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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Susan Jacoby, "Weiner’s Women": Welcome to Our Brave New Narcissistic World

In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Weiner’s Women" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/opinion/weiners-women.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1375261720-HN38mVWZdCEtqYLKF1H5Mw), Susan Jacoby, a renowned best selling author who tells us that she is a feminist, writes:

"The morality of virtual sex, as long as no one is cheating on a real partner, is not what bothers me. What’s truly troubling about the whole business is that it resembles the substitution of texting for extended, face-to-face time with friends. Virtual sex is to sex as virtual food is to food: you can’t taste, touch or smell it, and you don’t have to do any preparation or work. Sex with strangers online amounts to a diminution, close to an absolute negation, of the context that gives human interaction genuine content. Erotic play without context becomes just a form of one-on-one pornography."

"Diminution, close to an absolute negation, of the context that gives human interaction genuine content"? Query: Is it only about "sexting," or does this diminution of human contact also occur when we engage in compulsive texting? Or does it also involve manic fixations with Facebook, which has turned "friendship" into a numbers game?

I am reminded of the picture of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin working at their dining room table, each talking on a cell phone, with his and her computers (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/magazine/anthony-weiner-and-huma-abedins-post-scandal-playbook.html?pagewanted=all). This is marriage in the 21st century?

Is their all-consuming quest for power, symbiotic at best, any different from that of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have redefined marriage?

And was there any more "human" substance to Eliot Spitzer's liaisons with prostitutes?

Yes, as we become more involved with ourselves, it becomes increasingly cold out there.

Winter is indeed coming.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Revenge of the Mistresses": Friedman's "Long March"

Over the course of an agonizingly long journey much akin to Mao's "Long March," Thomas Friedman continues to wake up to the fact that China is not only about bullet trains and ultramodern airports (see, for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/opinion/01friedman.html), but also about pervasive corruption and suppressed masses, deprived of basic human freedoms.

Concerned by "a stable diversification of [China's] low-wage, high-export, state-led command economy," Friedman writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Revenge of the Mistresses" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/opinion/friedman-revenge-of-the-mistresses.html?_r=0):

"The world can ill afford a chaotic transition in China. With America stuck in slow growth, Europe mired in stagnation and the Arab world imploding, China has been a vital economic engine for the global economy. If China’s sagging growth and employment rates meet rising discontent with corruption by officials — trying to get their own while the getting is still good — we will not have a stable transition in China. And if one-sixth of humanity starts going through an unstable and uncertain political/economic transition, it will shake the world."

What doesn't Friedman say concerning China's woes?

Friedman doesn't tell us about China's demographic time bomb. As reported by The Economist in an article entitled "China’s Achilles heel" (http://www.economist.com/node/21553056):

"Between 2010 and 2050 China's workforce will shrink as a share of the population by 11 percentage points, from 72% to 61%—a huge contraction, even allowing for the fact that the workforce share is exceptionally large now. That means China's old-age dependency ratio (which compares the number of people over 65 with those aged 15 to 64) will soar. At the moment the ratio is 11—roughly half America's level of 20. But by 2050, China's old-age ratio will have risen fourfold to 42, surpassing America's. Even more strikingly, by 2050, the number of people coming towards the end of their working lives (ie, those in their 50s) will have risen by more than 10%. The number of those just setting out (those in their early 20s, who are usually the best educated and most productive members of society) will have halved.

The shift spells the end of China as the world's factory. The apparently endless stream of cheap labour is starting to run dry. Despite pools of underemployed country-dwellers, China already faces shortages of manual workers."


"Make your money and get out"? Those Chinese officials know far better than Friedman what they're talking about.

Maureen Dowd, "Quit Is the Way to Roll": Can You Catch a Virus from Sexting?

Definition of VOYEUR
. . . .
2: a prying observer who is usually seeking the sordid or the scandalous


- Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voyeur)

And so, Maureen Dowd has now shifted her attention from the Whitey Bulger racketeering and murder  trial in Boston to the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal in New York. Discussion by Maureen of the George Zimmerman verdict? Too hot to handle. Leave it to Charles Blow.

"Weiner . . . has turned shamelessness into performance art," Dowd quips in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Quit Is the Way to Roll" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/opinion/dowd-quit-is-the-way-to-roll.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1375244043-nRHIm8MpinbcUqHZQLJTNg). Questioning "whether cyber-sex is more or less forgivable than illicit sex the old-fashioned way," Dowd writes:

"Aside from being a gift to clowns, hacks, punsters, rivals and the writers of “The Good Wife,” Carlos Danger is also a gift to political-scandal survivors. His behavior is so outlandish and contemptible — the sort of thing that used to require a trench coat and park — that it allows Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to act huffy."

Hmm, didn't she really mean to say, "Aside from being a gift to clowns, hacks, punsters, rivals, the writers of 'The Good Wife' and . . . Maureen Dowd"?

Maureen continues:

"Some people say Spitzer’s transgressions are more understandable because they were time-immemorial victimless transactions with well-paid humans in the flesh, while Weiner’s digital compulsions with women he didn’t know were peephole exhibitionism and insanely 'reckless,' as the new [New York City mayoral] front-runner Christine Quinn charged."

Yup, Weiner's behavior was just as stupid as Quinn's decision to put on a hoodie and declare that George Zimmerman was a criminal, prior to the jury verdict that acquitted him (see: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/blinded-hoodie-article-1.1399158).

Who will be the next mayor of New York, Weiner or Quinn? I wish I could care.

Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing in the race Thomas Friedman, who recently wrote "I Want to Be a Mayor" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/opinion/sunday/friedman-i-want-to-be-a-mayor.html), if it would mean an end to his vapid Times opinion pieces.

What does this all come down to now? Could Anthony and Huma's ties to the Clintons reawaken the Monica Lewinsky scandal and cast a pall over Hillary's 2016 presidential aspirations? Will Hillary again need to declare:

"What difference, at this point, does it make?"


Stay tuned.

Roger Cohen, "Netanyahu the Peacemaker": Cohen's Jaw-Dropping Ignorance

Roger Cohen is again training his "thoughts" on the Middle East, and those familiar with his dazzling intellect, will not be disappointed by this latest display of ignorance and naivete, as Cohen, who declared in 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian," weighs in on the forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington. Cohen, of course, does not speak Hebrew or Arabic and, to the best of my knowledge, has never lived in the region, but that never stopped him from spouting balderdash in the past.

In his New York Times op-ed entitled "Netanyahu the Peacemaker" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/opinion/global/roger-cohen-netanyahu-the-peacemaker.html?_r=0), Cohen quotes at length Jimmy Carter, a man who is ignored by Israel's leadership when he visits Israel. Why? Well maybe it has something to do with Carter's problems reconciling truth with his prejudices. You will recall that Dr. Kenneth W. Stein, a professor at Emory University who was the Mideast Fellow at the Carter Center, resigned from the Carter Center over Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Explaining his resignation, Dr. Stein wrote (http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/12/07/fox-facts-dr-kenneth-w-stein-letter/):

"President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.

Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book.

Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade.

Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary."

Yup, Carter, who chickened out of a debate over "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" with Alan Dershowitz, is just the person for Cohen to quote. As reported by Cohen, Carter is now proclaiming from London that peace should be premised upon the 1967 "borders" (there were no borders in 1967, only armistice lines):

"Carter said a resolution should be based on the 1967 borders, 'with one exception — that is that there can be land swaps very near Jerusalem for the major Israeli settlements, and acre by acre or hectare by hectare the land that’s given by the Palestinians to Israel for these major settlements will be repaid to the Palestinians on an equal basis.'

He said Palestinian return would have to be to the West Bank or Gaza — 'unless it’s a few dozen or something like that' to Israel. He said, 'I have met many, many hours with Hamas leaders, and they have assured me for a long time that they will accept any negotiation that is successful between the P.L.O. and Israel if it is put to the Palestinian people in a referendum.'"

Wonderful! You will recall that in 2007, Carter took pride in his intimate relationship with the Assad family in Syria (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7022490):

"Of course, I began meeting with Hafez al-Assad, who is now deceased as you know, back when I was president. I think back in back in 1977 in May or June. I have forgotten exactly which, but I met with him, trying to get him to support a peace process. On one occasion he invited me to meet with him and his entire family, and I met all his children and got to know them. One of them was a college student who is now the president of Syria."

It never bothered Carter that Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, was responsible for the 1982 Hama massacre, which resulted in the deaths of up to 45,000 Syrian civilians.

Now Carter, obviously a wonderful judge of human character, is attesting to the credibility of Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews, not just Israelis.

But what about a Palestinian referendum involving a peace treaty with Israel? Once all the issues are resolved, are Palestinians willing to accept a Jewish Israel? The answer can be found in a recent poll conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah (https://www.dropbox.com/s/k8nov25d4edqlcr/hu130702_Joint_Israeli_Palestinian_Poll.pdf):

"As we do periodically in our joint polls, we asked Israelis and Palestinians about their readiness for a mutual recognition as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established. Our current poll shows that 16% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition and 66% opposes it. Among Palestinians, 42% support and 56% oppose this step. In June 2012, 53% of the Israelis supported and 43% opposed this mutual recognition; among Palestinians, the corresponding figures were similar to the current poll(43% support and 55% oppose)."

In short, a majority of Palestinians are not willing to recognize Israel, and this explains the readiness of Hamas to bring any peace agreement to a Palestinian referendum.

What else did Cohen miss?

Not mentioned in Cohen's opinion piece is the fact that on Sunday, Israel's cabinet voted to free Palestinian security prisoners, including persons with "blood on their hands," in order to facilitate the peace talks in Washington. As reported by The Times of Israel (http://www.timesofisrael.com/cabinet-votes-to-release-prisoners-paving-way-for-peace-talks/):

"After a bitter debate lasting several hours, Israeli ministers voted Sunday to gradually release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in order to facilitate this week’s resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Thirteen ministers voted for the measure, seven against and two abstained. The vote approved the establishment of a committee to manage the phased process of prisoner releases, and approved the resumption of the talks, which are set to restart after a hiatus of almost three years in Washington on Tuesday."

So why did the Israeli cabinet overwhelmingly support this difficult decision, which is so hard to justify to Israel's long-suffering populace? The question never occurs to would-be Middle East expert Cohen.

The answer? Hint: It might have something to do with Iran's ongoing efforts to build its first atomic weapon.

Enough said.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bill Keller, "Profiling Obama": Obama's "Daunting Agenda"?

Yes, the United States is in trouble.

As reported by TPM (http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/poll-race-relations-suffer-in-wake-of-zimmerman):

"The acquittal of George Zimmerman still fresh in the public's memory, a poll released Wednesday found that America's views of race relations have taken a step back in the wake of the polarizing verdict.

According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, a slight majority of 52 percent of Americans said race relations in the country are either 'very good' or 'fairly good,' a huge dip from the stretch between 2009 and 2011. In NBC/WSJ polls conducted during that period, more than 70 percent described race relations in such positive terms."

Remarkably, the Zimmerman trial provoked racial antagonism, notwithstanding the fact that the prosecution was unable to present any evidence whatsoever of racist tendencies on the part of George Zimmerman. But then the fires of racism were stoked by Obama's misguided interference with the case, when he declared that "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

Obama, who had a privileged upbringing in Hawaii, could have been Martin? Was Obama ever known for violence, even when provoked, or problems at his top private school in Honolulu? Was Obama suspended three times from high school, or was jewelry, allegedly given to him by an unnamed friend, ever found in his backpack (see: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/26/2714778/thousands-expected-at-trayvon.html)? Sorry, but there can be no comparing Obama's childhood with that of Martin.

Of course, there is always a need to address and confront racism, but the Zimmerman trial was neither the time nor place. This was a time for healing and for bringing the temperature down below the boiling point. Obama bungled the matter.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Profiling Obama" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/opinion/keller-profiling-obama.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), Bill Keller refers us to Obama's responses to the Zimmerman trial and claims that the president is the object of "racial profiling" by those hoping that he will be more proactive regarding matters of race and also those fearful of his involvement. Keller writes:

"People may no longer give Obama suspicious glares in department stores or clutch their purses when he enters an elevator, but they have typecast him according to their own fears and expectations of a black man in the White House. They are still profiling Barack Obama."

Keller goes on to say that Obama will continue to tread carefully regarding matters of race, because he has an "agenda" to pursue:

"My guess is that the president will navigate those straits as he always has when race looms, carefully and without fanfare. If he is true to form, he will quietly pass over [New York police commissioner Ray] Kelly, because it’s now clear the appointment would become a major distraction from his agenda, because racial profiling is a lifelong personal sore spot for Obama, and because he has other, less polarizing options.

. . . .

And that’s O.K. President Obama has an economy to heal, a foreign policy to run, a daunting agenda blockaded by an intransigent opposition."

An "agenda"? A "daunting agenda"? And just what might that agenda be?

An economy to heal? Where is the new game plan?

The president's signature legislation? Earlier this month, Obama postponed implementation of the Affordable Care Act's demand that large employers provide their employees with health insurance or pay a tax. Sorry, Bill, but this had nothing to do with "intransigent" Republicans. Rather, it had everything to do with recognition by the administration that Obamacare is indeed a train wreck that could jeopardize the chances of Democrats in the 2014 congressional elections.

Foreign policy? Excuse me, but just what might that foreign policy be? Is it to be found in the declaration of Samantha Power, America's new UN ambassador(http://www.newrepublic.com/article/srebenica-liberalism-balkan-united%20nations#):

"A country has to look back before it can move forward. Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors."

Yes, let's continue with the apology tour, before taking the lead on pressing issues around the globe.

An agenda? If you ask me, Barack Obama's true "agenda" is Barack Obama, which will find increasing expression on the links, which are neither black nor white, but green.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Time to Hard-Delete Carlos Danger": Don't Promise Not to Do It Again

Is marriage a dying institution? Or is it morphing into a vehicle for the realization of blind political and economic ambition by both husband and wife?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Time to Hard-Delete Carlos Danger" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/opinion/sunday/dowd-time-to-hard-delete-carlos-danger.html), Maureen compares Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Dowd writes:

"Bill and Hillary Clinton transformed the way we look at sex scandals. They plowed through the ridicule, refused to slink away in shame like Gary Hart, said it was old news, and argued that if Hillary didn’t object, why should voters?

. . . .

Americans keep moving the marker of acceptable behavior, partly as a reflection of the coarsening of society and partly as a public acknowledgment that many pols with complicated personal lives have been good public servants.

Now, defining deviancy downward, Señor and Señora Danger are using the Clinton playbook.

The difference is, there’s nothing in Weiner’s public life that is redeeming. In 12 years in Congress, he managed to get only one minor bill passed, on behalf of a donor, and he doesn’t work well with people. He knows how to be loud on cable and wave his Zorro sword in our faces."

Make no mistake about it: Weiner is an embarrassment and needs to call it quits.

However, Maureen appears to posit that if you're said to be "the greatest political and policy mind of a generation," you can soil Monica's dress, tell the American public "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and continue on your merry way. After all, this seminal act at close quarters was little more than . . . "roguish."

We all await Hillary's announcement that she will be running for president, but do you believe that Bill had no additional relationships while Hillary was flying around the globe as Secretary of State?

If Hillary is asked during a debate with Chris Christie in 2016 about the true nature of her relationship with Bill, will the American public again be content with . . . "At this point, what difference does it make?"

And if Hillary is elected, will Congress appropriate funds to renovate the White House and build a semi-detached bachelor pad for Bill?

As observed by Dowd in the penultimate paragraph of her opinion piece:

"As often as Bill apologized, he didn’t promise he would 'never, ever' do it again, as Weiner did."

Bill never promised not to do it again? How reassuring!

What to call Bill if Hillary is elected? The First Lady won't do. The First Gentleman? Amost equally risible. How about . . . the First Philanderer?


Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, "Egypt’s Missed Opportunity": If Pigs Could Fly

The Muslim world is ablaze:







Commenting on the chaos in Egypt, Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, writes in a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Egypt’s Missed Opportunity" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/opinion/sunday/egypts-missed-opportunity.html?_r=0),:

"Things might have been different if reformists within the Brotherhood had set the group’s agenda after Egypt’s authoritarian leader, Hosni Mubarak, fell in 2011. Unlike the group’s hard-liners, the reformists had embraced more progressive interpretations of Islam that emphasize ideas of pluralism, tolerance and human rights. They had also come to view secular groups more as potential partners than as rivals. Yet over the past decade, the reformists were increasingly marginalized within the Brotherhood’s ranks. Some left by choice; others were expelled."

In other words, there are no "reformists" in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Or stated otherwise, if pigs could fly . . .

Meanwhile, I guess Egypt must continue to contend with dwindling foreign reserves, soaring unemployment, a devastated tourist industry, chaos caused by Islamic militants in Sinai, a weakening currency, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination against women (90 percent of whom have had their genitals mutilated), oppression of its Christian Coptic minority, and a population that is growing far beyond the country's means.

Good luck to all.

Frank Bruni, "Our Pulchritudinous Priesthood": Growth Hormone and Testosterone

Genetics? Diet? Stress? Exercise? What causes us to age faster or slower than others in our age group?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Our Pulchritudinous Priesthood" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/opinion/sunday/bruni-our-pulchritudinous-priesthood.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), Frank Bruni tells us that personal trainers have replaced psychologists as must-have accessories and have become "ludicrously apt emblems of, and metaphors for, this particular juncture in America." Bruni writes:

"What therapists were to the more cerebral New York of yesteryear, trainers are to the more superficial here and now: designated agents of self-actualization, florid expressions of self-indulgence, must-have accessories, must-cite authorities.

'My therapist says' is outmoded. 'My trainer says' is omnipresent, at least in the coddled precincts of most cosmopolitan cities coast to coast.

The ranks of trainers metastasize and the adulation for them swells, even as their precise function grows fuzzier — or more variable from trainer to trainer and client to client. Trainers are the new priests. Trainers are the new escorts. They’re paid listeners, paid talkers: friends for hire, who charge by the hour, water not included."

I have never had a personal trainer, and as usual, I am totally unaware of this latest craze. However, I have been lifting weights for almost as long as I can remember (no, I'm not about to tweet my picture as did Geraldo Rivera recently), albeit not always with the same level of motivation. Why? There have been no roles for me in action movies; however, as reported by the NIH in a 1989 abstract entitled "Effects of progressive resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone levels in young and elderly subjects" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2796409):

"We observed the response of serum growth hormone (GH) and testosterone (T) to a progressive resistance strength training program. Basal levels (after a 12-h fast) of GH and T were measured in young (23 years) and elderly (63 years) subjects before and after a 12-week training program. The response of GH and T to an acute bout of exercise was also measured. The exercise training, which involved all the major muscle groups, was conducted on Nautilus equipment and required 45-60 min for completion. The subjects completed three sets of lifts with 8-10 Reps/set.

. . . .

In conclusion, the data presented here indicate that strength training can induce growth hormone and testosterone release, regardless of age, but that the elderly response does not equal that of the young."

Hmm, higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone. Sure, I'm much closer to 63 than 23, but why look a gift horse in the mouth?

Gail Collins, "Mick Jagger, Birthday Boy": May He Live to Be 120

The evening of February 23, 2003 at Madison Square Garden, New York City, is etched in memory.

A friend had given me two all-access passes to the 45th Grammy Awards, and there I was, together my 11-year-old daughter (she's no longer the same skinny little girl: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/gail-collins-expect-unexpected-lets-put.html), standing beside the likes of B.B. King and Elvis Costello. My daughter was thrilled by the arrival of Eminem and Avril Lavigne. Then Kelly Rowland approached us with her "posse" and asked my daughter how she was enjoying the Grammy ceremony. Overwhelmed, my daughter was barely able to utter an intelligible response.

I love rock and roll. Driving in traffic, I close the windows and listen to The Doors, The Who, The Byrds and The Rolling Stones at full volume. My hearing is not good, but it was destroyed by artillery barrages and automatic rifle fire many years earlier, and not by rock music.

My Grammy experience? Dustin Hoffman walked by and smiled at my daughter (she didn't know who he was). And then Simon and Garfunkel suddenly appeared backstage. I had first encountered their music as a teenager, watching Dustin Hoffman perform with Anne Bancroft in "The Graduate" at a drive-in movie theater in Maine. I had listened to their record album incessantly, and here they finally were, a yard away, and they were . . . ancient.

I was shattered, having come to think that rock and roll stars never grow old.

Apropos "Shattered," Gail Collins, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Mick Jagger, Birthday Boy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/mick-jagger-birthday-boy.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1374908926-Fi0mjnOKa9vMKNkR8ce9BQ), observes the passing of Mick's 70th birthday:

"But about turning 70. A lot of the great stars of ’60s music were born during World War II, clocking in just ahead of the baby boom. So they’ve always been the senior citizens of their own, spectacularly youth-oriented generation. When they were young, they wrote songs about getting old. Paul McCartney was playful in 'When I’m Sixty-Four.' Paul Simon was affectionate in 'Old Friends,' when he mused 'how terribly strange to be 70.'

. . . .

There’s nothing more natural than denial. When he was 31, Jagger told People magazine that he would 'rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.' That particular quote popped in my head a while back when I was sitting through a public hearing on entitlements, in which several young people got up to announce that they knew they would never collect Social Security. They were arguing about money, but I suddenly realized that deep in their hearts, they simply felt that they would never be 65. And Jagger was not actually commenting on the viability of the Rolling Stones as a long-term proposition, but simply expressing a determination never to be middle-aged."

Well, Mick can take "Satisfaction" in the fact that his music has never lost its relevance. There are those who measure aesthetic value by whether a work or works can stand the test of "Time." Mick has met that challenge.

Mick, may you continue making music until 120! Hope to see you at your next concert!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "Inching Forward in the Mideast": High in Their Ivory Tower, the Editorial Board Is Detached from Reality on the Ground

In an editorial entitled "Inching Forward in the Mideast" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/26/opinion/inching-forward-in-the-mideast.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1374804078-V5F4WwPbrYo+DT0rgX/onQ), The New York Times begins by observing:

"The Palestinians said talks could not begin without an agreement that would be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 war."

Unbeknownst to the editorial board of The New York Times, in 1967 there were no borders between Israel and Jordan, which prior to 1967 occupied the West Bank. Rather, there were armistice lines resulting from Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

The editorial continues:

"[Israel] has also slowed the expansion of settlements that have shrunk the land available for a Palestinian state."

Apparently, the editorial board is also unaware that, as acknowledged by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, "an aerial photograph provided by European sources shows that settlements have been built on approximately 1.1% of the West Bank" (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/erekat-olmert-offered-palestinians-territorial-equivalent-of-west-bank-1.393484). Yup, those settlements have sure as heck eaten up the land available for a Palestinian state.

Next, the editorial states:

"The European Union has weighed in: on the one hand pressuring Israel with the threat of reduced aid if it does not negotiate."

To what EU aid to Israel is the Times referring? Do they mean that "Israeli 'entities' operating in the occupied territories will not be eligible for EU grants, prizes or loans starting next year" (http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/EU_pushes_plan_to_bar_aid_to_Israelis_in_West_Bank.html?cid=36502042)? No more EU "prizes" to Israeli "entities"? Oh my goodness!

The editorial concludes:

"No good can come if Israel . . . if disenfranchised Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza remain stateless in an increasingly restive region; and if the long sought dream of a Palestinian state is left to die."

No mention by the Times that Israel unilaterally evacuated Gaza in 2005, after which civilian communities in the south of Israel came under incessant rocket fire. You see, the Hamas charter calls for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis) and rejects any negotiated settlement with Israel.

Also no mention by the Times that Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert offered Arafat and Abbas an independent state along the 1967 lines with agreed upon land swaps, and that Olmert even offered Palestinian control of east Jerusalem. Arafat and Abbas refused. Now in 2013, Abbas is suddenly going to accede to an agreement along these terms? Why am I dubious?

But never mind. As the chaos and killing continue in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria (yes, these countries are also part of the Middle East), Kerry should continue to focus his attention on Israel and the Palestinians. Who cares if more than 100,000 Syrians have died as a consequence of the rebellion against Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad? You will of course recall John Kerry, a remarkable judge of human character, calling Assad "my dear friend" . . .

Good luck to "my dear friend" John.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gail Collins, "Windsors Versus Weiner": Breaking Wind Over Weiner

"I am beginning to think a royal family might come in handy," Gail Collins candidly writes at the beginning of her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Windsors Versus Weiner" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/opinion/collins-windsors-versus-weiner.html?_r=0). Heck, she can no longer write about Romney's dog. Sex and crime have been monopolized by Maureen. So what's left? Eureka! Windsors and Weiner! They both begin with "W"!

And so, a new New York Times op-ed is born! Substance be damned!

Collins writes:

"Also, it appears that Weiner’s long speeches in Congress about the single-payer plan might also have been a kind of mating call. 'Your health care rants were a huge turn-on,' wrote the woman who reputedly talked dirty with him online."

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. But as long we're on the topic of long speeches and breaking wind, didn't the president give a speech of more than an hour yesterday concerning America's flailing economy? Yes, he did, but nobody cared . . . except for his much diminished cheerleading squad, consisting these days of little more than the editorial board of Gail's newspaper.

In an editorial entitled "The Middle Class at Center Stage" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/opinion/the-middle-class-at-center-stage.html), The New York Times would have us believe:

"Washington is a city of sideshows, full of people who consider it their job to create distractions from the nation’s most serious problems. Politicians would rather argue about nonexistent scandals or plot to undermine each other’s programs than come up with ways to create jobs or elevate the hopes of the next generation.

President Obama needs to change the subject to have a successful final term, and he announced on Wednesday, in forceful terms, that he intends to do just that. In a speech in Galesburg, Ill., he said his highest priority for the next 1,276 days would be rebuilding a middle class that has been battered by globalization, technological change, and the concentration of wealth at the highest levels.

'Washington has taken its eye off the ball,' he said, 'and I am here to say this needs to stop.'"

Now which ball would that be? A golf ball?

But let's get serious for a moment.

Yesterday, before Obama's Galesburg speech, you had Jay Carney telling "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough (see: http://freebeacon.com/joe-scarborough-unleashes-on-jay-carney/):

"The president will go back to Galesburg, Illinois today to deliver a speech about where we need to move the economy, what we should be focusing on here in Washington. And it shouldn't be on the skirmishes that cause gridlock. It shouldn't be on the phony scandals that have consumed so much attention here, all to come to naught. It should be focused on what we can do to strengthen and grow the middle class."

And then finally there was the Galesburg speech itself, during which Obama declared:

"With an endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington’s taken its eye off the ball."

Hmm, "phony scandals" from Carney and Obama, "nonexistent scandals" from the Times. Do you smell a sound bite as opposed to economic repositioning?

I do. Unfortunately, the stench is also coming from The New York Times, which was once supposed to be a serious independent newspaper and not a "progressive" political mouthpiece.

IRS targeting of Obama's political opponents, the Benghazi cover-up and NSA overreaching? No "scandal" involving any of these little horrors. Let's roll up our sleeves, forget they ever happened, and get back to business.

Hope, Change and Forward! Four legs good, two legs bad!

Sickening.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Gangsta Guilt Trip": It's Not the Sopranos

My past professional career included the crime fighting and anti-terror domains, and there was also my service over many years in a reserve combat unit. I have often wondered about the corrosive effect that this has had on my life, and whether all of this has taken me to a place where I wish I had never gone. In addition, there is the deep dark issue of survivor's guilt.

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Gangsta Guilt Trip" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/opinion/dowd-gangsta-guilt-trip.html), Maureen Dowd continues with her series of opinion pieces concerning the Whitey Bulger trial. Dowd writes about the murder of another young woman, who was raised and molested by Stevie Flemmi, Bulger's past partner in crime. Dowd concludes:

"Flemmi took Debbie Hussey out shopping at the mall and then lured her to her death in a house Whitey dubbed 'The Haunty,' because of the bodies they had buried in the basement. Flemmi said Whitey choked the young woman — it didn’t take long because she was 'very fragile' — and dragged her down the stairs in 1985, just as he had with Debbie Davis in 1981.

'I’m not a doctor,' Flemmi said, 'but she looked dead to me; she felt dead to me; she was dead.' He added, 'Dead, period.'

Nonetheless, he told Whitey to 'Let her pray.' She was, after all, his little girl."

Okay, you've read this opinion piece, as you might watch an episode of "The Sopranos." Do you now just file it away in one of the recesses of your mind,  pick up a Macchiato and continue on your way to the office? After all, how does this have anything to do with you?

But consider the toll this takes on those who investigate these abominations or penetrate such organizations. Let me tell you, it's not something that you can cast aside when you go home to your family in the evening.

From an exhibition in Paris concerning women's underwear (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/maureen-dowd-tortured-mechanics-of.html), Dowd would now have us glimpse, from a safe distance, this horror show in Boston.

What's the point, Maureen?



Thomas Friedman, "Egypt’s Three Revolutions": What Is Tom Smoking in His Maryland Mansion?

Is there anything for which Thomas Friedman doesn't have an answer?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Egypt’s Three Revolutions" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/opinion/friedman-egypts-three-revolutions.html), this would-be Middle East expert concludes:

"This is no time for America to be punishing Egyptians or demanding quick elections. Our job is to help the new government maximize the number of good economic decisions it makes, while steadily pressuring it to become more inclusive and making it possible for multiple political parties to form. If that happens, Egypt will have a proper foundation to hold democratic elections again. If it doesn’t happen, no number of elections will save it."

Democracy? Egypt? Should I laugh or cry?

Egypt, with only some $16 billion in foreign reserves, soaring unemployment, a devastated tourist industry, chaos being caused by Islamic militants in Sinai, a weakening currency, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination against women (90 percent of whom have had their genitals mutilated), oppression of its Christian Coptic minority, and a population that is growing beyond the country's means, is headed for disaster, and democracy is not going to save it.

Democracy is going to take root in a country where 84 percent of its Muslim population believes that those who abandon Islam should be executed and 95 percent believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics (see: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/)?

What is Tom smoking in his Maryland mansion?

New York Times Editorial, "Mr. Weiner and the Elusive Truth": As Elusive As Weiner's Wang

Back in April, The New York Times appeared ready to assist in Anthony Weiner's rehabilitation campaign as he prepared to enter New York City's mayor's race. The New York Times Magazine devoted a lengthy article to Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, replete with heartwarming pictures of the loving couple holding hands, working together, and playing with their infant son (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/magazine/anthony-weiner-and-huma-abedins-post-scandal-playbook.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&). As reported in the article:

"By agreeing to be interviewed, Weiner and Abedin would seem to be trying to give voters what they want — and gauge public reaction. But it’s clear that the idea of talking about the scandal and its aftermath appeals to them on a personal level too. 'We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,' Weiner said. 'We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.' Their lives have become too small, too circumscribed, too claustrophobic for a couple accustomed to public life. They haven’t been to a major event together — no White House Correspondents Dinner, no red-carpet events — in nearly two years."

Can you imagine? No White House Correspondents Dinner! My goodness, how did they ever manage to get through this rough patch?

And sure enough, Weiner announced his candidacy in May.

But following Tuesday's acknowledgement by Weiner that his lewd Internet conduct continued after his resignation from the US House of Representatives, The New York Times appears to have abandoned its stance of "forgive and forget." In an editorial entitled "Mr. Weiner and the Elusive Truth" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/opinion/mr-weiner-and-the-elusive-truth.html?_r=0), the Times concludes:

"It’s difficult not to feel for Ms. Abedin. The couple deserved privacy as they worked through their problems — and they had it, until they re-emerged in public life and Mr. Weiner decided he was a good fit to run New York City. Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin have been saying that his sexual behavior is not the public’s business. Well, it isn’t, until they make it our business by plunging into a political campaign.

Mr. Weiner says he is staying in the mayoral race. To those who know his arrogance and have grown tired of the tawdry saga he has dragged the city into, this is not surprising."

The "elusive truth"? We're talking about blind ambition. It was there for all to see, but then I suppose that even The New York Times, which was ready to participate in the game for the benefit of the cause, is now waking up to the egg on its face.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Roger Cohen, "The Two-State Imperative": Ignoring the Facts

I will never forget how Roger Cohen attempted to convince the world in 2009 that Iran is not totalitarian. Recall how Cohen wrote in June 2009 immediately prior to a fraudulent election that ignited the Green Revolution (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/11/opinion/11iht-edcohen.html):

"For months now, I’ve been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state. Seldom has the country looked less like one than in these giddy June days."

"Giddy"? Yeah, right. Well, today Cohen is back with more self-serving bullshit.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Two-State Imperative" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/opinion/global/roger-cohen-the-two-state-imperative.html?_r=0), Cohen writes:


"Netanyahu speaks now of avoiding the bi-national state. Yet his Likud Party has been (and remains) a forthright proponent of just such a policy. After the lightning Israeli victory in the Six-Day war of 1967, Messianic Jewish thinking surged. If Israel now held all Jerusalem and the West Bank, how, in the minds of religious nationalists, could this recovery of Eretz Israel — a biblical term widely used to refer to the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River — not reflect divine will?

It is this conviction that lies behind the steady expansion of settlements in the West Bank, where some 350,000 Jews now live, with another 250,000 in annexed East Jerusalem. Nothing as yet suggests Israel is ready to abandon the maximalist territorial temptation of the past 46 years.

And so the heart sinks."

The heart sinks? Oh really? But consider:

  • No mention by Cohen that it was the first Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin, who returned Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a negotiated peace.

  • No mention by Cohen that it was a right wing prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who evacuated Gaza after forcefully removing the remaining Israeli settlements there.


  • No mention by Cohen that most of the "expansion" is occurring in settlement to be retained by Israel,  as previously agreed in prior negotiations with the Palestinians, pursuant to any two-state solution involving land swaps.

  • No mention that "annexed East Jerusalem," which includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Wailing Wall, also consists of areas to be retained by Israel, as previously agreed in prior negotiations with the Palestinians, pursuant to any two-state solution involving land swaps.
Cohen continues:

"Yes, the heart sinks because acceptance on both sides of the ever more invisible 'other' is still so stunted and attachment to the idea of holding or recovering all the land still so tenacious."

Needless to say, Cohen forgets to tell his readers that Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert (also a past member of the Likud) offered Arafat and Abbas an independent state along the 1967 lines with agreed upon land swaps, and that Olmert even offered Palestinian control of east Jerusalem. Arafat and Abbas refused.

As once stated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."

I suppose this is the reason it is so convenient for Cohen to ignore the facts when writing his opinions.

CNN, "Norwegian Woman: I Was Raped in Dubai, Now I Face Prison Sentence": Might This Change Norway's Attitude Toward Israel?

As reported by CNN in an article entitled "Norwegian woman: I was raped in Dubai, now I face prison sentence" (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/20/world/meast/uae-norway-rape-controversy/index.html?hpt=hp_c1) by Nicola Goulding and Phil O'Sullivan, Norwegian interior designer Marte Deborah Dalelv was sentenced to 16 months in prison in Dubai after complaining that a colleague raped her. Goulding and O'Sullivan write:

"The 24-year-old was convicted and sentenced on charges of having unlawful sex, making a false statement and illegal consumption of alcohol.

. . . .

She said she had been out at a bar with her colleagues and friends, and asked a male colleague to walk her to her room when they returned at 3 a.m. to the hotel. She'd asked him to escort her because the hotel was large and confusing, and she didn't want to be wandering on her own, knowing she'd been drinking, she said.

When they reached a room, she realized it wasn't hers -- but the man then pulled her inside despite her vocal objections, according to Dalelv.

. . . .

After again giving her version of events to officers, Dalelv said, "They asked me, 'Are you sure you called the police because you just didn't like it?' I said, 'Well of course I didn't like it.' That is when I knew, I don't think they are going to believe me at all."

Dalelv says she was taken for an intimate medical exam and tested for alcohol consumption. Her belongings were taken and she was kept in jail for four days, she said, with no explanation as to why."

Dalelv was charged with sex outside of marriage and public consumption of alcohol. She then tried telling the police that it had been voluntary sex in order to try to make the matter disappear, whereupon she was also charged with . . . making a false statement.

The article goes on to inform us that Dalelv's travails are not out of the ordinary in Dubai:

"In December 2012, a British woman reported being raped by three men in Dubai. She was found guilty of drinking alcohol without a license and fined.

In January 2010, a British woman told authorities she was raped by an employee at a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.

An Australian woman reported in 2008 that she was drugged and gang-raped. She was convicted of having sex outside marriage and drinking alcohol, and she was sentenced to 11 months in prison."

We are also told that this abomination is now "dominating the headlines in Norway."

Gee, I wonder if this might help to change the perspective of Norway, which of all the countries in Europe, is perhaps least friendly to Israel. There are even those who belong to Norway's Socialist Left Party, the junior partner in the Norwegian government, who have called for military action against Israel is it acts against Hamas, notwithstanding their rocketing of Israeli civilians, and notwithstanding their abuse of women (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/gaza-marathon-canceled_n_2810661.html).

No, I don't think so. Anti-Semitism invariably trumps all other concerns.

Paul Krugman, "Detroit, the New Greece": Shit Happens

Bumper Sticker Guy: [running after Forrest] Hey man! Hey listen, I was wondering if you might help me. 'Cause I'm in the bumper sticker business and I've been trying to think of a good slogan, and since you've been such a big inspiration to the people around here I thought you might be able to help me jump into - WOAH! Man, you just ran through a big pile of dog shit!

Forrest Gump: It happens.

Bumper Sticker guy: What, shit?

Forrest Gump: Sometimes.


- "Forrest Gump," 1994


Earlier this month, Paul Krugman, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "War On the Unemployed" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/paul-krugman-war-on-unemployed-what.html), blamed hard-hearted Republicans for slashing North Carolina's unemployment benefits in order to avoid a fiscal disaster. Krugman didn't bother to observe that North Carolina's federal debt is the third largest in the country.  Krugman also didn't consider North Carolina's unfunded retiree health care benefits totaling some $34 billion.

How would Krugman have North Carolina repay this debt? Perhaps we'll never know. What we do know is that states can't print their own money like the federal government. States also can't file for bankruptcy.

Cities, however, can file for bankruptcy.

Today in a Times op-ed entitled "Detroit, the New Greece" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/krugman-detroit-the-new-greece.html?_r=0), Krugman begins by reminding us of Greece's recent financial crisis:

"As you may recall, a few years ago Greece plunged into fiscal crisis. This was a bad thing but should have had limited effects on the rest of the world; the Greek economy is, after all, quite small (actually, about one and a half times as big as the economy of metropolitan Detroit). Unfortunately, many politicians and policy makers used the Greek crisis to hijack the debate, changing the subject from job creation to fiscal rectitude."

Or in other words, Krugman would have us believe that Greece was a small isolated situation, having little impact on the larger European whole. Of course, in order to make this argument, Krugman needs to avoid any reference to the worrisome economies of Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal, or even, for that matter, of the UK.

Krugman would then also have us believe that Detroit's bankruptcy is an isolated incident involving economic (car industry) misfortune. Paul concludes:

"The important thing is not to let the discussion get hijacked, Greek-style. There are influential people out there who would like you to believe that Detroit’s demise is fundamentally a tale of fiscal irresponsibility and/or greedy public employees. It isn’t. For the most part, it’s just one of those things that happens now and then in an ever-changing economy."

Or in other words, "Shit happens." No need to examine the fiscal travails of other municipalities such as Washington, D.C, Chicago, Cincinatti and . . . New York.

Well, just by chance, Bill Keller has conveniently published today a Times op-ed entitled "New York Is Not Detroit. But ..." (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/keller-new-york-is-not-detroit-but.html?pagewanted=all), in which he says of the Big Apple:

"Our great city is not on the verge of collapse — we are not Detroit — but it is in danger of slipping into decline. The issue is the same one that helped send Detroit toward bankruptcy last week and has put other American cities on the disabled list: the immense pile of promises made over the decades to the city’s employees — the teachers and cops and firefighters and bus drivers and sanitation workers and maintenance crews who labor to keep the city, physically and socially, in working order."

Keller refers to "a trifecta of problems" plaguing New York: public workers' salaries, health benefits and pensions. Keller continues:

"Or, to pick another measure of our predicament, the total liabilities of the city now exceed its total assets by $125 billion, a condition referred to as balance-sheet insolvency.

. . . .

In New York and many other places, the preferred option has been to kick the problem down the road. You do not have to be an actuary to marvel at the amount of flimflam politicians at all levels on all sides have employed to avoid facing the problem. My personal favorite: Are we having a hard time coming up with money for our annual payment into the New York State teachers’ pension fund? No problem. Thanks to a gimmick invented in Albany, we just borrow the money — from the pension fund!

. . . .

But while New York is in better shape than many other troubled states and localities, the situation is still insidious."

Query: If New York ultimately slashes benefits to municipal employees, will Krugman find a way to blame the Republicans? Or will he note the departure of many financial firms from the crumbling city and again tell us that shit happens.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

CNN, "A Better Story Than J.K. Rowling's": And Here's Another Story . . .

In a CNN item entitled "A better story than J.K. Rowling's" (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/21/opinion/greene-rowling-author/index.html?hpt=hp_c3) by Bob Greene, we are told that J.K. Rowling's new detective novel "The Cuckoo's Calling," published under the imaginary name of "Robert Galbraith," had been selling dismally until its true authorship was revealed. Greene then goes on to tell the story of Chuck Ross, who, in the 1970s, was a young writer who couldn't get his first novel published and wanted to know if this was because he was unknown. As told by Greene:

"In those pre-personal-computer days, [Ross] sat down at a typewriter and copied every single word of the novel 'Steps,' by Jerzy Kosinski. 'Steps' had won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1969, had received superlative reviews and was a big best-seller.

Once Ross had finished typing up the manuscript, he made sure not to put a title on it. He did put a byline on it: his own.

He made copies, and he mailed them off. The recipients were 14 major publishing houses. Four of those houses had published books by Kosinski. One of them had published 'Steps.'

The manuscript was turned down by all 14 houses.

None realized that it was rejecting 'Steps.'"

Greene goes on to say that Ross also sent the manuscript to 13 top agents, but not one of them was willing to represent it.

Yes, as someone who had both a novel and a screenplay rejected near the finish line, I can attest to the fact that it's a cruel world out there for new writers. Life is not fair.

But now also consider the following true story involving a book, which will go unnamed, which was indeed published. It turned out that the author had copied without attribution one of my brother's copyrighted articles. My brother wrote angry missives to both the author and the publisher. The author's reply:

"Firstly, may I please offer my sincerest apologies.

It has recently come to light that there are a few areas of plagarism [sic] in the book that were not picked up in the editing process. The contract with my publisher and myself has now been terminated, the book is now out of print, and all leftover books have been destroyed."

How kind. Such a charming world in which we live . . .





The Washington Post, "Obama on Trayvon Martin: The First Black President Speaks Out First As a Black American": Rubbish!

Read the lead online Washington Post article entitled "Obama on Trayvon Martin: The first black president speaks out first as a black American" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-on-trayvon-martin-the-first-black-president-speaks-out-first-as-a-black-american/2013/07/20/41f7045c-f154-11e2-bed3-b9b6fe264871_story.html?hpid=z1) by David Maraniss. It's rare that a news article succeeds in turning my stomach. In this instance, Maraniss succeeds in doing just that.

The article begins:

"Trayvon Martin, the president said, could have been him 35 years ago. That would have been Barack Obama at age 17, then known as Barry and living in Honolulu. He had a bushy Afro. Hoodies were not in style then, or often needed in balmy Hawaii. His customary hangout outfit was flip-flops, called 'slippers' on the island, shell bracelet, OP shorts and a tee.

Imagine if Barry Obama had been shot and killed, unarmed, during a confrontation with a self-deputized neighborhood watch enforcer, perhaps in some exclusive development on the far side of Diamond Head after leaving home to get shave ice. The news reports would have painted a complicated picture of the young victim, a variation on how Martin was portrayed decades later in Florida:

Lives with his grandparents; father not around, mother somewhere overseas. Pretty good student, sometimes distracted. Likes to play pickup hoops and smoke pot. Hangs out with buddies who call themselves the Choom Gang. Depending on who is providing the physical description, he could seem unprepossessing or intimidating, easygoing or brooding. And black."

Any discussion of the George Zimmerman acquittal must necessarily begin with the acknowledgement that no evidence was ever presented that Zimmerman was a racist. There is no mention of this fact by Maraniss. And while Obama and friends have persistently attempted to introduce race into this tragedy, there is no basis for doing so. Tragedy, yes; racially motivated killing, no.

Maraniss writes, "Imagine if Barry Obama had been shot and killed, unarmed, during a confrontation with a self-deputized neighborhood watch enforcer, perhaps in some exclusive development on the far side of Diamond Head after leaving home to get shave ice." What's wrong with Maraniss's analogy involving shave ice? Maraniss does not tell us that the Skittles and Watermelon Fruit Juice Cocktail, which Martin purchased, combined with cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine create a recreational drug named "lean," popular in the southern United States.

Was Martin aware of "lean"? This had been proven (see: http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2012/05/24/update-26-part-2-trayvon-martin-shooting-a-year-of-drug-use-culminates-in-predictable-violence/).

So, had Martin simply gone out to buy candy and a pop? You decide, but don't you also think that Maraniss had an obligation to inform us of the "lean" possibility?

But let's forget "lean," and instead focus on imagining "if Barry Obama had been shot and killed, unarmed, during a confrontation with a self-deputized neighborhood watch enforcer." Was Obama ever known for violence, even when provoked, or problems at his top private school in Honolulu?

Now compare Obama's privileged upbringing with that of Martin. As reported by the Miami Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/26/2714778/thousands-expected-at-trayvon.html):

"The Miami Gardens teen who has become a national symbol of racial injustice was suspended three times, and had a spotty school record that his family’s attorneys say is irrelevant to the facts that led up to his being gunned down on Feb. 26.

In October, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area 'hiding and being suspicious.' Then he said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with 'W.T.F' — an acronym for 'what the f---.' The officer said he found Trayvon the next day and went through his book bag in search of the graffiti marker.

Instead the officer reported he found women’s jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a 'burglary tool,' according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the family’s lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called 'irrelevant' and an attempt to demonize a victim.

Trayvon’s backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds."

Violence? Martin broke Zimmerman's nose, and Zimmerman was also bleeding from the back of his head.

Bottom line as I observed yesterday (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/new-york-times-editorial-president.html), Obama as a young man was always on an entirely different trajectory from that of Trayvon Martin.

Yes, there is still much racism in America, and there is a proclivity to violence. But while racism was not demonstrated by the prosecution in the trial of George Zimmerman, President Obama insisted on Friday on explaining away the violent response to the Zimmerman verdict by alluding to racism, and in so doing, he again added fuel to the fire.

This was not the occasion for Obama to go grandstanding. He could not have been Trayvon Martin.

There is always a need to address and confront racism, but this was neither the time nor place. This was a time for healing and for bringing the temperature down below the boiling point.

I repeat, timing is everything.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reuters, "In Kerry's Mideast Announcement, Hints of Success and Challenge": Both Sides Seek "to Avoid Being Blamed"

In a Reuters news analysis article entitled "In Kerry's Mideast announcement, hints of success and challenge" (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/21/us-palestinians-israel-kerry-idUSBRE96K01F20130721), Arshad Mohammed writes:

"When Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had tentatively agreed to resume peace talks after three years, he did so standing alone as dusk fell over the Jordanian capital.

. . . .

'I am not among those who see this as a major breakthrough,' said Khaled Elgindy of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. 'I am very skeptical because I don't see anything that is fundamentally different.'

The main motivation on both sides to agree to come to the table - assuming that all goes well in the next week or so - may simply be to avoid being blamed for torpedoing negotiations."

Or in other words, John Kerry needs to keep busy, but is not willing to fly to troubled Egypt or to visit his "dear friend" Bashar al-Assad (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/obama-nominates-john-kerry-dear-friend.html) in Damascus.

Will these talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, if they ever get off the ground, go anywhere? Probably not, but we mustn't keep Kerry from his playacting.

Maureen Dowd, "A Tender Gangster Romance": A "Strictly Criminal" Relationship

I had hoped that Maureen Dowd, now back from Paris, might want to express her views concerning the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the protests and violence that have followed in its wake. Does she share the views of the editorial board of The New York Times, which lavished praise upon Obama after the president claimed on Friday that "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago"  (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/new-york-times-editorial-president.html)? Regrettably, we will need to wait to see if Maureen will address the matter in a future column, or avoid it like the plague.

Meanwhile, in her latest Times op-ed entitled "A Tender Gangster Romance" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/dowd-a-tender-gangster-romance.html?_r=0), Maureen Dowd revisits the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston. Dowd tells us of the murder of the girlfriend of Stevie Flemmi, one of Bulger's partners in the Winter Hill gang, after Flemmi inadvertently leaked the name of Bulger's FBI connection, John Connolly, to the girlfriend. Dowd writes concerning the symbiotic relationship with Connolly:

"In return for being that most loathed thing in Irish culture, an informant, and providing information about the Mafia, Bulger got protection and tips from Connolly. That allowed him to play Jimmy Cagney, dispatching underworld enemies. He also got the signal to go on the lam.

'It’s always good to have connections in law enforcement' to survive, Flemmi said, noting that they had about a half-dozen F.B.I. agents on the payroll."

In the way of background, Dowd also tells us of Flemmi's feelings - or lack thereof - for his sweetheart:

"'I loved her,' Stevie 'The Rifleman' Flemmi said of his onetime girlfriend, Debbie Davis, a sparkling blond Farrah Fawcett look-alike, 'but I was not in love with her.'"

Dowd also says of Bulger's dealings with Flemmi:

"Whitey and Stevie got close in 1974, drawn together, funnily enough, by their clean-living ways. 'He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he worked out regularly,' said Flemmi, who described their relationship as 'strictly criminal.'"

Why am I not surprised that Flemmi "was not in love" with his girlfriend and regarded his relationship with Bulger as "strictly criminal"?

Those who regularly read this blog know that part of my past professional career involved the criminal and anti-terror domains (yes, there is a nexus between the two). Those persons who become drawn into organized crime and live to tell the tale will tell you about a world of self-interest, in which no true relationships are formed. It's narcissism gone wild. No one else matters.

It's almost a bit like . . . politics.

Nicholas Kristof, "Darfur in 2013 Sounds Awfully Familiar": The "Most Pig Like" Columnist Asks Obama to "Recall His Own Words"

You will recall how Nicholas Kristof took a leave to work on a new book with his wife, after retweeting a message that referred to AIPAC as one of "the 2 most pig like lobbies" in America (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/nicholas-kristof-free-miracle-food-most.html). Kristof, a would-be humanitarian, never bothered to explain why AIPAC, in his mind, deserves this calumny (God forbid, anyone should find anything right about tiny democratic Israel), and now he's back, roaming the world in search of injustice.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Darfur in 2013 Sounds Awfully Familiar" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/darfur-in-2013-sounds-awfully-familiar.html), Kristof decries the horrors again being perpetrated by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan against Darfur:

"Because of the resurgence of violence, the United Nations Refugee Agency has hurriedly built this camp for the Darfuris, and it is saving lives. But, while the world is willing to spend more than $1 billion annually assisting survivors of attacks in Darfur, it seems unwilling to stand up to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan or even speak out very forcefully.

The world has moved on, but the killing continues.

. . . .

The United Nations has estimated that more than 300,000 Darfuris were displaced in the first five months of this year — roughly as many as in the last two years combined.

. . . .

In the mid-2000s, an ambitious senator from Illinois complained eloquently that the White House was too silent in the face of evil in Darfur. Is it too much to ask that President Obama recall his own words — and speak out again?"

"Is it too much to ask that President Obama recall his own words"?  Surely you jest, Nicholas.

Kristof might also want to ask what happened to Obama's pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide before he became president. But I suppose that was before Turkish President Erdogan, a serial jailer of journalists, became one of Obama's best overseas friends.

Kristof might also want to ask what became of Obama's more recent pledge to arm the rebels fighting against the tyrannical regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is responsible for the deaths of more than a 100,000 Syrians.

And after obtaining these explanations from Obama, Kristof himself might want to recall the words of his vile retweet and provide us with some sort of twisted explanation.

New York Times Editorial, "President Obama’s Anguish": Once Again, It's All About the One

You see, it's all about our Narcissist-in-Chief.

After the tragedy involving the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, President Obama, a Constitutional lawyer, went on record as saying:

"But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

Had I been a defense attorney for George Zimmerman, and if he had been convicted, I would have claimed that Obama's statement was the basis for a mistrial.

Yesterday, Obama doubled down on his earlier remarks:

"You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is: Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

Why doesn't this ring true? As a teenager, Obama attended the Punahou School, a top private school in Honolulu. From the Punahou School, he went on to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. After becoming the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, Obama received a fellowship from the University of Chicago Law School to write "Dreams from My Father." And from there, eight years in the Illinois Senate, a "nifty" real estate deal with Tony Rezko, four years as a US Senator, and then two terms as president of the United States.

Bottom line, Obama was always on an entirely different trajectory from that of Trayvon Martin.

In a prior editorial entitled "Trayvon Martin’s Legacy" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/new-york-times-editorial-trayvon.html), The New York Times went on record as saying, "Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis." Regrettably, however, for the Times, the purpose of criminal trials is not to provide "emotional catharsis." Rather, criminal trials by jury are intended to determine guilt or innocence on the basis of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Today, in a editorial entitled "President Obama’s Anguish" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/20/opinion/president-obamas-anguish.html), The New York Times gushes over Obama's speech yesterday:

"President Obama did something Friday that he hardly ever does — and no other president could ever have done. He addressed the racial fault lines in the country by laying bare his personal anguish and experience in an effort to help white Americans understand why African-Americans reacted with frustration and anger to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

. . . .

He said there are 'very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store' or 'the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.'

'That,' he said, 'includes me.'

. . . .

Mr. Obama called on the Justice Department to work with local and state law enforcement to reduce mistrust in the policing system, including ending racial profiling."

Excuse my naivete, but where was there any evidence during the trial of underlying racism on the part of George Zimmerman?

And if we're about to end racial profiling, let's also put an end to all profiling. When persons are passing through airport security, let's undertake added security checks on a purely random basis, even if this means frisking ninety-year-olds in wheelchairs. Heck, what a relief for someone like me! I'm often dishevelled and not always clean-shaven. (There's a reason why, when I do an occasional TV commercial, I'm often cast as the bad guy.) And back in the 1980s when I was at college, my handlebar mustache somehow fit the "hijacker profile," and inevitably, while waiting for a flight, my name was called over the public address system for a pat-down. "What, not again . . ." You should have seen how other passengers cast wary glances at me; however, this never led to violence.

Yes, there is still much racism in America, and there is a proclivity to violence. But while racism was not demonstrated by the prosecution in the trial of George Zimmerman, President Obama insisted on explaining away the violent response to the Zimmerman verdict by alluding to racism, and in so doing, he again added fuel to the fire.

This was not the occasion for President Obama to go grandstanding. There is always a need to address and confront racism, but this was neither the time nor place. Timing is everything.

The New York Times editorial concludes:

"It is a great thing for this country to have a president who could do what Mr. Obama did on Friday."

Rubbish.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gail Collins, "Sex Scandals in the Sun": Sex in Your Seventies in San Diego

Observing the success of recent Maureen Dowd op-eds focusing on sex in Paris (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/maureen-dowd-tortured-mechanics-of.html), Gail Collins would have us turn our carnal thoughts to allegations of mayoral misbehavior in San Diego. A 67-year-old Collins writes of liberal Democrat Bob Filner:

"Filner, 70, was just beginning what was supposed to be a war to shift resources from the big guys to the little people. Then, this week, some of his prominent supporters called for his resignation, claiming he had sexually harassed staff members and campaign volunteers.

The complainants, who reportedly include a 72-year-old constituent, have not yet come forward in public. Filner says he’s not going anywhere. But when the politician’s first defense is 'I’m a hugger,' it does not necessarily bode well.

Things couldn’t get much worse. San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the nation. Reforming it while fighting charges that you regularly grabbed women by the buttocks or put them into a 'Filner headlock' seems close to impossible."

"Things couldn’t get much worse"? I beg to differ. At least reformation of San Diego still appears to be a viable option. Not Detroit, which, just filed for "the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history" with long-term debt which is "more than $14 billion and could be between $17 billion and $20 billion" (see: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/07/18/detroit-files-for-largest-municipal-bankruptcy-in-us-history/#ixzz2ZYmDZPsH).

More than $14 billion, but less than $20 billion? Heck, what's does the difference of a mere $6 billion make?

And here I was made to believe that Obama saved the US auto industry . . .

Looking to the not too distant future, I wonder how much sex in your seventies is happening in the Motor City. Perhaps I should indeed consider spending my golden years in a more kindly San Diego.

Yet, bottom line, nothing has changed for me: "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."


Washington Post Editorial, "Samantha Power’s Toleration of Atrocities": All a Power Game

More than 100,000 people are dead as the consequence of the uprising against Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and more than 1.7 million Syrians have fled their homes to Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Yesterday, American Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and met for 40 minutes with six of the camp's occupants, who voiced indignation concerning American inaction in the face of this human tragedy. As reported by Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo.com/kerry-gets-earful-angry-syrian-refugees-143511483.html), Kerry responded by saying:

"'A lot of different options are under consideration,' he said after being repeatedly pressed for a no-fly zone. 'I wish it was very simple. As you know, we've been fighting two wars for 12 years. We are trying to help in various ways, including helping Syrian opposition fighters have weapons. We are doing new things. There is consideration of buffer zones and other things but it is not as simple as it sounds.'

'You are not abandoned,' he insisted. 'We are very aware of how terrible conditions are inside Syria. I came here today because we are concerned. I promise you I will take your voices and concerns back with me to Washington as we continue to work with our friends in ways that can be helpful.'"

"As we continue to work with our friends in ways that can be helpful"? Come again?

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Samantha Power is seeking confirmation from the Senate as the next US ambassador to the UN, and in an editorial entitled "Samantha Power’s toleration of atrocities" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/samantha-powers-toleration-of-atrocities/2013/07/18/8b149ffe-efde-11e2-9008-61e94a7ea20d_story.html?hpid=z3), The Washington Post declares:

"To be clear: We think the Senate should promptly confirm Ms. Power as U.N. ambassador. She has been a powerful voice for human rights, and she will be an effective advocate of U.S. interests, as President Obama defines them. She is not responsible for the passivity he has chosen in the face of what Ms. Power called, during her confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 'the grotesque atrocities being carried out by the Assad regime.'

. . . .

'We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria — a disgrace that history will judge harshly,' Ms. Power testified this week. But as Ms. Power the author wrote, 'America’s leadership will be indispensable in encouraging . . . international institutions to step up.' The Security Council is not some inscrutable, independent actor. It is a collection of nations — most notably, in this instance, the United States and Russia — acting in what they perceive as their interests. Russia will not abandon its ally, dictator Bashar al-Assad, unless President Vladi­mir Putin believes Mr. Assad is doomed. And Mr. Assad’s downfall seems increasingly unlikely unless the United States provides more assistance to the Syrian opposition than Mr. Obama has favored so far."

Or in other words, Power will be delighted to sacrifice her purported principles in order to receive the appointment. Power, the candidate for the US ambassadorship, would today have us believe that the UN Security Council is responsible for the atrocities in Syria, and Obama does not share in the blame.

Yeah, right.

Paul Krugman, "Hitting China’s Wall": The Perfect Economic Storm

Will China soon be on the ropes?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hitting China’s Wall" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/opinion/krugman-hitting-chinas-wall.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman warns that China's "lopsided balance between consumption and investment" threatens future economic chaos. Specifically, regarding the effect of this ineluctable debacle on the West, Krugman writes:

"How big a deal is this for the rest of us? At market values — which is what matters for the global outlook — China’s economy is still only modestly bigger than Japan’s; it’s around half the size of either the U.S. or the European Union. So it’s big but not huge, and, in ordinary times, the world could probably take China’s troubles in stride.

Unfortunately, these aren’t ordinary times: China is hitting its Lewis point at the same time that Western economies are going through their 'Minsky moment,' the point when overextended private borrowers all try to pull back at the same time, and in so doing provoke a general slump. China’s new woes are the last thing the rest of us needed."

What doesn't Krugman say concerning China's woes?

Krugman doesn't tell us about China's demographic time bomb. As reported by The Economist in an article entitled "China’s Achilles heel" (http://www.economist.com/node/21553056):

"Between 2010 and 2050 China's workforce will shrink as a share of the population by 11 percentage points, from 72% to 61%—a huge contraction, even allowing for the fact that the workforce share is exceptionally large now. That means China's old-age dependency ratio (which compares the number of people over 65 with those aged 15 to 64) will soar. At the moment the ratio is 11—roughly half America's level of 20. But by 2050, China's old-age ratio will have risen fourfold to 42, surpassing America's. Even more strikingly, by 2050, the number of people coming towards the end of their working lives (ie, those in their 50s) will have risen by more than 10%. The number of those just setting out (those in their early 20s, who are usually the best educated and most productive members of society) will have halved.

The shift spells the end of China as the world's factory. The apparently endless stream of cheap labour is starting to run dry. Despite pools of underemployed country-dwellers, China already faces shortages of manual workers."

The effect on the West, specifically the United States?  Remarkably, there is no mention by Krugman that China owns more than $1.2 trillion in US bills, notes and bonds, or some eight percent of US debt. What would happen if China were hurriedly to demand repayment of these funds from the US? You don't want to know.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Washington Post, "IRS Chief Counsel’s Office Involved in Targeting Controversy": A Whiff of Watergate

It is being reported in a Washington Post article entitled "IRS chief counsel’s office involved in targeting controversy" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/07/17/irs-chief-counsel-involved-in-targeting-controversy/?hpid=z2) by Josh Hicks that the IRS scandal is widening. As reported by the article:

"The chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service, headed by a political appointee of President Obama, helped develop the agency’s problematic guidelines for reviewing 'tea party' cases, according to a top IRS attorney.

In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.

Previous accounts from IRS employees had shown that Washington IRS officials were involved in the controversy, but Hull’s comments represent the closest connection to the White House to date. No evidence so far has definitively linked the White House to the agency’s actions."

Yikes!

And where is the coverage by The New York Times of this story?  I entered "William Wilkins July 2013 I.R.S." into the search engine of the Times and came up with . . . nothing.

Meanwhile, I have just been informed by a West Wing staffer who asked to remain anonymous that Obama is planning another trip to Tanzania later this month.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Can Valérie Seduce the French?": Can Sex Save The New York Times?

"Ooo, ooooo, Tish, when you speak French you drive me wild! Speak some more French, Tish. Anything! Toute allure! La plume de ma tante! Mademoiselle from Armentieres! Anything!"

- Gomez Addams, "The Addams Family"

Can sex save The New York Times? I doubt it, but it's not stopping 61-year-old Maureen Dowd from giving it her best, with all the lust and allure of 85-year-old Dr. Ruth.

On Sunday, Dowd tried to give us a rise with "The Tortured Mechanics of Eroticism" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/maureen-dowd-tortured-mechanics-of.html). Today, Dowd is back with "Can Valérie Seduce the French?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/opinion/dowd-can-valerie-seduce-the-french.html?_r=0).

My goodness: "eroticism" and "seduction" from France on the op-ed page of The Times! Is Paris burning? No, but certainly certain places in the US are being torched following the Zimmerman verdict (see: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20130716_ap_97447a8dc7eb4952940682885ad71a7f.html). But why get yourself depressed with what's happening in a traumatized United States, inextricably enmeshed in economic malaise and scandale? It's so much more fun romanticizing with Maureen in La Ville-Lumière, than sinking into dépression stateside.

In today's opinion piece, Dowd tell us that "France’s first unmarried first lady, Valérie Trierweiler, is conducting a global charm offensive in an effort to escape her nickname, 'The Rottweiler.'" Dowd writes:

"In the last five months, Trierweiler has done her best to impress the French, plunging into causes like autism and domestic violence against children. Last week, she traveled to Congo, where she went to a hospital to meet women who had been raped by militia members.

Le Point, a weekly right-wing magazine, called Valérie’s 'Operation Win Over' a mission impossible, noting that she is even more universally disliked than the hapless Hollande, the most unpopular president in the history of the Fifth Republic.

Her conservative critics complained that she was costing strapped taxpayers too much, given that she’s not even married to the president, but it turned out Carla cost more. A supermarket chain heir, Xavier Kemlin, pressed charges against Trierweiler for embezzlement, arguing that 'our taxes' shouldn’t pay for 'the house, the food, the staff and the trips' of a woman he views as no more than an official mistress.

. . . .

In a recent TV interview with Alessandra Sublet, Trierweiler offered humanizing tidbits such as 'I still do my sons’ laundry' and 'I still vacuum sometimes to relax.'"

Well, just in case Trierweiler is seeking a rest from all this tumult, I have the perfect vacation spot for her to unwind: Our house! Still plenty of children's laundry here, and no shortage of vacuuming (Arnold, our 150-pound Anatolian Mountain Dog is shedding).

We're waiting for you, Valérie! Just name the date!