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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "G.O.P. Greek Tragedy": Or "Animal House"?

In her New York Times op-ed of today's date, "G.O.P. Greek Tragedy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/opinion/dowd-gop-greek-tragedy.html?ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd correctly concludes that Mitt Romney has all but emerged as the inevitable winner of the Republican nomination:

"Mitt Romney needs to be left alone to limp across the finish line, so he can devote his full time and attention to losing to President Obama.

With Sanctorum and Robo-Romney in a race to the bottom, the once ruthless Republican Party seems to have pretty much decided to cave on 2012 and start planning for a post-Obama world.

Not even because Obama is so strong; simply because their field is so ridiculously weak and wacky."

And so, with the US economy devastated and the world in havoc, American voters will be asked to decide between a narcissistic failed know-it-all and an unprincipled multimillionaire whose emerging friendship with Ron Paul (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/us/politics/mitt-romney-and-ron-paul-friendly-amid-the-rivalry.html?pagewanted=all) leaves me aghast.

Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan or Chris Christie? Sorry, but it is too late. It's almost a shame that Santorum didn't take Michigan, thereby opening the Republican convention to rational possibilities.

Greek Tragedy? No way. This is "Animal House."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "There Be Dragons": Today There Be Fools

In his latest New York Times op-ed gem entitled "There Be Dragons" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/opinion/friedman-there-be-dragons.html?ref=opinion), Thomas Friedman begins by observing that in days of old, mapmakers would warn of of dragons in uncharted regions. Well, today, given that most of the world has been explored, mapmakers are no longer warning of dragons, but only warning of fools on the New York Times op-ed page.

Remarkably, it is just beginning to dawn on Friedman that there never really was an Arab Spring. Tom writes:

"After the onset of the Arab awakenings, it was reasonable to be, at worst, agnostic and, at best, hopeful about the prospect of these countries making the difficult transition from autocracy to democracy. But recently, looking honestly at the region, one has to conclude that the prospects for stable transitions to democracy anytime soon are dimming. It is too early to give up hope, but it is not too early to start worrying."

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have always stated that it was never reasonable to expect any semblance of Western-style democracy resulting from the Arab Spring. I also said that democracy had little or nothing to do with the revolts in the Muslim Middle East.

February 2012: the flag of al-Qaeda is flying over Benghazi, Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis have won the elections in Egypt, and make no mistake about it -- the Muslim Brotherhood also stands to take charge when the monstrous Assad regime in Syria is toppled.

Friedman would blame the Egyptian army for preventing 43 American NGO workers from leaving that country, and claims that the actions of the Egyptian army were meant "to undermine the democrats demanding that the Army step aside." The problem here is that the Egyptian army also has the backing of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, as it thumbs its nose at the United States.

Since 1979, Egypt has received some $70 billion in civilian and military aid from the US, but notwithstanding the recent arrests of Americans, the Obama administration is unwilling to cut this funding.

Perhaps today's mapmakers should also warn of fools in Washington.

Back!

Sorry for disappearing. I had a long trip around the globe and hope to be back "on the air" tomorrow. I wish to thank those who voiced concern.

Jeffrey

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Clinton and Ashton Welcome Letter from Iran: Who Is More Naive?

Who is more naive, Hillary Clinton or Catherine Ashton?

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has sent a letter to Catherine Ashton, the EU's fatuous head of foreign policy, in which Jalili stated that Iran is willing to resume talks with unspecified "new initiatives." As reported by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/16/us-iran-idUSTRE81E0RF20120216), Jalili "made one reference to "Iran's nuclear issue," without spelling out whether Tehran was prepared to negotiate on it."

In a joint meeting, Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton responded with joy. Again, as reported by Reuters (http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE81G1DH20120217), Clinton declared:

"We think this is an important step and we welcome the letter."

Ashton's response:

"a potential possibility that Iran may be ready to start talks."

Ah, yes, a "potential possibility." Although I don't know whether Clinton or Ashton is more naive, I certainly know who is more obtuse.

Both Clinton and Ashton would be well advised to read Ray Takeyh's opinion piece in today's Washington Post entitled "Why Iran thinks it needs the bomb" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-iran-thinks-it-needs-the-bomb/2012/02/16/gIQAauVHKR_story_1.html?sub=AR). Takeyh writes:

"From Tehran’s perspective, protracted diplomacy has the advantage of potentially dividing the international community, shielding Iran’s facilities from military retribution and easing economic sanctions. Iran may have to be patient in its quest to get the bomb; it may have to offer confidence-building measures and placate its allies in Beijing and Moscow. Any concessions it makes will probably be reversible and symbolic so as not to derail the overall trajectory of the nuclear program."

Although Ashton may not catch Takeyh's gist, I am confident that Hillary is capable of undertanding. Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to grasp at any straw to avoid confrontation with Iran.

"Man" Accused of Plotting an Attack on U.S. Capitol

The Washington Post's current online homepage headline:

"Man accused of plotting to attack U.S. Capitol

An illegal immigrant from Northern Virginia was arrested blocks from the Capitol while carrying an inoperable MAC-10 automatic weapon and a fake suicide vest provided to him by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda associates, U.S. officials said."

An illegal immigrant was behind this sordid business? Perhaps a frustrated farm worker from Mexico? Of course not. Clicking on the headline, you then read the story (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/federal-agents-arrest-man-who-allegedly-planned-suicide-bombing-on-us-capitol/2012/02/17/gIQAtYZ7JR_story.html?hpid=z1) and learn:

"Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation."

Oh, so he was not from Mexico, but rather from Morocco. Do a word search of the story using "radical," "Islam" and "Muslim." As might be expected, your search will come up blank.

Now go to the New York Time's online home page. Buried half way down the page under "More News," you will find a link to the story entitled "F.B.I. Arrests Man in Suspected Capitol Bomb Plot". Interesting to note that The New York Times determined that a bomb plot against the US Capitol was barely newsworthy. Also, in their description of the story is a meager reference to a "man."

Both these newspapers are unwilling to contend with the threat posed to the US by radical Islam. Moreover, although this particular occurrence involved an alleged unsophisticated would-be perpetrator, there is nothing unsophisticated about Iranian and Hezbollah terror operations, which will not rely upon planted weapons and explosives rendered inoperable by the FBI.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fareed Zakaria, "How history lessons could deter Iranian aggression": Trust Iran to Behave Rationally

Three years ago, columnist Roger Cohen was engaged in a frenzied campaign to convince New York Times readers that Iran is "not totalitarian" and that Washington should seek reconciliation with Iran's leadership. In a op-ed entitled "From Tehran to Tel Aviv " (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/opinion/l23cohen.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&ref=opinion&adxnnlx=1329433444-rIBKrbLRr4s7x7KggZm3Iw), Cohen declared:

"That’s right: the mullahs are anything but mad. Calculation will demand that Iran take Obama seriously."

Regrettably for Cohen, his drive to facilitate normalization between Tehran and Washington ended when the mullahs brutally put down Iran's Green Revolution, following the rigged presidential election in June 2009. Moreover, Iran has since all but ignored Obama, while aggressively pursuing its mission to build its first nuclear weapon.

Today, however, Cohen has a successor in Fareed Zakaria, who also wishes to convince us that Iran's mullahs can be expected to behave rationally. In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "How history lessons could deter Iranian aggression" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/history-could-be-a-deterrent-to-iranian-aggression/2012/02/15/gIQA6UVcGR_story.html?hpid=z3), Zakaria proclaims:

"In the end, however, the global revolutionaries in Moscow, the mad autocrats in Pyongyang and the terrorist-supporting military in Pakistan have all been deterred by mutual fears of destruction. While the Iranian regime is often called crazy, it has done much less to merit the term than did a regime such as Mao’s China. Over the past decade, there have been thousands of suicide bombings by Saudis, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Pakistanis, but not been a single suicide attack by an Iranian. Is the Iranian regime — even if it got one crude device in a few years — likely to launch the first?"

The Iranians have never engaged in suicide attacks? Oh really? Apparently Zakaria has forgotten that during its war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988, Iran sent waves of children into Iraqi minefields in order to clear safe paths for its tanks. That's not suicidal and crazy?

And although not suicidal, Iran's bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, which killed 29 persons and injured over 250, and its bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 87 persons and injured over 100, were anything but rational.

Zakaria would have us ignore Ahmadinejad's call to "wipe Israel off the face of the map," and Supreme Leader Khamenei's recent pronouncement that Israel is "a cancerous tumor that must be removed, and God willing it will be" (see: http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/10/193813.html). Given what happened to the Jews after Hitler warned of a final solution, Zakaria's suggestion unfortunately makes less than perfect sense. When someone says that he intends to kill me, I have learned to pay attention.

I suppose Zakaria would also have Israel ignore what the mullahs are thinking when they "rationally" hang homosexuals, stone women to death for adultery, and brutally persecute Iran's Baha'i, Kurd and Sunni Muslim minorities.

Zakaria concludes by quoting Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs:

“Hopefully [Israel], too, will come to recognize that absolute security is impossible to achieve in the nuclear age, and that if its enemies’ nuclear programs cannot be delayed or disrupted, deterrence is less disastrous than preventive war.”

Consider, however, where Israel might be if it had not destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 and Saddam Hussein had built a nuclear bomb. Some ten years later, dozens of Iraqi Scud missiles fell on Tel Aviv during the First Gulf War, and imagine if only one of them had been nuclear tipped. In this instance was deterrence less disastrous than preventative war?

Unlike Zakaria, I experienced first hand the Iraqi missile attacks on Tel Aviv in 1991. The concussions of the missiles rocked my sixth floor apartment, where I sat huddled in a "safe" room with my wife and infant son, all of us wearing gas masks. It is more than a bit frightening that Obama relies upon the shallow, unsubstantiated opinions of Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman when formulating his Middle East strategy (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/us/politics/12prexy.html?pagewanted=all).

The Stench of Anti-Semitism at The New York Times

OPEN LETTER TO JILL ABRAMSON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dear Ms. Abramson,

I remember in June, when you were named Executive Editor of The New York Times, you were quoted by The Times , following your promotion, as saying:

“In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion. If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

This statement was subsequently retracted from the said article in The Times, after it apparently caused you no small amount of embarrassment. After all, how many people are of the belief in the divinity of a newspaper.

Well, let's talk about the so-called "divinity" of your newspaper, The New York Times. I would argue that in recent years, it has cast aside its wings and has instead embraced the profane adoration of anti-Semitism, as practiced by the new left.

You're a newspaper editor, so naturally you demand proof. No problem.

Just this week, following my complaint by e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal, your Editorial Page Editor, concerning the title of Roger Cohen's latest op-ed, "The Dilemmas of Jewish Power," the title was quickly changed online to "The Dilemmas of Israeli Power." Rosenthal did not write back to me.

Does the initial title of Cohen's op-ed remind you of something? It should. In a 1935 speech to the Reichstag introducing the Nuremberg Laws, Hitler stated:

"The third [law] is an attempt to regulate by law [the Jewish] problem, which, should this attempt fail, must then be handed over by law to the National-Socialist Party for a final solution."

"Jewish dilemmas"? "Jewish problem"? They sound frighteningly alike. Moreover, Hitler, like most other anti-Semites, believed that the Jews wielded too much power.

An isolated incident? Hardly. In May 2009, The New York Times published an op-ed by Roger Cohen entitled "Obama in Netanyahu's Web" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/opinion/28iht-edcohen.html). I quickly shot off an e-mail to a very senior editor of The Times:

"The Times should have given more thought to the title of Cohen's op-ed. As I tried to illustrate in my e-mail to Clark Hoyt, there is a long anti-Semitic history of depicting Jews as ugly voracious spiders. Netanyahu is no spider, and Obama is no butterfly. The title could only serve to inflame hatred."

The very senior editor, who requested to remain anonymous, replied:

"It was not a good headline, I agree. By the time this column gets to the times website it has already been published in the IHT [International Herald Tribune] on paper and online. This is not an excuse. It is an explanation. The headline should have been changes there [sic]."

Does the problem relate only to Roger Cohen? Hardly. Thomas Friedman let loose with an 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 the above 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."

More, Jill? No problem. As observed by a senior adviser to Netanyahu, Ron Dermer, in a letter to The New York Times, in which he declined your newspaper's 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 epidemic 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."

And then there was also 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. Publication of this contributor op-ed caused me to wonder how even Andy Rosenthal and friends could reach this nadir.

Still want more, Jill? Again, no problem. Although online readers' comments to your op-eds and editorials are purportedly "moderated," your so-called moderators have repeatedly permitted the posting of the vilest expressions of anti-Semitism. Just one of many examples:

"There is no country called Israel, just the squatting of tribal criminals from the Eastern Bloc."

I sent repeated e-mails to your former Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, about this disgraceful phenomenon, but he ignored me. I also sent examples of this abuse to the "very senior editor," who removed many of the comments, long after they had been posted, but the posting of anti-Semitic online readers' comments at The Times continued. (See, for additional background and examples: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-2-to-clark-hoyt-public.html; http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/10/sanchez-dismissal-spawns-more-anti.html; http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/08/charles-blows-obama-and-jews-part-2.html; http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/08/vicious-anti-semitic-readers-comment-in.html; http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/if-you-were-revolted-by-helen-thomas.html)

Have a good look in the mirror, Jill. You were brought up to believe that The New York Times is a beacon of truth and a substitute for religion? Obviously, you don't have a clue as to what monstrous depths your newspaper has descended.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Like Father, Like Son": More Gratuitous Advice

Thomas Friedman knows how to fix the entire world, and after beating up on Israel for the past year, he has finally turned his attentions to Syria. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Like Father, Like Son" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/opinion/friedman-like-father-like-son.html?ref=opinion), Friedman would have us know that in order to cause Assad to cede power to a national unity government, he must lose the support of China, Iran and Russia:

"There, the U.N., the European Union and Arab and Muslim countries need to keep calling out Moscow, Beijing and Iran for supporting Assad’s mass killing of unarmed civilians."

In addition, Friedman informs us:

"The still-fractious Syrian opposition has to find a way to unify itself and also reach out to the Alawites, as well as Syria’s Christian and Sunni merchants, and guarantee that their interests will be secure in a new Syria so they give up on Assad. Without that, nothing good will come of any of this. The more the Syrian opposition demonstrates to itself, to all Syrians and to the world that it is about creating a pluralistic Syria — where everyone is treated as an equal citizen — the weaker Assad will be and the more likely that a post-Assad Syria will have chance at stability and decency."

Geez, why didn't I think of this -- a pluralistic, love-your-neighbor Syria? All that's needed in order to rein in the chaos in Syria is for China, Iran and Russia to care what the rest of the world thinks, and for the Syrian opposition to reach out to Assad's supporters from his Alawite clan.

Charming thought, Tom, but China is consumed with securing oil for its economic future from Iran, Russia's Putin is busy reenacting the Cold War, and Iran only cares about building its first atomic bomb in order to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

Syria's opposition needs to reach out with a Coke and a smile to the country's Alawite minority? Yeah, right. Syria's Muslim Brotherhood hasn't forgotten what happened in Hama 30 years ago, and will not forget what is currently occurring in Homs. In this corner of the world, the name of the game is revenge, and Israel is already preparing to open its Golan Heights border with Syria in order to accept a flood of Alawite refugees seeking to escape retribution (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-chief-israel-ready-to-absorb-some-syria-refugees-once-assad-falls-1.406487).

Friedman actually gets paid for this tripe? Tell me I'm not dreaming.

Maureen Dowd, "That Old Black Magic": How Do I Sign Up for an Exorcism?

Acknowledging that she is the progeny of the "rhythm method" (I often tell my children that timing is everything in life), Maureen Dowd observes in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "That Old Black Magic" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/opinion/dowd-that-old-black-magic.html?ref=opinion), that exorcism is back in fashion at the Vatican. Dowd writes:

"And, in a new book, Father Gabriele Amorth, the exorcist for the diocese of Rome — who has complained that yoga and Harry Potter are evil — claims that Pope Benedict exorcised two possessed men who were howling and banging their heads on the ground by blessing them."

Well, I just discovered that over the past year my bank overcharged me in the amount of some $10,000 for commissions not owed to them, and although they are willing to return the money, it will be credited to my account without interest. This also had me howling and banging my head on the ground. How do I sign up for an exorcism with the pope?

Dennis Ross, "Iran Is Ready to Talk": Indeed, Iran Has Always Been Ready to "Talk"

Dennis Ross, long considered a friend of Israel, is, as described in his New York Times contributor op-ed entitled "Iran Is Ready to Talk" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/opinion/give-diplomacy-with-iran-a-chance.html?ref=opinion), "a former State Department and National Security Council official," who served as "a special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia from 2009 to 2011." In his contributor op-ed, Ross lists a litany of factors why Iran, "reeling from sanctions," should now be willing to enter into meaningful diplomatic negotiations regarding its nuclear weapons development program, thus precluding the need for military action:

• The Assad regime, Iran's only ally in the Arab world and its conduit for arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, is falling.
• Saudi Arabia is willing to boost oil production to ameliorate any damage resulting from Europe's forthcoming boycott of Iranian oil.
• Iran can't do business with any reputable bank.
• Iran's oil industry needs $100 billion in investments owing to aging infrastructure.
• The Iranian rial has lost much of its value against the dollar.
• India in the future will pay for Iranian oil with rupees.

Ross acknowledges that Iran may just be playing for time, but claims:

"Iran is now signaling that it is interested in diplomacy. Its foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, has declared that Iran will resume talks with the five permanent members of the Security Council and the Germans. He recently said that Iran would discuss Russia’s step-by-step proposal to defuse the nuclear standoff, which Iran refused to entertain when a variation of it was first broached last year."

Ross acknowledges that Iran might use the talks to continue pursuing its nuclear weapons program, but then it would face heightened economic pressure when the European oil boycott goes into effect in July. Observing Obama’s "stated determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," Ross concludes that Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei "will have to decide what poses a greater threat to his rule: ending his quest for nuclear weapons or stubbornly pursuing them as crippling economic pressures mount."

What's wrong with Ross's analysis? If Iran was a Western European nation, his arguments would make sense. But it's not. According to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran is willing to sacrifice half of its population as part of a war to eradicate the "Zionist cancer." Sorry, Dennis, but this has been the shortcoming of Obama policy toward Iran for the past three years: Iran does not "think" according to Western logic, and although Iranian diplomats are talented chess players and know how to bluff the West, its nuclear weapons program is the sine qua non of the Khamenei regime. Abandonment of nuclear weapons development by Khamenei would be an act of shame, and Iran will continue to suffer economic sanctions until its first atomic bomb is ready, which the mullahs believe will prove a game changer.

Talk? Sure Iran has always been prepared to talk until the cows come home. However, Iran is also adamant about building its bomb and knows no fear of Obama, who has drawn too many lines in the sand over the past three years.

David Brooks, "The Materialist Fallacy": No Mention of Narcissism

Why is the percentage of Americans born out of wedlock at 40 percent and rising? In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Materialist Fallacy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/opinion/brooks-the-materialist-fallacy.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks seeks to examine the weakening of America's social fabric. According to Brooks, the claims of left-wing commentators that lost jobs have disrupted American family life are without substance:

"The American social fabric is now so depleted that even if manufacturing jobs miraculously came back we still would not be producing enough stable, skilled workers to fill them. It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies. The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.

This requires bourgeois paternalism: Building organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly rather than irresponsibly and, yes, sometimes using government to do so."

Although I agree with Brooks that jobs in and of themselves will not cause a renaissance in American family values, I question whether "organizations and structures," governmental or otherwise, can bring about responsible behavior.

We live in an era in which narcissism is rampant. Immediate gratification and the glorification of self take precedence over family and community. Our pop stars and politicians, who today manifest this illness to an extreme, are placed on pedestals. Today, America's Narcissist-in-Chief proclaims to anyone prepared to listen (http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/12/obama-ill-put-my-record-up-against-any-president/1):

"I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln -- just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history."

Solution? Sorry, but I don't have one. Most of us, who do not appear on stage or behind a podium, can only attempt to provide personal examples for our children by way of caring, communal interest and personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Roger Cohen, "The Dilemmas of Jewish Power": Sick

[Following my complaint by e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal, the Editorial Page Editor of The New York Times, the title of this op-ed was changed from "The Dilemmas of Jewish Power" to "The Dilemmas of Israeli Power." Rosenthal did not write back to me.]

In May 2009, The New York Times published an op-ed by Roger Cohen entitled "Obama in Netanyahu's Web" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/opinion/28iht-edcohen.html). I quickly shot off an e-mail to a very senior editor of The Times:

"The Times should have given more thought to the title of Cohen's op-ed. As I tried to illustrate in my e-mail to Clark Hoyt, there is a long anti-Semitic history of depicting Jews as ugly voracious spiders. Netanyahu is no spider, and Obama is no butterfly. The title could only serve to inflame hatred."

The very senior editor replied:

"It was not a good headline, I agree. By the time this column gets to the times website it has already been published in the IHT [International Herald Tribune] on paper and online. This is not an excuse. It is an explanation. The headline should have been changes there [sic]."

Problem resolved? Not a chance.

Today, The New York Times published an op-ed by Roger Cohen entitled "The Dilemmas of Jewish Power" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/opinion/cohen-the-dilemmas-of-jewish-power.html?ref=opinion). Does this title remind you of something? It should. In a 1935 speech to the Reichstag introducing the Nuremberg Laws, Hitler stated (http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/documents/part1/doc35.html):

"The third [law] is an attempt to regulate by law [the Jewish] problem, which, should this attempt fail, must then be handed over by law to the National-Socialist Party for a final solution."

"Jewish dilemmas"? "Jewish problem"? They sound frighteningly alike.

Hitler, like most other anti-Semites, believed that the Jews wielded too much power. Note that Cohen's headline is not "The Dilemmas of Israeli Power," but rather "The Dilemmas of Jewish Power."

The hallucinatory content of Cohen's current op-ed? Extolling Peter Beinart’s book “The Crisis of Zionism,” Cohen writes:

"'We are being asked to perpetuate a narrative of victimhood that evades the central Jewish question of our age: the question of how to ethically wield Jewish power,' he [Beinhart] writes. That power, for 45 years now, has been exercised over millions of Palestinians who enjoy none of the rights of citizenship and all the humiliations of an occupied people."

Needless to say, no mention by Cohen that although Palestinian Authority President Abbas was elected to serve until January 2009, Abbas unilaterally extended his term for another year and continues in office long after the expiration of the new deadline for elections. Hamas also continues to rule Gaza without new elections. Nevertheless, Cohen would have us believe that only Israel is depriving the Palestinians of the rights of citizenship.

No mention by Cohen of the fact that Hamas leader Ismail Haniya met yesterday with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei (see: http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&id=296236), and that both these men are calling for the extermination of Israel. Moreover, even Fatah refuses to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Cohen writes:

"Blaming Palestinians — for disunity, for grandstanding, for seeking not the 1967 lines but Israel’s disappearance — is easy enough, although increasingly an exercise in misrepresentation of the major Palestinian shifts under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad."

No mention by Cohen that Hamas and Fatah are in unity talks and that one of Hamas's conditions is that Fayyad will not participate as a minister in any future Palestinian government (see: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=395957).

We have come to expect these distortions and this hate provoking language from Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen; my guess is that he can't help himself. The New York Times, on the other hand, has no excuse.

Sick.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Severe Conservative Syndrome": Care to Trade a Zonk for What's Behind the Curtain?

Yes, Paul Krugman and I are in partial agreement. Yesterday, in response to Thomas Friedman's New York Times op-ed "We Need a Second Party," I wrote (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/02/thomas-friedman-we-need-second-party.html):

"This election's crop of Republican presidential candidates? Dismal, to put it kindly."

Today, in his New York Times op-ed entitled "Severe Conservative Syndrome" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/opinion/krugman-severe-conservative-syndrome.html?ref=opinion), Paul Krugman concludes:

"The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident."

Thanks, Paul. Glad to know that I'm not an "anyone." But as I also observed in so many words in yesterday's blog entry, Obama has proven himself a narcissistic opportunist, whose guiding motivation is to be re-elected. In 2008 Obama's campaign slogan was "Yes We Can"; in 2012 this slogan has morphed into "I Didn't Do It."

Krugman begins his op-ed by observing:

"Mitt Romney has a gift for words — self-destructive words. On Friday he did it again, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was a 'severely conservative governor.'

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic pointed out, Mr. Romney 'described conservatism as if it were a disease.' Indeed. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, provided a list of words that most commonly follow the adverb 'severely'; the top five, in frequency of use, are disabled, depressed, ill, limited and injured."

Although surely tempted, the politically correct "Conscience of a Liberal" did not add to Liberman's list "severely retarded."

However, notwithstanding recent gaffes, Romney, with twin degrees from Harvard, is anything but dumb. A conservative? If he still manages to eke out the Republican nomination and beats Obama in November, does anyone know what America will be getting?

Back in the 1960s, there was a television game show called "Let's Make a Deal," in which contestants sought to trade what they brought to the studio for trips, furniture, jewelry and cars hidden in boxes or behind curtains. Occasionally, contestants had the bad fortune to choose a joke prize, otherwise known as a "zonk."

Bottom line: If Romney takes the Republican nomination, will the American electorate trade a "zonk" (Obama) for what's behind the curtain? Yet another "dismal" choice.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "We Need a Second Party": But It Takes Two to Tango

I have often be labeled a "neocon," notwithstanding my opposition to the Second Gulf War, my opposition to the US ground presence in Afghanistan, my support for gay marriage, and my pro-choice stance. On the other hand, my years spent in the Middle East and Europe have also taught me not to trust the words of ingratiating dictators, and not to believe in the universality of religions, all purportedly promoting peace, brotherhood and love. These lessons were learned the hard way.

This election's crop of Republican presidential candidates? Dismal, to put it kindly. The absence of Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie from the race has indeed allowed persons like Donald Trump, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich to appear as serious contenders. America deserves more, particularly when confronting a catastrophic enconomy, a soon to go nuclear Iran, and a Russia intent upon Cold War revival.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "We Need a Second Party" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/opinion/sunday/friedman-we-need-a-second-party.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Thomas Friedman suggests that the Republican Party, lacking "constructive conservative proposals on the key issues," might be better off sitting out the 2012 presidential election. Claiming that the Republicans do not offer realistic answers to the challenges of globalization and information technology, America's huge debt, and growing demands for energy, Friedman concludes:

"Until the G.O.P. stops being radical and returns to being conservative, it won’t provide what the country needs most now — competition — competition with Democrats on the issues that will determine whether we thrive in the 21st century. We need to hear conservative fiscal policies, energy policies, immigration policies and public-private partnership concepts — not radical ones. Would somebody please restore our second party? The country is starved for a grown-up debate."

I agree with Friedman that America's debt problem and its need for secure sources of energy should be among the focal issues of the 2012 elections, but should the Republicans simply stand down? What has Obama offered the US electorate in recent days?

Although not a life and death issue, Obama now supports donations to a super PAC that will fund his re-election campaign, notwithstanding that he once termed super PACs a "threat to democracy" (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/obama-picks-pragmatism-over-principle-on-super-pacs/2012/02/07/gIQABQbKwQ_blog.html).

Energy? Obama killed Keystone XL, which would have increased planetary greenhouse gas emissions. However, it would have also brought sorely needed jobs and alleviated dependence upon some of the world's worst tyrannies. Instead, this oil will be going to China, from where it will also increase greenhouse gas emissions perhaps to an even worse extent. As observed by Joe Nocera (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/opinion/nocera-the-politics-of-keystone-take-2.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), "The benefits of the oil we stand to get from Canada, via Keystone, far outweigh the environmental risks."

Iran? Convinced of his powers of persuasion, Obama spent his first year in office attempting to reach out to Iran. Recently, after even US Defense Secretary Panetta had acknowledged that Iran is a mere year away from manufacturing its first atomic bomb (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/panetta-iran-is-one-year-away-from-producing-nuclear-weapon-1.409983?localLinksEnabled=false), Obama sought to torpedo Senate legislation mandating sanctions against Iran's central bank (see: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/democratic-senator-blasts-obama-administration-opposing-iran-sanctions_610853.html).

Russia? As part of his attempt to seek a new start in relations with the Kremlin, Obama abandoned the American missile defense agreement with NATO allies Poland and the Czech Republic. In response, Russia has just vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for murdering thousands of its citizens, continues to ship arms to Assad, and is warning the US against intervention (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/02/syria-obama-likes-to-watch.html).

Friedman would have us know that the US is "starved for a grown-up debate." Well, that would also require an incumbent whose primary motivating force extends beyond his re-election.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Syria: Obama Likes to Watch

The violence in Syria is spilling over into Lebanon: Yesterday violent clashes erupted between the Sunni and Alawite communities Tripoli in Lebanon's north (see: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2012/Feb-11/162878-syrian-massacres-jolt-north-lebanon.ashx#axzz1m36ZQ8dp). At the same time, Lebanon's Sunnis, leaving the mosques on Friday, initiated demonstrations against Syrian President Assad throughout the country (see: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2012/Feb-10/162790-multiple-anti-assad-demos-expected-in-lebanon-friday.ashx#axzz1m36ZQ8dp).

In Syria itself, as the onslaught against Homs continued, twin suicide bombings targeting military intelligence and security force compounds in Allepo killed 28 people and wounded 235 (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16978803).

What is the Obama administration doing about this chaos? Nothing. As reported by The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/bombings-strike-previously-calm-syrian-city-of-aleppo/2012/02/10/gIQAQyD63Q_story.html):

"The Obama administration and its allies see few, if any, viable options to end the carnage in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces continue their offensive against the opposition to his rule in what has become the uprising’s most violent month.

. . . .

'What frustrates . . . us is that there are no silver bullets here,' said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'There are no good options.'

. . . .

A second administration official, who was not authorized to discuss military matters on the record, said that the U.S. 'focus remains on applying diplomatic and economic pressure on the Syrian regime. Military planning occurs as a matter of course,' the official said. 'As you would expect, some ideas are on the table' for Syria, 'but nothing has been requested. It’s an academic exercise at this stage.'"

No good options? As Russia and Iran send weaponry, and, in the case of Iran, advisors to Assad, Obama is unwilling to provide arms to the rebels to allow them to repel murderous attacks upon civilians by Assad's forces.

Obama has the opportunity to tear Syria away from Iranian suzerainty and in the process cripple Hezbollah in Lebanon, yet he is incapable of seeing his way through to any "viable options."

Meanwhile, Putin is warning against outside interference in Syria (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/08/us-syria-russia-putin-idUSTRE8171UU20120208), as Russia continues to arm Assad to the hilt (see: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/02/08/pol-cp-syria-russia-arms-protest.html?cmp=rss).

Is Obama capable of standing up to Putin? Not a chance. Moreover, it is an election year, and even in the best of times, Obama, like Chance the Gardener in "Being There," likes to watch.

Paul Krugman, "Money and Morals": Ask Newt Gingrich

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Money and Morals" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/opinion/krugman-money-and-morals.html?ref=opinion), Paul Krugman responds to the question of whether American values are in decline by noting that in the US there has been a dramatic drop in teenage pregnancies since 1990 and a large decrease in violent crime since the mid-90s. Krugman, however, observes:

"Still, something is clearly happening to the traditional working-class family. The question is what. And it is, frankly, amazing how quickly and blithely conservatives dismiss the seemingly obvious answer: A drastic reduction in the work opportunities available to less-educated men."

So is the high rate of divorce, for example, the consequence of "sharply rising inequality"? Perhaps this is a question that should be directed to Newt Gingrich, who appears to treat his spouses like automobiles and is always prepared to trade his wives in for newer models.

Births out of wedlock? As reported by USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-05-13-unmarriedbirths_N.htm):

"Among 14 countries analyzed in the report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of all live unmarried births in the USA — 40% in 2007 — ranks somewhere in the middle. That's up from 18% in 1980. The sharpest rise was from 2002 to 2007, the report found.

Countries with a higher proportion of births to unmarried mothers include Iceland, Sweden, Norway, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom; countries with a lower percentage than the USA include Ireland, Germany, Canada, Spain, Italy and Japan."

Apparently, the "problem" is not confined to the US, but rather reflects a growing trend in the West. Could it be that just when gay marriage is beginning to gain acceptance in the US, marriage as an institution is losing its appeal, as young people decide that they are unwilling to sacrifice short-term freedom for a long-term commitment demanding constant compromise?

Krugman concludes:

"So we should reject the attempt to divert the national conversation away from soaring inequality toward the alleged moral failings of those Americans being left behind. Traditional values aren’t as crucial as social conservatives would have you believe — and, in any case, the social changes taking place in America’s working class are overwhelmingly the consequence of sharply rising inequality, not its cause."

Sure, financial problems are apt to aggravate existing tensions in a marriage, but, as observed above, it appears that the West is divorcing itself from marriage. Moreover, the marital conduct of both Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump would appear to disprove the theorem that social change is largely the product of inequality.

I agree with Krugman that there has been a "drastic reduction in the work opportunities available to less-educated men" and that this harrowing trend will not improve so long as the US continues to outsource its manufacturing. And this is one more reason why even Joe Nocera agrees (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/opinion/nocera-the-poisoned-politics-of-keystone-xl.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss) that Obama's rejection of Keystone XL was tragic.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hezbollah's Nasrallah Not Ready to Commit Suicide for Iran

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah appeared on Lebanese television on Tuesday via a video link (he refuses to appear in person for fear of being assassinated by Israel) and acknowledged for the first time that Hezbollah is being funded and supplied by Iran (see: http://www.yalibnan.com/2012/02/07/nasrallah-iran-wont-ask-hezbollah-to-intervene-if-attacked-by-israel/):

"We have been receiving since 1982 all kinds of moral, political and material backing from the Islamic Republic of Iran."

It remains to be seen to what extent Iran's current economic woes will impact upon continued funding for Hezbollah.

Perhaps more interesting was Nasrallah's refusal to commit to engaging in a war with Israel, if Iran's nuclear weapons development facilities should be attacked:

"Some are wondering what would happen if Israel bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities, and although I rule out this possibility I assure you that the Iranian leadership will not ask Hezbollah to do anything.

On that day, we have to sit down and think before we decide what to do."

Apparently, Nasrallah learned a thing or two from the bombing of southern Beirut, where Hezbollah had its headquarters, during the 2006 Lebanon War. Should there be another war, Iran will not be able to provide the money to rebuild Hezbollah's infrastructure.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Freedom at 4 Below": Tom's Brain Is Frozen

Thomas Friedman has a vivid imagination.

Writing from Moscow and observing an anti-Putin demonstration, Friedman, in his latest New York Times opus entitled "Freedom at 4 Below" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/opinion/friedman-freedom-at-4-below.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), muses on the uprising in distant Syria, which has already claimed some 7,000 lives:

"I have no doubt that many of the Syrians mounting the uprising against the Assad regime — which is dominated by a Shiite offshoot known as the Alawites, who make up about 10 percent of the country — are propelled by a quest for a free and pluralistic Syria. But have no illusions: Some are also Sunni Muslims — who are the majority there — seeing this as their chance to overthrow four decades of Alawite minority rule. Where win-win democratic aspirations stop in Syria and rule-or-die sectarian fears begin is very hard to untangle."

Sojourning in Moscow and inextricably wedded to the nonsensical notion that the so-called "Arab Spring" had its roots in a desire for democracy, I can well understand why Friedman finds it difficult to "untangle" the rationale underlying events in Syria.

Friedman would have us believe, "Many of the Syrians mounting the uprising . . . are propelled by a quest for a free and pluralistic Syria." Yeah, right. Remarkably, Friedman not even once mentions Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, which is the spiritual force behind the rebellion of Syria's Sunnis, comprising some 70% of the population. Western-style democratic values have absolutely nothing to do with the Islamic fundamentalist underpinnings of the Muslim Brotherhood's political philosophy.

Also no mention by Friedman of the multi-year drought in Syria that has wrecked havoc with Syria's agriculture, or its oil resources, which are rapidly being depleted. It never occurred to Friedman that the turmoil in Syria might also be influenced by a failing economy and unemployment.

Whom does Friedman blame for Assad's oppressive rule? Israel, of course:

"While the Assad clan may have been a convenient enforcer at times for Israel and the West, it has also been a huge agent of mayhem — killing Lebanese journalists and politicians who dared to cross Syria, arming Hezbollah, funneling insurgents into Iraq, serving as a launching pad for Iranian mischief, murdering its own people seeking freedom and spurning any real political and economic reform."

Yes, Tom, by providing Hezbollah with Scud missiles, Assad was serving Israel's interests. And when Assad ordered the 2005 murder of pro-West Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, this was also -- as claimed by Hezbollah, which undertook the assassination at Assad's behest -- part of an Israeli plot.

Friedman, completely detached from Middle Eastern reality, would have us believe that Iraq serves as an example of how a multisectarian Arab country can overcome sectarian mistrust:

"Iraq shows how hard it is to do that — the Sunni-Shiite divide still cuts very deep — but Iraq also shows that it is not impossible."

No mention by Friedman of recent bombings in Baghdad that have claimed hundreds of lives. No mention of the fact that in light of the evolving chaos in Iraq, the US has decided to evacuate half of its diplomatic and civilian advisors (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/02/07/failure-in-iraq/). No mention that following the issuance of a warrant for his arrest, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region in the north, from where he recently observed that the stability of Iraq is “really deteriorating” and now "supports a move by three Sunni provinces to seek independence from Baghdad’s central government" (see: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/12/20/fugitive-iraq-sunni-v-p-tariq-al-hashimi-criticizes-u-s.html).

Friedman pontificates:

"You can’t have a democracy without citizens, and you can’t have citizens without trust — without trust that everyone will be treated with equality under the law, no matter who is in power, and without trust in a shared vision of what kind of society people are trying to build."

Moreover, after asking whether Syria's "multisectarian population" can "democratically rule itself, or does it crack apart," Friedman would have us "bet on" those in Syria and the rest of the Muslim Middle East who "deeply long to be citizens." Sorry, Tom, but in a region where women are being stoned to death for alleged adultery, homosexuals are being hanged, persons are being beheaded for engaging in "witchcraft," the hands of thieves are severed from their bodies, and anyone abandoning the Muslim faith is sentenced to death, I wouldn't make any such wager.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Obama on Syria: No Outside Military Intervention

Bashar al-Assad, the son, is doing to the Syrian city of Homs in February 2012, what Hafez al-Assad, the father, did to the Syrian city of Hama in February 1982, when he brutally quashed a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood.

As the Syrian army continues to bombard Homs with artillery and rocket fire, President Obama stated on Monday in an interview on NBC's "Today" program (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/world-middle-east-16902819):

"I think it is very important for us to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention. And I think that's possible."

Some seven thousand people have already been killed by Assad's forces during the 11-month revolt against his regime, which Obama had courted since becoming president. After largely ignoring the conflagration for many months, now he thinks it's possible to "resolve" it without military intervention. Sorry, but the only way this chaos will end is when Assad and his family depart for Tehran, at which time we'll see how many Alawites are slaughtered by Syria's Muslim Brotherhood when it ultimately takes power and revenge.

No, I am not in favor of Western military intervention. Although belated American involvement in the overthrow of Qaddafi is now considered by the Obama administration as one of its crowning foreign policy achievements, the flag of al-Qaeda is now flying over Benghazi, and much of Libya's arsenal of antiaircraft missiles has found its way into the hands of terror organizations, particularly in Gaza. I would not count this as a success. Which is not to say that the US doesn't have an interest in the fighting in Syria.

Although the conflagration in Syria is fast becoming a civil war between the majority Sunni population and Alawites, Christians and Kurds afraid of an Islamist takeover, in some ways similar to the tribal conflict in Libya, the stakes in Syria are somewhat different. Although Syria's oil resources are relatively small and quickly being depleted, Syria is the repository of an arsenal of missiles significantly larger than that of Libya, and it has also stockpiled an enormous quantity of chemical and biological weapons. If these weapons, like Libya's antiaircraft missiles, ultimately find their way into the hands of Hezbollah and other terror organizations, the repercussions could be quite serious (see: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israeli-officials-terrorists-may-get-syria-s-weapons-1.411439).

Moreover, Syria holds the key to Iran's Middle East terror network. Without Syrian protective cover, Hezbollah cannot be supplied and will lose control over Lebanon. Iran understands this, and as reported by Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/report-top-iran-military-official-aiding-assad-s-crackdown-on-syria-opposition-1.411402), "Kassam Salimani, commander of the Quds Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard special forces unit, has arrived in Syria recently and has taken up a spot in the war room which manages army maneuvers against opposition forces."

This is yet another instance where Obama has failed to understand the dynamics of an overseas crisis and now without a policy - his attempt at courting Assad led nowhere - can only provide commentary from the sidelines.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Things Are Not O.K.": That's an Understatement

Paul Krugman and I are in partial agreement. Should I be worried?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Things Are Not O.K." (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/opinion/krugman-things-are-not-ok.html?hp), Krugman observes that the economy is still deeply depressed and that high unemployment is causing great damage to "our economy and our society, even if the unemployment rate is gradually declining." Krugman writes:

"As the Economic Policy Institute points out, we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 — zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily. The institute estimates that even at January’s pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.

. . . .

Bear in mind, in particular, the fact that long-term unemployment — the percentage of workers who have been out of work for six months or more — remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

. . . .

Full employment is still a distant dream — and that’s unacceptable. Policy makers should be doing everything they can to get us back to full employment as soon as possible."

Although full employment in today's brave new world will probably prove illusive, policy makers should indeed be doing more to encourage recovery. And that means, for example, reenactment of Glass-Steagall, in order to force commercial banks to focus again on the business of lending money to worthy individuals and businesses.

That means reenactment of the Uptick Rule, so that the shares of start-up corporations cannot be manipulated by financial institutions seeking quick profits at the expense of the financial strength of these companies, upon whose growth America's economic future rests (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/stock-market-manipulation-new-shorting.html).

And yes -- this is where Krugman and I certainly part ways -- it means the development of oil shale fracking in a safe responsible manner, and moving ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline, even with the environmental risks it entails.

Like it or not, the US needs to "declare war" on unemployment while reducing its dependence upon oil from barbarous Middle East regimes, and sometimes this entails unseemly compromises.

Obama: Iran Has No Intentions or Capabilities to Wage Attacks on US Soil

In an NBC interview on Sunday, President Obama claimed that Iran has "no intentions or capabilities" to wage attacks on US soil (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16900705).

No intentions or capabilities? You don't say. I suppose that Obama has already forgotten the 2011 Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in the US (see: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/11/MNCH1LG8HF.DTL).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "The Great Man’s Wife": Narcissism Running Amok

An op-ed about Newt Gingrich? Why waste the ink? Nevertheless, Maureen Dowd, apparently bereft of ideas, has written another opinion piece about him. In her latest New York Times op-ed, "The Great Man’s Wife" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/dowd-the-great-mans-wife.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Dowd writes of Newt and his third wife Callista:

"While a trophy wife is admired by her man, the admiring eyes of a Transformational Wife are there to propel her man to the next level. And when a woman who wants to be a Transformational Wife merges with a man who calls himself a Transformational Figure, you can expect a narcissistic blastoff."

Fortunately for Newt, 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: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/health/views/30mind.html).

But isn't Maureen being a bit hard on the man. Consider --

Gingrich: "Because I am much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, I'm such an unconventional political figure that you really need to design a unique campaign that fits the way I operate and what I'm trying to do." (see: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/15/politics/acosta-gingrich-surges/index.html)

Obama: "I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln." (see: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2011/12/does-barack-obama-believe-hes-the-4th-best-modern-president.html)

. . . .

Gingrich: "By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon." (see: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46208543/ns/local_news-clarksburg_wv/t/experts-say-gingrich-moon-base-dreams-not-lunacy/)

Obama: "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." (see: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/01/30/120130fa_fact_lizza?currentPage=8

Pick your poison. If it were only possible, I would vote for W.C. Fields, who played "The Great Man" in "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break," over either of these two gentlemen --

Truman: "The buck stops here."

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

Perhaps it is indeed time to face the situation and acknowledge that narcissism is running amok in the US presidential race.

New York Times Editorial, "Trading Threats With Iran": Who Writes This Trash?

In an editorial entitled "Trading Threats With Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/opinion/trading-threats-with-iran.html?ref=opinion), The New York Times , a.k.a. the unofficial mouthpiece of the Obama administration, tells us:

"On Friday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his country will assist any nation or group that 'confronts' Israel, describing it as a 'cancer.'"

In fact, Khamenei went far beyond labeling Israel a "cancer." According to Iran's Mehr News Agency (http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1524218), Khamenei threatened to eradicate Israel on Friday:

“The tumor of Israel, which is in fact cancerous, must be removed from the region, and this will definitely happen.”

Why is The New York Times hiding this fact?

The Times writes:

"The costs of an Israeli military strike — with or without American support — would be huge. It would likely only set Iran’s nuclear program back for a few years."

"Only set Iran's nuclear program back for a few years"? That's easy enough to say, when your existence is not at stake.

The Times continues:

"President Obama has spent three years rallying the toughest sanctions ever on Iran — including a European Union oil embargo."

"Obama has spent three years rallying the toughest sanctions ever on Iran"? Excuse me, but this is pure claptrap. In fact, in 2009, in an effort to appease Khamenei, Obama refused to speak out when the mullahs brutally quashed Iran's Green Revolution. More recently, Obama opposed the sanctions sought by the US Congress (see: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/democratic-senator-blasts-obama-administration-opposing-iran-sanctions_610853.html).

As I concluded in my prior blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/02/will-israel-attack-iran.html), in light of Obama's ambivalence and indecision regarding taking action of any kind against Iran, and given his overriding concern with re-election, Israel may indeed have to go it alone.

Will Israel Attack Iran?

“The tumor of Israel, which is in fact cancerous, must be removed from the region, and this will definitely happen.”

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei speaking to worshippers yesterday during prayers at the campus of the University of Tehran.

The above quote reported by Iran's Mehr News Agency (http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1524218) cannot possibly be misinterpreted. Although there have been many efforts to mitigate the underlying intent of Iranian president Ahmadinejad's 2005 declaration that "Israel must be wiped off the map," there can be no mistaking what Khamenei has in mind, i.e. a second Holocaust. Moreover, according to Israeli intelligence experts, Iran would be willing to "martyr" half of its population as part of an effort to eradicate Israel.

Even without an atomic bomb in the hands of the mullahs, Israel is currently facing an arsenal of some 200,000 rockets and missiles, amassed by the allies of Iran -- the murderous Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza -- and Iran itself. In many respects this existential threat is grimmer than the stranglehold placed on Israel by Nasser prior to the 1967 Six Day War.

Jonathan Tobin of Commentary wrote yesterday (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/02/03/obama-leads-behind-israel-iran/#more-782751):

"Most observers have spent the past few months trying desperately to interpret the mixed signals emanating from the Obama administration on Iran."

In fact, such attempts at interpretation are futile given that the Obama administration has never had a strategy for dealing with Iran; there are now only delaying tactics intended to smooth Obama's path to re-election in November.

In a Washington Post op-ed entitled "Is Israel preparing to attack Iran?" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-israel-preparing-to-attack-iran/2012/02/02/gIQANjfTkQ_story.html?hpid=z2), David Ignatius observes:

"[US Defense Secretary] Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a 'zone of immunity' to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.

. . . .

President Obama and Panetta are said to have cautioned the Israelis that the United States opposes an attack, believing that it would derail an increasingly successful international economic sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the threshold. But the White House hasn’t yet decided precisely how the United States would respond if the Israelis do attack."

Ignatius further suggests that Israeli Defense Minister Barak "may have signaled the prospect of an Israeli attack" when Israel cancelled "Austere Challenge," a joint US/Israeli anti-missile exercise scheduled for April.

Obama and Panetta can't fathom that economic sanctions will not alter Khamenei's mindset. This is a man willing to sacrifice millions of lives in order to attain his goal of removing the profane presence of the Zionist intruder from the Muslim Middle East.

In response to Ignatius's question whether Israel is preparing to attack Iran, could Israel possibly not prepare for war in light of Iran's unequivocal goal of annihilating Israel? Given Obama's ambivalence, indecision and overriding concern with re-election, Israel may indeed have to go it alone.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New York Times Op-ed, "Envisioning a Deal With Iran": Baloney!

"Baloney"? Isn't this a little harsh? Actually, given my inclination to employ a more colorful adjective, this is the outcome of my struggle to remain "diplomatic" this morning.

In a New York Times contributor op-ed entitled "Envisioning a Deal With Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/opinion/sunday/envisioning-a-deal-with-iran.html?ref=opinion), former career diplomats Thomas Pickering and William Luers argue that the US should seek to use diplomacy to avoid conflict with Iran. Referring to the tripartite technique used by Nixon to engage China ("What do they want, what do we want and what do we both want?"), Pickering and Luers explain how this same methodology can be used to reach agreement with Iran:

"Iran wants recognition of its revolution; an accepted role in its region; a nuclear program; the departure of the United States from the Middle East; and the lifting of sanctions. The United States wants Iran not to have nuclear weapons; security for Israel; a democratic evolution of Arab countries; the end of terrorism; and world access to the region’s oil and gas. Both Iran and the United States want stability in the region — particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan; the end of terrorism from Al Qaeda and the Taliban; the reincorporation of Iran into the international community; and no war."

What does Iran want? Pickering and Luers fail to mention that Iran wants to "wipe Israel off the face of the map."

Iran "wants stability in the region"? I suppose that is why Iran has been terrorizing its Baha'i, Kurdish and Sunni minorities. I suppose that is why Iran provided equipment and training to murder American soldiers in Iraq. I suppose that is why Iran is engaged in an ongoing proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. I suppose that is why Iran lays claim to Bahrain. I suppose that is why Iran bankrolls Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and the Assad regime in Syria. I suppose that is why Iran was responsible for the bombing of the Jewish community center in distant Buenos Aires and continues to finance terror throughout the world.

Regarding their credibility, Luers, Pickering and Dr. James Walsh authored a March 20, 2008 article in The New York Review of Books entitled, "A Solution for the US–Iran Nuclear Standoff" (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21112), which began by stating:

"The recent National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Tehran stopped its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003, together with the significant drop in Iranian activity in Iraq, has created favorable conditions for the US to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program."

As recently acknowledged by US Defense Secretary Panetta (see: http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=249800), Iran is now one year away from building a nuclear bomb.

More interesting than Pickering and Luer's op-ed is the question why The New York Times, the unofficial mouthpiece of the Obama administration, continues to publish this twaddle, disseminated in the past by contributor op-eds penned by the Leveretts (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/01/open-letter-to-andrew-rosenthal-yet.html).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Compugen: Further Validation of Predictive Drug Discovery

Today, Compugen announced test results demonstrating the therapeutic potential of CGEN-15001T as a drug target for treatment of multiple cancers by means of monoclonal antibody (“mAb”) therapy. CGEN-15001T is a membrane protein, predicted by Compugen to be a B7/CD28-like protein. The B7/CD28 family of proteins is known to be involved in regulation of the immune system in immune related disorders and in cancer.

Of particular interest, as noted in Compugen's press release (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Compugen-Cancer-Target-bw-2304211202.html?x=0), is the tripartite mechanism of action postulated for a monoclonal antibody directed against this target:

"Taken together, the expression profile of CGEN-15001T and its proposed immunomodulatory profile suggest that a single therapeutic antibody against CGEN-15001T may attack cancer cells through three key mechanisms. One mechanism is by direct targeting and killing of the cancer cells expressing CGEN-15001T. Since CGEN-15001T is expressed on numerous cancers, an antibody against CGEN-15001T has therapeutic potential for various cancer indications. Another mechanism of the therapeutic antibody may be achieved by blocking the inhibition of the immune system induced by CGEN-15001T, whether expressed on the cancer cells and/or the immune cells within the tumor. And third, the same mAb for CGEN-15001T may promote the immune system component which acts against the tumor (Th1), while inhibiting the component which promotes the cancer (Th2). The significant potential of having all three mechanisms in a single therapeutic antibody to CGEN-15001T is being pursued actively by Compugen as part of its expanded mAb activities within its Pipeline Program."

Also meaningful is the fact that Compugen’s Protein Family Members Discovery Platform, underlying the discovery of both CGEN-15001 (see, most recently: http://www.cgen.com/Content.aspx?Page=press_releases&NewsId=595) and CGEN-15001T, was announced little more than a year ago (see: http://www.cgen.com/Content.aspx?Page=press_releases&NewsId=524). The speed with which the platform was created, and the resultant rapid discovery and validation of CGEN-15001, CGEN-15001T and other B7/CD28-like proteins, all at a cost dwarfing typical discovery of new therapeutic candidates, attest to the power of Compugen's predictive discovery science. Although there can be no assurances that any of these early stage candidates will become commercialized products, the manner in which these candidates were created and their promising test results speak for themselves, and, in my opinion, augur a new era of drug discovery.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on publicly available information. This blog entry has not been authorized, approved or reviewed prior to posting by Compugen.]

Roman Halter, of Blessed Memory

The obscenity of Holocaust denial is regrettably alive and kicking. Earlier this week, Iran's Press TV denounced the decision of Turkish public television to broadcast a Holocaust documentary (http://www.presstv.ir/detail/223743.html):

"Turkey's move can be considered as controversial and unacceptable since Muslim nations hold that Holocaust believers have lost touch with the reality and that western governments are using the saga to play the role of innocent victims.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has on several occasions called for a historical research to find realities about the Holocaust. His remarks have sparked outrage among the pro-Israeli powers, which labeled him a Holocaust denier.

Prominent American scholar Norman Finkelstein argues in his book The Holocaust Industry (2000) that many exploit the myth of Holocaust as an 'ideological weapon', saying this is also the case with Israel, 'one of the world's most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, [can] cast itself as a victim state' in order to garner 'immunity to criticism.'

. . . .

A French court fined author Roger Garaudy $20,000 in 1998, for questioning the Nazi Holocaust during the World War II.

The French scholar was convicted of challenging crimes against humanity and of racial libel.

In his book The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics, Garaudy argued that Hitler's killing of the Jews could not be described as genocide.

He also questioned whether gas chambers were used for mass slaughter."

Ahmadinejad has called for a historical inquest to "find realities about the Holocaust"? This monster should begin by reading Roman Halter's autobiographical book, "Roman's Journey" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/Roman%20Halter). As summarized by its jacket cover, this gripping work recounts how Roman Halter, a Polish schoolboy, miraculously survived the Nazi nightmare years:

"Roman Halter is an optimistic and boisterous schoolboy in 1939, when he and his family gather behind their net curtains to watch the Voldeutsch neighbors in their small town in western Poland greet the arrival of Hitler's armies with kisses and swatstika flags. Within days, the family home has been seized, 12-year-old Roman is a slave of the local SS chief, and, returning from an errand, silently watches his Jewish classmates being bayoneted to death by soldiers at the edge of town. And there begins the journey - first into the Lodz ghetto, then on to Auschwitz, then Stutthof and a firebombed Dresden - a remarkable six-year journey through some of the darkest caverns of Nazi Germany, which claimed the lives of every other member of his family and the 800-strong community of his boyhood."

As noted by Sir Martin Gilbert in the book's preface, Roman Halter near the end of the war was sheltered by "a courageous German couple, the husband of whom was killed after the war by his neighbors for hiding Jews." It should come as no surprise that latent anti-Semitism still affects 20 percent of Germans (see: http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=255105).

Perhaps if President Obama were to read this book, he would better understand Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's thoughts and motivations. Politics aside, Netanyahu is faced with the dilemma of preserving the existence of Israel, which faces an arsenal of 200,000 missiles (see: http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=256152), amassed by the allies of Iran -- Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Islamic Jihad in Gaza -- and Iran itself, whose president demands that Israel "be wiped off the face of the map." According to Israeli intelligence experts, Iran would be willing to sacrifice half of its population as part of an effort to eradicate Israel, i.e. perpetrate a second Holocaust.

Sadly, Roman Halter passed away last week. I knew Roman Halter, who moved to England after the war, became a noted architect, teacher of architecture, author and artist, renowned for his stained-glass windows. Roman Halter, who never lost his passion for life, also built a family, and I am privileged to be the friend of his remarkable children.

I am now rereading "Roman's Journey." I strongly urge that those who read this blog take the time to read this monumental book.

My love and condolences go out to the bereaved family of this courageous, resilient and extraordinary man.