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Saturday, August 31, 2013

David Sanger, "Tripping on His Own Red Line?": The Procrastinator-in-Chief Weighs Confrontation with Assad

In a news analysis entitled "Tripping on His Own Red Line?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/sunday-review/tripping-on-his-own-red-line.html), David Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, tells us that the US cannot "win" in Syria:

"[Obama] told his staff during recent Situation Room meetings as American naval and air power was moved into the eastern Mediterranean that no United States intervention would alter the long-term balance of power in the Syrian civil war. That was the bitter lesson of the Iraq and Afghan wars for Mr. Obama: any American president who thinks that, by dint of force or example, he can change the nature of societies is bound for a comeuppance. For him, that was the fatal flaw of the George W. Bush presidency, an unquestioning belief that once America defeats a dictator, a newly freed populace will step in to shape the wreckage into a country more in the American image.

That was a bad bet in Iraq and a worse one, Mr. Obama has argued, in Syria. It explains why, when he justified the Libya intervention in 2011 on humanitarian grounds, he was quick to explain that the United States could not move to oust every despot — only the ones, he seemed to suggest, who could be ousted with minimal risks to Americans.

But Syria looks nothing like Libya. It cannot be won from the air, or with missile strikes. Thus Mr. Obama’s insistence that any action in Syria has to be divorced from the civil war that has torn the country to shreds. Instead, the president wants to fight on territory more directly linked to American interests: the notion that once weapons of mass destruction are used in ordinary conflict, the potential for disaster — for America, and certainly for its allies and partners on Syria’s borders — rises dramatically."

I agree in part with President Obama and David Sanger's conclusions.

Several weeks ago, nearly 1,500 civilians were slaughtered in the rebel-controlled outskirts of Damascus by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, using sarin gas. True, more than 100,000 Syrians have died in the civil war over the past two and a half years, and what is 1,500 relative to 100,000? Dead is dead. Moreover, this is not the first time that Assad has used chemical weapons during the fighting. On the other hand, if Obama does not finally say "no," when will this criminal activity end? I believe that "simple" morality is a compelling basis for taking measures to diminish Assad's offensive capabilities.

I also agree that Syria and the rest of the Muslim Middle East are not ripe for American-style democracy.

But the conflict in Syria cannot be "won" from the air? In fact, Assad has been able to take the offensive against the rebels owing predominantly to air power.

Can Assad's air force and air fields be neutralized from afar using Cruise missiles? Answer: Yes.

Moreover, although Syria cannot be reshaped in America's image, there is a significant pro-American Kurdish minority in Syria's northeast that is hungry for independence. Were the Kurds to be given autonomy, might this not count as an American victory? Sanger's analysis does not consider the Kurds.

Meanwhile, America's Procrastinator-in-Chief has decided to seek Congressional approval before launching any attack against the Assad regime. Once again, Assad, Khamenei and Putin are learning that Obama is incapable of taking action without prolonged hesitation. Unfortunately, any limited attack following ultimate Congressional approval is only apt to augment their contempt for the US president.

Sanger writes:

"To do nothing in the face of images of children killed by poison gas would cripple [Obama's] credibility in the last three years of his presidency."

I would argue that to do "next to nothing" would have the same deleterious effect.

Gail Collins, "Politically, Our Next Big Thing": Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept It

Avoiding any mention of a possible US strike directed against Syria's Assad regime (see, for example: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/david-brooks-one-great-big-war-whatcha.html), Gail Collins, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Politically, Our Next Big Thing" (no, she's not talking about Chris Christie) (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/opinion/collins-politically-our-next-big-thing.html?_r=0), would direct our attention to the 2014 US midterm elections. Her conclusion:

"Here’s your mission, people. Start to check out the Senate races — there are going to be 35 next year, and 10 or 12 might involve real competition. You may want to send a few of the candidates donations — control of Congress hangs in the balance. The rest of the pack aren’t going to require much attention. Unless, of course, one of the parties doesn’t seem prepared to produce a nominee. Then you know what you have to do."

My goodness, Gail is assigning us one heck of a mission. With that job in hand, we needn't bother thinking about something so unpleasant as nearly 1,500 civilians dying from a sarin attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

My mission to Gail: Get up off your couch, take a chance, and write something relevant. You're almost as cute as Andy Rosenthal, and it's growing tiresome.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Charles Blow, "War-Weariness": Some Answers for Charles

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "War-Weariness" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/opinion/blow-war-weariness.html?_r=0) Charles Blow concludes his opinion piece with a series of questions:

"The president is out on a most precarious limb on this issue. It is an unenviable position, where the right moral move could be the wrong political one, where the to-what-end question has a lack-of-clarity answer. Would a 'limited' bombing campaign be the military equivalent of slap on the wrist? How would it guarantee an end to the atrocities?

. . . .

The president said Friday that 'a lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it.' Does he want to? Or must he? And must we? Always?"

Allow me to provide Charles with some simple answers.

  • "Would a 'limited' bombing campaign be the military equivalent of slap on the wrist?" Yes.
  • "How would it guarantee an end to the atrocities?" It won't.
  • Does Obama want to intervene? No, but he needs to save face after painting himself into a corner with his "red line."
  • Must he intervene? No, Obama has already established himself as spineless throughout the world, and a few half-hearted Cruise missiles are not going to change anything. Quite the contrary.
And now we arrive at Blow's final questions:

  • "And must we? Always?"
Allow me to answer with my own hypothetical question: Suppose, Charles, you are on the subway in Manhattan and a helpless old woman, whom you don't know, is being mugged. Do you look the other way?

I know what I would do.

Those more than 1,400 Syrian civilians who were slayed in a horrifying manner by the Assad regime were human beings like us, who thought, smiled, laughed, loved, and made plans for the next day, which never came.

Think about it, Charles, and let us know your answer.

New York Times Editorial, "Absent on Syria": What's Their Position?

In an editorial entitled "Absent on Syria" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/opinion/absent-on-syria.html?_r=0), The New York Times observes that action by the US against Syria will be "without legal justification" and that both Congress and the UN "have abdicated their roles in dealing with this crisis." The editorial further states:

"Mr. Obama’s approach on Syria now seems wholly at odds with the strong position he took in 2007 when, as a candidate for president, he told The Boston Globe: 'The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.'"

Mr. Obama is now contradicting himself? Who would have ever imagined? For the edification of the Times, he also has failed to keep his promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide by the Turks, and has refused to distance himself from the interests of large financial institutions.

The editorial continues:

"The Security Council should have quickly formulated a robust response, including tough sanctions, to the chemical weapons attack, near Damascus on Aug. 21. Instead, Russia and China, which have long protected Mr. Assad, have thwarted any Council action."

Russia and China's unconditional support of Assad has probably only come as a surprise to the members of the editorial board of the Times, who wear their naivete on their sleeves.

The peculiar conclusion of this editorial:

"Mr. Obama’s ability to muster broad backing for immediate action was harmed by the British vote, leaving only France promising cooperation. Even in the best of circumstances, military action could go wrong in so many ways; the lack of strong domestic and international support will make it even more difficult."

So do they support or oppose military action?

In this regard, I would like to highlight the interaction I had yesterday with someone who read yesterday's blog entry "David Brooks, "One Great Big War": Whatcha Talkin Bout, David?" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/david-brooks-one-great-big-war-whatcha.html):

Mary:

Will you send YOUR children on a mission, or your private money to refinance remaking the mid east?

Since it's not vital to us security interests, no need for the taxpayers to continue financing israel's neighborhood.

Let it burn... perhaps israel can be pursuaded to give up some contested land and return to the negotiating table. If not, godspeed to their people and their defensive troops.


Jeffrey:

Mary, thank you for your comment.

Me? I have spent more than 30 years in the regular army and reserves, most of that time in combat units.

Two of my children have also served in combat units. A third is entering the army in March.

"Let it burn," you say. Query: Would you have also opposed any effort to prevent Hitler from exterminating Europe's Jews during World War II? Then, too, there were those who said that war with Hitler was "not vital to US security interests."

Mind you, I am not advocating American "boots on the ground" in Syria. On the other hand, I personally think it is immoral to ignore war crimes, e.g. murdering over a thousand Syrian civilians with sarin gas. Can a no-fly zone be created to protect Syrian civilians? Should Syria's stock of chemical weapons be destroyed at least in part with Cruise missiles without risking American lives? Or would you just "let it burn"?

Israel, by the way, has given up land for peace: Sinai to Egypt. Israel also unilaterally evacuated Gaza, and its southern towns and cities were subsequently hit with thousands of rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In addition, Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert offered to return the West Bank to Fatah and, in the instance of Olmert, also share Jerusalem in exchange for peace. Arafat and Abbas refused these offers.

Again, thanks for writing.

Strange though it might be, this is one instance where I agree with President Obama that morality must guide US foreign policy.

I also believe that there should be no US boots on the ground.

But a very limited ("shot across the bow"), "telegraphed" attack, not intended to effect regime change, and only meant to help Obama save face? This is where the president and I go our separate ways.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

David Brooks, "One Great Big War": Whatcha Talkin Bout, David?

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.


- Tom Lehrer, "National Brotherhood Week"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "One Great Big War" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/30/opinion/brooks-one-great-big-war.html?_r=0), David Brooks concludes:

"Going forward, there probably has to be a global education effort to reduce anti-Sunni and anti-Shiite passions. Iran could be asked to pay a higher price not only for its nuclear program, but for its mischief-making around the region.

But, at this point, it’s not clear whether American and other outside interference would help squash hatreds or inflame them. The legendary diplomat Ryan Crocker argues in a recent essay in YaleGlobal that major outside interventions might only make things worse. 'The hard truth is that the fires in Syria will blaze for some time to come. Like a major forest fire, the most we can do is hope to contain it.'

Poison gas in Syria is horrendous, but the real inferno is regional. When you look at all the policy options for dealing with the Syria situation, they are all terrible or too late. The job now is to try to wall off the situation to prevent something just as bad but much more sprawling."

Whatcha talkin bout, David?

A "global education effort to reduce anti-Sunni and anti-Shiite passions"? These "passions" have been around since the battle of Karbala on October 10, 680. Good luck! But more to the point, how do you go about educating people in Egypt, for example, where the illiteracy rate is some 28 percent, or in Afghanistan, where the illiteracy rate exceeds 30 percent?

The most we can do is hope to "contain" the forest fire in Syria? And here I thought that Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Sudan and Afghanistan were also ablaze. (Turkey, with its large restive Kurdish minority, Bahrain and Tunisia continue to smolder.)

"Poison gas in Syria is horrendous, but the real inferno is regional"? Well, who is responsible for spreading those flames? Who has been arming Hezbollah, Hamas and the Assad regime in Syria? Who sought to grow intimate with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Who has been seeking to build nuclear weapons, thereby stoking extreme anxiety in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, not to mention, of course, Israel? Answer: Iran.

And what has the Obama administration done to control Iran over the past five years? Answer: Nothing, unless you believe that sending the EU's imbecilic (I'm being kind) Catherine Ashton  to manage the P5+1's "make believe" negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear weapons development program qualifies as "something."

"Poison gas in Syria is horrendous, but the real inferno is regional"? I would start by making Assad understand that the use of sarin against civilians is taboo before seeking to deal with the entire Muslim Middle East mess, which is far beyond repair.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "More Answers Needed on Syria": Ignoring Another Holocaust

Does history repeat itself? At The New York Times it sure as heck does.

Max Frankel was editorial page editor of The New York Times from 1977 to 1986, before becoming executive editor from 1986 to 1994. On November 14, 2001, in its 150th anniversary issue, the Times published an article by Frankel entitled "Turning Away From the Holocaust" (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/14/news/150th-anniversary-1851-2001-turning-away-from-the-holocaust.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm), which acknowledged that during World War II, the Times ignored reports of the Holocaust. Frankel wrote:

"There is no surviving record of how the paper's coverage of the subject was discussed by Times editors during the war years of 1939-45. But within that coverage is recurring evidence of a guiding principle: do not feature the plight of Jews, and take care, when reporting it, to link their suffering to that of many other Europeans.

. . . .

'You could have read the front page of The New York Times in 1939 and 1940,' [Laurel Leff, an assistant professor at the Northeastern School of Journalism] wrote, 'without knowing that millions of Jews were being sent to Poland, imprisoned in ghettos, and dying of disease and starvation by the tens of thousands. You could have read the front page in 1941 without knowing that the Nazis were machine-gunning hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Soviet Union.'

. . . .

And to this day the failure of America's media to fasten upon Hitler's mad atrocities stirs the conscience of succeeding generations of reporters and editors. It has made them acutely alert to ethnic barbarities in far-off places like Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. It leaves them obviously resolved that in the face of genocide, journalism shall not have failed in vain."

Well, some 70 years after the Holocaust, The New York Times is again keen on papering over barbarities, this time those of the Assad regime in Syria. In an editorial entitled "More Answers Needed on Syria" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/opinion/more-answers-needed-on-syria.html?_r=0), The New York Times takes the position that there is insufficient evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Assad against civilians on the outskirts of Damascus. According to the Times:

"For starters, where is the proof that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria carried out the attack? American, British, French and Turkish officials have been unequivocal in blaming Mr. Assad for the attack, which seems likely since there has been no indication that his regime has lost control of its chemical weapons arsenal or that the opposition has the capability to deliver such a weapon. Still, no evidence to support this claim has been released.

. . . .

On Wednesday, the Syrian government added to the fog by blaming the rebels for three previously unreported chemical attacks last week. Those claims also must be investigated."

First, it should be observed that the new president of Iran, which has championed Assad's struggle against the rebels, acknowledges that chemicals were used against civilians, although he refuses to admit that they were used by Assad's forces (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/24/us-syria-crisis-iran-idUSBRE97N06P20130824). Is it possible that Syrian rebels were responsible for the sarin nerve gas attack that killed more than a thousand people in an area under their control, as both The New York Times and Iran would have us believe possible? I don't think so.

The Times editorial goes on to say:

"Despite diplomatic frustrations, the Security Council, on which Russia and China sit and have veto power, should be the first venue for dealing with this matter since chemical weapons use is a war crime and banned under international treaties.

Ideally, [italics added] once presented with evidence, the council would condemn Mr. Assad, impose a ban on arms shipments to Syria (including materials used to make chemical weapons, which the regime is trying to buy on the open market) and send Mr. Assad’s name to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. That is what should happen; Mr. Assad’s Russia and Chinese enablers are the ones most able to stop his brutality."

Excuse me, "ideally" the Russians and Chinese would back sanctions of any kind against Syria? What is the editorial board of The New York Times smoking, or do they wear their naivete on their sleeves? Let me assure the editorial board of the Times that idealism has absolutely nothing to do with Russian and Chinese foreign policy.

The Times editorial continues:

"Mr. Obama has yet to make clear how military strikes — which officials say will last one to two days and target military units that carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the artillery that have launched the attacks — will actually deter chemical attacks without further inflaming a region in turmoil and miring the United States in the Syrian civil war."

Well, here the editorial board of the Times and I are actually in agreement: A US attack, intended, as Obama stated in a "PBS Newshour" interview, as a mere "shot across the bow" (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/28/us-syria-crisis-usa-obama-idUSBRE97R1A920130828), will be viewed as a sign of impotence by Syria, Iran and Russia. But then, any such attack is intended by the Obama administration as a face-saving device, i.e. superficial effectuation of the "red line" he announced a year ago, and not as a serious effort to deter Assad from future attacks against civilians.

How is the Assad regime preparing for this telegraphed US attack? They are calmly vacating army posts, to minimize the damage (see: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Sources-Syria-evacuates-army-post-in-Damascus-324552).

The Times editorial concludes:

"Any action, military or otherwise, must be tailored to advance a political settlement between the Assad regime and the opposition, the only rational solution to the conflict."

"Tailored" to advance a political settlement? Where did we see that exact same word several hours earlier? Oh, now I remember: In his "PBS Newshour" interview (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/white_house/july-dec13/obama_08-28.html), Obama also declared:

"And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about – but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact on our national security over the long term and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians."


Peculiar how New York Times editorials and Obama's comments seem to dovetail. Or perhaps not so peculiar . . .

Yes, Obama's wavering West Wing and the intellectually and morally bankrupt New York Times are in convivial lockstep.

I opposed the Second Gulf War. I opposed US ground involvement in Afghanistan. But now, with respect to Assad's use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, the time has come for the US to act forcefully and resolutely to ensure that this barbarism does not continue.

Yes, journalistic history has again repeated itself. Shame on The New York Times!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Less Bully, More Pulpit": Christie? Obama Has Just Hit Rock Bottom!

Yesterday, I visited one of my hi-tech customers in the Israeli city of Hertzliya, just north of Tel Aviv, and I observed to my wife, who accompanied me on this trip, how calm everyone seemed at the restaurant where we ate lunch after the business meeting: "You would never think that a US Cruise missile attack on Syria is approaching later this week and that the threat of a Syrian chemical warfare reprisal against Israel, although unlikely, looms in the back of everyone's mind." My wife, who was born on an Israeli kibbutz in the north of Israel, which was pounded almost every day by Syrian shelling during her childhood, shrugged and continued to eat her bream (not shellfish).

Yes, I'm talking about that "little" rebellion that has cost more than 100,000 Syrian lives and yesterday resulted in the shutdown over the course of several hours of The New York Times website (see: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Syrian-hacker-group-shuts-down-the-New-York-Times-website-324490).

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Less Bully, More Pulpit" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/opinion/dowd-less-bully-more-pulpit.html?_r=0), Maureen Dowd ignores the Syrian nerve gas attack on a Damascus suburb held by the rebels, which killed more than a thousand civilians, and instead focuses on Chris Christie's 2016 presidential aspirations. Referring to a radio program on Monday morning, during which Chris Christie slammed reporter Manish Mehta for questioning the decision of coach Rex Ryan to play Mark Sanchez in a Jets preseason game, Dowd writes:

"But Christie’s latest flash of a mean streak served as a reminder after a long period of glowing post-Sandy publicity for 'The Boss,' as the New Jersey governor was hailed on the cover of Time, giving him the ultimate compliment of sharing a nickname with his idol.

. . . .

He clearly has not taken a lesson from his pal Obama that you can be an obsessive sports fan and still maintain class.

. . . .

'He’s got a big personality, it’s a combative personality,' [Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz] replied. 'That’s one of the reasons people were drawn to him last time around, a guy who would take on Obama in a way Romney seemingly wasn’t doing.

'There are times when it has worked terrifically for him, and there are moments when it threatens to go over the top. It’s an open question: If you’re running for president, can you do that very often and hope to be successful?'"

Yup, Christie should take a lesson from Barack "Milk-Toast" Obama, the first invertebrate ever to occupy the Oval Office, on how to make - or break - less wind. Recall how a touchy-feely Obama, who is guided by the proverb "Speak softly and carry a tiny twig," passed assurances, in an open microphone gaffe, to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin that he would be more "flexible" after the 2012 election.

Well that gambit surely paid off. Today, Putin continues to provide Assad with advanced weaponry and opposes any effort to bring the Syrian tyrant under control.

A US strike against Assad? Obama has already tipped off Assad that it will be coming later this week (Thursday, lasting three days?), but not to worry: The US president has made it known in advance that he is not seeking regime change (see: http://freebeacon.com/carney-u-s-response-in-syria-not-about-regime-change/), and after this ineffective face-saving gesture, Assad and his Hezbollah friends can go back to murdering civilians.

Hmm. It's just like Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan, when he concurrently informed the Taliban that he would be withdrawing US troops by the end of 2014. Talk about telegraphing your punches . . .

In fact, the upcoming US strike on Syria is not about regime change; rather, it's about Obama's ego. By declaring a year ago that Assad's use of chemical weapons would constitute a "red line," he painted himself into a corner. He managed to ignore Assad's prior use of chemicals on civilians several months ago, but now, following the deaths of at least a thousand more civilians from nerve gas, most likely sarin, he must attempt to extricate himself from this nastly mess.

Obama never learned that when you ignore little problems, they have a way of turning into big problems. Obama also suffers from an IFF (identification friend or foe) problem.

Only blame Obama? No way. Hillary, who referred to Assad as a "reformer," must also share in the blame:

Sorry, but it is Obama who could take a lesson from Chris Christie's combativeness.


[At the bottom of Dowd's op-ed we are informed: "Thomas L. Friedman is off today." What a wonderful time for a would-be Middle East expert to take a holiday from his column . . .]

Monday, August 26, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "Responding to Syrian Atrocities": Hard to Believe that Russia and China Would Defend Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons?

In an editorial entitled "Responding to Syrian Atrocities" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/opinion/responding-to-syrian-atrocities.html?_r=0), The New York Times asks that any response by the US against Syria's Assad regime be carefully considered and limited in scope. The Times writes (my emphasis in red):

"Using chemical arms is considered a war crime and banned under international treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Geneva Protocol and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Even so, if he decides to use military force, Mr. Obama will have to show that he has exhausted diplomatic options and present a defensible legal justification, and that is not a simple matter. Ideally, the United States would muster a United Nations Security Council resolution to authorize military action. But Russia and China, which have veto power, have long protected Mr. Assad from punishment there and show no inclination to change. It is hard to believe that they would defend his use of chemical weapons, but there is no guarantee that they would not.

. . . .

If Mr. Obama does forgo the U.N., he will need strong endorsements from the Arab League and the European Union, and more countries than just Turkey, Britain and France should join the effort. And if he does proceed with military action, it should be carefully targeted at Syrian air assets and military units involved in chemical weapons use. This, too, will not be easy, but the aim is to punish Mr. Assad for slaughtering his people with chemical arms, not to be drawn into another civil war.

A political agreement is still the best solution to this deadly conflict, and every effort must be made to find one. President Obama has resisted demands that he intervene militarily and in force. Though Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons surely requires a response of some kind, the arguments against deep American involvement remain as compelling as ever."

After reading a Times editorial, I always find myself wondering whether it was written after consultation with one of Obama's aides to ascertain that they are on the same page.

"It is hard to believe that [Russia and China] would defend [Assad's] use of chemical weapons"? What simplemindedness provoking substance are they smoking in Manhattan's New York Times Building?

The message of this editorial? Yes, President Obama has painted himself into a corner, but don't do anything rash, and please make certain that Kerry's "dear friend" Assad is made aware, before a single Cruise missile is sent skyward, that this is a one-off operation intended to ease Obama's feelings of discomfort, but not intended to change facts on the ground.

It's kind of like Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan, when he concurrently informed the Taliban that he would be withdrawing US troops by the end of 2014. Talk about telegraphing your punches . . .

Apparently, Obama and the editorial board of the Times wear their naivete on their sleeves.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "Reading Tweets From Iran": Imagine It's 1938

In an editiorial entitled "Reading Tweets From Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/26/opinion/reading-tweets-from-iran.html?_r=0), The New York Times today takes the position that there is once again hope that Iran will be will willing to reach a negotiated settlement involving its nuclear weapons development program. The editorial states:

"In a flurry of English-language posts on Twitter since his election in June, Mr. Rouhani has given reason to hope that he is serious about resolving disputes with the United States and other major powers, most urgently about Iran’s nuclear program.

'We don’t want further tension. Both nations need 2 think more abt future & try 2 sit down & find solutions to past issues & rectify things,' he, or somebody writing in his name, said on June 17. On the nuclear program, he commented: 'Our program is transparent, but we can take more steps to make it clear to world that our nuclear program is within intl regulations.'

. . . .

President Rouhani is sending strong signals that he will dispatch a pragmatic, experienced team to the table when negotiations resume, possibly next month. That’s when we should begin to see answers to key questions: How much time and creative thinking are he and President Obama willing to invest in a negotiated solution, the only rational outcome? How much political risk are they willing to take, which for Mr. Obama must include managing the enmity that Israel and many members of Congress feel toward Iran?"

Yes, that's right: The New York Times places creedence in tweets in English that Rouhani never wrote for himself.

As recently observed by Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Iran (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/president-rouhani-sometimes-the-bull-wins/):

"[Rouhani] took pride in his memoirs of deceiving the West during his time as nuclear negotiator. And he has publicly boasted that he sees Pakistan as a model for emulation when it comes to the nuclear question. This is hardly promising for those who see in his election a potential page turner for nuclear negotiations."

But of course, the editorial board of The New York Times doesn't bother to mention Rouhani's memoirs.

The Times believes that Obama must manage the "enmity" that Israel feels toward Iran, yet it was Rouhani who stated earlier this month (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/08/02/Iranian-president-elect-calls-Israel-a-wound-that-must-be-cleansed-.html):

"[I]n our region there's been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved al-Qods [Jerusalem]."

The New York Times also fails to take into account that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, someone who has never been accused of moderation, calls all the shots in Iran.

Now imagine the year is 1938. Perhaps The New York Times would have also written at that time:

Chancellor Hitler is sending strong signals that he will dispatch a pragmatic, experienced team to the table when negotiations resume, possibly next month. That’s when we should begin to see answers to key questions: How much time and creative thinking are he and Prime Minister Chamberlain willing to invest in a negotiated solution, the only rational outcome? How much political risk are they willing to take, which for Prime Minister Chamberlain must include managing the enmity that Czechoslovakia and many members of Parliament feel toward Germany?

Unbeknownst to The New York Times, the course of history has not been determined by perceptions of "rational outcomes," particularly in the Muslim Middle East.

We can only pray that the Times is not giving voice to the shrouded thoughts of Obama, the first invertebrate to have ever occupied the Oval Office.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Foreign Policy by Whisper and Nudge": Or More Accurately Stated, Whimper and Fudge

Americans "can't wait for the start of the N.F.L. season" and are indifferent to the human tragedy unfolding in the Muslim Middle East? This is what Thomas Friedman claims in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Foreign Policy by Whisper and Nudge" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/opinion/sunday/friedman-foreign-policy-by-whisper-and-nudge.html?pagewanted=all).

Friedman goes on to say:

"For instance, if it is proved that Syria has used chemical weapons, American officials are rightly considering using cruise missiles to punish Syria. But we have no hope of making Syria united, democratic and inclusive without a much bigger involvement and without the will of a majority of Syrians."

Friedman fails to observe that it was proven a year ago that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against the rebels, and notwithstanding Obama's declaration of a "red line" pertaining to such use, the US did absolutely nothing in response. Small arms promised to the rebels by the US were never delivered.

Friedman then condones Obama's foreign policy leadership by concluding:

"But it does explain why his foreign policy is mostly 'nudging' and whispering. It is not very satisfying, not very much fun and won’t make much history, but it’s probably the best we can do or afford right now. And it’s certainly all that most Americans want."

Yup, last week more than a thousand Syrian civilians were murdered with chemical weapons by the Assad regime, and, according to Friedman, selfish Americans couldn't care less.

Sorry, but I don't ascribe such cruel indifference to horrific war crimes by a people known for their generosity and caring.

If only Friedman was capable of feeling ashamed of himself. . . .

But wait! Is it possible that Friedman is correct? As reported by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/25/us-syria-crisis-usa-poll-idUSBRE97O00E20130825):

"The Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken August 19-23, found that 25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it. That represented a decline in backing for U.S. action since August 13, when Reuters/Ipsos tracking polls found that 30.2 percent of Americans supported intervention in Syria if chemicals had been used, while 41.6 percent did not."

Welcome to a brave new world of narcissism and isolationism, walking hand in hand.

Meanwhile, Iran is warning the US of "a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East" if Obama acts against the Assad Regime (see: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920603000623).

Obama sure as heck has this situation under control . . .

Maureen Dowd, "Reindeer Games": "There Ain't No Sanity Clause!"

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here? This thing here.
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that's the usual clause. That's in every contract. That just says uh, it says uh, "If any of the parties participating in this contract is shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified."
Fiorello: Well, I don't know...
Driftwood: It's all right, that's, that's in every contract. That's, that's what they call a 'sanity clause'.
Fiorello: Ha ha ha ha ha! You can't fool me! There ain't no Sanity Clause!

- Groucho and Chico Marx, "A Night at the Opera," 1935


Is there a basis for impeaching Obama?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Reindeer Games" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/opinion/sunday/reindeer-games.html?_r=0), Maureen Dowd observes that Michigan congressman Kerry Bentivolio is hoping "to impeach the nation’s first black president." Dowd writes:

"Bentivolio is the perfect avatar of the impeachment fever gripping a G.O.P. that’s unmoored from reality.

. . . .

It isn’t the president who should leave. It’s the misguided lawmakers trying to drive him out.

For some of the rodeo clowns clamoring for impeachment around the country, Barack Obama’s real crime is presiding while black."

Dowd cites David Axelrod as saying there isn’t a "scintilla of justification" for such an action.

Of course I would have preferred the opinion of some reputable legal authority and not that of David Axelrod, a Chicago political hack . . . oops, I meant consultant, joined at the hip with the president. However, incompetence and lack of leadership capabilities are truly not impeachable offenses.

In addition, I would say that the president's closest aides have done a marvelous job of keeping the president uninformed, thus facilitating the claim that Obama learned of the IRS's  targeting of tea party groups only "when it came out in the news," thus further muddying any possible impeachment charges (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/obama-irs-targeting_n_3302449.html).

All of which is not to say that Obama's conduct in office gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. As was pointed out by George Will in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-obamas-unconstitutional-steps-worse-than-nixons/2013/08/14/e0bd6cb2-044a-11e3-9259-e2aafe5a5f84_story.html?hpid=z2):

" Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), [Obama] said: 'I didn’t simply choose to' ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, 'this was in consultation with businesses.'

. . . .

Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: 'Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?' The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: brevity. Because there is no such authority."

And then there was the recent attempt by Obama to interfere with due process of law, when, after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, he declared:

"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."

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

The IRS, NSA and Benghazi scandals? All infuriating, but not the basis for impeachment.

We will just need to be patient and wait another three and a half years for some new self-serving narcissistic person, female or male, black or white, Democrat or Republican, to replace Obama and provide us with . . . more of the same.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Charles Blow, "50 Years Later": Compare with Kathleen Parker's "Obama’s Race Remarks Exacerbate Tensions"

My goodness gracious, it's time for yet another JG Caesarea Challenge Round!

Read Charles Blow's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "50 Years Later" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/opinion/blow-50-years-later.html?_r=0). As we near the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, marked by Dr. King's world-shaking "I have a dream" speech, Mr. Blow would have us know:

"I’m absolutely convinced that enormous steps have been made in race relations. That’s not debatable. Most laws that explicitly codified discrimination have been stricken from the books. Overt, articulated racial animus has become more socially unacceptable. And diversity has become a cause to be championed in many quarters, even if efforts to achieve it have taken some hits of late.

But my worry is that we have hit a ceiling of sorts. As we get closer to a society where explicit bias is virtually eradicated, we no longer have the stomach to deal with the more sinister issues of implicit biases and of structural and systematic racial inequality.

I worry that centuries of majority privilege and minority disenfranchisement are being overlooked in puddle-deep discussions about race and inequality, personal responsibility and societal inhibitors."

Okay, what's missing from this opinion piece?

First, there's not even a single mention of the fact that America today has a second-term African American president. Insignificant? I don't think so. This is huge.

But there's more . . .

Just over a month ago, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Whole System Failed" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/opinion/the-whole-system-failed.html?_r=0), Mr. Blow wrote concerning the George Zimmerman acquittal:

"This case is not about an extraordinary death of an extraordinary person. Unfortunately, in America, people are lost to gun violence every day. Many of them look like Martin and have parents who presumably grieve for them. This case is about extraordinary inequality in the presumption of innocence and the application of justice: why was Martin deemed suspicious and why was his killer allowed to go home?"

Well, in the US there is a presumption of innocence, and "beyond reasonable doubt" remains the standard of evidence required for a criminal conviction. Zimmerman claimed that he was pinned on his back. His nose was broken, and the back of his head was lacerated. Was he acting out of fear, or, was he capable of the "intention" needed for conviction? Was there reasonable doubt?

Again, there is racism in America, and perhaps Zimmerman should never have stopped Martin, but did an "imperfect" American jury system reach the wrong verdict, or did the prosecution fail to meet its immensely difficult burden of proof? Did the prosecution "overreach" when deciding which charges to bring against Zimmerman?

Now have a look at Kathleen Parker's Washington Post opinion piece of today's date entitled "Obama’s race remarks exacerbate tensions" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-obamas-race-remarks-exacerbate-tensions/2013/08/23/7491bb2e-0c1f-11e3-9941-6711ed662e71_story.html?hpid=z2). Ms. Parker writes:

"If I had a son, he would look like Christopher Lane, the 22-year-old Australian baseball player shot dead while jogging in Oklahoma.

If I had a father, he’d look like Delbert Belton, the 88-year-old World War II veteran beaten to death in Spokane, Wash.

. . . .

These are all true statements if we identify ourselves and each other only by the color of our skin, which increasingly seems to be the case. Even our president has done so.

Barack Obama helped lead the way when he identified himself with the parents of Trayvon Martin, shot by George Zimmerman in the neighborhood-watch catastrophe with which all are familiar. Stepping out from his usual duties of drawing meaningless red lines in the Syrian sand, the president splashed red paint across the American landscape:

'If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.'

In so saying, he essentially gave permission for all to identify themselves by race with the victim or the accused. How sad, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march Martin Luther King Jr. led on Washington, that even the president resorts to judging not by the content of one’s character but by the color of his skin — the antithesis of the great dream King articulated."

Query: Where is there any reference to the deaths of Lane and Belton in Mr. Blow's op-ed? Answer: There is none.

"Puddle-deep discussions about race and inequality"? Mr. Blow's op-ed regrettably is little more than this.


Obama on Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons: "This Is Something that Is Going to Require America's Attention"

Do you feel like a good cry?

Have a look at Obama's interview with "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/23/politics/barack-obama-new-day-interview-transcript/index.html), in which Cuomo inquires about the unfolding tragedy in Syria and the absence of an American response (my highlighting in red in keeping with Obama's purported "red line"):

CUOMO: Let me ask you about some of the emerging situations, most recently, Syria. You've seen the images; you know the situation very well. Do you believe at this point you need to investigate in order to say what seems obvious, which is, we need to do more to stop the violence in Syria, that the U.S. needs to do more?
 
OBAMA: Well, we are right now gathering information about this particular event, but I can say that unlike some of the evidence that we were trying to get earlier that led to a U.N. investigator going into Syria, what we've seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern. And, you know, we are already in communications with the entire international community. We're moving through the U.N. to try to prompt better action from them. And we've called on the Syrian government to allow an investigation of the site, because U.N. inspectors are on the ground right now.
 
We don't expect cooperation, given their past history, and, you know, what I do believe is that -- although the situation in Syria is very difficult and the notion that the U.S. can somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated...
 
CUOMO: But delay can be deadly, right, Mr. President?
 
OBAMA: ... there is -- there is no doubt that when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale -- and, again, we're still gathering information about this particular event, but it is very troublesome...
 
CUOMO: There's strong proof they used them already, though, in the past.
 
OBAMA: ... then that starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.
 
So, you know, I think it is fair to say that, as difficult as the problem is, this is something that is going to require America's attention and hopefully the entire international community's attention.

The US is moving through the UN? That should accomplish a great deal and very quickly . . . not. Putin has been fighting this tooth and nail, notwithstanding Obama's preelection overtures to this new czar.

The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime "is something that is going to require America's attention"? Great! When should America wake up and do something - anything, e.g. a no-fly zone - about it.

And then there was the president's response concerning Egypt:

OBAMA: You know, my sense is with -- with Egypt is that the aid itself may not reverse what the interim government does. But I think what most Americans would say is that we have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and our ideals.
 
So what we're doing right now is doing a full evaluation of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. We care deeply about the Egyptian people. This is a partnership that's been very important to us, in part because of the peace treaty with Israel and the work that's been done to deal with the Sinai.

But there's no -- there's no doubt that we can't return to business as usual, given what's happened. There was a space right after Mr. Morsy was removed in which we did a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of diplomatic work to try to encourage the military to move in a path of reconciliation. They did not take that opportunity.
 
It was worth it for us to try that, despite folks who wanted more immediate black-and-white action or statements, because ultimately what we want is a good outcome there. But there's no doubt that, at this point, we've got to take a look and see, what's in the long-term interests of the Egyptian people? What's in the long-term interests of the United States.

America must be "very careful," do a "full evaluation," and "look and see." Yup, this has all the hallmarks of bold leadership that have characterized the Obama administration's foreign policy over the past five years.

Obama complains about the Egyptian military's failure to seek reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, but where was the Obama administration when Morsi was engaging in a multitude of abuses destined to bring Egypt to utter anarchy?

Obama . . . the Anti-Leader. May God have mercy on us.






Thursday, August 22, 2013

Paul Krugman, "This Age of Bubbles": What About US Stock Markets?

Within the recent past, did a pop-up ad ever appear on your computer screen, with a woman dressed scantily for "Carnival," offering you high returns on investments in Brazilian eucalyptus plantations? Both the woman and the rates of return seemed attractive, but as I explained to a friend, both beauty and high rates of return don't last.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "This Age of Bubbles" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/opinion/krugman-this-age-of-bubbles.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman considers the nature of financial bubbles. Krugman concludes:

"In short, the main lesson of this age of bubbles — a lesson that India, Brazil, and others are learning once again — is that when the financial industry is set loose to do its thing, it lurches from crisis to crisis."

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have serious issues with the greed and manipulative practices of an unfettered financial industry. One need only examine my routine diatribes aimed at restoring the "Uptick Rule" to understand how troubled I am by financial industry excesses (see, most recently: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-summers-of-our-discontent.html).

But is only the financial industry to blame for these crises? Could it also be that retired persons currently have no secure place to invest their savings, given that bank deposits pay so little interest today? Low rates on bank deposits do not result - at least directly - from financial industry excesses, but rather from Federal Reserve efforts to reduce interest rates to stimulate the economy.

But as long as we're talking about "bubbles," why is there no mention by Krugman of US stock markets?

Let's face it: The US economy is still rotten. As reported by Bernice Napach in an article entitled "Income Stats Suggest American Dream Is Dead" (http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/income-stats-suggest-american-dream-dead-161855152.html):

"The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, but the U.S. economy still has not fully recovered. While existing home sales have returned to their June 2009 level and the current unemployment rate of 7.4% is far below the June 2009 rate of 9.5%, less people are participating in the work force and incomes are decisively lower.

A new report out Thursday from Sentier Research found that the median annual household income of Americans was $52,100 in June, after adjusting for inflation. That's 4.4% below the level in December 2009.

Even more dramatic, the median income is 6.1% lower than the level in December 2007, when the recession began, and 7.2% lower than January 2000. For many Americans incomes aren’t just stagnant, they’re falling along with their purchasing power and standard of living."

So why are US stock markets so high if things are so bad? The answer is simple: There is no secure place to park your money and receive a reasonable rate of return.

Yes, current US stock market prices are also a bubble, which ultimately must burst. Regrettably, they are not a reflection of an upturn in the economy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gail Collins, "Rocks in Space": What's Floating Around Gail's Head?

What's in the news this morning?

Churches have been torched and more than a thousand are dead in Egypt, hundreds of Syrian civilians appear to have died from a chemical weapons attack launched by the Assad regime notwithstanding Obama's ominous "red line" warning, Pfc. Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, and the Federal Reserve may soon be easing back on stimulus.

What's floating around in Gail Collins's head? Answer: rocks, or more specifically asteroids.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled
"Rocks in Space" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/opinion/collins-rocks-in-space.html?_r=0), Collins informs us:

"The White House wants to send an unmanned spacecraft to capture a smallish asteroid, tow it back and put it into orbit around the moon, where we could send astronauts to study it. This would most definitely help us in the race to develop the best 'capture bag,' and there’s pretty wide agreement we would acquire some other useful technology as well."


Care to tell us a little bit more about that "other useful technology," Gail?

Yup, this is the next best thing to come out of Collins since her "running joke" concerning Romney's dog Seamus.

If Obama merited the Nobel Peace Prize, Collins certainly deserves a Pulitzer for this outstanding piece of . . . journalism.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Close to the Edge": "'You Can’t Just Vote Your Vagina"

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Bill’s Turn at Bat" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-bills-turn-at-bat-you-cant.html), Maureen Dowd mentions that Democratic New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has the backing of Susan Sarandon, who "decided not to support [Christine] Quinn because 'you can’t just vote your vagina.'"

As regards New York, I agree with Susan.

However, in Egypt, where some 90 percent of Egyptian women have had their clitorises removed, I think women should be "voting their vaginas."

Regrettably, however, Egyptians in their first free elections in 2012, which brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, were busy "voting their religion." A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in December 2010 (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/) determined:

"At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion."

According to the Pew poll, 95% of Egyptian Muslims also believe it is "good" that Islam plays a large role in politics.

By now it is fairly clear that the consequences of "voting your religion" can be somewhat less than sanguine.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/opinion/friedman-close-to-the-edge.html
Who is responsible for the current chaos in Egypt? Yesterday, one of President Obama's five best overseas friends (see: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-269076-obama-names-turkeys-erdogan-among-top-five-international-friends.html) weighed in on the topic and blamed the Jews for toppling Morsi. As noted by The Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Erdogan-Israel-orchestrated-Morsi-overthrow-Egypt-unrest-323679):

"Erdogan’s comments come just a few weeks after he blamed the unrest in his own country on an 'interest rate lobby,' widely believed to be a metaphor for Western Jewish businessmen."

Obama sure as heck knows how to pick his overseas friends: Erdogan, Putin, Chavez . . .

Which brings me to Thomas Friedman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Close to the Edge" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/opinion/friedman-close-to-the-edge.html), in which this self-proclaimed prophet, who has a solution for everything (even baldness), declares:

"Of all the troubling images from Cairo these days, none could be worse than the pictures of the many civilian casualties. But nearly as disturbing was footage from last week showing an Egyptian police vehicle toppling off the 6th of October Bridge, which spans the Nile in central Cairo. News accounts differed over whether the vehicle was pushed over by protesters or, in a panic, the driver burst through the bridge railing and plunged into the river. Either way, the bridge was badly damaged, the car was lost, the fate of its passengers unknown."

Peculiar how Friedman doesn't mention the pictures of the more than 60 churches in Egypt recently torched by the Muslim Brotherhood (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/ravaged-churches-reveal-sectarian-split-feeding-egypts-violence/2013/08/20/59902866-09bc-11e3-9941-6711ed662e71_story.html) as equally disturbing.

Friedman, however, is once again ready with advice for Egyptian General Sisi:

"I understand why so many Egyptians turned against the Brotherhood. It was stealing their revolution for its own stale agenda. But the best way to justify ousting the Brotherhood was for the military to put in place a government that really would get Egypt started on the long march to modernization, entrepreneurship, literacy for women and consensual and inclusive politics — inclusive even of Islamists — not another march in place under generals.

. . . .

So, once again, Egyptians and their friends abroad are being polarized between the same two bad options. The hour is late. General Sisi has got to pull back and empower the cabinet he appointed to produce a third way — an authentically modernizing, inclusive government. That is what the 2011 revolution was about. If he diverts Egypt from that goal, the way the Brotherhood did, if his only ambition is to be another Nasser and not a Mandela, Egypt is headed for a steep plunge, just like that police vehicle tumbling into the Nile."

Ah yes, "pull back and empower . . . an authentically modernizing, inclusive government."

I have even better advice: Let's send Tom to Cairo on a multi-year mission away from his Maryland mansion and have him explain to Sissi how to do it in a country 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, murderous oppression of its Christian Coptic minority, and a population that is growing far beyond the country's means.

Go for it, Tom! General Sissi impatiently awaits your arrival! I'll even help sponsor a one-way ticket!

Maureen Dowd, "Bill’s Turn at Bat": "You Can’t Just Vote Your Vagina"

Are you suffering from an identity crisis? Quiet contemplation of New York's mayoral contest might straighten you out. On the other hand, maybe it won't.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Bill’s Turn at Bat" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/opinion/dowd-bills-turn-at-bat.html?_r=0), Maureen Dowd fails to mention that Democratic New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio was originally born Warren Wilhelm. Dowd then goes on to say:

"The 52-year-old public advocate [de Blasio] has spent the last few days surrounded by the liberal glitterati of New York: Cynthia Nixon and her wife; 'Boardwalk Empire' king Steve Buscemi; and ping-pong queen Susan Sarandon, who said she decided not to support Quinn because 'you can’t just vote your vagina.'

. . . .

Last spring, [de Blasio's wife] McCray did an interview with Essence magazine about her feelings about being a black lesbian who fell in love with a white heterosexual, back in 1991, when she worked for the New York Commission on Human Rights and wore African clothing and a nose ring and he was an aide to then-Mayor David Dinkins.

. . . .

De Blasio, in contrast to [Christine] Quinn, has a consistent and strong, if hard left, message: If you didn’t like the last 12 years of New York as a luxury product, elect me."

You will recall that Maureen devoted an entire op-ed to Quinn's teal toenails (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-whos-that-candidate-in.html). Today we learn from Dowd that Quinn's "shy wife . . . would prefer to live on a Vermont goat farm."

Fascinating.

I left New York almost 35 years ago, but not for a goat farm.

Now I know why.

[To know where and when women should "vote their vaginas," see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/thomas-friedman-close-to-edge-you-cant.html]

Monday, August 19, 2013

New York Times, "False Choices on Egypt": No Mention of Churches Being Torched by the Muslim Brotherhood

Do You Remember Shays' Rebellion? Probably not, given that it occurred in Massachusetts between August 1786 and June 1787. Impoverished US Revolutionary War veterans, who had closed courts to halt debt collection trials, sought to seize the federal Armory in Springfield in January 1787. A hastily raised militia fired grape shot at Shays's men, resulting in four dead and twenty wounded, and caused the rebels to flee. Ultimately, most of the rebels were pardoned; however, several were hanged.

Yes, even in the early days of the United States, shit happened.

Some 137 years later, there was also the violent 1924 evacuation by US troops of the Bonus Army, consisting of needy World War I veterans and their families, encamped outside of Washington.

What do Shays' Rebellion and the Bonus Army have to do with recent events in Egypt? Answer: In the real world, no-win situations often arise, demanding difficult choices by world leaders, unless you are President Obama and can afford to take the opportunity to play golf in Martha's Vineyard.

In an editorial entitled "False Choices on Egypt" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/opinion/false-choices-on-egypt.html?_r=0), The New York Times begins by observing:

"After overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the military could have been a positive force if it had put in place a transition plan that included all groups, including Mr. Morsi’s allies in the Muslim Brotherhood."

No mention by The New York Times that Hitler was also democratically elected. No mention by the Times that the Muslim Brotherhood is now busy torching Christian Coptic churches througout Egypt (see: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/15/world/meast/egypt-church-attacks/index.html?hpt=hp_t2).

The Times editorial concludes:

"President Obama’s muted chastising of the generals and his indecisive reaction to the slaughter does not inspire confidence. Instead of wringing their hands, administration officials should suspend the $1.3 billion in annual American military aid to Egypt — including the delivery of Apache helicopters — until the military puts the country on a peaceful path.

. . . .

Long term, Egypt cannot subsist on handouts and needs to develop a real economy to provide jobs, education and other opportunities to its people. That is the road to true stability and will require tourism and foreign investment. But that cannot happen in a country in perpetual turmoil with a repressive military intent on obliterating its adversaries. The United States should not be complicitous in this unfolding disaster."

Query: How is the military to put Egypt on a "peaceful path" when the Muslim Brotherhood is busy torching churches?

I don't condone the excessive use of force by the Egyptian army; however, they are not confronting Cub Scouts and Brownies.

The crisis, which Obama is so anxiously seeking to avoid, involves a no-win situation. On the other hand, unless order is brought to Egypt, further chaos will continue to envelop the Muslim Middle East.

The Egyptian army had very friendly ties with the US until Obama's abnegation of power. Obama's refusal to take action is in keeping with prior decisions to avoid any involvement whatsoever in Syria's ongoing human tragedy and in Iran's 2009 Green Revolution.

No, I am not calling for US military intervention in Egypt or elsewhere. However, with regard to Egypt, Obama has succeeded in alienating a long-standing friend, i.e. the Egyptian army, while surrendering any ability to moderate its conduct.

Why am I not surprised?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Paul Krugman, "One Reform, Indivisible": Does the Rule of Law Exist Under the Obama Administration?

As we watch Egypt descend into chaos, Americans should feel grateful for the rule of law that exists in their country. This concern for the rule of law is echoed in Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "One Reform, Indivisible" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/19/opinion/krugman-one-reform-indivisible.html?_r=0), in which he declares:

"On the unstoppability of Obamacare: We have this system in which Congress passes laws, the president signs them, and then they go into effect. The Affordable Care Act went through this process, and there is no legitimate way for Republicans to stop it."

But as was pointed out by George Will in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-obamas-unconstitutional-steps-worse-than-nixons/2013/08/14/e0bd6cb2-044a-11e3-9259-e2aafe5a5f84_story.html?hpid=z2):

"President Obama’s increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency. Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and red lines is floundering. And at last week’s news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality.

Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: 'I didn’t simply choose to' ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, 'this was in consultation with businesses.'

. . . .

Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: 'Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?' The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: brevity. Because there is no such authority."

Krugman's response to Will's concern:

"But wait — hasn’t the administration delayed the employer mandate, which requires that large firms provide insurance to their employees? Yes, it has, and Republicans are trying to make it sound as if the employer mandate and the individual mandate are comparable. Some of them even seem to think that they can bully Mr. Obama into delaying the individual mandate too. But the individual mandate is an essential piece of the reform, which can’t and won’t be bargained away, while the employer mandate is a fairly minor add-on that arguably shouldn’t have been in the law to begin with."

Now I "get it": Obama can sign into law the Affordable Care Act and then pick and choose which of its provisions he wishes to go into effect. If a provision is "a fairly minor add-on that arguably shouldn’t have been in the law to begin with," he can take the initiative and at least temporarily (until after the 2014 midterm elections) suspend its implementation, particularly if it is apt to be unpopular among the electorate.

And all this coming from a would-be Constitutional lawyer . . .

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Money, Money, Money, Money, MONEY!": Was There Ever a Democracy that Did Not Commit Suicide?

"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

- John Adams, second president of the United States (1797–1801), letter, April 15, 1814

Maureen Dowd is not keen on the Clintons, and long before the final days of the inept, scandal-ridden, Obama administration play out, Dowd is already preparing to wage war against Hillary.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Money, Money, Money, Money, MONEY!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-money-money-money-money-money.html), Dowd begins:

"Why is it that America’s roil family always seems better in abstract than in concrete? The closer it gets to running the world once more, the more you are reminded of all the things that bugged you the last time around.

The Clintons’ neediness, their sense of what they are owed in material terms for their public service, their assumption that they’re entitled to everyone’s money."

"America’s roil family"? Oddly enough, this play on words is not far afield from Frank Bruni's quip in his Times op-ed of today's date, "The Past’s Future Republican" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/frank-bruni-pasts-future-republican-was.html), in which he declares:

"Clinton versus Bush would be political royalty versus political royalty."

So, this is what results after a 240-year glorious experiment in democracy: Americans seek the return of "royalty," or at least something akin to a televised War of the Roses. Dowd, however, is far more "forthcoming" than Bruni when taking the measure of the House of Clinton:

"If Americans are worried about money in politics, there is no larger concern than the Clintons, who are cosseted in a world where rich people endlessly scratch the backs of rich people.

. . . .

We are supposed to believe that every dollar given to a Clinton is a dollar that improves the world. But is it? Clintonworld is a galaxy where personal enrichment and political advancement blend seamlessly, and where a cast of jarringly familiar characters pad their pockets every which way to Sunday.

. . . .

The Clintons want to do big worthy things, but they also want to squeeze money from rich people wherever they live on planet Earth, insatiably gobbling up cash for politics and charity and themselves from the same incestuous swirl."

Yup, I suppose I would call that less than friendly on the part of Dowd.

But thirst for power aside, is this latter day Lady Macbeth competent? Can Hillary claim even a single achievement during her time as secretary of state? On the other hand, after eight years of Obama, perhaps it no longer matters to the American electorate.

If she gets the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and succeeds Obama, America will have gotten - richly and royally - what it deserves en route to the nightmare ending foreseen by John Adams.

Frank Bruni, "The Past’s Future Republican": Was There Ever a Democracy that Did Not Commit Suicide?

"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

- John Adams, second president of the United States (1797–1801), letter, April 15, 1814


In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Past’s Future Republican" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/opinion/sunday/bruni-the-pasts-future-republican.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), Frank Bruni also speculates about the 2016 presidential race. Bruni writes:

"[Jeb Bush is] better positioned for 2016 than he was for 2012, when the bitter disappointments of his older brother’s presidency were more keenly remembered and frequently invoked. Besides, if Hillary Clinton indeed rolls to the Democratic nomination, Republicans needn’t be so concerned about a nominee of their own with a dynastic aura. Clinton versus Bush would be political royalty versus political royalty."

So this is what results from the grand experiment in government after 240 glorious years: political royalty versus political royalty.

Meanwhile, I understand that we are expected to write off the remaining years of the inept, scandal-ridden, Obama administration.

Query: Against whom will Chelsea run for president in another 20 years?

With a little luck, I won't be around to see it.

[On the topic of Hillary in 2016, see also: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-money-money-money-money.html]

Charles A. Kupchan, "Democracy in Egypt Can Wait": What Is "Responsible" Government in the Muslim Middle East?

Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, today, in a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Democracy in Egypt Can Wait" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/opinion/democracy-in-egypt-can-wait.html?_r=0), calls for change in American policy toward the Muslim Middle East. Much of Kupchan's opinion piece makes perfect sense:

"Incremental change produces more durable results; liberal democracies must be constructed from the ground up. Constitutional constraints, judicial reform, political parties, economic privatization — these building blocks of democratic societies need time to take root.

. . . .

Moreover, transitions to democracy in the Middle East will be more perilous than those elsewhere because of factors unique to the region: the power of political Islam and the entrenched nature of sectarian and tribal loyalties."

Kupchan's conclusion:

"Washington should downsize its ambition and work with transitional governments to establish the foundations of responsible, even if not democratic, rule.

. . . .

The United States should do what it can to shepherd the arrival of liberal democracy in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. But the best way to do that is to go slow and help the region’s states build functioning and responsible governments. Democracy can wait."

Query: What is "responsible" government in the Muslim Middle East? More specifically, to whom should government be "responsible" in Egypt?

Kupchan seems to provide an answer:

"Rather than cajoling Cairo to hold elections and threatening to suspend aid if it does not, Washington should press the current leadership to adhere to clear standards of responsible governance, including ending the violence and political repression, restoring the basic functions of the state, facilitating economic recovery, countering militant extremists and keeping the peace with Israel."

This is all good and well, but specifically what steps should be taken regarding Egypt's military, which controls more than 30 percent of Egypt's economy?

What measures need to be taken to protect Egypt's Christian Coptic minority, comprising some 10 percent of the population, whose churches are being torched by the Muslim Brotherhood (see: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/15/world/meast/egypt-church-attacks/index.html?hpt=hp_t2)?

What sort of responsibility is owed to Egypt's women, more than 90 percent of whom have had their clitorises removed?

Or does responsibility begin with finding jobs for Egypt's unemployed, given that its tourism industry has been devastated, and with seeking to eradicate illiteracy (some 28 percent of Egyptians cannot read)?

End the violence in Egypt peacefully? Good luck. It will be a bit like cajoling the genie back into his lamp.

But most important, before seeking "to shepherd the arrival of liberal democracy in Egypt," perhaps the US would do well to first determine the nature of "responsible" government in the Muslim Middle East.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Jackson Diehl, "Obama’s Dangerous Passivity on Egypt and Syria on Display": Imagine If Diehl Hadn't Minced His Words

Do you remember how Obama said that his administration's legislative and foreign policy accomplishments were better than those of any other president, barring perhaps Johnson, FDR and Lincoln (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/new-york-times-editorial-military.html)? Well, Obama might want to take note of what Jackson Diehl had to say about the president's foreign policy in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s dangerous passivity on Egypt and Syria on display" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-obamas-dangerous-passivity-on-egypt-on-display/2013/08/15/69d085fc-0522-11e3-9259-e2aafe5a5f84_story.html?hpid=z2):

"Instead, this president’s extraordinary passivity in the face of crisis may have achieved its apotheosis this week. On Wednesday, as Egyptian security forces gunned down hundreds of civilians in the streets of Cairo, an unperturbed Obama shot another round of golf at Martha’s Vineyard.

. . . .

The crisis in Egypt has been distracting attention from the civil war in Syria, where Obama’s stubborn refusal to act has facilitated the emergence of the largest and potentially most dangerous incarnation of al-Qaeda since pre-2001 Afghanistan.

. . . .

Obama looks like a president in full flight from a world that looks nothing like what he imagined when he took office.

. . . .

In the last year, U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe have marveled as Obama doggedly pursued a patently futile attempt to engage Russian strongman Vladi­mir Putin in another round of nuclear arms reduction talks even while tolerating toxic Russian intervention in Syria and rejecting his own national security team’s proposal for U.S. action. They have scratched their heads as Secretary of State John F. Kerry, with Obama’s blessing, has made the renewal of moribund Israeli-Palestinian talks his central focus while keeping a safe distance from Egypt.

. . . .

Obama may have meant to retire the doctrine of the United States as the world’s 'indispensible nation.' Instead, the disastrous results of his persistent passivity may lead to its revival."

Now, can you only imagine how this opinion piece would have read if Diehl hadn't minced his words?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Moment of Truthiness": Americans Confuse "Deficit" with "Debt"

Can you imagine a non-economist confusing "deficit" with "debt"? Actually, I think such confusion is easily understood. Paul Krugman, however, is not so forgiving.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Moment of Truthiness" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/opinion/krugman-moment-of-truthiness.html?_r=0), Nobelist Krugman whines that the American public has been misled. Krugman writes:

"In a well-known paper with the discouraging title, 'It Feels Like We’re Thinking,' the political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels reported on a 1996 survey that asked voters whether the budget deficit had increased or decreased under President Clinton. In fact, the deficit was down sharply, but a plurality of voters — and a majority of Republicans — believed that it had gone up.

I wondered on my blog what a similar survey would show today, with the deficit falling even faster than it did in the 1990s. Ask and ye shall receive: Hal Varian, the chief economist of Google, offered to run a Google Consumer Survey — a service the company normally sells to market researchers — on the question. So we asked whether the deficit has gone up or down since January 2010. And the results were even worse than in 1996: A majority of those who replied said the deficit has gone up, with more than 40 percent saying that it has gone up a lot. Only 12 percent answered correctly that it has gone down a lot."

Who, according to Krugman, is responsible for this misunderstanding? Those nefarious Republicans, of course.

Okay, the annual federal government budget deficit is the difference between government receipts and spending.

On the other hand, US public debt is the outstanding amount owed by the federal government.

The federal government deficit is currently down; however, US public debt is up. How much higher is US public debt? As of January 20, 2009, when Obama became president, US gross debt was $10.6 trillion. As of March 31, 2013, US gross debt was some $16 trillion and rising.

The American public is obviously confusing "deficit" with "debt."

But Krugman denies that he is calling Americans foolish:

"Am I saying that voters are stupid? Not at all. People have lives, jobs, children to raise. They’re not going to sit down with Congressional Budget Office reports."

So what did the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office say in May 2013 (http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44172) about America's rising debt (my emphasis in red)?:

"Such high and rising debt later in the coming decade would have serious negative consequences: When interest rates return to higher (more typical) levels, federal spending on interest payments would increase substantially. Moreover, because federal borrowing reduces national saving, over time the capital stock would be smaller and total wages would be lower than they would be if the debt was reduced. In addition, lawmakers would have less flexibility than they would have if debt levels were lower to use tax and spending policy to respond to unexpected challenges. Finally, a large debt increases the risk of a fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose so much confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget that the government would be unable to borrow at affordable rates."

Hey, is it possible that a concerned American public, which is confusing "deficit" with "debt," is not so foolish after all?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "Military Madness in Cairo": Dishonest

In an editorial entitled "Military Madness in Cairo" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/opinion/military-madness-in-cairo.html), The New York Times concludes:

"Washington’s influence on Egyptian public opinion generally is limited. That has less to do with the low-key tone Mr. Obama has taken than with the preceding decades of uncritical United States support for past dictators like Mr. Mubarak and the military forces supporting them, to the neglect of most of Egypt’s 84 million people. It is past time for Mr. Obama to start correcting that imbalance. Suspending assistance to Egypt’s anti-democratic military would be a good place to start."

Of course, we must never blame President Obama, but let's have a look at the numbers. As we were informed by the Pew Research Center in May, 2013 (http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/05/16/egyptians-increasingly-glum/):

"Despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to improve America’s image in the Arab world, beginning with his famous June 2009 Cairo speech, his ratings have slipped steadily in Egypt since he took office, and ratings for the U.S. are lower now than they were during the Bush administration. Moreover, few Egyptians place much value on a close relationship with the U.S.

. . . .

Just 16% have a favorable view of the U.S., lower than the 27% registered in 2009 shortly after President Obama took office, and lower than the 22% who expressed a positive opinion of the U.S. in 2008, President George W. Bush’s final year in the White House."

Yes, anxious not to find fault with "fearless leader," The New York Times again has its head in the sand.

Congratulations, Mr. President, on another foreign policy success, which indeed will one day help place you in the pantheon of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln. Enjoy your time at Martha’s Vineyard!

Gail Collins, "Things to Skip in August": Gail Collins's Column?

It's August, and Gail Collins would have us believe, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Things to Skip in August" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/opinion/collins-things-to-skip-in-august.html?_r=0), that in the heat of summer, we should relax and allow things to "just work themselves out." Collins writes:

"August. A dead shark was found on a New York City subway. Meanwhile, at the Iowa State Fair, vegan activists broke into a refrigerated case in the Dairy Building and threw red paint on the butter cow. In San Diego, the mayor claimed the city should pay the costs of defending him in a sexual harassment lawsuit because he had never been given sensitivity training.

I am bringing all these things up to point out that you can be selective about what you have to worry about during August. It’s summertime. The living should be easy. Sometimes, if you relax, things just work themselves out."

Well, Obama and his new secretary of state, John Kerry, are certainly relaxing and allowing things to work themselves out in Egypt.

But then there are those other "things" regarding which Obama is not sitting by idly and allowing themselves to "work themselves out." As George Will writes today in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-obamas-unconstitutional-steps-worse-than-nixons/2013/08/14/e0bd6cb2-044a-11e3-9259-e2aafe5a5f84_story.html?hpid=z2):

"President Obama’s increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency. Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and red lines is floundering. And at last week’s news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality.

Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: 'I didn’t simply choose to' ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, 'this was in consultation with businesses.'

. . . .

Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: 'Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?' The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: brevity. Because there is no such authority."

Yup, I suppose that notwithstanding the dog days of summer, there might still be certain "things" requiring attention from American journalists, notwithstanding the fact that many are fast asleep at the wheel.