Follow by Email

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Ben Bernanke, Hippie": No Mention of the Bob Woodward Scandal

Read Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Ben Bernanke, Hippie" (, which he concludes by observing:

"And an end to deficit obsession can’t come a moment too soon. Right now Washington is focused on the idiocy of the sequester, but this is only the latest episode in an unprecedented run of declines in public employment and government purchases that have crippled our economy’s recovery. A misguided elite consensus has led us into an economic quagmire, and it’s time for us to get out."

Now close your eyes, and tell me how many times does our Nobel prize winner mention President Obama, the originator of the sequester, in his opinion piece. Twice? Three times? Five times?

Answer . . . a drum roll please: Not once.

Krugman does comment on the foolishness of the second Iraq war by observing that those who "pointed out that the risks and likely costs of war were huge . . . were dismissed as ignorant and irresponsible."

Well, I opposed that war, because I believed that it would destroy the power equilibrium between Iraq and Iran. I have also opposed America's prolonged ground involvement in Afghanistan, which was foolishly escalated by Obama and is costing the US $6 billion per month, but there is no mention by Krugman of that boondoggle.

The bulk of Krugman's opinion piece is devoted to his obsessive opposition to "austerity." However, there is no attempt by Krugman to distinguish between austerity and foolhardy federal spending.

As noted by Charles Krauthammer today in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Hail Armageddon" (

"A 2011 Government Accountability Office report gave a sampling of the vastness of what could be cut, consolidated and rationalized in Washington: 44 overlapping job training programs, 18 for nutrition assistance, 82 (!) on teacher quality, 56 dealing with financial literacy, more than 20 for homelessness, etc. Total annual cost: $100 billion-$200 billion, about two to five times the entire domestic sequester."

But Krauthammer is nefarious neocon, and there is nothing to be learned from him.

What else isn't being mentioned by Krugman? There's also the small matter of how the Imperial Second Term Obama Administration is seeking to silence Bob Woodward for daring to remind Americans that the sequester was Obama's dumb idea. As stated by Woodward during an interview by Sean Hannity (I know, another neocon whose show you should never be caught watching) on Thursday night (see:

Hannity: "Why should it matter if the president suggested the sequestration, and then the president denied that he requested the sequestration, and the president had a deal that he wasn't going to ask for tax increases, and then later does and says that's not true, and they attack you as, well, being willfully wrong? Why should this matter? I mean, don't we deserve our government to be honest with us?

Woodward: "Exactly. And I'm almost 70-years-old, I hate to acknowledge. I've done this for four decades. I will keep doing it in some form. But the White House saying you're doing these things when you've worked months on it and you have the documents, and Jay Carney actually acknowledges paternity for the sequester from the White House. The problem is there are all kinds of reporters who are much less experienced, who are younger, and if they are going to get roughed up in this way. And I am flooded with e-mails from people in the press saying this is exactly the way the White House works. They are trying to control, and they don't want to be challenged or crossed."

Well, Bob Woodward is not a neocon, and although his credibility and motivation are now being questioned by others in the media, doesn't he deserve a minute of our attention, particularly if he is warning that the Obama administration is trying to control America's news media?

Query: Is it even possible that Obama is trying to "control" the news media? Absolutely, and we have the answer from none other than former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. Listen to Dunn lecture on Obama’s media tactics during the 2008 election (

"One of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters. We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it. . . . very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control."

Obama is seeking "control" over the media? Actually, as acknowledged by Dunn, he has been seeking "absolute control."

Yes, it is frightening, and it's pitiful to see that Krugman, an economist and also a journalist, doesn't have the backbone to relate to the Woodward scandal.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Get Off of Your Cloud": Turning Her Talons Upon "Poor" Marissa

"I think that for me, it's God, family and Yahoo — in that order."

- Marissa Mayer, speaking at Fortune Most Powerful Women Event, November 2012

Hmm, "God, family and Yahoo"? God and family I understand. Yahoo? I occasionally read Yahoo News items and make use of its Internet finance pages, but placing Yahoo after God and family? Yeah, I know, Vince Lombardi also believed in "God, Family, and the Green Bay Packers - in that order," but he molded a legendary football dynasty over the course of almost a decade. How much time do you give Marissa at struggling Yahoo?

After taking Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to task in her prior New York Times op-ed (see:, Dowd now turns her talons upon poor Marissa Mayer in "Get Off of Your Cloud" ( "Poor" Marissa? Perhaps not. The 37-year-old Ms. Mayer, who arrived at Yahoo in July, has, as noted by Dowd, a $117 million five-year contract with the company.

Yes, that's a bit more than 60-year-old Dowd is making at the financially challenged New York Times. As I often tell my children, it's all a matter of timing. Sorry, Maureen, but you were born 20 years too soon.

Observing how Marissa "built a nursery next to her office at her own expense," Dowd goes on to observe:

"Now Mayer has caused another fem-quake with a decision that has a special significance to working mothers. She has banned Yahoos, as her employees are known, from working at home (which some of us call 'working' at home).

. . . .

The dictatorial decree to work 'side by side' had some dubbing Mayer not 'the Steinem of Silicon Valley' but 'the Stalin of Silicon Valley.'"

Dowd concludes:

"She seems to believe that enough employees are goofing off at home that she should bring them off the cloud and into the cubicle. But she should also be sympathetic to the very different situation of women — and men — struggling without luxurious layers of help.

Mayer has a nursery next to the executive suite. But not everyone has it so sweet."

Me? My creativity comes at 3 a.m., not at the water cooler or company cafeteria. I prefer face to face meetings over conference calls, but this is because of hearing loss (close proximity to "incoming" and "outgoing"), and then too, sometimes I feel the need to emerge from my cocoon.

But as was the case with Sheryl, Maureen is not being fair with Marissa. Marissa has something of a Herculean task ahead of her in turning Yahoo around, and she needs to create a new corporate culture and esprit de corps to achieve success. All of her rules may not make sense to you or to me, but that's not part of the equation. Moreover, I'm confident that most Yahoo employees are sufficiently compensated in order to comply with her demands for physical presence.

Examine how Lombardi created a ultra-tough training regimen and turned the Packers around. As Lombardi also once stated:

"People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society."

I'm a Bears fan and not a team player, but there's still much to learn from Lombardi, who tragically passed away more that 40 years ago at the age of 57, before the advent of the Internet and before Marissa was born.

American Jewish Organizations Condemn Oscars Skit But Lack the Cojones to Denounce Hagel

As reported by The Jerusalem Post (

"The [Oscar] awards ceremony, presented this year by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, was lambasted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for a sketch starring the foul-mouthed teddy bear 'Ted', voiced by MacFarlane and the eponymous star of a recent hit movie.

During the sketch Ted tells his movie co-star Mark Wahlberg that in order to 'work in this town' (Hollywood) he must be Jewish. He then goes on to say, 'I was born Theodore Shapiro and I would like to donate to Israel and continue to work in Hollywood forever.'"

Remarkable. The ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have their knickers in a knot over this vapid repartee suggesting Jewish control of Hollywood, but don't have the cojones to denounce Chuck Hagel, who claims that much of Congress is intimidated by the "Jewish lobby" (see:

Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, has joined Senate Democrats in endorsing Hagel as the next secretary of defense (see:

Birds of a feather flock together. Thank you, Obama.

Monday, February 25, 2013

David Brooks, "Our Second Adolescence": David's "Dream Obama"? Keep Dreaming!

Did you watch the Oscar ceremony? I didn't. I mostly read history, and it pains me to watch Hollywood-doctored portrayals of real events for consumption by the masses. I saw and detested Spielberg's sugar-coated "Lincoln," and I could not bring myself to watch "Argo." But heck, at least Michelle had her dream come true, presenting the award for Best Picture with white-gloved, gold-braided White House military social aides as props.

As long as we're talking about dreams, have a look at David Brooks's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Our Second Adolescence" (, in which David describes his "dream Obama":

"My dream Obama would take advantage of the fact that only the president can fundamentally shift the terms.

. . . .

My dream Obama would abandon the big government versus small government argument. He’d point out that in a mature, aging society, government isn’t going anywhere.

. . . .

My dream Obama would nurture investment in three ways."

That strange noise that you just heard? That was me, trying to stifle a yawn.

In case you're interested, Brooks would have his dream Obama "nurture investment" by taking "spending that currently goes to the affluent elderly and redirect[ing] it to the young and the struggling," starting debate on a "consumption tax plan," and talking "obsessively about family structure and social repair."

Keep dreaming, David. Can you imagine Obama cutting Medicare, attempting to push a value-added tax through Congress, and single-handedly reducing the number of unwed mothers in America? I am beginning to wonder if this op-ed is an April Fools joke come early and if it was actually penned by Tom Friedman.

Another strange noise? Sorry, this time it wasn't a yawn.

My three-point plan for nurturing investment? Simple:

  1. immediately take US ground forces out of Afghanistan;
  2. declare war on Medicare fraud using algorithmic detection;
  3. reinstate the Uptick Rule (see:
Yes, you're right. I may not have a dream Obama, but I'm also a dreamer whose dreams, in this instance, have no chance of coming true.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Pompom Girl for Feminism": Dowd Bares Her Claws

Have you ever visited my Facebook page? Probably not, because it no longer exists. I put an end to it after limiting myself to three "friends," one of whom was dead. Do you really want to be my friend? Okay, if you're willing to assume the risk (there are several people in several countries who are a bit "annoyed" with me), but first let's talk about books and movies, exercise and aging, economics and morality, raising dogs and growing broccoli.

Business? The corporate world? Inasmuch as you are now my buddy, I suppose we can talk about that, too. Today, I advise; my place is not within the corporation. After leaving several government jobs, I foolishly agreed to work in a managerial role for a financial institution. After several tedious years, my boss informed me during my annual review that the CEO, the head of the corporate division, and the head of human resources all despised me. "Peculiar," I thought to myself. Had they caught me walking barefoot through the hallways? Was it the rock music that occasionally blasted from my office? Had someone seen me quietly mimicking horses and sheep at a board meeting? Or maybe they didn't believe me when I denied ratting on them to the Treasury Department? Curious, I made appointments with two of the three: both denied ever saying anything untoward to my boss about me and immediately offered to pick up the phone and sort the matter out. "No need," I said and resigned the following day.

Or stated otherwise, Facebook doesn't interest me, and I never assigned much importance to scaling the corporate ladder.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Pompom Girl for Feminism" (, Maureen Dowd takes a swipe at Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg, it turns out, has written a new book entitled "Lean In," which is intended to assist women in advancing themselves in the workplace. Dowd cynically writes:

"She seems to think she can remedy social paradigms with a new kind of club — a combo gabfest, Oprah session and corporate pep talk. (Where’s the yoga?)"

Okay, I am not of the female "denomination," but even if I was, this book would not be for me. Consciousness-raising sessions, Oprah and corporate pep talks? I develop hives just listening to these words. However, having bared her claws, Dowd is not finished with Sandberg. Dowd concludes:

"Sandberg may mean well, and she may be setting up a run for national office. But she doesn’t understand the difference between a social movement and a social network marketing campaign. Just because digital technology makes connecting possible doesn’t mean you’re actually reaching people.

People come to a social movement from the bottom up, not the top down. Sandberg has co-opted the vocabulary and romance of a social movement not to sell a cause, but herself.

She says she’s using marketing for the purpose of social idealism. But she’s actually using social idealism for the purpose of marketing."

Don't you think you're going a bit too far, Maureen? In this age of narcissism, who isn't selling themselves? Moreover, given that Sandberg's book is intended to promote gender equality in the workplace, why not cut her some slack?

My question is otherwise: Given the direction of the economy and America's faltering stature on the world stage, ultimately will there be any buyers of books?

For that matter, does anyone still read, or are we, as a society, too preoccupied with our Facebook pages?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Congress Denied Access to Hagel's Archive at University of Nebraska: What Happened to Obama's "Transparency" Claims?

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

- Barack Obama
Obama? Transparency? Yeah, right.

It's old, but listen again to Anita Dunn lecturing on Obama’s media tactics during the 2008 election (

"One of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe [Obama’s chief campaign manager] videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters. We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it. . . . very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control."

And then there is the video of Obama at a party honoring former PLO media spokesman and University of Chicago colleague Rashid Khalidi, which has been locked away by The Los Angeles Times.

More to the point, since becoming president, none other than msnbc ( acknowledges that "if you count all public events at which the presidents took questions, President Obama trailed every president since Ronald Reagan."

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Chuck Hagel, Obama's obtuse anti-Semitic nominee for secretary of defense, is denying Congressional investigators access to speeches and remarks located in the archives of The University of Nebraska-Omaha (see:

But what the heck? The Senate will approve him anyway, to the delight of the "progressive" media, and he will join a cabinet of sycophantic white men, consisting of the worst and the dumbest.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Sequester of Fools": Anus Horribilis

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Sequester of Fools" (, Paul Krugman rails against the sequester. Krugman writes:

"Messrs. Bowles and Simpson had their moment — the annus horribilis of 2011, when Washington was in thrall to deficit scolds insisting that, in the face of record-high long-term unemployment and record-low borrowing costs, we forget about jobs and concentrate exclusively on a 'grand bargain' that would supposedly (not actually) settle budget disputes for ever after.

That moment has now passed; even Mr. Bowles concedes that the search for a grand bargain is on 'life support.' Let’s convene a death panel! But the legacy of that year of living foolishly lives on, in the form of the 'sequester,' one of the worst policy ideas in our nation’s history.

. . . .

The good news is that compared with our last two self-inflicted crises, the sequester is relatively small potatoes. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would have threatened chaos in world financial markets; failure to reach a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff would have led to so much sudden austerity that we might well have plunged back into recession. The sequester, by contrast, will probably cost 'only' around 700,000 jobs."

I agree, the United States, under the able stewardship of President Obama, is again steering for an economic iceberg, and even Krugman acknowledges in this instance, with regard to the sequester, that "Republicans and Democrats alike signed on to this idea."

But just a moment. What is this talk about the fiscal cliff taking the US "back into recession"? Excuse me, did I miss something over the past few days? Wasn't it Krugman who, in an op-ed entitled "Rubio and the Zombies" (see:, just informed us that America is "more than five years into the worst economic slump since the Great Depression"? Apparently the Nobelist from the Times is suddenly aware of something that I don't know.

David Brooks, "The D.C. Dubstep": Is Suicide Painless?

Through early morning for I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realise that I can see

That suicide is painless
It brings so many changes
And I can take or leave them if I please

- Lyrics from "Suicide Is Painless," Theme from 1970 Black Comedy "MASH"

Is suicide painless? I suppose it depends upon how you go about it. The United States is preparing to commit economic suicide, and believe me, it is not going to be painless at all.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The D.C. Dubstep" (, David Brooks bemoans the inability of Democrats and Republicans to reach any agreement to forestall this imminent tragedy. Brooks writes of Obama and the Democrats:

"Democrats get to do the P.C. Shimmy. Traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions: They identify a problem. They come up with a proposal to address the problem. They try to convince the country that their proposal is the best approach.

Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town."

Brooks holds the Republicans equally to blame:

"In this dance, the Republicans mount the stage and roar that they are about to courageously cut spending. In this anthem they carefully emphasize cuts to programs the country sympathizes with, such as special education, while sparing programs that actually created the debt problem, like Medicare.

Then, when they have worked themselves up into a frenzy of self-admiration, they sprint across the stage and leap into what they imagine is the loving arms of their adoring fans. When they are 4 feet off the ground, they realize the voters have left the building in disgust and they land with a thud on the floor."

US national debt has reached some $16.6 trillion. It will never be paid back. Federal budget deficits are not sustainable. The US is now in the fifth year of an economic downturn that is showing no sign of abating.

Sure things could have been done, such as reinstating the Uptick Rule (see: to reignite growth, waging war against Medicare fraud, and ending America's inane ground involvement in Afghanistan. But none of this happened.

Blood vessels are occluded, the flow of blood to the brain is blocked, and the US federal government has begun to experience a series of mini-strokes. However, old habits have yet to change, and it's only a matter of time until the advent of paralysis.

It's not going to be rhythmic, soothing or pretty.

Gail Collins, "Peculiar Naming Rites": In Hagel's Case, the Joke Is on Us

Gail Collins is fortunate enough to know absolutely nothing about international terrorism, but this does not prevent her from lending support to Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee for secretary of defense. In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Peculiar Naming Rites" (, Colins tells us that the Postal Service is actually "looking to launch a clothing line," and then continues:

"This is not make-believe, like the story about Chuck Hagel giving a speech to Friends of Hamas. Dan Friedman, a New York Daily News reporter, says he thinks he inadvertently started that one when he called a Republican aide and asked if there were any rumors floating around about the nominee for secretary of defense. As an example, Friedman said, he asked about speaking fees from anything like 'the Junior League of Hezbollah' or 'Friends of Hamas.' Soon the idea was all over the right-wing media.

'The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them,' Friedman wrote.

I think I speak for us all when I say: Hahahaha."

Collins, of course, does not mention that when interviewed by Al Jazeera in 2009, America's prospective secretary of defense agreed that America is "the world’s bully" (see:

Just an accidental, spur of the moment slip of the tongue on Hagel's part? I don't think so. Again, during a 2007 speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Hagel labeled the US a "schoolyard bully" (see:

Hezbollah? As known to all, Hagel was one of only 12 US Senators who refused to sign a 2006 letter asking that the EU brand Hezbollah a terror organization.

This refusal on Hagel's part has become that much more poignant given the determination that a Hezbollah bomber was responsible for the deadly 2012 Burgus bus bombing aimed at Israeli tourists in Bulgaria (see:, and the recent admission by a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus that he was also seeking to help murder Israeli tourists (see:

Hagel, a moron and an anti-Semite as America's next secretary of defense? Hahahaha? Why am I not laughing?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A New War Between Hezbollah and the Syrian Rebels?

As reported by Lebanon's Daily Star (

"The rebel Free Syrian Army warned Tuesday it would strike back at Hezbollah if the party did not halt its attacks on Syrian territory.

'If Hezbollah does not stop shelling Syrian territories, villages and unarmed civilians from inside Lebanese territory within 48 hours, we will respond with our arms to the sources of its fire and silence them inside Lebanese territory,' the FSA command said in a statement.

It urged residents in the eastern city of Hermel near the border with Syria to stay away from Hezbollah’s rocket launchers and military posts.

The FSA again accused Hezbollah, a key ally of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, of 'committing massacres' in Syria with 'artillery cover from inside Lebanese territory.'"

Or in a nutshell: Assad is growing desparate in his battle against Syrian rebels, and Iran has ordered Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, to take immediate measures to reduce the pressure on the Syrian mass murderer. Meanwhile, as hundreds more Syrian civilians die in the fighting each week, Obama continues to watch from the sidelines.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "The Belly Dancing Barometer": Actually, a Fan Dance Intended to Hide Tom's Ignorance

Perhaps you remember, more than a year ago, how Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof and Roger Cohen went to pains to avoid bumping into each other in Cairo's Tahrir Square while extolling the virtues of the Arab Spring and the birth of Egyptian democracy. Well, those heady days are long since over. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Belly Dancing Barometer" (, Friedman writes:

"Egypt is in dire economic condition. Youth unemployment is rampant, everything is in decay, tourism and foreign investment and reserves are down sharply. As a result, Egypt needs an I.M.F. bailout. Any bailout, though, will involve economic pain — including cuts in food and fuel subsidies to shrink Egypt’s steadily widening budget deficit. This will hurt."

But don't worry. Friedman has a simple solution for every problem, and this is no exception. Tom explains, "But if you are Egypt and basically your only natural resource is your people — men and women — you need to be as open to the world and modernity as possible to unleash all of their potential for growth." Ah yes, the Muslim Brotherhood should should shake off its Islamist shackles and welcome the winds of democracy and progress.

Well, I've got news for Friedman: In a country plagued with illiteracy, high rates of unemployment, a dizzying birthrate, 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 happen.

Friedman concludes his opinion piece by observing:

"Bottom line: Either the Muslim Brotherhood changes or it fails — and the sooner it realizes that the better. I understand why President Obama’s team prefers to convey this message privately: so the political forces in Egypt don’t start focusing on us instead of on each other. That’s wise. But I don’t think we are conveying this message forcefully enough. And Egyptian democracy advocates certainly don’t. In an open letter to President Obama last week in Al-Ahram Weekly, the Egyptian human rights activist Bahieddin Hassan wrote Obama that the muted 'stances of your administration have given political cover to the current authoritarian regime in Egypt and allowed it to fearlessly implement undemocratic policies and commit numerous acts of repression.'"

My goodness, what a surprise! Just as in Syria, where the Obama administration thought it could win over John Kerry's "dear friend" Bashar al-Assad by way of sycophantic gestures at a time when Assad was gunning down his own people (e.g., Hillary: "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"), the Obama administration believes that the president's pearly smile can win over Egypt's newest tyrant. No way, Jose. The Muslim Brotherhood has its own rigid theological agenda.

But thanks anyway for the bunkum, Tom. Keep it coming!

Monday, February 18, 2013

David Brooks, "What Data Can’t Do": Data Can't Take Out the Trash

"I am not a number, I am a free man."

- Number Six, "The Prisoner"

Do your remember Patrick McGoohan in the 1960s television series "The Prisoner"? Having resigned from his government position, presumably in intelligence, McGoohan is hustled off to the Village, where he is assigned the number six, and where the "forces that be" attempt to discover why he left. I have also resigned in a fashion, and like it or not have been given a number, or actually a series of numbers.

I don't think the people who produced "The Prisoner" a half century ago would ever have imagined how today everything we do - buying habits, browsing preferences, etc. - is data mined and assigned a set of numbers. And as much as I would like to escape to Alaska or Costa Rica and declare that I am not a number, here I am, still stuck in the Village.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "What Data Can’t Do" (, David Brooks observes the limitations of data:

  • "Data struggles with the social"
  • "Data struggles with context"
  • "Data creates bigger haystacks"
  • "Big data has trouble with big problems"
  • "Data favors memes over masterpieces"
  • "Data obscures values"
So data has its limitations, but how do we flee this prison or achieve some sort of symbiosis?

Perhaps it is no accident that much of my working day involves a client in the life sciences that has sought to master mountains of data, much of which is not homogeneous, in an effort to understand life on a molecular level. Underlying this effort, however, is a complex set of social interactions among mathematicians, computer scientists and biologists, which cannot be reduced to numbers. Faced with a numerical onslaught, they have countered with intuitive collective insights and are emerging victorious.

You see, it's not all about data. There is indeed much that raw data cannot do.

Yes, I know: I am being eaten alive by cookies, which map my preferences and routines, no matter how often I "clean" my laptop. Yet I would like to believe that whatever value I bring to this world springs from associations and play that no computer could ever generate.

Hold on just one moment . . .

"Yes, dear? What's that you say? Ah, the garbage. I'll have it out in an instant, dear. No dear, I won't forget this time. Trust me, dear. When have I ever disappointed you?"
You know, garbage in, garbage out.

Maybe I should fire off an e-mail to David: Data also can't possibly fathom my 30-year relationship with my wife or take out the trash.

I am not a number, I am a free man!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thomas E. Donilon, "Hezbollah Unmasked": Why Did Obama Nominate Hagel to Be Secretary of Defense?

In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hezbollah Unmasked" (, Thomas E. Donilon, national security adviser to President Obama, writes:

"ON FEB. 5, after more than six months of investigations, the Bulgarian government announced that it believed Hezbollah was responsible for the attack last July that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver and injured dozens more in the resort town of Burgas. This report is significant because a European Union member state, Bulgaria, explicitly pointed a finger at Hezbollah and lifted the veil on the group’s continued terrorist activities. Europe can no longer ignore the threat that this group poses to the Continent and to the world.

. . . .

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the group conducted kidnappings and airplane hijackings, two bombings in Buenos Aires, several in Paris and an attempted bombing in Bangkok. In 1996 it assisted in the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans. Thanks to this bloody record, in 1997 Hezbollah was among the first groups added to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Over the last decade, Hezbollah has worked assiduously to obscure its terrorist pedigree and convince the world that it is interested only in politics, providing social welfare services, and defending Lebanon. But it is an illusion to speak of Hezbollah as a responsible political actor. Hezbollah remains a terrorist organization and a destabilizing force across the Middle East."

Donilon fails to mention Hezbollah's assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a friend of the United States, in 2005.

So why does Obama want Chuck Hagel as his secretary of defense? As known to all, in 2006 Hagel refused to sign a letter from the US Senate calling on the EU to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Hagel further declared, "The war against Hezbollah and Hamas will not be won on the battlefield."

As a consequence of Hagel's nomination by Obama, anti-Semitism is being freely voiced by America's "progressive" media. In case you missed it, Bill Maher declared several days ago, "Based on every statement I’ve heard out of any Republican over the past two years, the Israelis are controlling our government." The audience applauded. Democratic National Committee vice chair Donna Brazile didn't even lift an eyebrow.

Most American Jews refused to see this coming when they voted overwhelmingly for Obama's re-election. But then, Obama listened to 20 years of anti-Semitic sermons from the Reverend Wright, and this also didn't trouble them in 2008. As Ed Koch recently explained just before his death (, American Jews "are always very solicitous of everybody else except their own needs and community." Sad.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "How to Unparalyze Us": Lead With Your Chin?

Did you ever study martial arts? Were you ever told to "lead with your chin"? I didn't think so.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How to Unparalyze Us" (, Thomas Friedman is again calling for a "Grand Bargain" in order to rejuvenate a stagnant American economy. Freidman, whose chin has gone the way of the dodo bird, writes:

"TO have any effect, though, the president can’t just say he is ready for 'tough' decisions. He has to lead with his chin and put a concrete, comprehensive package on the table, encompassing three areas. First, new investments that would combine immediate jobs in infrastructure with some long-term growth-enablers like a massive build-out in the nation’s high-speed broadband capabilities. That would have to be married with a long-term fiscal restructuring, written into law, that slows the growth of both Social Security and Medicare entitlements, along with individual and corporate tax reform. Obama has hinted at his willingness to do all of these. They should be agreed upon in 2013 and phased in gradually, starting in 2014."

My goodness, who would have ever dreamed it was so simple? Invest in infrastructure (instead of green energy), give us faster Internet (so we can download porn that much quicker), and shrink Social Security and Medicare entitlements (while Obamacare bleeds America white).

Reach agreement in 2013. Phase it in during 2014.

The man's a genius! No need for a new secretary of the treasury when we have Tom, a national treasure! What, he's not a national treasure? Go ask his mother.

Maureen Dowd, "The Oscar for Best Fabrication": In Search of Hollywood Reality?

My wife and I rarely can agree on a film that we are both willing to see, and ordinarily my youngest son is given the task of accompanying me to the movies and elbowing me if I snore too loudly. Don't get me wrong: I love the movies and the chance to escape reality for two hours, and I have a large collection of DVDs to boot. Also, when I need a vacation day, I enjoy shutting off my cell phone and appearing in a commercial, which involves absolutely no thought on my part. However, given that I am more often than not sleep deprived, place me in the darkness of a movie theater, allow me to sink into a warm cushy seat, and I will be snoozing within minutes.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Oscar for Best Fabrication" (, Maureen Dowd writes about the historical inaccuracies of three recent history-based films which have proven big box office hits: "Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Lincoln":

"The affable and talented Ben Affleck has admitted that [the climax of 'Argo'], with Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers jumping in a jeep, chasing the plane down the runway and shooting at it, was fabricated for excitement.

. . . .

'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'based on firsthand accounts of actual events,' has been faulted for leaving the impression that torture was instrumental in the capture of Osama.

. . . .

Joe Courtney, a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, recently wrote to Steven Spielberg to complain that 'Lincoln' falsely showed two of Connecticut’s House members voting 'Nay' against the 13th Amendment for the abolition of slavery."

I didn't see "Argo." The ongoing horrors of today's Iran (the stoning to death of women for alleged adultery, the hanging of homosexuals, the brutal oppression of Kurds and Baha'is, and the list goes on) are just too real for me, and I'm just not ready for a depiction of how the CIA outfoxed the Revolutionary Guard when the mullahs, in hot pursuit of their first atomic bomb, are currently making a sap out of Obama.

"Zero Dark Thirty"? I was impressed by what I managed to see and will buy the DVD to review the scenes that I missed.

"Lincoln"? An entirely different matter. I hate to be the first to whisper "the king has no clothes," but I thought the film was a stinker. Have another look at photographs of Lincoln at the beginning and end of America's Civil War, and there is no missing the distance between Daniel Day-Lewis's generally affable depiction of the 16th president of the United States and the depression-wracked reality of the haunted human being. I couldn't buy into it.

But then, I've never sought reality from Hollywood and have only asked for a few blessed moments of escapism.

[No need to call, Tony. The mullahs already want my head.]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gail Collins, "Senators Overboard!": Needless to Say, No Mention by Collins of Anti-Semitism

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Senators Overboard!" (, Gail Collins also goes to bat for Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee for secretary of defense. Collins writes:

"The complaints about Hagel that have come up so far range from the perfectly reasonable (seems to have trouble communicating), to the perfectly lunatic. During debate in the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican, suggested that Hagel had been 'endorsed' by 'terrorist-type countries.' This presumably had to do with a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry saying he hoped Hagel’s nomination would improve relations between the two countries."

So, Iran, which arms Hezbollah and Hamas, and which was responsible for the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, is not a "terrorist-type" country?

Senator Inhofe's suggestion that Hagel had been endorsed by terrorist-type countries "presumably had to do with a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry saying he hoped Hagel’s nomination would improve relations between the two countries"? Is that all? Let's have a look at what Iran's state-controlled press is telling us. Iran's Fars News Agency informed us in an article entitled "Chuck Hagel's Nomination: Iran Hopes for Practical Changes in US Foreign Policy" ( that Tehran is pleased by Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel as America's next secretary of defense. Next, Iran's Press TV declared that Hagel is "anti-Israeli" ( This was followed by a lead online article entitled "Hagel remarks on Israel, Iran controversial" (, appearing in Iran's Mehr News, which informed us:
"Political analysts in US believe that Hagel, learning lessons from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars, and US strategic miscalculations in Central Asia and Africa, had come to believe that Washington is far from starting a new adventurist enterprise, with the result being no more than economic disaster and dwindled American hegemony in international scene, if US launches a war without the consent of international community. Accordingly, Hagel would keep US at bay from adventurism about Iran, and would try bringing US policies to convergence with its allies in line with Obama’s policies. This possibility has sparked the Zionist lobby (AIPAC) and its allied representatives in Congress, who believed that Obama, with Hagel on the Pentagon, would not pose the Iran strike as a serious option.

. . . .

US political circles had it that in meeting with Obama, Hagel has said that Benyamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, do not appreciate US helps, and has become isolated as the result of political extremism."

Unbeknownst to Collins, there is a big difference between  hoping that "Hagel’s nomination would improve relations between the two countries" and "Hagel would keep US at bay from adventurism about Iran," i.e. remain acquiescent as Iran continues to build its first atomic weapon.

Needless to say, there is no mention by Collins of Hagel's anti-Semitic declarations. As Collins surely knows:

Sorry, Gail, but Hagel has no "trouble communicating" his feelings about Jews.

Racism of this kind would not be tolerated if it were aimed at any other US minority. But today, Jews have become fair game. It has almost become fashionable. Frightening.

Frank Bruni, "The G.O.P.’s Nasty Newcomer": Cruz Had the Audacity to Vote Against Kerry?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The G.O.P.’s Nasty Newcomer" (, Frank Bruni complains about Senator Ted Cruz's obstreperous conduct:

"He sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and during its final meeting on Tuesday about Hagel’s nomination, he made such nefarious and hectoring insinuations about Hagel’s possible corruption by foreign influences that McCain, who’d gleefully raked Hagel over the coals himself, more or less told Cruz to cool it.

. . . .

ONLY three senators voted against Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state. Cruz was among them."

Curiously, Bruni is making the same point found to be found in a Ruth Marcus opinion piece in the Washington Post (, i.e., Cruz has "been one of three senators to vote against confirming fellow Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as secretary of state."

And then there is also reference to Cruz's vote against Kerry in a lead online Times article entitled "Texas Senator Goes on Attack and Raises Bipartisan Hackles" (

"Besides suggesting that Mr. Hagel might have received compensation from foreign enemies, he has tangled with the mayor of Chicago, challenged the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat on national television, voted against virtually everything before him — including the confirmation of John Kerry as secretary of state."

Someone actually had the nerve to vote against John Kerry, who referred to mass murderer Bashar al-Assad as "my dear friend"?

Cruz is obviously doing something right.

Ruth Marcus, "Ted Cruz, making quite an entrance": Loathsome, Noxious and Slimy

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Ted Cruz, making quite an entrance" (, Ruth Marcus expresses her outrage over the recent conduct of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Marcus deplores the fact that Cruz was "one of three senators to vote against confirming fellow Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as secretary of state."

Oh my goodness! Someone had the courage and good sense to vote against John Kerry, who referred to Syrian tyrant and mass murderer Bashar al-Assad as "my dear friend"? Truly horrifying!

Marcus also excoriates Cruz for opposing Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense:

"But with his latest attack on Hagel, Cruz has gone too far. Cruz has every right — indeed, he has an obligation — to question Hagel vigorously. He has a right to demand relevant information. He has a right to vote against Hagel; indeed Republicans are now filibustering the nomination.

But he doesn’t have the right to smear Hagel, with no supporting evidence, with insinuations that the nominee received money from foreign governments or extremist groups."

As Marcus surely knows:

  • Hagel has the support of the Iranian press;
  • Hagel allegedly said that Israel controls the State Department (see:;
  • Hagel refused as a senator to sign a letter to the European Union calling on it to designate Hezbollah a terror group;
  • Hagel opposed funding the USO Center in Haifa and said, "Let the Jews pay for it";
  • Hagel said that “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” i.e. in the US Senate;
  • Hagel signed a letter calling upon Obama to talk with Hamas.
Cruz is "smearing" Hagel with regard to possibly receiving foreign funding? Sorry, Ruth, but given Hagel's sordid positions and manifestations of anti-Semitism, it would be almost impossible to "smear" him.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Rubio and the Zombies": Oblivious to the Odious Cancellation of the Uptick Rule

So you "invest" in the stock market? But are you aware that you are a patsy in a rigged game controlled by giant hedge funds?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Rubio and the Zombies" (, Paul Krugman links the financial crisis of 2008 to a housing crisis brought on by "risky mortgages." Krugman writes:

"For here we are, more than five years into the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, and one of our two great political parties has seen its economic doctrine crash and burn twice: first in the run-up to crisis, then again in the aftermath. Yet that party has learned nothing; it apparently believes that all will be well if it just keeps repeating the old slogans, but louder.

It’s a disturbing picture, and one that bodes ill for our nation’s future."

Hmm, "more than five years into the worst economic slump since the Great Depression" . . .

It doesn't occur to Krugman that the Uptick Rule, which went into effect in 1938 in response to market abuses, was cancelled in 2007, i.e. just prior to the onset of that economic slump. Cancellation of the Uptick Rule has contributed mightily to this prolonged downturn by enabling hedge funds to short shares, i.e. sell shares they do not own, in almost unlimited quantities, and permitting them to benefit from resultant investor panic.

I ask the indulgence of those who read this blog as I again provide the same illustrative example of how cancellation of the Uptick Rule is destroying the US economy:

Micro-cap company "X" has designed and patented a revolutionary widget. Recently, the achievements of "X" have made their way into the news, and its shares have risen. Farmer Joe, who attends night school and reads the financial news, decides to buy 1,000 shares of "X". However, Farmer Joe is unaware that Slick Eddy at Hedge Fund "Z", who couldn't care less about the merits of company "X"'s widgets, has also noticed the rise in the share price of "X". With almost unlimited resources behind him, Eddy borrows "X" shares from various financial institutions and begins to sell vast quantities into the market, causing a precipitous decline in the market price of "X". Eddy then blocks any rally in the share price by activating a computerized program to immediately sell 100 shares at the bid after any purchase. Worried by the huge downswing in the price of "X," and also concerned that at the end of each trading day "X" always goes down (Eddy often sells into the market during the last seconds of trading), Farmer Joe dumps his shares at an enormous loss ("Someone must know that something is wrong at 'X'"). Having succeeded in panicking Farmer Joe and other small investors in "X", Eddy buys back the shares at a significantly lower average price than that at which he sold them, resulting in enormous profits for Hedge Fund "Z". Eddy's bosses note his "fine" work and reward him with bonuses as the shares of "X" tumble.

Of course, there are those who will say that ultimately the stock market is "efficient", and the price of "X" will recover to an appropriate level. However, in the process we have witnessed the flow of wealth from Farmer Joe and other small investors to Hedge Fund "Z" and Slick Eddy.

Also, consider the damage to company "X", which, owing to doubt raised by the run on its shares, is suddenly unable to raise additional funds to finance expanded production of a new line of widgets, declares bankruptcy and fires its staff.

Sure, there are instances when the scientific and/or commercial progress of a company shorted by Hedge Fund "Z" is so great that Hedge Fund "Z" must buy back the shares at a higher price, but these losses are more than covered by its programmed downward manipulation of the shares of many other companies.

I would only add that it has become known to me that although financial institutions are required to "borrow" the shares that they short, many financial institutions are ignoring these regulations: "If you look the other way regarding the shares of company "X" that I borrowed and should have returned long ago, I will look the other way regarding the return of the company "Q" shares that you borrowed.

Yes, it's ugly out there, and it is high time to reinstate the Uptick Rule, before it becomes too late.

Moreover, it's not just "Zombie" Republicans who are preventing long overdue reinstatement of this rule.

Charles Blow, "The Real Obama": Chuck Hagel, "Let the Jews Pay for It"

"Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."

- President Barack Obama, 2013 State of the Union Address

Over the course of his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the need to increase federal spending on education, infrastructure and green energy, and he claimed that this would not increase America's deficit "by a single dime." These are all noble objectives, but where in his speech did he explain how he intended to pay for all of this?

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, "The federal government ran up a $293 billion deficit in the first quarter of fiscal 2013." As such, the annual federal budget deficit is well on its way to topping $1 trillion for the fifth-straight year. If you believe that Obama's plans are not going to increase the deficit, you are surely also a believer in the Tooth Fairy.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Real Obama" (, Charles Blow writes:

"Is this the real Barack Obama? I hope so. I like this one.

The president used Tuesday’s State of the Union address to detail a vision of America’s future, and his second term, in which the country is not in perpetual war, government plays an expansive role, Congressional obstruction is named and shamed and he is bold and unapologetically progressive.

This is how politicians who needn’t worry about re-election look: more like themselves."

Blow also doesn't trouble himself with the question of who is going to pay for Obama's "unapologetically progressive" program. The problem is that someone ultimately must pay for it.

Which brings us to Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. As reported by Adam Kredo of The Washington Free Beacon (

"Hagel, who served as president and CEO of the World USO from 1987 to 1990, expressed intense opposition to the USO Haifa Center during a tumultuous 1989 meeting with Jewish leaders, according to multiple sources involved in the fight to keep the post open.

'He said to me, ‘Let the Jews pay for it’,' said Marsha Halteman, director for military and law enforcement programs at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which led the battle to keep USO Haifa operational."

"Let the Jews pay for it"? Is this also indicative of what underlies the "real" Obama?

We have also learned from Alana Goodman of The Washington Free Beacon ( that Republican senators are demanding additional disclosure of material from Hagel:

"Among the requested materials: the full text and details of several speeches Hagel failed to report to the Senate Armed Services Committee that have since been uncovered.

Fox News Channel on Tuesday reported on two speeches Hagel failed to disclose as requested, including one given in 2008 to the annual conference of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

The ADC is a controversial nonprofit whose conference last year featured speakers prominent in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement targeting Israel. The 2012 conference also featured an award presentation celebrating an author whose essays include one titled, 'Zionism is a form of racism.'

The ADC also has not disclosed the full video of Hagel’s 2008 speech, while refusing to release its tax records as required by federal law."

According to Fox News (

"An Obama administration official who has worked with the senator during his confirmation process maintained that Hagel has gone 'above and beyond' the Senate’s requirements, by supplying to the Armed Services Committee whatever evidence he could find – prepared remarks, transcripts and the like – for both formal and 'informal' speeches.

Apprised by Fox News of the two speaking dates from 2008, however, the official appeared not to have heard about them. The aide later responded that Hagel did not disclose these two speaking events because neither were formal speeches. 'It’s simply not true to suggest there was any attempt to hide anything,' the aide told Fox News. 'One event was at an academic institute – Georgetown, a Jesuit university. The other was with an organization that combats discrimination.'"

An "organization that combats discrimination," yet honors a speaker who claims that Zionism is a form of racism? Yeah, right.

By all means, let's review Hagel's speech before the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which purportedly is in an "archive" in Maryland and unavailable.

Another video which we are not being permitted to see? Does it remind you of something? It should. You will recall that The Los Angeles Times still refuses to release a video of Obama at a party honoring former PLO media spokesman and University of Chicago colleague Rashid Khalidi.

Meanwhile, as Obama continues to pursue abortive talks with Iran over its nuclear weapons development program as long advocated by Hagel [the US "shouldn’t even be thinking about options of bombing Iran" (], The Washington Post is reporting (

"Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability."

The "real" Obama? I think I prefer the "unreal" Obama. And yes, I have a sinking feeling that ultimately the Jews will "pay for it."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "The Rap on Rubio": Will Bill Clinton Be Provided a Semi-Detached White House Bachelor Pad in 2017?

In 1975 President Gerald Ford acknowledged in his State of the Union address that "the state of the Union is not good.” Ford declared:

"Millions of Americans are out of work. Recession and inflation are eroding the money of millions more. Prices are too high, and sales are too slow. This year's federal deficit will be about $30 billion; next year's probably $45 billion. The national debt will rise to over $500 billion. Our plant capacity and productivity are not increasing fast enough. We depend on others for essential energy. Some people question their government's ability to make hard decisions and stick with them; they expect Washington politics as usual."

Well, here we are in 2013, and although inflation is not a problem, the United States is running trillion dollar annual deficits, unemployment remains sky-high, America is still dependent on some of the world's vilest authoritarian regimes for its oil, and Obama has repeatedly demonstrated that he has a tough time making any decisions whatsover. It took Obama months to foolishly escalate America's ground war in Afghanistan, and we have just learned that when Obama was told by Leon Panetta that the consulate in Benghazi was under attack, the president said, "Do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there," and then proceeded to ignore the matter. Indeed, ignorance, or "detachment" in the case of Obama, is bliss.

Thus, it should come as no small wonder that Maureen Dowd, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Rap on Rubio" (, ignores Obama's 2013 State of the Union address and instead focuses her attention on Marco Rubio's affinity for rap music. Dowd writes:

"Gangsta rap used to be a reliable issue for politicians, but they were denouncing it. Now Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is praising it — and right at the moment when Republicans are pushing the argument that guns don’t kill people; it’s a culture glorifying guns and violence that kills people.

The ubiquitous 41-year-old — who’s on the cover of Time as 'The Republican Savior' and who delivered the party’s response to the president’s State of the Union address in English and Spanish — has released a Spotify playlist featuring Tupac’s 'Changes,' as well as Flo Rida, Pitbull, The Sugar Hill Gang, Kanye, Big Sean, devoted Obama supporters Jay-Z and Will.I.Am, and a Foster the People song about 'a cowboy kid' who finds a gun in his dad’s closet and goes after 'all the other kids with the pumped up kicks.'"

I am forced to acknowledge that I have never listened to Paul Ryan's "heavy metal," and I am also ignorant of Marco Rubio's "rap." Moreover, familiarizing myself with this music is not at the top of my "to do" list given my advancing years and my less than perfect hearing.

But honestly, we still need to suffer through four more years of Obama, and it's a bit early to be picking on poor Marco. Much can still happen by 2016.

But if you insist on giving vent to speculation, Maureen, I would love to know where Bill is going to sleep if Hillary is elected in the next presidential election. Will a semi-detached White House bachelor pad be readied for him? Now that would be worth twice the price of admission in every sense of the word.

Monday, February 11, 2013

David Brooks, "Carpe Diem Nation": Seize the Day or Look the Other Way?

Before reading David Brook's New York Times op-ed entitled "Carpe Diem Nation" (, have a gander at Richard Cohen's latest Washington Post opinion piece, "The Obama Doctrine — look the other way" ( Chastising Obama for his refusal to lift a finger to ameliorate the devastating humanitarian crisis resulting from Syria's civil war, Cohen concludes:

"Recently, Obama has been likened to President Dwight Eisenhower. There are, of course, some similarities — there always are — but in one significant way, cited in the book by David A. Nichols ('Eisenhower 1956'), they’re different. In the Suez crisis of 1956, Ike strongly condemned the invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel — three allies — even though some thought it was politically unwise to do so. 'I don’t give a damn how the election goes,' he told British Prime Minister Anthony Eden on Election Day itself. His paramount concerns, he said, were the revolution in Hungary and the Suez invasion.

At the moment, it’s impossible to imagine Obama making a comparable statement. (He couldn’t even fully support same-sex marriage until Joe Biden forced the issue, and he was likewise mute about gun control until after the election and the massacre at Newtown, Conn.) His foreign policy has similarly lacked any sense of moral urgency. As a result, the situation in Syria has worsened. It is now becoming a regional catastrophe that will soon enough pull in the United States anyway. Obama purportedly feared making the war worse. By inaction, he has."

Obama similar to Eisenhower? Yup, Obama also likes golf.

Cohen suggests that Obama refused to act in Syria in order to to play it safe and win re-election. Cohen, however, is wrong. America's Procrastinator-in-Chief simply has a hard time deciding. Consider how long it took Obama to make the tragic decision of escalating American ground involvement in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, David Brooks in his Times op-ed eyes the forthcoming State of the Union address and America's crumbling economy. Observing that Americans were once accustomed to "sacrificing the present for the sake of the future," the US is now spending on health care benefits for retirees at the expense of future growth. American C.E.O.’s, who "serve short stints," focus on short-term financial results and don't "build for the long term." American banks have changed course over the past decades and are currently lending disproportionately for "consumption" instead of "investment."

Brooks's conclusion:

"But it would be great if Obama gave an imaginative speech that reframed things as present versus future.

If the president were to propose an agenda for the future, he’d double spending on the National Institutes of Health. He’d approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He’d cut corporate tax rates while adding a progressive consumption tax. He’d take money from Social Security and build Harlem Children’s Zone-type projects across the nation. He’d means test Medicare and use the money to revive state universities and pay down debt.

Would Americans buy that agenda? Maybe. Americans are neglecting the future, but I bet they’re still in love with it."

Wouldn't it, couldn't it . . .

Obama is steering the US in the direction of an iceberg. Don't expect anything else. No experience, no leadership traits. It's simply who he is.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Paul Krugman, "The Ignorance Caucus": Hillary Doesn't Suppress the Facts?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Ignorance Caucus" (, Paul Krugman would have us know that Democrats believe "at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts," whereas Republicans believe in "suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs." In furtherance of his thesis, Krugman concludes his essay by citing Hillary Clinton:

"In her parting shot on leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton said of her Republican critics, 'They just will not live in an evidence-based world.' She was referring specifically to the Benghazi controversy, but her point applies much more generally. And for all the talk of reforming and reinventing the G.O.P., the ignorance caucus retains a firm grip on the party’s heart and mind."

Okay, I understand: Republicans "suppress" the facts, and Democrats don't.

But as long as Krugman is citing Hillary in support of his argument that Democrats are in favor of letting the facts be known, let's have another look at Hillary's testimony at the Senate Benghazi hearings. Just in case you missed it:

Senator Johnson: "We were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that. An assault sprang out of that. And that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn't know that."

Hillary: "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans."

Senator Johnson: "I understand."

Hillary: "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

Query: How do you figure out what happened in Benghazi and prevent it from ever happening again if you refuse to ascertain whether the deaths stemmed from a spontaneous protest or a planned attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate? It makes a big difference. In fact, I would say that it makes all the difference in the world if you want to take smart, effective measures to bolster US embassy defense and "to prevent it from ever happening again."

More facts suppressed by the Obama administration? As observed by Kathleen Parker in a February 9 Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Hillary Clinton and the ghosts of Benghazi" (

"Americans got a clearer picture of what transpired last Sept. 11 during testimony Thursday by retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta said he personally delivered the news to Obama that the consulate in Benghazi was under attack during a 30-minute briefing that also included Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The president said, 'Do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there,' and that was that. He and Panetta didn’t speak again that night — and neither Dempsey nor Panetta spoke to Clinton at all."

Only Republicans suppress the facts? Yeah, right.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Any Solution to Syria?": Sit Down Before You Hurt Yourself


There is no better word to describe Thomas Friedman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Any Solution to Syria?" ( Again writing from New Delhi, Friedman declares:

"Last week, I met with a group of Indian strategists here at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses to talk about how America should withdraw from Afghanistan and navigate the interests of India, Pakistan and Iran. At one point, I tossed out an idea to which one of the Indian analysts responded: That was tried before — 'in the 11th century.' It didn’t work out well. That’s why I like coming to Delhi to talk about the region. Indian officials tend to think in centuries, not months, and they look at the map of the Middle East without any of the British-drawn colonial borders. Instead, they only see old civilizations (Persia, Turkey, Egypt), old faiths (Shiites, Sunnis and Hindus), and old peoples (Pashtuns, Tajiks, Jews and Arabs) — all interacting within long-set patterns of behavior."

Peculiar, though, how Friedman fails to mention the Kurds. There are 30 million of them spread across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Eliminate "British-drawn colonial borders"? Fine! And let's begin by giving the long-oppressed Kurds their own state.

Friedman continues:

"Shiite Iran has never liked the Sunni Taliban. 'Iran is the natural counter to Sunni extremism,' said [Indian Muslim journalist M. J.] Akbar. It’s in Iran’s interest to 'diminish the Taliban.' That’s why America and Iran were tacit allies in unseating the Taliban, and they will be tacit allies in preventing the reseating of the Taliban."

Ah, yes, Washington will ally itself with Tehran in order to empower Afghanistan's Shiite minority, thereby allowing the US to extract its ground forces from the muck of an inane war. Great idea, Tom! I'm certain Saudi Arabia will be ecstatic if America reaches such a deal with the mullahs, thereby enhancing the stature and sphere of influence of its mortal enemy, Iran.

Friedman goes on to say:

"From Washington, some hoped that by quickly toppling the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, the West and the Sunnis could 'flip' Syria from the Iranian-Soviet orbit to the Sunni-Saudi-American orbit. I’m dubious. I doubt that Syria can be flipped in one piece; it will break apart in the air into Sunni and Alawite regions. And, if we did manage to flip Syria, Iran would try to 'flip' predominantly Shiite Iraq and Bahrain into its camp."

Apparently, unbeknownst to Tom Terrific, Iran is attempting to "flip" Iraq and Bahrain. This is not a game between the US and Iran of tit for tat. Iran, like Turkey, is seeking to restore historic hegemony over the Middle East. Tehran's proxy in Syria, mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, is teetering, and this directly impacts the armament of Hezbollah, Tehran's other principal surrogate. Note how Israel freely destroyed a shipment of advanced Russian SA-17 antiaircraft missiles en route from Syria to Lebanon in January. On the other hand, a chaotic, impoverished and much weakened Egypt, led by the radical Muslim Brotherhood, is providing new opportunities for the expansion of Iranian influence.

Near the end of this steaming road apple, Friedman avers:

"The lesson of Iraq is that deep historical currents were at play there — Sunnis versus Shiites and Kurds versus Arabs. The December 2010 Iraqi elections demonstrated, though, that multisectarian parties and democratic rule were possible in Iraq — and actually the first choice of most Iraqis. But America would have had to keep some troops there for another decade to see that shift from sectarianism to multisectarianism become even remotely self-sustaining. Syria is Iraq’s twin. The only way you’ll get a multisectarian transition there is with a U.N. resolution backed by Russia and backed by a well-armed referee on the ground to cajole, hammer and induce the parties to live together."

Yeah, right. A United Nations force, primarily consisting of US troops extracted from Afghanistan, is going to be stationed in Syria and prevent the Sunni majority from inflicting revenge upon the Alawites. Query: Who is going to pay for this new extravaganza?

Sit down, Tom, before you hurt yourself! Better still, go back to sleep.

Maureen Dowd, "I’m Begging, Don’t Hack the Hacks": She Doesn't Know the Half of It

Wonder of wonders, George W. Bush, long out of the news, can paint, and in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "I’m Begging, Don’t Hack the Hacks" (, Maureen Dowd observes:

"The man can handle a brush. And we thought he could only clear brush. The president who came across as a paint-by-numbers executive in public life can actually paint in private life.

It’s weird because W.’s presidency was not a reality-based undertaking; it did not look carefully at the world. And yet his paintings reflect meticulous optical observation."

Well, I was no fan of the Bush administration, whose overseas miscalculations (a misguided entry into Iraq that altered the Iraq-Iran equilibrium and the beginnings of an inane ground war in Afghanistan), combined with providing US financial institutions with carte blanche powers to destroy the US economy and rob Americans blind (sale of newfangled financial instruments premised upon worthless real estate coupled with the 2007 cancellation of the Uptick Rule), set the US on the road to a meltdown. But is Obama any better? A supposed genius who claims to have visited 57 states (, who escalated American involvement in Afghanistan, and who has done nothing to regain control over avaricious banks and hedge funds, has failed to change America's course.

But back to Maureen, who, in her opinion piece, expressed her solipsistic concern that her precious e-mails might have been hacked:

"It’s already too late to stop sending embarrassing e-missives, with a decade worth of hand grenades out there rolling around.

Just as Obama knows in his heart that, while seductive, drones need limits, so we know that, while seductive, e-mails need limits — because sooner or later, the Chinese or some bitter hacker in his basement or some 10-year-old kid is going to make all our titillating e-mails public.

The rule of thumb in Washington used to be: Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to see printed on the front page of The New York Times. The new rule is: Don’t send an e-mail you wouldn’t want to see printed on the front page of The New York Times. (Especially if you work here.)"

Well, in Maureen's instance, I wouldn't worry too much. The New York Times is morally and financially approaching Chapter 11, and if plagiarism didn't sink her career there, I doubt that anything can. An e-mail scheduling a Botox injection over the brows? A description of a tragic end to a torrid relationship? Who cares?

In fact, the real danger does not involve Maureen's e-mails. Rather, we are in a new era in which hostile nations, such as Iran, possess the ability to bring down American power grids, disrupt air traffic, halt financial market trading, and throw a monkey wrench into telecommunication networks. Some of these systems possess some small measure of protection, while others are wretchedly exposed to hacking.

The storm, far greater in magnitude than that just experienced by America's Northeast, is brewing, and inadequate precautions have been taken to batten down the hatches.

Gail Collins, "Fitness for Office": What About Rosenthal and Friedman?

Does your girth in any manner impact upon your personal code of ethics or soundness of judgment? Sure, compulsive overeating or binge eating disorder can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer, but do extra pounds or kilograms render someone unfit for government service? We're not talking about an Ironman Triathlon.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Fitness for Office" (, Gail Collins writes:

"But about Chris Christie. He’s also being talked about as a possible presidential candidate. Now there’s a physical challenge for you. Have you noticed what the job has done to Barack Obama? We aren’t thinking about the 2016 election yet, out of deference to national sanity. When we do, we will have to take the fitness matter seriously."

Indeed, government is what you make of it. The job has turned Obama into a physical wreck, or is it the cigarettes? As observed by Kathleen Parker in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Hillary Clinton and the ghosts of Benghazi" (, Obama didn't seem to take recent events in Benghazi too close to heart:

"Americans got a clearer picture of what transpired last Sept. 11 during testimony Thursday by retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta said he personally delivered the news to Obama that the consulate in Benghazi was under attack during a 30-minute briefing that also included Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The president said, 'Do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there,' and that was that. He and Panetta didn’t speak again that night — and neither Dempsey nor Panetta spoke to Clinton at all."

Were a gangly, cigarette-smoking Obama to be replaced by a hefty, donut-eating Christie, this would again mark another swing of the American political pendulum, but would we really need "to take the fitness matter seriously"?

Closer to home, Gail, who is also no featherweight, might want to take another gander at Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of The New York Times, and at Thomas Friedman, whose chin has gone the way of the dodo bird, before indulging in another obsessive, Seamus-style series of attacks against Christie's corpulence.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

David Brooks, "Florence and the Drones": Do You Suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Do you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD")? Do you even believe in its existence? Personally, I'm not big on labels. Yes, I've witnessed the aftermath of suicide bombings from up close, I've got a hairline trigger temper, it's hard for me to forgive and forget, and I have few expectations involving human charity and compassion. But then I suppose that we all have unresolved issues from the past, and I'm not complaining about the hand that I was dealt. After all, I chose to sit down at the blackjack table.

David Brooks latest New York Times op-ed, "Florence and the Drones" (, is a must read. Brooks's opinion piece brings into focus Obama's policy of using drones to deter terror, which has finally captured the attention of the public owing to questioning on Thursday by the Senate Intelligence Committee of John Brennan, the president's nominee for director the CIA (see:

Brooks writes:

"There are still terrorists out there, hiding in the shadows and plotting to kill Americans. So even today’s leaders face the Machiavellian choice: Do I have to be brutal to protect the people I serve? Do I have to use drones, which sometimes kill innocent children, in order to thwart terror and save the lives of my own?

When Barack Obama was a senator, he wasn’t compelled to confront the brutal logic of leadership. Now in office, he’s thrown into the Machiavellian world. He’s decided, correctly, that we are in a long war against Al Qaeda; that drone strikes do effectively kill terrorists; that, in fact, they inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative; that, in fact, civilian death rates are dropping sharply as the C.I.A. gets better at this. Acting brutally abroad saves lives at home."

However, Brooks also believes that Obama's use of drones demands oversight:

"Drone strikes are so easy, hidden and abstract. There should be some independent judicial panel to review the kill lists. There should be an independent panel of former military and intelligence officers issuing reports on the program’s efficacy."

Indeed, al-Qaeda has not been neutered, as the Obama administration wanted us believe prior to the tragedy in Benghazi. Moreover, as recently acknowledged by The New York Times (, "The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists."

My dark vision of the world, which may or may not be affected by PTSD? I wouldn't make too much of an issue of drone strikes. Ultimately, al-Qaeda and its counterparts will adapt their tactics to the drone threat, rendering it entirely ineffective - akin to bacteria growing resistant to antibiotics. New medicines will need to be sought in this protracted war against terrorism, which shows no sign of abating.

If you ask me, not nearly enough has been done to obstruct terrorist financing. Without funds, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah cannot perpetrate their abhorrent outrages. But in order to choke off the financing, Europe and the world's banks need to cooperate. Then, too, the US requires a secretary of defense with a no-nonsense, uncompromising attitude toward terror and not the contradictory, self-serving views of Chuck Hagel.

But then who is asking?

Paul Krugman, "Kick That Can": No Longer "Yes We Can"

You want a poignant indication of the severity and danger of America's debt problem? You need look no further than measures being taken by the State of Virginia to issue its own currency (see:

You want another indication? Even Paul Krugman is now acknowledging that the US economy is in a shambles and that debt needs to be brought under control.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Kick That Can" (, Krugman grudgingly admits that "we will eventually need some combination of revenue increases and spending cuts to rein in the growth of U.S. government debt." Krugman, however, claims that this is not the time for the federal government to swallow its medicine:

"Given the state we’re in, it would be irresponsible and destructive not to kick that can down the road.

Start with a basic point: Slashing government spending destroys jobs and causes the economy to shrink.

. . . .

[F]iscal austerity should wait until the economy has recovered, and the Fed can once again cushion the impact."

But has spending by the Obama administration over the past four years created jobs? Are there signs of an economic recovery anywhere in sight? Is it possible that short-term, or even medium-term, the economy is not going to recover?

"Given the state we're in," some sort of economic plan is necessary, but meanwhile, Obama is surrounding himself with a cabinet of the worst and dumbest, a harbinger of further intellectual and economic stagnation.

New York Times Editorial, "Mary Jo White at the S.E.C.": Where Does She Stand Regarding the Uptick Rule?

In an editorial entitled "Mary Jo White at the S.E.C." (, The New York Times supports the president's nomination of Mary Jo White as the next chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the editorial:

"[White's] résumé in the past decade has understandably alarmed advocates of financial reform, who fear that her work as a defender of Wall Street means that she is dangerously biased in favor of the banks and their deregulatory agenda. Her lack of a deep regulatory background is also a worry at a time when the agency’s top priority is to finish overdue rules to carry out the Dodd-Frank financial reform and other securities laws. Complicating matters further, her husband, John White, is also a corporate lawyer, at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, with his own long list of Wall Street clients.

We understand these concerns but do not believe they are disqualifying."

The editorial makes no mention of the Uptick Rule or White's position in respect thereto. Cancellation of the Uptick Rule in 2007 was thought to have contributed to the 2008 economic debacle and continues to shackle the US economy (see: The Uptick Rule urgently needs to be reinstated.

The Times editorial concludes:

"[White's] qualities of toughness, tenacity and aggressiveness are just what the S.E.C. needs in a leader. The overarching question she must be asked — and that she must answer — is how she will use those qualities to advance the S.E.C.’s mission, which is to protect individual investors by ensuring that markets are transparent, well regulated and vigorously policed."

The Times wishes to "protect individual investors"? Nothing is more urgent than reinstatement of the Uptick Rule. Without it, Wall Street is a casino with the odds dangerously stacked against individual investors and in favor of voracious hedge funds, which are busy manipulating the activity of American financial markets.

Where does White stand regarding the Uptick Rule? An answer is needed.