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Friday, May 31, 2013

Gail Collins, "The Politics of Free Food": A Stinky Red Herring II

Gail Collins loves to write about scandals . . . as long as they don't involve Democrats, particularly the current occupant of the Oval Office.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Politics of Free Food" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/opinion/collins-the-politics-of-free-food.html?_r=0), Collins writes:

"Today, let’s talk about Virginia, host of the nation’s most interesting off-year election. True, the New York mayor’s race has been pretty frisky since we acquired Anthony Weiner as a candidate, but I’m still going with Virginia.

The governor’s race there has a dandy ethics controversy that began with charges that a businessman with a rather dicey background gave Gov. Bob McDonnell $15,000 to pay for the catering at his daughter’s wedding. Actually, this would have been perfectly legal if McDonnell had just disclosed it. Under Virginia’s ethics laws, the governor can accept anything — house, car, private jet, former Soviet republic — as long as he puts it in the proper form."

Weiner, of course, is a Democrat, whose wife is tied to Hillary. McDonnell, of course, is a Republican, but the word "Republican" never once appears in Collins's opinion piece, thus providing the illusion that she is a blind, albeit less than lithe, champion of justice. Yeah, right.

This latest op-ed from Collins follows on the heels of "Michele, Here’s the Bell" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/gail-collins-michele-heres-bell-red_29.html), in which she jumps all over Michele Bachmann.

Well, I'm not keen on McDonnell or Bachmann. However, their "antics" pale in comparison with the horrors implicit in the Benghazi, IRS and AP/Rosen scandals. No one in the Obama administration lifted a finger to prevent an American ambassador from being slaughtered, the IRS was politicized and we still don't know who gave the instructions, and the First Amendment is under siege by an incompetent attorney general, yet why should any of this matter? If Collins and her op-ed colleagues from The New York Times - with the notable exception of Maureen Dowd - were to have their way, all of these peccadilloes would be swept under the carpet.

The problem is that the stench of what's hiding under the rug just keeps getting stronger.

By the way, anyone notice where Joe Biden has been keeping lately? He's disappeared, and this man who has never been known for his reticence is strangely unavailable for comment. He just may have a shot at the presidency in 2016 if Hillary, deep in hiding, has the good sense not to run.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Washington Post Editorial, "Syrian President al-Assad Shows No Sign of Backing Down": Obama Administration Appears Foolish and Weak

A Washington Post editorial entitled "Syrian President al-Assad shows no sign of backing down" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/syrian-president-al-assad-shows-no-sign-of-backing-down/2013/05/30/673b91a2-c949-11e2-8da7-d274bc611a47_story.html?hpid=z3), decries Obama administration foreign policy involving Syria. The opinion piece states:


"Clearly, the strategy that Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced in February has failed. The idea was that the United States would, by providing additional support to the opposition, persuade the Assad clique that its cause was lost, opening the way to a negotiated process in which Mr. Assad would yield power. But Mr. Assad doesn’t believe he is losing — and he is not wrong in claiming that his fortunes have risen in the past several months.

. . . .

What’s harder to understand is why Mr. Kerry continues to vigorously pursue the conference, having failed to accomplish the necessary predicate of changing the balance of power on the ground. Unfortunately, the most plausible answer is that the administration has allowed itself to be played by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who is seeking to restore Moscow’s influence in the Middle East by thwarting the U.S. goal of regime change in Syria. Not for the first time, President Obama and his aides appear to have bet that Mr. Putin would turn on Mr. Assad and help force him from power. In doing so, they have fundamentally misread the Russian ruler and his intentions.

As we have written previously, the only hope for an acceptable political settlement in Syria lies in an intervention that would decisively shift the balance of Syria’s war — through arms supplies to the rebels and airstrikes to eliminate the regime’s air power. If Mr. Obama is unwilling to take such steps, he ought also to eschew diplomacy that makes his administration appear foolish as well as weak."

Or stated undiplomatically, John (Assad is "my dear friend") Kerry is a jackass.

Obama should "eschew diplomacy that makes his administration appear foolish as well as weak"? Oh really? And how would the Washington Post characterize American negotiations by way of the P5+1, headed by nincompoop Catherine Ashton, over Iran's nuclear weapons development program?

Embroiled in multiple scandals at home, is the Obama administration still capable of keeping its eye on the ball overseas?

David Brooks, "The Romantic Advantage": I Can Hear Them Laughing All the Way from Beijing

I bought my last pair of black New Balance trainers from an outlet store in Boston. I was hoping that this new pair might be from the among the minority of their athletic shoes that are manufactured in the US. Alas, I lifted the tongue of the shoe and discovered that they were manufactured in China.

No, I don't use an Apple iPhone. The image of the safety nets strategically placed under factory windows to catch jumpers is stronger than the brand appeal, and I'm hoping that my Samsung Galaxy is manufactured under more humane conditions.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Romantic Advantage" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/opinion/brooks-the-romantic-advantage.html?_r=0), David Brooks would have us know that American companies are better than the Chinese at branding. Brooks concludes:

"At some point, if you are going to be the world’s leading economy, you have to establish relationships with consumers. You have to put aside the things that undermine trust, like intellectual property theft and cyberterrorism, and create the sorts of brands that inspire affection and fantasy. Until it can do this, China may statistically possess the world’s largest economy, but it will not be a particularly consequential one."

Is there still room for affection and fantasy for consumer goods in our brave new world?

I recently splurged on a Panasonic television. I didn't buy it for its brand name. It's simply said to be best in its class, and for once, I decided to buy something for myself before passing out of this world.

Both our cars, one a small hybrid, are Hondas. No, it had absolutely nothing at all do with fantasy. Rather, our experience involving their reliability has been remarkable.

Other recent purchases? Nothing with a brand name, unless you were to include "Luristan bronzes" under this heading. The metalworking of these people was nothing short of outstanding in the first millennium BC.

China? The transparent plastic ruler on my desk says "MADE IN CHINA" in big black letters. You're laughing? You shouldn't be. China holds some $1.2 trillion, or 7.5%, of US debt, making it the largest foreign holder. Not a security threat to the US (see: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2013/01/23/is-chinas-ownership-of-u-s-debt-a-national-security-threat/)? Maybe not yet, but as the US federal government continues to ring up deficits, this number is not going to get smaller.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gail Collins, "Michele, Here’s the Bell": Red Herring

A definition of "red herring" from Merriam-Webster:

2. [from the practice of drawing a red herring across a trail to confuse hunting dogs]: something that distracts attention from the real issue.


What the heck is wrong with Minnesota? In ancient times, I used to like Walter Mondale, and going back to the stone age, I also cared for Hubert Humphrey. But that was then. Today, Minnesota has brought us the likes of Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum (who once compared Hamas rockets fired at Israel with "drive by shootings," see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2009/11/open-letter-to-congresswoman-betty.html) and Michele Bachmann to Congress.

Michele Bachmann of Tea Party fame will not be running for reelection in 2014. Do I care? No.

But Gail Collins cares, and so does Charles Blow.

Today, Collins, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Michele, Here’s the Bell" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/opinion/collins-michele-heres-the-bell.html?_r=0), and Charles Blow, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Bachmann Bows Out" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/opinion/blow-bachmann-bows-out.html), both get their knickers into a knot over Bachmann.

Sorry, but grumpy old man that I've become, I just don't give a damn. Why? Simple: There's still the Benghazi scandal, something which still demands answers, and whereas Obama is busy playing "What I don't know can't hurt me," and Hillary is in hiding deep underground until it all blows over, it just doesn't want to go away.

Yes, I know that I should not also be reading nefarious right-wing journals, but as Peter Wehner writes in The Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/they-ll-always-love-obama_729022.html):

"Take the New York Times. On May 17, in a story about how President Obama is trying to move beyond his current problems, the Times declared, 'In the last few days, the administration appears to have stopped the bleeding. The release of internal e-mails on Benghazi largely confirmed the White House’s account.'

Except it did no such thing. The White House’s account was that neither it nor the State Department made any substantive changes to the talking points related to the Benghazi attacks. We have irrefutable evidence—actual documents—that they did. The White House’s account was that a YouTube video critical of Muhammad sparked a spontaneous assault on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. Except this is a fabrication. The White House’s account was that the administration had no idea Islamic terrorists were responsible for the attack until many days later. Except we have emails that prove high-ranking State Department officials knew Ansar al Sharia was involved within 24 hours of the attacks. The White House has not come clean on any of these matters."

And Colonel David Hunt writes in Breitbart (http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/05/29/Blame-the-President-for-Benghazi):

"When the American mission in Benghazi, Libya was attacked on September 11th, 2012, only one person had the positional authority, legal mandate, and communications apparatus to give the order to defend our personnel on the ground: the President of the United States.

The President did not give that order, and four Americans died in Benghazi that day. All the rest of the nonsense to which we have been treated–from prepared talking points, congressional hearings, and finally to the outright lies–matter not when compared to the ignominious moments in which the President of the United States refused to do his job.

That same day, two other American embassies in the Middle East were also under attack in Sana, Yemen and Cairo, Egypt. As a result, our intelligence systems were on high alert. When the calls, satellite and drone feeds, faxes, and reports began bombarding every command center from Germany to the United States, our nation, already at war for eleven years, was again under siege. Staffs from Africa Command, European Command, the National Military Command Center, the CIA Operations Center, the State Department Operations Center, and the White House Situation Room were fully operational.

. . . .

The road to that indecision is littered with policy and leadership failures that culminated in an American mission and clandestine CIA base being attacked and the murder of our Ambassador and three dedicated Americans doing their jobs. However, the one person responsible for it all is the one man who could have, but refused to, even try to stop the carnage... the President of the United States.

All the President had to say within the first two hours while being briefed by the Secretary of Defense was, 'Send in a response force.' This command, followed by his signature on a paper called Cross Border Authority, would have ordered the Department of Defense to do everything and anything to save lives in Benghazi, Libya."

Interesting. Hunt is saying more or less what that nasty neocon, Maureen Dowd, also concluded in The New York Times (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/maureen-dowd-when-myths-collide-in.html).

Yup, I'm waiting to learn hear what Obama and Hillary discussed that evening at 10 p.m. when those men were being butchered (see: http://www.breitbart.com/InstaBlog/2013/05/28/Krauthammer-Says-the-Obama-Clinton-10-00-PM-Phone-Call-May-Be-The-Biggest-Scandal-Of-All). Will we ever know? Not if Obama and friends, who once were committed to transparency in government, can help it.

The IRS and AP/Rosen scandals? Also frightening, but let's start with answers regarding Benghazi, where brave Americans were needlessly sacrificed so that Obama could be reelected without us ever knowing about the resurgence of al-Qaeda.

Maureen Dowd, "President of Scandinavia": Reverend Wright and "What Obama Doesn't Know, Can't Hurt Him"

The second term Obama administration is currently paralyzed by scandals and busy trying to put out the fires. How to respond? Simple!

Do you remember the Reverend Wright scandal? Over the course of twenty years, Obama had listened to horrifying racist rants from his beloved minister, yet in 2008 Obama still managed to claim that he had never heard any of this disturbing language, and the American electorate, in love with an image created by Axelrod, Plouffe and Dunne, ignored this obvious character failing and elected him president. A quick learner, Obama internalized this lesson: not Bart Simpson's "I didn't do it," but rather "I didn't hear it," or a variant on "what I don't know can't hurt me." And so, the responsibility of White House chief counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was born: "protector of the presidency" from, for example, the findings of the inspector general’s audit of the IRS (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-counsel-kathy-ruemmler-from-outsider-to-protector-of-the-presidency/2013/05/26/78a6986e-c3f0-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_story.html?hpid=z2). After all, the president cannot be blamed for acting or not acting if he can claim that he discovered something in the newspapers in the same way as other Americans.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "President of Scandinavia" (http://wap.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/opinion/dowd-president-of-scandinavia.html?from=opinion), Maureen Dowd is critical of Obama's communication skills. Dowd writes:

"David Plouffe told [journalist and author Jonathan] Alter that Obama was 'better suited to politics in Scandinavia than here,' meaning, Alter writes, 'that he was a logical and unemotional person in an illogical and emotional capital.' Ironic, given that it was Obama’s emotional speeches that precociously vaulted him into the Oval Office."

Why ironic? Those carefully crafted teleprompter speeches, having no connection whatsoever to Obama's psyche, could just as easily have been conveyed by a computer generated image. Americans were hungry for "change," and it didn't matter if it came from someone willing to sit in silence through warped Sunday sermons. America got what it paid for . . . twice.

Dowd concludes:

"When Obama was elected, he assumed he would be a good bridge-builder. 'But he just had no experience dealing with Republicans in any significant way,' Alter told me. 'He wasn’t in the leadership in Springfield or the Senate. He thought that just because he mussed up Tom Coburn’s hair that he knew how to deal with Republicans.'

. . . .

The man who prides himself on his self-awareness is now trying to use more tools in the toolbox. So the main question, Alter says, is 'whether learned behavior and his determination to have a successful second term and do things differently can win out against his natural inclinations.'

The historian believes that Obama does have the capacity to change. 'He gets it now,' Alter says. 'Is it too late? I doubt it. He wants to be remembered for more than being the first African-American president.'"

Indeed, Obama was elected without experience or communications skills essential to any leader. Does Obama "have the capacity to change"? How quaint.

Does Obama wish "to be remembered for more than being the first African-American president"? This is heresy. In case you have forgotten, Obama in his first term already ranked his legislative and foreign policy accomplishments with those of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln.

Or in other words, Obama is a bit detached from reality and more than a bit narcissistic.

Why does Obama need to do more in order "to be remembered for more than being the first African-American president"? Obama already thinks that he is there.

The bigger concern is whether the emergence of the Benghazi, IRS and AP/Rosen scandals and Obama's "What I don't know can't hurt me" outlook won't paralyze the executive branch of the US government for the remainder of his second term, when the US economy is still flaccid and when the US is facing challenges from rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea.



Thomas Friedman, "How to Get a Job": Tom Becomes the Ann Landers of Job Hunting

Do you remember Thomas Friedman's March 2013 New York Times op-ed entitled "Need a Job? Invent It" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/03/thomas-friedman-need-job-invent-it-meet.html), Thomas Friedman told us that in order to avoid unemployment, our children must be schooled in innovation:

"This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job — the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried — made obsolete — faster than ever. Which is why the goal of education today, argues [Harvard education specialist Tony] Wagner, should not be to make every child 'college ready' but 'innovation ready' — ready to add value to whatever they do."

This was marvelous advice for that one tenth of a percent of American youth capable of heeding this "wisdom," particularly given that only some 50% of new businesses in America survive five years (see: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/failure-is-a-constant-in-entrepreneurship/). These are not great odds for "innovators" seeking to strike out on their own and implement new ideas.

But not to worry, Friedman is back with more great job hunting hints in his latest Times opinion piece entitled
"How to Get a Job" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/opinion/friedman-how-to-get-a-job.html?_r=0). Tom Terrific now tells us:

"Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares 'is what you can do with what you know.' And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?"

Can you smile? Are you empathetic? Are you ethical? Do you work hard? Who cares! Tom would have us know that in today's brave new world, it's all a matter of whether you can add value.

Well, the vast majority of people can't "add value," except to the extent that communication skills and integrity can be deemed as such. Me? I'm hooked on integrity, but heck, I'm a 21st Century dinosaur.

You're lacking in communication skills and integrity and are given to narcissism? Well, not to worry. Find the right team to coach you opposite a teleprompter, and a wonderful job in the Oval Office might just be waiting for you (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/maureen-dowd-president-of-scandinavia.html).

Monday, May 27, 2013

David Brooks, "Heroes of Uncertainty": Psychiatrists Are "Heroes"? Don't Go There!

Just when Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post has me questioning my sanity (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/eugene-robinson-end-of-war-on-terror.html), David Brooks has come to "help me" (like the person from the IRS who comes knocking on your door) with his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Heroes of Uncertainty" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/opinion/brooks-heroes-of-uncertainty.html?_r=0). Brooks kindly explains:

"The problem is that the behavorial sciences like psychiatry are not really sciences; they are semi-sciences. The underlying reality they describe is just not as regularized as the underlying reality of, say, a solar system.

As the handbook’s many critics have noted, psychiatrists use terms like 'mental disorder' and 'normal behavior,' but there is no agreement on what these concepts mean. When you look at the definitions psychiatrists habitually use to define various ailments, you see that they contain vague words that wouldn’t pass muster in any actual scientific analysis: 'excessive,' 'binge,' 'anxious.'

Mental diseases are not really understood the way, say, liver diseases are understood, as a pathology of the body and its tissues and cells. Researchers understand the underlying structure of very few mental ailments. What psychiatrists call a disease is usually just a label for a group of symptoms."

"What psychiatrists call a disease is usually just a label for a group of symptoms"? True, but on the other hand, there are more than 100 different types of "cancer" with many different causes.

And although there has been relatively little progress in finding cures for Alzheimer's disease, for example, there is often a genetic predisposition to some of these "psychiatric disorders," which in turn provides hope for better medicinal treatments in the not too distant future.

Brooks continues:

"All of this is not to damn people in the mental health fields. On the contrary, they are heroes who alleviate the most elusive of all suffering, even though they are overmatched by the complexity and variability of the problems that confront them. I just wish they would portray themselves as they really are. Psychiatrists are not heroes of science. They are heroes of uncertainty, using improvisation, knowledge and artistry to improve people’s lives."

Psychiatrists are "heroes" of any kind? The readiness of a certain psychiatrist to "play God," resulted in a gross misdiagnosis of someone very dear to me, which very nearly destroyed that person's life.

Psychiatrists as a group? Maybe they're not as bad as politicians, but my experience has been that compassion goes lacking in our brave new world.

Brooks concludes near the end of his opinion piece:

"If the authors of the psychiatry manual want to invent a new disease, they should put Physics Envy in their handbook."

"Physics Envy"? It sounds like "penis envy," which has gone the way of the dodo. Meanwhile, it appears that "narcissistic personality disorder" is also on its way out, given that everyone in Washington, from the president on down, seems to suffer from it.

Narcissism is as common in the 21st Century as bubonic plague in the 14th Century, but there is no solution in sight, and Brooks's "Heroes of Uncertainty," also often contaminated, have no magic bullet.

Eugene Robinson, "The End of the ‘War on Terror’": It's No Longer "Terror," it's "Mental Health"

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The end of the ‘war on terror’" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-the-end-of-the-war-on-terror/2013/05/27/5ef7a4a2-c4b4-11e2-8c3b-0b5e9247e8ca_story.html?hpid=z2), Eugene Robinson posits:

"President Obama wisely avoided the phrase 'mission accomplished' in his major speech last week about the 'war on terror,' but columnists aren’t obliged to be so circumspect: It is time to declare victory and get on with our lives.

. . . .

Was there really any meaningful connection between the bloody Boston rampage and international jihadism? It seems likely that an al-Qaeda Web site taught the Boston bombers how to build their pressure-cooker bombs, but what about the alienation they obviously felt? What about their mental health? Was jihad anything more than a label, an affinity-group logo like the Red Sox insignia on a baseball cap?"

Yup, we can attribute all those daily "honor killings" involving mothers, daughters and sisters around the Muslim Middle East to "mental health."

The attack on the Benghazi consulate? Problems involving "mental health."

The beheading of the soldier in London? A problem involving "mental health."

The murder of homosexuals? You guessed it . . . problems involving "mental health."

Savage attacks against Christian Copts, Kurds and Baha'is? "Mental health."

Terror operations around the globe conducted by Iran and its Lebanese surrogate, Hezbollah? All a matter of "mental health."

It's "time to declare victory and get on with our lives." After all, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey (http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-exec.aspx):

"Few U.S. Muslims voice support for suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam; 81% say such acts are never justified, while fewer than one-in-ten say violence against civilians either is often justified (1%) or is sometimes justified (7%) to defend Islam."

Only 1% of US Muslims "say violence against civilians is often justified" and only 7% say that such violence "is sometimes justified"? What a relief . . .

So let's eliminate Homeland Security and the CIA and instead enlist the aid of psychiatrists, because all of these ghastly killings involve no more than an "affinity-group logo" like the "insignia on a baseball cap."

Have I lost my mind? Does Robinson really believe this?



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Paul Krugman, "The Obamacare Shock": No, We're Not Talking Sepsis

Some three years ago, I traveled overseas to meet with clients. Dinner included an appetizer of raw oysters, and not wishing to insult my hosts, I swallowed a few. To make a long story short (I can hear in the background several of my coreligionists saying, "I told you so"), several weeks later I ended up in a hospital in Israel with a severe E. coli infection. How severe? Had I not arrived in the hospital within 24 hours, I was told that sepsis would have set in, and I would not be here to tell the tale (I can hear in the "Opinion Pages" offices of the New York Times a certain someone cynically saying, "What a shame"). My treatment with intravenous antibiotics is of little significance. More interesting is the fact that Israel has socialized medicine, and I was placed in a room with three other persons, including a psychiatric patient, given to screaming, who "slept" next to me. I got over the E. coli, but at the end of my stay, they were beginning to wonder whether they should keep me in the hospital for a few more days, because my blood pressure had begun to skyrocket. "Over my dead body," I responded.

The point of this tale?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Obamacare Shock" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/opinion/krugman-the-obamacare-shock.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman tells us:

"The Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, goes fully into effect at the beginning of next year, and predictions of disaster are being heard far and wide. There will be an administrative “train wreck,” we’re told; consumers will face a terrible shock. Republicans, one hears, are already counting on the law’s troubles to give them a big electoral advantage.

No doubt there will be problems, as there are with any large new government initiative, and in this case, we have the added complication that many Republican governors and legislators are doing all they can to sabotage reform. Yet important new evidence — especially from California, the law’s most important test case — suggests that the real Obamacare shock will be one of unexpected success."

Krugman goes on to explain:

"Well, the California bids are in — that is, insurers have submitted the prices at which they are willing to offer coverage on the state’s newly created Obamacare exchange. And the prices, it turns out, are surprisingly low. A handful of healthy people may find themselves paying more for coverage, but it looks as if Obamacare’s first year in California is going to be an overwhelmingly positive experience."

Notwithstanding the surprise in Sacramento described by Krugman, we are being told by The Hill (http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/300881-labor-unions-break-ranks-on-health-law#ixzz2TvBNAzaD):

"Labor unions are breaking with President Obama on ObamaCare.

Months after the president’s reelection, a variety of unions are publicly balking at how the administration plans to implement the landmark law. They warn that unless there are changes, the results could be catastrophic."

In addition, the results of a recent Associated Press-GfK poll (see: http://news.yahoo.com/poll-trust-government-obama-approval-slip-164950163--politics.html):

"With more and more components of the 2010 'Obamacare' health law taking effect, 41 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of health care. That's the lowest level during his time in office."

And if Obamacare is such a success, why is the Obama administration spending tens of millions of dollars on a public relations campaign intended to highlight its benefits (see: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/228699-hhs-inks-20m-contract-with-pr-firm-to-tout-preventive-benefits)?

At least with respect to union opposition, many unions believe that they engaged in hard-nosed negotiations to obtain better health care services, often at the cost of higher wages, and union members are afraid of being forced out of their plans. Can you blame them?

And if California pricing is lower than expected, all is not so sanguine involving the costs for "high-risk pools" established by Obamacare (see: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-15/national/37115717_1_high-risk-pools-insurance-oversight-health-insurance).

Me? I believe in some form of socialized medicine. There needs to be a safety net for the poor, whose number is growing owing to a savage economic downturn that has not responded to Obama's care. And although I would need to be carried back to that same hospital room bound and sedated, I am hopeful, but not confident, that Obamacare can be adapted to suit the needs of most Americans without sending the federal deficit into the stratosphere. Surely, there is some middle ground for middle class, middle of the road Americans, of whom there are still a few.

How to begin controlling costs? For starters, health care fraud, totaling some $80 billion annually, needs to be reined in (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/thomas-friedman-obamacares-other.html). Why isn't this being done? Darned if I know.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Obamacare’s Other Surprise": Surprise, surprise, surprise . . .

Although he is unwilling to go on record as to whether the Affordable Care Act is or is not going to prove a "train wreck," Thomas Friedman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Obamacare’s Other Surprise" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/friedman-obamacares-other-surprise.html), gushes:

"But there is one area where the law already appears to be surprising on the upside. And that is the number of health care information start-ups it’s spurring. This is a big deal.

The combination of Obamacare regulations, incentives in the recovery act for doctors and hospitals to shift to electronic records and the releasing of mountains of data held by the Department of Health and Human Services is creating a new marketplace and platform for innovation — a health care Silicon Valley — that has the potential to create better outcomes at lower costs by changing how health data are stored, shared and mined. It’s a new industry."

A whole new industry moving information out of "manila folders in doctors' offices" and into "electronic files"? Is this a key byproduct of Obamacare, or is this simply part of the medical industry's transition into the 21st Century?

Don't get me wrong. Data mining? I'm all for it. In fact, it could and should be used to combat aggressively health care fraud, which costs the US some $80 billion annually (see: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/white_collar/health-care-fraud).

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 health care fraud could be stiffened, causing those with thoughts of bilking the system to reconsider the consequences of their actions.

It could even help make the Affordable Care Act . . . affordable.

Meanwhile, however, as reported by The Hill (http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/300881-labor-unions-break-ranks-on-health-law#ixzz2TvBNAzaD):

"Labor unions are breaking with President Obama on ObamaCare.

Months after the president’s reelection, a variety of unions are publicly balking at how the administration plans to implement the landmark law. They warn that unless there are changes, the results could be catastrophic."

And according to the results of a recent Associated Press-GfK poll (see: http://news.yahoo.com/poll-trust-government-obama-approval-slip-164950163--politics.html):

"With more and more components of the 2010 'Obamacare' health law taking effect, 41 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of health care. That's the lowest level during his time in office."

These are not happy times for the president.


Maureen Dowd, "Can 44 Subtract 43 From the Equation?": Zero Minus Zero Equals Zero

Do you write a blog? My blog started in 2009, basically owing to the fact that The New York Times, a purported fount of progressivism, was routinely censoring my responses to op-eds and editorials. (Andrew Rosenthal of The Times objected in an e-mail to me to my use of the word "censored.") This diversionary project, which occasionally creates a bit of rancor among Times and Washington Post columnists and editors, is, according to Google, getting almost 30,000 page views per month, be that "good" or "bad." Occasionally, I am accused of being a neocon and/or Obama hater, and less than a month ago, I received the following love letter in response to one of my blog items (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/gail-collins-luv-guvs-last-stand-my.html?showComment=1367503018228):

"I can't figure out how your little rants keep getting such excellent Google rankings. Your consulting firm must REALLY be boutique because other than your blog both it and you are a black hole as far as Google and Google UK is concerned. It must be that you have 'New York Times' and the columnist's name included in them. I do find it interesting that you didn't start this blog until Obama was elected. You're outraged by Benghazi but felt no need to vent regarding all the BS Bush/Cheney pulled? Some serious blinders you're wearing there. But then, FOUR AMERICANS died in Benghazi, and there's the MASSIVE coverup. Makes Iraq and the cherry picked intelligence that got us there look like a church social.

I applaud the fact that you read a real newspaper rather than spend all your time glued to Fox News but given your numerous blog posts it looks as if you only read it as a source of tsuris. Given the Times liberal bent and your disdain for their opinions I fail to see why you read it other than a source of material for which you can write scathing rebuttals, almost all of which I find to be just..... wrong.

. . . .

I'm not really anonymous. My name is Andy and if for any reason you'd care to reply you can reach me at . . . . I'd be fascinated to know why a guy who's 'appeared on television throughout Europe, supplying real time, on-the-scene commentary during crises and wartime' and his boutique firm have absolutely no Google footprint. I'd enjoy hearing from you."

This time I responded at least in part:

"You obviously did not read the opening paragraph of my April 27, 2013 blog: 'Make no mistake about it: George W. Bush was a disaster for the United States. The Second Gulf War destroyed the equilibrium that existed between Iraq and Iran in the Middle East, setting the stage for Iran's fanatic pursuit of dominion over the region. His introduction of ground forces into Afghanistan was a tragedy in the making, as he should have known from Russia's prior entry into this quagmire. His administration allowed Wall Street and the big banks to rape the US economy with the introduction of worthless, real estate-based derivatives, and the elimination of the Uptick Rule during his second term in office (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/04/paul-krugman-jobless-trap-castigating.html) continues to plague American productivity."

. . . .

Frankly, I don't know anything about my Google ranking, nor do I care. Yes, I have tens of thousands of pageviews every month, and perhaps this has something to do with it, but I honestly don't know how this factors into my Google ranking. Again, it is of no interest to me.

If you are curious about my Google ranking, I suggest you start a blog and insert the names of NYT columnists and see if your opinions attract interest. Moreover, you will then be able to write freely and opine about 'all of which you find to be just . . . . right.'

My audience? If you are more intelligent than those who read my blog, who include PhDs, professors, members of Congress and newspaper editors, I again urge you to start your own blog. Maybe it will be an overnight Internet hit!"

This Andy (not Rosenthal) never responded. Did I take up his offer to  correspond with him? Be real! I have my flaws, but I'm no masochist.

I have no Google footprint? I must be doing something very right. I also have no Facebook page, nor can you find me on LinkedIn. Not interested. Those with whom I am willing to work, know where to find me.

I no longer appear on the news, although I am willing to do an occasional television commercial if I want to deaden my mind, make some money, eat well and take the day off.

But I stray.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Can 44 Subtract 43 From the Equation?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/dowd-can-44-subtract-43-from-the-equation.html?_r=0), Maureen Dowd tells us of her visit to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Dowd writes:

"It’s remarkable that Obama is trying to escape the shadow of the Bush presidency just as W. is trying to escape the shadow of the Bush presidency. Browsing the library, you wonder if these two presidents are complete opposites after all, as you see how history was shaped by an arrogant, press-averse, father-fixated, history-obsessed, strangely introverted chief executive.

Robert Draper, the author of 'Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush,' perused the library with me and observed: 'So 43 grew up entitled but could display a commoner’s touch, while 44 grew up hardscrabble yet developed this imperial mien. The former is defined by incuriosity, the latter by self-absorption. One is a late-blooming artist, the other a precocious writer. They can each make you kind of miss the other.'"

Sorry, Maureen, that I couldn't meet you there. The Bush library is not on my itinerary, at least not during this lifetime.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? A thing of the past. They did their damage. I'm not interested anymore.

I'm a neocon? Heck no. I don't miss Bush, but I'm also patiently waiting not to miss Obama, who has compounded the Bush administration's failures, both domestic and international. I'm hoping to continue not missing Hillary.

Obama? He has merely paralyzed the executive branch of the government with scandals at a time when America has yet to emerge from its worst economic downturn in recent decades, and while the US faces monumental challenges overseas from the likes of North Korea and Iran.

So what am I?

Is there a word for a person who hates all politicians?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Gail Collins, "The Women Versus the Ted": The Men Versus the Nancy?

In her latest New York Times hyperpartisan fluff op-ed entitled "The Women Versus the Ted" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/opinion/collins-the-women-versus-the-ted.html?_r=0), Gail Collins begins by observing that the female population of the Senate "rose from 17 to 20 this year." Good news, but this is not enough. One day before I depart this earth, I hope that number will be closer to 50.

Collins concludes by attacking Senator Ted Cruz of Texas:

"So, people, who do you think has been more helpful in edging the Senate toward a pinch of progress? The women or Ted Cruz? One strives for collegiality by holding regular bipartisan dinners. One called his colleagues 'squishes' for opposing a gun control filibuster.

I’m sticking with the girls. “Women seem to know how to work in a way that at least moves the process,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the new chair of Appropriations. If you can agree on how to proceed, then maybe someday you get some progress.

On the other hand, Ted Cruz has memorized the Constitution."

Well, I don't see eye to eye with Senator Cruz on gun control, but I also believe that there is nothing wrong with memorizing the Constitution, particularly when the First Amendment is under attack by the Obama administration.

I also believe that a Senate populated with 50 clones of Nancy Pelosi (even if her net worth was divided 50 ways, they would all still be wealthy), who has yet to say a disparaging word about any of the scandals besetting the Obama administration, would not work in America's favor.

As observed today by a Washington Post editorial entitled "The press must have the ability to ask questions" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-press-must-have-the-ability-to-ask-questions/2013/05/24/8e9ce4ba-c356-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_story.html?hpid=z3):

"The Obama administration already has pursued more criminal leak investigations than all of its predecessors. There is a worrisome trend here, also recently evident in the government’s pursuit of Associated Press telephone records in a different leak investigation. Yes, the government must have secrets in order to function. But overclassification is so rampant that to criminalize the disclosure of all secret information would come close to paralyzing the flow of information.

Perhaps prosecutors failed to read the Justice Department’s policy on this, which declares: “Because freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news, the prosecutorial power of the government should not be used in such a way that it impairs a reporter’s responsibility to cover as broadly as possible controversial public issues.” That statement goes back four decades. The Obama administration should recommit to its spirit."

Meanwhile, as reported by Ryan Lizza in a New Yorker article entitled "How Prosecutors Fought to Keep Rosen’s Warrant Secret" (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/05/how-justice-fought-to-keep-rosens-warrant-secret.html):

"The Obama Administration fought to keep a search warrant for James Rosen’s private e-mail account secret, arguing to a federal judge that the government might need to monitor the account for a lengthy period of time.


. . . .

Yesterday, hours after President Obama said, in a speech at National Defense University, that he had asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the Justice Department’s policies concerning investigations of the media, NBC News reported that the warrant to search Rosen’s e-mail account was personally approved by Holder."

Concern from Collins or Pelosi over this outrage against the First Amendment, perpetrated by Obama's Justice Department? Heck, no.

Which tells me that Ted Cruz also has a role to fill in the Senate.

As I said, I can't wait for the day that fifty percent of American senators are women; however, I also believe in the sanctity of the First Amendment, which is under siege by the administration of constitutional lawyer Barack ("I found out when you did") Obama.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Japan the Model": Ignore "Fake Scandals" and Look to Japan for Guidance

Paul Krugman disappeared from the op-ed page of The New York Times when the Benghazi, AP and IRS scandals broke. Okay, Krugman knows absolutely nothing about Libya and al-Qaeda, and perhaps he has no personal insights involving the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press telephone records. But to simply ignore the IRS matter? It was almost as if a sports writer had suddenly decided to take a holiday during the World Series.

Today, Krugman finally provides us with "Conscience of a Liberal" guidance concerning the underlying nature of the ruckus buffeting his beloved Obama administration. In a Times op-ed entitled "Japan the Model" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/opinion/krugman-japan-the-model.html?_r=0), Krugman writes:

"In America, for example, there are still more than four times as many long-term unemployed workers as there were before the economic crisis, but Republicans only seem to want to talk about fake scandals."

Ah yes, "fake scandals" of the kind that have Lois Lerner scurrying to plead the Fifth. "Fake scandals" that result in blistering rebukes of Obama from Times columnist Maureen Dowd (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/maureen-dowd-when-myths-collide-in.html). "Fake Scandals" that prompt a dyed-in-the-wool liberal columnist such as Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post to write an opinion piece entitled "Obama administration mistakes journalism for espionage" (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-20/opinions/39391166_1_gary-pruitt-espionage-act-fox-news), which begins:

"The Obama administration has no business rummaging through journalists’ phone records, perusing their e-mails and tracking their movements in an attempt to keep them from gathering news. This heavy-handed business isn’t chilling, it’s just plain cold.

It also may well be unconstitutional."

Yup, it's all the fault of the Republicans.

But the real purpose of Krugman's op-ed today is to praise "'Abenomics' — the sharp turn toward monetary and fiscal stimulus adopted by the government of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe." Observing that "nobody else in the advanced world is trying anything similar," Krugman proceeds to observe:

"The good news starts with surprisingly rapid Japanese economic growth in the first quarter of this year — actually, substantially faster growth than that in the United States, while Europe’s economy continued to shrink. You never want to make too much of one quarter’s numbers, but that’s the kind of thing we want to see.

Meanwhile, Japanese stocks have soared, while the yen has fallen. And, in case you’re wondering, a weak yen is very good news for Japan because it makes the country’s export industries more competitive."

However, before lending too much credence to Krugman's ballyhoo, you might want to have a gander at what Reuter's columnist James Saft had to say about "Abenomics" in a recent Economic Times article entitled "Weak yen a boon for investors, not Japan" (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-05-15/news/39282115_1_exporters-abenomics-nikkei):

"Buy Japanese stocks if you must but don't expect Abenomics and the fall of the yen to revitalize Japan's economy. The yen has fallen by more than 20 percent since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who advocates aggressive monetary and fiscal policy, was elected in December, busting through the 100 yen to the dollar level last week.

In part the theory behind Abenomics is that a weaker yen will revitalize industry, which will export more and plow the proceeds into hiring and capital investment. The stock market certainly believes: benchmark shares in Tokyo are up 36 percent this year and more than 68 percent over six months.

But a look at the actual data shows Japanese companies, like British ones during a similar bout of currency weakness in 2008, appear to be more eager to use a newly competitive currency to pad profits through higher margins rather than higher export volumes. Thus far, Japanese exporters appear to be doing just that. Despite yen falls the price of Japanese exports in local currency has barely budged.

. . . .

Abenomics contains an irony: the effect of its stimulus will be enjoyed in substantial part by hedge fund managers and clients in New York and London and by workers in Japanese factories as yet unbuilt in places like Kentucky."

Will the purchase by the Bank of Japan of government bonds, driving money into the Japanese stock market, result in a sustained economic recovery? I doubt it. Business spending in Japan is still weak (see: http://www.investing.com/analysis/business-spending-in-japan-remains-weak-despite-abenomics-167735), and the aging and shrinking of Japan's population spell future disaster (see: http://www.investing.com/analysis/abenomics-will-accelerate-japan's-descent-168235).

Bottom line: I wouldn't place my money on  a quick fix that brings about a rapid rise in stock market prices, but which does not assure sustainable economic growth. Thursday's decline in Japanese share prices is a harbinger of future chaos out of the Far East.

Or stated otherwise, given that benchmark shares in Tokyo rose some seventy percent in six months and the yen fell more than twenty percent during that same period, is it any wonder that "nobody else in the advanced world is trying anything similar"? I don't think so.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gail Collins, "Somebody Did Something": Almost Nobody at The Times Did Anything

The First Amendment is under attack by the Obama administration's Justice Department, the integrity of the IRS has been besmirched by efforts to target conservatives, and it has become entirely plain that the Obama administration systematically misled Americans concerning the nature of the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi. So what does Gail Collins write about in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Somebody Did Something" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/opinion/collins-somebody-did-something.html?_r=0)? Immigration reform and Republican nastiness.

You go, girl! Times readers don't want to be told about the incompetence of their favorite president. It's too depressing.

How about another reference to Seamus in your coming opinion pieces, Gail? That would have us all in stitches. We could pretend that none of this ugliness ever happened.

Kudos to Andrew Rosenthal, his editorial board and the his op-ed columnists, who - with the notable exception of Maureen Dowd - would have us believe that nothing inappropriate involving the Obama administration ever occurred.

Apparently The Times is today guided by the philosophy that if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it didn't make a sound.

After all, if the president didn't need to be told by his chief counsel, chief of staff and cabinet members of these misdeeds, why should The Times be any more forthcoming with its readers?

Let's all agree to muffle the crash . . .

New York Times, "‘Barbaric Attack’ in London Prompts Meeting on Terror": A "Terrorist Incident"? Aren't You Being a Bit Rash, Mr. Cameron?

Read today's New York Times article entitled "‘Barbaric Attack’ in London Prompts Meeting on Terror" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/world/europe/london-attacks.html). We are told:

"In an attack that raised new fears of terrorism in Britain, a man walking near a military barracks in south London on Wednesday was rammed by a car and then hacked to death by two knife-wielding assailants, according to witness accounts carried by British news media."

"Rammed by a car and then hacked to death"? Seems fairly mundane to me. Why should that "raise" fears of terrorism?

The article continues:

"One of the men shouted 'Allahu akbar,' or 'God is great,' as the attack proceeded, government officials said."

Of course, no need to go to the trouble of saying in what language "Allahu akbar" means "God is great," given that everyone who reads The New York Times speaks Arabic.

A bit further down, the article tells us:

"'There are strong indications that it is a terrorist incident,' Mr. Cameron said. He interrupted his European tour to return to London on Wednesday night."

"Strong indications" of a "terrorist incident"? Isn't that going out a bit on a limb, Mr. Cameron? So what if one of the attackers said: "You people will never be safe. Remove your governments!" So what if "Witnesses said two men had gotten out and attacked the prone victim with large bladed weapons"? So what if "Some said the men had beheaded him"? Don't you think you've lost your head, David, and are being a bit rash?

Don't you know that it's all because of Israel's unfair treatment of Palestinians? Stephen Hawking, who recently support of a boycott of Israel, can explain it to you. Maintain relations with Israel, and more heads will roll!

A soldier was beheaded? So? As Hawkins knows, It's only a trifling matter relative to the cosmos as a whole . . .

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Serving Up Schlock": No, She's Not Referring to Jay Carney

Television? I'll let you in on a deep, dark secret: I like "Game of Thrones," but that's the extent of my vice. I also liked "The Sopranos" and "The Wire," but in both of of these instances, I think I can now safely plead the statute of limitations.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Serving Up Schlock" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/opinion/dowd-serving-up-schlock.html), Maureen Dowd ridicules network television fare:

"It turns out that Washington isn’t the only place where ideas come to die.

TV honchos cling to outmoded programming traditions even as many younger Americans, gorging on a movable feast of platforms, are losing the habit of turning on the TV, and even as top talent peels off to enjoy the freedom of cable and imaginative hubs like Amazon, Hulu, YouTube and Netflix . . ."

Dowd is right! Who needs network programming, when it will be so much more entertaining to watch Lois Lerner plead the Fifth concerning her involvement in the IRS scandal. (She still hasn't been fired?) Recall that the editorial board of The New York Times has gone on record as stating that the IRS "acted inappropriately because employees couldn’t understand inadequate guidelines" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/new-york-times-editorial-scandal.html). Just one big misunderstanding, yet here we have Lerner about to take the Fifth?

More comedy? Listen to Jay Carney try to avoid answering and then explain away why White House chief lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler purportedly chose not to inform the president that the IRS was targeting conservatives ("Let's not tell Daddy"?).

The prior day, Carney had said (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/05/20/press-briefing-press-secretary-jay-carney-5202013):

"In these situations the counsel made the decision that this is not the kind of thing that you notify the president of, of an investigation that’s not complete, because it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so."

But as Dan Balz of The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-more-clarity-white-house-adds-to-confusion-on-irs/2013/05/21/a40c54f2-c24d-11e2-8c3b-0b5e9247e8ca_story.html?hpid=z2) asks today:

"Why would it be inappropriate for the president to know what his chief of staff, his counsel and others on his senior staff knew and were talking about with others in the government? Would telling him require him to do something inappropriate? Would he be open to criticism if he knew and stood idly by? Perhaps, but if his top advisers knew weren’t inclined to act inappropriately, why would the president?"

But that's just half of it. Do you honestly believe that Kathryn Ruemmler, all of 42 years old, took it entirely upon herself not to inform the president? What's that? You believe it? Okay, there's a bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to sell you.

And then there was also the scintillating repartee between former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Maureen Dowd herself. On "Morning Joe," Gibbs let loose a broadside at Dowd, who has plainly fallen out of love with Obama.

As reported by Politico (http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/robert-gibbs-maureen-dowd-91608.html), Dowd was quick to fire back:

"'I don’t normally listen to Robert,' she wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO. 'I don’t largely because it’s sort of largely the same tired defense of President Obama for the last, like, six years.'"

You go, girl!

Heck, with this abundance of alternative entertainment, you might need medical marijuana to treat depression, but there is certainly no need for network sitcoms.

Thomas Friedman, "Tell Me How This Ends": Tom Terrific Tells Syrians to Cooperate

It took Thomas Friedman two years to grasp the effect of the drought in Syria and its relationship to the ongoing rebellion against the Assad regime (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/thomas-friedman-without-water.html). Obviously pleased with himself, Friedman is back today with an op-ed entitled "Tell Me How This Ends" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/opinion/friedman-tell-me-how-this-ends.html?_r=0), providing an easy as pie answer how to propel Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt into the 21st century:

"The only way for these countries to catch up is by people uniting to mobilize all their strength. It is for Sunnis, Christians and Alawites in Syria to work together; for the tribes in Yemen and Libya to work together; for the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and liberals in Egypt to do so as well, particularly in implementing the proposed International Monetary Fund economic reforms. In today’s globalized world, you fall behind faster than ever if you are not building the education, infrastructure and economic foundation to take advantage of this world — but you catch up faster if you do."

Heck, why didn't I think of that? All they need to do is cooperate! Just think: If Sunnis and Alawites in Syria, Muslims and Copts in Egypt, and Sunnis and Shiites in Yemen were all to stop hating one another, they could "catch up" with the West!

But in order to "catch up," they might also need to stop engaging in female genital mutilation in Egypt and put an end to "honor killings" of their mothers, daughters and sisters throughout the Muslim Middle East and Turkey.

Arm the rebels in Syria? Friedman also has some remarkable thoughts:

"So let’s do something new: think two steps ahead. Before we start sending guns to more people, let’s ask ourselves for what exact ends we want those guns used and what else would be required of them and us to realize those ends?"

That's brilliant, Tom. We need to "think."

Meanwhile, as reported by Lebanon's Daily Star (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/May-21/217817-hezbollah-role-in-syria-grows-more-prominent.ashx#axzz2TqlVMRsw) in an article entitled "Hezbollah role in Syria grows more prominent":

"Hezbollah was drawn deeper into Syria’s civil war as 28 fighters from the group were killed and dozens more wounded while fighting rebels, opposition activists said Monday.

The intense battle in Qusair, part of a government offensive aimed at securing a strategic corridor from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, drove rebels from large parts of the town.

. . . .

[I]t took Hezbollah troops a few hours to take control of the city’s main square and municipal building. By the end of the day, they had pushed out rebel units, including the AlQaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, from most of Qusair, he said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by both sides."

Hezbollah vs. al-Qaeda? Kind of like Freddy Krueger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" vs. Jason Voorhees from "Friday the 13th."

Should we just let them continue killing themselves?

All fine and good, were it not for the fact that more than 80,000 people, mostly innocent civilians, have died since the start of the uprising in Syria, which has resulted in 1.5 million refugees. (Syria has a total population of some 22 million.) That's a helluva lot of human suffering.

Think two steps ahead, as Tom suggests? Thinking is good, but that's a lot to request from a gun-shy Obama administration, which is reaping the rewards of "lead from behind" in Libya and enmeshed in domestic scandals.

US troops in Syria? No way in hell, but that doesn't mean that the US shouldn't be more proactive to stop the slaughter.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Washington Post, "White House Knew IRS Probe Findings Earlier": No One Bothered to Tell Obama, Too Busy Improving His Swing

As reported by The Washington Post in an article entitled "White House knew IRS probe findings earlier" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-knew-irs-probe-findings-earlier/2013/05/20/56598718-c17e-11e2-ab60-67bba7be7813_story.html?hpid=z2#), written by Zachary A. Goldfarb and Juliet Eilperin:

"White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other top officials about the IRS findings nearly a month ago, press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. Ruemmler decided the information should not be transmitted to the president because the IRS inspector general’s report was not finished, he said.

'The judgment of the White House counsel was that this is not a matter that she should convey to the president,' Carney told reporters during a tense news briefing. 'This is not the kind of thing, when you have an ongoing investigation or an ongoing audit, that requires notification to the president, because what is important is that we wait until that kind of process is completed before we take action.'

The new account goes well beyond what officials had said as recently as Sunday, when senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in television interviews that the White House did not know the results of the inquiry until the inspector general’s report was released last week. Carney had said previously that Ruemmler was told 'only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review' of the IRS’s conduct, and he portrayed it as a 'normal sort of heads-up' notification."

Or, Ruemmler told McDonough, and both decided not to inform Obama of the investigation or its bombshell results, because the president was too busy playing golf with Tiger Woods. Yeah, right.

If this was indeed the case, both Ruemmler and McDonough should be fired for displaying astonishingly poor judgment.

And Obama should resign for incompetent management of his staff.

It will be a carnival when Ruemmler and McDonough are ultimately questioned by the House.

Hezbollah vs. al-Qaeda: "Freddy vs. Jason"

Did you happen to see the 2003 movie "Freddy vs. Jason," a 2003 American slasher film, which pits Freddy Krueger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" against Jason Voorhees from "Friday the 13th"? Quite honestly I never saw it, and it's certainly not on my list. (I don't think you can pay me enough money to watch it.) So why even mention this "classic" flick?

As reported by Lebanon's Daily Star (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/May-21/217817-hezbollah-role-in-syria-grows-more-prominent.ashx#axzz2TqlVMRsw) in an article entitled "Hezbollah role in Syria grows more prominent":

"Hezbollah was drawn deeper into Syria’s civil war as 28 fighters from the group were killed and dozens more wounded while fighting rebels, opposition activists said Monday.

The intense battle in Qusair, part of a government offensive aimed at securing a strategic corridor from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, drove rebels from large parts of the town.

. . . .

[I]t took Hezbollah troops a few hours to take control of the city’s main square and municipal building. By the end of the day, they had pushed out rebel units, including the AlQaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, from most of Qusair, he said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by both sides."

Hmm.

Hezbollah vs. al-Qaeda, Freddy vs. Jason . . .

All fine and good, were it not for the fact that more than 80,000 people, mostly innocent civilians, have died since the start of the uprising in Syria, which has resulted in 1.5 million refugees. (Syria has a total population of some 22 million.) That's a helluva lot of human suffering that has gone ignored by much of the world.

David Brooks, "What Our Words Tell Us": Are Books Still Being Read?

I have three children, ages 25, 21 and 18. At the moment, not one of them is reading a book for pleasure. Texting? Yes. Surfing the Internet? Yes. Reading a book? No.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "What Our Words Tell Us" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/opinion/brooks-what-our-words-tell-us.html?_r=0), David Brooks tells us that the words found in books during different periods can attest to cultural shifts. Brooks writes:

"About two years ago, the folks at Google released a database of 5.2 million books published between 1500 and 2008. You can type a search word into the database and find out how frequently different words were used at different epochs.

The database doesn’t tell you how the words were used; it just tells you how frequently they were used. Still, results can reveal interesting cultural shifts. For example, somebody typed the word “cocaine” into the search engine and found that the word was surprisingly common in the Victorian era. Then it gradually declined during the 20th century until around 1970, when usage skyrocketed.

. . . .

Evidence from crude data sets like these are prone to confirmation bias. People see patterns they already believe in. Maybe I’ve done that here. But these gradual shifts in language reflect tectonic shifts in culture. We write less about community bonds and obligations because they’re less central to our lives."

Yet another fascinating, ever so valuable exercise in data mining.

Community bonds and obligations have become "less central to our lives"? Probably, given that we live in an age of narcissism, from the president on down.

Is the Google database of any real value going ahead? Probably not. In my humble experience, young people no longer read books.

Bill Keller, "How to Legalize Pot": White House Staffers Today in Desperate Need of the Substance

Today, there is an explosive new revelation from an anonymous "senior White House official" that chief White House lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, knew in April that an audit of the IRS would probably show that agency employees targeted conservative groups (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/new-york-times-irs-inquiry-status-told.html). And Ruemmler passed this information on to whom? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has again taken the day off, but Bill Keller is still on the job. In his latest Times op-ed entitled "How to Legalize Pot"
(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/opinion/keller-how-to-legalize-pot.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), Keller informs us:


"A few places, like the Netherlands, have had limited legalization; many jurisdictions have decriminalized personal use; and 18 states in this country have approved the drug for medical use. (Twelve others, including New York, are considering it.) But Washington and Colorado have set out to invent a whole industry from scratch and, in theory, to avoid the shortcomings of other markets in legal vices — tobacco, alcohol, gambling — that lurched into being without much forethought, and have supplied, along with much pleasure, much misery.

. . . .

[D]espite new moves toward legalization in Latin America, no one expects Congress to remove cannabis from the list of criminal substances any time soon. ('Not until the second Hillary Clinton administration,' [drug policy expert Mark]Kleiman says.)"

Well, these days Hillary's 2016 prospects are looking none to hot.

But not to worry. I have it from an anonymous "senior White House official" that unbeknownst to the president, once a toker of Mary Jane, feverish efforts are underway in Washington to legalize the substance. After today's revelation concerning Ruemmler, some in the Obama administration are claiming to be in desperate need of this "medicinal" drug.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New York Times, "I.R.S. Inquiry Status Told to White House in April": Obama Wasn't Told?

Can it possibly get any worse for Obama? One week ago, he held a press conference with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and explained how he first learned about the problems involving the IRS:

"I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday. And this is pretty straightforward."

Well, it turns out now it's not so "straightforward."

A just published New York Times article entitled "I.R.S. Inquiry Status Told to White House in April" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/us/politics/white-house-told-of-irs-scrutiny-of-groups-in-april.html?_r=0), written by Jonathan Weisman and Brian Knowlton, informs us:

"The chief White House lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, learned last month that a Treasury inspector general had concluded an audit of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, weeks before the matter became public, according to a senior White House official.

The White House counsel’s briefing came about the same time that Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew met with the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, to learn the conclusions of his draft audit of the controversial I.R.S. effort, the official said. "

Pulling no punches, a just published Wall Street Journal article entitled "Obama's Counsel Was Told of IRS Audit Findings Weeks Ago" (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323648304578493081906824260.html) by Peter Nicholas, similarly reports:

"The White House's chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.

That disclosure has prompted a debate over whether the president should have been notified at that time.

In the week of April 22, the Office of the White House Counsel and its head, Kathryn Ruemmler, were told by Treasury Department attorneys that an inspector general's report was nearing completion, the White House official said. In that conversation, Ms. Ruemmler learned that "a small number of line IRS employees had improperly scrutinized certain . . . organizations by using words like 'tea party' and 'patriot,'" the official said.

President Barack Obama said last week he learned about the controversy at the same time as the public, on May 10, when an IRS official revealed it to a conference of lawyers. The president's statement drew criticism, focusing attention on his management style and whether he has kept himself sufficiently informed about the agencies under his authority."

Who is this anonymous White House official who concurrently informed both The Times and The Wall Street Journal of this fact?

What was the motivation of this anonymous White House official who simultaneously went to two newspapers to inform them of this information?

Is he/she covering his/her buttocks?

Is it even remotely possible that after being provided this information, Kathryn Ruemmler simply sat on it and didn't inform anyone else in the White House?

Answers:

You can guess for yourselves the identity of the anonymous White House official. I know on whom I'm placing my bet.

Ruemmler just sat on the disclosure and didn't inform anyone else at the White House? Yeah, right.

Treasury Secretary Lew didn't know in April? In the words of Ray Charles, my advice to Lew:

"Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more."

And Obama was purposefully kept in the dark?

This revelation comes after Senior Advisor to the President for Strategy and Communications, Dan Pfeiffer, fibbed on "Face the Nation" yesterday (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/face-nation-dan-pfeiffer-tells-bald.html).

Even if Obama wasn't told by Ruemmler or by anyone else in his administration, all of this speaks volumes concerning Obama's incompetence.


"Face the Nation": Dan Pfeiffer Tells a Bald-Faced Lie Concerning Benghazi

Today, on "Face the Nation" (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147142n), Bob Schieffer and Dan Pfeiffer, Assistant to the President of the United States and Senior Advisor to the President for Strategy and Communications, had the following interchange:

Bob Schieffer:

"Susan Rice . . . had no connection whatsoever to the events that took place in Benghazi, and yet she was sent out, appeared on this broadcast and other Sunday broadcasts five days after it happens, and I'm not here to get into an argument with you about who changed which word in the talking points and all that. The bottom line is, what she told the American people that day bore no resemblance to what had happened on the ground in an incident where four Americans were killed."

Dan Pfeiffer:

"But . . . what she said, and now that the talking points have been released, or the e-mails and the talking points have been released, we know that what she was saying was what the CIA believed at the time. When we got additional information, we put that out. We tried to get it as right as we could, and as we got new information, we showed it to the American people."

The CIA believed at the time that the Benghazi assault resulted from a spontaneous demonstration provoked by an Internet video? Sorry, no way. We still don't know who was responsible for interjecting the Internet video into the matter, but we do know that the West Wing, the State Department and the CIA removed any mention of al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia, an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, from the talking points.

As reported by Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/petraeus-email-objected-benghazi-talking-points-220924269.html):

"Then CIA-Director David Petraeus objected to the final talking points the Obama administration used after the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, because he wanted to see more details revealed to the public, according to emails released Wednesday by the White House.

Under pressure in the investigation that continues eight months after the attacks, the White House on Wednesday released 99 pages of emails and a single page of hand-written notes made by Petraeus' deputy, Mike Morell, after a meeting at the White House on Saturday, Sept. 15. On that page, Morell scratched out from the CIA's early drafts of talking points mentions of al-Qaida, the experience of fighters in Libya, Islamic extremists and a warning to the Cairo embassy on the eve of the attacks of calls for a demonstration and break-in by jihadists.

Petraeus apparently was displeased by the removal of so much of the material his analysts initially had proposed for release. The talking points were sent to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to prepare her for an appearance on news shows on Sunday, Sept. 16, and also to members of the House Intelligence Committee."

Yes, Pfeiffer's fabrications at this late date, in flagrant denial of the facts and falling far beyond the realm of "spin," make me nauseous.

Apparently Pfeiffer believes that by engaging in "speed talk," he can obscure the truth.

How is it that a man as smart as Obama is incapable of understanding that those around him are burying whatever is left of his credibility?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Taxing Times for Obama": The Coming Catfight With Hillary

She may be outraged by Obama, but she hates Hillary.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Taxing Times for Obama" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/opinion/sunday/dowd-irs-investigation-means-more-taxing-times-for-obama.html?_r=0), Maureen Dowd begins by writing about Obama's scandal-ridden second term:


"The onetime messiah seems like a sad sack, trying to bounce back from a blistering array of sins that are not even his fault.

. . . .

It turns out that Treasury officials knew during the 2012 campaign that an investigation into the targeting was going on. But, enhancing his image as a stranger in a strange land, the president said he learned about it from news reports on May 10. Then he waited three days to descend from the mountain and express outrage.

Democrats are not worried that the rumpuses will hurt Obama’s personal appeal or reputation for integrity."

Sorry, Maureen, but it is his fault. We are talking about his incompetent appointees in the IRS, Justice Department, State Department and West Wing. Loyalty for Obama took precedence over experience, and we're seeing the results. I don't care where you work: Ultimately you must take responsibility for the performance of those under you, and the White House is no exception. As stated by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323582904578487460479247792.html):

"The president, as usual, acts as if all of this is totally unconnected to him. He's shocked, it's unacceptable, he'll get to the bottom of it. He read about it in the papers, just like you.

But he is not unconnected, he is not a bystander. This is his administration. Those are his executive agencies. He runs the IRS and the Justice Department.

A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last row in the sleepy agency across town."

The president is not America's "chief campaigner," but rather America's "chief executive." Obama never had any executive experience and was never cut out for the job. Perhaps in that sense, it really isn't "his fault," but the fault of those who elected him.

Will this "hurt Obama’s personal appeal or reputation for integrity"? Again, it's not a matter of personal appeal or reputation for integrity. It's a matter of fundamental incompetence.

But none of this has anything to do with the real message of Dowd's op-ed. When people tell you two things, it's always the second thing that is more important to them, and in keeping with this axiom, Dowd continues:

"Obama would never pull what Hillary pulled with her longtime aide Huma Abedin. Abedin was allowed, after the birth of her and Anthony Weiner’s son, to work part time as a top adviser in the State Department for $135,000 while also working as a consultant for private clients, some of whom had to be interested in her influence in the government — and she did not disclose it on her financial report.

As Politico reported, the arrangement was similar to the way many of Hillary’s aides were paid while she was a senator: 'They were compensated partly through work on her government staff, and partly through her political action committee.' And others would later land lucrative gigs at Clinton-friendly organizations.

Hillary has a blind spot on ethics, not minding if things look terrible if they’re technically legit. And she has a tight grip on money, so she didn’t choose to simply shift Huma to her personal payroll.

But Americans have already priced in the imperfections of the Clintons.

Who knows? If Washington keeps imploding, Hillary may run in 2016 on restoring honor to the White House."

Hillary ("What difference does it make") Clinton running in 2016 on restoring honor to the White House or even running? I don't think so. Notwithstanding the claims made by Times columnist Frank Bruni in a recent op-ed entitled  "America the Clueless" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/frank-bruni-america-clueless-not-as.html), Americans are not as stupid as Dowd and Bruni make them out to be.

Thomas Friedman, "Without Water, Revolution": It Took Tom Terrific Two Years to Get It Right

In a May 2011 New York Times op-ed entitled "They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/opinion/22friedman.html?ref=opinion), Thomas Friedman, writing from Beirut, told us that the protestors being gunned down by Assad's monstrous regime were seeking "democracy":

"More than in any other Arab country today, the democracy protestors in Syria know that when they walk out the door to peacefully demand freedom they are facing a regime that has no hesitancy about gunning them down."

This was all about "Democracy protestors"? I wrote in response (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2011/05/thomas-friedmans-they-shoot-horses-dont.html) that Friedman's explanation was "a facile depiction of a rebellion having its roots elsewhere." I continued:

"Notwithstanding demands by demonstrators for greater political freedom, the Assad regime is being brought down by the failure of its economy. Syria's agricultural sector employs some 30 percent of its labor force, and much emphasis has been placed in recent years on achieving food self-sufficiency and stemming rural migration. However, Syria's most important cash crop is cotton, which demands much water, and a five-year drought has had catastrophic consequences."

Was I invited to the State Department to expound upon my thoughts? A phone call? Heck no! Why do they need someone like me when they can depend upon a persistent stream of drivel from would-be Middle East experts such as Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

Fast forward two years: Thomas Friedman today has finally gotten around to acknowledging the effects of the drought in Syria. In an op-ed entitled "Without Water, Revolution" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/opinion/sunday/friedman-without-water-revolution.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), Friedman now writes:

"Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. 'Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land' for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized."

An answer to the drought and the swelling population in the Middle East? Simple: Israeli desalinization technologies.

Question: Will Muslim countries throughout the Middle East agree to erect desalinization plants based upon the technologies of the "descendants of apes and pigs," or, will they prefer to see their agriculture and economies ravaged?

The answer is simple. Chaos will continue to reign, but here I should also acknowledge that I was wrong in the past. I anticipated that Sunni rebel forces in Syria would sweep away Assad's army, consisting primarily of Sunni conscripts led by Alawite officers. I did not take into account that Iran would order Hezbollah shock troops into the fray on the side of Assad, which have been countered with Sunni jihadists from around the Muslim world, who are supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

In effect, a new theater with a resultant stalemate has been created in the Iran - Saudi Arabia proxy war, not entirely unlike the Sa'dah War in Yemen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gail Collins, "Hard of Hearings": Pitying the IRS

Following a lame parody of the House Ways and Means Committee questioning of Steven Miller, the former head of the IRS, Gail Collins, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hard of Hearings" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/18/opinion/collins-hard-of-hearings.html?_r=0), would explain away, in equally lame fashion, the targeting of conservative organizations. Collins begins by telling us that "it appears that there are people making decisions at the I.R.S. who have the intelligence of a wet Frisbee." Or in other words, the conduct of these IRS employees stemmed from stupidity and did not involve criminal intent.

Collins goes on to list excuses for their behavior:

"But here’s where the sympathy comes in. The I.R.S. employees were stuck with a pile of 70,000 applications for the tax-exempt status that’s awarded to organizations engaged in social welfare issues. Recently, political groups have been gaming the system, announcing they’re just do-gooders with a minor political sideline in order to qualify. When they succeed, they get to keep their donors secret. The rules for who qualifies are murky, and, according to Miller, only about 150 to 200 people were making the decisions about who got further scrutiny.

Also, they were working at the Determinations Unit of the Rulings and Agreements Office of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service. Spending their lives trying to clarify the 501(c)(4) status. You try that for a while and see how you like it.

If Congress wanted to help, the members could simplify the law so I.R.S. minions aren’t trying to figure out which groups spend only 49 percent of their resources on politics as opposed to 51 percent.

Or, they could give the I.R.S. more money to do the job it’s stuck with now. The budget has been cut almost $1 billion over the last few years, while its duties have expanded. Next Friday, I.R.S. workers will enjoy the first of a series of unpaid furloughs thanks to that sequester."

Or in other words, the IRS "made wildly inappropriate judgments and some of its top brass appears to have the spunk of a pillow," but they should be pitied because:

  • Its employees are overworked.
  • Tax-exempt status for some of these political groups is a scam.
  • Any wrongdoing was limited to a small group of employees.
  • The law is boring.
  • The law is complicated.
  • The IRS is understaffed.
So given all of the above, there is no need to get our underpants in a knot because a tiny number of IRS employees targeted conservatives.

What isn't Collins telling us? As reported by The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/house-panel-opens-hearing-on-irs-targeting-of-conservative-groups/2013/05/17/f1d7d352-beea-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html?hpid=z1):

"J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s top tax watchdog, said Friday he had informed top Treasury officials starting last spring about problems related to the special attention the agency was paying some conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status. George said he shared the information with the Treasury’s general counsel in June and with Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin 'shortly thereafter.'"

Last spring? Hmm. That's just before the election. And these "top Treasury officials" decided that there was no need to inform anyone else of this apparent criminal activity with potentially explosive political consequences? Yeah, right.

Stay tuned.

Collins? She should stick to what she writes best, i.e. dog-on-the-roof.