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Monday, December 31, 2012

David Brooks, "Another Fiscal Flop": Here's Part of the Solution

As observed in David Brooks's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Another Fiscal Flop" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/opinion/brooks-another-fiscal-flop.html?_r=0), the fiscal cliff deal achieves next to nothing. Brooks writes:
"Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.

. . . .

The country either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the burdens we are placing on our children. No coalition of leaders has successfully confronted the voters, and made them heedful of the ruin they are bringing upon the nation."
Yet there are partial solutions, which go unmentioned by Brooks. Medicare fraud costs the US some $60 billion annually, and it would not be difficult to tackle this problem.

Computerized programs, adapted to standardized treatment for specific medical conditions, would have little difficulty pointing to anomalies. The system could be up and running in months.

In addition, penalties for Medicare fraud could be stiffened, causing those with thoughts of bilking the system to reconsider the consequences of their actions.

More savings? What about Obama's escalation of the inane war in Afghanistan, for which more than 2,000 US soldiers have sacrificed their lives and which is currently costing America some $6 billion per month?

Aggressively addressing Medicare fraud and ending the war in Afghanistan would bring combined savings in excess of $100 billion annually, and both parties could reach agreement on these action items. Why hasn't it happened until now? I don't have a clue.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More Chaos in Egypt: A Run on Foreign Currency

Surprise, surprise, surprise: Egypt is facing more chaos.

As reported by Reuters in an article entitled "Egypt reserves plunge as economic crisis bites" (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/29/us-egypt-currency-idUSBRE8BS09620121229):

"Egypt's central bank said it would start foreign currency auctions on Sunday to conserve reserves that have fallen to a critical level, pointing to a deepening economic crisis as President Mohamed Mursi tries to calm political turmoil.

. . . .

The central bank has spent more than $20 billion in foreign reserves to support the pound since a mass uprising against Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 chased away tourists and foreign investors.

. . . .

Violent street protests and political wrangling over the last month have prompted a rush by investors and ordinary citizens to switch their Egyptian pounds into foreign currency on concerns the government might devalue or bring in capital controls.

The bank allowed the pound to weaken to an eight-year low of 6.188 to the U.S. dollar on Thursday."

Add to this equation unemployment and poverty among Egypt's younger population. As reported by the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19298405), "nearly one in four Egyptians between the ages of 18 and 29 [is] unemployed - and just over half all young Egyptians [are] classified as living in poverty."

Also, factor in growing illiteracy, i.e. 27% of Egypt's 85 million citizens (see: http://al-shorfa.com/en_GB/articles/meii/features/main/2011/08/05/feature-01), and Egypt's high birth rate (see: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/57297/Egypt/Politics-/Egypt-birth-rate-goes-up-in-.aspx).

It's not going to be pretty.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New York Times Editorial, "The Deadly Fantasy of Assault Weapons": And What About Hollywood?

An editorial in today's New York Times enititled "The Deadly Fantasy of Assault Weapons
" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/opinion/the-deadly-fantasy-of-assault-weapons.html?_r=0)  deplores macho marketing campaigns for Bushmaster rifles. The editorial concludes:
"The effect of these marketing campaigns on fragile minds is all too obvious, allowing deadly power in the wrong hands. But given their financial success, gun makers have apparently decided that the risk of an occasional massacre is part of the cost of doing business."
Exactly. But as I asked in my prior blog item, "Tom Cruise, "Jack Reacher": Is This Suitable for Seven-Year-Olds?" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2012/12/tom-cruise-jack-reacher-is-this.html), why are youngsters being allowed to witness vivid depictions of wanton savagery perpetrated with assault rifles at movie theaters across the US?

Yes, in order to reign in the violence, Hollywood must also engage in some soul searching and, at a significant cost to its bottom line, bar children from exposure to bloodthirsty depictions of firefights, also intended to appeal to male egos.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tom Cruise, "Jack Reacher": Is This Suitable for Seven-Year-Olds?

Today, I saw Tom Cruise's latest flick, "Jack Reacher," or at least part of it. For reasons of exhaustion and jet lag, and having nothing to do with the film, I swiftly drifted into a deep slumber, and notwithstanding my youngest son's valiant attempts to awaken me, I missed much of its beginning. Bottom line? We were presented with an imaginary hero, whose vigilante tactics are accompanied by relentless gore. On the other hand, the movie is certainly aided by rousing car chase scenes. I suppose you need to be a Tom Cruise fan.

But more to the point, a collection of seven-year-olds populated the first two rows of the theater. Should these youngsters, some of them plainly hyperactive, be allowed to watch a young women be punched in the jaw, suffocated, and then left with the trash? Then, too, there were headshots (not of the cinematographic variety) galore.

My views on gun control certainly do not comport with those of the National Rifle Association. On the other hand, I have repeatedly inquired whether it is possible that the graphic violence routinely foisted upon impressionable minds has made it that much easier for persons with violent inclinations to pull the trigger as a matter of course.

Notwithstanding the impact on Hollywood's profit and loss statement, this needs to be better controlled.

The National Rifle Association is not the only villain out there.




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

James Besser, "Don’t Let Pro-Israel Extremists Sink Chuck Hagel": The New York Times Wages War Against Israel

The New York Times is waging a furious war to have Chuck Hagel approved as Obama's secretary of defense, and inasmuch as all's fair in love and war, the Times is ready to slime anyone who stands in his or its way.

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman sorted Hagel's opponents into two "baskets," the "disgusting" and the "philosophical" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/thomas-friedman-give-chuck-chance.html). Needless to say, there was no mention by Uncle Tom that in 2006 Chuck Hagel was one of 12 Senators who wouldn't ask the EU to declare Hezbollah, Iran's surrogate in Lebanon, a terrorist organization. Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing, which killed 241 American soldiers.

Today, in a frivolous Times guest op-ed entitled "Don’t Let Pro-Israel Extremists Sink Chuck Hagel" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/opinion/dont-let-pro-israel-extremists-sink-chuck-hagel.html?_r=0), someone named James Besser, who, we are told by the Times "was the Washington correspondent for The Jewish Week from 1987 to 2011 and was a syndicated columnist for several Jewish newspapers," is also given a pulpit to advocate on behalf of Hagel. Referring to "fringe-driven politics that accounted for the Republican Party’s dramatic electoral losses" and the National Rifle Association’s "playing to zealots," Besser warns that "American Jewish leaders . . . increasingly tremble in the face of a small minority of zealots." Besser further states:

"Intimidated by pro-settler zealots, right-wing donors and those who liken the slightest criticism of Israeli policy to Israel-bashing (or even anti-Semitism), pro-Israel leaders are increasingly allowing the fringes of their movement to set the pro-Israel agenda in Washington.

. . . .

Support for the Jewish state remains strong among both parties on Capitol Hill and across the American electorate, and it won’t disappear anytime soon. But that support will wither if Aipac and other mainstream Jewish leaders don’t forcefully reject the zealots in their midst."

So, yesterday I was "disgusting," and today I am a "zealot," notwithstanding my support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict along the 1967 lines with necessary land swaps.

Time for another JG Caesarea challenge: Read Besser's guest op-ed again, and tell me what's missing. One . . . two . . . three. Sorry, time's up.

Of course there is no mention by Besser of Hagel's refusal to ask the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, notwithstanding the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing; notwithstanding Hezbollah's kidnapping and murder by torture of William Francis Buckley in 1984; and notwithstanding Hezbollah's bombing of the Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

For that matter, there is no discussion whatsoever by Besser of Hagel's outrageous comments concerning homosexuals, Armenian genocide and Iran. In his only reference to Iran, Besser alludes to Hagel's advocacy of "dialogue to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions." Hagel only supports dialogue? In fact, Hagel is apparently willing to tolerate an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. In his 2008 book, "America: Our Next Chapter," Hagel declares:

"[T]he genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does. In this imperfect world, sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior. These governments, however hostile they may be toward us, have some appreciation of the horrific results of a nuclear war and the consequences they would suffer."

When it acquires its first nuclear weapon, Iran will "respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior," and for that reason, the US and Israel should ignore almost daily declarations out of Iran, calling for Israel's annihilation? Given how Iran hangs homosexuals, stones to death women, and oppresses its Baha'i, Kurdish and Sunni minorities, I don't share Hagel's blithe optimism concerning Tehran's future conduct. Nor do the Saudis.

But let's return to Besser's allegation that "zealots" are responsible for the opposition to Hagel's nomination. Remarkably, Besser fails to mention that even the uber-liberal Washington Post opposes the appointment of Hagel as Secretary of Defense (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chuck-hagel-is-not-right-for-defense-secretary/2012/12/18/07e03e20-493c-11e2-ad54-580638ede391_story.html):

"Mr. Hagel’s stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him."

I thought that The New York Times and Andrew Rosenthal had hit rock bottom in their war against Israel when they published Sarah Schulman's "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/opinion/pinkwashing-and-israels-use-of-gays-as-a-messaging-tool.html?hp). Apparently, I was dead wrong.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Give Chuck a Chance": Friedman Is Far Worse Than "Disgusting"

In 2006 Chuck Hagel was one of 12 Senators who wouldn't ask the EU to declare Hezbollah, Iran's surrogate in Lebanon, a terrorist organization. Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing, which killed 241 American soldiers. In 1984, Hezbollah also kidnapped and tortured to death William Francis Buckley, who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. And then there was also Hezbollah's bombing, at the behest of Iran, of the Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Give Chuck a Chance" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/opinion/friedman-give-chuck-a-chance.html?_r=0), Thomas Friedman advocates on behalf of the appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Friedman writes:

"I find the opposition to him falling into two baskets: the disgusting and the philosophical. It is vital to look at both to appreciate why Hagel would be a good fit for Defense at this time.

The disgusting is the fact that because Hagel once described the Israel lobby as the 'Jewish lobby' (it also contains some Christians). And because he has rather bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and an anti-Semite at worst. If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel’s survival, as Hagel has repeatedly stated — but who was convinced that ensuring that survival didn’t mean having America go along with Israel’s self-destructive drift into settling the West Bank and obviating a two-state solution — it is now."

Although Friedman and I both spent much time during 1983 in Lebanon, Friedman conveniently forgets to mention in his opinion piece the Beirut Barracks Bombing, Hezbollah or Hagel's refusal to ask the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Hagel is an appropriate choice for Secretary of Defense? The US servicemen who fell victim to Hezbollah will roll over in their graves if Obama proceeds with this nomination.

How could Friedman forget Hezbollah's involvement in the Beirut Barracks Bombing and Hagel's 2006 position regarding this heinous organization? I suppose you should also be asking how Friedman earlier this month falsely declared that Israel's planned E1 settlements "would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/second-open-letter-to-margaret-sullivan.html).

It is no accident that even The Washington Post opposes the appointment of Hagel as Secretary of Defense (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chuck-hagel-is-not-right-for-defense-secretary/2012/12/18/07e03e20-493c-11e2-ad54-580638ede391_story.html):

"Mr. Hagel’s stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him."

With respect to Iran's nuclear development program, J. Dana Stuster examines Hagel's 2008 book, "America: Our Next Chapter" in a December 14, 2012 Foreign Policy article (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/14/chuck_hagel_wants_to_be_dwight_eisenhower):

"'Isolating nations is risky,' he writes. 'It turns them inward, and makes their citizens susceptible to the most demagogic fear mongering.' The answer, he says, is engagement. 'Distasteful as we may find that country's rulers, the absence of any formal governmental relations with Iran ensures that we will continue to conduct this delicate international relationship through the press and speeches, as well as through surrogates and third parties, on issues of vital strategic importance to our national interests. Such a course can only result in diplomatic blind spots that will lead to misunderstandings, miscalculation, and, ultimately, conflict.'

So Hagel supports direct negotiations with Iran. He laments the lack of diplomatic ties and toys with the idea of a consulate in Tehran. He also reflects fondly on meetings he had with Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations in New York.

Hagel even flirts with the idea that an Iranian bomb wouldn't be the end of the world. '[T]he genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does. In this imperfect world, sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior. These governments, however hostile they may be toward us, have some appreciation of the horrific results of a nuclear war and the consequences they would suffer.'"

When it acquires its first nuclear weapon, Iran will "respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior"? And for that reason, the US and Israel should ignore almost daily declarations out of Iran, calling for Israel's annihilation? Given how Iran hangs homosexuals, stones to death women, and oppresses its Baha'i, Kurdish and Sunni minorities, I don't share Hagel's blithe optimism concerning Tehran's future conduct. Nor do the Saudis.

America's ally, Israel? Those who read this blog know that I support a two-state solution along the 1967 lines with necessary land swaps, but first there needs to be a Palestinian leader willing to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Friedman, by chance, also fails to mention that existing Israeli settlements are are built on less than two percent of the total territory of the West Bank.

Friedman lumps those who oppose Hagel's nomination into "two baskets: the disgusting and the philosophical." I believe that there are more than two adjectives that best describe Friedman's opinion pieces, including abominable, odious, abhorrent, contemptible, fetid, invidious, nauseating and sycophantic.

Enough said.

Maureen Dowd, "Why, God?": I No Longer Ask

A little over thirty years ago, my life changed dramatically in terms of geography, occupation and social circle. I lost touch with most of my past, and then, recently, I was sent an e-mail providing a link to a video listing those from my high school who had died. I have long since passed the 50-yard line and have seen enough "death," much of it shocking, but these pictures of former friends haunted me, inasmuch as I was not there to say goodbye, and given that they had continued to live in my mind as young, happy and  beautiful.

Among those who had died was a picture of my first girlfriend.

My life has again undergone something of a metamorphosis, and today I am fortunate enough to be intimately working with two companies, one of which is seeking to find new medicines for cancer and autoimmune diseases, while the other is attempting to restore sight to persons blinded by retinal diseases. Often, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of life, yet amazed that in my limited lifetime such remarkable progress is being made to decode this miracle and offer hope to those afflicted with debilitating and often terminal ailments.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Why, God?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/opinion/dowd-why-god.html?ref=opinion), Maureen Dowd allows Father Kevin O’Neil to say a few words relating, inter alia, to the horrors experienced over the past month in Newtown and Webster. Father O’Neil writes:

"We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not."

Me? I don't know if God is a He, She, or, for that matter, a They.

Overwhelmed by my privileged view of the complexity of life, I accept my mortality and take comfort in Father O'Neil's words, notwithstanding my doubts concerning a hereafter. My own belief is that if I "live on," it will be through whatever decency I have been able to impart to my children and as a consequence of the love I have shared with those closest to me.

I also acknowledge the presence of unremitting hatred and evil experienced in Newtown and Webster, and, almost half a world away, in Damascus and Tehran.

And yes, I regret that I was not there some 20 years ago to say goodbye to that first girlfriend, whose laughter still rings in the recesses of my mind.

Second Open Letter to Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of The New York Times: Perpetuation of Falsehoods by Your Newspaper's Editorial Page

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

As you will recall, on December 11, 2012 I sent you an e-mail concerning the following passage from Thomas Friedman's December 4, 2012 op-ed entitled "Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes":

"The far-right group running Israel today is so arrogant, and so indifferent to U.S. concerns, that it announced plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the West Bank — in retaliation for the U.N. vote giving Palestinians observer status — even though the U.S. did everything possible to block that vote and the settlements would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state."

Friedman's mistaken contention that Israel's planned E1 construction "would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state" followed on the heels of Jodi Rudoren's specious claim in her December 2, 2012 Times article entitled "Dividing the West Bank, and Deepening a Rift" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/world/middleeast/2-state-solution-at-risk-in-israeli-building-plan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&) that E1 construction would divide the West Bank. On December 16, the Times was forced to correct Rudoren's article:

"An article on Dec. 2 about Israel’s decision to move forward with planning and zoning for settlements in an area east of Jerusalem known as E1 described imprecisely the effect of such development on access to the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and on the West Bank. Development of E1 would limit access to Ramallah and Bethlehem, leaving narrow corridors far from the Old City and downtown Jerusalem; it would not completely cut off those cities from Jerusalem. It would also create a large block of Israeli settlements in the center of the West Bank; it would not divide the West Bank in two. And because of an editing error, the article referred incompletely to the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. Critics see E1 as a threat to the meaningful contiguity of such a state because it would leave some Palestinian areas connected by roads with few exits or by circuitous routes; the proposed development would not technically make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible."

Rudoren's subsequent excuse (http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/12/elliott-abrams-slams-nyts-jodi-rudoren-152407.html):

"On deadline, late at night and at the end of a very long couple of weeks, I used imprecise language and, yes, did not study the map carefully enough."

Notwithstanding the correction to Rudoren's article, and notwithstanding my e-mails to both Andrew Rosenthal and you, the falsehood in Friedman's op-ed was never corrected.

Worse still, in a December 20, 2012 Times editorial entitled "The Fading Mideast Peace Dream" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/21/opinion/the-fading-mideast-peace-dream.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=1&), your newspaper went on record as stating:

"So far this week, Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line government, defying the Western powers, has approved construction of more than 6,000 new housing units. The approvals follow an announcement late last month that Israel would continue planning for new development in the E1 area — a project northeast of Jerusalem that would split the West Bank and prevent the creation of a viable contiguous Palestinian state."

Again, as provided by Section 15 of your newspaper's "Ethical Journalism, A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" (http://www.nytco.com/pdf/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904.pdf):

"The Times treats is readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors large and small, as soon as we become aware of them."

As further provided Section 16 of your "Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" provides:

"Simple courtesy suggests that we not alienate our readers by ignoring their letters and e-mails that warrant reply."

Are we to understand that op-ed columnists, such as Mr. Friedman, are entitled to play fast and loose with the facts, or, must they also be corrected when their underlying factual assumptions are mistaken?

Can New York Times editorials also assert falsehoods without correction?

In addition, I am curious why you and your staff, decided that there was no need to respond to my December 11 e-mail to you. Perhaps you can also inquire why Andrew Rosenthal thought it was appropriate to ignore my December 8 e-mail to him, a copy of which was also sent to you, concerning Thomas Friedman's error.

Does "simple courtesy" no longer exist at the Times?

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Paul Krugman, "When Prophecy Fails": Confusing Doomsday With a Slow and Agonizing Decline

As December 21 approached, my wife, who had been cautioned by her spiritual guru regarding the significance of the date and the possibility of an impending calamity, told me that the Mayans were a very wise tribe. "Yes," I replied, "and they practiced human sacrifice." To which my wife rejoined, "They also had the good sense to replace their spouses every seven years."

December 21 has come and gone, and what new nonsense will be next to arrive on the scene? The answer was quick in coming: Paul (Spend! Spend! Spend!) Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "When Prophecy Fails" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/opinion/krugman-when-prophecy-fails.html?_r=0). The good doctor writes:

"Seriously, at every stage of our ongoing economic crisis — and in particular, every time anyone has suggested actually trying to do something about mass unemployment — a chorus of voices has warned that unless we bring down budget deficits now now now, financial markets will turn on America, driving interest rates sky-high. And these prophecies of doom have had a powerful effect on our economic discourse.

. . . .

The key thing we need to understand, however, is that the prophets of fiscal disaster, no matter how respectable they may seem, are at this point effectively members of a doomsday cult. They are emotionally and professionally committed to the belief that fiscal crisis lurks just around the corner, and they will hold to their belief no matter how many corners we turn without encountering that crisis."

Yet another JG Caesarea challenge: Which untoward, albeit not cataclysmic, event does Paul fail to mention in his opinion piece? One . . . two . . . three. Sorry, time's up. As reported by The Washington Post on August 5, 2011 (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-08-05/business/35417342_1_downgrade-aaa-credit-ratings-government-debt):

"Standard & Poor’s announced Friday night that it has downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time, dealing a symbolic blow to the world’s economic superpower in what was a sharply worded critique of the American political system.

Lowering the nation’s rating to one notch below AAA, the credit rating company said 'political brinkmanship' in the debate over the debt had made the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances 'less stable, less effective and less predictable.' It said the bipartisan agreement reached this week to find at least $2.1 trillion in budget savings 'fell short' of what was necessary to tame the nation’s debt over time and predicted that leaders would not be likely to achieve more savings in the future."

So, the US credit rating was downgraded for the first time. A disaster? No. I'm still delighted to be paid in US dollars. But what will the next downgrade bring?

I don't believe in a doomsday, because the US government can always print more money. Rather, I believe that inasmuch as US debt is fast growing unsustainable, America's economic demise will be slow and painful.

Krugman himself told us in a very recent opinion piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/opinion/krugman-that-terrible-trillion.html?_r=0) that the ratio of debt to G.D.P. is "the best measure of our debt position." Well, those "fools" at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also recently warned that "U.S. debt is on track to be nearly twice the size of the U.S. economy by 2037" (http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/budget/230901-cbo-warns-of-grim-long-term-debt-outlook).

Doomsday? No. Most likely our children and grandchildren will watch as the magnificent edifice crumbles.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Maureen Dowd, "From Apocalypse to Dystopia": Tending Toward Myopia

I need to fess up: I own two pistols, Ottoman, both more than 150 years old, neither in working condition. Something that actually shoots in my home? No way, Jose. I have spent too much of my adult life with automatic rifles, cleaning them, oiling them, sleeping with them, and hiding them from the children. Then, too, there was the accident, when someone let loose a burst that almost cut me down from behind.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "From Apocalypse to Dystopia" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/opinion/sunday/dowd-from-apocalypse-to-dystopia.html), Maureen Dowd unleashes a fiery tirade against the National Rifle Association:

"They defend anyone owning anything with a trigger, reiterating that military-style semiautomatics are just uglier hunting guns.

While there were more heartbreaking funerals in Newtown, Conn., with long hearses carrying small bodies, [Wayne] LaPierre stepped to the microphone in Washington on Friday to present the latest variation of his Orwellian creed: Guns don’t kill people. Media kill people.

'Rather than face their own moral failings,' he said in high dudgeon, 'the media demonize gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action, and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.'

So it’s our fault."

No, Maureen, you're not to blame, but is the NRA the real culprit for the recent spate of mass shootings in the United States, or is there something else, much greater in scale, responsible for these horrors?

The US leads the world in gun ownership with an average of 88.8 firearms per 100 people (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list), and the firearm murder rate in the US is 2.97 per 100,000 people, which is the 28th highest in the world. How does this compare with other Western democracies with large numbers of guns in the hands of civilians?

Finland has an average of 45.3 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of only 0.45 per 100,000 people.

Switzerland has an average of 45.7 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of 0.77 per 100,000 people.

Although gun ownership in Finland and Switzerland is half that of the US, the firearm murder rate of Finland is some 15 percent of that in the US, and the firearm murder rate of Switzerland is some 26 percent of that in the US.

Norway, which experienced a horrific summer camp massacre in 2011, has an average of 31.3 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of only 0.05 per 100,000 people. Although gun ownership in Norway is some 35 percent of that in the US, the firearm murder rate of Norway is less than two percent of that in the US.

Israel has an average of only 7.3 firearms per 100 people and a firearm murder rate of a mere 0.09 per 100,000 people. But these figures fail to take into consideration the tens of thousands of automatic (not semiautomatic) rifles which are brought home on weekends by soldiers. Now you might think that this plethora of automatic rifles would lead to disaster, but this is not borne out by the facts.

Sorry, Maureen, it's not just the number of guns floating around the US which has led to America's high firearm murder rate.

Dowd dismisses "violent video games" as the reason for the spate of mass shootings in the US. However, is it even remotely possible that these video games, together with the graphic violence routinely beamed into American living rooms, have made it that much easier for persons with violent inclinations to pull the trigger as a matter of course?

Or could it be that American society is characterized by a "rage" which is not to be found in Scandinavia and other Western European countries?

Solutions? With so many guns in American households, I doubt that this genie can be put back in the bottle.

Maybe the US is in need of a television campaign aimed to counter gun violence. If there have been successful advertising campaigns against smoking and drunk driving, why shouldn't this also be considered?

Given that firearm deaths will soon exceed fatalities from automobile accidents (see: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/gun-deaths-in-america-projected-to-soon-top-car-fatalities-8426644.html), I wouldn't rule out any possibilities, including enhanced background checks and some self-reflection on the part of Hollywood.

Obama Nominates John Kerry, "Dear Friend" of Bashar al-Assad: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, particularly with respect to Obama's nomination of John Kerry as secretary of state. Kerry repeatedly visited Damascus on Obama's behalf, dined with the Syrian mass murderer, and "after a motorcycle ride with Bashar al-Assad, he returned to Washington and referred to Bashar as 'my dear friend'" (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/21/1171392/-SecState-John-Kerry-and-his-dear-friend-Bashar-al-Assad).

Yes, I know, Chuck Hagel is even worse. Ed Koch and Alan Dershowitz couldn't see this coming?

A hat tip to Elder of Ziyon (http://elderofziyon.blogspot.co.il/2012/11/john-kerry-to-replace-hillary.html) for publicizing this very telling photograph:


From the National Jewish Democratic Council (http://www.njdc.org/media/entry/kerry122112) on Kerry's nomination:

"“We are ecstatic to see that President Obama has selected Senator Kerry to be the next Secretary of State.

. . . .

Senator Kerry is a true statesman, and his record on the foreign policy issues of special interest to the Jewish community is exceptionally strong. He has been a leader when it comes to Israel and has made it abundantly clear that he—like the Obama Administration—stands squarely behind the Jewish state. On Iran, Senator Kerry has been a prominent voice of support for the Obama Administration’s leadership, and his commitment and knowledge on the subject are beyond question."

The NJDC is "ecstatic"? What kind of "leadership" has been demonstrated by the Obama administration regarding Iran? Why am I so nauseous?

Friday, December 21, 2012

David Brooks, "Strangers in the Night": Doo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo to You, Too

Groucho: "That's in every contract, that's what you call a sanity clause."
Chico: "You can't a fool a me there ain't no sanity clause"

- Groucho/Chico in "A Night at the Opera"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Strangers in the Night" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/21/opinion/brooks-strangers-in-the-night.html), David Brooks offers sound advice to Republicans:

"Don’t get hung up on some incremental tax increase for the rich. Instead, make sure America doesn’t have another credit downgrade. Make sure the economy doesn’t fall into another debt-exploding recession. Prepare a comprehensive tax and entitlement reform strategy for 2013. Call Obama’s bluff on health care reform. In case Obamacare doesn’t bend the cost curve, get Obama to agree to some automatic triggers — plans that will kick in and bring down health care spending."

Makes sense? You bet. But on the eve of Christmas, sanity is increasingly hard to come by in Washington.

As long as we're on the topic of sanity, it should come as no surprise that The New York Times has yet to weigh in on Obama's looming nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, when even The Washington Post opposes Hagel's candidacy (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chuck-hagel-is-not-right-for-defense-secretary/2012/12/18/07e03e20-493c-11e2-ad54-580638ede391_story.html).

What's wrong with Hagel? For starters, in 2006 Hagel was one of 12 Senators who wouldn't ask the EU to declare Hezbollah, Iran's surrogate in Lebanon, a terrorist organization. Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing, which killed 241 American soldiers.

Brooks wants sanity from Republicans at a time when Obama wants to nominate Hagel as head of the Pentagon?

Dooby-be-doo-be-do to you, too, David.

Paul Krugman, "Playing Taxes Hold ’Em": Who Are the "Progressives" and Who Are the "Crazies"?

Many years ago, when my brother was well on his way to a Ph.D. in psychology, he invited me visit him one summer at the "funny farm" (probably not politically correct) where he was interning. Curious, I made the drive to this magnificent facility in the hills of New England, and the first challenge he posed to me was to pick out the patients from those treating them. As I soon discovered, this was no simple task. I recall a scene beside a swimming pool where one seemingly "normal" young man pointed at a boy, busy splashing in the water, and informed me that "he's crazy." Moments thereafter, the young man, who had so kindly shared with me his evaluation, was staring into the sky and holding a conversation with the sun.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Playing Taxes Hold ’Em" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/21/opinion/krugman-playing-taxes-hold-em.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman would have us believe that the fireworks we are witnessing, as the United States approaches another "fiscal cliff," involve a battle between Democratic "progressives" and Republican "crazies":

"Yet earlier this week progressives suddenly had the sinking feeling that it was 2011 all over again, as the Obama administration made a budget offer that, while far better than the disastrous deal it was willing to make the last time around, still involved giving way on issues where it had promised to hold the line — perpetuating a substantial portion of the high-income Bush tax cuts, effectively cutting Social Security benefits by changing the inflation adjustment.

And this was an offer, not a deal. Are we about to see another round of the president negotiating with himself, snatching policy and political defeat from the jaws of victory?

Well, probably not. Once again, the Republican crazies — the people who can’t accept the idea of ever voting to raise taxes on the wealthy, never mind either fiscal or economic reality — have saved the day."

Me? Sure, I think the very rich should pay more in income and estate taxes to prevent the United States from becoming a banana republic, although this is not going to make a dent in the budget deficit. On the other hand, I also am perturbed by the manner in which Washington unsparingly burns funds, which it can never repay, on projects akin to Solyndra.

Who are the "crazies" and who are the "therapists"? Who are the "crazies" and who are the "progressives"? Sometimes it's hard to know.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nicholas Kristof, "Looking for Lessons in Newtown": Let's Also Look for Lessons in Norway

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Looking for Lessons in Newtown" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/opinion/kristof-looking-for-lessons-in-newtown.html?_r=0), Nicholas Kristof responds to comments from readers who disagree with his prior op-ed calling for stricter gun control laws (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/nicholas-kristof-do-we-have-courage-to.html). Specifically, Kristof addresses criticism from a reader who observes that Norway's restrictive gun control laws did not prevent the 2011 summer camp massacre:

"What happened in Newtown, Conn., was heartbreaking, but gun laws are feel-good measures that don’t make a difference. Norway has very restrictive gun laws, but it had its own massacre of 77 people.

It’s true that the 1994 assault weapons ban was not very effective, even before it expired (partly because it had trouble defining assault weapons, and partly because handguns kill more people than assault rifles). But if that law’s ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines had still been in effect, Adam Lanza, the gunman in Newtown, might have had to reload three times as often.

As for Norway, its laws did not prevent the massacre there last year. But, in a typical year, Norway has 10 or fewer gun murders. The United States has more than that in eight hours."

As all who read this blog know, I favor a ban on the sale of assault rifles. I also favor a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines. However, as someone who has served many years in the military, it takes only seconds to replace a magazine, and this is not the core problem.

Let's indeed compare the United States with Norway. The US leads the world in gun ownership with an average of 88.8 firearms per 100 people (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list). As further observed by this Guardian article, the firearm murder rate in the US is 2.97 per 100,000 people, which is the 28th highest in the world.

Norway has an average of 31.3 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of only 0.05 per 100,000 people.

Although gun ownership in Norway is some 35 percent of that in the US, the firearm murder rate of Norway is less than two percent of that in the US.

In short, it's not just the guns or the high-capacity magazines that are responsible for America's significantly higher firearm murder rate.

As I asked yesterday (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/new-york-times-editorial-yawning.html), is it even remotely possible that the graphic violence routinely beamed into American living rooms has made it that much easier for persons with violent inclinations to pull the trigger as a matter of course?

Sure, you like watching "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" as much as I do, but what is the effect on young minds?

Place restrictions on Hollywood's ability to broadcast raw violence? That could engender problems involving the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, but perhaps this plague of violence also needs to be examined from this angle - something Kristof and Hollywood might or might not appreciate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New York Times Editorial, "The Yawning Loophole in the Gun Laws": Okay, the N.R.A. Is to Blame, but What About Hollywood?

The New York Times, in an editorial entitled "The Yawning Loophole in the Gun Laws" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/opinion/the-yawning-loophole-in-the-gun-laws.html), lambastes the National Rifle Association for "blocking legislation that would require private sellers to run buyers through background checks, which take just a few minutes to process on the telephone."

I agree with The New York Times that such background checks are indeed warranted. However, as also acknowledged by the Times, such a background check would not have prevented Adam Lanza's mother from purchasing guns.

In addition to focusing our attention on the N.R.A.'s regrettable policies, let's look further afield and also consider the behavior of . . . Hollywood.

Is it even remotely possible that the graphic violence routinely beamed into American living rooms has made it that much easier for persons with violent inclinations to pull the trigger as a matter of course?

Sure, you like watching "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" as much as I do, but what is the effect on young minds?

Think on it.

Thomas Friedman, "Pussy Riot, Tupac and Putin": More Pontification from Moscow

"In front of me 327 pages of the manuscript (about 22 chapters). The most important remains - editing, and it's going to be hard, I will have to pay close attention to details. Maybe even re-write some things... 'What's its future?' you ask? I don't know. Possibly, you will store the manuscript in one of the drawers, next to my 'killed' plays, and occasionally it will be in your thoughts. Then again, you don't know the future. My own judgement of the book is already made and I think it truly deserves being hidden away in the darkness of some chest..."

- Mikhail Bulgakov on his book "The Master and Margarita," June 15, 1938


Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita," not published until 1967 owing to Soviet censorship, is considered one of the finest novels ever written, and it is also one of my favorites. Repression in Russia? Although Gorbachev and his introduction of glasnost provided an inkling of hope, nothing has really changed over the course of my lifetime.

Having left Cairo and writing now from Moscow, Thomas Friedman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Pussy Riot, Tupac and Putin" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/opinion/friedman-pussy-riot-tupac-and-putin.html?_r=0), proclaims:

"Every time I come here, I expect to find that, this time, Russia is really pivoting from being a petro-state, with a heavy authoritarian gloss — and a president who relies on anti-Western rhetoric to maintain his political base — to a country that has decided to invest in education, innovation and its human capital and is ready to be a partner with the West. But it never materializes, and lately it has started to go backward."

Tom expects Russia to change? I suppose this naivete is also the reason why he pinned such high hopes on change coming to Egypt in the aftermath of the so-called "Arab Spring."

Friedman continues:

"But I couldn’t resist noting that innovative cultures don’t do things like throw the punk band Pussy Riot into prison for two years for performing a 'punk prayer' in a cathedral. That sends a bad signal to all freethinkers."

Friedman tells us that "Pussy Riot probably is no Tupac [Shakur]." Regrettably, I am not familiar with the work of Pussy Riot or Tupac. I do know, however, that throwing Pussy Riot into prison was exactly the carefully considered signal Putin wanted to disseminate.

What is the Master of Piffle's next destination from which he can again grace us with his carefully considered pearls of wisdom? As you can well imagine, I wait with bated breath.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chuck Hagel's Nomination As Defense Secretary: A Message of Forgive and Forget from Obama to Khameini

There is a reason why former New York mayor Ed Koch is concerned about the likely nomination by Obama of former senator Chuck Hagel as the next US secretary of defense (see: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/12/15/ed-koch-on-chuck-hagel-as-defense-secretary-it-would-be-a-terrible-appointment/). According to Koch:

"Such an appointment would give great comfort to the Arab world that would think that President Obama is seeking to put space between Israel and his administration."

In fact, the nomination of Hagel has little to do with "the Arab world" and everything to do with Iran. The nomination of Hagel, which according to a democratic source quoted by The Algemeiner is "almost a done deal," is a conciliatory message from Obama to Iran's Supreme Leader Khameini, signaling that the US is seeking to avoid confrontation.

Hagel's history:

  • In 2000 Hagel was one of four Senators who wouldn't sign a Senate letter supporting Israel.

  • In 2004 Hagel wouldn't sign a letter asking Bush to focus upon Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit.

  • In 2006 Hagel was one of 12 Senators who wouldn't ask the EU to declare Hezbollah, Iran's surrogate in Lebanon, a terrorist organization. Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing, which killed 241 American soldiers.

More specifically, with respect to Iran's nuclear development program, J. Dana Stuster examines Hagel's 2008 book, "America: Our Next Chapter" in a December 14, 2012 Foreign Policy article (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/12/14/chuck_hagel_wants_to_be_dwight_eisenhower):

"'Isolating nations is risky,' he writes. 'It turns them inward, and makes their citizens susceptible to the most demagogic fear mongering.' The answer, he says, is engagement. 'Distasteful as we may find that country's rulers, the absence of any formal governmental relations with Iran ensures that we will continue to conduct this delicate international relationship through the press and speeches, as well as through surrogates and third parties, on issues of vital strategic importance to our national interests. Such a course can only result in diplomatic blind spots that will lead to misunderstandings, miscalculation, and, ultimately, conflict.'

So Hagel supports direct negotiations with Iran. He laments the lack of diplomatic ties and toys with the idea of a consulate in Tehran. He also reflects fondly on meetings he had with Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations in New York.

Hagel even flirts with the idea that an Iranian bomb wouldn't be the end of the world. '[T]he genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does. In this imperfect world, sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior. These governments, however hostile they may be toward us, have some appreciation of the horrific results of a nuclear war and the consequences they would suffer.'"
When it acquires its first nuclear weapon, Iran will "respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior"? And for that reason, the US and Israel should ignore almost daily declarations out of Iran, calling for Israel's annihilation? Given how Iran hangs homosexuals, stones to death women, and oppresses its Baha'i, Kurdish and Sunni minorities, I don't share Hagel's blithe optimism concerning Tehran's future conduct. Neither do the Saudis.

Hagel's nomination by Obama would be an insult to the memory of the 241 US servicemen who died in Beirut. Not only friends of Israel, such as Ed Koch, should be offended and distraught by this gesture to the mullahs.

All this comes as no surprise. In his heart of hearts, Obama is no friend of Israel, and with November out of the way, it's payback time for Netanyahu. Koch should have seen this in the cards.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Paul Krugman, "That Terrible Trillion": Dr. Evil (Me) in a Cosmic Battle Against the Good Dr. K

Yup, another JG Caesarea challenge: Read Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "That Terrible Trillion" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/opinion/krugman-that-terrible-trillion.html?_r=0) and tell me what's missing.

One . . . two . . . three. Sorry, time's up.

In his learned opinion piece, Dr. Krugman refers to his fiscal policy discussions in which his archvillain adversary, "Dr. Evil," inevitably will "announce, in dire tones, that we have a ONE TRILLION DOLLAR deficit." Krugman goes on to say that "budgets don’t have to be balanced to be sustainable" and that the ratio of debt to G.D.P. is "the best measure of our debt position."

Observing that "we would have a stable or declining ratio of debt to G.D.P. even if we had a $400 billion deficit," Krugman concludes:

"Which brings us back to ONE TRILLION DOLLARS.

We do indeed have a big budget deficit, and other things equal it would be better if the deficit were a lot smaller. But other things aren’t equal; the deficit is a side-effect of an economic depression, and the first order of business should be to end that depression — which means, among other things, leaving the deficit alone for now.

And you should recognize all the hyped-up talk about the deficit for what it is: yet another disingenuous attempt to scare and bully the body politic into abandoning programs that shield both poor and middle-class Americans from harm."

Hold your horses, Paul. Who said anything about "abandoning programs that shield both poor and middle-class Americans from harm"? How about first putting an end to America's inane ground war in Afghanistan, which Obama foolishly escalated and which is currently costing the US some $6 billion per month?

But let's examine Paul's proposition on a micro basis. Do you have a mortgage? I do. And before granting me that mortgage, my "friendly" bank of course examined my earning power, my assets, and whether I would ever be able to return the funds received from them. However, regarding federal debt, Paul does not examine possible repayment. Rather, he would have us believe that it is sufficient that debt be kept within a proportion of G.D.P. Moreover, Paul is correct: Worst case scenario, the US federal government can always print more money to pay its debts - something Jeffrey cannot legally do - with debilitating consequences for the value of the dollar.

On the other hand, Jeffrey also has an advantage: He can sell his house to pay off his mortgage - something the federal government cannot do, unless it decides to sell Alaska back to Russia (or China). And for this reason, Jeffrey's credit rating is still solid.

But again I find myself meandering. What didn't the good Dr. K tell us in his opinion piece? Although he of course refers to a deficit of "ONE TRILLION DOLLARS," somehow he manages to forget that President Obama has added, over the course of only three and a half years, some $5 trillion to America's total debt of more than SIXTEEN TRILLION DOLLARS.

Heck, one trillion, sixteen trillion -- what's the difference? It will never be repaid anyway.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nicholas Kristof, "Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?": Is It the Guns or a Society Run Amuck?

Several days ago I received a comment from a US reader expressing his or her desire, replete with multiple grammatical and spelling mistakes, that I die, together with all of my right wing generation, as soon as possible. Right wing? I suppose it's all relative. Indeed, those who read this blog know that I am no fan of Obama. On the other hand, I am pro-choice, favor gay marriage, believe that the sale of assault rifles should be banned, and have long opposed the US ground involvement in Afghanistan. Some of these positions place me to the left of Obama. But what does any of this matter? If my opinions do not accord with those of those of the commentator, I should disappear from the face of this earth without a trace. You see, the space for civilized discourse is fast shrinking, and we live in a society ever more prone to violence.

Responding to the horrific massacre on Friday in Connecticut, Nicholas Kristof writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-have-the-courage-to-stop-this.html):

"The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns."

Kristof's recommendations to curb this abomination? Simple:

"A starting point would be to limit gun purchases to one a month, to curb gun traffickers. Likewise, we should restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines so that a shooter can’t kill as many people without reloading.

We should impose a universal background check for gun buyers, even with private sales. Let’s make serial numbers more difficult to erase, and back California in its effort to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each shell so that it can be traced back to a particular gun."

I favor all of these recommendations, but will they make a difference, significant or otherwise, in gun homicide rates?

Let there be no mistake: By far and away the US leads the world in gun ownership with an average of 88.8 firearms per 100 people (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list). As further observed by this Guardian article, the firearm murder rate in the US is 2.97 per 100,000 people, which is the 28th highest in the world.

But now let's look at Finland, which has an average of 45.3 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of only 0.45 per 100,000 people.

And let's also have a look at Switzerland, which has an average of 45.7 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of 0.77 per 100,000 people.

Although gun ownership in Finland and Switzerland is half that of the US, the firearm murder rate of Finland is some 15 percent of that in the US, and the firearm murder rate of Switzerland is some 26 percent of that in the US.

Israel? As reported by the Guardian, Israel has an average of 7.3 firearms per 100 people, and a firearm murder rate of a mere 0.09 per 100,000 people. But these figures fail to take into consideration the tens of thousands of automatic rifles which are brought home on weekends by soldiers. Now you might think that this plethora of automatic rifles would lead to disaster, but this is not borne out by the facts.

So is it the number of firearms in the US and the availability of large magazines that have led to the horrifying slaughter of innocents, or is there something else that is fundamentally amuck?

Don't get me wrong: I support all of Kristof's recommendations in the hope that they can curb, even minimally, the murder rate in the US, but I don't know if their enactment will prove efficacious in an increasingly intolerant society that has lost its ability to engage in civil discourse.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Washington Post Editorial, "Silence on Syrian Scuds": Obama an Invertebrate

Today, The Washington Post came down hard on President Obama for his passivity involving the civil war in Syria. In an editorial entitled "Silence on Syrian Scuds" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/white-house-silence-on-syrian-scuds/2012/12/13/ecf08786-455e-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html?hpid=z3), WaPo's editorial board declared:

"Moreover, having declared that the use of chemical munitions would provoke “consequences” while otherwise ruling out intervention, the president signaled that every other weapon in the Syrian arsenal would be tolerated. The non-response to the past week’s attacks confirms such a conclusion and will likely encourage more strikes: The regime is believed to possess hundreds of the missiles. Meanwhile, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which reportedly acquired Scuds from Syria in 2010 for possible use against Israel, will likely draw its own lessons from Mr. Obama’s passivity.

Syria is reported to have chemical-weapon warheads that can be carried by Scuds. If there is a missile-borne chemical attack, will the United States be prepared to quickly respond, in order to prevent further atrocities? If so, Mr. Obama has given no public indication of it."

Okay, the use of chemical weapons in Syria would indeed be an abomination. However, what I don't understand here is what is the difference between firing a notoriously inaccurate Scud and gunning down unarmed civilians in the street with sniper rifles. Why is WaPo suddenly up in arms over Assad's use of these missiles against rebel-controlled regions? Why didn't WaPo protest Assad's butchery when Hillary Clinton made a point of declaring in March 2011, "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"?

Go figure.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The World Watches As Assad Fires Scuds at Syrian Civilians

Bashar al-Assad is growing increasingly desperate and has now fired several Scud missiles at rebel-controlled northern Syria (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/syrian-forces-fire-scud-missiles-at-rebels/2012/12/12/ee60e58a-448b-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html). For those of you have never witnessed a Scud attack, these missiles are not sufficiently accurate to target individual groups of fighters, but depending upon meteorological conditions, can fall within a few blocks of where they are aimed. Or stated more simply, Scuds are instruments of terror for use against civilian populations.

In addition to Syria's use of Scuds against its own cities, US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers stated yesterday that Syria's chemical weapons could be used at "a moment's notice" (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=295734). Will Assad take the next step and actually drop chemical weapons on the rebels? Notwithstanding Nancy Pelosi's assertion that Assad is a ""model Arab leader" (http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/03/assad_fooled_us_twice_shame_on.html), Assad is in fact a psychopath, who is aware that his body and that of his wife could soon be dragged through the streets of Damascus. Yes, he is capable of this horror.

And what does Obama and West do as this obscenity looms larger? Answer: Nothing. Obama likes to watch.

Meanwhile, the mullahs in Iran have Obama's number. Despite the American president's claim 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/), Obama has now "reissued waivers that exempt nine countries, including China, India and Turkey, from fully complying with U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's oil exports" (http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2012/12/us_renews_iran_sanctions_exemption_for_china_8_others.html), and has agreed to the renewal of bootless negotiations with Iran over their nuclear development aspirations, all fostering Tehran's stalling tactics (see: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2012/10/23/Iran-New-P51-talks-possible-next-month/UPI-89631350988200/).

These are troubled times, and the West is sadly saddled with an invertebrate occupying the Oval Office of the White House.

Hey, is that a drone over my house?



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "Can God Save Egypt?": No, Only Tom Can

As noted in prior blog entries, Thomas Friedman made numerous factual mistakes in a prior New York Times op-ed entitled "Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/open-letter-to-andrew-rosenthal-why-has.html), but thus far Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal and public editor Margaret Sullivan have not responded to my requests for corrections.

Friedman? Corrections? How could He possibly be mistaken? And, God forbid, if this would-be Middle East expert made ludicrous claims concerning his purported area of expertise, how might acknowledgement of these errors affect the celestial standing in which He holds himself?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Can God Save Egypt?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/opinion/friedman-can-god-save-egypt.html), Tom Terrific tackles the thorny issues of post-Mubarek Egypt. Having long sung paens to "the Arab Spring" and "The Arab Awakening" (over a year ago, Friedman, Kristof and Cohen went to pains to avoid bumping into each other in Cairo's Tahrir Square), Friedman now offers Egyptians the following advice to cope with renewed street fighting:

"God is not going to save Egypt. It will be saved only if the opposition here respects that the Muslim Brotherhood won the election fairly — and resists its excesses not with boycotts (or dreams of a coup) but with better ideas that win the public to the opposition’s side. And it will be saved only if Morsi respects that elections are not winner-take-all, especially in a society that is still defining its new identity, and stops grabbing authority and starts earning it. Otherwise, it will be all fall down."

Tom would have us believe that Egypt's current unrest revolves around freedom:

"I can assure you that the fight here is not between more religious and less religious Egyptians. What has brought hundreds of thousands of Egyptians back into the streets, many of them first-time protesters, is the fear that autocracy is returning to Egypt under the guise of Islam. The real fight here is about freedom, not religion."

The "real fight" is about freedom? Oh, really. According to the Pew Reseach Center (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/):

"At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . 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."

According to the same Pew Research Center report, 95% of Egyptian Muslims believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics. Egypt's unrest is all about freedom, or is it more about who ultimately consumes what is left of this decaying carcass?

I've got news for Friedman: In a country plagued with illiteracy, high rates of unemployment, a dizzying birthrate (see: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=195591), an economy owned in large part by the generals and colonels, abuse of woman (e.g., 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone female genital mutilation), brutal discrimination against Christian Copts, and billions of dollars of debt that will never be repaid, it's not going to get better.

More to the point, neither Allah nor Tom can fix this mess.

Maureen Dowd, "A Tale of Two Women": So You Want to Be a Spy

Maureen Dowd has movies on the mind.

After making a liberal sprinkling of references to Mel Gibson's 2006 film "Apocalypto" in her prior New York Times op-ed entitled "A Lost Civilization" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/thomas-friedman-full-israeli-experience.html), Dowd is now back with an opinion piece describing "the new Kathryn Bigelow/Mark Boal movie, 'Zero Dark Thirty.'" Dowd refers us to a Washington Post article by Greg Miller (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-zero-dark-thirty-shes-the-hero-in-real-life-cia-agents-career-is-more-complicated/2012/12/10/cedc227e-42dd-11e2-9648-a2c323a991d6_story.html), describing the real-life heroine portrayed by the film:

"'The operative, who remains undercover, was passed over for a promotion that many in the C.I.A. thought would be impossible to withhold from someone who played such a key role in one of the most successful operations in agency history,' Miller writes. Who do you have to kill to get a raise around here?

Miller continued: 'She has sparred with C.I.A. colleagues over credit for the bin Laden mission. After being given a prestigious award for her work, she sent an e-mail to dozens of other recipients saying they didn’t deserve to share her accolades, current and former officials said,' since they had tried to obstruct her."

Office politics and pettiness at the C.I.A.? Who would have ever imagined?

More interesting for me is the public's fascination with espionage movies, be they along the lines of "James Bond" or closer to reality. In their Walter Mitty mental meanderings, do people fantasize what it would be like to be above the law? Or, much akin to a short-lived roller coaster ride, do people enjoy visualising for some 100 minutes the lives of field agents without having to experience both the debilitating fear and abject boredom which alternately characterize the lives of these operatives?

Movies? I've got the plot, and one of these days, I'll have to figure out how to make it. But if you think that McLean can occasionally get vicious and petty, you have yet to visit Hollywood.

Bin Laden? Yes, he's dead, but the reemergence of al-Qaeda in Libya, Syria and Yemen will provide plenty of material for sequels.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Open Letter to Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of The New York Times: Is Your Newspaper's "Ethical Journalism, A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" Mere Window Dressing?

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

As you know, I recently sent an e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times, asking why corrections to Thomas Friedman's December 4, 2012 op-ed entitled "Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes" had not been made. Although I expressly noted the factual errors, both large and small, in Mr. Friedman's op-ed (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/open-letter-to-andrew-rosenthal-why-has.html), I did not receive an answer from Mr. Rosenthal to my e-mail, a copy of which was sent to you.

As provided by Section 15 of your newspaper's "Ethical Journalism, A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" (http://www.nytco.com/pdf/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904.pdf):

"The Times treats is readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors large and small, as soon as we become aware of them."

As further provided Section 16 of your "Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" provides:

"Simple courtesy suggests that we not alienate our readers by ignoring their letters and e-mails that warrant reply."

Are columnists, such as Mr. Friedman, entitled to play fast and loose with the facts, or, must they be corrected when their underlying factual assumptions are mistaken?

Given that Mr. Rosenthal has not responded to my query, perhaps you would care to reply.

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey Grossman
Caesarea, Israel


Paul Krugman, "Robots and Robber Barons": For Whom the Bell Tolls

"Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."

- John Donne


In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Robots and Robber Barons" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/opinion/krugman-robots-and-robber-barons.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman observes that corporations are growing wealthier, while labor compensation is down, owing in no small part to advances in technology. Krugman writes:

"Still, can innovation and progress really hurt large numbers of workers, maybe even workers in general? I often encounter assertions that this can’t happen. But the truth is that it can, and serious economists have been aware of this possibility for almost two centuries."

Regarding the resultant damage to the labor force, Krugman concludes:

"As I said, this is a discussion that has barely begun — but it’s time to get started, before the robots and the robber barons turn our society into something unrecognizable."

Query: Is it only "the robots and the robber barons" who are turning society into something unrecognizable? When was the last time Krugman attended a classical music concert? What I find shocking is the virtual absence of persons in the audience under the age of 60.

On the other hand, President Obama and his family will be attending the "Christmas in Washington" concert on Sunday night, which includes a performance by Psy, creator of "Gangnam Style," who, in a 2004 rap song, called for the murder of "Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives" (see: http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2012/12/09/obama-psy-gangnam-style-christmas-in-washington/1756667/).

Society long ago turned into something "unrecognizable" for me.

However, I stray from the theme of Krugman's opinion piece.

Do you recall the 1962-63 strike of The International Typographical Union against four New York daily newspapers? Even then, it was clear that automation and other technological advances would eliminate most of the jobs represented by this union, and indeed by the end of 1986, the ITU had all but ceased to exist.

Newspapers in general? The New York Times in particular? All dying. There will always be a news industry, but the manner in which news is distributed is undergoing radical change. Some 40 years ago, I commuted to Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad, and almost every passenger carried his or her copy of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News or, on the return trip, The New York Post. In our Internet age, printed newspapers, and even printed books, are on their way out, and subscription rates are declining as news becomes available from CNN, Yahoo and Google for free, and tablets replace paper.

Remarkably, I agree with Krugman: Technology will continue to render many jobs obsolete, and I do not foresee a wellspring of employment from new industries for college graduates or anyone else for that matter. I don't fault my niece for leaving college to build a career in restaurant management, where she is blossoming.

Discuss the impact on jobs of technology and innovation? Answer: Should newspapers still be manually prepared by typesetters? It's not going to happen.

And what about Krugman's The New York Times? Is this corporation also a "robber baron"? Be it robber baron or fairy godmother, ultimately the Times is toast.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thomas Friedman, "The Full Israeli Experience": More Bunkum from the Master of the Universe

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Full Israeli Experience" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-full-israeli-experience.html), would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman, writing from Tel Aviv, begins by quoting from Israel's leading English language newspaper:

"THESE were the main regional news headlines in The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday: 'Home Front Command simulates missile strike during drill.' Egypt’s President 'Morsi opts for safety as police battle protestors.' In Syria, 'Fight spills over into Lebanon.' 'Darkness at noon for fearful Damascus residents.' 'Tunisian Islamists, leftists clash after jobs protests.' 'NATO warns Syria not to use chemical weapons.' And my personal favorite: ''Come back and bring a lot of people with you' — Tourism Ministry offers tour operators the full Israeli experience.'"

Regarding the "full Israeli experience," which, according to Friedman, consists of "failed or failing state authority on four of its borders — Gaza, South Lebanon, Syria and the Sinai Desert of Egypt" (no mention of persistent threats by Iran to exterminate Israel), Tom next observes the purported manner in which Israelis respond to this uncertainty:

"There are two major schools of thought here. One, led by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, comprises the 'Ideological Hawks,' who, to the question, 'Do you know what neighborhood I am living in?' tell Israelis and the world, 'It is so much worse than you think!' Bibi goes out of his way to highlight every possible threat to Israel and essentially makes the case that nothing Israel does has ever or can ever alter the immutable Arab hatred of the Jewish state or the Hobbesian character of the neighborhood. Netanyahu is not without supporting evidence. Israel withdraws from both South Lebanon and Gaza and still gets hit with rockets."

Friedman, of course, is more attuned to what he informs us is the "other major school of thought," dedicated to seeking out "a Palestinian partner for a secure peace."

Well, as long as we are playing the Jerusalem Post headline game, I think Friedman would do well to go online now and read "Mashaal vows Hamas will not concede land" (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=295124). This article by Khaled Abu Toameh begins:

"Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal Saturday reiterated his movement's refusal to 'give up one inch of the land of Palestine.'

Mashaal, who arrived in the Gaza Strip for the first time ever on Friday, said: 'Palestine from the river [the Jordan River] to the sea [the Mediterranean], from the north to the south, is our land and we will never give up one inch or any part of it.'

Mashaal was speaking to hundreds of thousands of Hamas supporters during a rally in Gaza City marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.

Behind him was an emblem of an M75 missile and a large portrait of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin.

As Mashaal spoke, the crowd chanted slogans calling on Hamas's armed wing to launch rockets next time at Haifa."

Yup, Israel should just go on courting those peace-loving Palestinians dedicated to killing civilians and putting an end to the State of Israel.

Thank you as always, Tom, for your profound understanding of the Israeli experience. Where would Israel possibly be without friends like you?

Maureen Dowd, "A Lost Civilization": A Tribute to Mel Gibson

As those who read this blog are well aware, I am crazy about the movies, and I recently began a part-time second career acting in television commercials on my way to Hollywood stardom. My last commercial? Don't ask. I was almost completely edited out, and I challenge anyone, other than those who participated in the filming, to identify me and my role.

But heck, what does any of this have to do with Maureen Dowd's most recent New York Times op-ed entitled "A Lost Civilization" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/dowd-a-lost-civilization.html?_r=0)? Well, Dowd, it turns out, is also a movie fan, and has devoted a portion of this opinion piece to none other than Mel Gibson.

Mel Gibson? Yup. In her op-ed, which is primarily dedicated to gloating over the demise of the Republican Party, Dowd writes:

"Too bad the Republican Party didn’t have my mom to keep it on its toes. Then it might not have gone all Apocalypto on us — becoming the first civilization in modern history to spiral the way of the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans.

. . . .

Someday, it will be the subject of a National Geographic special, or a Mel Gibson movie, where archaeologists piece together who the lost tribe was, where it came from, and what happened to it."

Is that all the evidence I can conjure up to make my case linking the Dowd op-ed to Gibson? Hold your horses, there's more. Intellect that she is, Dowd then states:

"As the historian Will Durant observed, 'A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.'"

Now just by chance, Mel Gibson's 2006 film "Apocalypto" begins with the same Will Durant quote, "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within."

Did Dowd not only see Gibson's "Apocalypto," but also read Volume 3 of "The Story of Civilization" by Will and Ariel Durant? I suppose you should ask her, but given that I am a betting man, I know where I would place my money in this regard.

More important, however, I think Dowd would have done well to consider the very next sentence from "The Story of Civilization":

"The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars."

Hmm . . . people, morals, class struggle, failing trade, bureaucratic despotism, stifling taxes, consuming wars. Does this remind you of some place closer to home?

Before gloating over the demise of the Republican Party, I would merely remind Dowd of the teetering fortunes of her own newspaper. My guess is that the Republican Party will still be around decades after The New York Times maneuvers its way into the trash bin of American history.

Open Letter to Andrew Rosenthal: Why Has Thomas Friedman's "Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes" Not Been Corrected?

OPEN LETTER TO ANDREW ROSENTHAL, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dear Andrew,

As provided by Section 15 of your newspaper's "Ethical Journalism, A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" (http://www.nytco.com/pdf/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904.pdf):

"The Times treats is readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors large and small, as soon as we become aware of them."

The Times corrects its errors large and small, as soon as it becomes aware of them? Oh, really. Let's have a look together at Thomas Friedman's December 4, 2012 op-ed entitled "Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/opinion/iron-empires-iron-fists-iron-domes.html?_r=0), in which he declares:

"The far-right group running Israel today is so arrogant, and so indifferent to U.S. concerns, that it announced plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the West Bank — in retaliation for the U.N. vote giving Palestinians observer status — even though the U.S. did everything possible to block that vote and the settlements would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state."

A "huge" block of settlements? Do plans for 3,000 housing units comprise a "huge" block of settlements? Friedman forgets to mention that Israeli settlements are built on less than two percent of the total territory of the West Bank.

More important, would this "huge" block of settlements "sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state"? Sorry, but a quick look at a map demonstrates that this is not true (see: http://blog.camera.org/archives/2012/12/another_map_disproving_e1_cont.html). Of course, you can object to this announcement - as I do - by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's government; however, it certainly does not "sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state."

Friedman also writes in this op-ed:

"Israelis have responded to the collapse of Arab iron fists around them — including the rise of militias with missiles in Lebanon and Gaza — with a third model. It is the wall Israel built around itself to seal off the West Bank coupled with its Iron Dome antimissile system. The two have been phenomenally successful — but at a price. The wall plus the dome are enabling Israel’s leaders to abdicate their responsibility for thinking creatively about a resolution of its own majority-minority problem with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."

Friedman, who refers repeatedly to the "wall" throughout his op-ed, is again mistaken. Some ninety percent of that "wall" separating Israel from the West Bank is in fact a fence. And anyone who has ever driven on Israel's Highway 6 knows that the walled portions of the separation barrier are located in places intended to prevent sniper fire into Israel.

Moreover, there is no "wall" between Jordan, once comprising 77 percent of the Palestinian Mandate and where Palestinians constitute the majority of the population, and the West Bank.

So why hasn't the Times issued a correction concerning the errors, large and small, appearing in this op-ed?

I would appreciate your reply, which, with your permission, I would like to post in my blog.

Section 16 of your "Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments" provides:

"Simple courtesy suggests that we not alienate our readers by ignoring their letters and e-mails that warrant reply."

I believe this e-mail indeed warrants a reply.

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey

cc: Public Editor, New York Times

Friday, December 7, 2012

Syria: Obama's Flaccid Red Lines

At an August 20 news conference, Obama declared with regard to potential American intervention in Syria (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/20/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html):

"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus."

Well, Assad has started "moving around" a "whole bunch" of chemical weapons, so Obama has drawn a new line in the sand. Speaking several days ago at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium in Washington (see: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/obama-warns-syria-use-of-chemical-weapons-totally-unacceptable/), Obama stated:

"The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable."

Obama further warned, “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command, the world is watching.” Yes, Obama like to watch.

As even acknowledged today in a New York Times article entitled "U.S. Shifting Its Warning on Syria’s Chemical Arms" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/world/middleeast/syrias-chemical-weapons-moves-lead-us-to-be-flexible.html) by David Sanger and Eric Schmitt, Obama's intentions are anything but clear:

"When Mr. Obama warned against moving chemical weapons, administration officials said he did not mean shifting the weapons from one site to another, which has happened several times, but preparing them for use.

But in recent days, that is exactly what intelligence agencies fear has happened. American officials have detected that Syrian troops have mixed small amounts of precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, at one or two storage sites."

But why should we be surprised? Obama also made it be known to Iran's mullahs that he would not permit them to build a nuclear weapon, and further warned (http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/obama-to-iran-and-israel-as-president-of-the-united-states-i-dont-bluff/253875/):

"As president of the United States, I don't bluff."

Well, the mullahs long since called Obama's bluff, and Tehran's nuclear weapons development program continutes unabated.

I suppose this is what happens when the world comes to the realization that an invertebrate is sitting in the Oval Office.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Paul Krugman, "The Forgotten Millions": You Won't Have Romney to Kick Around Any More

Paul Krugman is fast changing his tune.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Forgotten Millions" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/opinion/18krugman.html?_r=0), Krugman begins:

"More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed."

"Washington"? Is Krugman referring to George Washington? I don't think so.

No longer hysterical about the presidential election, Paul is finally coming to terms with economic reality: The Obama administration doesn't have a plan to deal with the misery of American unemployment.

Acknowledging that "no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House" and wondering why the Obama administration was "so quick to accept defeat in the war of ideas," Krugman is telling us that there is no difference between Obama and the Republicans:

"[T]he the next time you hear Mr. Obama talk about winning the future — you should remember that the clear and present danger to the prospects of young Americans isn’t the deficit. It’s the absence of jobs."

An absence of jobs? You don't say. And here I thought that we were on the verge of salvation when "Washington" announced that unemployment had remarkably dipped under eight percent just one month prior to the presidential election.

What a shame. With the economy stalled and the fiscal cliff looming, Krugman won't have Romney to kick around any more.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NBC News, "Syria loads chemical weapons into bombs": Obama Likes to Watch

Back to the movies (How I love 'em!). No doubt you remember the memorable line of Chance the Gardener (Peter Sellers) from "Being There": "I like to watch." Well, the same can be said of President Obama.

NBC News has now informed us (http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/05/15706380-syria-loads-chemical-weapons-into-bombs-military-awaits-assads-order?lite):

"The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.

The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.

. . . .

U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, 'there's little the outside world can do to stop it.'"

Nothing the world can do? NATO couldn't possibly consider destroying Assad's planes on the ground?

And here I thought President Obama had warned Bashar al-Assad:

"The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable."

Assad, long courted by Obama, was never very stable, and quite honestly there is no way of knowing whether or not he will bomb the rebels with chemical weapons if his grip on Damascus grows even weaker.

Unlike Jimmy Carter, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Barbara Walters, I have never had the "honor" of meeting this mass murderer, but I would be willing to bet that he will not allow his body and that of his wife to be dragged through the streets of the Syrian capital.

Does Obama's threat, "there will be consequences," remind you of anything? It should. Recall how Obama also told the Iranians regarding his demand that they halt their nuclear weapons development program, "I don't bluff." We all know how seriously the mullahs have regarded Obama's admonition.

"There will be consequences"? "I don't bluff"? In fact, much akin to Chance the Gardener, Obama "likes to watch."