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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "The Wearing of the Green": Why Isn't She Apologizing for Libeling the Supreme Court?

Maureen Dowd has written many despicable op-eds over the years; however, one of her most disgusting opinion pieces was "Men in Black" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/opinion/dowd-men-in-black.html), in which she declared in April:

"This court, cosseted behind white marble pillars, out of reach of TV, accountable to no one once they give the last word, is well on its way to becoming one of the most divisive in modern American history.

It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes."

At the time, I responded to Dowd (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/04/maureen-dowd-men-in-black-pot-calls.html) by noting:

"But it is the strident tone of Dowd's opinion piece that makes me cringe. No matter how ardently I might oppose the opinion of any Supreme Court justice, I would never dream of labeling him or her a 'hack.' This lack of civility and basic respect for the opinions of others, threatens to tear apart the fabric of American society. If the conservative Supreme Court justices are 'hacks,' does this mean that each of us is free to take the law into his or her own hands? I shudder at where this leads."

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Wearing of the Green" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/the-wearing-of-the-green.html), Dowd bores us with her take on the visit to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth, who was "wearing an emerald green suit."

Instead of this twaddle, Dowd should have written an apology for libeling the Supreme Court. Why do I think that we will never see remorse from Maureen? As we have seen in the past when she "inadvertantly" borrowed language from another writer, contrition is not one of her own strong suits.

Thomas Friedman, "Taking One for the Country": Did It Really Require 59 Pages of Gobbledygook?

I can't make sense of Chief Justice Roberts's 59-page opinion supporting the constitutionality of Obamacare, and apparently neither can Thomas Friedman, as evidenced by his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Taking One for the Country" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/taking-one-for-the-country.html).

Regrettably for me, I also can't make sense of Friedman's 13-paragraph essay.

Friedman begins by telling us that Roberts may have been motivated by the premise that the "big" political questions, such as Obamacare, should be left to the politicians. Leave it to the politicians? In fact, Obamacare should now be left to the voters, who can decide in November whether they want this highly unpopular piece of legislation annulled.

But really now, is it necessary to write 59 pages of gobbledygook to achieve this end? Next time, Chief Justice Roberts, just come to me, and I'll save a lot of ink and paper by telling it like it is:

"In 2008 you voted for Obama and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, and they've arranged for you to pay this new tax. The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution says, 'The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.'

So stop with the bellyaching, and pay up.

C'est tout."

That wasn't so hard.

But then there's this improbable segue in Friedman's opinion piece, essentially telling us that if Roberts could think "big," maybe it's also time for Obama to do likewise:

"If we can just get a few big things right today — a Simpson-Bowles-like grand bargain on spending and tax reform that unleashes entrepreneurship, a deal on immigration that allows the most energetic and smartest immigrants to enrich our country and a plan on energy that allows us to tap all these new sources in environmentally safe ways — no one could touch us as a country. Connect the dots for people, Mr. President — be the guy taking the risk to offer that big plan for American renewal, and Romney will never be able to touch you."

Well, let's see. Four months prior to November, and Friedman is asking that a paralyzed, dysfunctional White House suddenly get its act together? Thanks, Tom, but it's a little late for that "big plan" of yours, but I like your suggestion about only allowing the smartest immigrants into the country. Let's propose administering an IQ test to everyone seeking a Green Card and see how that goes over with the electorate.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Charles Blow, "Obama, for the Win!": An Unmitigated Win for the Obama Adminstration?

In his New York Times op-ed, "Obama, for the Win!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/opinion/obama-for-the-win.html), Charles Blow masterfully plays with the numbers in order to demonstrate that the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare was "an unmitigated win for the Obama administration." According to Blow:

"A New York Times/CBS News poll released early this month found that 41 percent of Americans thought that the entire law should have been overturned, while 27 percent thought only the mandate should have been overturned and 24 percent thought the whole law should have been kept intact.

If you just took the numbers at face value, they would seem to support the Republican position. But let’s not. The same poll found that 37 percent of Americans believed the law went too far, while 27 percent said not far enough and 25 percent said about right.

When you cross-reference the numbers, just over two-thirds of the people who wanted the law struck down thought it went too far. That’s only 27 percent of those polled. Suddenly, the claim that a majority of the public wanted the court to strike it down for overreaching evaporates."

Thank you, Charles! A numbing fete of numerical legerdemain if ever there was one.

A fly in Blow's ointment? Of course. According to a new Newsweek/Daily Beast poll (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/29/new-poll-voters-dislike-supreme-court-s-obamacare-ruling.html), a majority of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court ruling:

"Overall, 50 percent of those polled said they disapprove of the court’s 5–4 decision, while 45 percent said they support it. Consistently, a majority of voters said that they oppose the individual mandate (53 percent); believe taxes will increase (52 percent); believe their personal health-care costs will increase (56 percent); and disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care in general (58 percent). Only 24 percent of those polled said that they believe the ruling will make the country better off."

Did you catch that last line, Charles? "Only 24 percent of those polled said that they believe the ruling will make the country better off."

An "unmitigated win" for Obama? Why do I have my doubts?

Bottom line, Charles and I are in agreement. Charles Blow? No. Charles Krauthammer? Yes.

Charles Krauthammer writes in a WAPO opinion piece entitled "Why Roberts did it" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-why-roberts-did-it/2012/06/28/gJQA4X0g9V_story.html) that it's now up to voters to make their voices heard. Krauthammer concludes:

"Obamacare is now essentially upheld. There’s only one way it can be overturned. The same way it was passed — elect a new president and a new Congress. That’s undoubtedly what Roberts is telling the nation: Your job, not mine. I won’t make it easy for you."

In short, no need to wax ecstatic or fume over the Supreme Court's decision. In November, the American electorate will have the final say.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paul Krugman, "The Real Winners": If Everyone Is a Winner, Why Aren't Americans Dancing in the Street?

If you believe what Paul Krugman writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Real Winners" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/opinion/the-real-winners.html), Americans should be rejoicing after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare, given that it falls within the power of Congress to impose taxes. After all, according to Krugman, those reaping the benefits of Obamacare extend far beyond the 30 million without health insurance:

"So add in every American who currently works for a company that offers good health insurance but is at risk of losing that job (and who isn’t in this world of outsourcing and private equity buyouts?); every American who would have found health insurance unaffordable but will now receive crucial financial help; every American with a pre-existing condition who would have been flatly denied coverage in many states.

In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society."

Krugman then inquires, "But what about the cost?" Indeed, what about the cost?

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: http://mercatus.org/sites/default/files/The-Fiscal-Consequences-of-the-Affordable-Care-Act.pdf). This is not sustainable.

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.

In short, I view Obamacare as an expensive, ill-conceived patch to a faulty mechanism that is hemorrhaging money.

I respect Chief Justice Robert's determination that Obamacare is a tax that Congress is entitled to impose upon US citizens.

However, unlike Paul, I also respect the wisdom of the vast majority of Americans who believe that Obamacare is a boondoggle, and it is up to those same Americans, come November, to undo the damage rendered by their president and Congress. It best befits the American people, and not the Supreme Court, to decide the ultimate fate of Obamacare.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Syria: Russia Decides to Withdraw Support for Assad

With fighting between rebels and Assad loyalists swirling around Damascus (see: http://news.yahoo.com/syria-tv-station-attacked-7-staffers-killed-092503304.html), Russia has secretly concluded that it has been backing the "wrong horse." Concerned that it will soon lose all sway over a new Sunni-led regime in Damascus, Moscow is now ready for the first time to discuss Assad's removal with the West.

By the way, note how Moscow is no longer demanding that Iran participate in the emergency discussions of the "Action Group for Syria" on Saturday (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/syria-crisis-hillary-clinton-russian-foreign-minister-to-attend-emergency-talks/2012/06/27/gJQAJXRd7V_story.html).

As I stated in an earlier blog item (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/syria-us-intelligence-mistaken.html), US intelligence is wrong: the tide has turned, and Assad's days are numbered.

[Further evidence of Russia's willingness to abandon Assad is to be found in a new Reuters news item, indicating Moscow's support for a Syrian unity government that could exclude Assad (see: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/28/syria-crisis-transition-idINDEE85R00B20120628).]

Compugen: A Second Potential Immune Checkpoint Target for Cancer Immunotherapy

Excited by science? You bet!

In a blog entry at the beginning of the month (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/new-york-times-new-class-of-cancer.html), I observed "that in addition to the development of antibody drug conjugates, another 'hot' mechanism for mAb therapy involves blocking the inhibition of the immune system induced by the cancerous cells, i.e. ridding cancer cells of their cloak of invisibility and allowing the body's natural immune system to attack these intruders."

A Wall Street Journal article, entitled "New Cancer Drugs Use Body's Own Defenses" (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304821304577440740468261400.html?mod=djemalertNEWS), written by Ron Winslow, also expressed similar optimism pertaining to immunotherapies:

"Medical science efforts to harness the power of the immune system against cancer are beginning to bear fruit after decades of frustration, opening up a hopeful new front in the long battle against the disease.

. . . .

The immune system's ability to fight off the body's invaders has long been recognized against infectious disease. But cancer has largely escaped its reach and for decades fended off researchers' efforts to find a weakness. It turns out cancer shields itself by essentially putting the brakes on the human immune system.

Recent discoveries have led to advances in how to unleash the immune system, though one challenge has been to jump-start the body's defenses without injury to healthy, normal cells."

However, in order to "unleash" the body's immune system, appropriate targets residing on the surface of cancer cells must be identified, and this is no simple task.

Today, Compugen, which created a monoclonal antibody target discovery platform, issued a press release, announcing "results demonstrating the therapeutic potential of CGEN-15022, a Compugen-discovered B7/CD28-like membrane protein, as an immune checkpoint target for treatment of multiple cancers," including liver, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancers. As explained in the press release:

"Immune checkpoints are inhibitory receptors and their ligands, which are crucial for the maintenance of self-tolerance (that is, the prevention of autoimmunity) and for the protection of tissues from damage when the immune system is responding to pathogenic infection. These immune checkpoints which are 'highjacked' by tumors to block the ability of the immune system to destroy the tumor ('immune resistance'), have lately emerged as 'game changers' and promising targets for cancer immunotherapy. Therapeutic blockade of immune checkpoints stimulates the patient’s immune system in order to provide durable anti-tumor immunity and tumor destruction. The blockade of immune checkpoints unleashes the potential of the anti-tumor immune response in a fashion that is transforming cancer therapeutics. Such antibodies have lately demonstrated impressive clinical benefit and long-term survival, even for end-stage patients, raising hopes that this novel approach will deliver substantial progress in the fight against cancer."

Previously, Compugen announced that CGEN-15001T, another B7/CD28-like membrane protein predicted and discovered by the company, demonstrated immunotherapeutic potential for prostate cancer, melanoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, such as T and B cell lymphomas.

Although it could be years before these targets give rise to marketed monoclonal antibody therapeutics, following human clinical trials and FDA approval, immunotherapies are indeed a source of hope for the future treatment of cancers that have until now proven intractable.

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "The Fear Factor": Rarefied Rubbish

It never ceases to amaze me how Thomas Friedman can churn out rarefied rubbish, column after column, week after week.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Fear Factor" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/opinion/the-fear-factor.html), Friedman explains what Egypt's newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, must do in order to "forge a workable social contract" to allow Egyptians to govern themselves. Tom writes:

"It is incumbent on the Muslim Brotherhood to now authentically reach out to the other 50 percent of Egypt — the secular, liberal, Salafist and Christian elements — and assure them that not only will they not be harmed, but that their views and aspirations will be balanced alongside the Brotherhood’s. That is going to require, over time, a revolution in thinking by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and rank-and-file to actually embrace religious and political pluralism as they move from opposition to governance."

Yeah, right. Given that 95% of Egyptian Muslims believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics, and given that some 84% of Egyptian Muslims believe that those abandoning Islam should be executed (see: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/), you can be certain that Morsi will soon be seeking new modes of cooperation with Egypt's Coptic Christian minority.

With tourism down (see: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/04/13/Number-of-Egyptian-tourists-down-in-2012/UPI-99871334347061/) and population growth unchecked (its current population of 80 million is expected to double by 2050), Egypt is headed for unmitigated disaster, and no one - not the US, not the EU - will be able to save it.

Syria: US Intelligence Mistaken

US intelligence is mistaken . . . again.

According to anonymous US intelligence officials, the Assad regime is not apt to lose power any time in the foreseeable future (http://news.yahoo.com/ap-sources-syrian-army-stable-despite-defections-213931967.html):

"U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Syria's military remains loyal despite recent high-profile defections, while the opposition remains fragmented and unable to attack as a unified force, indicating a long, protracted conflict ahead.

The Syrian regime is maintaining troop loyalty by keeping paychecks coming even as food and fuel run out for the rest of the country, according to U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Syrian conflict. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide the sensitive information."

Although Obama is avoiding intervention in Syria and conscientiously shunning the topic as the US presidential election approaches (recall how Obama repeatedly sent John Kerry to court Assad), the fighting has now spread to the suburbs surrounding Damascus. Assad's downfall is assured, and the trajectory of his decline will not be linear. Rather, when the will of the loyalists cracks, all will unravel within the blink of an eye.

Regrettably, Obama's failure to back the rebels will leave the US with no influence over Syria's future regime, whose leadership will come from Syria's Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

Monday, June 25, 2012

David Brooks, "The Power of the Particular": Bruce Springsteen Rocks!

Many years ago, my youngest child underwent a hearing exam before he could even speak. He sat on my lap, and two puppets on either side of the room issued sounds at different frequencies. He turned his head from side to side as the puppets alternatively emitted a preprogrammed range of noises. To my surprise, I discovered that I could barely hear some of the noises to which he was responding; others I could not hear at all.

Yes, I am partially hearing impaired. The cause? Most likely almost 20 years spent in an artillery reconnaissance unit -- I didn't always manage to get my fingers in my ears when the big guns fired. The damage? I remember when some reporters visiting an artillery battery parked their vehicle too close to a 155mm howitzer lobbing shells back at Hezbollah. The car windows were shattered by the single blast of a shell.

Then, too, my addiction to rock and roll over the years cannot have helped. When I drive alone, I often turn the stereo system up to full volume.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Power of the Particular" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/opinion/brooks-the-power-of-the-particular.html), David Brooks marvels at how during a Bruce Springsteen concert in Madrid, tens of thousands of Spaniards responded ecstatically to the Boss's uniquely American themes:

"The oddest moment came midconcert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, 'I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!'"

Brooks attributes their frenzy to paracosms, i.e. "structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world." Me? I don't know anything about paracosms, but I did attend a Springsteen concert in Amsterdam in 2008 and was overwhelmed by a performance that rocked my socks off.

Did you ever read David Hume's views on aesthetic theory? Hume suggested that if artistic work survives over time, this evidences its aesthetic value. Springsteen, over the course of a career spanning many decades, has met this test many times over and simply represents the best that rock has to offer.

My hearing impairment? There's always the silver lining: "Sorry, dear, what's that you said? The dirty fishes? Those darned dirty fishes! What's that you said? Not the dirty fishes? Ah, the dirty dishes. Sure, I'll get around to those dirty dishes. Seriously, I didn't hear you. You know how it is."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paul Krugman, "The Great Abdication": Whom Is Paul Trying to Protect?

Read Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed, "The Great Abdication" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/opinion/krugman-the-great-abdication.html?_r=1&ref=opinion). Now read it a second time. What's missing?

Krugman begins his opinion piece by warning that the failure of Spanish banks could bring down the euro. Next, he criticizes the Federal Reserve for failing to take more aggressive action to seek price stability and full employment in the United States:

"Why won’t the Fed act? My guess is that it’s intimidated by those Congressional Republicans, that’s it’s afraid to do anything that might be seen as providing political aid to President Obama, that is, anything that might help the economy. Maybe there’s some other explanation, but the fact is that the Fed, like the European Central Bank, like the U.S. Congress, like the government of Germany, has decided that avoiding economic disaster is somebody else’s responsibility."

In short, Krugman is bemoaning a lack of leadership for the world's economic woes. And although he is quick to blame: 1) the Fed, 2) the European Central Bank, 3) the US Congress, and 4) the government of Germany, where is there any criticism of President Obama?

Krugman concludes:

"The fundamentals of the world economy aren’t, in themselves, all that scary; it’s the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread."

Yes, indeed, as the world economic order unravels, where is Obama? Answer: Seeking re-election, which takes precedence over all else, and reassigning the blame (to Bush, Congress, etc.) for his disastrous first four years in office, i.e. an abdication of responsibility if ever there was one.

Even a modicum of objectivity from Krugman? I suppose that would be asking too much.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nicholas Kristof, "Not-So-Crazy in Tehran": Plumbing the Depths of Moral Turpitude

I was waiting for it to happen. There is no longer anything amusing about Nicholas Kristof's absurd 1,700 mile "road trip" across Iran - Kristof, of course, does not speak Farsi. Rather, Kristof's expedition, made seemingly more innocent by the accompaniment of his children, has now morphed into something far more sinister.

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Not-So-Crazy in Tehran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/opinion/sunday/kristof-not-so-crazy-in-tehran.html), Jolly Old Nick acknowledges discrimination against Baha'is, gays and women (no mention of repression of Iran's Kurdish or Sunni minorities), but it's all about growing pains:

"Iran looks childish when it calls America the 'Great Satan' or blusters 'Death to America.' Let’s not bluster back or operate on caricatures. And let’s not choose bombs over sanctions and undercut the many Iranians who are chipping away at hard-line rule in tiny ways."

Or in other words, there is no need for the US to descend to their juvenile level of behavior. And when Iran bombs a Jewish community center in distant Argentina, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds, we need only remember that boys will be boys.

Iranian anti-Semitism? Sure it exists, but Kristof would have us know that it is counterbalanced by a single Jew in their government:

"Iran’s regime sometimes embraces anti-Semitism, yet Parliament has a Jewish member."

Wow, Iran has a token Jew in its parliament, who can be showcased by useful idiots such as Kristof? Here we have the travesty of Roger Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/opinion/23cohen.html) all over again. I suppose if Iran has a token Jew in its parliament, surely there is no reason to concern ourselves with Tehran's threats to eradicate Israel.

And for the sake of good order, Kristof would remind us that the US brought this headache upon itself by eliminating Iran's archenemies, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This blog entry would not be complete without reference to Kristof's observation that in Iran "gays can be executed." "Can be" executed? In fact, Nicholas, they are hanged. Just as women in Iran, who are accused of adultery, are stoned to death.

I am trying hard not to vomit. I hope that the LGBT community in the US boycotts The New York Times and its advertisers until Kristof issues an apology.

Russian President Putin to Arrive in Israel on Monday: Where Is Obama?

Vladimir Putin will arrive in Israel on Monday to attend an unveiling of a monument commemorating the Red Army's victory over the Nazis. Putin is visiting Israel, notwithstanding tension between Russia and Israel involving Russia's ongoing support of Syria and Iran.

Query: Why does Obama still refuse to visit Israel as president of the US? After all, Obama's "tough love" strategy for Israel has not reaped dividends in the Muslim Middle East. As reported by the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewglobal.org/2012/06/13/global-opinion-of-obama-slips-international-policies-faulted/), "confidence in Obama" in Muslim countries has slipped from 33% in 2009 to 24% in 2012.

With the US economy still in decline, a Supreme Court decision concerning the constitutionality of Obamacare expected next week, Iran thumbing its nose at the P5+1, and elections fast approaching, Obama and crew appear mired in inertia.

An Obama visit prior to November to Israel, where some 150 rockets from Gaza fell over the past week, in order to show solidarity with an ally? It's not in the cards.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Will Israel Attack Iran's Nuclear Weapons Development Facilities? Obama Is Leaving Israel No Choice

This week's "negotiations" in Moscow between the P5+1 and Iran over Iran's nuclear development program ended with little media coverage and for good reason: Absolutely no progress was made. Aware that Obama is not seeking a confrontation prior to the US presidential election in November, Iran refused to make any concessions. And rather than acknowledge unmitigated, humiliating failure, the P5+1, led by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, Catherine Ashton [see picture of the Hideous Baroness of Upholland (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2009/12/catherine-ashton-hideous-baroness-of.html) above], agreed to further "expert" discussions (as opposed to the "nincompoop" discussions held by the bovine Ashton with the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili), which will be held in Istanbul in early July and permit Iran to continue stalling.

Remember how Obama warned Iran in March that "as president of the United States, I don't bluff" (see: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/obama-to-iran-and-israel-as-president-of-the-united-states-i-dont-bluff/253875/)? Well, Iran has just called Obama's bluff, and the American president has folded.

So what is to be expected of Israel? Israeli foreign policy has long been guided by the principle that if someone says they are going to exterminate you, believe them. Iran has repeatedly indicated that it intends to annihilate Israel, leaving Israel with no choice other than to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons development facilities, apparently on its own.

Israel may not act immediately. Oil prices yesterday fell below $80 a barrel for the first time since October, and this will further disrupt Iran's economy. Moreover, Netanyahu cannot act without first demonstrating good faith by allowing the farcical P5+1 negotiations to reach an ultimate stalemate.

In addition, Israel is not anxious to weaken the resolve of opponents of the Assad regime in Syria by initiating what might expand into a regional conflagration also involving Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. But once again, Israel is being left with no choice.

Should we be surprised by Obama's silence? No, given that re-election is the highest item on his current agenda. Then, too, as Obama observed in an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks in 2007 (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E1DC153EF935A15757C0A9619C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all):

"I think Iran is like North Korea. They see nuclear arms in defensive terms, as a way to prevent regime change."

Or in other words, Obama doesn't really have a problem with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Going ahead, this isn't going to be pretty.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Prisons, Privatization, Patronage": Hyper-Politicized Horsefeathers

"Four legs good, two legs bad!"

"Unions good, privatization bad!"

In yet another hyper-politicized New York Times opinion piece entitled "Prisons, Privatization, Patronage" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/opinion/krugman-prisons-privatization-patronage.html), Paul Krugman attacks privatization of traditional government functions. Specifically addressing privatization of prison services and alleged substandard functioning of such outsourcing in Chris Christie's New Jersey, Krugman writes:

"And, sure enough, despite many promises that prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — 'have simply not materialized.' To the extent that private prison operators do manage to save money, they do so through 'reductions in staffing patterns, fringe benefits, and other labor-related costs.'

So let’s see: Privatized prisons save money by employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly. And then we get horror stories about how these prisons are run. What a surprise!"

Yet a few lines down, Krugman acknowledges:

"Now, someone will surely point out that nonprivatized government has its own problems of undue influence, that prison guards and teachers’ unions also have political clout, and this clout sometimes distorts public policy. Fair enough. But such influence tends to be relatively transparent. Everyone knows about those arguably excessive public pensions."

I'm sorry, Paul, but now you have me confused. Are you acknowledging that the political clout of unions can distort public policy, and that public employees are sometimes overpaid, i.e. not "paid badly"? Morevover, would you have us believe that excessive penison plans and crapulous political clout are okay because everyone knows about them? Yeah, right.

Like almost everything else in this world, there is no black and white. There is a need for privatization to rein in the excesses of public employee unions. Yes, competition can be a good thing.

However, there is also a need for oversight and vigilence to identify and prevent abuses resulting from the excesses of both public employee unions and privatized services.

C'est tout.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nicholas Kristof, "In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun": Kristof Witnesses Stoning of Woman . . . Not

Nicholas Kristof is a fun loving guy.

As described in his latest New York Times op-ed, "In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/opinion/kristof-in-iran-they-want-fun-fun-fun.html), Kristof continues his 1,700-mile, magical mystery tour across Iran, accompanied by his son and daughter. In a journey akin to Borat's excursion across the US (yes, I know, Borat spoke English, while Kristof doesn't speak Farsi), Kristof continues to relay profound anecdotes from his chance meetings with ordinary Iranians. Discussions with members of Iran's persecuted Baha'i minority? Kristof doesn't mention any. Exchanges of views with Iran's oppressed Kurds? Again, no such thing. Dialogue with Iranian homosexuals? No way, given that homosexuals are hanged in Iran. A visit to Evin Prison to check the well-being of political dissidents languishing in its dungeons? Sorry, not on this road trip. Better still, an off-the-beaten-track side trip to witness the stoning to death of a woman accused of adultery? No, he wouldn't want his children to see such a spectacle.

Fun, fun, fun . . .

So what did the ayatollahs want and gain from Kristof's visit? The answer is easy: At a time when Iran is avoiding any concessions in its negotiations, i.e. stalling tactics, with the P5+1 over its nuclear weapons development program, Kristof, a useful idiot if ever there was one, concludes his opinion piece by observing:

"My road trip across Iran leaves me convinced that change will come here, too, if we just have the patience not to disrupt the subterranean forces at work: rising education, an expanding middle class, growing economic frustration, erosion of the government monopoly on information. My hunch is that if there is no war between Iran and the West — which would probably strengthen the regime — hard-liners will go the way of Mao, and Iran will end up looking something like Turkey."

Thanks for your "hunch," Nicholas, that fun loving Iran, if left alone, will someday end up looking like Turkey, which is growing more fanatic by the day and is now renowned for imprisoning journalists who dare criticize the ruling AKP. Meanwhile, however, Iran continues to threaten Israel with extermination, as it engages in unspeakable barbarism against its own citizenry and supports its terrorist proxies, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Kristof is obviously continuing where Roger Cohen left off. Rarely have I been so nauseated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "The Constant Wife": There's No Mystery

As I noted in an earlier blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/maureen-dowd-american-horror-story.html), more than a decade ago, one of my children, then 10-years-old, limped home from school. He explained that two older boys had grabbed him and a friend, and had tried, over the course of an hour, to force them to engage in indecent acts. Fortunately, my son had the good sense and courage to refuse, and he was beaten mercilessly. Later, a third child came forward and said that he had been raped by the same older boys. Although the response of the school was initially sympathetic to the victims, within months a different narrative emerged:

• The attackers are also "our kids"
• It happens all the time
• It was a game
• The victims brought it upon themselves
• The victims are liars

Bottom line: I soon found myself in a lonely war with the teachers, the principal and the school board. Even parents of other children attending the school rallied to the support of the attackers.

In her latest New York Times op-ed, "The Constant Wife" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/opinion/dowd-the-constant-wife.html), Maureen Dowd describes the testimony of Dottie Sandusky, the wife of Jerry Sandusky:

"She embodies the grim mystery at the center of 'this drama,' as one of her friends sardonically calls it: How could everyone in the community, including those who seemed to represent the highest ideals, like Dottie Sandusky and Joe Paterno, turn a blind eye to Jerry Sandusky’s aberrant and abhorrent behavior toward vulnerable boys?"

Sorry, Maureen, but there's no mystery here. People see what they want to see. People do what's most comfortable for them. And if you choose to do battle with the system, you are certain to finish the conflict scarred for life.

Thomas Friedman, "Wasting Warren Buffett": Fantasyland

With just over four months until the American presidential election, Thomas Friedman is again bemoaning the absence of a centrist third-party candidate. In his latest New York Times masterpiece, "Wasting Warren Buffett" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/opinion/friedman-wasting-warren-buffett.html), Friedman begins by stating:

"It would have been so clarifying to have an independent voice calling out Mitt Romney for running a campaign that consists of decrying the last three and a half years of the Obama presidency, while offering to reinstate the very same failed policies that made the eight years of George W. Bush a disaster that President Obama has spent most of his time cleaning up."

Obama has been cleaning up the failed policies of George Bush? Oh, really. And what about that horrific involvement in Afghanistan, bleeding America white, that Obama saw fit to escalate? Tell us, Tom, how Obama has spent the past three and a half years cleaning up that Central Asian mess.

An ever so modest man, Friedman next offers Obama a winning economic policy, intended to demonstrate at this late stage of the game that the President has "a credible, detailed recovery plan":

"Call it the Obama Plan; it should combine a near-term stimulus on job-creating infrastructure, a phase-in, as the economy improves, of 'something that resembles the 10-year Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan — which would pay for the stimulus 15-20 times over' and a specific plan to 'bend the health care cost-curve downward.' Obama has already offered the first; he still has not risen to the second and the third would be an easy extension of his own health care plan."

Ah, yes, the Obama Plan. After three years of running trillion dollar deficits and with unemployment stuck over 8%, Obama should tell the American electorate on the eve of the election that he has taken the advice of Tom Friedman and has finally gotten his act together: We need "something" resembling Simpson-Bowles, and here's my simple-as-pie solution to reduce the costs of my unpopular health care legislation.

According to Friedman, present such a program, and "people would see a real choice: a tough-minded-but-centrist plan with real bipartisan support." Yeah, House and Senate Republicans are just waiting to throw their lot in with such sugary fluff.

Friedman has just hit rock bottom.

Russia Denies Russian-Chinese-Iranian War Games in Syria

As suggested in an earlier blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/iran-russia-china-and-syria-to-hold-war.html), Iran's claim that Iran, Russia, China and Syria would soon be conducting large-scale war games in Syria has proven to be disinformation. As reported by The Voice of Russia (http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_06_19/78603943/):

"Russia has denied media reports about forthcoming Russian-Chinese-Iranian war games in Syria.

The assistant to the Russian Navy Chief, Igor Dygalo, referred to them in an interview with the Voice of Russia as delirious nonsense."

Or in other words, just additional gamesmanship by Tehran as it continues to engage in delaying tactics in "negotiations" with the P5+1 concerning its nuclear weapons development program.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New York Times Editorial, "Egypt’s Democracy Interrupted": "Egyptians Wanted Real Change"

In "Egypt’s Democracy Interrupted" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/19/opinion/egypts-democracy-interrupted.html), the Editorial Board of The New York Times is given yet another opportunity to showcase its shallowness. You have to love their line:

"Egyptians wanted real change."

Is this in contradistinction to that other kind of "change" that Americans got when they elected Obama?

What, in fact, do Egyptians want? Some 84% of Egypt's Muslims believe that those abandoning Islam should be executed (see: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/). But there should be no arguing with democracy.

The editorial concludes:

"American officials were right to warn the generals on Monday that they risk losing billions of dollars if they don’t swiftly transfer power to the president, ensure elections for a new Parliament and begin writing a new constitution with help from a broad range of Egyptians. The United States needs to work with Egypt to maintain the peace treaty and a stable border with Israel. But an undemocratic Egypt in perpetual turmoil is no help to its own people or Israel or the rest of the region."

Allow me to clue the Times into another less than well kept secret of the Nile: Egypt's generals and colonels control up to 40% of the Egyptian economy. Moreover, they couldn't give a fig if the US curtails its aid, given what they stand to lose if they are stripped of their business empire, which has wound its way into food, mineral water, gas stations, fertilizer, apparel, real estate and electronics goods.

Will Obama raise a ruckus over developments in Egypt, as he studiously avoids involvement in the Syrian civil war, and as we near November? Why do I have my doubts?

Iran, Russia, China and Syria to Hold War Games in Syria?

As stated by Iran's Mehr News Agency (http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1629590), citing a report from Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency, which is linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Iran, Russia, China and Syria are soon to hold war games in Syria. The item in its entirety:

"Iran, Russia, China, Syria to launch joint war game in Mideast: report

TEHRAN, June 16 (MNA) – An informed source has announced that Iran, Russia, China, and Syria plan to stage a joint war game in Syria in the near future, the Persian service of the Fars News Agency reported on Monday.

90,000 forces from the four countries will be involved in the war game, the informed source said.

No official from the countries has confirmed the news report, but a Syrian official, who spoke on conditional anonymity, announced that the joint war game will be launched in Syria."

This report comes as no progress is being made at the P5+1 negotiations being held with Iran in Moscow over Iran's nuclear development program.

Disinformation? Most likely. Yet what a cold slap in the face this would be for Obama, whose foreign policy has focused on attempting to "reset" relations with Moscow while reaching out to the tyrannical regimes of Iran and Syria.

Regardless of its veracity, the news item is intended as a warning. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Mr. President. Tehran is not prepared to bend.

[A special message to Assad's security apparatus, which occasionally monitors this blog: Get stuffed!]

Paul Krugman, "Greece as Victim": A Greek Tragedy

Greece is a victim?

As acknowledged by Paul Krugman in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Greece as Victim" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/opinion/krugman-greece-as-victim.html):

"Greece does indeed have a lot of corruption and a lot of tax evasion, and the Greek government has had a habit of living beyond its means. Beyond that, Greek labor productivity is low by European standards — about 25 percent below the European Union average.

. . . .

Then Greece joined the euro, and a terrible thing happened: people started believing that it was a safe place to invest. Foreign money poured into Greece, some but not all of it financing government deficits; the economy boomed; inflation rose; and Greece became increasingly uncompetitive. To be sure, the Greeks squandered much if not most of the money that came flooding in, but then so did everyone else who got caught up in the euro bubble."

So, Greece joined the euro, foreign money poured into Greece, and the Greeks squandered most of it. Blame Greece? Absolutely not, given that everyone else also behaved irresponsibly.

But someone always needs to shoulder the blame. According to Krugman, "the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis." Paul continues, "Greece, although not without sin, is mainly in trouble thanks to the arrogance of European officials, mostly from richer countries, who convinced themselves that they could make a single currency work without a single government."

Poor, poor Greeks! Darned northern Europeans! How dare those northerners create a situation where foreign money poured into Greece, and those unsophisticated Greeks just frittered it away.

Krugman's solution? You guessed it . . . spend!:

"The only way the euro might — might — be saved is if the Germans and the European Central Bank realize that they’re the ones who need to change their behavior, spending more and, yes, accepting higher inflation."

Well, the Greeks didn't get it right the first time, but maybe if they are given even more euros, they will now conduct themselves more prudently. They deserve a second chance. After all, as observed by Krugman, the US federal government has routinely stood behind state governments when they encountered fiscal difficulties:

"Ask yourself, why does the dollar area — also known as the United States of America — more or less work, without the kind of severe regional crises now afflicting Europe? The answer is that we have a strong central government, and the activities of this government in effect provide automatic bailouts to states that get in trouble."

However, Paul doesn't tell us that whereas the IRS taxes citizens througout the US, the European Union has no taxation powers and is plagued with the inability in times of trouble to redistribute funds which it never accumulated.

Is the euro, as Krugman claims, "a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system?" Probably, but I wouldn't want to see Greece fail, given that Spain, Italy and Portugal are waiting in the wings to unwind. But don't go blaming the "northerners" for the foreign money that poured into Greece, which could have been used more wisely. The Greeks are victims of their own making.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "Moral Dystopia": Angels Are Hard to Find

Some 40 years ago, I was traveling on the Chicago "L" when someone in the seat in front of me rose, pulled out a knife, and demanded my money. Everyone in the car saw it - the standoff lasted for several minutes - but no one did a thing. All went about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

Today, again writing about the Jerry Sandusky trial in her New York Times op-ed entitled "Moral Dystopia" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/dowd-moral-dystopia.html?pagewanted=all), Maureen Dowd begins by stating, "Everyone is good, until we’re tested." Pondering the inaction of those who witnessed Sandusky's conduct, Dowd writes:

"Inundated by instantaneous information and gossip, do we simply know more about the seamy side? Do greater opportunities and higher stakes cause more instances of unethical behavior? Have our materialism, narcissism and cynicism about the institutions knitting society — schools, sports, religion, politics, banking — dulled our sense of right and wrong?"

Although I agree with Maureen that we live in an era of narcissism, I think the unwillingness of most people to intervene when their interests, physical or material, are threatened is not new, as evidenced by my Chicago experience. Moreover, my own need to respond, at times exaggerated, stems from what occurred when one of my own children underwent abuse at school (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/maureen-dowd-american-horror-story.html). I react in angry knee-jerk fashion owing to past trauma; I am no hero. I am often guided by a fury that overrides all cognitive processes.

Is Maureen Dowd any better than others? Consider how she traveled to Saudi Arabia in early 2010 (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/opinion/03dowd.html) and hobnobbed with that country's royalty. Telling us that "after spending 10 days here, I can confirm that, at [the Saudis'] own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression," Dowd avoided mention of honor killings, child brides or women sent to prison and whipped after being gang-raped (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2010/03/shame-on-maureen-dowd.html).

Sorry, Maureen, but angels are hard to find.

Nicholas Kristof, "Pinched and Griping in Iran": Hugs from Nazi Germany

Imagine if we could put Nicholas Kristof in a time machine and take him back to Nazi Germany in 1938, when Hitler was herding Jews and communists into concentration camps and readying his war machine for a strike against Poland. Would Kristof travel around Germany and write opinion pieces, telling us how fond ordinary Germans are of America despite the horrors being perpetrated by their government?

Flash forward to 2012: Kristof is undertaking a 1,700-mile road trip across Iran and seeking to convince us of the goodwill of Iran's citizenry toward the US, notwithstanding that country's repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel, its discrimination against Baha'is, Kurds and Sunni Muslims, its murder of homosexuals, and its stoning to death of women accused of adultery.

Bear in mind that Kristof does not speak Farsi, which makes this feeble attempt at journalism that much more farcical.

Of course, in his prior New York Times op-ed, "Hugs From Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/opinion/kristof-hugs-from-iran.html) and in today's op-ed, "Pinched and Griping in Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/kristof-pinched-and-griping-in-iran.html), Kristof is kind enough to mention in passing mistreatment of Baha'is, but there is no mention of Iran's threats against Israel, no discussion of the oppression of Iran's Kurdish minority, no utterance concerning the hanging of homosexuals, and no condemnation of the stoning of women.

In today's opinion piece, Kristof tells us that ordinary Iranians are suffering as the result of economic sanctions and declares, in his expert judgment, that the threat of military action against Iran's nuclear weapons development facilities should therefore be retracted:

"Yet, with apologies to the many wonderful Iranians who showered me with hospitality, I favor sanctions because I don’t see any other way to pressure the regime on the nuclear issue or ease its grip on power. My takeaway is that sanctions are working pretty well.

This success makes talk of a military strike on Iranian nuclear sites unwise as well as irresponsible. Aside from the human toll, war would create a nationalist backlash that would cement this regime in place for years to come — just when economic sanctions are increasingly posing a challenge to its survival. No one can predict the timing, but Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have shown that unpopular regimes that cannot last, don’t."

It never occurred to Kristof that the West would not have imposed sanctions or be negotiating with Iran over its nuclear weapons development facilities if Israel had not threatened to destroy those facilities from the air.

Also, Kristof fails to mention that Iranians rose against their tyrannical regime in 2009, but Obama refused to back the protesters, whose leaders were imprisoned.

Moreover, Syria is demonstrating that if an unpopular regime is willing to brutalize its citizenry while the world does little more than raise a disapproving eyebrow (thank you again, Obama), it can last far longer than anyone might have dreamed. And in Iran's case, it might last just long enough to send a ballistic missile, armed with a nuclear warhead, hurtling toward Israel, described by the ayatollahs as "the Little Satan."

Threaten Iran with a military strike to neutralize its nuclear armaments facilities? No, says Nicholas, who is being showered with Iranian hospitality, we mustn't do that.

And I'm certain Kristof would have also opposed threats to strike Nazi Germany's war machine in 1938, despite violations by that country of its Versailles undertakings. Imagine the bloodshed that could have been saved if a united world had demanded a cessation of Germany's preparations for war. Would mere economic sanctions have stopped Hitler? Sorry, Nicholas, not a chance.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gail Collins, "Running On Empty": Swimming Pools Serve As Public Toilets

Empty? Indeed, another vacuous op-ed, and I'm being kind.

Gail Collins took several days away from the New York Times op-ed page and has just celebrated her grand return with "Running On Empty" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/16/opinion/collins-running-on-empty.html), in which she tells us:

"Our biggest political division is the war between the empty places and the crowded places.

. . . .

The Tea Party is so Empty Places.

. . . .

Texas is so Tea Party.

. . . .

But until he dropped out of the race, varmint hunting was the dog on the roof of Romney’s 2008 campaign."

I'm wondering: If Texas is so Tea Party, is New York so Occupy Wall Street?

And once again, we have the "ingenious" segue leading up to her lame running joke concerning Romney's dog-on-the-roof story from 30 years ago. Hmmm, 30 years ago – that's about a year or two subsequent to the time when Obama was smoking weed with "The Choom Gang" (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/post/the-choom-gang-president-obamas-pot-smoking-high-school-days-detailed-in-maraniss-book/2012/05/25/gJQAwFqEqU_blog.html), and a few short years prior to the time that Obama began his two-decade long relationship with the noxious Reverend Wright, but many years prior to Obama's foul smelling 2005 real estate transaction with Tony Rezko (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/04/maureen-dowd-brutality-of-servility.html).

But what is habitual weed smoking, prolonged association with a hatemonger pastor, or a questionable business deal with a convicted felon relative to dog-on-the-roof? After all, Romney is a . . . whisper when you say it . . . Republican.

With a New York Times bully pulpit from which she can pronounce upon the slaughter of innocents in Syria, new advances in medicine, or the pain of crushing unemployment throughout the US, Gail chooses each week to go where no man or woman has ever gone before to test the envelope of dog-on-the-roof.

Well, as long as we're talking about the worldliness of people living in "crowded places" such as New York, I wish to raise a new issue much in keeping with the Gail Collins's school of opinion pieces. As reported in a recent article entitled "Swimming Pools Are Public Toilet Bowls for Many: Survey" (http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/swimming-pools-public-toilet-bowls-many-survey-193700688.html) appearing in Yahoo! Shine:

"If you're taking a refreshing dip in a pool with four other people, odds are one of you is urinating. This is not gross-out myth, but cold, depressing fact from a recent survey conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council, a scientific research group sponsored by the American Chemistry Council.

The survey, conducted in April, asked nearly 1,000 adults whether they urinate in pools. One in five bravely admitted their mistakes. And those are the ones who admitted it."

Ah yes, the advantages of living with Gail in sophisticated crowded places! Pardon me if I avoid the community swimming pool this summer and find some other way to beat the heat.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Paul Krugman, "We Don’t Need No Education": Worse Than Dishonest

Do you like challenges? Read Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed, "We Don’t Need No Education" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/opinion/krugman-we-dont-need-no-education.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss). Now read it a second time. What's missing?

Answer: There's not a single mention of the US ground war in Afghanistan, which is bleeding the country white for no reason whatsoever. How in blazes can you discuss federal spending, federal budget deficits and economic malaise without relating to this boondoggle? Beats me.

Krugman writes:

"Conservatives love to pretend that there are vast armies of government bureaucrats doing who knows what; in reality, a majority of government workers are employed providing either education (teachers) or public protection (police officers and firefighters)."

Well, I don't think there can be any argument that there is a vast army of brave American soldiers in Afghanistan "doing who knows what," and it's high time to bring them home, before any more die or are maimed.

The US federal government, which is running trillion dollar deficits, should lend money to bankrupt state and local governments to hire teachers and policemen? I agree. It's far more productive than making Solyndra-type loans, but let's first put an end to that insane war that Obama escalated.

Obama is avoiding the issue of Afghanistan as we approach November, and so is Krugman. This is worse than dishonest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nicholas Kristof, "Hugs From Iran": Much Like Borat

Having received a very rare visa from Tehran (it doesn't surprise me that he, of all American journalists, was bestowed this benefaction) and armed with a notebook, Nicholas Kristof, much like Borat, has set off on a 1,700-mile road trip across Iran. The difference is that Borat, traveling across the US, spoke English; the peripathetic Kristof, on the other hand, does not speak Farsi, but why should this spoil the fun?

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Hugs From Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/opinion/kristof-hugs-from-iran.html), Kristof describes the manner in which Iranians he interviewed changed their opinions the moment he pulled out his notebook and video camera, but observes the ubiquitous "warmth of Iranians when they discovered I was American," leading to the erudite conclusion "that at the grass-roots level, this may be the most pro-American nation in the Middle East." Kristof concludes:

"To me, Iran feels like other authoritarian countries I covered before they toppled. My guess is that the demise of the system is a matter of time — unless there’s a war between Iran and the West, perhaps ignited by Israeli strikes on Iranian nuclear sites. That, I sense, would provoke a nationalist backlash and rescue the ayatollahs. More on what I found on my journey in forthcoming columns."

Ah yes, sweet music to the ayatollahs ears, who had a reason for issuing Kristof that visa. God forbid that Israel should strike Iranian nuclear weapons development sites, thereby provoking nationalist backlash and rescuing the ayatollahs, even if this might serve to rescue Israel from threatened annihilation at the hands of the ayatollahs.

To his credit, Kristof did ask one of the common folk whom he encountered "about human rights activists and members of the Bahai faith who are in prison." The man's response:

"'I don’t think that in our country innocent people go to jail,' he said. 'They must have done something.'"

How enlightening. Well worth the 1,700-mile expedition. You're the man, Nicholas! Keep up the good work!

[Kristof, also like Borat, is very much into hugging. Recall his "remarkable" 2011 opinion piece entitled "Hugs From Libyans" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2011/03/nicholas-kristofs-hugs-from-libyans-new.html), written before the al-Qaeda flag was raised over Benghazi. A hearty cyberspace hug from me to you, Nicholas.]

Obama's Foreign Policy: Now Russia Backfires

When Obama entered office in 2009, he was determined to discredit Bush's depiction of Iran, Syria and North Korea as the "axis of evil. Contending that Iran and Syria were merely misunderstood, Obama extended New Year's video greetings to Tehran (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYkH9J2VBdM), while sending Senator John Kerry to court Syrian President Assad.

Well, Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons, and Assad proceeded to butcher thousands of innocent civilians.

The third arm of Obama's foreign policy was to "reset" relations with Russia. As we all know owing to an open microphone gaffe, Obama promised incoming President Putin with concessions following re-election in November (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/03/obamas-open-mike-chat-with-medvedev-yes.html). However, Obama's overtures to Russia are now unwinding. Putin views Obama as a weak sister, and as noted in a New York Times article entitled "Syria Crisis and Putin’s Return Chill U.S. Ties With Russia" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/world/europe/putins-return-brings-rapid-chill-to-us-russia-ties.html?pagewanted=all) by Peter Baker, Russia is growing cold to the US:

"Signs of that divergence seem increasingly pronounced lately, despite private reassurances from Mr. Putin that he wants to deepen ties. Michael A. McFaul, a former Russia adviser to Mr. Obama, has been subjected to an unusual campaign of public harassment since arriving in Moscow as ambassador. A Russian general threatened pre-emptive strikes against American missile defense sites in Poland in the event of a crisis. Mr. Putin has cracked down on demonstrations while blaming Americans for them, and he skipped the Group of 8 summit meeting hosted by Mr. Obama last month.

'The reset failed to change the underlying suspicion and distrust of America shared by a majority of Russians as well as Putin himself,' said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. 'America is seen as a threat, an agent seeking to undermine Russia, to weaken it, to do harm to it. Russia always has to be on the alert, on the defensive.'"

With the US economy collapsing and all of his foreign policy initiatives backfiring, Obama must be wondering whether a million dollar smile will be sufficient to get him past Romney in November.

Maureen Dowd, "American Horror Story": Reawakening the Trauma

As I noted in my prior blog entry, shit happens; however, we are not always prepared for it. And when shit happens, we are sometimes left with wounds that don't heal even over the course of a lifetime.

More than a decade ago, one of my children, then 10-years-old, limped home from school. He explained that two older boys had grabbed him and a friend, and had tried, over the course of an hour, to force them to engage in indecent acts. Fortunately, my son had the good sense and courage to refuse, and he was beaten mercilessly.

I came to the school the next day to express my outrage, and the offenders were sent home for a week, but attitudes at the school soon changed: "This couldn't possibly happen here." Next came the explanation, "It was all a game."

When a third child came forward and said that he had been raped by the same older boys, there were those at the school who said that this child was a liar. And so began my war with the school board, which ultimately ended in new regulations for the treatment of victims of assault in the school system, but left me with nightmares and anger that won't go away.

In her latest New York Times op-ed, "American Horror Story" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/opinion/dowd-american-horror-story.html), Maureen Dowd describes the trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive football coach at Penn State, who is accused of molesting young boys from disadvantaged homes. Dowd writes:

"Standing a few feet away from Jerry Sandusky, as he laughed and reminisced with friends in the front row of the courtroom, made me want to take a shower.

Just not in the Penn State locker room."

Sadly, there is much in a lifetime that cannot be washed away with a shower.

I have witnessed several wars from up close, and I have seen much unspeakable savagery, but until this day, I am more shaken by the indifferent response of my school system to the violent sexual molestation of its children than any of these other horrors.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Two Worlds Cracking Up": Why Did Europe and the Muslim Middle East Fracture All at Once?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Two Worlds Cracking Up" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/opinion/friedman-two-worlds-cracking-up.html), Thomas Friedman seeks to explain why Europe and the Muslim Middle East came apart at the same time. Always ready with a simple explanation, Tom tells us that it's a matter of "hyper-connectivity":

"One question historians will puzzle over is why both great geopolitical systems fractured at once? The answer, I believe, is the intensifying merger of globalization and the information technology revolution, which made the world dramatically flatter in the last five years, as we went from connected to hyperconnected. In the Arab world, this hyper-connectivity simultaneously left youths better able to see how far behind they were — with all the anxiety that induced — and enabled them to communicate and collaborate to do something about it, cracking open their ossified states.

In Europe, hyperconnectedness both exposed just how uncompetitive some of their economies were, but also how interdependent they had become. It was a deadly combination. When countries with such different cultures become this interconnected and interdependent — when they share the same currency but not the same work ethics, retirement ages or budget discipline — you end up with German savers seething at Greek workers, and vice versa."

Hyper-connectivity is why the Sunnis in Syria are revolting against their Alawite masters in Syria? Hyper-connectivity explains the tribal conflagration in Libya? Hyper-connectivity explains budgetary excesses in Greece? I don't think so.

So why did Europe and the Muslim Middle East descend into chaos all at once? I have an even simpler explanation taken from that now classic movie "Forest Gump": Shit happens. It always did; it always will.

But that "Perfect Storm" brewing as the result of economic malaise in Europe interacting with unrest in the Muslim Middle East has also been compounded by a lack of a firm hand at the tiller, best characterized by Obama's refusal to utter a word as Assad butchers thousands of innocents.

Obama? Catherine Ashton? Both symptomatic of a world without leadership.

Indeed, shit does happen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Median Net Worth of US Families Falls From $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010: What Obama Wishes He Had Never Said

As reported by The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans-wealth-dropped-40-percent/2012/06/11/gJQAlIsCVV_story.html?hpid=z1):

"The Federal Reserve said the median net worth of families plunged by 39 percent in just three years, from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. That puts Americans roughly on par with where they were in 1992."

Which again reminds me of Obama's August 2011 declaration that his re-election will hinge on the state of the economy (see: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-3445_162-20095106.html):

"I expect to be judged a year from now on whether or not things have continued to get better."

Best of luck to you, Mr. President.

David Brooks, "The Follower Problem": David Doesn't Know If America Has a Leadership Problem

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "The Follower Problem" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/opinion/brooks-the-follower-problem.html), David Brooks contends that Americans are contemptuous of their leadership owing to the common perception that, "Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me." Although he never uses the word, Brooks is describing the calamity of "narcissism" which has come to plague American society. Brooks goes on to say:

"I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else."

Brooks doesn't know if America has a leadership problem? Odd. Brooks need only examine the mediocrity of the man now occupying the White House, whose primary motivation is self-aggrandizement. Better still, Brooks should examine the sub-mediocre field of candidates who sought this year's Republican nomination for president. Would Brooks have us extol the virtues and submit to the whims of Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich? I grow nauseous at the thought.

Brooks concludes his opinion piece by observing:

"To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it."

Yet our narcissistic society, in which image counts more than substance, has yielded a crop of self-serving politicians. And whereas Brooks disparages today's assumption that "Public servants are in it for themselves," in this instance your average Joe and Josephina, who brought this pestilence upon themselves, have it pretty much right.

Iran: Turkey Plays Both Sides of the Street

A widely circulated Reuters news item (see, e.g.: http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2012/06/11/turkey-cuts-iranian-oil-buys-steeply-in-may/) informs us that Turkey reduced oil purchases from Iran by 20 percent in May, purportedly in keeping with EU and US sanctions. However, this decline comes after Turkey increased purchases and stockpiled Iranian oil from January until April. In other words, the drop in May is little more than an optical illusion.

The Reuters item goes on to say that Turkey will continue to buy oil from Iran after June notwithstanding the EU boycott, making it the only buyer of Iranian oil in Europe.

In this regard, let us not forget Obama's declaration following a March 2012 meeting with Erdogan in Seoul (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/25/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-erdogan-turkey-after-bilatera):

"I think it's fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension. And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues."

That's one helluva friend you have there, Mr. President.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Another Bank Bailout": Is Europe Kaput?

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Another Bank Bailout" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/opinion/krugman-another-bank-bailout.html), Paul Krugman acknowledges that Spain's banks needed to be bailed out, but observes that "somehow it’s only the banks that get rescued, not the unemployed." Krugman proceeds to rail at high European interest rates:

"Most notably, last week the European Central Bank declined to cut interest rates. This decision was widely expected, but that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it was deeply bizarre. Unemployment in the euro area has soared, and all indications are that the Continent is entering a new recession. Meanwhile, inflation is slowing, and market expectations of future inflation have plunged. By any of the usual rules of monetary policy, the situation calls for aggressive rate cuts. But the central bank won’t move."

In conclusion, Krugman sardonically warns, "But don’t despair: at the rate things are going, especially in Europe, utter catastrophe may be just around the corner."

Is Europe indeed kaput? Can lower interest rates even begin to remedy the difficulties facing the Continent, which go unmentioned by Krugman, including:

• crashing birth rates;
• a dolce vita work ethic, other than in Germany;
• unsustainable social welfare programs;
• massive immigration from North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East, contributing mightily to unemployment.

The European Central Bank can lower interest rates, governments can hire more workers, but ultimately Germany will not be able to prop up this mess on its own.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Facebook Meets Brick-and-Mortar Politics": Let's Talk Turkey

As recently acknowledged by David Ignatius of The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-obamas-friend-in-turkey/2012/06/07/gJQAAhqCMV_story.html), "no world leader has a greater stake in Obama’s reelection than the Turkish prime minister." Obama is also deeply committed to his alliance with Erdogan, and, after a March 2012 meeting with Erdogan in Seoul, the American president declared (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/25/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-erdogan-turkey-after-bilatera):

"I think it's fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension. And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues."

As evidence of this "outstanding" friendship, Obama has demonstrated a willingness to ignore:

• Erdogan's suppression of political opponents;
• Erdogan's imprisonment of journalists;
• Erdogan's hatred of Israel;
• Erdogan's friendship with leaders of Hamas;
• Erdogan's acceptance of the 2011 Qaddafi Human Rights Prize;
• Turkey's ongoing oppression of its Kurdish minority;
• Turkey's warm relationship with Iran;
• A spiraling rate of murder involving women since Erdogan's AK Party came to power;
• A child bride rate of 37% in Turkey.

Indeed, Obama is also reneging on his pre-election promise to demand that Turkey recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Facebook Meets Brick-and-Mortar Politics" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/opinion/sunday/friedman-facebook-meets-brick-and-mortar-politics.html), Thomas Friedman also weighs in on the Obama-Erdogan love affair. Writing from Istanbul, Friedman concludes:

"If Erdogan’s 'Sultanization' of Turkey continues unchecked, it will soil his truly significant record and surely end up damaging Turkish democracy. It will also be bad for the region because whoever wins the election in Egypt, when looking for a model to follow, will see the E.U. in shambles, the Obama team giving Erdogan a free pass and Turkey thriving under a system that says: Give your people growth and you can gradually curb democratic institutions and impose more religion as you like."

On a day when Friedman is so critical of Obama's relationship with Erdogan and Nicholas Kristof is savaging Obama for his inaction with respect to the carnage in Syria and Sudan (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/opinion/sunday/kristof-from-peace-prize-to-paralysis.html?ref=opinion), and notwithstanding the inane ground war in Afghanistan which continues to bleed the US white, the polls still indicate that a majority of Americans approve of Obama's foreign policy (see: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/22/poll-voters-prefer-obamas-foreign-policy-to-his-economics/). Time for a wake-up call. When Bill Clinton described Obama as an "amateur" president (see: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/bill_blockbuster_an_amateur_XJHYdaV5LT1vpr5I39IKrN), he was being kind.

Nicholas Kristof, "From Peace Prize to Paralysis": Holy Cannoli, Kristof and I Agree

I think "contempt" would be a kind description of how I generally hold Nicholas Kristof's opinion pieces. Perhaps this explains why I almost fell out of my chair after reading his latest New York Times op-ed, "From Peace Prize to Paralysis" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/opinion/sunday/kristof-from-peace-prize-to-paralysis.html?ref=opinion). An irate Kristof writes from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan:

"WHEN a government devours its own people, as in Syria or Sudan, there are never easy solutions. That helps explain President Obama’s dithering, for there are more problems in international relations than solutions, and well-meaning interventions can make a crisis worse.

Yet the president is taking prudence to the point of paralysis. I’m generally an admirer of Obama’s foreign policy, but his policies toward both Syria and Sudan increasingly seem lame, ineffective and contrary to American interests and values. Obama has shown himself comfortable projecting power — as in his tripling of American troops in Afghanistan. Yet now we have the spectacle of a Nobel Peace Prize winner in effect helping to protect two of the most odious regimes in the world."

I agree: With respect to both Syria and Sudan, there are no easy solutions, and I would not consider an American ground presence in either country. However, there is so much more Obama could do to end the carnage in both these countries . . . if he really wanted to do so. But this time around, the problem is not one of "dithering" by the Procrastinator-in-Chief. Rather, as acknowledged by a recent article in The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/on-foreign-policy-obama-focuses-on-economic-issues-not-on-syrian-turmoil/2012/06/02/gJQAVrSX9U_story.html),
Obama is avoiding action at least with respect to Syria so as not jeopardize his chances of re-election in November:

"The reticence from a president who has made repairing America’s moral leadership in the region a central premise of his administration, and who delivered a speech from the heart of the Arab world three years ago designed to do just that, has disturbed those pressing for stronger international response to the crisis.

. . . .

Any incumbent president hopes for a quiet world during campaign season to avoid the distractions that can upset a successful reelection effort. That is especially true for Obama, who is making his case for a second term in part on the argument that he has been an effective steward of America abroad, concluding its long wars and rejuvenating its alliances."

Kristof concludes his op-ed by savaging Obama for his inaction:

"Obama was forceful in demanding that President George W. Bush stand up to Sudan during the slaughter in Darfur, so it’s painful to see him so passive on Sudan today. When governments turn to mass murder, we may have no easy solutions, but we should at least be crystal clear about which side we’re on. That’s not too much to expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner."

Well, apparently it is too much to expect from a narcissist, whose primary motivation today is re-election, i.e. self-aggrandizement.

Syria and Iran: The Demise of Morality Under the Obama Administration

Do you remember when Obama entered office in 2009, determined to discredit Bush's depiction of Iran, Syria and North Korea as the "axis of evil"? Contending that Iran and Syria were merely misunderstood, Obama initiated an outreach program to both these tyrannies. Obama extended New Year's (نوروز) video greetings to Tehran (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYkH9J2VBdM), while sending Senator John Kerry to court Syrian President Assad.

Did Obama's initiatives bear fruit? In the case of Iran, its nuclear weapons development program continues unabated. As stated yesterday by the IAEA, no progress has been made in its talks with Iran. Mark Fitzpatrick, a former senior US State Department official and now a director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, aptly characterized Iran's dealings with the IAEA as a situation "reminiscent of the Peanuts cartoon of Charlie Brown repeatedly believing Lucy this time will hold the football for him to kick, with her always snatching it away at the last minute, leaving him to fall flat" (see: http://news.yahoo.com/iaea-says-no-progress-atom-probe-talks-iran-163504821.html).

Later this month, the P5+1 will again seek concessions from Iranian negotiators in Moscow; however, Tehran is well aware that Obama is not seeking a confrontation prior to November elections. Then, too, allowing the EU's nincompoop foreign policy head, Catherine Ashton, to serve as the P5+1's chief negotiator is nothing short of criminal (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2009/12/catherine-ashton-hideous-baroness-of.html).

Regarding Syria, 17 people, including 10 women, were slaughtered yesterday when Assad's forces shelled the town of Deraa (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=273224), consituting the fifth massacre of Syrian civilians over the past two weeks. Obama, however, remains silent with respect on this ongoing carnage so as to avoid complications involving his re-election (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/on-foreign-policy-obama-focuses-on-economic-issues-not-on-syrian-turmoil/2012/06/02/gJQAVrSX9U_story.html).

A New York Times editorial, entitled "Assad, the Butcher" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/09/opinion/bashar-al-assad-the-butcher.html?_r=1&ref=opinion), sought to relieve Obama of responsibility:

"The Obama administration is making more of an effort to try to bring the Russians on board. A senior American official was in Moscow this week."

Great, a senior American official last week asked Moscow to withdraw its support for Assad, but we already know that Russia is ignoring Obama's toothless entreaty. As stated by Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=273248):

"Our logic is that it is not necessary now to apply additional pressure, to introduce sanctions or use the threat of force."

Putin has come to recognize Obama as a weak sister, particularly given the concessions promised by the American president during his recent discussion with Russian President Medvedev, which was overheard owing to an open microphone (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/03/obamas-open-mike-chat-with-medvedev-yes.html).

It's ugly and getting uglier with every passing day. Change? Only for the worse.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Reagan Was a Keynesian": Reagan Would Roll Over in His Grave

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Reagan Was a Keynesian" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/opinion/krugman-reagan-was-a-keynesian.html), Paul Krugman would have us believe that "Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender." Krugman explains:

"I find it especially instructive to look at spending levels three years into each man’s administration — that is, in the first quarter of 1984 in Reagan’s case, and in the first quarter of 2012 in Mr. Obama’s — compared with four years earlier, which in each case more or less corresponds to the start of an economic crisis. Under one president [Reagan], real per capita government spending at that point was 14.4 percent higher than four years previously; under the other [Obama], less than half as much, just 6.4 percent."

However, Krugman proceeds to acknowledge that "the big difference was real per capita spending at the state and local level, which continued to rise under Reagan but has fallen significantly this time around." Or in other words, Krugman would attribute state and local spending to Reagan in order to buttress his claim that Reagan was the real Keynesian. Sorry, but state and local spending cannot be reasonably attributed to a president or federal economic policy.

Moreover, it's June 2012, and state and local governments are broke, can't borrow, and can no longer spend profligately. The comparison between Reagan and Obama is entirely inapt.

Obama is not the real spender? Consider the following data from CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57400369-503544/national-debt-has-increased-more-under-obama-than-under-bush/):

"The National Debt has now increased more during President Obama's three years and two months in office than it did during 8 years of the George W. Bush presidency.

The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office.

. . . .

The National Debt also now exceeds 100% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the total value of goods and services.

. . . .

The federal budget sent to Congress last month by Mr. Obama, projects the National Debt will continue to rise as far as the eye can see. The budget shows the Debt hitting $16.3 trillion in 2012, $17.5 trillion in 2013 and $25.9 trillion in 2022.

Federal budget records show the National Debt once topped 121% of GDP at the end of World War II. The Debt that year, 1946, was, by today's standards, a mere $270 billion dollars.

Mr. Obama doesn't mention the National Debt much, though he does want to be seen trying to reduce the annual budget deficit, though it's topped a trillion dollars for four years now.

. . . .

If Mr. Obama wins re-election, and his budget projections prove accurate, the National Debt will top $20 trillion in 2016, the final year of his second term. That would mean the Debt increased by 87 percent, or $9.34 trillion, during his two terms."

Reagan, and not Obama, was the real spender? Yeah, right.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another Massacre in Syria: Obama Remains Silent

On Wednesday, Syrian President Assad's militia men and security forces killed at least 78 people, including 40 women and children, in the village of Mazraat al-Qabeer in the central Hama province (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=272977). This atrocity follows the murder by Assad's forces of 108 innocent persons in last month's Houla massacre.

Obama's response to the savage slaughter? Silence. As suggested by Scott Wilson in a Washington Post article entitled "On foreign policy, Obama focuses on economic issues, not on Syrian turmoil" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/on-foreign-policy-obama-focuses-on-economic-issues-not-on-syrian-turmoil/2012/06/02/gJQAVrSX9U_story.html), Obama apparently doesn't want events in Syria to interfere with his reelection effort:

"The reticence from a president who has made repairing America’s moral leadership in the region a central premise of his administration, and who delivered a speech from the heart of the Arab world three years ago designed to do just that, has disturbed those pressing for stronger international response to the crisis.

. . . .

Any incumbent president hopes for a quiet world during campaign season to avoid the distractions that can upset a successful reelection effort. That is especially true for Obama, who is making his case for a second term in part on the argument that he has been an effective steward of America abroad, concluding its long wars and rejuvenating its alliances."

Then, too, Obama has been seeking to "restart" America's relationship with Russia, a key supplier of weapons to Assad that has adamantly opposed international intervention in Syria.

Sorry, but this is not a time for silence, election or no election. Rather, morality demands vociferously acting to end this carnage.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "What the Locusts Ate": More Sensible Advice from the Master

You can always count on Thomas Friedman for "sensible" advice.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "What the Locusts Ate" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/opinion/friedman-what-the-locusts-ate.html), Tom outlines the travails of Europe, America, China and the Arab world in a mere nine paragraphs and concludes:

"If I were President Obama, I’d focus my entire campaign now on an effort to reforge a 'grand bargain' with Republicans based on a near-term infrastructure stimulus tied with a Simpson-Bowles long-term fiscal rebalancing. At a minimum, it would show that Obama has a sensible plan to fix the economy — which is what people want most from the president — and many in business would surely support it. We cannot wait until January to do serious policy making again. We, and the world, need America to be a rock of stability — now."

Ah, yes! Obama should devise and implement a "grand bargain" with Republicans with the US economy spiraling down the drain and with elections five months away in order to finally demonstrate that he's "sensible." I'm afraid it's a little late for that.

In order to engage in any sort of bargaining, one needs open channels of communication to the opposing side. In this vein, consider what Olympia Snowe, one of the most moderate Republicans in Washington, had to say when explaining her retirement from the US Senate (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 did 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).

This is the time to reach out to Republicans and proffer a "grand bargain" in order to demonstrate your "sensibility"? Thanks, Tom, but people have been committed to the funny farm for more sensible advice than this.