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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Why Nations Fail": Tom's Boring Book Report

Today, in his latest New York Times op-ed, "Why Nations Fail" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/friedman-why-nations-fail.html?_r=1&hp), Thomas Friedman describes a new book he's reading entitled -- You'll never guess the name in a million years! -- "Why Nations Fail" by M.I.T. economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson. Quoting liberally from its text, Tom relays one of the book's important messages:

"'Inclusive economic institutions, are in turn supported by, and support, inclusive political institutions,' which 'distribute political power widely in a pluralistic manner and are able to achieve some amount of political centralization so as to establish law and order, the foundations of secure property rights, and an inclusive market economy.' Conversely, extractive political institutions that concentrate power in the hands of a few reinforce extractive economic institutions to hold power."

In short, beware of extractive political institutions! Yes, Tom is right: tyrannical governments do bad things (awful April Fools' cynicism).

By chance, fellow Times columnist Maureen Dowd has also written today about a book -- actually, a trilogy of "bondage-themed romanticas" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/03/maureen-dowd-shes-fit-to-be-tied.html).

I wonder which of the two op-eds, Tom's or Maureen's, will be more popular among New York Times readers . . .

[Judging from the early response shown by Google Analytics to my two blog entry critiques, Maureen is winning hands down, with California contributing mightily to her total.]

Maureen Dowd, "She’s Fit to Be Tied": Spicing Up a Moribund Gray Lady

Columnist Maureen Dowd brings to the op-ed page of New York Times a potpourri of topics revolving around the Washington scene, where she is most knowledgeable; the Middle East, where she is out of her depth; and the risqué, which is surely intended to boost the dwindling circulation of her troubled newspaper.

On the heels (stilettos, of course) of such classic opinion pieces as "Corsets, Cleavage and Fishnets" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/opinion/15dowd.html) and "Manlashes, Manscara and Mantyhose" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/opinion/sunday/dowd-manlashes-manscara-and-mantyhose.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), now comes "She’s Fit to Be Tied" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/dowd-shes-fit-to-be-tied.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), in which Dowd describes a set of bondage-themed books for women:

"Now comes the story of E, a London writer named Erika whose pseudonym is E L James. The plump, happily married 40-something mother and former television producer seems like 'a normal lady,' as one shocked Hollywood agent put it.

Yet she has written the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trilogy, bondage-themed romanticas that have evoked hysteria, whipping up a frenzy with the housewives of Long Island and rippling out from there."

Ah yes, a frenzy in Oyster Bay, Manhasset and Glen Cove. As my Long Island railroad train crawls into Penn Station twenty minutes late, my entire car is astir with talk of handcuffs and whips . . . not.

Sorry, Maureen, but there is no saving the Gray Lady. Sales could spike for one day, as might the pulse of a moribund patient on life support, but even bedecked in clingy black leather, she's soon to be six feet under.

However, it was still a grand effort at binding with, whoops, I meant bonding with, whoops, I actually meant finding areas of novel interest to share with your readership.

[See also my critique of Thomas Friedman's "companion" op-ed in today's New York Times: (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/03/thomas-friedman-why-nations-fail-toms.html).]

Gail Collins, "Time to Elect the Worst Idea": Dog Poop on the Brain

Okay, I confess: I actually skimmed a bit of Gail ("Dog Poop on the Brain") Collins latest New York Times op-ed, "Time to Elect the Worst Idea" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/opinion/collins-time-to-elect-the-worst-idea.html?_r=1&hp). Needless to say, Collins, who never has anything better to say, didn't disappoint, and she again began this opinion piece with her lame running joke:

"Our topic today is picking the worst new trend of the political season.

Not including putting the dog on the car roof."

To her credit, Collins actually acknowledges that Obama has failed "to bring us all together in a postpartisan Washington."

But what is indeed the "worst new trend of the political season"? Actually, it involves Obama's ongoing attempts to appease enemies while beating up on America's longstanding allies, but given that November is approaching, doing it in surreptitious fashion. There is no mention whatsoever in the Collin's opinion piece of Obama's open microphone oversight while chatting with Russia's Medvedev, which this time, unlike his open mike faux pas involving Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, is not going to go away.

How times have changed. Forty years ago, Obama would have been impeached for this ignoble conduct, characterized by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post as "enough to chill friends and allies, democrats and dissidents, all over the world" (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/the-flexibility-doctrine/2012/03/29/gIQA9ZMtjS_story.html).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

David Brooks, "A Moderate Conservative Dilemma": Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "A Moderate Conservative Dilemma" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/opinion/brooks-a-moderate-conservative-dilemma.html?_r=1&hp), David Brooks tells the story of Nathan Fletcher, a veteran of the US Marines, who returned from Iraq and Somalia and entered California politics as a moderate Republican. Most recently, seeking the Republican nomination for mayor of San Diego, he was spurned by his party, which chose someone more conservative, and he is now running as an independent. Brooks concludes:

"Fletcher is the decided underdog in the June 5 voting. But he represents a nationally important test case. Can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who were trained to be ruthlessly pragmatic, find a home in either political party? Can center-right moderates find a home in the G.O.P., even in coastal California? As the two parties become more insular, is it possible to mount an independent alternative?"

Brooks tells us that Fletcher returned from his service in the Marines with survivor's guilt. In addition to his moderation and his ability to work effectively with people from both sides of the aisle, this strikes a chord with me.

But does Fletcher's story reflect the demise of tolerance and moderation in US politics? In an interesting aside, Brooks notes that Mitt Romney and his wife have contributed to Fletcher's campaign. This brings us to an interesting point: Whereas Obama is likely hiding an extreme leftist agenda, as evidenced by his open microphone gaffe with Russia's Medvedev, Romney is disguising a centrist agenda, as evidenced by his support of Fletcher.

Me? I sorely miss Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a conservative Democrat, and Jacob Javits, a liberal Republican. But in today's world, there is little space remaining for moderation, as evidenced by the imminent departure of Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe from the US Senate.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Paul Krugman, "Broccoli and Bad Faith": No Mention of Medicare Fraud

Yes, I do believe in universal health care; however, I am also appalled when commentators like Paul Krugman ascribe bad faith to Supreme Court justices who dare to question the constitutionality of Obamacare. Moreover, whereas I believe in universal health care, I also believe that America's health care system has been rendered terminally ill by Medicare fraud, which costs the government some $60 billion each year. I view Obamacare as an expensive, ill conceived patch to a faulty mechanism that is hemorrhaging money.

In his New York Times op-ed entitled "Broccoli and Bad Faith" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/opinion/krugman-broccoli-and-bad-faith.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Krugman informs us that Justice Scalia's comparison between the
purchase of health insurance and the purchase of broccoli is inapt:

"When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick — which is what happens in the absence of a mandate — the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has."

Sorry, Paul, but I disagree. When people buy Cheetos, Twinkies, Bacon and Bud instead of broccoli, they are indeed worsening the risk pool and making insurance more expensive. Does this mean that the federal government should be allowed to demand the purchase of, or subsidize, broccoli, while banning or penalizing sales of Cheetos? If the government were to seek to deprive me of my ice cream habit, I would probably take up arms.

Bottom line: I am less concerned with the Supreme Court decision, and more concerned with the fact that the system is "broken" and requires a major overhaul. Obamacare, constitutional or not, only aggravates a problem that threatens the US with financial collapse, which could deny health care to all Americans.

Obama's Best Buddy, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan, to Double Bilateral Trade With Iran

In a January 2012 Time interview with Fareed Zakaria (http://swampland.time.com/2012/01/19/inside-obamas-world-the-president-talks-to-time-about-the-changing-nature-of-american-power/?iid=sl-main-lede), President Obama proudly proclaimed:

"I think that if you ask them, Angela Merkel or Prime Minister Singh or President Lee or Prime Minister Erdogan or David Cameron would say, We have a lot of trust and confidence in the President. We believe what he says. We believe that he’ll follow through on his commitments. We think he’s paying attention to our concerns and our interests. And that’s part of the reason we’ve been able to forge these close working relationships and gotten a whole bunch of stuff done."

A close working relationship with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? Nice to know.

Indeed, on March 25 a jubilant Obama met with the Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan for one hour and 45 minutes at a hotel in Seoul ahead of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea. Following their discusions, Obama and Erdoğan held a joint press conference, and Obama once again declared that Erdoğan is an "outstanding" partner (see: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-275311-erdogan-obama-discuss-syria-iran-at-seoul-meeting.html).

Well, this outstanding partner subsequently spent the past several days meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei and Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and on March 28, following discussions with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Erdoğan announced that Turkey and Iran had agreed to double bilateral trade to 30 billion dollars within the next three years (see: http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1565561).

This agreement to expand trade from $16 billion in 2011 to $30 billion in 2015 comes at a time when the US and Europe are seeking to impose stringent sanctions on Iran to prevent further development of its nuclear armaments program.

Obama, a foreign policy naif, certainly knows how to pick his friends . . .

New York Times Editorial, "The Never-Ending Cold War": The NYT Gets Cold Feet

The New York Times made a concerted effort to ignore Obama's open microphone gaffe while speaking with Russia's President Medvedev. Although Obama's declaration that he would have more "flexibility" involving European missile defense after his reelection was a lead online news item for The Washington Post, it was relegated to "The Lede Blog" by The New York Times. I suppose The Times is of the opinion that if a tree falls in a forest and no one sees it happen, it didn't happen.

Well, unfortunately for The Times and Obama, Americans are not as stupid as they might think. Appearing with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" (see: http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/mitt-romney-part-3-3-27-12/1393113), Romney received prolonged applause when he stated that Obama should never have promised Russia "a different agenda" after November, "once the American people aren't watching."

No longer able to brush aside Obama's gaffe, the editorial board of The New York Times today writes in "The Never-Ending Cold War" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/opinion/the-never-ending-cold-war.html?hp) that Obama's revelation to Medvedev was "an honest statement of fact." The editorial board continues:

"Saying he will have flexibility on missile defense doesn’t mean Mr. Obama will 'cave.'"

Oh really? The editorial acknowledges that "Russia is an unsavory player." If so, why reveal to this unsavory player all of your cards?

The editorial says that Russia has agreed to "limited" sanctions against Iran, which is America's "real" threat, and also admits that Putin's "support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is unconscionable." However, the editorial fails to observe that Russian support for Assad serves Iranian interests in the Middle East and enables Tehran to supply Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon.

The editorial board says of Romney:

"His comments display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender."

Personally, I think that Obama's open microphone gaffe displayed an inordinate level of naiveté, unbefitting a US president. Moreover, this gaffe, together with talk that the Supreme Court stands to strike down Obamacare this summer, could well jeopardize Obama's chances of reelection.

Indeed, there is reason why the editorial board of The Times is developing a case of the jitters.

Foreign Policy, "Israel's Secret Staging Ground": Will Israel Use an Air Base in Azerbaijan to Attack Iran's Nuclear Facilities?

Is the cat out of the bag?

In a Foreign Policy article entitled "Israel's Secret Staging Ground" (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/28/israel_s_secret_staging_ground?page=full) written by Mark Perry, various US diplomatic, intelligence and military officials are anonymously quoted as voicing concern that Israel intends to use an airbase in Azerbaijan as part of a planned attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. It doesn't take much imagination to understand that an air base in Azerbaijan would resolve refueling problems inherent in such an Israeli air strike. According to the article, Obama administration officials are worried that an Israeli presence in Azerbaijan "complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions," and Turkey is also fuming.

Where is Azerbaijan, which is approximately the size of Maine? See the map below (Azerbaijan in red perched over Iran's northern border), courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency:


Why does Azerbaijan, whose population, like that of Iran, consists mostly of Shiite Muslims, maintain a warm relationship with Israel, including expanding economic ties? The answer is easy: There are some 16 million Iranian Azeris, or 24 percent of Iran's population, making them Iran's largest ethnic minority, and there is occasional reference to secession of "South Azerbaijan," i.e. the Iranian Azeri territories. Recently, Iran accused Azerbaijan of assisting Israel in assassinating its nuclear scientists, and Azerbaijan accused Iran of plotting terrorist acts against the embassies of Western governments.

As for the annoyance of the Obama administration with Israel for making preparations for a possible air strike against Iran, did anyone really think that Netanyahu could afford to ignore repeated Iranian threats against Israel's existence (see: http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1524218)? Given Obama's open microphone gaffe when speaking with Russia's Medvedev, Netanyahu must also be wondering what messages of "flexibility," after the US elections in November, were also conveyed to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Elephants Down Under": Why Didn't Tom Talk With Olympia Snowe?

An itinerant Tom Friedman is now visiting New Zealand and Australia, from where he seeks to proffer "fresh" perspectives on US politics. In "Elephants Down Under" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/28/opinion/friedman-elephants-down-under.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss#), Friedman declares that in New Zealand and Australia "there is a place in the world where moderate Republicans still exist — unfortunately, you have to take a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles to get there." Tom continues:

"Looking at America from here, makes me feel as though we have the worst of all worlds right now. The days when there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, who nudged the two parties together, appear over. We don’t have compulsory voting. Special interest money is out of control, and we lack any credible Third Party that could capture enough of the center to force both Democrats and Republicans to compete for votes there. So we’ve lost our ability to do big, hard things together. Yet everything we have to do — tax reform, fiscal reform, health care reform, energy policy — is big and hard and can only be done together."

Read his op-ed again from top to bottom. Now reread it again. What is missing? Answer: There is not even a single mention of President Obama, who was expected to put an end to partisan wrangling and reunite America. Contemplate Obama's uplifting 2004 keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention:

"There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America. There's not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there is the United States of America."

Consider also Obama's January 2009 inauguration speech, in which he stated:

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."

Did Obama fulfill his promise to reconcile America? Sorry, it didn't happen. Now tell me which other name is conspicuously absent from Friedman's opinion piece? Answer: Olympia Snowe.

Snowe, one of the most moderate Republicans in Washington, recently announced her departure from the US Senate. Snowe explained her retirement to CNN (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/29/snowe-explains-decision-to-leave-defends-tough-criticism-of-senate/):

"People are just stunned by the debilitating partisanship, polarization and the overall dysfunction of the institution and political paralysis as we come, you know, to the point of extreme when it comes to resolving the problems facing our country."

And what does Snowe, one of three Republicans in the US Congress who voted for Obama's economic stimulus plan in 2009, have to say about the president? Snowe told Jonathan Karl that she has not had a face-to-face meeting with Obama in two years, and asked if she had to grade Obama on his willingness to work with Republicans, she replied that he would be "close to failing on that point" (see: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/power-players-abc-news/frustrated-senator-olympia-snowe-gives-obama-f-101657433.html).

Sorry, Tom, but there was no need to travel to New Zealand to understand why Washington is growing increasingly dysfunctional with every passing day. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican ignored by Obama, whose Senate offices are a short drive from your Maryland mansion, has all of the answers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Richard Cohen, "The U.S. can make all the difference in Syria": The Procrastinator-in-Chief Dawdles

In his Washington Post opinion piece, "The U.S. can make all the difference in Syria" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-us-can-make-all-the-difference-in-syria/2012/03/26/gIQA8wsvcS_story.html?hpid=z3), Richard (not Roger) Cohen writes:

"The West has imposed sanctions on Syria. They undoubtedly hurt. The currency is worthless, and soon smuggling will become the country’s No. 1 enterprise. America has now announced it will provide non-lethal supplies to the opposition. This will undoubtedly help. But the creep toward real involvement — a virtual plea to the black-hearted Assad to have a heart — has to stop. Obama dawdles, and lives are being lost. In Libya, Obama led from behind. In Syria, he’s not leading at all."

Obama, the fainthearted Procrastinator-in-Chief, is dawdling? You don't say! But how could he possibly take action against Assad that would be certain to annoy his friend Vladimir Putin, whom he has already promised to appease after being reelected in November (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/03/obamas-open-mike-chat-with-medvedev-yes.html)?

Obama's Open Mike Chat With Medvedev: Yes, Mr. President, You're Scaring Me

And yet another Obama open microphone gaffe: Speaking with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about European missile defense, the US president requested patience until his reelection, when he would have more "flexibility." The conversation:

Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.

Flexibility with, i.e. readiness to make concessions to, Vladimir Putin? Yes, President Obama, you have me frightened. Have you forgotten that you are the president of a great nation and the leader of the free world?

This is the same Putin, who has opposed efforts to rein in the Iranian nuclear program and who has continued to arm Syria's Assad, as he slaughters those protesting his tyrannical rule. The same Putin who was just reelected as Russia's president by way of massive vote-rigging (see: http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16180553).

Although Obama became president with a reputation as America's most liberal senator, I had hoped that daily encounters with cruel global realities had caused the man to mature and made him middle-of-the-road. Instead, we now learn that it's all been a bluff: Should he be reelected, he will effect an agenda that is not being shared with the American people.

Obama's secret second term agenda involving Israel? Notwithstanding Obama's current charm campaign, there is no doubt in my mind that Israel will be squeezed into unilateral concessions never before demanded by a US president.

Egypt: What Won't Obama Do to Be Reelected?

Ah yes, the sweet stench of the Nile . . .

Do you remember the so-called "Arab Spring," much ballyhooed by New York Times pundits Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof and Roger Cohen? Do you remember how President Obama threw Egyptian stongman Hosni Mubarak, a long time ally, under the bus? Do you remember, more recently, how the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis took some 70% of the parliamentary seats in Egypt's elections?

Well, it's only getting worse.

On Sunday, the Egyptian parliament chose an assembly consisting of 100 members, who have been encharged with writing a new constitution. Needless to say, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis packed this assembly with their supporters, thus preventing Egyptian liberals and leftists from having any say regarding this legislation. As reported by The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/liberals-and-leftists-resign-from-constitution-writing-panel-in-egypt/2012/03/25/gIQACTtTaS_story.html):

"'We are going to boycott this committee, and we are going to withdraw and let them make an Islamic constitution. We are going to continue struggling for a secular Egypt in the streets,' said Mohammed Abou el Ghar, head of the Social Democratic Party, who was elected to the assembly but has resigned his post. 'We agreed that this will be a balanced committee and it will represent all views of Egypt. But as you can see, there is no representation of secular Egypt.'"

So, Egypt is destined to have an "Islamic" constitution, but the plot thickens . . .

The Muslim Brotherhood, feeling its oats, is challenging Egypt's military, dominated by a coterie of aging generals. The generals see the writing on the wall, but still hope to retain control of their economic interests, spanning both the military and civilian sectors, and encompassing, according to some estimates (no one knows the exact figures), one third of the Egyptian economy. According to an article entitled "The Generals’ Secret: Egypt’s Ambivalent Market" (http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2012/02/09/generals-secret-egypt-s-ambivalent-market/9ivf), written by Zeinab Abul-Magd and published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

"There are three major military bodies engaged in civil production: the Ministry of Military Production, the Arab Organization for Industrialization, and the National Service Products Organization. According to the official numbers published by the company managers in national newspapers, the first owns eight manufacturing plants and 40% of their production is geared toward civilian markets, while the second owns eleven factories and companies, with 70% of their production going to civilian markets. The third, the National Service Products Organization, is engaged in civil manufacturing and service industries, producing a wide variety of goods: luxury jeeps, infant incubators, butane gas cylinders, and even food stuffs (pasta and poultry products). They also provide services such as domestic cleaning and gas station management.

Because of the lack of public accountability and transparency, determining the annual income of military businesses is almost impossible. Experts estimate that the military controls about one third of the Egyptian economy, but interestingly, it is the non-defense activities that we know least about. Whereas official statements suggest they make a total of $750 million a year, workers have claimed higher figures—as much as $5 billion from only one company."

How did the military come to dominate Egypt's economy? Actually, arriving at the answer does not require much imagination. Every year the US provided Egypt with $1.5 billion in aid, of which $1.3 billion consisted of military aid. Of course much of this aid was designated for purchases from American military manufacturers, but plenty still found its way into the pockets of the generals and colonels, who were never forced to account to Mubarak, a former military man himself.

Notwithstanding this chaos, the Obama administration decided on Friday, after carefully examining this bubbling cauldron of vile smelling muck, to renew military aid to Egypt. The US Congress had wisely decided to link military aid to protection of basic freedoms in Egypt, and no such assistance had been delivered since last October, but a determination was made by Hillary's State Department to sidestep Congress. As reported by The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/world/middleeast/once-imperiled-united-states-aid-to-egypt-is-restored.html):

"A delay or a cut in $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt risked breaking existing contracts with American arms manufacturers that could have shut down production lines in the middle of President Obama’s re-election campaign and involved significant financial penalties, according to officials involved in the debate.

Since the Pentagon buys weapons for foreign armed forces like Egypt’s, the cost of those penalties — which one senior official said could have reached $2 billion if all sales had been halted — would have been borne by the American taxpayer, not Egypt’s ruling generals.

The companies involved include Lockheed Martin, which is scheduled to ship the first of a batch of 20 new F-16 fighter jets next month, and General Dynamics, which last year signed a $395 million contract to deliver component parts for 125 Abrams M1A1 tanks that are being assembled at a plant in Egypt."

Bottom line: As Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood enacts a fanatical constitution, as Egypt's generals continue to forgo accountability, and notwithstanding Egypt’s decision to prosecute American-financed pro-democracy NGOs, the Obama administration provides Egypt with an enormous handout intended to preserve the status quo and smooth Obama's reelection.

Enjoy the rest of your morning . . .

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "A Festival of Lies": Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself, Tom

Always striving to demonstrate "fairness," Thomas (Hot, Fat and Crowded) Friedman would lump Israel together with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a host of other dystopias. In his New York Times op-ed, "A Festival of Lies" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/opinion/sunday/friedman-a-festival-of-lies.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), he writes:

"In Pakistan, we pay the Pakistani Army to be two-faced, otherwise it would be only one-faced and totally against us. In Bahrain, we looked the other way while ruling Sunni hard-liners crushed a Shiite-led movement for more power-sharing, and we silently watch our ally Israel build more settlements in the West Bank that we know are a disaster for its Jewish democracy.

But we don’t tell Pakistan the truth because it has nukes. We don’t tell the Saudis the truth because we’re addicted to their oil. We don’t tell Bahrain the truth because we need its naval base. We don’t tell Egypt the truth because we’re afraid it will walk from Camp David. We don’t tell Israel the truth because it has votes. And we don’t tell Karzai the truth because Obama is afraid John McCain will call him a wimp."

Well, let's think about this. Israel evacuated Sinai to gain peace with Egypt. Israel unilaterally evacuated southern Lebanon and Gaza, and was rewarded with rocket and missile fire in both instances. Moreover, past Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert were willing to evacuate the West Bank along the 1967 lines, and current Israeli prime minister Netanyahu also favors a two-state solution. However, for the sake of "fairness," Friedman would still castigate Israel for its settlements and lump Israel together with countries that behead persons for witchcraft, tolerate "honor killings," imprison and whip women who have been gang-raped, and execute people who abandon Islam. Friedman fails to mention that, as acknowledged by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Israeli settlements presently cover only 1.1 percent of the West Bank (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/11/17/settlements-obstacle-to-peace/), and many of these would be evacuated in a negotiated settlement.

Yes, I know, Tom, we must never miss an opportunity to bash Israel and pander to the increasingly left-leaning readership of The New York Times even if this entails telling less than the whole truth. There mustn't be a whiff of understanding for a constant, time-tested, democratic ally of the US.

Maureen Dowd, "How Oedipus Wrecks": Or How I Ran Off to Join the Circus

Kudos (from the Greek singular noun kŷdos, meaning "praise") to Maureen Dowd for her marvelous New York Times op-ed, "How Oedipus Wrecks" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/opinion/sunday/dowd-how-oedipus-wrecks.html?ref=opinion), which explores the eternal father-son love-hate affair. Dowd writes:

"Presidential politics thrum with Oedipal loop-de-loops. Many candidates — J.F.K., Al Gore, Mitt Romney — seem to be running to fulfill their fathers’ dreams more than their own. Others, like W. and John McCain, are shadowboxing with fathers who cast a long shadow. Still others, like Jon Huntsman, are treated to a campaign by wealthy dads. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich have lived in the shadow of their fathers’ absence."

Me? Not seeking approval, not intent on proving anything and not interested in the limelight, I've never been drawn to politics. Instead, I ran off to join the circus in order to simply free myself of family. And as I grow gray, but persist with my high wire act, I realize that imperfections notwithstanding, my father also imbued me with perspicaciousness and balance, which have allowed me to cross over the abyss each day.

I wonder how my children will think back on me 30 years from now. Will they have managed to forgive my shortcomings, which are many in number? Will they excuse my innate tension and angry outbursts? Will they also flee far from the nest, but also remember the love that threatened to smother them?

Nicholas Kristof, "The False Debate About Attacking Iran": Yes, Kristof Is an Imbecile

Nicholas Kristof has written several New York Times op-eds which have demonstrated appalling nescience. For example, in a 2010 opinion piece entitled "New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/06/opinion/06kristof.html), Kristof declared:

"The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies."

In that same op-ed, Kristof went on to say:

"Avoid meats that are cooked well-done."

Kristof was unaware that our bodies consist of chemicals and that well-done meat (as opposed to charred meat, which can be carcinogenic) ensures that dangerous bacteria have been killed.

Ignorance, however, has never prevented Kristof from foisting twaddle upon the readership of The New York Times, and in an op-ed entitled
"The False Debate About Attacking Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/opinion/sunday/kristof-the-false-debate-about-attacking-iran.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), he has once again outdone himself. Today, Kristof would have us believe that there is consensus among "experts" that an Israeli military strike against Iran later this year would be senseless, and he cites three opinions to buttress this claim:

• "'I don’t know any security expert who is recommending a military strike on Iran at this point,' noted Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton University professor who was a senior State Department official earlier in the Obama administration."

• "'Unless you’re so far over on the neocon side that you’re blind to geopolitical realities, there’s an overwhelming consensus that this is a bad idea," said W. Patrick Lang, a former head of Middle East affairs for the Defense Intelligence Agency."

• "'Most security experts agree that it’s premature to go to a military option,' said Michèle Flournoy, who has just stepped down as the No. 3 official in the Defense Department."

Or stated more simply, these people are claiming that an Israeli strike is roundly opposed, a bad idea and premature. However, none of the three live in Israel, apparently none of the three have consulted with Israeli military intelligence, and none of the three bother to make reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei's recent declaration during prayers at the campus of the University of Tehran (http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1524218):

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

Is this an instance where Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should ignore Khamenei and gamble away Israel's existence? In January, US Defense Secretary Panetta acknowledged that Iran is only a year away from building a nuclear weapon (http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=249800). Do Kristof and his "experts" honestly recommend that Israel not prepare for the possibility that Iran will manufacture a bomb? Should Israel stand silently to one side and pray that this time around the world will intervene before it's too late? Eighty years ago, the world chose to ignore Hitler's threats against the Jews, leading to Treblinka and Auschwitz.

Moreover, is it possible that without militant Israeli declarations, the US and Europe would not have implemented sanctions against Iran? Until Israel began to make noise, Obama had done precious little to avoid the crisis.

Kristof makes the inane claim that an Israeli air strike would ignite Muslim ire against the US:

"Day by day, anger in the Muslim world and around the world would grow at Israel — and at America. The coalition pressuring Iran through sanctions might well dissolve."

Unbeknownst to Kristof, America's Sunni allies in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are more afraid of a nuclear Iran than Israel, and are demanding that the US eliminate this Shiite threat.

Kristof concludes:

"So as we hear talk about military action against Iran, let’s be clear about one thing. Outside Netanyahu’s aides and a fringe of raptors, just about every expert thinks that a military strike at this time would be a catastrophically bad idea. That’s not a debate, but a consensus."

Yeah, those like Ms. Slaughter, who defended the 2003 invasion of Iraq, now oppose unilateral action intended to save Israel from nuclear devastation. After all, no one is pressing a gun to Ms. Slaughter's head at Princeton's ivied campus. Sometimes, when someone presses a gun to your head, there are no happy options.

The New York Times, "Islamist Victors in Egypt Seeking Shift by Hamas": More Spurious Reporting

In its current lead online article entitled "Islamist Victors in Egypt Seeking Shift by Hamas" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/world/middleeast/egypts-election-victors-seek-shift-by-hamas-to-press-israel.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1332572445-A8zFGadjfpRQ6ce0Losf5A#), The New York Times would have us believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to moderate the views of Hamas toward a negotiated peace with Israel and declares:

"Israel, for its part, rejects the 1967 borders as insufficiently defensible for its security."

This is spurious reporting.

First, there were no "1967 borders." Rather, there were only armistice lines from Israel's War of Independence in 1949, inasmuch as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon refused to recognize Israel prior to the Six Day War and to negotiate borders.

Second, Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert both offered their Palestinian counterparts, Arafat and Abbas, respectively, peace agreements along the 1967 lines with land swaps.

Given the range of the rockets and missiles in the Hamas arsenal in Gaza (for example, over 60 kilometers with respect to the Fajr-5, placing Tel Aviv well within range) and the proximity of Israeli population centers to the West Bank (Israel is some nine kilometers wide at its waist, where much of its population resides), any borders today will not provide Israeli population centers with sufficient distance from Palestinian missiles. Rather, the primary obstacle to a negotiated peace remains the Palestinians' intractable refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and not Israel's refusal to agree to borders approximating the 1967 lines, as this New York Times article seems to suggest.

Will Hamas now amend its charter, which rejects negotiation with Israel and calls for the murder of all Jews, not just Israelis, as the result of prodding from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood? Don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is restoring the annual $1 billion in aid it provides to the Egyptian army, notwithstanding the attempt by the Egyptian army, backed by the Brotherhood, to arrest 43 NGO workers seeking to encourage Egyptian democracy, and notwithstanding the Brotherhood's persistent threats to review Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with the "Zionist entity."

[I have asked that The New York Times correct this article. Let's see if they bother responding.]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Paranoia Strikes Deeper": Suffering from Gas

No, I don't suffer from paranoia, and I don't think that Obama is engaged in a conspiracy to drive the price of gas higher. On the other hand, I do believe that the Obama administration has done a poor job of controlling price speculation by oil traders.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Paranoia Strikes Deeper" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/opinion/krugman-paranoia-strikes-deeper.html?_r=1&hp#), Paul Krugman writes:

"Oil prices are set in a world market, and America, which accounts for only about a tenth of world production, can’t move those prices much. Indeed, the recent rise in gas prices has taken place despite rising U.S. oil production and falling imports."

America can't move those prices much? Oh really? America is blessed with enormous quantities of oil shale, which translate medium-term into energy independence, and this resource will ultimately make a difference. Meanwhile, if Obama wants to control oil speculation, he can release strategic oil reserves, as was belatedly discussed with UK Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this month (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/15/us-oil-reserves-idUSBRE82E0UM20120315). In addition, Obama could have also sent a message to the markets by agreeing to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed, as advocated by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/opinion/nocera-the-poisoned-politics-of-keystone-xl.html).

Krugman observes that Romney has conveniently bought into the claim that gas prices are higher owing to an Obama administration plot; however, he thinks that Romney will reject such conspiracy theories after winning the Republican nomination:

"If and when he wins the nomination, Mr. Romney will try, as a hapless adviser put it, to shake his Etch A Sketch — that is, to erase the record of his pandering to the crazy right and convince voters that he’s actually a moderate. And maybe he can pull it off.

But let’s hope that he can’t, because the kind of pandering he has engaged in during his quest for the nomination matters. Whatever Mr. Romney may personally believe, the fact is that by endorsing the right’s paranoid fantasies, he is helping to further a dangerous trend in America’s political life. And he should be held accountable for his actions."

My guess is that Romney, after being nominated, will indeed adapt his candidacy to middle-of-the-road America. But does this make him a dangerous demagogue, or is this all part of the game?

In this respect, perhaps Paul can tell us:

• What happened to Obama's past promise to acknowledge Armenian Genocide? Had Obama honored this commitment, I don't think he would now be able to count Turkey's loathsome Prime Minister Erdoğan as one of his best buddies.

• What happened to Obama's campaign promise to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay? Answer: Nothing.

• What happened to Obama's promise to bar lobbyists from working in the administration on issues related to their prior employers for two years? Answer: Conveniently ignored.

• What happened to Obama's promise to bring US troops home after becoming president? Obama declared in October 2007 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ9vKX73UZ0):

"I will promise you this – that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank."

Well, the troops came home from Iraq in 2011, but not on schedule, and Obama significantly escalated US involvement in Afghanistan.

Oh goodness gracious me, even Democrats are not to be trusted! Yawn . . .

Roger Cohen, "The False Iran Debate": More Flatulence from the Master

After repeatedly telling us in 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian," you would think that Roger Cohen would have the good sense to bow his head in shame and avoid further proclamations concerning the Middle East. Regrettably, such is not to be.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The False Iran Debate" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/opinion/the-false-iran-debate.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Cohen would have us believe that Netanyahu is bluffing about the possibility that Israel might attack Iran to stop its nuclear program:

"I’ve never believed Netanyahu, going it alone without U.S. support, would attack an Iran whose stop-go nuclear program still stands some distance from the capacity to make — let alone actually produce — a bomb. The cost-benefit analysis does not add up: you don’t have to be the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan to see that."

Iran "still stands some distance from the capacity to make a bomb"? Thanks for your informed assessment, Roger, but in January, US Defense Secretary Panetta acknowledged that Iran is only a year away from building a nuclear weapon (see: http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=249800).

"The cost-benefit analysis does not add up"? I agree that from a Western perspective, the cost-benefit analysis indeed does not add up; however, Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei is not guided by "cost-benefit" analysis. Rather, this is a ruthless killer guided by intractable Shiite beliefs, as evidenced by Iran's soaring rate of public executions (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/12/us-iran-rights-idUSBRE82B16N20120312), which include executions for homosexuality and offenses against Islam.

Netanyahu won't go it alone without US support against Iran's nuclear facilities? Suffice it to say that in this instance I know better than Cohen, who is writing from London, and I can assure you that Netanyahu is not bluffing. Khamenei, speaking to worshippers during prayers at the campus of the University of Tehran, recently stated (http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1524218):

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

This is an instance where Netanyahu must take Khamenei at his word, and the Israeli prime minister cannot afford to gamble away Israel's existence.

Nicholas Kristof, "Politics, Odors and Soap": The Stench of a Self-Described Liberal

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Politics, Odors and Soap"
(http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/opinion/kristof-politics-odors-and-soap.html?_r=1&ref=opinion#), Nicholas Kristof describes for his readers a new book, which, he says, "demystifies" for him the morality of the right:

"'The Righteous Mind,' by Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia psychology professor, argues that, for liberals, morality is largely a matter of three values: caring for the weak, fairness and liberty. Conservatives share those concerns (although they think of fairness and liberty differently) and add three others: loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity.

. . . .

Another way of putting it is this: Americans speak about values in six languages, from care to sanctity. Conservatives speak all six, but liberals are fluent in only three. And some (me included) mostly use just one, care for victims."

Kristof mostly cares for victims?

What do you say of a man who is married to an investment banker, but sings paeans to Occupy Wall Street?

What do you say of a man who is preoccupied with Palestinian victimhood, but refuses to write about the oppression of Copts, Kurds and Baha'is in the Muslim Middle East? Kristof also remained silent earlier this month when more than 300 missiles, rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israeli kibbutzim, villages and cities. Yes, Nicholas, rocket fire out of Gaza at civilians is a war crime.

What do you say of a columnist who has nothing to say when Mohamed Merah guns down four innocent people, including little children, at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France? But why should we only blame poor Nicholas? In fact, all the other "liberal" columnists from The New York Times , who had probably hoped that this abomination was perpetrated by the extreme right, are ignoring the story like the plague?

Nicholas would have us believe that his morality focuses upon "care for victims." I would refine this vain, self-righteous attempt at glorifying his raison d'être by observing that Kristof appears concerned with only certain kinds of victims, whose stories resonate with the "liberal" mindset.

Morality or hypocrisy? You decide.

[For more about Kristof and double standards, see: http://www.jsantisemitism.org/essays/GrossmanJSA210(4).pdf]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Heart of Darkness": Sorry, Mo, but Afghanistan Is Obama's War

I am often decried as a heartless neocon; however, I have always opposed the US ground presence in Afghanistan. Back in November 2009 I wrote in "Obama: Losing Sight of the Mission in Afghanistan" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/11/obama-losing-sight-of-mission-in.html):

"You can only turn the struggle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban over to the Afghans if you change the way that Afghans live and think, and this is not going to happen. The tribal and Sunni/Shiite conflicts which have persisted for centuries, will continue for many years to come. The U.S. mission cannot and should not be to 'pacify' Afghanistan or to enlighten Afghanis as to the merits of democracy.

Moreover, a 'surge' type operation is not destined to succeed for any meaningful duration of time. Al Qaeda can go dormant as long as it takes and move to more hospitable climes until a better time for them arises. This is the slippery nature of terror organizations, which makes them so difficult to locate and combat.

What then need be the objective? Simple: Kill Osama bin Laden. No need for a costly footprint that will bleed America dry. You do require ongoing intelligence and the readiness to strike lightning blows when opportunities arise."

Indeed, Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan, patterned after Bush's surge in Iraq, has proven a costly, bloody bungle.

In her New York Times op-ed "Heart of Darkness" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/opinion/dowd-heart-of-darkness.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd finally gets around to addressing this fiasco, but where is the mention of Obama's responsibility? Her sole reference to Obama:

"But most of the politicians seemed resigned to the fact that President Obama is resigned to settling for a very small footprint and enough troops to keep terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base to attack the U.S. or our allies.

The White House seems ready to forget eliminating the poppy trade and expanding education for girls. We’re not going to turn our desolate protectorate into a modern Athens and there’s not going to be any victory strut on an aircraft carrier."

Sorry, Maureen, but as much as Obama is to be praised for ordering the courageous operation to assassinate bin Laden, he must also shoulder the blame for the pointless loss of life stemming from his decision to expand America's ground war in Afghanistan.

Dowd concludes:

"The epitaph of our Sisyphean decade of two agonizing wars was written last year by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates: 'Any future defense secretary who advises the president to send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East or Africa, should have his head examined.'"

Sorry again, Maureen. Responsibility for wading deeper into the Afghan morass rests with the president and not with a defense secretary or any other advisor. Obama took his sweet time studying all the various alternatives before ordering escalation, notwithstanding his 2008 campaign pledges, and must take responsibility for this egregious error.

Afghanistan is Obama's war.

Monday, March 19, 2012

David Brooks, "When the Good Do Bad": Steer Clear of the University of Texas

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "When the Good Do Bad" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/opinion/brooks-when-the-good-do-bad.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks, writing about Robert Bales, observes:

"David Buss of the University of Texas asked his students if they had ever thought seriously about killing someone, and if so, to write out their homicidal fantasies in an essay. He was astonished to find that 91 percent of the men and 84 percent of the women had detailed, vivid homicidal fantasies. He was even more astonished to learn how many steps some of his students had taken toward carrying them out."

This is yet another instance where I am relieved to know that I fall into the minority. Please forgive me if I forgo any future speaking engagements at the University of Texas for fear of rubbing someone the wrong way.

The New York Times, "U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran": A Calculated Leak

Have you ever participated in war games? The controllers inevitably toss into the pot a lot of worst case scenarios -- a kind of "stress test" -- to examine potential responses and outcomes, but in my experience, they have little semblance to reality. Actual events ultimately evolve in their own fashion.

In a lead article in today's online New York Times, entitled "U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/world/middleeast/united-states-war-game-sees-dire-results-of-an-israeli-attack-on-iran.html?_r=1&hp), written by Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, we are told:

"A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.

. . . .

The two-week war game, called Internal Look, played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities."

A "classified" war simulation? Indeed, this story stems from a leak. The "officials" responsible for this leak of classified information? As noted by the article:

"The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on condition of anonymity because of its classified nature."

Will the Pentagon now launch an investigation to determine the sources of this leak, i.e. the "officials" who participated in the exercise and those who were subsequently briefed? Probably not. If I had to guess, this was a calculated leak by the Obama administration to its favorite newspaper. The Obama administration does not want to go to war with Iran before November and is engaging in scare tactics to drum up opposition to an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Enough said.

Peter Beinart, "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements": Bullshit

Ordinarily, I avoid appending callous appellations to opinion pieces, be they in The New York Times or elsewhere. Today, I am making an exception. Peter Beinart's contributor op-ed in The New York Times, entitled "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/opinion/to-save-israel-boycott-the-settlements.html?ref=opinion), is indeed bullshit.

Read Beinart's opinion piece. Now read it again. What is missing? Remarkably Beinart makes no mention of the fact that more than 300 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza last week at civilian targets in southern Israel, including Ashdod, Israel's seventh largest city, and Beersheba, Israel's eighth largest city. Not relevant? Yeah, right. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally evacuated the Gaza Strip, and since that time, more than 10,000 projectiles have been fired at Israeli kibbutzim, towns and cities. Make no doubt about it: This shelling of Israeli civilian communities is a war crime.

Beinart blithely ignores this criminal behavior, and calls for a boycott of Israeli settlements on the West Bank (or "nondemocratic Israel" as he labels it), presumably until such time as there is also an Israeli evacuation of the West Bank.

Attempting to establish his credentials for demanding this boycott, Beinart tells us:

"I am a committed Jew. I belong to an Orthodox synagogue, send my children to Jewish school and yearn to instill in them the same devotion to the Jewish people that my parents instilled in me."

Well, unlike Beinart, I am not an Orthodox Jew, and I didn't send my children to "Jewish school." However, also unlike Beinart, I live in Israel, and I have witnessed first hand the firing of missiles from Iraq into Tel Aviv during the First Gulf War in 1991 (my apartment shook from the concussions); automatic weapons fire from Beit Jala in the West Bank, under Palestinian Authority control, into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo between 2000 and 2002 (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/30/world/gilo-waits-for-deliverance-as-mideast-violence-goes-on.html?pagewanted=1); and the incessant shooting of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel since 2005.

I want a two-state solution. I also sincerely wish for a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state. But I am also aware that Ben Gurion Airport is just five miles away from the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank. I also know that Israel is only eight miles wide at its waist, with the Mediterranean to the west and the Palestinian Authority to the east, and much of Israel's population wedged in between.

Yes, I very much want Israel out of the West Bank with territorial swaps as needed, but I'm not about to agree to this until someone on the other side acknowledges my right to exist. Sorry, Peter, but as noted earlier, I actually live in Israel, and I'm not ready to agree to perpetual rocket fire also on Tel Aviv, Haifa and Netanya.

Beinart refers to "the settlement of Ariel, which stretches deep into the West Bank." "Deep" into the West Bank? Ariel is all of 11 miles east of the Green Line, and is certain to be included in any ultimate territorial swap between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And whereas Beinart observes that there are some 300,000 Jews living in West Bank settlements, he fails to note, as acknowledged by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, that the settlements cover only 1.1 percent of the West Bank (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/11/17/settlements-obstacle-to-peace/).

Here's an idea for Beinart: Israel will swap the town of Qalansawe, inhabited by Israeli Arabs, for Ariel in the West Bank. Qalansawe and Ariel have almost identical populations (some 18,000 each) and are almost equidistant from the Green Line, to the west and to the east, respectively. The problem: the Arab Israeli inhabitants of Qalansawe will refuse to be annexed to the Palestinian Authority, where they will be deprived of their democratic rights.

Regarding Beinart's reference to "nondemocratic Israel," he conveniently forgets to mention 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 similarly continues to rule Gaza without new elections. Nevertheless, Beinart would have us believe that only Israel is depriving the Palestinians of their democratic rights.

Beinart concludes:

"If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself.

We are closer to that day than many American Jews want to admit."

Needless to say, Beinart ignores the peace proposals proffered by former Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert to their counterparts Arafat and Abbas, premised upon the 1967 lines with land swaps and a division of Jerusalem, and, in the case of Olmert's proposal, with the sharing of Jerusalem's holy places. These peace proposals were rejected by Arafat and Abbas.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu also supports the concept of "two states for two peoples." In his May 24, 2011 speech before the US Congress, Netanyahu declared:

"We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state."

However, acknowledgment of Netanyahu's readiness for a two-state solution is not in keeping with the premise of Beinart's new book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” which is being recommended by no less an authority than Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/opinion/cohen-the-dilemmas-of-jewish-power.html).

Thanks, Peter, but you know what you can do with your advice.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Is Elvis a Mormon?": "Is Obama a Muslim?"

Do you remember back in 2008 when Hillary was asked on 60 Minutes whether Obama is a Muslim (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/03/hillary-obama-not-muslim-_n_89546.html)? Her weaselly response:

"I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn't any reason to doubt that."

Well, Hillary still became Obama's Secretary of State (keep your friends close but your enemies closer), and in Mississippi 52% of Republicans still think Obama is a Muslim (see: http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/03/12/most-alabama-mississippi-republicans-think-obama-is-muslim.html).

But does it really matter? As someone who has placed his life in the hands of Bedouin trackers and who last year shared a tiny hospital room with three Muslims, a person's religion doesn't matter to me. Far more important is whether someone is capable of love, compassion and respect for the rights and sensitivities of others.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Is Elvis a Mormon?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-is-elvis-a-mormon.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss) Maureen Dowd launches a two-pronged attack upon the likely Republican presidential nominee. First, Dowd observes that Mitt Romney is something other than a man of the people:

"Romney has filed an application to replace his single-story 3,000-square-foot beach house in La Jolla, Calif., with a 7,400-square-foot home featuring an additional 3,600 square feet of finished underground space."

Okay, but the story surrounding the manner in which Obama acquired his Chicago mansion is not much prettier (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2011/12/paul-krugman-all-gops-gekkos-was-obama.html). Dowd might also want to have a gander at John Kerry's residence in Boston (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeV0gOwBMZ0), or, closer to home, stroll through the palatial estate of New York Times columnist Tom ("Hot, Fat, and Crowded") Friedman (see: http://cryptome.org/eyeball/friedman/friedman-mansion.htm).

Dowd also pokes fun at the Mormon practice of baptizing the souls of the dead, including Hitler, Holocaust victims, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. As observed by Dowd:

"Mormons had designated Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, as 'ready' for a posthumous proxy burial, even though he is very much alive at 83 and still teaching at Boston University and in Florida."

Wiesel says that this is "an insult." Me? I'm not quite 83, but I've got 200,000 missiles pointed at my house (somewhat smaller than the homes of Romney, Kerry and Friedman) from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, and I'm not certain who should expect to live longer.

In any event, my youngest son often asks what I expect after death. My response: the same as I experienced before I was born. Of course, I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

More to the point, it doesn't matter to me whether the Mormon Church baptizes me after my death without my concurrence. These days, I'm just too busy trying to be a good father, husband, friend and human being, and pray that I will be remembered as such.

Is Elvis a Mormon? Is Obama a Muslim? Sorry, Maureen, I just don't care.

Saudi Arabia Arming Syrian Rebels: Extension of Proxy War Between Saudi Arabia and Iran

Today it was finally leaked that Saudi Arabia is arming Syrians revolting against the Assad regime (see: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Saudi-Arabia-sends-military-equipment-to-Syria-rebels/articleshow/12307918.cms). Surprise, surprise.

In fact, this is just an extension of the proxy war being fought between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen. At issue is Sunni or Shiite dominion over the Muslim Middle East.

As even Obama is slowly beginning to understand, the resolution of all Middle East controversy does not involve a mere settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Another Qassam Rocket, Another War Crime

You won't see it on the front page of The New York Times or The Washington Post or the online home page of Haaretz (no printed newspapers are published in Israel on Saturdays), but last night another Qassam rocket was fired into Israel's agricultural Eshkol Regional Council. Fortunately, the rocket fell in an open field, and there were no casualties or damage, but the terror continues. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are constantly adapting the level of rocket fire to determine what frequency of rockets will not cause reprisals or awaken the press corps to what is an ongoing war crime, although it is never represented as such by international correspondents or "leading" opinion piece writers from around the globe, who, like Maureen Dowd, prefer to label Netanyahu as "trigger-happy."

Islamic Jihad also warned yesterday that their missiles can reach Tel Aviv (see: http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=262142). Yes, it's true. If their Grad missiles, carrying some six kilograms (13 pounds) of explosives, can reach Beesheba from Gaza, they can also reach Tel Aviv, which is the same distance, i.e. 60 kilometers (37 miles), away. In addition, the Iranian manufactured Fajr missiles, which have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip and carry about 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of explosives can reach the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv, i.e. Herzliya, where many foreign ambassadors reside. However, for whatever the reason, Tel Aviv constitutes a "red line," and if Islamic Jihad were to cross it, Israeli ground forces would be swarming into the Gaza Strip within hours.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

David Brooks, "The Cagey Phase": When Does Obama Show His True Colors?

As additional rockets and missiles were fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel at Iran's behest (see: http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=262064), I gazed with amusement at pictures of Obama's state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/president-obama-and-first-lady-welcome-british-prime-minister-david-cameron-and-wife-for-state-dinner/2012/03/14/gIQATHgrCS_gallery.html?hpid=z7#photo=1). While the president told stale jokes concerning how the Redcoats burned down the White House during the War of 1812, a fashionably bewhiskered George Clooney, in tuxedo and black bow tie, chatted up Michelle Obama, who, bedecked in an azure evening gown with matching blue baubles, responded by fluttering her ersatz lashes. No, in case you're curious, I was not invited. Moreover, I can probably no longer fit into my tuxedo, which smells of mold, and, owing to my aversion to large social gatherings (post traumatic stress syndrome?), I wouldn't have lasted beyond the appetizer before clumsily excusing myself. Perhaps next time, Michelle.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Cagey Phase" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/opinion/brooks-the-cagey-phase.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks informs us that party animal Obama has morphed from an "audacious" phase of his presidency, during which he introduced health care reform, to a "cagey" phase. By way of example Brooks writes:

"In Afghanistan, President Obama increased troop levels, to please his generals, while simultaneously announcing a withdrawal date, to please his party. On deficit reduction, Obama has often said he agrees with the Simpson-Bowles approach, while simultaneously distancing himself from the specific proposals. On tax reform, Obama has frequently said he wants to simplify the code while simultaneously proposing loopholes that make it more complex.

President Obama has gotten tough on China while simultaneously getting friendly with China. He has ratcheted up the heat on Iran while simultaneously trying to restrain Israel. He has promoted new oil and gas exploration while simultaneously blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would transport it."

Sorry, David, is this being "cagey," or does this represent indecision and procrastination, which have typified the Obama administration?

Specifically, with respect to foreign policy, Brooks writes:

"Obama’s hot-and-cold approaches to China, Russia and Iran have generally been excellent. In many ways, Obama’s multifaceted, maneuvering style makes him a natural foreign policy president."

Ah, yes, a "natural foreign policy president." Perhaps this is best exemplified by how he sent John Kerry to charm Syria's tyrant, Bashar al-Assad, and then did nothing as thousands of Sunni Muslims were gunned down in the streets of Homs and disfigured beyond recognition in Assad's torture chambers.

Or perhaps a more telling example is to be found in Obama's recent phone call to Vladimir Putin to congratulate the Russian on his fraudulent reelection as president. Even Cameron could not bring himself to engage in such hypocrisy.

Better still, consider how Egypt's army recently sought to lock away US democracy activists to the delight of the Muslim Brotherhood, but how the Obama administration is now arranging to resume $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo.

As matters stand now, Obama is going to edge out a hapless Romney in November. If there is to be additional "change," i.e. a final transmogrification in 2013 and beyond, I am not looking forward to seeing this butterfly's true colors.

Three Grad Missiles Fired from Gaza at Southern Israel

This morning, two Grad missiles were fired from Gaza at Israel's seventh largest city, Beersheba, and a third Grad missile was fired at the Israeli city of Ofakim. Two of the Grads were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system, while the third landed in an open field. Islamic Jihad, Iran's proxy in Gaza, has denied any involvement in the missile fire.

In short, we are witnessing a return to "normalcy," i.e. several rockets and mortar shells fired every day at civilian targets in southern Israel, which go ignored by pundits such as the Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, who recently portrayed Netanyahu as "trigger-happy" (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/opinion/dowd-liz-cheney-desist.html?ref=opinion).

Iran is intent upon provoking a Israeli ground operation against Gaza, which would deflect world opinion from its ongoing efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Thus far, however, even Islamic Jihad has avoided rocket fire on Tel Aviv, which is well within range of the Fajr missiles that have been smuggled into Gaza.

Interested in preserving its "militant" reputation vis-a-vis Fatah, Hamas has yet to rein in Islamic Jihad. The question today is whether Israel will accept a return to the preexisting status quo, i.e. daily rocket and mortar fire into southern Israel.

This is not over.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Don’t Tread on Us": Hillary Advocates for Women While Condoning Murder

Don't get me wrong: I am pro-choice. I was also horrified when Rush Limbaugh labeled Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/03/maureen-dowd-have-you-no-shame-rush.html). Moreover, in 2008, when Hillary was campaigning against Obama for the Democratic nomination, my complaints to The New York Times concerning their sexist mockery of Clinton (the editorial board of The Times desperately wanted Obama) were rejected by the office of their Public Editor. However, when push comes to shove, Hillary has effectively demonstrated as Secretary of State that she is just another reptilian, ruthlessly ambitious politician, who plays the game just as well as the boys.

Today, in her New York Times op-ed entitled "Don’t Tread on Us" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/dowd-dont-tread-on-us.html?ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd observes that Clinton is vocally objecting to attempts to abuse and marginalize women in the US. Alluding to Hillary, Dowd concludes:

"Women who assumed that electing Obama would lift all minority boats are beginning to think: Maybe he’s not enough. If the desire of these conservative male leaders to yoke women is this close to the surface, if they are perversely driven to debase women even though it could lead to their own political demise, then women may require more than Obama.

If women are so vulnerable, they may need one of their own.

Is she inevitable?"

"Inevitable"? May the Lord have mercy on us! Consider Hillary's defense of Bashar al-Assad on March 27, 2011, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence at the time of the Syrian president's monstrous suppression of the revolt against his regime (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/syrias-reformer/2011/03/31/AFy4JFCC_story.html):

"Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer."

Here we have the US Secretary of State defending a ruthless killer of unarmed civilians, who had also ordered the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a friend of the West, in 2005. Why did Hillary go to bat for Assad? Because her boss had invested more than two years trying to demonstrate that Assad (and Iran's Ahmadinejad) had been "misunderstood" by the Bush administration and could be charmed into behaving civilly.

And while excusing Assad's petty excesses, what did Hillary, as Secretary of State, have to say of America's ally, Israel? Bear in mind that as a US Senator, no one had been more supportive of Israel than Hillary. Suddenly, as Secretary of State, Clinton was comparing Israel with Iran on account of the behavior of a tiny minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who had conducted themselves in the same way in Hillary's "home state" of New York without objection from Hillary (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/government-ministers-react-sharply-to-clinton-s-criticism-of-israeli-democracy-1.399450)

Israel the same as Iran? Yeah, right. Iran executes more people per capita than any other country, and in absolute numbers, is second only to China. Iran executed a total of 670 persons (homosexuals, women, Kurds, Baha'is, Sunni Muslims, political opponents of the regime, etc.) in 2011. How many persons has Israel sentenced to death since Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was hanged in 1962? Answer: Zero.

Hillary was also infuriated by proposed Israeli legislation that would limit the funding of Israeli NGOs by foreign governments. The matter had come to the fore after it had been discovered that left-leaning NGOs in Israel were receiving most of their funding from European governments. Whereas you can debate the advisability of such legislation (the US Foreign Agents Registration Act demands the registration of foreign agents), such a parliamentary examination does not place Israel in the category of Iran.

Women "may need one of their own"? No problem, as long as it's not Hillary, who advocates on behalf of women while condoning murder.

Have you also no shame, Maureen?

Gaza: A Skirmish With Global Implications

Last week, Israel assassinated from the air over Gaza the head of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), Zuhair Qaisi, who had been responsible for a terror attack last summer across the Egypitan border with Israel in Sinai, which resulted in the deaths of nine Israelis. Following the targeted killing, Israel stated that Qaisi had been actively planning a second attack against Israel from Egypt.

The PRC and Islamic Jihad, both funded by Iran, retaliated over the past four days with rocket, missile and mortar fire aimed at Israeli cities and agricultural communities. Initially, no attempt was made by Hamas to rein in these terror groups; however, it soon became clear to Hamas that owing to the effectiveness of Israel's "Iron Dome" rocket interception system, the Qassam rockets and Grad missiles fired from Gaza were proving largely ineffectual. Moreover, arsenals and rocket squads in Gaza were being hit with precision from the air with minimal civilian casualties (22 terrorists and four civilians dead).

Some 300 projectiles were fired at Israel, of which approximately a quarter were intercepted by Iron Dome, and a quarter fell within Gaza. Most of the remaining fire from Gaza fell in unihabited areas in Israel surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Iron Dome's success rate in downing rockets and missiles was over 90%. Calculating the trajectories of enemy rockets and missiles, Iron Dome is not used to intercept projectiles which will fall in fields and dunes.

Although the Israeli cities of Ashdod (27 kilometers from Gaza) and Beesheva (63 kilometers from Gaza) were targeted by the PRC and Islamic Jihad, no Grad missiles were fired at Tel Aviv (60 kilometers from Gaza), which would almost certainly have resulted in the reentry of Israeli infantry and armor into Gaza. In addition it is believed that Iranian Fajr missiles with warheads of 45 kilograms have been smuggled into Gaza, but none were fired into Israel for fear of retribution. There are very clear "red lines" to this game.

Bottom line: Hamas requested Egyptian intervention to end the conflagration. Earlier this month, officials from Hamas stated that they would not intervene on the side of Iran should war break out between Israel and Iran; however, this declaration was subsequently repudiated. The demonstrable effectiveness of Iron Dome may now have convinced Hamas to refrain from hostilities if Iran and Israel do indeed tangle.

Moreover, Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has been carefully monitoring events in Gaza, will also be more inclined to remain on the sidelines in the event of war between Israel and Iran.

Below is a video showing an aerial attack on an arsenal in northern Gaza on March 11. Note the secondary explosions.

Monday, March 12, 2012

David Brooks, "The Fertility Implosion": Israel Bucks the Trend

David Brooks has written another fascinating New York Times op-ed entitled "The Fertility Implosion" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/opinion/brooks-the-fertility-implosion.html?ref=opinion), in which he describes declining birth rates throughout much of the world, particularly in the Muslim Middle East. Brooks writes:

"Usually, high religious observance and low income go along with high birthrates. But, according to the United States Census Bureau, Iran now has a similar birth rate to New England — which is the least fertile region in the U.S.

The speed of the change is breathtaking. A woman in Oman today has 5.6 fewer babies than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Morocco, Syria and Saudi Arabia have seen fertility-rate declines of nearly 60 percent, and in Iran it’s more than 70 percent. These are among the fastest declines in recorded history."

Brooks observes that from a long-term economic standpoint, "it’s better to have a growing work force, not one that’s shrinking compared with the number of retirees," and although not immune to the downturn, the US is faring better in this regard than much of the rest of the world:

"The U.S. population is increasing at every age level, thanks in part to immigration. America is aging, but not as fast as other countries.

. . . .

In the 21st century, the U.S. could be the slowly aging leader of a rapidly aging world."

Although Brooks does not delve in great depth into the reasons for declining fertility rates, it can be assumed that widespread availability of effective birth control methods and deteriorating global economic conditions have contributed profoundly to this trend.

Will the US become "the slowly aging leader of a rapidly aging world"? Consider Israel's fertility rates, which are actually on the rise over the past 20 years (http://www.cbs.gov.il/shnaton62/st03_13.pdf), notwithstanding declines in those rates within Israel's Jewish ultra-Orthodox and Muslim sectors. The reason, if I were to guess: Optimism spawned by economic growth and dynamism, notwithstanding a shaky security climate.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paul Krugman, "What Greece Means": Borrow and Spend, Yawn

You would never guess in a million years! Paul Krugman has written another New York Times op-ed entitled "What Greece Means" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/opinion/krugman-what-greece-means.html?ref=opinion), calling on the US federal government to borrow at "historically low interest rates" and spend. Krugman acknowledges between parenthesis that there has been "some better news lately" but "our economy is still deeply depressed," and demands that the US add to its mountain of debt in order to avoid the stagnation and unemployment of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

And just what is the US going to do with this borrowed loot? Presumably, the answer was provided in Krugman's earlier op-ed, "States of Depression" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/opinion/krugman-states-of-depression.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), i.e. lend it to the states. Great idea! Or is it?

Suppose if, after many years of struggling to feed the family, pay off the mortgage and return the loan on the car, the bank called to inform my wife and me that owing to our punctual past repayments, we can now borrow another $100,000 to be used as we see fit. Well, our investments in alternative energy companies never really paid off, but good ol' Uncle Eustace (rhymes with "Useless") P. Gratis has been asking for a few bucks -- well actually a few tens of thousands of dollars -- to keep him afloat, and what better time than now to do this family member a favor? We understand he's got his drinking problem almost under control, he'll surely know how to use the funds wisely, and he's bound to repay us sometime down the road . . . .

Not.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Manlashes, Manscara and Mantyhose": Vacuous, Vapid and Vagarious

Oh, Maureen, you are so deliciously whimsical!

In her prior New York Times op-ed "Liz Cheney: Desist!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/opinion/dowd-liz-cheney-desist.html?ref=opinion), Dowd warned of a "trigger-happy" Netanyahu, and I was certain that in today's op-ed, she would want to inform the Israeli prime minister how he should respond to the more than 100 missiles and mortar rounds fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel over the past 24 hours. Instead, in "Manlashes, Manscara and Mantyhose" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/opinion/sunday/dowd-manlashes-manscara-and-mantyhose.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), we are treated to the latest news on male accoutrements:

"Manskirts, manscara, guyliner and guylashes have all had their spurts, especially in Britain. (Yes, that’s you, Russell Brand and Capt. Jack Sparrow.) A British brand called Eylure started selling false eyelashes for men last fall, promising to create a 'Hollywood gaze.' Next up: eyelash extensions, already a trend for Japanese men, who tend to have short lashes.

. . . .

During New York’s Fashion Week last month, Alexandre Plokhov, the Russian-born menswear designer, sent out male models walking awkwardly in long skirts and hair extensions; they were greeted with gasps from the audience. Paul Marlow, the designer for Loden Dager, put eyeliner on his male models."

Although Dowd ruefully knows nothing about the Middle East (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/03/maureen-dowd-liz-cheney-desist-wearing.html), she is obviously au courant with respect to the fashion scene.

If I get a phone call tomorrow and am requested to don my 30-year-old black lace-up boots that are broken in the soles and torn in the heels but oh so comfortable, I will of course have my nails done, before liberally applying manscara to create the "Hollywood gaze" to which I have always aspired.

Should you glimpse me on CNN, please let me know how I look in my khaki habiliments, which in this corner of the world are always in style.

David Remnick, "Threatened": Thanks, David, for Warning Me

Recently, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Liz Cheney: Desist!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/opinion/dowd-liz-cheney-desist.html?ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd wrote a denunciation of Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, which was rife with manifestations of ignorance (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/03/maureen-dowd-liz-cheney-desist-wearing.html). In her shoddy opinion piece, Dowd cited David Remnick:

"As the New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote, Netanyahu and his supporters too often 'consider the tenets of liberal democracy to be negotiable in a game of coalition politics.'"

Dowd was referring to Remnick's comment entitled "Threatened" (http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2012/03/12/120312taco_talk_remnick), which would have us believe that Israel's democracy is under attack:

"[A]s an experiment in Jewish power, unique after two millennia of persecution and exile, Israel has reached an impasse. An intensifying conflict of values has put its democratic nature under tremendous stress."

To prove his point, Remnick alleges:

"The political corrosion begins, of course, with the occupation of the Palestinian territories—the subjugation of Palestinian men, women, and children—that has lasted for forty-five years. Peter Beinart, in a forthcoming and passionately argued polemic, 'The Crisis of Zionism,' is just the latest critic to point out that a profoundly anti-democratic, even racist, political culture has become endemic among much of the Jewish population in the West Bank, and jeopardizes Israel proper."

So whereas as liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd relies upon liberal New Yorker editor David Remnick for her opinions on Israel, Remnick relies upon liberal Peter Beinart's "polemic" book being published by Times Books, the publishing arm of The New York Times, whose op-ed opinions concerning Israel often border upon or descend into anti-Semitism (see, for example: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/02/stench-of-anti-semitism-at-new-york.html).

Do Dowd, Remnick and Beinart speak Hebrew and Arabic? Have they spent meaningful time in Israel, studying the political, social and economic climate? Of course in a democracy, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, i.e. to spout blather.

Remnick writes of "political corrosion," "occupation" and "subjugation." It sounds almost akin to Assad's ongoing slaughter of Syria's Sunnis. But as Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, stated in May 2009 to Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/28/AR2009052803614.html), he couldn't care less about "the stalled peace process":

"'I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,' he said. 'Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.'"

A "normal life"? How can that possibly be? I thought they were occupied and subjugated.

Is Israel's democracy "threatened"? Why don't I, a secular Jew living in Israel, who, like most Israelis favor a two-state solution but demand in return an acknowledgment of our right to exist, feel "threatened" by right wing, ultra-Orthodox extremists?

As observed by Jeffrey Goldberg in a 2010 interview with Peter Beinart in The Atlantic:

"Are Israel's failings, in fact, so terrible, especially given the line-up of enemies Israel is facing? I'm asking you to confront reality, not your Utopian vision of what a Jewish country should be. The reality is that there are organizations and countries trying to physically eliminate the Jewish state. Even with this existential problem, Israel still manages to be the freest and most democratic state in the Middle East, and one that even grants its Muslim citizens the right to build minarets and wear burqas, unlike many countries in Europe."

In any event, thanks for the warning, David, but sorry if I don't feel "threatened." Vigilant, yes. Threatened, no.