefer to see the US provide incentives to keep manufacturing jobs in the US and to allow ordinary families, which cannot find work in hi-tech, to put food on their tables and pay their mortgages.

This is one instance where Obama is right.

[No, I haven't developed a soft spot for Obama. During the Procrastinator-in-Chief's February meeting mentioned by Dowd, Jobs, according to Ryan Lizza in an article in The New Yorker (, "was most annoyed by Obama’s pessimism—he seemed to dismiss every idea Jobs proffered. 'The president is very smart,' Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. 'But he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.'"]

Maureen Dowd, "Tension on the Tarmac": Read the Body Language

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Tension on the Tarmac" (, Maureen Dowd observes two instances when women gesticulated angrily at Obama, and the president responded by placing his hand on their arms: With Hillary Clinton in December 2007, and earlier last week with Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona. Regarding the episode with Hillary, an Obama aide explained that Obama put his hand on her arm “to chill her out.”

Ignore what Obama's aide said. Placing your hand on someone else's arm in the heat of debate is a studied technique intended to demonstrate superiority and control of both that person and the situation. Yes, it is an act of condescension. Without regard for Brewer's politics, it would be natural for her to feel "unnerved" and "a little bit threatened" by Obama.

Dowd observes that this confrontation with Brewer has made him "a hero to the Hispanics," but I don't know how this will play among women.

Dowd would have us believe that Obama does not like debating because he disdains anything he sees "as superficial politics, from sound bites to macho put-downs." Wrong. Obama and his advisors have consistently sought control over content and situation. Listen to Anita Dunn at a 2009 event focusing on Obama’s media tactics and hosted by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, in which Dunn discusses how Obama controlled the media during the 2008 election (

"One of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe [Obama’s chief campaign manager] videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters. We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it. . . . very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control."

Listen as Dunn goes on to say:

"There is no such thing as off the record . . . . Obama himself learned that when he told a fund raising group in San Francisco . . . about people who owned guns in small communities that ended up of course costing us a lot of votes in rural Pennsylvania. . . . Anything you say you should expect to be on You Tube."

Debates and press conferences are avoided by Obama, because in these settings he loses control. It's that simple.

New York Times Editorial, "Egypt’s Assault on Civil Society": Who Writes this Hogwash?

As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"

Complaining of a December raid by Egyptian security forces on the offices of three American-financed democracy-building groups and Egypt's refusal to allow six Americans associated with these organizations to leave the country, The New York Times, in an editorial entitled "Egypt’s Assault on Civil Society" (, expresses its bewilderment:

"Post-Mubarak Egypt is facing profound challenges with its unfinished revolution and looming economic crisis. The last thing it needs is to pick a fight with the United States. Yet the military rulers have done just that, demonstrating contempt for civil society and an old ally.

. . . .

Egypt’s military receives $1.3 billion in annual aid from Washington. It is beyond us why the generals would keep pressing this destructive dispute, even after hearing remonstrations from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta."

It is beyond the ken of the editorial board of The Times how Egypt's armed forces, subsidized by the US in excess of $1 billion, could behave so roguishly? Allow me to clue them in: Egypt has taken lessons from Pakistan, which receives more than $2 billion of security assistance each year from the US, and which, in June, arrested five informants who led the CIA to Osama bin Laden (see:

Apparently Andrew Rosenthal's doltish gang still doesn't understand that the game in this corner of the world is not played according to Marquess of Queensberry rules. Sooner or later they'll catch on.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Charles Blow, "Lunar Colonies, Lunacy and Losses": Aren't You Forgetting Something?

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Lunar Colonies, Lunacy and Losses" (, Charles Blow sarcastically observes:

"To that point, Gingrich told a crowd on Florida’s so-called Space Coast on Wednesday that 'by the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the Moon. And it will be American.'”

I am no fan of Newt; however, observe what Obama glibly promised in 2008 (see:

“As President, I will establish a robust and balanced civilian space program” that “not only will inspire the world with both human and robotic space exploration but also will again lead in confronting the challenges we face here on Earth, including global climate change, energy independence, and aeronautics research.”

Would someone care to explain the difference?

In case you were wondering, Obama's advisors informed the president in November 2009 :

"Especially in light of our new fiscal context, it is not possible to achieve the inspiring space program goals discussed during the campaign."

Like "Hope" and "Change," Obama's space program never got off the ground.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

David Brooks, "Hope, but Not Much Change": A Liberal Incrementalist or a Lamentable Narcissist?

Recently, many who voted for Obama in 2008 have responded with asperity to his failure to deliver the goods. Notably, Matt Damon was quoted in December by Elle Magazine (see: as saying: "a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better." Obama's State of the Union Address did little to correct this growing sense of outrage. The president's uninspired speech left many pundits scurrying for excuses that might explain the paucity of ideas presented for dealing with the existential challenges facing America.

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Hope, but Not Much Change" (, David Brooks also complains of the absence of substance in Obama's State of the Union Address. Observing that the president's policies are "incremental, not transformational," Brooks writes:

"It’s odd that an administration that once wanted to do everything all at once now should be so gradualist.

. . . .

In normal times, that sober, incremental approach would be admirable. In normal times, the best sort of change is gradual, flexible and constant. But these are not normal times. This is not Clinton’s second term, or Eisenhower’s. The fiscal train wreck is coming. The current U.S. growth model is insufficient. The American family and the American political system are cracking up."

Brooks states that Obama must be "prepared" if Europe's economy should unravel or if the US should come to loggerheads with Iran within the coming months. The Procrastinator-in-Chief should be "prepared"? Obama's policy in dealing with these crises will be guided by two determinants: his desire to delay that which can be put off until tomorrow, coupled with an overriding need to remain in office no matter what it takes. Afterall, still unbeknownst to the American electorate, the US is privileged to have Obama serving as president, as so aptly observed by Michelle Obama when interviewed by Oprah last May (see:

"I always told the voters, the question isn’t whether Barack Obama is ready to be president. The question is whether we’re ready. And that continues to be the question we have to ask ourselves."

Anger or disappointment with Obama? There's no reason for it. We are living in an age of narcissism, in which narcissists are idolized. Fortunately for Obama and many other politicians on both sides of the aisle, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due out in 2013, has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition, and narcissistic personality disorder is among the five (see:

Brooks concludes by stating, "This election is about averting national decline." Sorry, David, but you are mistaken: This election, proffering the American electorate two substandard candidates (I prefer not to contemplate the infuriating possibility that Gingrich will win the Republican nomination), in fact mirrors national decline.

Gary Sick, "A Stealth Engagement of Iran?": Tergiversations

"Tergiversation," according to Merriam-Webster (

1. evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement: equivocation

In an article entitled "Frustrated US rambles on Iran: Gary Sick" (, Iran's Press TV refers us to an article written by Gary Sick, entitled "A Stealth Engagement of Iran?" (, which was published by The World Policy Institute. Yes, it is of course significant that Iran has chosen to highlight this opinion piece.

In his article, Gary Sick, "an adjunct professor of Middle East politics at Columbia's School of International & Public Affairs" and "the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent hostage crisis," observes recent "tergiversations in U.S. policy pronouncements": Both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have coupled denunciations and threats over Iran's ongoing efforts to attain nuclear weapons with calls for renewed negotiations and avoidance of any armed conflict. Sick ponders whether these conflicting declarations reflect "pure chaos and incompetence in the White House," or whether the White House is engaged in a highly sophisticated attempt to manage three problems:

• Congress, which in an election year, has maneuvered Obama into signing the Defense Authorization Bill with the latest sanctions rider, amounting, according to Sick, to "a tacit declaration of war."
• Obama's desire to avoid war and return to negotiations.
• Netanyahu's threats "to strike unilaterally if necessary" and to use those threats "to keep the situation at a constant crisis pitch, while pressing for the most extreme sanctions."

According to Sick, "if you throw enough anti-Iran dust in the air, you may defuse any concerted attack—figuratively or otherwise."

So is there chaos in the White House, or, is there indeed a master plan to talk through both sides of your mouth in order to preseve the status quo?

Indeed, there has been much doublespeak emerging from the Obama White House (see:, and Obama, the Procrastinator-in-Chief, would prefer to avoid a conflagration. However, Obama will also do anything and everything to be re-elected, and this single consideration will determine Obama's policy toward Iran over the coming months. The short-term effect of an increase in the price of oil on the U.S. economy and the receptiveness of the US electorate to bellicose statements issued by Romney and Gingrich, painting Obama as a patsy, are all being monitored by the West Wing.

One final observation: Sick's conjecture that the leak, alleging that Mossad personnel, pretending to be CIA agents, recruited Iranian dissidents, was linked to cancellation of Austere Challenge, a joint US/Israeli anti-missile exercise scheduled for April, is not grounded in reality.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Mitt, Is This Wit?": More to the Point, Is He Electable?

Forgive me as I tuck my "Austin Powers" faux teeth a little deeper into my pants pocket.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Mitt, Is This Wit?" (, Maureen Dowd devotes much of her opinion piece to pranks played by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

I don't think the Republicans need to be overly worried by Romney's college antics. However, they should be concerned by a Washington Post-ABC News Poll
(, which tells anyone capable of reading between the lines that Mitt is not electable.

Thomas Friedman, "Average Is Over": When Speed and Flexibility Are Slavery

Will wonders never cease! I agree with the premise of Thomas Friedman's New York Times op-ed, "Average Is Over" (, in which he declares:

"In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius."

Indeed, I have been saying that "average is over" since the inception of this blog. In June 2009 I wrote (

"[O]ne exceptional scientist is worth more than an entire mediocre R&D army."

But let's not get carried away. When I say I agree with Friedman's premise, that doesn't mean I agree with the rest of his twaddle. Friedman writes:

"Consider this paragraph from Sunday’s terrific article in The Times by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher about why Apple does so much of its manufacturing in China: 'Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly-line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the [Chinese] plant near midnight. A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. ‘The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,’ the executive said. ‘There’s no American plant that can match that.''"

It doesn't occur to Friedman that rousing 8,000 workers from company "dormitories" and marching them off to a 12-hour shift after swallowing a biscuit and tea just might amount to slavery.

Observing that persons in the US with higher educations are less likely to be unemployed, Friedman's concludes that in order to buttress employment, "nothing would be more important than passing some kind of G.I. Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high school education."

This is where I will wax politically incorrect. I don't believe that a college degree in and of itself creates value. Value is to be found in the individual, not in the degree, which is no more than a piece of paper which can easily be degraded. In fact, were every American to be awarded a B.A. degree, to a large extent there would be that much more mediocrity associated with college education.

Friedman tells us that "everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment." Sorry, Tom, but not everyone can stand out in our brave new world, particularly those who are roused and marched off to 12-hour factory shifts after being given a biscuit and tea.

Economic Chaos in Iran Threatens Financing for Hezbollah

On Monday, the Iranian rial fell ten percent in value against the dollar to a new record black market low, following the EU's decision to boycott Iranian crude (see: As I have noted in prior blog entries, the swift decline in the rial will soon bite into Tehran's ability to finance its terror proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, which depend upon dollars from Iran for recruitment, training, the purchase of arms, and the funding of social services.

According to Lebanon's Daily Star (, Iran already began to cut aid to Hezbollah this past October:

"Iran is to cut its financial support for Hezbollah, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas reported Wednesday.

Citing well-informed Gulf sources, al-Qabas said Iran has informed Hezbollah that it will not be able to continue providing annual financial backing for the party.

The sources said Iran provides Hezbollah with roughly $350 million annually. The funds are earmarked for Hezbollah members’ salaries, families of martyrs and projects in Beirut’s southern suburbs, south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

The sources cited two reasons for the reduction of financial support: Tehran’s cash aid to the Syrian regime as it confronts protesters, and the suffering of Iran’s economy as a result of global sanctions."

It remains to be seen if Hezbollah can maintain control in Lebanon without this funding.

Monday, January 23, 2012

David Brooks, "Free-Market Socialism": Help Wanted -- A Magician

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Free-Market Socialism" (, David Brooks outlines an aggressive program to cure America's economic malaise:

"If President Obama is really serious about restoring American economic dynamism, he needs an aggressive two-pronged approach: More economic freedom combined with more social structure; more competition combined with more support.

As a survey of nearly 10,000 Harvard Business School grads by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin makes clear, to get companies to locate their plants in the U.S., Obama is going to have to simplify the tax code, cut corporate rates, streamline regulations, make immigration policy more flexible and balance the budget over the long term.

To ensure there’s skilled labor for those plants, Obama would have to champion different policies: successful training programs like Job Corps, better coordination between colleges and employers, better treatment for superstar teachers, more child care options and better early childhood education."

Who could possibly oppose such a plan, which reduces corporate taxes, improves child care and educational opportunities through the initiation of new federally assisted programs, and also balances the budget? However, it would take a magician to implement such a lofty agenda, which, over the short-term, would cut federal income and increase federal expenditures.

Obama is going to initiate all this during his fourth year in office, when chaos reigns in the West Wing following the departure of Bill Daley as his chief of staff, and at a time when Obama is shifting into campaign mode? Sorry, but Brooks's agenda would require the skills of a Hogwarts educated wizard, when there is no one among us Muggles who meets the job requirements.

Bill Keller, "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb-Iran?": Clueless

Bill Keller, formerly executive editor of The New York Times, left his top dog position to become a full-time writer. Given the insight, or lack thereof, of his latest Times op-ed, "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb-Iran?" (, perhaps he should have remained executive editor. Keller writes:

"The point of tough sanctions, of course, is to force Iranians to the bargaining table, where we can do a deal that removes the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran. . . . But the mistrust is so deep, and the election-year pressure to act with manly resolve is so intense, that it’s hard to imagine the administration would feel free to accept an overture from Tehran. Anything short of a humiliating, unilateral Iranian climb-down would be portrayed by the armchair warriors as an Obama surrender. Likewise, if Israel does decide to strike out on its own, Bibi Netanyahu knows that candidate Obama will feel immense pressure to go along.

That short-term paradox comes wrapped up in a long-term paradox: an attack on Iran is almost certain to unify the Iranian people around the mullahs and provoke the supreme leader to redouble Iran’s nuclear pursuits, only deeper underground this time, and without international inspectors around. Over at the Pentagon, you sometimes hear it put this way: Bombing Iran is the best way to guarantee exactly what we are trying to prevent."

"It’s hard to imagine the administration would feel free to accept an overture from Tehran"? Sorry, Bill, but the US is not going to receive any such overture. Rather, the US should expect more games involving contradictory declarations (see: and brinksmanship from Iran, which is intent upon acquiring nuclear weaponry.

Keller claims that "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does a good impression of an evil madman, but Iran is not suicidal." Oh really? As observed by Michael Oren (, who knows a bit more about this situation than Keller:

"Some Israeli experts predict that the Iranian leadership would be willing to sacrifice 50 percent of their countrymen in order to eradicate Israel."

Evidence of Iran's willingness to martyr its citizenry? One need only look to its war with Iraq from 1980-1988, which resulted in between 500,000 and a million Iranian fatalities, and during which Iran used human-waves of children to clear minefields.

"An attack on Iran is almost certain to unify the Iranian people around the mullahs and provoke the supreme leader to redouble Iran’s nuclear pursuits, only deeper underground this time, and without international inspectors around"? Sorry, but this is not what happened when Israel Israel leveled the Syrian Al Kibar reactor in Operation Orchard in 2007, or when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981, much to the world's relief, in Operation Opera.

No, I'm not advocating an immediate attack on Iran. Let's first see how Europe's decision to boycott Iranian oil (see: affects the Iranian economy. The value of the Iranian rial is crumbling, and this will seriously impede Iranian funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

"Election-year pressure to act with manly resolve"? How about plain and simple resolve. If Obama had been astute enough to see through Iran's masquerade at the beginning of his term, instead of seeking to prove the fallacy of Bush's Axis of Evil, he would not be dealing with this current dilemma. Always ready in the past to draw a new line in the sand, Obama is now facing unwavering demands from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to put an end to the Iranian threat. There is no more room to procrastinate, wiggle and play nice.

Regarding Israel, Keller is even more in the dark.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Showtime at the Apollo": Opening a Can of Whoopass on the Obamas

Maureen Dowd has "remarkably" (see below) opened a can of whoopass on the Obamas.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Showtime at the Apollo" (, Dowd savages the president and his wife, leaving even me, a combat veteran, grimacing. Ms. Dowd informs her readership:

"The man who became famous with a speech declaring that we were one America, not opposing teams of red and blue states, presides over an America more riven by blue and red than ever.

The man who came to Washington on a wave of euphoria has had a presidency with all the joy of a root canal, dragged down by W.’s recklessness and his own inability to read America’s panic and its thirst for a strong leader.

. . . .

Despite what his rivals say, the president and the first lady do believe in American exceptionalism — their own, and they feel overassaulted and underappreciated.

We disappointed them."


I suppose this is one instance where I feel compelled to go to bat for the president. Like Obama, I don't go to many parties. Mix with journalists? Waterboard me instead. Invite Jimmy Carter or the Clintons to dinner? Go ahead and shoot me.

Dowd asks, "Who knew, in the exuberance of 2008, that America was electing an introvert?" Actually, if you were to rip away the glitzy Madison Avenue packaging, the narcissism was not far beneath the wrapping paper. Moreover, the arrogance and introversion would all be forgiven if the president had delivered, but hope has gone by the wayside.

Dowd concludes her opinion piece by inquiring:

"Could 2012, remarkably, be a race between two powerful victims yearning to be lonely at the top?"

"Remarkably"? Perhaps "abominably," "bitterly," "bleakly," "deplorably," "distressingly," "grievously," "lamentably," "pathetically," "ruefully," "woefully," or "wretchedly"; however, there would be nothing "remarkable" whatsoever about a contest between Obama and Gingrich.

New York Times Editorial, "Egypt’s Economic Crisis": Let's Shower Money on the New Islamist Government

In an editorial entitled "Egypt’s Economic Crisis" (, The New York Times would have us know that Egypt's failing economy is sabotaging its nascent democracy:

"In the year since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Egypt has faced many challenges: the military-led government’s brutality against protesters and pro-democracy groups, its resistance to handing power to civilian leaders and the rise of Islamists in the country’s first free elections. Now worsening economic conditions are further sabotaging hopes for a democratic future."

Once again, The Times has it backwards. Given that the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis have garnered 72 percent of the seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament, we now know that worsening democratic conditions are sabotaging hopes for an economic revival.

Needless to say, the editorial board of The Times suggests that the US shower money upon the new Islamist government in order to avert a catastrophe:

"Washington and its allies may not have much sway with the military rulers or the newly elected political leaders in the short term, but they have to build long-term relationships with all segments of civil society. Some say Egypt could be one of the world’s top 10 economies in a generation. That’s a goal worth working toward."

"Egypt could be one of the world's ten top economies in a generation"? Where can I find the person who actually believes this twaddle? I would like to sell him a bridge in Brooklyn.

David Ignatius, "Iran gets the message from Washington": Which Message?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Iran gets the message from Washington" (, David Ignatius would have us believe that Tehran has "blinked" and is retreating from its belicose threats to close the Strait of Hormuz:

"The Iran nuclear crisis is far from over, but Tehran appears to have made a subtle blink — backing away from its threat a few weeks ago to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to escalating U.S. sanctions.

The softening of Iran’s position followed a warning by a U.S. emissary this month that any effort to close the strait would trigger a potentially devastating U.S. response. Clearly, Tehran got the message — with a top Iranian official publicly disavowing on Thursday the earlier saber-rattling.

'Iran has never in its history tried to prevent, to put any obstacles in the way of this important maritime route,' Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi insisted in a television interview during a visit to Turkey."

Ignatius fails to mention that the Iranian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaii, also said on Thurday the exact opposite (see:

"'There is no decision to block and close the Strait of Hormuz unless Iran is threatened seriously and somebody wants to tighten the noose,' Ambassador Mohammad Khazaii said on the U.S. television network PBS’ Charlie Rose show on January 19, AFP reported.

'Iran would not try to block the Strait of Hormuz unless a foreign power seeks to 'tighten the noose,' he stated.

'All the options are or would be on the table.'

'We believe that the Strait of Hormuz should be the strait of peace and stability,' the Iranian ambassador said 'But if foreign powers want to create trouble in the Persian Gulf, of course it would be the right of Iran as well as the rest of the countries in the region to try to defend themselves.'"

David Ignatius and the Obama administration still don't understand how the game is played in the Middle East. Ignatius would like to believe that Iran is buckling, when in fact it is seeking to undermine Western resolve by issuing contradictory statements and would be delighted to engage in another round of meaningless negotiations sought by the EU's imbecilic foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. As reported by CNN (, Ashton, in an October letter to Tehran, again tried to obtain assurances regarding Tehran's pacific intent and to resume talks:

"Ashton wrote that the West wants to 'engage in a confidence-building exercise' that would lead to a 'constructive dialogue' and a 'step by step approach' in which Iran would assure the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful."

Ashton, a grandmaster of vacuous platitudes, doesn't understand that Tehran, which thinks it can continue to stall for time to build its atomic weapons, should be sending the letters.

A replay of Munich 1938? No two situations are identical, but the West is certainly wearing its naivete on its sleeve.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just Another Day in Israel: Collecting Our Gas Masks

Yesterday was not much different from any other day: Some calls on behalf of clients, a new blog entry, several walks with the dog, reading several chapters from a novel (true, I ordinarily don't read much fiction), an argument with my daughter over when she would arrive home with the family car, and -- I almost forgot -- picking up our family's gas masks at the local community center.

No question about it: 2012 promises to be a challenging year in this corner of the world. We've been placed on notice that a new operation to put an end to the ongoing firing of rockets into southern Israel from Gaza is imminent (see:

Although Israeli defense minister Barak has just declared that Israel will not be attacking Iran any time soon (see:, the Austere Challenge joint anti-missile exercise with the US scheduled for April has just been cancelled for "technical and logistical" reasons. "Technical and logistical" reasons? Give me a break. Actually, in all likelihood there is no single reason for the cancellation, but in this particular instance, let's leave it at that.

Finally, there is the mounting chaos in Syria, which has an arsenal of Scuds and short-range ballistic missiles, and also possesses enormous stockpiles of chemical weapons, including advanced nerve agents. In a Jerusalem Post article written by David Rosenberg (, Major-General Amir Eshel, head of the Israeli army's planning division, is quoted as saying about these chemical weapons stockpiles:

"'We are talking about huge stockpiles,' he said. 'That's a major concern because I don't know who is going to own those the day after. Up till now, what has been transferred to Hezbollah? What will be transferred to Hezbollah? What will be divided between those factions inside Syria?'"

Yes, just another day in Israel like any other.

And as long as we're talking on a personal level, you might be amused (particularly those readers from Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Algeria who have already visited this blog today) by the following photograph taken on the border some 30 years and some 30 pounds ago and just sent to me by a very dear friend from the US:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nicholas Kristof, "Is Banking Bad?": Is Nicholas Kristof Worse?

Nicholas Kristof, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Is Banking Bad?" (, informs us:

"When financiers rig the system, they should remember the warning of John Maynard Keynes: 'The businessman is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.'

So university students would be wrong to mock their classmates who choose Citigroup over CARE. Banking and private equity aren’t evil, and I would never urge college students to stay away. Maybe today’s young socialist sympathizers, along with healthy regulation and a loud public outcry, can help rescue capitalism from the crony capitalists."

Needless to say, Kristof doesn't bother disclosing that his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, is a Senior Managing Director at Mid-Market Securities (, who previously worked at Goldman Sachs as a vice president in its investment management division as a private wealth advisor. Have a look at the Bloomberg article entitled "Goldman Hires Pulitzer-Winning Journalist to Snare Millionaires" (

Perhaps for the benefit of his readers, Kristof, who says that he's "been sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement," would care to reveal his household income for 2011. That way we will be better able to understand "roughly and in some sense," how the Kristofs' "activities have contributed to society."

Talk about having your cake and eating it, too . . .

[The response of the Public Editor's office of The New York Times to my inquiry regarding Kristof's failure to indicate his wife's place of employment:

"Mr. Kristof is an Op-ed columnist, and he is granted a wide latitude to express his opinions. If Mr. Kristof, or any other columnist, had written about his or her spouses' employer without disclosure, then yes, that would be problematic. But that is not the case here. Prohibiting an op-ed columnist from writing about an entire industry in which his or her spouse is employed is an unnecessary burden. It doesn't seem that there is any conflict here."

My reply:

"Prohibiting an op-ed columnist from writing about an entire industry in which his or her spouse is employed would indeed be an unnecessary burden. No one is saying that Mr. Kristof shouldn't write about the banking and finance industry. On the other hand, when Mr. Kristof declares in his op-ed that he is 'sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement' without mentioning his wife's place of employment, he is playing both sides of the street unbeknownst to the readership of The Times, i.e. stating that he a sympathetic to OWS while enjoying all the benefits at home of being married to a senior managing director at a Manhattan investment banking firm. You say that there's no conflict, but don't you think Mr. Kristof's readership would want to be informed of this information, which clearly shapes his op-ed conclusion that it is 'okay' to work in the banking and finance industry. Sorry, but this doesn't smell right by any stretch of the imagination."]

Thomas Friedman, "Trust, but Verify": Deal With the Muslim Brotherhood in the Same Principled Way As Israel

Thomas Friedman is remarkably calling upon the US to handle the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the same fashion that it deals with Israel.

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Trust, but Verify" (, Friedman writes:

"Egypt is not destined to be Iran, but the Muslim Brotherhood is not destined to be the Muslim version of Christian Democrats either. There is an evolution under way — this is a very plastic moment — and our best chance of having an effect is to make sure we deal in a principled way with the Islamists (and also, by the way, with Israel, as the Islamists will be watching for any double standard) and with the Egyptian Army."

Absolutely, let's be certain that their are no double standards involving American dealings with Israel and its dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Who cares if the Brotherhood's website "contains articles with antisemitic motifs, including Holocaust denial and descriptions of the 'Jewish character' as covetous, exploitative, and a source of evil in human society, . . . praise for jihad and martyrdom, and condemnation of negotiation as a means of regaining Islamic lands" (see: Who cares if the Brotherhood and its partners, the Salafi Nour party, would make Sharia law an integral part of Egypt's new constitution? Under no circumstances should the US exhibit favoritism to democratic Israel.

Thanks, Tom. You're a gem!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Hunting, Dear Sir? Delighted!": Politicians Lie? You Don't Say?

Politicans lie? You don't say?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hunting, Dear Sir? Delighted!" (, Maureen Dowd compares George H. W. Bush with Mitt Romney:

"Their political philosophies were not shaped by a passion for ideas as much as a desire to serve and an ambition to climb higher than their revered fathers. Pragmatism trumps ideology; survival trumps conviction. Both men, to the manner born in Greenwich and Bloomfield Hills, adapted uncomfortably to the fundamentalist tent meeting mood of the modern G.O.P., knowing their futures depended on Faustian deals with the right."

Dowd concludes her opinion piece by asking, "Who are these guys at their core?"

I've got news for you, Maureen: politicians lie in order to be elected. Some tell big lies. Some tell smaller lies. Some think that by lying they are nevertheless enabling themselves to serve the greater "good" as known to them alone.

Obama didn't lie? He pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, but it didn't happen.

He also promised, if elected president, to use the word “genocide” to describe the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks at the beginning of the last century. Obama failed to keep his word.

Obama is now claiming that he is Israel's best friend, and at a November 2011 Manhattan fund raiser, he declared (see:

"I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration. And that’s not just our opinion, that’s the opinion of the Israeli government. Whether it’s making sure that our intelligence cooperation is effective, to making sure that we’re able to construct something like an Iron Dome so that we don’t have missiles raining down on Tel Aviv, we have been consistent in insisting that we don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security. And that’s not just something I say privately, that’s something that I said in the U.N. General Assembly. And that will continue."

"That will continue"? If so, why did New York Times columnist Roger Cohen yesterday warn Israel not to act against Iran (

"By contrast, a re-elected Obama would, as a second-term president, have room to mark his displeasure if Israel was to go it alone."

Yes, there should be real concern that Obama's ingrained animus toward Israel will manifest itself during a second term, when he is no longer constrained by the considerations of re-election.

Both Obama and Romney know the fate of presidential candidates who drop their public masks and reveal their "core," e.g. George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.

Such being the case, how do you choose between the two? I wouldn't worry too much. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent between now and November to convince you of their relative merits, but don't expect to see an Obama "Hope" poster from the 2008 campaign. Hope has gone by the wayside, as reflected by both these two candidates.

Roger Cohen, "Don’t Do It, Bibi": Cohen Confuses Obama With America

Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen is once again proffering advice concerning Iran, this time to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In "Don’t Do It, Bibi" (, Cohen quotes a purported conversation between anonymous US and Israeli ambassadors in order to make the point that Netanyahu should be kissing the ground on which Obama walks. Never once does Cohen observe that Israel is facing an existential threat.

According to Cohen:

"Here’s the bottom line: an Israeli attack unites Iran in fury, locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation, cements the Syrian regime, radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition, ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border, boosts Hamas, endangers U.S. troops in the region, sparks terrorism, propels oil skyward, triggers a possible regional war, offers a lifeline to Iran just as Europe is about to stop buying its oil, adds a Persian to the Arab vendetta against Israel, and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years."

Goodness gracious, this is a truly horrifying set of repercussions. However, as noted by Cohen, "Israel, in such issues, has already gone it alone once, when it bombed a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007." If so, why didn't any of Cohen's litany of events unfold when Israel leveled the Syrian Al Kibar reactor in Operation Orchard? Moreover, Cohen is mistaken: Israel also bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981, much to the world's relief, in Operation Opera.

Cohen claims:

"In an election year, with U.S. intelligence convinced Iran is not yet building a bomb, Obama will not send oil prices soaring and the Muslim world into another bout of anti-American rage."

Yet Cohen fails to mention that the Saudis and the UAE are even more anxious than Israel to curtail the Iranian effort to attain nuclear weapons.

US intelligence is "convinced Iran is not yet building a bomb"? Oh really? As observed by Cohen's own newspaper (

"The International Atomic Energy Agency released [in November 2011] a trove of evidence that they said makes a 'credible' case that 'Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device' and that the project may still be under way. The report said the I.A.E.A. had amassed 'over a thousand pages' of documents, presumably leaked out of Iran, showing 'research, development and testing activities' on a range of technologies that would only be useful in designing a nuclear weapon.

The report offered no estimate of how long it would take for Iran to be able to produce a nuclear weapon. But it laid out the case that Iran had moved far beyond the blackboard to create computer models of nuclear explosions in 2008 and 2009, and conducted experiments on nuclear triggers. The report said that starting in 2000, the Iranians constructed a vessel to conduct those tests, which was not shown to inspectors who visited the site five years later."

These experiments on nuclear triggers and the start of enrichment at the Fordow underground facility near Qum are merely part of what Cohen describes as Iran's "opaque nuclear program," and plainly have nothing to do with the construction of a bomb.

Cohen tells us that Netanyahu "has poisoned relations with Washington," and notes that the Israeli prime minister went over Obama's head to address a joint meeting of the US Congress in May 2011, where he received 29 standing ovations (see: It would appear that according to Cohen, Obama is synonymous with "Washington," whereas Congress is a mere Republican-dominated aberration which in no way reflects the opinions and beliefs of the American people.

Netanyahu "poisoned relations with Washington"? Yeah, right. I suppose the awkward relationship between Netanyahu and Obama has nothing to do with the fact that Obama began his first term in office by flying to Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but never visited Israel. I suppose it has nothing to do with the fact that much of Obama's foreign policy has been devoted to wringing concessions out of Israel without objecting to the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. I suppose it has nothing to do with Obama's efforts to placate Iran's mullahs -- Obama never objected when Ahmadinejad brutally subdued Iran's Green Revolution in 2009. I suppose it has nothing to do with Obama's prolonged courtship of Syria's tyrannical president, Assad. I suppose it has nothing to do with the fact that Obama is advised by a radical Israel-hater, Samantha Power. And I suppose it also has nothing to do with the fact that Obama listened over the course of 20 years to the "anti-Zionist" sermons of the Reverend Wright without once expressing his objections.

Cohen observes that "a re-elected Obama would, as a second-term president, have room to mark his displeasure if Israel was to go it alone." I would go one step further: Whether or not Israel goes it alone and attacks Iran, Obama, as a second-term president, will no longer disguise his ingrained enmity for Israel.

But is Israel concerned with the US elections? Sorry to disappoint you, Roger, but Israel is just too busy trying to survive another year.

Monday, January 16, 2012

David Brooks, "South Carolina Diarist": "Try to Remember"

David Brooks is in South Carolina, covering the Republican primary with his 12-year-old son. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "South Carolina Diarist" (, Brooks informs us that he particularly enjoys meeting the people who come to the rallies and pointedly observes:

"I was also struck, as in New Hampshire and Iowa, by the mood of this year’s rallies. Republican audiences this year want a restoration. America once had strong values, they believe, but we have gone astray. We’ve got to go back and rediscover what we had. Heads nod enthusiastically every time a candidate touches this theme.

I agree with the sentiment, but it makes for an incredibly backward-looking campaign. I sometimes wonder if the Republican Party has become the receding roar of white America as it pines for a way of life that will never return."

But is it only "white America" that seeks a restoration? My guess is that in 2012 you will never see the 2008 "Hope" poster, which came to emblematize Obama's prior presidential campaign. After three disillusioning years, hope has gone by the wayside.

Were you fortunate enough to see an off-Broadway performance of "The Fantasticks," which ran for 42 years, establishing it as the world's longest-running musical? Notwithstanding the passage of some 40 years, "Try to Remember" (see: still reverberates across my aging synapses.

I would like to believe that America can still rediscover hope and that this longing does not reside only within the hearts and minds of any given race or creed.

The South Carolina primary? Meaningless. Romney has already sewn up the nomination. However, I hope that David's son will long remember this time spent with his father.

New York Times Op-ed, "Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully": Yeah, Right

On Thursday, The New York Times published a delusional editorial, claiming that Obama has "not paid enough attention" to the alternative of negotiating an end to Iran's nuclear weapons development program (see: On Saturday, The Washington Post published an opinion piece entitled "How Obama should talk to Iran" (, written by Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, claiming that "Sustained, persistent diplomacy remains untested between the United States and Iran." Today, in a contributor op-ed in The New York Times entitled "Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully" (, Shibley Telhami, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, and Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, advocate "a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East" instead of attacking Iran.

Is the publication of these three opinion pieces within the space of several days mere coincidence? I don't think so. Note how Israel's Vice Prime Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, is now claiming that "election-year considerations" are responsible for Obama's reluctance to implement tough sanctions against Iran (see:

In their New York Times contributor op-ed of today's date, Telhami and Kull would have us believe that according to a poll carried out with the Dahaf Institute, their proposal for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East is supported by a majority of Israeli Jews:

"Most important, when asked whether it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, 65 percent of Israeli Jews said neither. And a remarkable 64 percent favored the idea of a nuclear-free zone, even when it was explained that this would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons."

However, examination of the responses found in the poll (see: do not support these conclusions. With respect to the 65 percent of Israeli Jews who purportedly believe that it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, have a look at question 32 of the poll:

Q32. Assuming that these are the only two options [italics added], which do you think would be a better situation for Israel?

Both Israel and Iran have nuclear weapons ...... 19%
Neither Israel nor Iran have nuclear weapons ..65
Don’t know/Refused .............................................. 16

Telhami and Kull don't mention that those responding to the question were given only these two options, and this makes an enormous difference.

Moreover, have a look at the responses to question 35, which indicate that the "remarkable 64 percent" of those who favor the idea of a nuclear-free zone, includes 29 percent who "somewhat favor" this proposal, i.e. were it even remotely possible.

But let's take this a step further: Whether it be via nuclear weapons or otherwise, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are all calling for the destruction of Israel, and this desire to "wipe Israel off the face of the map" has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel's possession of atomic weapons.

If Obama were to demand tomorrow that Israel eliminate its atomic arsenal in exchange for a cessation of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, where would this leave Israel in the next war? Israel is currently facing a replenished arsenal of Qassam rockets and Grad missiles in Gaza, and is now reportedly also being threatened with Fajr-5 missiles (see:, supplied by Iran to Hamas, which can strike Tel Aviv (see: In addition, some 50,000 Katyushas, Fajrs and Scuds are being pointed by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, at Israel. Assad, who has been receiving arms from Iran to suppress the year-long rebellion in Syria (see:, also possesses no small number of Scuds and short-range ballistic missiles which could be used against Israel. Iran itself is armed with medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which carry a payload of between 750 and 1,200 kilograms. Finally, given the likelihood that the Muslim Brotherhood will soon take power in Egypt, the Egyptian army's American-supplied weaponry could well be turned against Israel. In short, Iran and its allies would welcome such a slugging match, even a disproportionate one which would cost them dearly, provided it would also cost Israel tens of thousands of civilian lives.

Would even a left-leaning Israeli government be enticed by the Telhami/Kull proposal, which is grounded upon the truism that there's a sucker born every minute? I doubt it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Mitt’s Big Love": Morton's Fork?

I agree with Maureen Dowd that Americans face an unsavory choice in November.

In her latest New York Times op-ed, "Mitt’s Big Love" (, Dowd observes:

"WHAT a choice we’ll have in the fall: one man on a pedestal, another behind a wall.

Democrats and independents may have fallen out of love with President Obama, but Republicans and independents can’t fall in love with Mitt Romney. The two Harvard Law School grads are heading into a match with oddly matching flaws: both became famous while staying enigmatic and inaccessible."

It couldn't get any worse? Wrong. Imagine if Romney were suddenly to bow out of the race owing to concerns for his wife's health, and if Gingrich and Paul were the Republican frontrunners.

Prediction: This election will be determined by how Obama handles or mishandles Iran in the coming months. He will soon be facing a dilemma on the order of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which already has the Procrastinator-in-Chief nervously wavering from week to week (see:

Thomas Friedman, "Getting to Know You ...": Tom Tells Us to "Keep a Wary Eye" on the Egyptian Army and the Brotherhood

Concluding yet another -- let's hope the last -- zany installment of his series of op-eds written from Cairo, this one entitled "Getting to Know You ..." (, Thomas Friedman tells us:

"Egyptian politics for the last 50 years has been largely a struggle between the army and the Brotherhood, and both today are suspected of having secret agendas to grab power alone. I’d keep a wary eye on both of them.

But here’s what’s new: They are not the only ones anymore with plans for Egypt’s future and the energy to push them. Somehow all of these new and old forces have to now find a way to share power to rebuild this country."

In case you were wondering, Friedman is responsible for the italicized language in the above quote.

Friedman would "keep a wary eye" on the Egyptian army and the Brotherhood, but whom is Friedman warning? Egyptians? Americans? New York Times readers?

Moreover, why does Friedman think that the radical Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis need to find a way to share power after garnering two-thirds of the vote? I can promise you that the Brotherhood places far more emphasis on implementing Sharia law than on seeking accommodation with the US.

In which alternative narcissistic universe does Friedman live?

Wall Street Journal: "U.S. Warns Israel on Strike"

As reported by Reuters yesterday (, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has noted Iran's anxiety over US and European sanctions intended to thwart its thinly veiled program to acquire nuclear weapons:

"In an interview in Saturday's 'The Australian' newspaper, Netanyahu said: 'For the first time I see Iran wobble ... under the sanctions that have been adopted and especially under the threat of strong sanctions on their central bank.'

An official in Netanyahu's office confirmed to Reuters the accuracy of the quotes in the interview that was conducted on Tuesday."

However, Obama is now also wobbling, notwithstanding recent tough talk from US Secretary of Defense Panetta (see: As reported by The Wall Street Journal (

"President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The U.S. wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Stepping up the pressure, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week."

Remarkably, the article in The Wall Street Journal concludes by observing that "Israel represents a blind spot in U.S. intelligence" and that some US intelligence officials believe that "the U.S. should devote more resources to divining Israel's true intentions."

"Israel's true intentions"? Apparently the US intelligence community is unfamiliar with the truism cited in the past by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion: "For every two Jews, there are three opinions," which doubtless adds to their confusion.

Nevertheless, allow me to assist my friends in Arlington: Israel, which is facing a replenished arsenal of Qassam rockets and Grad missiles in Gaza, is now reportedly also being threatened with Fajr-5 missiles (see:, supplied by Iran to Hamas, which can strike Tel Aviv (see: In addition, some 50,000 Katyushas, Fajrs and Scuds are being pointed by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, at Israel. Assad, who has been receiving arms from Iran to suppress the year-long rebellion in Syria (see:, also possesses an arsenal of Scuds and short-range ballistic missiles which could be used against Israel. Finally, Iran itself is armed with medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which carry a payload of between 750 and 1,200 kilograms.

Yes, Israel is currently facing an existential threat from Iran, which is still a year away from developing nuclear weaponry, and yes, Israel cannot afford to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear warhead.

Incidentally, yesterday's editorial in The New York Times, the official mouthpiece of the Obama administration, calling for negotiations with Iran (see:, came as no surprise.

Friday, January 13, 2012

David Brooks, "The C.E.O. in Politics": Ignoring Cost-Benefit Analysis

This is one of those rare days when David Brooks and Paul Krugman reach similar conclusions in their respective New York Times op-eds.

As observed in my prior blog entry (, Paul Krugman today opines that the US does not need a successful businessman as president, inasmuch as "Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits." Likewise, in his op-ed entitled "The C.E.O. in Politics" (, David Brooks concludes:

"Today’s candidates have to invent bogus story lines to explain their qualifications to be president — that they are innocent outsiders or business whizzes. In reality, Romney’s Bain success is largely irrelevant to the question of whether he could be a good president. The real question is whether he has picked up traits like emotional security, political judgment and an instrumental mind-set from his upbringing and the deeper experiences of life."

I agree with Brooks that "leadership" is a trait required by successful presidents, but before dismissing business acumen, consider whether cost-benefit analysis ("CBA"), which is necessary to manage any large corporation, doesn't also figure into the equation of determining presidential policy.


President Obama can add to the current budget deficit with the expectation of resultant economic growth and improved employment statistics. On the other hand, he needs to consider whether any additional sum that is borrowed can ultimately be repaid, whether profligate spending could erode the value of the dollar and increase the US trade deficit, and whether the spectre of a US default on its debt (yes, I know -- more dollars could always be printed) would tear the world economy asunder.

Another example:

President Obama decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilize this war zone in a manner akin to Bush's Iraqi "Surge." On the other hand, he could have decided that sending additional ground forces to Afghanistan was unlikely to achieve lasting political results within Afghanistan, that there were no foreseeable regional benefits to maintaining a US presence in Afghanistan, and that this escalation would contribute meaningfully to the US budget deficit. Not a businessman and not attuned to CBA, Obama made the wrong decision.

Bottom line: CBA is critical in both business and government.

Paul Krugman, "America Isn’t a Corporation": Indeed, If America Was a Corporation, It Would File for Chapter 11

Paul Krugman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "America Isn’t a Corporation" (, informs us:

"But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery."

Indeed, America is not a corporation. Fiscal year 2011 was the third straight year during which the US experienced deficits of over $1 trillion. Moreover, during the Obama presidency, America has increased its debt by $4 trillion. If America was a corporation, it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Krugman would have us know that even great businessmen do not have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery. So who possesses these special insights? Simple answer: Krugman, who once again is telling us that the US government should not reduce expenses:

"Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.

But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed."

Query: Did Greece, Spain and Ireland have an alternative? For example, without an emergency EU and IMF rescue package, Greece would have defaulted on its debt.

As reported yesterday by Athens News (

"Rather than pushing through blanket wage cuts on underpaid groups of employees in the public and private sectors, the IMF sources stressed that selective reductions in exorbitant salaries and closure of wasteful work stations needed to be introduced in dozens of public utilities (DEKO) and other state agencies 'in order to attract foreign investment'."

Sorry, Paul, but is there anything wrong with slashing exorbitant salaries in the public sector and closing wasteful work stations?

America is not a corporation, but it's also not Greece. Any speculation whatsoever regarding a potential US default on its debt would send the world economy into the abyss, and risking such ruinous talk by running additional trillion dollar annual deficits would be less than wise.

Krugman concludes:

"America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc."

Most of the blame belongs to the Republicans? I thought the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate during Obama's first two years in office. But more to the point, what are Obama's policies? Yes, it's easier to tar the Republicans than to proffer and implement solutions.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The New York Times: "Dangerous Tension With Iran"

Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times and son of former New York Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, has long since demonstrated that he will never measure up to his father. The bigger problem is that Andrew Rosenthal oversees the editorial board of The New York Times, whose opinions of late bring new meaning to the word "bovinity." Their latest editorial, "Dangerous Tension With Iran" (, is a case in point.

The editorial board of The Times writes:

"Many officials, experts and commentators increasingly expect some kind of military confrontation. No one should want to see Iran, with its contempt for international law, acquire a nuclear weapon. But a military strike on the nuclear facilities would be a disaster.

We don’t know whether any mix of sanctions and inducements could persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. There is another option besides force: negotiations with the United States and other major powers over curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for ending sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Iran’s fractured leadership so far has not committed to serious talks, but President Obama and his allies have not paid enough attention to that alternative."

Sure, no one wants Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be a disaster, particularly for Iran, but what else is new?

The New York Times would have us believe that the negotiations option remains open. Oh really? Obama has been trying to bring Iran to the negotiating table since his 2009 Nowruz (new year's) greetings, which were coupled with "a promise of a new beginning." In fact, Obama's diplomatic overtures to the constituent nations of Bush's "Axis of Evil" comprised the sine qua non of the new president's foreign policy:

The editorial concludes:

"The Iranians need to know that the economic pressure will not let up until they stop the nuclear program."

The editorial board of The Times sincerely believes that Iran has not taken into account that the economic pressure will not let up? I've got news for Andrew Rosenthal and his crew: Iran knows, but they want the bomb, they're willing to suffer for it, and negotiations will be used to stall for time. For Iran, and also for Saudi Arabia, it's a regional and world game changer.

C'est tout.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New York Times: "Adversaries of Iran Said to Be Stepping Up Covert Actions"

A New York Times article by Scott Shane, entitled "Adversaries of Iran Said to Be Stepping Up Covert Actions" (, assesses the assassination of Iranian scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. The article concludes:

"Gary Sick, a specialist on Iran at Columbia, said he believed that the covert campaign, combined with sanctions, would not persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear work.

'It’s important to turn around and ask how the U.S. would feel if our revenue was being cut off, our scientists were being killed and we were under cyberattack,' Mr. Sick said. 'Would we give in, or would we double down? I think we’d fight back, and Iran will, too.'"

The article does not mention that Gary Sick also sits on the Emeritus Board of Human Rights Watch (see:, which has been assailed by its founder, Robert Bernstein, for its obsessive attempts "to turn Israel into a pariah state" (see:

Sick asks how the US would feel if its revenue was being cut off, its scientists were being killed and it was under cyberattack; however, there is no comparing Iran with the US, and this has been the basic underlying shortcoming of Obama foreign policy. Iranian decision making is not grounded in Western values or considerations.

According to PressTV, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps has responded to the assassination by declaring:

"'The desperate and criminal assassination of educated intellectual Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan…added another black page to the heavy records of crime and savageness of the terrorism-centered Zionist regime [of Israel] and its sympathizers in the White House and the West, which lays claim to human rights advocacy,' the IRGC said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement, however, stressed that the Iranian nation's determination to strengthen its superb regional position and elevate its scientific ranking in the world would not be weakened by threats or terrorist attacks."

In fact, Iran's "superb regional position" has never been weaker, following the recent steep decline in the value of the rial. The Iranian rial has lost more than a third of its value in the past three months, and as noted by The Times of India (

"Mobile phone text messages containing the word 'dollar' and a website showing real-time exchange rates were blocked on Tuesday in Iran.

. . . .

On Tuesday, the rial was fetching 17,230 against the dollar on the open market. That was close to the record low of 17,800 it hit on January 2.

Iranian officials insist the rial's decline has nothing to do directly with the Western sanctions, the toughest of which have yet to come into effect.

But some said Iranian residents were psychologically spooked by the sanctions squeeze and the prospect that the situation would worsen still."

The emerging reality is that Iran will soon no longer be able to bankroll Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, or to supply Assad with support to quell the rebellion in Syria.

Iran will fight back? Not when it's crumbling from within.

Thomas Friedman on Egypt: An "Incredible and Incredibly Exciting Experiment"

In a short video clip entitled "Egypt's Balance of Power,"
which is featured on the home page of The New York Times, Thomas Friedman opines:

"The revolution here is at a more critical stage than ever. The constititution is about to be written, the rules of the games are about to be defined, and the first post-revolutionary president of Egypt is about to be inaugurated. How those rules are written and who that next president is I think will really, certainly determine the early success or failure of this incredible and incredibly exciting experiment."

Notwithstanding Friedman's balmy assessment, consider Eric Trager's insightful analysis written for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, entitled "The Muslim Brotherhood's Radical Plan for Egypt" ( Concerning what is being planned for Egypt by the the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mr. Trager writes:

"The FJP platform states that 'sharia, in its essence...organizes the various aspects of life for Muslims and those non-Muslims who participate in the state with them.' The party's theocratic aims are therefore likely to change many aspects of Egypt's domestic policy.

Three such issues should be of special concern to Washington. First, FJP leaders have repeatedly said that they would ban alcohol and beach bathing -- both of which are essential to a tourism industry that accounts for roughly 10 percent of the economy. Second, Egypt faces a severe cash crisis, and its ability to attract international investment may be hampered by the Brotherhood's intention to implement the Quranic prohibition on interest-based banking. Third, newly elected FJP parliamentarians have said that they will not tolerate criticisms of Islam or sharia, including those made by Christians and secularists.

. . . .

Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie recently declared that, after forming the new government, the organization would pursue its final goal of establishing a 'rightly guided caliphate for the education of the world.'

. . . .

The peace treaty with Israel will likely be the first casualty of an FJP-led government. Although the party has said that it will honor Egypt's international agreements, it has carved out an exception for the Camp David Accords, which it intends to put to a national referendum, thereby shielding itself from direct responsibility for the treaty's demise. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has amplified its confrontational posture toward Israel in recent weeks by vowing never to recognize the state and warmly greeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Cairo.

. . . .

[T]he FJP has invited al-Gamaa al-Islamiyah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, to join its future governing coalition."

An "incredible and incredibly exciting experiment," as Friedman would fatuously have us believe? The real question which now arises is whether the US should continue to bankroll Egypt when it falls under the control of the Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "A Perfect Doll": Sorry, But Obama Is No Saul Alinsky

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "A Perfect Doll" (, Maureen Dowd writes:

"With many worried that America is in decline, a prospective race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is being caricatured here as 'Saul Alinsky versus Gordon Gekko,' as Don Baer, a former senior Clinton White House adviser, put it."

Millionaire Barack Obama, who profited handsomely from a shady real estate deal with Tony Rezko after spending a mere three years as a community organizer, hardly deserves comparison with the legendary Alinsky, a University of Chicago graduate who worked his way through school and spent a lifetime assisting poor communities throughout the US. However, I suppose this is how Axelrod will be seeking to portray the election as we draw nearer to November.

All one big mirage . . .

Thomas Friedman, "Political Islam Without Oil": Sucker!

The credibility of Thomas Friedman has reached a new nadir.

In "Political Islam Without Oil" (, Friedman writes from Cairo:

"On the peace treaty with Israel, Erian [the vice chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party] said: 'This is the commitment of the state — not any group or party — and we have said we are respecting the commitments of the Egyptian state from the past.' Ultimately, he added, relations with Israel will be determined by how it treats the Palestinians."

No mention by Friedman that the Muslim Brotherhood's deputy leader, Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, earlier this month declared that his party will not recognize Israel “under any circumstances,” and that it intends to put the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, "a criminal enemy," to a referendum (see: This amounts to yet another instance of radical Islamists telling the truth to fellow Muslims, while providing a contrary opinion for gullible Western consumption, all in accordance with the doctrine of taqiyya, which permits Muslims to lie to non-believers (see:

Friedman concludes:

"They don’t want to blow this chance to lead, yet they want to be true to their Islamic roots, yet they know their supporters elected them to deliver clean government, education and jobs, not mosques."

However, according to the results of a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in December 2010 (, 95% of Egyptian Muslims believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics.

It would appear that both Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof (see: are intent upon fostering the belief that the hideous progeny of the Tahrir Square rebellion, which so enthralled them, is well-intentioned and benign. Poppycock!