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Monday, April 30, 2012

David Brooks, "Warfare or Courtship in 2012?": Hard to Make Love or War When You Can't Rub Two Nickels Together

Last night I spoke with a dear friend of more than 50 years, who has run an equipment sales and service business out of Long Island since the time he left college. His comment to me yesterday regarding the state of his lifework: "It seems like there is no longer anybody out there who can rub two nickels together." My friend is far from being alone in his exasperation.

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Warfare or Courtship in 2012?" (, David Brooks asks whether the 2012 presidential campaigns will continue to be a no-holds-barred slugfest, or will Obama temper his campaign and again run on his charm, and will Romney also desist from dirty tactics and stress his ability to fix the economy. Brooks writes:

"The campaign-as-warfare metaphor may seem sensible to those inside the hothouse. It may make sense if you think today’s swing voters hunger for more combat, more harshness and more attack.

But it’s probably bad sociology and terrible psychology, given the general disgust with conventional politics. If I were in the campaigns, I’d want to detach from the current rules of engagement and change the nature of the campaign. If I were Obama, I’d play to his personal popularity and run an 'American Idol' campaign — likability, balance, safety and talent. If I were Romney, saddled with his personal diffidence, I’d run a plumber campaign — you may not love me, but here’s four things I can do for you."

"Today’s swing voters hunger for more combat"? In fact, many voters -- not just swing voters -- are going hungry and don't have the time or patience for either "American Idol" or "American Gladiators." It's hard to remain entertained when you don't know when you will see your next paycheck.

In 2008, Obama promised to reduce unemployment to 6%, but this didn't happen, and it's not going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. Can Obama convince the electorate that the Bush administration remains culpable for America's faltering economy, combined with a recalcitrant, do-nothing Congress? Yeah, it's a hard sell, given that the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House during the first two years of Obama's administration, and given that Senate Democrats have been unable to pass a budget for three years.

Can Romney propose a credible fix which will prevent the US budget deficit from spiraling out of control, while jump-starting jobs growth?

This time around, charm and personality are not going to sway sorely disillusioned voters who can't find their way off the unemployment line.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Wasting Our Minds": Wasting Our Time

Read Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed, "Wasting Our Minds" ( Now read this opinion piece, which posits that there is an economic "war on the young" (in addition to "the war on women, which is real enough"), a second time. Although Obama has been president for almost three and a half years and by now should "own" the economy, notwithstanding the travails he inherited from the Bush administration, Obama's name only appears once, tangentially, in Krugman's op-ed:

"After denouncing President Obama’s 'divisiveness,' [Romney] told his audience, 'Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.'"

Let's get this straight: There's a war on the young, and there's a war on women, but Obama is not a participant, has no involvement, and has no responsibility? Sorry, Paul, but this is intellectually dishonest.

Krugman's prescription for assisting young people?:

"What should we do to help America’s young? Basically, the opposite of what Mr. Romney and his friends want. We should be expanding student aid, not slashing it. And we should reverse the de facto austerity policies that are holding back the U.S. economy — the unprecedented cutbacks at the state and local level, which have been hitting education especially hard."

Well, I'll all in favor of more and better teachers. Who isn't? However, state and local governments are mired in debt throughout the US.

But allow me to ask the forbidden question that goes unasked by Krugman: In today's new world, does a B.A., coupled with over $100,000 in debt to pay for that education, pave the path to success and happiness?

Bore you with data? Not this time. Rather, let's talk about my nephew. Enrolled in a liberal arts program at a prestigious college, he left to take a job in the restaurant business. Some four years later, after waiting tables and learning the business from the bottom up, he is now managing operations at a fancy midtown eatery, and if he were to leave this position, there are another ten restaurants that would be waiting to hire him.

My oldest son? After considerable coursework in acting and movie making, he determined that the unemployment lines would be waiting for him in another two years. Instead of continuing down this path, he applied for and received work with the department of correctional services. Yeah, he's going to work as a guard at a prison. Nothing prestigious about this, but he will be able to support himself, and continue to go to night school in order to nourish his soul.

Austerity programs "are holding back the U.S. economy"? What about what is now Obama's war in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than a decade and has consumed on the order of a half trillion dollars? Although Krugman claims there are wars on women and the young, what about this very real war in central Asia, which is bleeding America white with nothing to show for it?

And if you want to jump-start the American economy, reinstate the Uptick Rule (see: But by doing so, Obama would eliminate what has become a favorite cash cow for many predatory investment banking operations.

Thomas Friedman, "Words of the Prophets": The Borat School of Journalism

Thomas Friedman begins his latest New York Times op-ed,"Words of the Prophets" (, by alluding to the lyrics of a 1964 hit single written by Simon & Garfunkel:

"AS I walk around the streets of Beirut, that verse from 'The Sounds of Silence' keeps rattling around in my head: 'The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls ...'"

Friedman is one of the Middle East "experts" upon whom Obama places his trust (see: Lord help us. Meaningful understanding of political currents does not derive from waltzing into and out of Beirut, or for that matter, Cairo, and conveying to one's readership a "stream of consciousness" gathered from graffiti, i.e. akin to the would-be style of journalism evidenced by Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat in his travels across the US.

Friedman writes:

"But what to do about Syria’s uprising? Let’s start by putting it in historical context. What is happening in Syria, and across the Arab world today, is the first popular movement since the late 19th and early 20th century that has not been animated by foreign policy or anticolonialism or Israel or Britain."

Wrong. Friedman ignores Lebanon's 2005 Cedar Revolution, which occurred following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by Hezbollah at the direction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and which resulted in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Friedman also forgets the 1982 Hama Massacre perpetrated by Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, to quell a revolt by Sunni Muslims. The estimated number of civilians who died in this bloodbath ranges from 10,000 to 40,000.

Friedman continues:

"Syrian opposition activists here in Beirut make clear that Assad opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, hoping to provoke a violent backlash. Then he could argue that this was not a peaceful democratic revolt but a sectarian revolt by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, aimed at ousting Assad’s ruling Alawite/Shiite minority and its allies. To some degree, it worked: Now we have a democratic struggle intertwined with a sectarian one."

A "democratic struggle intertwined with a sectarian one"? Oh, please! Democracy has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in Syria. Syria's Muslim Brotherhood is the spiritual force behind the rebellion of Syria's Sunnis, comprising some 70% of the population, and Western-style democratic values are not part and parcel of the Islamic fundamentalist underpinnings of the Brotherhood's political philosophy. Also, the chaos in Syria was precipitated by unemployment caused by a multi-year drought that has wrecked havoc with Syria's agriculture, combined with the depletion of Syria's oil resources. Again, democracy has nothing to do with this revolt.

Friedman goes on to say that if U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to place 300 Arab observers inside Syria fails, "then the West, the United Nations and the Arab League need to move swiftly to set up a no-fly zone or humanitarian corridor," and concludes:

"So let’s help in an intelligent, humane way, but with no illusions that this transition will be easy or a happy ending assured."

No mention by Friedman that Assad still has the backing of Syria's Alawite minority, which expects savage revenge from the Sunni Muslim majority, if their leader, Bashar al-Assad, falls, i.e. the Alawites are not going to lay down their arms anytime soon. In addition, Assad has the backing of Russia's Putin, who was promised cooperation by Obama after November as overheard in his open microphone gaffe (see: And Assad has the support of Iran's Khamenei, also being appeased by Obama (see, most recently, Obama's readiness to concede to Iranian enrichment of uranium up to 5% :,0,353079.story), who is not about to withdraw support for a regime through which his support of Iran's proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, flows.

"So let’s help in an intelligent, humane way"? Sorry, but Obama has chosen to ignore this hot potato, which can only interfere with his reelection bid, particularly given his complicity and ongoing refusal to intervene in this tragedy (see:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Iran Threatens to Sink an American Aircraft Carrier

Notwithstanding efforts being made by Tehran to create a spurious aura of flexibility and accomodation around its talks with the P5 +1 (the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany) over its nuclear weapons development program (see:, Iran on Friday threatened to sink an American aircraft carrier. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said in an interview with the Persian service of the Fars News Agency (

"'It is a misconception that an aircraft carrier can be put out of action only if it is sunk. First, sinking an aircraft carrier is not a complicated task. Second, an aircraft carrier is equipped with so many advanced, delicate, and sensitive devices . . . that it could be incapacitated by even the smallest explosion in every corner of it.'

. . . .

Elsewhere in his remarks, the [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps ] official said that the Islamic Republic is not concerned about the presence of U.S. troops in the region because they do not pose a threat to Iran anymore, but rather their presence has provided an opportunity for Iranian forces.

'Today, one of our short-range missiles can function as an intercontinental missile because they (U.S. troops) have been based near us,' he added.

Commenting on the proposed missile defense shield in the Persian Gulf, Hajizadeh said that Iran has taken measures to counter the 'U.S.-Israeli' plan.

'I promise that the missiles, which would be supposed to hit (Israel), will undoubtedly do the job. We have taken measures that the shield will become inefficient, and we will show our methods and tactics to counter the defense shield on the day of action,' he said."

Although Obama has tried to win over the mullahs with past sweet talk and a recent secret message conveyed via Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan that the US is willing to tolerate an Iranian civilian nuclear program (see:, this explosive situation will not remain under wraps until after the November elections or beyond, as Obama had hoped. Much to his displeasure, Obama will need to answer this insolent blustering threat.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Death of a Fairy Tale": Krugman Spins an Alternate Fable

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Death of a Fairy Tale" (, Paul Krugman again bashes those who sought to reduce government spending and balance budgets during an economic downturn. Krugman writes:

"For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. According to this doctrine, governments should respond to a severely depressed economy not the way the textbooks say they should — by spending more to offset falling private demand — but with fiscal austerity, slashing spending in an effort to balance their budgets."

Krugman focuses his text on Europe, i.e. the UK, France, Holland and Greece, whose economies remain dismal.

But Krugman avoids examining the US effort at stimulating the economy. Obama's stimulus plan has thus far cost some $825 billion, and when it was initiated in 2009, Americans were told that unemployment would decline to 6%. Instead, the Congressional Budget Office is now predicting that unemployment will remain over 8% until 2014.

Yeah, I know, Krugman would have spent more.

Bottom line: Maybe this time around, both austerity and spending aren't working. Perhaps the global economy, which, by its seasonal nature, must have its ups and downs, will run its own course and is not always susceptible to engineering.

David Brooks, "Is Our Adults Learning?": No They Ain't

David Brooks, in his latest New York Times op-ed "Is Our Adults Learning?" (, describes a new book, “Uncontrolled” by Jim Manzi, which promotes government learning by way of experimentation. Concurring with Manzi, Brooks concludes:

"The first step to wisdom is admitting how little we know and constructing a trial-and-error process on the basis of our own ignorance. Inject controlled experiments throughout government. Feel your way forward. Fail less badly every day."

"Controlled experiments throughout government"? An interesting idea, but what happens when you are unwilling to recognize the results?

US ground involvement in Afghanistan is a disaster, which has lasted more than a decade and has consumed on the order of a half trillion dollars. Peculiar how this has not become an issue in the forthcoming presidential election.

Obamacare? According to Chuck Blahous, public trustee for Medicare and Social Security, the Affordable Care Act will add more than $1.15 trillion to federal spending over the next decade, and between $340 billion and $530 billion to federal deficits over the same period (see: This is not sustainable.

Who needs experiments when the writing is on the wall, but no one is able to read it? Maybe, instead of experimentation, remedial reading coursework is required.

Did Israel's Chief of Staff Say Iran Won't Build an Atomic Bomb? Answer: No

Have a look at the headlines today. The home page of The New York Times features an article captioned "Israeli Army Chief Says He Believes Iran Won’t Build Bomb" ( The current lead online article of The Washington Post bears the headline "Israeli military chief: Iran will not build nuclear bomb" ( Both of these articles base their stories upon an article in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, whose headline reads "IDF chief to Haaretz: I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons" (

But did Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, actually say, "I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons"?

Read the Haaretz article and tell me where Gantz specifically says "I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons." You only find it in the headline.

What did Gantz say in his interview with Haaretz?:

• "We're in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something."
• "The military option is the last chronologically but the first in terms of its credibility. If it's not credible it has no meaning. We are preparing for it in a credible manner."
• Iran "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn't yet decided whether to go the extra mile."
• "If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance [the development program] to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response."
• "I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous."

Where in any of this does Gantz declare that Iran won't build the bomb? He tells us that Iran is moving its nuclear weapons development program ahead step by step, and something must soon happen. He tells us that Khamenei will give instructions to build the bomb if he feels "invulnerable to a response." He tells us that the Iranian leadership is "rational," and that it would be a mistake for them to build the bomb, given that Israel is prepared to intervene. Nowhere in any of this does he say that Iran won't build the bomb.

Given that Iran's leadership is "rational," it would not be wise to build the bomb, particularly in light of Gantz's warning that Israel is prepared to respond, but since when do "rational" people not make mistakes? Also, as Gantz observes, if a "rational" Khamenei feels "invulnerable," e.g., reaches the determination that Obama has no plans to intervene, he will proceed with the bomb's development.

Where in the the Haaretz article does Gantz say Iran won't build the bomb? He doesn't.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Brutality of Servility": Politics and Narcissism

Today, in an op-ed entitled "Brutality of Servility" (, Maureen Dowd holds John Edward's stinky feet to the fire. Edwards is being prosecuted for receiving illegal campaign contributions, however, as observed by Dowd:

"The case is supposed to be about exceeding a $2,300 individual campaign contribution limit, quaint in light of Citizens United. But it’s really a set of intersecting love stories. Andrew, a caricature of calculated servility, loved his golden boy boss — 'more than he loved Cheri,' his wife, Rielle said.

Flaky Rielle loved the 'hot' meal ticket Johnny. Bunny Mellon crushed on John because he reminded her of the Kennedys. And John, of course, loved John, growing so narcissistic that he was blind to Andrew’s bile and his own grand delusions."

If there is a silver lining to this story, Edwards, according to Dowd, has learned to get his hair cut "for $12.95, not $400." Hmmm. If Edwards is not convicted, maybe Obama should hire him to head up the Office of Management and Budget.

But what about Obama? No, I'm not suggesting any extramarital hanky-panky (Michelle would whip his ass), but why does Dowd avoid reference to the purchase of Obama's Chicago mansion? On the same day Obama purchased his house, the wife of convicted felon Tony Rezko bought the adjacent empty lot from the same seller, who wanted to sell both properties together. However, as reported by ABC News (

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

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

Nothing unusual about the price disparity? Yeah, right, this was no sweetheart deal . . .

But let's ignore any possible allegation of a bribe or kickback. Instead, let's focus on whether Obama received a gift, which went unreported to the IRS. According to the IRS (,,id=108139,00.html#2), a gift is defined as "Any transfer to an individual, either directly or indirectly, where full consideration (measured in money or money's worth) is not received in return."

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

Yes, narcissists, whose lives are guided by an exaggerated sense of self-entitlement, are drawn to politics like moths to a flame.

Thomas Friedman, "Defendant No. 34 Has Her Say": A Very Short Memory

Apparently Thomas Friedman's memory is extremely short.

This past Sunday, Friedman asked, "Does America need an Arab Spring?" ( Today, in his New York Times op-ed "Defendant No. 34 Has Her Say" (, Friedman observes how the "Arab Spring" that he once ballyhooed from Cairo's Tahrir Square has resulted in the ongoing prosecution of democracy workers in Egypt.

Drawing attention to the defendant Nancy Okail, "who leads the Cairo office of the U.S.-based Freedom House," Friedman writes:

"While seven American democracy workers who were slated to be tried with Okail had been allowed to leave the country, she and dozens of her Egyptian colleagues still face prosecution at a trial re-set for June. She is deeply — and rightly — worried that the U.S., now that it has gotten its citizens out by paying a $5 million bail — will forget about the Egyptian democracy workers.

. . . .

It’s sad to see Egypt’s ruling military council — which has done good things to shepherd Egypt’s democratization process — get maneuvered by remnants of the old regime into this xenophobic attack on groups whose only crime was supporting Egyptian efforts to monitor elections and form parties."

The Egyptian military was "maneuvered by remnants of the old regime"? Is Friedman unaware that this prosecution of democracy workers has the support of the Muslim Brotherhood? As reported by Bloomberg (

"Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, called the lifting of the travel ban [on the 15 non-Egyptian NGO workers seeking to flee Egypt and avoid prosecution] 'regrettable.' The case 'shows that America continues to interfere in Egypt’s affairs,' he said."

And, as this Bloomberg article proceeds to observe, even Egypt's youth movement, although doubting the merits of this case, did not hesitate to condemn the decision to free the foreign NGO workers:

"The April 6 movement, one of the youth groups that organized the protests that led to Mubarak’s overthrow, said in a statement that it 'strongly condemns' the 'blatant intervention' in the work of the judiciary and the 'mysterious' decision to revoke the travel ban."

Friedman continues his opinion piece by declaring:

"But now you have a six-way struggle for power in Egypt: the Army, the Islamists, the youths, the liberals, the old regime’s loyalists and the business community.

This is going to take a long time to sort out. America’s job is to let whoever wins know that their relations with us will depend on their commitment to free elections, an independent judiciary, free press, open trade, religious pluralism and the rule of law."

More balderdash. In Egypt's Parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafis garnered an overwhelming majority of the vote, and it is plain that they are not planning a Western-style democracy for Egypt. As reported by NDTV (

"'The Muslim Brotherhood are interested in the government, in the law that protects human dignity, freedom, equal opportunities, that stops corruption, and in favour of development...We are not rallying actively for Sharia Law, but it [sic] the majority wants it, then why not?' said Dr Kamal El Helbawy, Member, Muslim Brotherhood."

Friedman concludes his op-ed by stating:

"Without vibrant civil society groups, there will never be a sustainable democratic transition in Egypt."

A "sustainable democratic transition in Egypt"? In a country in which at least three-quarters of its Muslim population "say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion" ( Sorry, Tom, but you're again talking claptrap.

Monday, April 23, 2012

David Brooks, "The Creative Monopoly": But Have a Look at BlackBerry

Have a look at the graph for shares of Research in Motion, the manufacturer of BlackBerry. In June 2008, the shares touched $144 per share. In February 2011 they were just under $70. Yesterday, they closed just over $13, with market capital hovering at some $6.7 billion. What happened? Answer: Apple's iPhone.

In his New York Times op-ed "The Creative Monopoly" (, David Brooks contends that business success is not necessarily determined by competitive adroitness, but rather the ability to create a novel market, which you can then dominate, i.e. legally monopolize. Brooks writes:

"Sports and war are competitive enterprises. If somebody hits three home runs against you in the top of the inning, your job is to go hit four home runs in the bottom of the inning.

But business, politics, intellectual life and most other realms are not like that. In most realms, if somebody hits three home runs against you in one inning, you have the option of picking up your equipment and inventing a different game. You don’t have to compete; you can invent.

We live in a culture that nurtures competitive skills. And they are necessary: discipline, rigor and reliability. But it’s probably a good idea to try to supplement them with the skills of the creative monopolist: alertness, independence and the ability to reclaim forgotten traditions."

I agree with Brooks in part: I value innovation and the ability to create new products and markets. On the other hand, look what's happening to BlackBerry. Research in Motion's innovation carved out a new market, which it was able to dominate, but only until a more attractive technology arrived on the scene.

Today's competitive landscape is cutthroat: You can create a next generation technology, but you must be alert to how and when it will be superceded, or how long it will take competitors to play catch-up.

Not easy, but in my opinion, also not impossible. Examine the time and effort invested in the underlying technology and also determine from where the competition will inevitably come. Check how long will it take them to catch up, and in the meantime, see if you can maintain the distance between you and your competitors by honing your innovative edge. Can you systematically create new market needs?

The Sony Walkman was replaced by its own Discman, which in turn was rendered obsolete by the iPod, and Sony is struggling (over $36 per share in February 2011, and $16.51 at yesterday's close with market capital now down to some $17 billion), but still seeking to create new markets for its primary product, i.e. ingenuity.

And Apple, which overpowered the BlackBerry with its iPhone, and which sent the Discman to its grave with its iPod? Some $350 per share in February 2011 and over $571 yesterday, with market capital now of approximately $530 billion.

How long can Apple maintain its edge in today's brave new world? Stay tuned and don't flip channels, because it all happens so fast.

[I do not own shares of Research in Motion, Sony or Apple, and this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell these companies' shares.]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Paul Krugman, "The Amnesia Candidate": Who Is Suffering from Amnesia?

In his New York Times op-ed "The Amnesia Candidate" (, Paul Krugman begins by asking, "how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are?" and proclaims:

"Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama. Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration’s policies had time to take effect."

"[A]ll of the net job losses took place in the first few months of 2009"? Have a look at a chart prepared by FactCheck (

Actually, job losses extended beyond "the first few months of 2009" and continued throughout the first year of Obama's presidency. Yes, job losses were most precipitous during the first six months of Obama's presidency, but continued for another six months.

Obama indeed inherited from Bush an economy that was spiraling downward, on the other hand, as acknowledged even by Krugman, the Obama "administration has suffered repeatedly from complacency."

Romney is the "amnesia candidate"? If you have a minute and can use a laugh, check out Obama without a teleprompter:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Down With Everything": "Does America Need an Arab Spring?"

Prepare to be sick.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Down With Everything" (, Thomas Friedman begins by asking:

"Does America need an Arab Spring?"

Friedman proceeds to describe his conversation with Frank Fukuyama, a Stanford professor who claims, "If we are to get out of our present paralysis, we need not only strong leadership, but changes in institutional rules." Friedman tells us that this includes "eliminating senatorial holds and the filibuster for routine legislation and having budgets drawn up by a much smaller supercommittee of legislators." Friedman concludes this opinion piece by agreeing with Fukuyama's calls for change:

"I know what you’re thinking: 'That will never happen.' And do you know what I’m thinking? 'Then we will never be a great a country again, no matter who is elected.' We can’t be great as long as we remain a vetocracy rather than a democracy. Our deformed political system — with a Congress that’s become a forum for legalized bribery — is now truly holding us back."

Let me begin by responding to Friedman's question, "Does America need an Arab Spring?" The so-called Arab Spring toppled autocracies and brought to power theocracies grounded in oppressive Middle Age edicts. In Libya the flag of al-Qaeda flies over Benghazi. In Egypt Christian Copts fear for their lives as the Muslim Brotherhood and their even more radical partners, the Salafis, seek to impose Islamic law upon the populace. In Tunisia, where the Arab Spring had its roots, the new Islamist government is seeking to gag free speech as the economy unravels.

An Arab Spring in the US? No thank you, Tom.

And what about Friedman's call for "Down with everything"? Wasn't this the "philosophy" underlying Occupy Wall Street? Fortunately for all, OWS has had its day, notwithstanding the empathy expressed by Obama for this nihilist gaggle.

Friedman speaks of America's "deformed political system," a vetocracy rather than a democracy, which will prevent the US from ever becoming a great country again. Horsefeathers! Yes, I know, during the Obama years there has been growing partisan divide in Congress, but this does not mean that there is a need to trash America's system of checks and balances.

This is not the first time in America's history that Congress has been paralyzed by partisanship accompanied by an absence of leadership in the White House. As in the past, it is time for Americans to vote in November and seek redress.

Perhaps this time Americans will get sobriety and a readiness for compromise. Maybe this time Americans will actually get the "Change" they so deserve.

Friedman's call for "Down With Everything" reminds me of the language used by law professor Ronald Dworkin, who, in an item in The New York Review of Books blog entitled "Why the Health Care Challenge Is Wrong" (, refers to "the strict and arbitrary language of an antique Constitution." Whereas Dworkin would have us believe that the Consitution has lost its relevance, Friedman posits that the US political system is "deformed," and Congress, "a forum for legalized bribery," is "now truly holding us back." How easily, when the system is not working to their liking, both these men would throw the heart of America's governmental underpinnings under the bus. Rid ourselves of an "antique" Constitution? Eliminate a "deformed" set of checks and balances? If either should happen, what will be left of America, or more frightening, what will arise in its stead?

Imagine, if you will, a new Constitutional Convention including the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama with counterbalance from Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. I shudder at the thought.

New York Times Editorial, "Assad’s Lies": No Mention of Obama's Complicity

In another doltish editorial entitled "Assad’s Lies" (, The New York Times states:

"Mr. Assad’s cruelty and blindness were predictable. What is unfathomable is why Russia and China continue to protect him. They have blocked the Security Council from imposing any sanctions.

. . . .

Eight months ago, President Obama said 'the time has come for President Assad to step aside.'"

Well, one year ago, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence of the Syrian president's monstrous suppression of the revolt against his regime, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Bashar al-Assad's defense (see:

"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."

As I have stated in the past, the US Secretary of State was 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, Obama, had invested more than two years trying to demonstrate that Syria and Iran had been "misunderstood" by the Bush administration and could be charmed into behaving civilly. In fact, this was the centerpiece of his foreign policy.

Who were those members of Congress who foolishly believed that Assad was a "reformer"? There was Nancy Pelosi, who declared, after meeting this butcher in Damascus in 2007, that Assad was a "model Arab leader" (

Then there was also John Kerry. As reported by The Wall Street Journal in March 2011 (

"A key supporter of Mr. Assad in Washington has been Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The former presidential candidate has held nearly a half-dozen meetings with Mr. Assad in recent years, according to this staff. The two men have sought to map out the terms of a renewed Syrian-Israel peace track.

Even this month, as protests starting gripping Syria, Mr. Kerry said he thought Syria's president was an agent for change.

'President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had,' Mr. Kerry said during a March speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 'I think it's incumbent on us to try to move that relationship forward in the same way.'"

And while we're at it, let's not forget former president Jimmy Carter, who repeatedly met with Assad and boasted that he had known the Syrian leader since he was a college student.

But what about Obama himself? At the end of 2010, Obama appointed an ambassador, Robert Ford, to Damascus, without Senate confirmation, for the first time since the murder by Assad of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Needless to say, Obama barely said a word in early 2011 when Assad began mowing down protesters, but grew uneasy when the number of dead began spiraling into the thousands.

Both the US and the EU were delinquent in imposing sanctions upon the purchase of oil from Syria, and even the Times acknowledged that it had taken Obama too long to call for Assad to step down (

As the Times now informs us, Assad’s cruelty and blindness were indeed "predictable," and those who read this blog know:

• In December 2010, I denounced Obama's appointment of Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria (

• In April 2011, I asked that the US ambassador to Damascus be recalled (

• In June 2011, I predicted that there would be a savage civil war in Syria (

Today's Times editorial concludes:

"The best approach would be a United Nations arms embargo and the toughest possible economic sanctions — if China and Russia will not block the Council."

Well, China and Russia are going to block the Council, and meanwhile we now know, following his recent open microphone gaffe, that Obama is promising concessions to Putin after he is reelected. This is hardly the way to pressure Moscow.


Could Christie Tilt the Scales in Favor of Romney?

According to conventional wisdom, the selection of a vice presidential candidate is not supposed to affect the outcome of a US presidential election . . . unless you're foolish enough to pick Sarah Palin. However, given that the 2012 presidential election is apt to be decided by a whisker - dog or otherwise (see: - Romney's decision regarding a running mate has assumed disproportionate weight.

According to Public Policy Polling's latest poll (see:, Romney's selection of Chris Christie would currently result in the Obama-Biden and Romney-Christie tickets each receiving 47% of the vote. Without a vice presidential candidate, Public Policy Polling found that Romney would receive 46% of the vote, compared with 49% for Obama.

Of particular interest was the fact that when Marco Rubio was paired with Romney, Public Policy Polling determined that Obama would lead by 49% to 43%, i.e. Rubio would not improve Romney's chances by garnering the Hispanic vote.

With Paul Ryan, Romney loses by 48%-43%.

Why does Christie tilt the scales in favor of Romney? Personally, I like his abrasively honest demeanor and would have preferred that he head the Republican ticket. And although some say that Christie's proportions preclude his candidacy, approximately a third of Americans over the age of 20 suffer from obesity and can empathize with his corpulence.

Christie sounds ready to accept the Republican nomination for vice president. According to Yahoo! News (

"'I love this job (governor) and I'm not looking to do it (vice president),' the governor said.

'But I also think it is extraordinarily arrogant for you to say you won't even listen to the nominee of your party - especially for me. It's someone who I've been supporting since last October vigorously around the country - that I wouldn't take a call from Mitt Romney,' Christie told reporters at a press conference here."

Moreover, in an apparent bid to improve his foreign polcy credentials, Christie earlier this month visited Israel on his first official overseas trip, and met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu (see:

Gail Collins Again "Off Today": Has She Fallen Victim to the Dogs of War?

Go to the online opinion page of The New York Times (, and you will learn that Gail Collins is again "off today," after being "off today" also on Thursday, her prior time slot. What has happened to poor Gail? Has she fallen victim to the dogs of war?

You will recall that it all started when Donald Trump sent to Collins a copy of her column with "The Face of a Dog!" written over her picture (see:

Collins retaliated by weaving Mitt Romney's 1983 Seamus story into most of her recent op-eds (see: This lame "running joke" - How will she ever integrate Seamus into her next column? - had her doltish readership in stitches.

But then came the news which was impossible for Collins to swallow: Obama ate dogs in Indonesia (see:

Given her absence from the op-ed page of the Times, it would appear that Collins is having difficulty digesting this information. Tough, very tough.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

David Brooks, "Testing the Teachers": Instead, Why Not a University of Chicago "Common Core" Curriculum?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Testing the Teachers" (, David Brooks ponders whether parents who pay $160,000 over the course of four years to send their children to college are getting their money's worth. Citing a study which suggests "that nearly half the students showed no significant gain in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills during their first two years in college," Brooks concludes his opinion piece by recommending:

"If you’ve got a student at or applying to college, ask the administrators these questions: 'How much do students here learn? How do you know?'"

More than 40 years ago, a teacher suggested that I apply to the University of Chicago at age 16 and seek admission without graduating high school. I took his advice, and in the fall I left for Chicago's embattled South Side, where whistles were sounded when a student or faculty member felt threatened. There was a football team, but no one ever went to watch them, and I don't remember them ever winning a game while I attended. In fact, if memory serves me well, during one fabled season, they scored only twice: once during the first half of their first game, and once during the second half of their second game. Social life and fraternaties? They existed, but on a lilliputian scale. You see, everyone was busy rushing off through the biting cold to the University's new library, built over the rubble of a once grand stadium. Years earlier, the stadium had served as home field to a much feared University of Chicago football team nicknamed the "Monsters of the Midway," before the appelation was adopted by the Chicago Bears.

Just short of my twentieth birthday, I graduated from the University of Chicago, having spent most of my waking hours at the College studying and working at odd jobs to pay for my books and food. I left with ambivalent feelings and with what could only be described as a mediocre grade point average. Grade inflation had never reached the University of Chicago, and even a lowly "B" was earned with sweat and anxiety. Nevertheless, I had come away from the College with an education.

Unlike most other schools, the University of Chicago demands that all of its undergraduates complete a "common core" of study demanding some 1/3 of their course time, and including humanities; natural and mathematical sciences; social sciences; a foreign language requirement; and even physical education (peculiar coming from an institution that has so downgraded its sports program). As described by the University of Chicago:

"A University of Chicago education is more than a set of skills, a rite of passage, or even the ability to think critically. It is an experience—part of a lifelong dialogue that encourages students to converse across cultures and disciplines—and is guided by 75 years of experience with a Core tradition.

This famed Core curriculum, a model for American general education, is the University of Chicago student’s introduction to the tools of inquiry used in every discipline—science, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences. The goal is not just to transfer knowledge, but to raise fundamental questions and become familiar with the powerful ideas that shape our society."

Here I am, more than 40 years later, and do I have any regrets? Yes, that I cannot spend another year at the College of the University of Chicago in order to savor a learning experience, which I was too young to appreciate at the time, but which fortunately has guided my thought processes ever since.

What Does Saudi Arabia Think About Khamenei's Edict Against Nuclear Weapons?: "Taqqiya"

Everyone is familiar with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's disappointment with the recent decision in Istanbul by the P5 +1 to grant Iran another month and a half to pursue its nuclear weapons development program without interference: a "freebie" (see:

Obama, of course, took issue with Netanyahu's characterization and inanely declared, "But so far at least we haven't given away anything" (see: You will also recall Obama's "secret" message to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, conveyed via Turkish Prime Erdoğan and premised upon Khamenei's purported "fatwa" (religious edict) against nuclear weapons (see:

What does America's ally, Saudi Arabia, think of Khamenei's fatwa and this extension of time granted by the West to Iran to halt nuclear weapons development? The answer is to be found in an April 15, 2012 article entitled "The ‘Security Council’ for fatwas!" (, written by Tariq Alhomayed, who is the editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, which is tied to the Saudi family. Alhomayed writes:

"The problem with the Obama administration is that it wants to pursue policies that may be acceptable to the day-dreaming cultural elite, but not to regimes that are full of cunning and deceit, like the Iranian regime, whose primary objectives do not include development, openness, humanitarian values, the well-being of its citizens, or even religious tolerance; rather all that the Iranian regime — and the ideology behind it — cares about is expansion and infiltrating other countries, for sectarian motives. Since the world is ruled by international laws and conventions, as well as interests, it is absurd to talk about an Iranian fatwa when negotiating with Tehran, for countries — like individuals — have reputations and histories that cannot be ignored, therefore the reputation of a bad country, like the reputation of a bad individual, is not based on statements or fatwas, but rather past deeds! Therefore, when US Secretary of State Clinton talks about the Iranian fatwa, we can be certain that she has not heard about Iranian taqqiya) the practice of precautionary dissimulation emphasized in Shiite Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when under threat)!

. . . .

In reality, the claim that we can rely on a fatwa that prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons, reminds us of the famous Arab proverb: 'the thief was asked to swear (his innocence), and he swore (falsely) and said 'yes, this is the way out [of the predicament]!' If this fatwa is one of the merits of dialogue with Iran, then by God we are truly facing a disaster in the region!"

Or in short, Obama and Hillary Clinton are naifs, willing to be lulled into inaction by Khamenei's lies, which are permissable when dealing with infidels, i.e. the doctrine of "taqqiya."

Yes, the West is in deep trouble with Obama at the helm.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Will Gail Collins Resign from The New York Times?

Read it and weep (or howl): We are informed on the online opinion page of The New York Times (

"Gail Collins is off today."

This should come as no surprise. Having made a career of weaving the Seamus story into most of her recent op-eds (see:, which had her lumpish readership in stitches, Collins must now contend with the fact that Obama ate dogs in Indonesia. In short, Collins has been left with nothing to write about, unless she is able to come up with a new "man bites dog" story.

Time to wake up and face the music, Gail.

Obama: “I Wasn’t Born With a Silver Spoon in My Mouth"

Speaking before 400 perons at Loraine County Community College in Ohio, President Obama declared:

"I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth."

In fact, this should come as no surprise. Eating dog with a spoon in Indonesia is simply not de rigueur.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "One for the Country": Did Obama Choose Fareed Over Tom?

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "One for the Country" (, Thomas Friedman whines that America's infrastructure is crumbling and scolds Obama:

"President Obama has significant achievements to his record. He has done a solid job stemming the economic crisis he inherited and a good job managing national security and initiating important reforms — from health care to auto mileage standards.

But with Europe in peril, China and America wobbling, the Arab world in turmoil, energy prices spiraling and the climate changing, we are facing some real storms ahead. We need to weatherproof our American house — and fast — in order to ensure that America remains a rock of stability for the world. To do that, we’ll have to make some big, hard decisions soon — and to do that successfully will require presidential leadership in the next four years of the highest caliber."

Bottom line: Obama is not of "the highest caliber," and Friedman is calling upon Michael Bloomberg to "reconsider running for president as an independent candidate, if only to participate in the presidential debates and give our two-party system the shock it needs."

Could it be that Friedman is smarting from the rumors that Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria -- and not Friedman -- is being considered by Obama as his next Secretary of State (see:

Sorry, Tom. Better luck next time.

Maureen Dowd, "Phony Mommy Wars": Sorry, Mo, to Her Credit, Ann Romney Is Not Acting the Martyr

In 1999 consultant and commentator Hillary Rosen adopted, together with her partner, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) activist Elizabeth Birch, twin children (see: Rosen and Birch separated in 2006. Continuing her busy consulting career, Rosen has visited the White House 35 times (see: This is a tribute to America, where members of the LGBT community can live openly and freely, and pursue high level, high visibility careers.

A week ago, Rosen set off a firestorm by declaring on CNN (see:

"What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, 'Well, you know my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife that's what I'm hearing.'

Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future."

Ann Romney's tweeted response:

"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

Rosen subsequently apologized to Ann Romney, stating (

"Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."

Echoing Rosen's request for a truce in the title of her latest New York Times op-ed, "Phony Mommy Wars" (, Maureen Dowd declares that Ann Romney "was feigning aggrievement to milk the moment," and supports her claim by highlighting Ann Romney's remarks at a Florida fund-raiser:

"'It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it,' a gleeful Ann told the backyard full of Florida fat cats, sounding 'like a political tactician,' as Garrett Haake, the NBC reporter on the scene, put it.

It’s important when you act the martyr not to overplay your hand. If you admit out loud to a bunch of people — including Haake, who was on the sidewalk enterprisingly eavesdropping — that you’re just pretending to be offended, you risk looking phony, like your husband."

Sorry, Maureen, but it is possible to take issue with Rosen's remarks without taking offense or acting the martyr. Quite the contrary, to their credit, Mitt and Ann Romney have not made Ann's MS or past bout with breast cancer defining issues during this campaign season.

Dowd would dismiss this "phony" war as "piffle." I disagree. At issue is the freedom of couples to decide upon their lifestyles when children enter into the equation. This freedom also applies to Hilary Rosen. What could possibly be more important?

Dowd acknowledges, "My mom stayed home to raise five kids, and she is my feminist role model." My mother, a fiery feminist and liberal who took ill with breast cancer, also stayed home, by choice, to raise the children. Like Ann Romney, she struggled, but never once sought to portray herself as a martyr.

David Brooks, "The White House Argument": Never Kick a Turd on a Hot Day

President Harry Truman was famous for his pithy witticisms. All of us are familiar with "The buck stops here," but how many know that Truman was also fond of declaring "Never kick a turd on a hot day." Sometimes, however, we cannot avoid kicking that turd.

Today, as Obama faces reelection, he is faced with a plethora of dilemmas: Whether to continue to function as president and make the hard choices, or whether to delay decisions until after November. Regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, it plainly appears that there is a confluence of interest between the agendas of both Obama and Iran: While Iran stalls for time to achieve the capacity to build an atomic bomb, Obama stalls for time to avoid a nasty confrontation that could impact in an unforeseen manner on his reelection campaign.

Regarding America's burgeoning budget deficit, Obama is also facing difficult choices, and as observed by David Brooks in his New York Times op-ed "The White House Argument" (

"Under the Obama budget, debt would skyrocket to 124 percent of G.D.P."

You don't need to be an economic wizard to realize that debt of this magnitude is unsustainable. Moreover, I question whether this percentage takes into account the ominous warning recently issued by Chuck Blahous, public trustee for Medicare and Social Security (see:, that over the next decade, Obamacare will:

"add at least $340 billion and as much as $530 billion to federal deficits while increasing federal spending by more than $1.15 trillion over the same period and by increasing amounts thereafter."

Yes, this is a train wreck in the making.

In his New York Times op-ed, Brooks concludes:

"I’ll just say that my conversations reaffirm my conviction that Obama is a pragmatic liberal who cares about fiscal sustainability, who has been willing to compromise for its sake, but who has not offered anything close to a sufficient program to avoid a debt crisis.

But we have a campaign in front of us. If the president is truly committed to a strategy for progressive fiscal stability, as Bill Clinton was, he’ll make that the center of his campaign. He’ll earn a mandate. He’ll win over independents who want fiscal discipline but worry about the way Republicans get there.

If he doesn’t have a passion for fiscal stability, he’ll campaign on side issues and try to win by scaring everybody about the other side."

Or in other words, will Obama decide between now and November to make hard, unpopular, decisions involving Iran and the budget, or seek to remain president by engaging in scaremongering and divisive tactics, e.g. accusing Paul Ryan of "social Darwinism"? I think we know which way Obama is leaning.

As Harry Truman also once said:

"America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand."

If only Obama could take Truman's words, which have yet to make their way onto the screen of his infamous teleprompter, to heart.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Obama: At Least We Haven't Given Away Anything to Iran

As reported by Reuters (, Obama has declared from Cartagena, Colombia that there will be additional sanctions if no progress results from negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Obama added:

"But so far at least we haven't given away anything."

However, this is not what we hear from Istanbul. The P5 + 1, under the "able" supervision of Catherine Ashton, is said to have agreed to continued Iranian uranium enrichment activities and is not demanding that Iran's Fordo underground nuclear facility be dismantled (see: And meanwhile, Iran was given another month and a half, until the next meeting in Baghdad, to further its nuclear ambitions without additional impediment.

While Iran stalls for time to achieve the capacity to build an atomic bomb, Obama stalls for time to avoid a nasty confrontation prior to November.

A confluence of interests if ever there was one . . .

Paul Krugman, "Europe’s Economic Suicide": Yes, but Not Owing to Austerity

Time to be politically incorrect.

In his New York Times op-ed entitled "Europe’s Economic Suicide" (, Paul Krugman predictably takes the position that Europe needs to spend its way out of its current economic malaise:

"Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs, and the results are exactly what students of history told you would happen: such programs push depressed economies even deeper into depression. And because investors look at the state of a nation’s economy when assessing its ability to repay debt, austerity programs haven’t even worked as a way to reduce borrowing costs.

. . . .

Rather than admit that they’ve been wrong, European leaders seem determined to drive their economy — and their society — off a cliff. And the whole world will pay the price."

Well, I've got news for Paul: Europe is dying a slow death of its own making, and neither spending nor austerity are going to save it.

Do you remember Libya's eccentric dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, who was captured in a roadside drain outside his hometown of Sirte in October 2011, and who was shot to death after first being sodomized by his "Arab Spring" captors? Qaddafi may be dead, but consider his plans for Europe, which are still very much alive. In a speech broadcast by Al Jazeera on April 10, 2006 (

"Some people believe that Muhammad is the prophet of the Arabs or the Muslims alone. This is a mistake. Muhammad is the Prophet of all people. He superseded all previous religions. If Jesus were alive when Muhammad was sent, he would have followed him. All people must be Muslims. . . . We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades. . . Allah mobilizes the Muslim nation of Turkey and adds it to the European Union. That's another 50 million Muslims. There will be 100 million Muslims in Europe. Albania, which is a Muslim country, has already entered the EU. Fifty percent of its citizens are Muslims."

Europe will be become Muslim in a few decades? Is this merely the deranged prediction of a madman? I don't think so. Consider that according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (

"The number of Muslims in Europe has grown from 29.6 million in 1990 to 44.1 million in 2010.34 Europe’s Muslim population is projected to exceed 58 million by 2030. Muslims today account for about 6% of Europe’s total population, up from 4.1% in 1990. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8% of Europe’s population."

Also according to this report, Muslims in France, Belgium, Sweden and Austria will comprise some 10% of these countries' populations by 2030, and Muslims in the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland will amount to some 8%. Needless to say, 10% and 8% are distant from a majority, but these percentages could well be enough to swing elections and influence budgetary planning, particularly when they are growing from year to year.

Will the swelling Muslim population of Europe contribute to this continent's science and industry and adopt its culture and democracy, or will Europe be contending with higher unemployment, swollen welfare rolls and honor killings (see:

You already can guess my thoughts on the matter . . .

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Iran's Saeed Jalili: Tehran Doesn't Intend to Stop Producing Uranium Enriched to 20 Percent

After 10 hours of talks in Istanbul on Saturday, characterized by Catherine Ashton, first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, as "constructive and useful," we learned that the P5 + 1 is willing to agree to continued Iranian nuclear enrichment activities and is not demanding that Iran's Fordo underground nuclear facility be dismantled. Moreover, a "Turkish government source" stated that there is a "sense" that Iran is prepared to temporarily halt uranium enrichment at the level of 20 percent in exchange for immediate lifting of some sanctions and the termination of others (see:

Given this rosy outlook on the part of Ashton and friends, it was agreed that P5 + 1 representatives would again meet with their Iranian counterparts in another month and a half in Baghdad without any demands upon Tehran in the interim.

Well, I'm sorry to be a party pooper, but according to Iran's Mehr News (, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, declared following the meetings in Istanbul:

"Tehran does not intend to stop producing uranium enriched to a purity level of 20 percent."

Catherine Ashton is an imbecile (see:, and it is beyond belief that the Obama administration agreed to entrust her with managing the negotiations on behalf of the “P5+1.”

On the other hand, perhaps her witless engagement with Jalili, intended to forestall an unpleasant confrontation with Tehran prior to the US presidential elections in November, is exactly what the Obama administration was seeking . . .

Iran, April 2012: When the Fate of the West Rested in the Hands of an Imbecile

As noted in a prior blog entry (, Catherine Ashton, first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, has a remarkably "rich" (meaning laughable) CV, qualifying her to manage the EU's extraterritorial affairs. Among her many accomplishments:

• Ashton has a BSc degree in sociology;
• Ashton has a life-sized Dalek (a fictional race of extraterrestrial mutants from the British science fiction television series "Doctor Who") in her sitting room;
• Ashton once served a the chairwoman of the Health Authority in Hertfordshire;
• Ashton once served as national treasurer in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which is suspected of having received funding from the former Soviet Union;
• Ashton had a relationship with a hard-line communist;
• Ashton has a history of implacable hostility to Israel.

Accordingly, it should come as no wonder that Ashton was chosen to manage the negotiations on behalf of the “P5+1” - the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany - with Iran concerning Tehran's ongoing nuclear weapons development program.

Sporting a new pants suit in Istanbul yesterday, Ashton beamed as she shook hands with Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

After 10 hours of talks, characterized by Ashton as "constructive and useful," we learned that the P5 + 1 is willing to agree to continued Iranian nuclear enrichment activities and is not demanding that Iran's Fordo underground nuclear facility be dismantled. Moreover, there is a "sense" that Iran is prepared to temporarily halt uranium enrichment at the level of 20 percent in exchange for immediate lifting of some sanctions and the termination of others (see:

The biggest achievement of these talks in Istanbul? Given the extreme urgency of getting down to brass tacks and quelling the concern that the mullahs could wield nuclear weapons in less than a year, the sides have agreed to meet again in Baghdad . . . . . . . in another month and a half.

Funny how there were those who thought that Iran might try to stall for time, but this could never happen with Catherine Ashton overseeing these talks.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Come Back, Sarah Palin!": How to Get Your Jollies in 2012

I recently received an e-mail from a friend, informing me that her husband, Jim, a California computer wizard who is twice as smart as I am, is again unemployed and seeking funds for a start-up. The reality for persons such as Jim, who, like me, are over 50 years of age, is that if they're jobless, there is not much waiting for them work-wise. Times are grim, no matter what skills you bring to the table, and those out of work can certainly use some comic relief from their leaders in Washington. After all, they're not getting anything else from them.

In her New York Times op-ed "Come Back, Sarah Palin!" (, Maureen Dowd laments the lack of comedy material apt to arise from this year's presidential election. Dowd quotes one of Saturday Night Live's writers to prove her point:

"'I don’t think it’s going to be as much fun as 2000 and 2008,' Jim Downey, the show’s inimitable satirist, told me. 'When you have an incumbent president, it’s not wholly new. And because of the long Republican primary debate stretch, I’m already tired of Romney. I wish there could be a crazy brokered convention with someone we’ve never heard of to keep it fresh. But you don’t get a gift like Sarah Palin very often, and I’m sure it’ll never happen again.'"

Well, I agree with Dowd: If Romney doesn't choose Christie as his running mate, there's not much fun to be poked at the likes of Paul Ryan. But who says there is nothing humorous about Obama? Even as unemployment in the US hovers at some eight percent and Obama makes a mess of foreign policy around the globe, Danish television found jocularity in the president's glib chatter. See:

P5 + 1 Talks with Iran Begin in a "Constructive Atmosphere": Obama Again Leads from Behind

As reported by Reuters (, the discussions of the “P5+1” - the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany - with Iran in Istanbul concerning Iran's ongoing nuclear weapons development program have begun in a "constructive atmosphere":

"'They met in a constructive atmosphere,' said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the powers in dealings with Iran. 'We had a positive feeling that they did want to engage.'"

Charming. Catherine Ashton, who is a moron, a person with an extreme leftist background, a would-be diplomat lacking any meaningful negotiating experience, and an Israel-hater (see:, is in charge of these critical talks.

Yet another instance of Obama leading from behind.

P5 + 1 Showdown in Istanbul Today: Iran "Has No Need to Compromise"

Today, the “P5+1” — the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany - will meet in Istanbul to discuss Iran's ongoing nuclear weapons development program. Obama is warning Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei that this is his "last chance" to honor international demands. This, of course, comes after Obama informed Jeffrey Goldberg in an interview published by The Atlantic one month ago (see: that "as president of the United States, I don't bluff."

Obama doesn't bluff? He is certainly sending Tehran mixed signals. In December, Obama sought to torpedo the bipartisan Kirk-Menendez Iran Sanctions Act (see:, and now is pushing, via Senator Harry Reid, for a new toothless Senate sanctions bill. As stated in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Thursday (

"Harry Reid is now pushing a watered-down sanctions bill that gives the Administration wide discretion in applying the bill's penalties. The Majority Leader also closed the bill to additional amendments, most conspicuously one from Illinois Republican Mark Kirk.

The Kirk amendment—which would have more of an impact on Iran than the rest of the bill combined—would close loopholes in existing sanctions, including one that allows a handful of Iranian financial institutions (and the Iranian government itself) to continue to do business with the outside world. It would also strengthen disclosure requirements for foreign financial institutions tempted to do business with Iran, effectively putting them to the choice of whether they want to have business ties with the U.S. or with the Islamic Republic."

A week ago, there was also Obama's secret message to Tehran, conveyed via Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan (see:, in which Obama informed Khamenei that the US is prepared to tolerate an Iranian civilian nuclear program and hinted that his ongoing opposition to international action against Iran's ally, Syria, is conditioned upon Iranian cooperation involving the nuclear weapons development issue.

What does Iran think of Obama's "veiled warnings"? As translated by MEMRI, an April 8 article ( in the Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan, which is closely tied to Khamenei, informs us that Khamenei indeed believes that Obama is bluffing:

"'Examining an entire decade of the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, one can characterize it as a record of [instances in which] the U.S. adapted its 'red line' to the Iranian [stance]. The Americans always started out with an extreme [position] and ended up with a nominal one...

. . . .

If we plot [these changes] on a graph, it will show an amazing downward plunge... The American administration... always sets large goals [for itself], and makes a huge fuss over them, but, once it realizes that they cannot be implemented, quietly adapts them [to reality] and replaces them with other, humbler, goals, while continuing to make a fuss.

. . . .

So one might say that the West's hands are completely empty [of means with which] to threaten Iran in the upcoming talks... The simple conclusion... is that the West's distress vis-à-vis Iran, on the strategic [level], has become acute, and it seems that the statesmen in the White House have neither the courage nor the wisdom to extract themselves from this historic dead end... Iran is proving that it has no need to compromise with the West in order to grow strong.'"

Yet another Obama foreign relations disaster . . .

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Cannibalize the Future": Sliming Chris Christie

After sliming Republican Congressman Paul Ryan on Monday (see:, Paul ("the Great and Powerful") Krugman today slimes Chris Christie.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Cannibalize the Future" (, Krugman excoriates Christie for his 2010 decision to cancel work on a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York. Referring to a recent Government Accountability Office critical of Christie's determination and alleging "mendacity" on Christie's part, Krugman writes:

"Much press coverage of the new report focuses, understandably, on the evidence that Mr. Christie made false statements about the tunnel’s financing and cost. The governor asserted that the projected costs were rising sharply; the report tells us that this simply wasn’t true. The governor claimed that New Jersey was being asked to pay for 70 percent of a project that would shower benefits on residents of New York; in fact, the bulk of the financing would have come either from the federal government or from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which collects revenue from residents of both states."

Just a moment, Paul. What's this about "the bulk of the financing" coming from the federal government "or from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey"? Would Krugman have us believe that New Jersey has no responsibity for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, because responsibility is shared between New Jersey and New York?

But more to the point, I have a two-word response to Krugman: "Big Dig." As reported in 2008 by Sean P. Murphy of the Globe (see:, Boston's underground highway project entailed massive cost overruns that will cripple Massachussets for years to come:

"Now, three years after the official dedication of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel, the state is reeling under a legacy of debt left by the massive project. In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.

Contrary to the popular belief that this was a project heavily subsidized by the federal government, 73 percent of construction costs were paid by Massachusetts drivers and taxpayers. To meet that obligation, the state's annual payments will be nearly as much over the next several years, $600 million or more, as they were in the heaviest construction period.

Big Dig payments have already sucked maintenance and repair money away from deteriorating roads and bridges across the state, forcing the state to float more highway bonds and to go even deeper into the hole."

Bear in mind, the "Big Dig," which was scheduled to be finished in 1998 at a cost of $2.8 billion, was actually completed in December 2007. Even factoring inflation into the equation, there is an enormous difference between $2.8 billion and $22 billion.

Would Krugman have us believe that the new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York would not have entailed cost overruns? Would he also have us believe that the less than solvent federal government would have foot the entire bill without any liability on the part of New Jersey? Yeah, right.

But Krugman always knows best. Christie's remarkable popularity among New Jersey residents in these tough times doesn't matter to him (see:, nor does it impress Krugman that for the first time in 10 years, a majority of New Jersey voters feel that the state is "headed in the right direction" (see:

Fareed Zakaria, "The shape of a deal with Iran": Brown-Nosing the President

One of Obama's favorite columnists, Fareed Zakaria, begins his Washington Post opinion piece, "The shape of a deal with Iran" (, by lavishing praise on the president:

"The Obama administration’s Iran strategy has worked so far. Unprecedented pressure has forced Tehran to the negotiating table."

Zaakaria would have us believe that Obama's Iran strategy, which began with a stillborn charm campaign to win over the mullahs soon after the president's inauguration, yielded results? Was Obama's refusal to support Iran's Green Revolution, which led to the murder, torture and imprisonment of regime opponents by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a part of this strategy? Did Obama's opposition to Senate sanctions, which were backed 100-0 (see:, also purportedly help bring Iran to bay?

Well, let's begin by observing that the talks this weekend among Iran and the “P5+1” — the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany - represent just another attempt at stalling by Khamenei. As reported by DEBKAfile (see:, Iran intends to condition any compromise over Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions upon similar terms being slapped upon Israel, notwithstanding the fact that Israel has never threatened to wipe another country off the map.

Zakaria, like Obama in his secret message to Khamenei (see:, seizes upon the Supreme Leader's February declaration that "The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons . . . because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous." And Zakaria, of course, believes Khamenei.

I wonder whether Zakaria also believes Khamenei's February declaration that "The tumor of Israel, which is in fact cancerous, must be removed from the region, and this will definitely happen" (see:

The reality is that Iran will be delighted to abandon its nuclear weapons program if Israel is also deprived of its atomic arsenal. Without a deterrent, Israel can expect a hailstorm of some 200,000 conventional missiles from Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas aimed at Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

And when the negotiations with Iran fail, Zakaria has already fingered a scapegoat:

"The Obama administration’s strategy is to tell Iran: All we are asking is that you demonstrate this in concrete actions. That’s a smart way to frame its demands. But if Iran does make concessions, the United States would have to accept them and relax some sanctions. And this is where the second important group, Republicans in Washington, could be an obstacle. If they demagogue any deal, or refuse to reciprocate on sanctions, there will be no deal.

The administration has handled its allies, Russia, China, the United Nations and even Tehran with skill. To succeed, however, it has to tackle its most formidable foe, with whom it has not had much negotiating success: Republicans."

Wow! Zakaria would have us believe that those nefarious Republicans are worse than the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians. Yet the Senate sanctions against Iran, which Obama sought to torpedo, had the approval of every American senator, both Republican and Democrat. Yeah, I know, in an election year, someone else always has to assume the blame, and given Obama's failed foreign policy, there will be considerable blame to be shifted around.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "I’m Not Mitt Romney": Tom Offers to Cut Off His Thumbs

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "I’m Not Mitt Romney" (, a less than skinny Tom Friedman, seeking to attack Paul Ryan's proposed budget cuts, tries his hand at humor:

"If I cut off both my thumbs, I’d also lose weight. But I’d also have a hard time getting another job."

Well, anyone who has seen Tom's Maryland mansion knows that he can get by without another job, but I still hope he doesn't cut off his thumbs. Given his girth, it won't make a difference. If he wants to carry around less weight, I suggest he start by losing his mustache.

But enough silliness and let's get to the substance of Friedman's opinion piece, i.e. Ryan's budget is bad, Obama's budget is better, Friedman's budget is best. (No, I'm no longer joking.) Friedman again calls for - yawn - cuts in Medicare and Social Security and investment in "education, infrastructure, quality government institutions and government-funded research."

Ah, yes, as W.C. Fields might have intoned, "quality government institutions and government-funded research." Let me add this to my list of oxymorons.

But in case Friedman hasn't noticed, that other "quality" government program, Obamacare, over the next decade, as acknowledged by Chuck Blahous, public trustee for Medicare and Social Security (see: will:

"add at least $340 billion and as much as $530 billion to federal deficits while increasing federal spending by more than $1.15 trillion over the same period and by increasing amounts thereafter."

Moreover, the federal government can continue printing money, but in case Tom didn't notice, it's going broke fast. But that didn't stop Tom from sliming Paul Ryan, as did his colleague, Paul Krugman, on Monday (see:

As observed last week by James B. Stewart in In a New York Times article entitled "For All the Furor Over Ryan’s Plan, It’s a Place to Start" (

"It’s easy enough to tweak the Ryan tax rates to generate more tax revenue while still lowering rates and broadening the tax base, as Ronald Reagan did in 1986.

In return, Republicans would get lower rates and curbs on entitlement spending. Democrats would get more tax revenue and preserve the essential elements and long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security. The nation would get a fairer tax code, long-term deficit reduction, a secure credit rating, stronger economic growth and a social safety net.

'The overwhelming majority of Congress would agree to this on a secret ballot,' [Tennessee Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper] told me.'"

But, what can we do? Tom always knows best.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "State of Cool": Sorry, Mo, But Sunglasses Don't Make for Cool

Maureen Dowd's New York Times op-ed, "State of Cool" ( has me nauseous this morning. There is nothing "cool" about Hillary Clinton.

Dowd writes:

"Hillary Clinton cemented her newly cool image and set off fresh chatter about her future when she met at the State Department with two young men who created a popular Internet meme showing photos of the secretary of state on a military plane, wearing big sunglasses, checking her BlackBerry and looking as if she’s ready to ice somebody."

"Ice somebody"? The failure of Hillary and the rest of the Obama administration to lift a finger has indeed allowed Bashar al-Assad to "ice" thousands of innocent Syrian civilians over the past year. "Cool Hand" Hillary's March 27, 2011 response, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence at the time of the Syrian president's monstrous suppression of the revolt against his regime (see:

"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."

Perhaps Maureen would care to ask Hillary (and Barack) if part of the Obama administration's secret message to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, via Turkey's Erdogan (, was that in exchange for US inaction involving Syria, it was expected that Iran would limit its nuclear development program to "civilian" purposes.

Sorry, but sunglasses don't make for "cool."