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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Paul Krugman, "A War on the Poor": Time for Obama to Resign

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

– President Bill Clinton, January 26, 1998

“And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.”

– President Barack Obama, Portland, April 1, 2010, after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law

So who is the bigger liar, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama?

Is it remotely possible that a bumbling Obama did not know that the Affordable Care Act would deny hundreds of thousands of Americans of their insurance policies? Playing devil's advocate, Charles Krauthammer writes in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obamacare laid bare" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-obamacare-laid-bare/2013/10/31/d229515a-4254-11e3-a624-41d661b0bb78_story.html?hpid=z2):

"But perhaps Obama didn’t know. Maybe the bystander president was as surprised by this as he claims to have been by the IRS scandal, the Associated Press and James Rosen phone logs, the failure of the Obamacare Web site, the premeditation of the Benghazi attacks, the tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone — i.e., the workings of the federal government of which he is the nominal head."

But let's not play games. Obama is anything but stupid. He knew that many Americans would not be able to keep their existing insurance plans and would be forced to subscribe to higher priced plans in order to subsidize plans for the uninsurable.

And when only six enrollments occurred on the first day after the Obamacare website went live on October 1 (see: http://freebeacon.com/cbs-obamacare-enrollment-off-to-an-incredibly-slow-start/), the president decided to keep this "incredibly slow start" a secret from the American people.

So, when the President of the United States is caught lying to the electorate about his signature legislation and even Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post assigns him four Pinocchios, how do you go about defending him? Quite a conundrum; however, Paul Krugman seems to have hit upon a solution: You label the president's health care opponents "racists," thereby inflaming your readership and pointing them in a different direction.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "A War on the Poor" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/01/opinion/krugman-a-war-on-the-poor.html?src=twr&_r=0),  Krugman argues that "the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks." Krugman writes:

"Republicans in leadership positions try to modulate their language a bit, but it’s a matter more of tone than substance. They’re still clearly passionate about making sure that the poor and unlucky get as little help as possible, that — as Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, put it — the safety net is becoming 'a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.' And Mr. Ryan’s budget proposals involve savage cuts in safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

. . . .

So what’s this all about? One reason, the sociologist Daniel Little suggested in a recent essay, is market ideology: If the market is always right, then people who end up poor must deserve to be poor. I’d add that some leading Republicans are, in their minds, acting out adolescent libertarian fantasies. 'It’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,' declared Paul Ryan in 2009.

But there’s also, as Mr. Little says, the stain that won’t go away: race."

I don't like Republicans any more than Democrats (I don't like politicians), and I support universal health care, but how can Krugman today write a column ignoring the chaos and lies surrounding the rollout of Obamacare? Perhaps this is a favor from one Nobelist to another.

In fact, it's time for Obama to resign. He has discredited the presidency.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gail Collins, "The Curse of the Second": Worse Than Anything Fantasized by Karl Rove

"I didn't do it."

- Bart Simpson


"I didn't know it."

- Barack Obama


"And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

- John Donne



It's all pretty grim in the West Wing. Whereas the IRS, Benghazi and NSA scandals couldn't sink Obama's popularity ratings, Obama's past promise that Americans would be able to keep their insurance plans appears ready to cripple the presidency. Unfortunately, the crash of the Obamacare website is only a preliminary reflection of the horrifyingly poor preparation undertaken to implement the new health care system, which could have disastrous consequences on the American economy beyond anything ever fantasized by Karl Rove.

But none of this prevents Gail Collins, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Curse of the Second" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/opinion/collins-the-curse-of-the-second.html?_r=0), from making light of Obama's plummeting popularity. Collins concludes:

"Perhaps the president could do a press event to celebrate the re-opening of the national parks and get lost for a few days in the Grand Canyon. Everybody would be reminded of how much they used to like him. He could come back in triumph and re-start the immigration reform bill. The cloud over the White House would lift and the website would suddenly be up and running.

I believe we have a plan."

Isn't she cute?

Meanwhile, in case you didn't notice, Putin has replaced Obama in the pole position of Forbes "World's Most Powerful People 2013" list (http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinehoward/2013/10/30/the-worlds-most-powerful-people-2013/):

"Who’s more powerful: the autocratic leader of a former superpower or the handcuffed commander in chief of the most dominant country in the world? This year the votes for the World’s Most Powerful went to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He climbs one spot ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama, who held the title in 2012.

Putin has solidified his control over Russia while Obama’s lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president — latest example: the government shutdown mess. Anyone watching this year’s chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamics."

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

And although I hate to be the one to shatter Collins's cheerfulness, she might also want to take note of the most recent numbers evidencing the ongoing financial demise of Obama's cheerleading section The New York Times, which tomorrow is expected to report a further decline in print and digital advertising revenue for the third quarter of 2013 (see: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304526204579099180254949844).

Can it possibly get worse? Just wait and see!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "A Dynasty to Duck": Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn

“And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.  No one will be able to take that away from you.  It hasn’t happened yet.  It won’t happen in the future.”

– President Obama, Portland, April 1, 2010, after Affordable Care Act was signed into law      


First, let's get the ground rules straight:
  • I oppose dynastic rule in the US, and I don't care if this involves the Bush Family, the Cheney Family or the Clinton Family.
  • I favor universal health care.
  • I opposed the Second Gulf War.
  • I am no fan of Dick Cheney.
That said, you might want to have a quick look at Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "A Dynasty to Duck" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/30/opinion/dowd-a-dynasty-to-duck.html?_r=0), in which she takes aim at Dick Cheney's efforts to install his daughter, Liz, as a senator from Wyoming instead of Mike Enzi. Dowd writes:

"Dick Cheney’s chutzpah extends to charging the Obama administration with 'incompetence' in the Middle East and saying that the president has done 'enormous damage' to America’s standing around the world.

When Bill O’Reilly asked Cheney on Fox News what 'we get out of' the Iraq war, given that 'we spent $1 trillion on this with a lot of pain and suffering on the American military,' Cheney repeated his delusion about Saddam’s W.M.D. — the imaginary ones — falling into the hands of terrorists: 'We eliminated Iraq as a potential source of that.'

And, of course, he disdains Obamacare, telling Rush Limbaugh that it’s 'devastating' — begrudging less well-off and well-connected Americans the lifesaving and costly health care he got on us when he was in the White House."

Cheney charging the Obama administration with incompetence in the Middle East? Indeed, this rings of "the pot calling the kettle black," given how Cheney foolishly destroyed the equilibrium between Iraq and Iran by prosecuting the Second Gulf War. But is Obama administration policy in the Middle East "incompetent"? You bet, and if you have any doubt about it, I suggest you talk with America's traditional allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States, which all believe that Obama has thrown them under the bus in order to avoid any threat of a confrontation with Iran. It is no wonder that Obama's cheerleaders on the editorial board of the New York Times today felt compelled to write an editorial entitled "Allies in Revolt" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/30/opinion/allies-in-revolt.html), which concludes:

"In addressing the United Nations last month, Mr. Obama reinforced his intention to narrow his regional diplomatic focus to the Iranian nuclear deal and an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Some have read this as weakness and retreat, rather than pragmatism. We wish he had put more emphasis on Egypt and Iraq. But his priorities make sense. His task now is to reassure the allies that the United States remains committed to their security."

Reassure allies that the US remains committed to their security? I suppose that's the reason that US Secretary of State John Kerry, who referred to Syria's Assad as his "dear friend," declared on Monday in an obvious reference to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the US would not "succumb to fear tactics" of those who oppose diplomacy (see: http://www.jpost.com/Iranian-Threat/News/Kerry-US-wont-succumb-to-fear-tactics-of-those-who-oppose-Iran-diplomacy-330047). Kerry added that it would be "the height of irresponsibility" for Washington not to test Iran's readiness to negotiate an end to its efforts to build an atomic bomb.

Peculiar. And here I thought the prolonged meandering efforts of the P5+1, led by that horse's ass Catherine Ashton, were an effort to test Iran's diplomatic readiness. But never mind. Insulting Netanyahu is certain to calm Israel's fears, notwithstanding Iran's persistent threats to annihilate Israel . . . not.

By opposing Obamacare, Cheney is depriving Americans of lifesaving health care? Dowd would do well to read today's lead Washington Post online story entitled "Obama accused of breaking promise to consumers as health plans cancel policies" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/obama-accused-of-breaking-promise-to-consumers-as-health-plans-cancel-policies/2013/10/29/860bed32-40bf-11e3-a751-f032898f2dbc_story.html?hpid=z1) by Lena H. Sun and Sandhya Somashekhar, which states:

"A new controversy over the president’s health-care law is threatening to overshadow the messy launch of its Web site: Notices are going out to hundreds of thousands of Americans informing them that their health insurance polices are being canceled as of Dec. 31.

The notices appear to contradict President Obama’s promise that despite the changes resulting from the law, Americans can keep their health insurance if they like it.

. . . .

Florida Blue Cross Blue Shield chief executive Patrick J. Geraghty said Sunday that the company is dropping about 300,000 policies. Customers are being informed that they can’t keep their current plans but that their new options might be better because of new benefits and government subsidies available to low- and middle-income people. Highmark Blue Shield of Pennsylvania sent notices in August to about 40,000 customers who are in a special plan for the hardest to insure, saying that their plans were being discontinued and that they might qualify for subsidies if they buy insurance on the federal exchange, spokeswoman Kristin Ash said.

In the Washington region, CareFirst, the region’s dominant carrier, has sent about 76,000 notices to consumers in Maryland, Virginia and the District in the past several months, informing them that as of Jan. 1, CareFirst 'cannot sell or renew plans that do not comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act,' spokesman Michael Sullivan said.

In Maryland, nine carriers have informed regulators that they plan to send notices to about 73,000 consumers about plans they no longer intend to offer."

Yes, Obamacare is a disaster and is in fact depriving many Americans of their health care.

I'm no fan of Dick Cheney, but he is yesterday's news. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is proving every bit as incompetent and despicable as that of George W. Bush.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Roger Cohen, "Fury in the Kingdom": Is There Any Limit to Cohen's Ignorance and Duplicity

Did you know that Saudi Arabia and Iran are at war? The fighting has spread from Yemen, where the Sa'dah War has raged on and off since 2004, to Syria, where Shiite Hezbollah militiamen from Lebanon, Shiites from Iraq (see: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323864604579067382861808984), Shiite Houthis from Yemen (see: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Yemen-Houthis-fighting-for-Assad-in-Syria-315005) and Iranian Revolutionary Guard "advisors" (see: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/09/16/Report-Iranian-military-advisors-in-Syria-seen-in-online-footage.html) are fighting Saudi financed Sunni rebels.

What is the reason for the war? Simple: At stake is Middle East hegemony. But why should there be any mention of this proxy war in Roger Cohen's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Fury in the Kingdom" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/opinion/international/cohen-fury-in-the-kingdom.html?_r=0)? Writing from Dubai, Roger Cohen begins by telling us:

"Here’s how the Saudis see it: President Obama has sold out the Syrian opposition, reinforced President Bashar al-Assad after having called for his departure, embarked on a dangerous duet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, played the wrong cards in Egypt, retreated from initial criticism of Israeli settlements that promised a more balanced American approach to Israel-Palestine, tilted toward the Shiites in the growing regional Sunni-Shiite confrontation, and generally undercut the interests of the kingdom."

Or, as my friend Saudi King Abdullah recently told me over the phone, Obama has thrown him under the bus.

Cohen's conclusion:

"It is hard to say whether Israel or Saudi Arabia is more anxious today over the possibility of an American-Iranian breakthrough. That possibility remains extremely remote. The right deal — one that prevents the Islamic Republic from going nuclear while drawing it back into the community of nations — is in the U.S. interest, but current Saudi fury is one measure of the difficulty and of a U.S. Middle Eastern policy that is falling short."

How short is US Middle East policy falling? My friend King Abdullah told me that if Iran obtains its first atomic bomb, he will build one, too. Hmm. Iran and Saudi Arabia, two antagonists with abysmal human rights records, both with atomic weapons? I suppose there's very little risk in that . . . not.

But what is most peculiar is that Cohen has already forgotten the hogwash he spouted earlier this month in a Times op-ed entitled "Bibi’s Tired Iranian Lines" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/opinion/cohen-bibis-tired-iranian-lines.html?_r=0), in which he claimed:

"It is not just that the world has now heard from Netanyahu of the imminent danger of a nuclear-armed Iran for a very long time. It is not just that Israel has set countless 'red lines' that proved permeable. It is not just that the Islamic Republic has been an island of stability compared to its neighbors Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not just that, as Rouhani’s election shows, Iran is no Nazi-like totalitarian state with a single authority but an authoritarian regime subject to liberalizing and repressive waves."

Iran is an "island of stability"? In this earlier opinion piece there was no mention of the Sa'dah War and attempts to incite Shiites in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

And just what was the Green Revolution all about? Cohen seemed ready to forget the death of Neda, who was shot dead by a Basij militia member.

Iran is "no Nazi-like totalitarian state"? Cohen was also prepared to ignore the oppression of Iran's Kurds, Baha'is, Sunnis and Christians (see: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/362244/irans-continued-war-christians-benjamin-weinthal), the hanging of Iran's homosexuals, and the stoning to death of Iranian women accused of adultery.

But now writing from Dubai, Cohen chooses to play both sides of the street and tells us that US Middle East policy is falling short.

Is there any limit to Cohen's ignorance and duplicity?

[No, King Abdullah is not my friend, and we did not chat over the phone. And by the way, just in case you were considering dancing on your next visit to Saudi Arabia, consider the following recent report from the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24393374):

"A Saudi court has jailed four young men and sentenced them to thousands of lashes after one was filmed dancing naked on a car, Saudi media reported.

The four were charged with 'dancing on a vehicle in public' and 'violating public morals', reports said.

. . . .

The incident took place in Borayda, the capital of al-Qasseem province, north-west of the capital Riyadh, and a video was posted online, media reports say.

The man accused of dancing naked received the most severe sentence of 10 years in jail, 2,000 lashes and a $13,000 (£8,000) fine, the al-Sharq newspaper said.

One of his companions received seven years in prison and 1,200 lashes, while the other two were jailed for three years and sentenced to 500 lashes each.

According to local media, the public prosecutor objected to what he called 'light sentences'."
]


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paul Krugman, "The Big Kludge": Or What Happens When a Community Organizer Becomes President

Do you think Apple or General Electric would ever consider appointing a charismatic community organizer with no managerial experience as their CEO? I don't think so, because their boards of directors would be wise enough to know that any such appointment would likely lead to chaos within their companies.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Big Kludge" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/28/opinion/krugman-the-big-kludge.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman ponders why America doesn't simply offer free medical insurance to all Americans. Krugman writes:

"Of course, we don’t have to imagine such a system, because it already exists. It’s called Medicare, it covers all Americans 65 and older, and it’s enormously popular. So why didn’t we just extend that system to cover everyone?

The proximate answer was politics: Medicare for all just wasn’t going to happen, given both the power of the insurance industry and the reluctance of workers who currently have good insurance through their employers to trade that insurance for something new. Given these political realities, the Affordable Care Act was probably all we could get — and make no mistake, it will vastly improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

Still, the fact remains that Obamacare is an immense kludge — a clumsy, ugly structure that more or less deals with a problem, but in an inefficient way."

Hmm. "Make no mistake, [Obamacare] will vastly improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans"? In fact, Krugman is correct: Obamacare could ultimately improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans, but at the cost of tens of millions to other Americans, unless that cost is simply added to America's national debt, which is currently over $17 trillion and rising by the second.

Medicare and Medicaid are popular? For sure, but they are also plagued by fraud. As stated in a Forbes article entitled "Medicare And Medicaid Fraud Is Costing Taxpayers Billions" (http://www.forbes.com/sites/merrillmatthews/2012/05/31/medicare-and-medicaid-fraud-is-costing-taxpayers-billions/2/) by Merrill Matthews:

"How much Medicare and Medicaid fraud is there? No one knows for sure. In 2010 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report claiming to have identified $48 billion in what it termed as 'improper payments.' That’s nearly 10 percent of the $500 billion in outlays for that year. However, others, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, suggest that there is an estimated $60 to $90 billion in fraud in Medicare and a similar amount for Medicaid."

Yes, there is an ongoing problem involving the manner in which the US government has tackled health care issues.

But back to Krugman, who concludes his op-ed piece by declaring:

"A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn’t have to be that way."

Big government doesn't have to be "bad"? Possibly, but Obama is certainly doing his best to prove the opposite. As observed by Kathleen Parker in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The White House Comedy Club" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-the-white-house-comedy-club/2013/10/25/4765e700-3db2-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html?hpid=z3):

"We reportedly eavesdrop on our allies and force citizens to buy insurance through a system we can’t manage. We concoct character-smearing rumors and attach them to our political adversaries. And that’s just the executive branch. Most important, we have damaged our bonds of trust with nations we need to keep as friends.

Any one of the above would make for a very bad week in governance. Combined, they suggest an uncomfortable conclusion to the world we purport to lead: The lights are flickering in the city on the hill, and our ship of state is foundering."

And as noted by Jackson Diehl in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Foreign policy based on fantasy" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-foreign-policy-based-on-fantasy/2013/10/27/cfd74b06-3cc2-11e3-a94f-b58017bfee6c_story.html?hpid=z3):

"Israel and Saudi Arabia worry that Obama will strike a deal with Iran that frees it from sanctions without entirely extirpating its capacity to enrich uranium — leaving it with the potential to produce nuclear weapons. But more fundamentally, they and their neighbors are dismayed that the United States appears to have opted out of the regional power struggle between Iran and its proxies and Israel and the Arab states aligned with the United States. It is the prospect of waging this regional version of the Cold War without significant U.S. support that has prompted Saudi leaders to hint at a rupture with Washington — and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk more publicly than ever about Israel’s willingness to act alone."

Yes, Obama's Middle East policy has spawned antagonism from traditional American allies and chaos throughout the region. It is no accident that an al-Qaeda affiliate caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians in Iraq over the past two months (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/car-bombs-kill-scores-in-baghdad-in-sign-of-crisis-in-iraq/2013/10/27/7ae9c376-3cb3-11e3-b7ba-503fb5822c3e_story.html?hpid=z1). Yup, we're talking about that same al-Qaeda, which, according to Obama while campaigning for reelection in 2012, was "decimated" and "on the run" (see: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/9/intel-clashes-obamas-election-year-al-qaeda-claims/?page=all).

Bush was responsible for the mess in Iraq? I agree, but what does that matter five years into the Obama administration? Let's not forget who was responsible for escalating America's inane, boots-on-the-ground involvement in Afghanistan.

Big government does not necessarily have to be bad? I agree. But when big government is managed by a community organizer with no management experience, don't expect things to go right.

Instead, expect "I didn't do it," or its variant, "I didn't know about it." (Ask Jay Carney for a copy of the White House transcript of Obama's recent conversation with Merkel in which Obama tried to explain away US eavesdropping on Merkel's cell phone.)

Expect the "Big Kludge."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Nicholas Kristof, "Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons?": Head Start, Costing $8 Billion Per Year, Provides Minimal Benefits

America's national debt might be $17 trillion and spiraling higher, but Nicholas Kristof knows where to spend more money. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-invest-in-preschools-or-prisons.html?_r=0), Kristof writes:

"Growing mountains of research suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty and crime is — you guessed it! — early education programs, including coaching of parents who want help."

But notwithstanding these "mountains of research," Kristof is then forced to acknowledge reality:

"Critics have noted that with programs like Head Start, there are early educational gains that then fade by second or third grade. That’s true, and that’s disappointing."

The results for Head Start have been "disappointing"? Oh really? Peculiar how Kristof fails to mention the cost of Head Start. As was reported at the beginning of this year by Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/14/head-start-sad-and-costly-secret-what-washington-doesnt-want-to-know/):

"‘Twas the Friday before Christmas, and while most Americans were enjoying time with family and friends, the bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were stirring quietly about, preparing to release its long-overdue evaluation of the Head Start program.

Head Start is an $8 billion per year federal preschool program, designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Since its inception in 1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on the program.

But HHS’ latest Head Start Impact Study found taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on this 'investment.'  According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects."

Some $8 billion spent per year and more than $180 billion burned since 1965 to achieve little in the way of results? Shouldn't someone be asking what went wrong?

But why should anyone care if spending money in this manner makes people like Kristof feel happy? After all, salving Kristof's conscience is most important and not the welfare of these underprivileged children living in poverty.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gail Collins, "Roll Out the Health Care": Schadenfreude?


scha·den·freu·de

noun, often capitalized  
: a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people

- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/schadenfreude)

Struggling mightily, as always, to be funny, Gail Collins begins her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Roll Out the Health Care" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/26/opinion/collins-roll-out-the-health-care.html?_r=0) by observing:

"If you’re a citizen who tries to keep up with current affairs, your latest responsibility is having a strong opinion about the troubled rollout of the health insurance marketplace.

Really makes you miss the government shutdown, doesn’t it? Try leading a lively dinner table conversation on software coding errors.

The Democrats are depressed. The Republicans enjoy pointing out that the Obamacare rollout has been a mess. But they obviously can’t pretend to be upset that people are finding it hard to sign up for a program their party wanted to kill, eviscerate and stomp into tiny pieces, which would then be fed to a tank of ravenous eels."

"Dinner table conversation"? Remind me never to have Collins over for dinner, unless I'm serving eels, i.e. never.

As someone who favors universal health care, but also sees the merit of ensuring (yes, pun intended) that such a system also be affordable to a government mired in debt, I take no pleasure in the failed rollout of Obamacare. At a time when America's image is being trampled into the mud by NSA spying against heads of allied states - if you're truly seeking mirth, kindly ask Jay Carney for a transcript of Obama's recent phone conversation with Angela Merkel - this fiasco hardly makes the case for American know-how and ingenuity.

However, seemingly unbeknownst to Gail, a much larger morality game is waiting to be played out by the Obama administration: Can a sufficient number of healthy young people be cajoled into paying higher health care premiums to offset the costs of the uninsurable?

I don't know the answer, but as a student of game theory, I am attentively waiting for the Obamacare website to be fixed in order to watch as this mystery gets played out.

Are there a sufficient number of self-sacrificing and/or gullible martyrs capable of transforming Obamacare into its intended zero-sum, no loss, game? Seventy-two virgins, male or female, do not await them in heaven.

Care to make a wager?

Awaiting the results, I take no pleasure.


Paul Krugman, "Addicted to the Apocalypse": An Asteroid or an Earthquake?

Do you like a good science fiction movie? I do, particularly owing to their marvelous special effects. For example, the tsunami depicted at the beginning of "Hereafter" (2010) was overpowering.

And then there are the disaster films involving asteroid collisions and earthquakes.

But note the difference between an asteroid collision and an earthquake. Although both of these phenomena can have catastrophic consequences, an asteroid collision can be predicted in advance, owing to its course and speed. On the other hand, whereas we might know that another earthquake will ultimately hit San Francisco owing to its proximity to the San Andreas fault, we can't say when.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Addicted to the Apocalypse" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/opinion/krugman-addicted-to-the-apocalypse.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman mocks those warning of an "oft-prophesied, never-arriving debt crisis." Krugman concludes:

"Look at Japan, a country that, like America, has its own currency and borrows in that currency, and has much higher debt relative to G.D.P. than we do. Since taking office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has, in effect, engineered exactly the kind of loss of confidence the debt worriers fear — that is, he has persuaded investors that deflation is over and inflation lies ahead, which reduces the attractiveness of Japanese bonds. And the effects on the Japanese economy have been entirely positive! Interest rates are still low, because people expect the Bank of Japan (the equivalent of our Federal Reserve) to keep them low; the yen has fallen, which is a good thing, because it make Japanese exports more competitive. And Japanese economic growth has actually accelerated.

Why, then, should we fear a debt apocalypse here? Surely, you may think, someone in the debt-apocalypse community has offered a clear explanation. But nobody has.

So the next time you see some serious-looking man in a suit declaring that we’re teetering on the precipice of fiscal doom, don’t be afraid. He and his friends have been wrong about everything so far, and they literally [sic] have no idea what they’re talking about."

Debt, which hasn't yet sunk Japan, can't sink a nation? Oh really? Krugman, of course, doesn't mention what debt did to the Weimar Republic and what arrived in its aftermath.

So why the Weimar Republic and not Japan? My answer: Who is saying that it won't happen to Japan?

Okay, wise guy, if a disaster is about to befall us, tell us when?

But herein lies the quandary. Economics is not an exact science, and it is not possible to know exactly when human beings lose faith in their country's currency. An economic implosion is not a pending collision with an asteroid whose timing can be predicted. Rather, it is more akin to an earthquake, whose arrival is predestined, but whose timing cannot be foretold.

Rely on Krugman? Yeah, right. Remember how he once wrote concerning Occupy Wall Street (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/opinion/krugman-confronting-the-malefactors.html):

"Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

. . . .

It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details."

And just where is Occupy Wall Street today? As I said earlier, economics is not an exact science.

I am not a "serious-looking man in suit" and perhaps not deserving of respect, but when Douglas Elmendorf, head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, declares, "The federal budget is on a course that cannot be sustained indefinitely" (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101065200), maybe it's worth listening to what he has to say.

Was that a rumble I just heard?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Charles Blow, "Web Sites and Grave Sites": The Technical Issue Isn't Likely to Have Legs?

"Just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t."

- President Obama, October 1, 2013

At the beginning of this month, President Obama compared Obamacare website "glitches" with a problematic Apple rollout. Well, we now know that the Obamacare website does not suffer from "glitches," but rather from systemic failure, and if initiation of the Affordable Care Act was tantamount to the inauguration of a corporation's flagship product, consumers would have long ago lost faith in that product, and the corporation would now be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In a windy, hyperpartisan New York Times op-ed entitled "Web Sites and Grave Sites" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/opinion/blow-web-sites-and-grave-sites.html?_r=0), Charles Blow tells us that the "technical" issue involving the rollout of Obamacare "isn’t likely to have legs." Blow writes:

"In the long stretch of history, Obamacare will be judged on the merits of the policy, not the rollout of a Web site. That judgment will be sober and thorough. And along the way, as some things work and others don’t — as is the way with ambitious laws — things will be tweaked. But this is the law. It will be implemented, even over the wails of Republican resistance."

Blow couldn't be more wrong.

Consumer faith in the product, Obamacare, has been compromised. Consumers cannot be expected to place their faith in a botched system, whose susceptibility to hacking has yet to be determined. And if a sufficient number of young healthy individuals don't sign up and thereby offset the costs of older and sicker people, what will be the fate and ultimate cost of this failed enterprise?

The technical issue isn't likely to have legs? Don't kid yourself, Charles. First impressions are everything, and although I favor universal health care, Obamacare is dead in the water.

New York Times Editorial, "The United States, Falling Behind": Only a Matter of Education?

In an editorial entitled "The United States, Falling Behind" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/opinion/the-united-states-falling-behind.html), The New York Times bewails declining American literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills relative to other nations. The Times concludes:

"Beginning in the 1970s, other developed nations recognized that the new economy would produce few jobs for workers with mediocre skills.

Those countries, most notably Finland, broadened access to education, improved teacher training and took other steps as well. Other countries take these international comparisons very seriously; some use the O.E.C.D. data to set policy goals and to gauge the pace of educational progress. The United States, by contrast, has yet to take on a sense of urgency about this issue. If that does not happen soon, the country will pay a long-term price."

"Broadened access to education" and "improved teacher training" can make a difference? Spare me.

Where is the discussion in this editorial of the collapse of the American family? Consider, for example :

  • The soaring number of children being born in the US outside of wedlock.
  • 47 million Americans on food stamps.
  • More than a million homeless students (http://www.nlchp.org/view_release.cfm?PRID=148).
  • America's exceedingly high number of teenage pregnancies.
  • An epidemic of child abuse in the US.

Given these problems, many American children can't possibly make headway in school.

Import talented engineers and scientists from overseas? This is almost like Rome relying on armies of mercenaries for its survival. Ultimately, it all unwinds.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "The Shanghai Secret": Could the Results Have Been Rigged?

Ah yes, the wonders of China! And wonder of wonders, Thomas Friedman has discovered the "secret"!

In the past, Friedman sang paeans to China's ultramodern airports (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/24/opinion/24friedman.html) and bullet trains (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/opinion/10friedman.html). Today, however, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Shanghai Secret" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/opinion/friedman-the-shanghai-secret.html?_r=0),  Tom Terrific is back to tell us "that Shanghai’s public secondary schools topped the world charts in the 2009 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exams that measure the ability of 15-year-olds in 65 countries to apply what they’ve learned in math, science and reading." Marveling at this success, Friedman writes of Shanghai’s Qiangwei Primary School:

"When you sit in on a class here and meet with the principal and teachers, what you find is a relentless focus on all the basics that we know make for high-performing schools but that are difficult to pull off consistently across an entire school system. These are: a deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers.

Shanghai’s secret is simply its ability to execute more of these fundamentals in more of its schools more of the time. Take teacher development. Shen Jun, Qiangwei’s principal, who has overseen its transformation in a decade from a low-performing to a high-performing school — even though 40 percent of her students are children of poorly educated migrant workers — says her teachers spend about 70 percent of each week teaching and 30 percent developing teaching skills and lesson planning. That is far higher than in a typical American school.

Teng Jiao, 26, an English teacher here, said school begins at 8:35 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m., during which he typically teaches three 35-minute lessons. I sat in on one third-grade English class. The English lesson was meticulously planned, with no time wasted. The rest of his day, he said, is spent on lesson planning, training online or with his team, having other teachers watch his class and tell him how to improve and observing the classrooms of master teachers."

Congratulations to Tom on discovering this "secret"! Imagine if American teachers were only asked to teach three 35-minute lessons a day!

But forgive me for asking, why does Tom describe a discussion in English with Teng Jiao and not with his privileged third-grade students?

And if Shanghai’s public secondary schools are indeed the best, why didn't he visit with the 15-year-olds?

Finally, how do we know that test scores weren't rigged? This happens constantly in the US, but of course in China, such a thing could never happen . . . .

Thanks anyway, Tom, for yet another enlightening opinion piece.

[Today, see also: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/new-york-times-editorial-united-states.html]

New York Times Editorial, "The Health Site’s Chaotic Debut": All the Lies That Are Fit to Print

The scandals surrounding the Obama administration continue fast and furious, but if you are a New York Times reader, you would never know it.

In an editorial entitled "The Health Site’s Chaotic Debut" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/opinion/the-health-sites-chaotic-debut.html?_r=0), The New York Times actually chastizes Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, for Obamacare's disastrous rollout:

"The administration created the Web site so the buck necessarily stops with high officials — Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, and President Obama himself — who allowed this to happen. The administration attributes the problems partly to unexpectedly high demand from people eager to compare insurance policies available in their states and partly to technical glitches that blocked or slowed people from submitting applications and erroneous data being sent to insurers. Why the administration failed to anticipate the high demand has never been explained. Nor has it clearly explained the nature of the technical problems — or who in government or among the private contractors is primarily responsible for them."

But of course, the Times must also blame those nefarious Republicans:

"Many Congressional Republicans are eager to exploit the start-up problems as evidence that health care reform is doomed to failure and ought to be delayed. They ignore the fact that Republican-led states contributed to the start-up problems by refusing to set up their own exchanges and dumping the task on the federal government."

Hmm, so the Republicans should also share in the blame, owing to the additional traffic they generated for the federal website. Or should they?

The Times perpetuates the Obama administration's claim that the system failed owing to "high demand," but is this indeed the case? According to an article in today's Washington Post entitled "Health insurance exchange launched despite signs of serious problems" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/health-insurance-exchange-launched-despite-signs-of-serious-problems/2013/10/21/161a3500-3a85-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html) by Lena H. Sun and Scott Wilson (my emphasis in red):

"Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.

Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.

. . . .

There were ample warning signs that the system was not working properly, according to people familiar with the project.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency in charge of running the health insurance exchange in 36 states, invited about 10 insurers to give advice and help test the Web site.

About a month before the exchange opened, this testing group urged agency officials not to launch it nationwide because it was still riddled with problems, according to an insurance IT executive who was close to the rollout."

The website couldn't operate when "just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously," yet the Times is blaming Republicans for "refusing to set up their own exchanges and dumping the task on the federal government"?

Get real!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Lousy Medicaid Arguments": Do You Believe in Obama, Krugman and the Tooth Fairy?

Do you remember how Obama recently stated in defense of the disastrous inauguration of Obamacare:

"Just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t."

Well, as reported today in a New York Times article entitled "Contractors See Weeks of Work on Health Site" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/us/insurance-site-seen-needing-weeks-to-fix.html) by Sharon LaFraniere, Ian Austen and Robert Pear:

"Federal contractors have identified most of the main problems crippling President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, but the administration has been slow to issue orders for fixing those flaws, and some contractors worry that the system may be weeks away from operating smoothly, people close to the project say.

. . . .

Some specialists working on the project said the online system required such extensive repairs that it might not operate smoothly until after the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting in January, although that view is not universally shared.

. . . .

One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.

. . . .

One major problem slowing repairs, people close to the program say, is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of the exchange, is responsible for making sure that the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors work together. It is not common for a federal agency to assume that role, and numerous people involved in the project said the agency did not have the expertise to do the job and did not fully understand what it entailed."


Thanks for the straight talk, Mr. President.

But none of the above prevented Paul Krugman, today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Lousy Medicaid Arguments" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/opinion/krugman-lousy-medicaid-arguments.html?_r=0), from claiming:

"It’s important to realize, however, that this botch has nothing to do with the law’s substance, and will get fixed."

Or in other words, Obamacare's Internet portal may have to be scrapped, but this has nothing to do with "the law's substance." Or does it?

If it is "not common for a federal agency to assume [the role of creating the Obamacare website], and numerous people involved in the project said the agency did not have the expertise to do the job and did not fully understand what it entailed," why should we believe that they have any more expertise in running a health insurance business? They don't . . .

What's that you say? Federal government experience amassed by way of administering Medicaid and Medicare? Yup, no waste or fraud there.

Regarding Obamacare "rate shock," Krugman's opinion piece continues:

"Remember 'rate shock'? A few months ago it was all the rage in right-wing circles, with supposed experts claiming that Americans were about to face huge premium increases.

It quickly became clear, however, that what these alleged experts were doing was comparing apples and oranges — and as Ezra Klein of The Washington Post pointed out, oranges that, in many cases, you can’t even buy. Specifically, they were comparing the premiums young, healthy men were paying before reform with the premiums everyone — including those who previously couldn’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions — will pay under the new system. Oh, and they also weren’t taking into account the subsidies many Americans will receive, reducing their costs.

Now people are signing up for policies on state exchanges and, to a limited extent, on the federal exchange. Where are the cries of rate shock?"

Ah yes, "the subsidies many Americans will receive." But as Krugman well knows, there is no zero-sum game at work here. If someone pays less, someone else must pay more, unless, of course, you simply add the amount to America's growing $17 trillion national debt. Where are the cries of rate shock? Let's wait until the system is up and running, perhaps sometime in 2014, before drawing conclusions.

It's worth noting that Avik Roy wrote in a Forbes article entitled "Obamacare's Website Is Crashing Because It Doesn't Want You To Know How Costly Its Plans Are" (http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/10/14/obamacares-website-is-crashing-because-it-doesnt-want-you-to-know-health-plans-true-costs/):

"A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away."

So whom do you believe, Obama, Krugman and the tooth fairy or Roy?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Cat on a Hot Stove": The End

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again


- The Doors, "The End," 1967


Did you happen to notice that US national debt rose a record $328 billion in a single day and ticked over the $17 trillion mark? When does it stop rising? It doesn't. It's out of control and unsustainable, although you wouldn't know it from the sovereign debt ratings assigned to the US by S&P (AA+), Moody's (AAA) and Fitch (AAA).

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! On Thursday, China's Dagong Global Credit Rating downgraded America's sovereign debt to A- with a negative outlook (see: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101122993), yet no one on Wall Street stopped to notice. After all, why should it matter what America's largest creditor thinks?

For that matter, why should it even matter to Wall Street that Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office, recently declared, "The federal budget is on a course that cannot be sustained indefinitely" (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101065200)? An A- rating with a negative outlook is actually too high, but let's bury our heads in the sand and continue to let the good times roll! 

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Cat on a Hot Stove" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/opinion/sunday/cat-on-a-hot-stove.html?ref=maureendowd&_r=0), Maureen Dowd begins by observing:

"PRESIDENT OBAMA won big.

So why did the moment feel so small?

At his victory scold in the State Dining Room on Thursday, the president who yearned to be transformational stood beneath an oil portrait of Abraham Lincoln and demanded . . . a farm bill. He also couldn’t resist taking a holier-than-thou tone toward his tail-between-their-legs Tea Party foes. He assumed his favorite role of the shining knight hectoring the benighted: Sir Lecturealot.

'All of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict,' he sermonized. (We have met the enemy and they are . . . bloggers?)"

Obama won big? Why did the moment feel so small? My sympathies are not with the scorched earth tactics of the Tea Party, but one of the last opportunities to set the American economy aright has come and gone. If Obama won big, America - not the Republicans - lost big. And although it may take another 25 years (less if interest rates rise), the writing is on the wall. (Stop focusing on the . . . bloggers? That should make all the difference.)

Dowd continues:

"Obama says he will now work for an immigration bill and a budget deal with deficit cuts. But as Peter Nicholas and Carol E. Lee pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, the president did not mention his more ambitious goals: hiking the minimum wage, widening access to preschool education, and shoring up bridges and roads."

From where will the funding for Obamacare and these other "ambitious goals" come? Answer: With the shutdown behind us, the US Treasury will soon be printing money around the clock, and it might be well worth your while to begin examining financing options on a hi-tech wheelbarrow that will soon be needed to cart piles of $100 bills over to the nearest supermarket to buy bread.

Dowd's conclusion:

"The paradox of Obama is that he believes in his own magical powers, but then he doesn’t turn up to use them."

But why should he bother using these magical powers, if, as Valerie Jarrett would have us know, the president has "been bored to death his whole life" and is "just too talented to do what ordinary people do"? Or stated more simply, why should the anointed one condescend to the level of the hoi polloi?

As I see it, three more years of Obama should pretty much finish off any chance of the US surviving as a global power - economic, military or otherwise.

Thomas Friedman, "From Beirut to Washington": Comparing the Tea Party With Hezbollah

Are you haunted by the past? I am.

Thirty years ago, in October 1983, Iran ordered Hezbollah, its terrorist surrogate in Lebanon, to perpetrate a series of suicide bombings in Lebanon, including the Marines Barracks Bombing, which killed 241 US servicemen. In the Behesht Zahra Martyrs' Cemetery in Teheran, a monument was erected honoring the suicide bombers.

Me? I merely guided New York Times reporters to the sites of one of these bombings, where the victims, covered with blankets and flies, had already been lined up in neat rows.

Fast forward . . .

Perhaps you recall Thomas Friedman's 1989 book "From Beirut to Jerusalem," which won the 1989 National Book Award for nonfiction. Well, in a play on words, this would-be Middle East expert today magnanimously bestows upon us a New York Times op-ed entitled "From Beirut to Washington" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/opinion/sunday/from-beirut-to-washington.html), which compares Hezbollah, literally the "Party of Allah" or the "Party of God," with America's Tea Party. Friedman writes:

"The Tea Party is not a terrorist group. It has legitimate concerns about debt, jobs and Obamacare. But what was not legitimate was the line it crossed. Rather than persuading a majority of Americans that its policies were right, and winning elections to enact the changes it sought — the essence of our democratic system — the Tea Party threatened to undermine our nation’s credit rating if the Democrats would not agree to defund Obamacare. Had such strong-arm tactics worked, it would have meant that constitutionally enacted laws could be nullified if determined minorities opposed them. It would have meant Lebanon on the Potomac.

WHICH brings up one last parallel: Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006, without knowing how to end it. It didn’t matter whether it won or lost. All that mattered was that it 'resisted the Zionists.' Hezbollah’s tacit motto was: 'I resist, therefore I am.' Early in that 2006 war, Nasrallah boasted of Hezbollah’s 'strategic and historical victory,' by holding Israel to a draw. But, in the end, the Israeli Army dealt a devastating blow to Hezbollah’s neighborhoods and Lebanon’s infrastructure. After the smoke cleared, Nasrallah admitted that it was a mistake.

The Tea Party started this war on Obamacare with no chance of success and no idea how to end it — similarly intoxicated by a self-image of heroic 'resistance.' And just like Nasrallah, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas engaged in magical thinking, declaring that the House vote to defund Obamacare — although rejected by the Senate — was 'a remarkable victory.' But most of his Republican colleagues aren’t buying it. They see only ruin."

At least Friedman acknowledges that the Tea Party is "not a terrorist group" and "has legitimate concerns about debt, jobs and Obamacare," but the comparison with Hezbollah, an Iranian terror proxy, is still inapt.

I have little in the way of sympathy for the Tea Party, whose scorched-earth attempt to defund the US government was equivalent to unplugging a patient from life support. On the other hand, I also acknowledge that the US might well be terminally ill, and I am not alone in this diagnosis. As stated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office in September with regard to America's financial future (http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44521) (my emphasis in red):

"Between 2009 and 2012, the federal government recorded the largest budget deficits relative to the size of the economy since 1946, causing federal debt to soar. Federal debt held by the public is now about 73 percent of the economy’s annual output, or gross domestic product (GDP). That percentage is higher than at any point in U.S. history except a brief period around World War II, and it is twice the percentage at the end of 2007. If current laws generally remained in place, federal debt held by the public would decline slightly relative to GDP over the next several years, CBO projects. After that, however, growing deficits would ultimately push debt back above its current high level. CBO projects that federal debt held by the public would reach 100 percent of GDP in 2038, 25 years from now, even without accounting for the harmful effects that growing debt would have on the economy . . . . Moreover, debt would be on an upward path relative to the size of the economy, a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely."

Or stated otherwise, the CBO is projecting a drawn-out, painful death.

Notwithstanding any PTSD - if you believe in it - that I may harbor, I remain a perpetual optimist and still believe in American exceptionalism and in the possibility an American economic renaissance. But with US national debt having just ticked over the $17 trillion mark, any sustained economic recovery will not be easy to orchestrate.

Compromise and reason will need to replace partisanship and arrogance, and more likely than not, this will not happen.

The 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, which Nasrallah, in a rare moment of candor, acknowledged was a "mistake," indeed "dealt a devastating blow to Hezbollah’s neighborhoods and Lebanon’s infrastructure." (I also witnessed this conflict from up-close.) But compare Hezbollah with the Tea Party?

When US national debt spirals over $20 trillion, and then $25 trillion, I fear that Ted Cruz will be back to tell us, "I told you so."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roger Cohen, "If Not Now, When?": Liar!

Roger (Iran is "not totalitarian") Cohen is again back to his old tricks. In a New York Times op-ed entitled "If Not Now, When?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/opinion/cohen-if-not-now-when.html?ref=opinion), Cohen writes:

"To have citizens on one side of an invisible line and disenfranchised subjects without rights on the other side does not work."

"Disenfranchised subjects"? Disenfranchised by whom?  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was elected in January 2005, but his four-year term ended in 2009, and there have been no subsequent elections in the West Bank.

Cohen notes:

"The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, insists that not one Israeli soldier will be allowed in Palestine."

However, Cohen fails to observe that Abbas also insists that there will be no Jews in the Palestinian Authority following an Israeli evacuation of the West Bank (see: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Comment-Palestine-without-Jews-321572).

Cohen goes on to say:

"There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank with no plans to go anywhere."

But as surely known to Cohen, Israeli/Palestinian peace talks to date have all taken into account land swaps, and the overwhelming majority of these Israeli settlers reside in areas that will be retained by Israel.

Cohen observes near the end of his opinion piece:

"In Jerusalem’s Old City I was walking this year down from the Damascus Gate. Crowds of Palestinians were pouring out of a Friday service at the Al Aqsa Mosque. A large group of Orthodox Jews was moving in the opposite direction, toward the Western Wall. Into this Muslim-Jewish melee, out of the Via Dolorosa, a cluster of Christians emerged carrying a large wooden cross they tried to navigate through the crowd. It was a scene of despair for anyone convinced faiths and peoples can be disentangled in the Holy Land. Looked at another way it was a scene of hope, even mirth."

"Despair"? "Mirth"? How about "tolerance"? At a time when Christians throughout the Muslim Middle East are being murdered and subjected to horrific abuse, when Sunnis and Shiites are at each other's throats, and when Baha'is and Sunnis are imprisoned and tortured in Iran, there is only one nation in the region where people enjoy religious freedom: Israel.

Netanyahu should risk more to reach a peace agreement with Abbas? Maybe. But then unilateral evacuation of Gaza by Israel resulted in years of rocket fire into southern Israel. Were rockets to be fired from the West Bank, Israel's largest cities - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa - and Ben Gurion Airport would all be within range.

In short, it's easy for Cohen to urge Netanyahu to take risks, when Cohen's home in Brooklyn stands no chance of being flattened by a Palestinian Grad missile.

Paul Krugman, "The Damage Done": The Blame Game

Okay, we have a temporary solution to the shutdown, but as known to all, the US economy remains a mess. Who is to blame? If you're Paul Krugman, the answer is obvious. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Damage Done" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/opinion/krugman-the-damage-done.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1382071460-tlsSzj+aDAKRfwNnaSUeMw), Krugman concludes:

"Are all the economy’s problems the G.O.P.’s fault? Of course not. President Obama didn’t take a strong enough stand against spending cuts, and the Federal Reserve could have done more to support growth. But most of the blame for the wrong turn we took on economic policy, nonetheless, rests with the extremists and extortionists controlling the House.

Things could have been even worse. This week, we managed to avoid driving off a cliff. But we’re still on the road to nowhere."

Odd. And all this while I thought that Obama controlled both houses of Congress during the first two years of his administration.

Spending is the answer? In the same manner that the federal government spent some $600 on a federal health care exchange for Obamacare, which "was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system" (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/17/health-exchange-week-three-start-over/2995989/)?

It turns out that the amount spent by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create the federal health care exchange is far more than double the amount spent by Apple to develop the iPhone (see: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579139461596987366).

Does Krugman truly believe that the economy would be much improved if the HHS had significantly increased its spending on parties conferences in 2012, which amounted to $56 million for 135 conferences (see: http://freebeacon.com/hhs-spent-56-million-on-conferences-in-2012/)?

But what the heck? Who gives a darn about federal government profligacy and inefficiency? Maybe some of whatever additional money that might have been spent over the past five years by the Obama administration, resulting in unsustainable US national debt of $17 trillion, would have given a necessary shot in the arm to the economy . . . not.

Sorry, Paul, federal government spending is not the answer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gail Collins, "Let’s Make a Deal": The "Game of Chicken" Is Over

Okay, the Republicans' "game of chicken" is over, and the debt ceiling has been raised. With US national debt just a tad under $17 trillion, or some $148,000 per taxpayer, the federal government can continue with its profligate spending, "shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren" and ignoring an insuperable "debt problem and a failure of leadership" (Senator Obama, opposing an increase in the debt ceiling, March, 2006). Of course, I steadfastly favored a compromise solution to be reached via round-the-clock negotiations, but instead, the can has merely been kicked down the road by another few months.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Let’s Make a Deal" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/opinion/collins-lets-make-a-deal.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&ref=opinion&adxnnlx=1381984460-bJo719m+VE3dbLc8CrQyhg), celebrating the Republicans' retreat from the brink of a world economic catastrophe, even Gail Collins acknowledges that the problem remains. Collins writes (my emphasis in red):

"Let’s think positive. Americans want to get back to normal. We want to admire the fall foliage and plan for Thanksgiving and complain about Congress’s failure to pass a farm bill. There is nothing we find more attractive than the sight of a bipartisan majority, holding hands to kick the budgetary can down the road.

. . . .

The House whipped through its approval with virtually no comment. There is nothing more efficient than a sullen majority. Democrats said a few lukewarm words about the agreement. 'It does have my support as a means to an end,' said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Good work in repressing the temptation to gloat, House Democrats!"

In fact, there is no reason to celebrate. America's unsustainable debt has gone untreated, and like a cancer, it continues to grow.

A villain in Collins's opinion piece? Ted Cruz, of course:

"Would you say that Congress is more like the movie 'Gravity' (government employees helplessly adrift in space) or the movie 'Captain Phillips' (hero trapped in small, sweaty place with unstable people waving guns)?

I am going for 'Captain Phillips,' which has Tom Hanks stuck in the end in a lifeboat-capsule with three Somali pirates: the navigator who does not know how to steer, the strongman who keeps shrieking and threatening everybody, and a nice kid who is in way over his head.

Obviously, we the people get the Tom Hanks role. Everybody likes Tom Hanks. I will allow you to attach Congressional identities to each pirate. Feel free to bring up Ted Cruz."

But whose name is not even mentioned once in this op-ed, bursting with chuckles? Oh, that's right - no mention of President Obama.

Regarding Obama's failure to engage, Leon Panetta very recently stated (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/maureen-dowd-pope-trumps-president.html):

"This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process . . . that’s what governing is all about.'"

Well, while campaigning, Obama liked to roll up his sleeves for the cameras. But get his hands dirty while Congress hammered out a debt ceiling deal? No way. Like Chance the Gardener in Jerzy Kosinski's "Being There," made into a magnificent movie in 1979 starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas and Jack Warden, Obama likes to watch.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maureen Dowd, "Pope Trumps President": Obama Should Learn From a Soap Opera?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Pope Trumps President" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/opinion/dowd-pope-trumps-president.html), Maureen Dowd describes an ABC television soap opera named "Scandal" (I am not familiar with it) and then asks, regarding America's real-world crisis:

"Why hadn’t President Obama used a pretext to lure John Boehner, Ted Cruz and Harry Reid to the White House, locked them in a bunker and kept them there until they hammered out a deal to save America’s reputation?"

Well, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have been calling for round-the-clock negotiations to end the shutdown crisis for some time (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/paul-krugman-dixiecrat-solution.html). But this is not a real-world presidential administration, owing to the fact that President Obama does not know how to govern. He is expert at campaigning and reading from a teleprompter; however, he still hasn't learned to govern.

As observed in Dowd's conclusion, even David Axelrod acknowledges this shortcoming:

"David Axelrod admitted to The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser that the Obama team should have involved Obama more in interacting with Capitol Hill from the beginning, so the aloof president who breezed through the Senate could learn how the velvet-and-vise game is played. Instead, negotiating with the Hill was outsourced to Rahm Emanuel, who makes Pope seem like a defeatist.

'If I rethink it,' Axelrod said, 'maybe we were too reliant on Rahm and should have engaged the president more in those early months and years.'

When the ship of state turns into the ship of fools, we all sink."

Maybe they "should have engaged the president more in those early months and years"? But why would they possibly want to do such a thing, thereby depriving the president of his alibi that he learned about something only "when it came out in the news" (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/obama-irs-targeting_n_3302449.html)?

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Panetta rebukes Obama’s handling of shutdown" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ruth-marcus-leon-panetta-rebukes-obamas-handling-of-shutdown/2013/10/14/d5252dc4-34f9-11e3-be86-6aeaa439845b_story.html?tid=pm_pop), Ruth Marcus also noted that Leon Panetta has become cognizant of Obama's failings, although Panetta is a bit more candid than Axelrod:

"Leon Panetta served in Washington with nine presidents, starting with Lyndon Johnson. He has been a member of Congress, Office of Management and Budget director, White House chief of staff, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and secretary of defense — the last two under President Obama. He is a man who knows Washington and knows how to choose his words. So Panetta’s implicit rebuke of the president’s hands-off approach to the budget crisis at a breakfast Monday was striking.

. . . .

'We govern either by leadership or crisis. . . . If leadership is not there, then we govern by crisis,' Panetta said at the start of the session, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. 'Clearly, this town has been governing by crisis after crisis after crisis.'

. . . .

Then, to Obama. 'This president — he’s extremely bright, he’s extremely able, he’s somebody who I think certainly understands the issues, asks the right questions, and I think has the right instincts about what needs to be done for the country.'

Next came the 'but' — without a name but with a clear message. 'You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process . . . that’s what governing is all about.'"

"You’ve got to roll up your sleeves"? That's odd. When Obama was campaigning in 2012, his sleeves were always rolled up (so were Romney's). But I suppose that in today's Brave New World, it's all about imagery, having little or nothing to do with substance or reality.

Thomas Friedman, "Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All.": Obama and Friedman, Card Carrying Tea Party Members?

In March 2006, opposing an increase in America's debt ceiling to a "mere" $9 trillion, Senator Obama declared:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. . . . Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

Today, under the stewardship of President Obama, the US is facing default unless Congress raises the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All." (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/opinion/friedman-sorry-kids-we-ate-it-all.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1381886081-6IgZZNIjNavDTwi5fR242A), Thomas Friedman similarly acknowledges that the future of America's "children and grandchildren" is bleak. Friedman writes (my emphasis in red):

"Eventually this shutdown crisis will end. And eventually the two parties will make another stab at a deal on taxes, investments and entitlements. But there’s one outcome from such negotiations that I can absolutely guarantee: Seniors, Wall Street and unions will all have their say and their interests protected. So the most likely result will be more tinkering around the edges, as our politicians run for the hills the minute someone accuses them of “fixing the deficit on the backs of the elderly” or creating “death panels” to sensibly allocate end-of-life health care. Could this time be different? Short of an economic meltdown, there is only one thing that might produce meaningful change: a mass movement for tax, spending and entitlement reform led by the cohort that is the least organized but will be the most affected if we don’t think long term — today’s young people."

Friedman goes on to say that "if current taxes and entitlement promises are not reformed, the cupboard will be largely bare for today’s Facebook generation."

And indeed, this is what we are also being told by Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office, who recently declared, "The federal budget is on a course that cannot be sustained indefinitely" (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101065200).

And as much as I believe in universal health care, the disastrous rollout of Obamacare demonstrated that government is incapable of efficacious policy implementation. If a public corporation were to introduce a product in this same manner, top management would be fired, unless of course, the debacle didn't first result in bankruptcy.

But the federal government need not file for bankruptcy, inasmuch as more money can always be printed until it is finally understood that US government credit ratings need to be significantly downgraded, prompting a cataclysmic world economic disaster.

Indeed, our children and grandchildren are being sold into servitude . . . or even worse.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "The Senate Tries to End the Crisis": Leon Panetta for President?

In an editorial entitled "The Senate Tries to End the Crisis" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/the-senate-tries-to-end-the-crisis.html?_r=0), The New York Times tells us:

"The Senate, forced to extinguish the wildfire set by the House, is nearing a deal to reopen the government and end the imminent threat of default by the United States government. Some of the provisions in the deal are troubling, and senators need to ensure that it doesn’t in any way give in to Republican blackmail.

. . . .

But the tentative agreement includes two problematic provisions related to health care reform. One would require the Department of Health and Human Services to verify that people receiving subsidies for insurance have incomes low enough to qualify."

Of course, we wouldn't want to ensure that people receiving subsidies for insurance have incomes low enough to qualify. After all, we want to make certain that Obamacare is just as prone to fraud as Medicare.

Meanwhile, over at The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ruth-marcus-leon-panetta-rebukes-obamas-handling-of-shutdown/2013/10/14/d5252dc4-34f9-11e3-be86-6aeaa439845b_story.html?tid=pm_pop), uber-liberal Ruth Marcus notes Leon Panetta's criticism of Obama's handling of the shutdown crisis. Marcus writes:

"Leon Panetta served in Washington with nine presidents, starting with Lyndon Johnson. He has been a member of Congress, Office of Management and Budget director, White House chief of staff, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and secretary of defense — the last two under President Obama. He is a man who knows Washington and knows how to choose his words. So Panetta’s implicit rebuke of the president’s hands-off approach to the budget crisis at a breakfast Monday was striking.

. . . .

'We govern either by leadership or crisis. . . . If leadership is not there, then we govern by crisis,' Panetta said at the start of the session, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. 'Clearly, this town has been governing by crisis after crisis after crisis.'

. . . .

Then, to Obama. 'This president — he’s extremely bright, he’s extremely able, he’s somebody who I think certainly understands the issues, asks the right questions, and I think has the right instincts about what needs to be done for the country.'

Next came the 'but' — without a name but with a clear message. 'You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process . . . that’s what governing is all about.'"

And so, even Ruth Marcus has come to realize that Obama lacks leadership capabilities.

Marcus's conclusion:

"As to the notion that any proposal associated with Obama was inherently toxic to Republicans, Panetta said, 'If the president, for whatever reason, feels he can’t do it because the Republicans don’t want to confront him, then he ought to be willing to delegate that responsibility to someone who can do it.'

I’ve got a stellar candidate in mind. His name is Leon Panetta. He seems awfully happy back home in Monterey, Calif. But he also remembers the way to Andrews — and what it takes to get things done once you arrive."

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have been calling for round-the-clock negotiations to end the shutdown crisis (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/paul-krugman-dixiecrat-solution.html).

A "stellar candidate" to manage the shutdown negotiations? Heck, how about a stellar candidate to be the next president of the United States?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Paul Krugman, "The Dixiecrat Solution": American Roulette

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. . . . Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

- Senator Barack Obama, March 20, 2006

In 2006, Senator Obama was opposing an increase in America's debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Today, the US, under the stewardship of President Obama, is facing default unless Congress raises the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Dixiecrat Solution" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/opinion/krugman-the-dixiecrat-solution.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman compares Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling to the antics of a neighbor from hell. Krugman writes:

"So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family — but only for a week, after which the threats will resume."

Krugman's solution:

"Despite denials from Republican leaders, everyone I talk to believes that it would be easy to pass both a continuing resolution, reopening the government, and an increase in the debt ceiling, averting default, if only such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse."

Query: Is Krugman's comparison between Republican objections to raising the debt ceiling and an obnoxious neighbor making your life hell a correct analogy? Or is it more apt to compare such objections to a wife threatening her husband with divorce if he doesn't stop his drunken spending spree, which is threatening their household with bankruptcy?

Don't get me wrong: A compromise needs to be reached. Quickly. A default by the US government would decimate the world economic order.

On the other hand, as Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office, recently declared, "The federal budget is on a course that cannot be sustained indefinitely" (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101065200).

Peculiar how President Obama is capable of bending over backwards to avoid conflict with overseas bullies, but is willing to play "tough guy" at home and jeopardize what's left of the economy. I suppose the way he sees it, voters would place most of the blame on Republicans. However, this is not a time for politics.

Krugman's conclusion:

"The question for the next few days is whether plunging markets and urgent appeals from big business will stiffen the nonextremists’ spines. For as far as I can tell, the reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess."

A "reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess"? I don't think so. The damage in the interim would be immense.

Instead, how about both sides attempting to control their inflated egos and engaging in round-the-clock talks until a settlement is reached. The alternative is disaster.

Who blinks first? Who is to blame? Who cares.

Settle it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Frank Bruni, "College’s Identity Crisis": Ah Yes, the Benefits of a College Education

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "College’s Identity Crisis" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/bruni-colleges-identity-crisis.html), Frank Bruni observes:

"And already, the higher learning that too many young Americans partake of leaves a lot to be desired. Time magazine rightly began its recent cover story on the college experience in the United States by reporting the results of a chilling survey last year of recent graduates. It showed that 62 percent of them didn’t know, for example, that Congressional terms are two years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Senate."

Ah yes, the value of a college education . . .

I wonder if that statistic correlates in any way with a rise in student-loan defaults. As recently reported by Bloomberg (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-30/student-loan-defaults-rise-in-u-s-as-borrowers-struggle-1-.html):

"About one in seven borrowers defaulted on their federal student loans, showing how former students are buckling under higher-education costs in a weak economy.

The default rate, for the first three years that students are required to make payments, was 14.7 percent, up from 13.4 percent the year before, the U.S. Education Department said today. Based on a related measure, defaults are at the highest level since 1995."

How can this be? Why is no one interested in hiring someone who doesn't know that Congressional terms are two years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Senate? Surely there must be something else they know after spending almost $60,000 per year for four years.

The demand for underwater basket weavers is drying up?

What has this world come to?

Maureen Dowd, "A Mad Tea Party": How About a Mad World?

Indeed, Ted Cruz and friends are bringing the US to its knees and threatening to destroy the world economic order. But then none of this would have been possible without the inept management of America's economy by a community organizer, leading to an unsustainable national debt of just a whisker under $17 trillion, equivalent to some $148,000 per taxpayer.

Moreover, the bungled rollout of Obamacare, the president's signature legislation, has not added to the nation's confidence.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "A Mad Tea Party" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/dowd-a-mad-tea-party.html), Maureen Dowd writes:

"HOW awful are Ted Cruz and his Cruzettes?

With 78 percent of Americans feeling blue about the country being on the wrong track, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, many consider the G.O.P.’s imperialistic unilaterists less loco than the narcissistic anarchists. As grandiose delusions go, global domination makes more sense than self-annihilation.

'If I was in the Senate now, I’d kill myself,' Chris Christie said on Friday."

Yup, Ted Cruz and friends are pretty awful, but there would be no place for them in Washington if government had not gotten so far out of control.

If he was in the Senate, Christie would kill himself? Cute. Yet his decision to separate the US Senate and gubernatorial elections is costing New Jersey $24 million (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/nyregion/christie-sets-october-special-election-for-lautenberg-seat.html?pagewanted=all), which it can hardly afford.

A "mad tea party"? In fact, it's a mad world.

[To learn more about US higher education and the future of underwater basket weaving, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/frank-bruni-colleges-identity-crisis-ah.html]

Jodi Rudoren, "Netanyahu Takes A Lonely Stance Denouncing Iran": More Rubbish From Rudoren

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the son of a historian, often complains to his inner circle that 'people have a historical memory that goes back to breakfast,'" begins Jodi Rudoren's New York Times news analysis entitled, "Netanyahu Takes A Lonely Stance Denouncing Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/12/world/middleeast/alone-and-relishing-it-israeli-leader-presses-case-against-iran.html). Rudoren, who has a penchant for writing anti-Israel nonsense (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/second-open-letter-to-margaret-sullivan.html), then fails to draw any historical analogy whatsoever to Israel's current predicament, and avoids reference to:

  • The abandonment of Czechoslovakia by Neville Chamberlain prior to World War II in exchange for "peace in our time."

  • The abandonment of Israel by President Johnson prior to the Six Day War in 1967, when the US and the West refused to arrange for a flotilla to breach the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran.

  • The refusal of Henry Kissinger to rearm Israel during the Yom Kippur War, when Israel's fate hung in the balance. Kissinger stated at the time, “Let them bleed a little first.”
 
Rudoren instead uses this opportunity to shower Netanyahu with abuse:

  • "he has sometimes come off sounding shrill."
  • "Increasingly alone abroad and at home."
  • "Mr. Netanyahu appears out of step with a growing Western consensus toward reaching a diplomatic deal that would require compromise."
  • "Mr. Netanyahu and his wife, Sara — a psychologist whom many Israelis criticize for everything from her purported temper to her child-rearing methods — have withstood mini-scandals regarding their spending on vanilla and pistachio ice cream (about $2,800 a year) . . ."
  • "Iran has been Mr. Netanyahu’s priority — many say obsession."
  • "Critics and admirers alike say it is a Messianic crusade."

Well, I think my spending on ice cream rivals that of the Netanyahu family, although I prefer flavors more exotic than vanilla.

But more to the point, what does it matter that Netanyahu is "out of step with a growing Western consensus" regarding a compromise involving Iran's nuclear weapons development program? Is this the same "Western consensus" that did absolutely nothing when Assad murdered civilians with chemical weapons in Syria? Although Obama has pledged that he will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon (see: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/obama-to-iran-and-israel-as-president-of-the-united-states-i-dont-bluff/253875/), the world has learned that Obama's "red lines" are drawn in washable crayon.  

Rudoren just happens to mention, "The prime minister’s stance on Iran, his signature issue, though, is popular with the [Israeli] public." Yes, having listened for many years to Iranian threats of annihilation, the Israeli public is cognizant of Netanyahu's concern.

But given that it is only a nation of Jews facing extinction, why, given historical precedent, should the rest of the world rouse itself and do anything whatsoever? In fact, it is no wonder that Netanyahu finds himself increasingly isolated.