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Friday, February 28, 2014

New York Times Editorial, "What Is Russia’s Aim in Ukraine?": Yes, Obama Is a Foreign Affairs Naif


Obama: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility."

Medvedev: "I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]."


- Open mic dialogue between President Obama and outgoing Russian President Medvedev, March 26, 2012



"And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any [Russian] military intervention in Ukraine."

- Obama's Remarks from the White House, February 28, 2014


After Obama promised Putin "flexibility" in 2012, we can all be certain that Putin is trembling in his boots as a consequence of Obama's warning that there will be "costs" for Russian military intervention in the Ukraine.

Costs? What were the costs after Obama allowed Putin to arrange for the destruction of Assad's chemical weapons arsenal, after which Assad reneged on the deal? Answer: None. Meanwhile, Putin is bemusedly watching Obama dismantle the American military over the course of his second "flexible" term in office (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/david-brooks-fake-putin-diary-did.html).

Today, in an editorial entitled "What Is Russia’s Aim in Ukraine?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/opinion/what-is-russias-aim-in-ukraine.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), The New York Times, i.e. the semi-official mouthpiece of the Obama administration, declares:

"President Obama, speaking at the White House, was right to warn Russia against any military move and to indicate that the United States would join the world in condemning a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also said that 'there will be costs' for any intervention in Ukraine, though it was not clear what, if realistically anything, that might involve."

It's not clear what those costs might realistically involve? At least Obama's toadies on the editorial board of The Times got that right.

The editorial concludes:

"Russia and the West need to work together to help stabilize the country politically and develop an economic and trade package that will begin to resolve the economic crisis.

Mr. Putin’s dangerous tactics are sure to backfire and do more to alienate Ukrainians than to encourage them to accept any Russian role in their nation’s future."

"Russia and the West need to work together"? In the same way that they worked together to destroy Assad's chemical weapons arsenal? In the same way that they have worked together in order to reach a "framework agreement" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/israeli-palestinian-talks-obama-seeks.html) for purposes of seeking something beyond a framework agreement for the cessation of Supreme Leader Khamenei's atomic weapons development program?

"Putin’s dangerous tactics are sure to backfire"? How reassuring coming from this coterie of  Obama bootlickers.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fareed Zakaria, "America plays its role in a changing world right": Defending Obama's Indifference to Genocide

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”

- President Obama, March 2011


In the face of withering criticism of Obama's indifference to genocide in Syria and his passivity in response to Putin's global "antics," Thomas Friedman sought to counter this censure on Wednesday (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/thomas-friedman-dont-just-do-something.html). Today, Fareed Zakaria, Obama's other inveterate cheerleader, is rushing to the defense of the Procrastinator-in-Chief.

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "America plays its role in a changing world right" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-america-plays-its-role-in-a-changing-world-right/2014/02/27/b1bb0c40-9fee-11e3-b8d8-94577ff66b28_story.html?hpid=z3), Zakaria begins by ridiculing fellow Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and Niall Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard. Cohen has issued blistering condemnations of Obama's apathy to the suffering of civilians in Syria (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/maureen-dowd-history-get-me-rewrite.html). Prof. Ferguson recently warned of American "geopolitical taper"in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "America's Global Retreat" (subtitle: "Never mind the Fed's taper, it's the U.S. geopolitical taper that is stirring world anxiety. From Ukraine to Syria to the Pacific, a hands-off foreign policy invites more trouble.") (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303945704579391492993958448), in which he wrote:

"No one took that warning seriously—Ukrainian government snipers kept on killing people in Independence Square regardless. The world remembers the red line that Mr. Obama once drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria . . . and then ignored once the line had been crossed. The compromise deal reached on Friday in Ukraine calling for early elections and a coalition government may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama."

Zakaria attempts to counter Prof. Ferguson's criticism by observing:

"By staying relatively quiet and working behind the scenes, the Obama administration ensured that the story was not about America’s plans to steal Ukraine from Russia but rather about the Ukrainian people’s desire to move West. (Nationalism, that crucial force, is not working against U.S. interests for a change.) Now the United States can play a key role in helping to deter Russia from derailing Ukraine’s aspirations. That will require some firmness but also careful negotiations, not bluster."

The US can now play a "key role" involving the Ukraine? Yeah, right. Maybe the US can sign another meaningless "framework" agreement for purposes of further negotiaton (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/israeli-palestinian-talks-obama-seeks.html). "Firmness" from Obama? Bullshit (pardon my French)! Obama already promised Putin "flexibility."

Zakaria continues:

"The world is not in great disorder. It is mostly at peace with one zone of instability, the greater Middle East, an area that has been unstable for four decades at least — think of the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanese civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War, the Iraq war, the Sudanese civil war, the Afghan wars and now the Syrian civil war. The Obama administration has not magically stopped this trail of tumult."

Needless to say, Zakaria chooses to ignore ongoing North Korean provocations (see: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/27/world/asia/north-korea-missiles/), tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/27/us-china-usa-locke-idUSBREA1Q0AM20140227), and mass murder in South Sudan (see: http://www.arabnews.com/news/531586).

Zakaria concludes his opinion piece by referring to Eisenhower's avoidance of international entanglements:

"President Dwight Eisenhower turned down every plea, refusing to inject U.S. troops into complex conflicts without clear missions and paths to victory. Imagine if a different president, less able to exercise courage, wisdom and restraint, had listened to the armchair interventionists and the United States had jumped into all those conflicts. Imagine the disorder abroad and the erosion of American power at home."

Yup, let's just ignore genocide and let "people" like Assad and Khamenei have their way. Obama's declaration in March 2011 that the US would not "turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries"? Obama was lying, and given that we have gotten accustomed to his other whoppers, e.g., "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," why should we get upset over additional evidence of flimflam?

Sure, the US and its allies should forgo the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria and ignore starving civilians in Homs. Let's dismantle the economic sanctions imposed against Iran without demanding that they cease to support the murderous Assad regime with arms, advisers and Hezbollah fighters.

Zakaria makes me nauseous.

Israeli-Palestinian Talks: Obama Seeks Another "Framework" Agreement

Query: What is a framework agreement?

We were never allowed to see the terms of the "historic" framework agreement between Obama and Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, pursuant to which economic sanctions against Iran were dismantled in exchange for idle discussions concerning cessation of Iran's nuclear development program. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already gone on record as saying that Iran will not dismantle a single centrifuge or anything else for that matter (see: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/22/politics/iran-us-nuclear/). But never mind that the talks are going nowhere, much to the delight of Tehran. Last Thursday, Iran and the P5+1 proudly announced that they had reached a new framework agreement for further discussions. As reported by CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/20/world/europe/iran-nuclear-talks/) (my emphasis in red):

"Six world powers and Iran have reached a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday.

'We have identified all of the issues we need to address in reaching a comprehensive and final agreement,' Ashton said, speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Vienna, Austria.

'There is a lot to do. It won't be easy, but we've made a good start' following 'three very productive days' of talks, Ashton added.

In addition to political discussions, the two sides have started technical work, Ashton said, and have set a timetable for meetings over the next four months, with a framework for further deliberations."

How wonderful! Her Hideousness Catherine Ashton has negotiated a comprehensive framework agreement with the tyrannical Khamenei regime! Now Cathy and friends know which matters will fail to be resolved over the coming 120 days!

Better yet, we are now learning of a yet another framework agreement in the works.

Upon becoming US secretary of state, John Kerry set out on a "historic" mission to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and he naively set a nine-month deadline for reaching such a deal by the end of April 2014. As known to all (except Kerry), this deadline was delusory, and a framework agreement for further talks is currently being sought. As reported today by The New York Times in an article entitled "Shrugging Off Past Setbacks, Obama Plans Personal Role in Middle East Peace Bid" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/world/middleeast/shrugging-off-past-setbacks-obama-plans-personal-role-in-middle-east-peace-bid.html?hp&_r=0) by Mark Landler (my emphasis in red):

"President Obama, after avoiding a hands-on role in Middle East peacemaking since the setbacks of his first term, plans to plunge back into the effort, his advisers said this week, starting with an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

When he welcomes Mr. Netanyahu to the White House on Monday, these officials said, Mr. Obama will press him to agree to a framework for a conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that is being drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Later in March, Mr. Obama is likely to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to make the same pitch. The goal, officials said, is to announce the framework, a kind of road map for further talks, by the end of April, the nine-month deadline that Mr. Kerry set last summer for a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

. . . .

Skeptics say Mr. Kerry’s decision to opt for a framework is itself a sort of concession — or at best, a way to buy time. Some worry that if Mr. Obama puts his prestige on the line to coax approval for an interim step, he will have less leverage to push through a final deal.

. . . .

Mr. Kerry has met with skepticism from Palestinians as well. While he was meeting with Mr. Abbas last week in Paris, another senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, offered a bleak assessment of his efforts to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

A framework that allowed each side to voice reservations, she said, would be 'self-negating,' adding, 'It will be a nondocument.' Any document not based firmly on international law, she said, 'will become a box of chocolates: You can pick and choose what you want.'

Ms. Ashrawi did not say the Palestinian Authority would actually reject the framework, if it came to that. But she asked: 'Why have it? Is it just to maintain a semblance of progress? Is it meant to buy more time? Or is it not to admit we have failed?'"

And that's not all the references to a framework agreement in this article!

Will Obama's intercession in this mess and the signing of a framework agreement foster a breakthrough? The answer is obvious: Given the excellent relationship and enduring trust that Obama has created over the past five years with Netanyahu, we can of course be certain that the president's personal involvement in Kerry's folly will bring results . . . not.

But I stray from the question that I posed at the beginning of this blog entry.

What is a framework agreement?  An agreement to agree? No way! Rather, a framework agreement is an Obama-brokered agreement not to agree, but which delays acknowledgment of failure and profound embarrassment closer to culmination of the American president's second term of office.

Charming.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.": Obama Apologist Par Excellence

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”

- President Obama, March 2011

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There." (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/opinion/friedman-dont-just-do-something-sit-there.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Thomas Friedman defends Obama's do-nothing policies in the face of genocide being perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Claiming that the Cold War is over and that the United States "won" (Who cares if Russia is now violating every major weapons treaty with the US, according to Sen. Marco Rubio?), Friedman would have America ignore the travesties being perpetrated against Syrian civilians. Friedman writes:

"So what do we do? The world is learning that the bar for U.S. intervention abroad is being set much higher. This is due to a confluence of the end of the Soviet Union’s existential threat, the experience of investing too many lives and $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan to little lasting impact, America’s rising energy independence, our intelligence successes in preventing another 9/11 and the realization that to fix what ails the most troubled countries in the world of disorder is often beyond our skill set, resources or patience.

In the Cold War, policy-making was straightforward. We had 'containment.' It told us what to do and at almost any price. Today, Obama’s critics say he must do 'something' about Syria. I get it. Chaos there can come around to bite us. If there is a policy that would fix Syria, or even just stop the killing there, in a way that was self-sustaining, at a cost we could tolerate and not detract from all the things we need to do at home to secure our own future, I’m for it.

But we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them."

Got it: Obama should continue to issue warnings against the use of chemical weapons in Syria and violence aimed at unarmed civilians in Kiev, but the world should know that these admonitions have no teeth.

Establish a no-fly zone over Syria, entailing no boots on the ground, which would allow the airlift of food to starving Syrian civilians and prevent Assad from dropping barrel bombs on these people's homes? No way! We don't understand the "complexities" of starvation! Having erred in Iraq and Afghanistan (unlike Friedman who supported the Second Gulf War, I opposed both these involvements), we must now avoid responsibility at any cost!

Alternatively, Obama could have maintained economic sanctions against Iran, which has supplied Assad with advanced weaponry, advisers and Hezbollah fighters. However, Obama, a foreign affairs naif, decided to dismantle economic sanctions against Iran in order to induce Supreme Leader Khamenei to engage in idle discussions with P5+1 negotiators over cessation of his nuclear weapons development program. Meanwhile, the Iranians have gone on record as saying that they are unwilling to dismantle a single centrifuge.

Obama's declaration in March 2011 that the US would not "turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries"? Obama was obviously lying, and given that we have gotten accustomed to his other whoppers, e.g., "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," why should we get upset over additional evidence of flimflam.

Get used to it already that three long years have passed since Obama weighed in against atrocities being perpetrated overseas against innocent civilians! It's March 2014, and Obama, who confers with Tom Terrific, has a new policy governing matters of genocide:


"What me worry?"

Monday, February 24, 2014

David Brooks, "Fake Putin Diary!": Did America Win the Cold War?

Did the United States win the Cold War when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down? Perhaps. But we now have an American president struggling hand over fist to cede Western power and influence to a Russian strongman, intent upon restoring Soviet glory.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Fake Putin Diary!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/opinion/brooks-fake-putin-diary.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), David Brooks finally wakes up to Vladimir Putin's grotesque ambition, evidenced by:

  • the 2014 winter Olympics games in Sochi, which highlighted Putin's fear and hatred of homosexuals;
  • Putin's failed attempt to restore the Ukraine to Russia's sphere of influence, which brought rioting and death to the streets of Kiev;
  • Putin's "cooperation" with Obama involving plans, never to be consumated, for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Brooks concludes his ersatz diary entry by writing:

"It’s easy to govern when you’ve got the winds of history at your back. I’ve got the wolves of chaos growling in my face. Capital flight is accelerating. The ruble is devaluing. Social media, the youth culture, the tides of mass protest, democracy and capitalism undermine the authoritarian mind-set.

Yet I impose my will with the beauty of gold and the wisdom of sapphire. I don’t 'evolve,' as everybody suggests. Evolution leads to chaos. I learned that from Gorby!

The events of the 1990s gave the world one narrative, the Velvet Revolution narrative. But I’m going to teach another narrative: that what begins with people massing in a city square ends with a strongman triumphing in a palace. In my own way, I will define this age."

Putin will "define this age"? Perhaps. But only because a foreign affairs naif, occupying the Oval Office, chose to empower this former KGB officer. It's again time to recollect Obama's open microphone gaffe, in which the American president asked outgoing Russian president Medvedev to convey to incoming president Putin a promise of future "flexibility" during Obama's second term.

Well, Putin sure as heck got the message and has been acting on it. The agreement for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, brokered by Putin, is not being implemented (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/30/us-syria-crisis-chemical-idUSBREA0S19720140130), and talks with Iran concerning the cessation of its nuclear weapons program are going nowhere, although economic sanctions imposed against the Khamenei regime have crumbled (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/02/24/iranian-oil-exports-rise-markedly-since-interim-deal/?hpid=z3).

Affording Putin even greater comfort, we now have US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel telling us that American military dominance can "no longer be taken for granted" and that budget cuts will place "additional risks" upon the US military (see: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/hagel-american-military-dominance-can-no-longer-be-taken-for-granted/). Yesterday, Peter Wehner wrote regarding the dismantling and enfeeblement of America's military (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/02/24/obama-consciously-engineering-americas-decline/):

"More than any president in my lifetime, Barack Obama has damaged virtually everything he’s touched. When it comes to American interests, he’s a one-man wrecking ball."

"Wrecking Ball"? Bruce Springsteen? I'm thinking more in terms of the Rolling Stones' "You Make a Grown Man Cry."

Paul Krugman, "Health Care Horror Hooey": As California Goes, So Goes the Nation?

"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."

- Paul Krugman, "Confronting the Malefactors" (
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/opinion/krugman-confronting-the-malefactors.html), October 2011

Do you remember "Occupy Wall Street"? Do you remember how Krugman suggested that OWS would prove a "turning point" in a populist war against American financial institutions? My goodness, Krugman really hit the mark with that prediction. Well, Krugman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Health Care Horror Hooey" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/opinion/krugman-health-care-horror-hooey.html?ref=opinion), would now have us believe that Obamacare is in fact succeeding by observing its "success" in . . . California:

"I’m not sure whether conservatives realize yet that their Plan A on health reform — wait for Obamacare’s inevitable collapse, and reap the political rewards — isn’t working. But it isn’t. Enrollments have recovered strongly from the law’s disastrous start-up; in California, which had a working website from the beginning, enrollment has already exceeded first-year projections. The mix of people signed up so far is older than planners had hoped, but not enough so to cause big premium hikes, let alone the often-predicted 'death spiral.'"

Of course, you remember the old saying, "As California goes, so goes the nation." Wait a second! California? I thought the saying referred to Maine. Well, during various times in American history, "Maine" was replaced by Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio in this adage, but never by California.

But let's forget California for the moment. Vice President Biden last week informed us that Obamacare was off to "a hell of a start" and further explained, "We may not get to seven million [enrollees], we may get to five or six." Heck, that's just a 15%-30% shortfall, depending how the cookie ultimately crumbles.

Strange as it may seem, I am not a conservative, and I believe in universal health care, but Krugman might still want to consider Kathleen Parker's Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The poetry of bad news around Obamacare" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-the-poetry-of-bad-news-around-obamacare/2014/02/14/15aa9b3c-95c5-11e3-8461-8a24c7bf0653_story.html?hpid=z4). Parker cogently concludes:

"In the meantime, what the economy needs least is a federal program that prompts lower- and middle-class workers to drop out of the workforce. This is in addition to the many who are losing their jobs involuntarily or having their hours cut by their employers who want to avoid the mandate to buy insurance or the fine for failing to do so.

Again, this is a simple matter of incentives and survival, which President Obama seems to have recognized in postponing the mandate for midsize businesses until 2016. Or perhaps he is trying to head off another health-care controversy before the midterm elections? Shucks, do you suppose?

Add to the above the CBO’s report in May that 31 million people will not have health insurance in 2023.

Any one of these things would be bad news. Combined, they boggle the well-ordered mind. If I may invoke our Fairy Godmother again, Pelosi was the most honest of all when she warned us that 'We have to pass the bill [Obamacare] so that you can find out what is in it.'

Today, knowing what we know, we are left with what we used to call a million-dollar question, though it is much more expensive now: How does one defend spending $1.2  trillion for a health-care overhaul that disincentivizes people to work and that leaves us with 31 million uninsured?

One writes poetry."

Delays in implementing Obamacare? As reported by Fox News (I know, Obama doesn't like Fox) (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/02/21/tracking-obamacare-as-enrollment-deadline-nears-law-endures-28-delays-and/):

"Since its inception, provisions of the law have been delayed a total of 28 times; the average delay was six months and three weeks. Put another way, the cumulative delays add up to an astonishing 15 years and three months.

The administration has been announcing changes to the law at a fairly steady clip.

The White House's latest delay was rolled out on Feb. 10, and allowed companies with between 50 and 99 workers to skirt the mandate to provide health care until 2016.

Of the White House's 28 delays to the law, 13 have been set to last at least one year. Eight revisions last a month or more. The shortest delay, announced in December 2013, gave Americans one extra day to purchase coverage that would begin on Jan. 1, 2014 through HealthCare.gov. Ultimately, that delay was extended to a vague 'more time.'"

Health care horror hooey? Yeah, right. Obamacare is showing all the promise of Krugman's beloved OWS, which is perhaps why the Obama administration is seeking a new legacy (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/bill-keller-crime-and-punishment-and.html).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bill Keller, "Crime and Punishment and Obama": Keller's Swan Song and a New Obama Legacy to Replace Obamacare

Bill Keller is leaving the New York Times. Yes, I know, who cares?

In his final Times op-ed entitled "Crime and Punishment and Obama" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/opinion/keller-crime-and-punishment-and-obama.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Keller explains that he will be establishing a nonprofit journalistic venture "devoted to the vast and urgent subject of our broken criminal justice system." Keller goes on to say:

"Obama has also been the stingiest of recent presidents in using his powers of pardon and commutation to undo the damage of the crack panic and of sentencing that keeps prisoners in lockup long past the age when they represent a danger. Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank with a justice reform agenda, points out that in his first term Obama pardoned one in 50 applicants while Ronald Reagan pardoned one in three. Late last year Obama commuted the sentences of eight drug offenders, out of more than 8,000 federal convicts serving time under outdated crack laws."

Keller's conclusion:

"The Obama presidency has almost three years to go, and there is reason to hope that he will feel less constrained, that the eight commutations were not just a pittance but, as he put it, 'a first step,' that Holder’s mounting enthusiasm for saner sentencing is not just talk, but prelude, that the president will use his great pulpit to prick our conscience.

'This is something that matters to the president,' Holder assured me last week. 'This is, I think, going to be seen as a defining legacy for this administration.'

I’ll be watching, and hoping that Holder’s prediction is more than wishful thinking."

Ah yes, given the "success" of Obamacare, we have a new presidential legacy in the making: The Procrastinator-in-Chief will now seek saner sentencing in his last three years in office. Yeah, right.

I hope Keller finds meaning in life after the Times.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "How to Get a Job at Google": Sorry, Tom, I Wouldn't Want a Job at Google

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How to Get a Job at Google" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Thomas Friedman is back with more advice for youngsters considering college and careers. After describing a meeting with Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president responsible for hiring at Google, Friedman concludes:

"To sum up Bock’s approach to hiring: Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one — besides brand-name colleges. Because 'when you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.' Too many colleges, he added, 'don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.'

Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work."

Well, I agree with Mr. Bock that "people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world . . . are exceptional human beings." Me? I regard my years spent in college and law school as a waste of time, which did not teach me much of anything.

Sure, I subsequently got jobs at top law firms, but this did not translate into joy or a sense of accomplishment.

I suppose everyone is different, but I believe that leadership and innovative skills - if any - came to me later in life, but not at school. They were born out of crises and acquired at a significant emotional price.

Can leadership and innovation be taught? Is there a link between the two? Do they have a strong genetic component? Do these traits derive from one's upbringing? I don't have the answers.

Google? I wouldn't want it, not because it's Google, but because it would be just one more stifling body corporate. Online searches? Data storage? Advertising? Not for me, regardless of the corporate culture, but perhaps for others. In my instance, given that we pass through life only once, there has to be much more.

Maureen Dowd, "Christie Puts the Gloves On": Christie Almost As Viable As Sebelius

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”

- President Obama, March 2011

You will recall that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" was rated the "Lie of the Year" for 2013 by PolitiFact (see: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/dec/12/lie-year-if-you-like-your-health-care-plan-keep-it/). Given his past declaration that "Some nations may be be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries" and his current passivity in response to genocide being perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Obama should now also be retroactively awarded the "Lie of the Year" for 2011.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Christie Puts the Gloves On" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/dowd-christie-puts-the-gloves-on.html?ref=maureendowd&_r=0), Maureen Dowd is back again with another tirade aimed at New Jersey's governor. Dowd's conclusion:

"The governor was a beneficiary of America’s desperate hunger for genuine leadership. You can blame Obama for the Christie tulip craze. The president has been so wan, he confused people into thinking that bluster was clarity. In a climate with no leadership, the bully looks like a man. If you’ve only been drinking water, Red Bull tastes like whiskey.

Obama’s ethereal insipidity made Christie’s meaty pugilism attractive; Obama’s insistence on the cerebral made voters long for the visceral, even the gracelessly visceral.

George W. Bush was the Decider who engaged in thoughtless action. So America veered toward Obama, who engaged in thoughtful inaction. Then they careered toward Christie, another practitioner of thoughtless action.

When all you have is leading from behind, there’s a place in your heart for in-your-face."

Dowd is correct. After five years of ineptitude and procrastination from the first invertebrate ever to inhabit the Oval Office, America seems ready for leadership, but from where is this leadership to come?

Chris Christie for president in 2016? Sorry, but in the aftermath of Bridgegate, Christie would be almost as viable as Kathleen Sebelius in a national election.

Dowd desperately needs to find a new victim.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Don’t Let Up on Iran": The Best Argument AIPAC Can Make?

In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Don’t Let Up on Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/22/opinion/dont-let-up-on-iran.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), AIPAC president Michael Kassen and AIPAC chairman Lee Rosenberg tell us that they "strongly hope that the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts lead to the peaceful dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program," but in order to attain this goal, "they support a policy that complements the current negotiations with a range of congressional actions that threaten greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government." Kassen and Rosenberg write:

"Our message to Tehran should be clear: It will not achieve its objectives unless it satisfies ours.

Unfortunately, Iran’s leaders are acting as if they have not received that message. In recent weeks, the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has declared that his government will not dismantle a single centrifuge. Tehran also went beyond words by testing long-range ballistic missiles that could reach American military bases in the Middle East, as well as our ally Israel. It has even dispatched warships to sail close to the maritime borders of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean.

We also know the Iranians have worked to deceive us in previous rounds of negotiations. In 2003, when Mr. Rouhani was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Tehran issued a declaration that it was suspending uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities. Last year, as he ran for president, Mr. Rouhani even boasted that Iran had flouted the agreement.

. . . .

The partial recovery of Iran’s economy in recent weeks, thanks to the relaxation of sanctions, in tandem with its continuing advanced research and development of centrifuges, highlights our concerns. If Iran can achieve such progress without dismantling any part of its nuclear program, why should it make concessions?"

Query: Why is there no mention by Messrs. Kassen and Rosenberg of Iranian support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has gassed to death Syrian civilians, dropped barrel bombs on their homes, and is now attempting to starve them into submission. As reported by Reuters yesterday (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/21/us-syria-crisis-iran-idUSBREA1K09U20140221):

"As Syria's war nears the start of its fourth year, Iran has stepped up support on the ground for President Bashar al-Assad, providing elite teams to gather intelligence and train troops, sources with knowledge of military movements say.

This further backing from Tehran, along with deliveries of munitions and equipment from Moscow, is helping to keep Assad in power at a time when neither his own forces nor opposition fighters have a decisive edge on the battlefield.

Assad's forces have failed to capitalize fully on advances they made last summer with the help of Iran, his major backer in the region, and the Hezbollah fighters that Tehran backs and which have provided important battlefield support for Assad."

Without Iranian support, Assad and his family would have abandoned Syria long ago. Moreover, it is Iranian support which is allowing Assad to flout the purported agreement, brokered by Putin, for the destruction of Assad's chemical weapons arsenal (see: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/01/31/dragging-their-feet-us-scrambles-to-persuade-syria-to-honor-chemical-weapons/). If Syria can flout this agreement with impunity, why shouldn't Iran's mullahs believe that they can also disregard demands for the destruction of their atomic weapons development program?

Kassen and Rosenberg refer to "the partial recovery of Iran’s economy in recent weeks." Partial recovery? Again, as reported by Reuters (http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/01/13/usa-iran-sanctions-russia-idINL2N0KN1ZK20140113) one month ago:

"The White House said on Monday it was concerned about recent reports that Iran and Russia are negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month, a deal that the White House said could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions.

'We are concerned about these reports and Secretary (of State John) Kerry directly expressed this concern with Foreign Minister Lavrov today,' Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, told Reuters.

'If the reports are true, such a deal would raise serious concerns as it would be inconsistent with the terms of the P5+1 agreement with Iran and could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions,' Hayden said."

"Could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions"? Peculiar, I thought sanctions were already in place. But heck, seeing how Obama, notwithstanding his "red line," failed to lift a finger after Assad dropped sarin gas on civilians, why should Putin and Khamenei be troubled by such threats?

More evidence of the Obama administration's spinelessness? As we were informed a week ago by Adam Kredo in a Washington Times article entitled "Iran to get ‘more than $20B’ in sanctions relief; accuracy of Obama promise questioned" (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/14/iran-get-more-20b-sanctions-relief-accuracy-obama-/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS):

"Iranian oil exports soared in January, hitting new highs just months after the United States consented to billions of dollars in economic sanctions relief under the interim nuclear deal.

Exports of Iranian crude oil jumped to 1.32 million barrels, up from December’s high of 1.06 million barrels, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

The spike in exports—mainly to Japan, China, and India—has helped Iran’s once-ailing economy stabilize and decrease inflation.

Iranian oil exports have steadily risen since negotiations with the West restored confidence in Tehran’s economy. The increase runs counter to a promise by the Obama administration that 'Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day.'"

Also as reported yesterday by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/21/us-iran-usa-aircraft-idUSBREA1K1SN20140221):

"U.S. aerospace companies are seeking permission to sell airliner parts to Iran for the first time in three decades, in a key test of the temporary relief on sanctions given under talks to curtail Iran's nuclear activities.

At least two leading manufacturers, Boeing and engine maker General Electric, have applied for export licenses in a six-month window agreed by Iran and six world powers in November, industry officials and other sources familiar with the matter said."

In short, the economic sanctions imposed by the world against Iran have been effectively dismantled with the connivance of the Obama administration. It is no wonder that Obama is not allowing the public to see the "agreement to agree" between Iran and the P5+1 for sanctions relief.

But back again to the Kassen and Rosenberg opinion piece: Where is there any reference to the horrific human rights abuses of the Khamenei regime with which Obama engaged in secret negotiations in Oman (see: http://news.yahoo.com/secret-us-iran-talks-set-stage-nuke-deal-045356533--politics.html)? The American press routinely refers to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a "moderate" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/search/label/Hassan%20Rouhani); however, this maniac, with whom Obama held a "historic" conversation in September, just ordered the execution of a poet and a human rights activist for "enmity against God" after they were first subjected to torture (see: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Rouhani-orders-executions-of-Iranian-Arab-poet-rights-activist-340173).

Consider also how Iran hangs homosexuals from cranes in the middle of Tehran, stones to death women accused of adultery, and tortures and rapes Baha'is, Kurds, Sunnis, Christians and political dissenters in Evin Prison. This is the regime with which Obama intends to reach a binding agreement?

I suppose that given their positions, Kassen and Rosenberg can't acknowledge that Obama is a foreign affairs naif, who has destroyed American influence, power and credibility throughout the world. On the other hand, their argument for "diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government" leaves much to be desired.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

David Brooks, "Capitalism for the Masses": Facebook? WhatsApp? Not Me!

Do you have a Facebook page? I don't. Do you make use of WhatsApp messaging? I have no need for it. Moreover, I regard Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp as an obscenity, offering few if any societal benefits and evidencing the demise of Western civilization, as it reels from the plague of 21st Century narcissism.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Capitalism for the Masses" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/opinion/brooks-capitalism-for-the-masses.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks declares:

"But now capitalism faces its greatest moral crisis since the Great Depression. The nature of that crisis can be captured in two statistics. When Facebook entered a deal to buy WhatsApp this week, it agreed to pay a price equal to $345 million per WhatsApp employee. Meanwhile, the share of the economic pie for the middle 60 percent of earners nationally has fallen from 53 percent to 45 percent since 1970.

This economy produces very valuable companies with very few employees. Meanwhile, the majority of workers are not seeing income gains commensurate with their productivity levels."

I agree: Efficiency in our brave new world comes with a price measured in unemployment. Even more regrettably, President Obama has persisted in perpetuating the policies of his predecessors, which have destroyed the infrastructure necessary for future economic growth. Consider the effects of the cancellation of the Uptick Rule (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-summers-of-our-discontent.html) and the demise of antitrust law (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/paul-krugman-barons-of-broadband-when.html).

But more to the point, does our economic future now depend upon social networking? Has social networking become the opiate of the masses?

Never a social sort, I am obviously no longer in sync with our times.

Paul Krugman, "The Stimulus Tragedy": Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Have you ever encountered someone whose thesis has been proven wrong, but who persists in claiming that if everything had been done her/his way, the problem would have been solved? If not, have a look today at Paul Krugman's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Stimulus Tragedy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/opinion/krugman-the-stimulus-tragedy.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0). His usual modest self, Krugman writes:

"All the evidence, then, points to substantial positive short-run effects from the Obama stimulus. And there were surely long-term benefits, too: big investments in everything from green energy to electronic medical records.

So why does everyone — or, to be more accurate, everyone except those who have seriously studied the issue — believe that the stimulus was a failure? Because the U.S. economy continued to perform poorly — not disastrously, but poorly — after the stimulus went into effect.

There’s no mystery about why: America was coping with the legacy of a giant housing bubble. Even now, housing has only partly recovered, while consumers are still held back by the huge debts they ran up during the bubble years. And the stimulus was both too small and too short-lived to overcome that dire legacy."

That's right, only Krugman has "seriously studied the issue." And yes, notwithstanding the fact that US federal debt now exceeds $17.3 trillion and will never be returned, President Obama should have bet the farm on stimulus, i.e. doubled down on spending on "big investments in everything from green energy to electronic medical records."

Me? I don't think Obama's stimulus was a failure. It may have been partially misdirected upon green energy and electronic medical record projects, but it was not a failure: the banks did not fail, and Ford and General Motors remain among the living. Regrettably, however, I believe that unemployment in the US might never return to its halcyon levels of 5 percent. Efficiency in our brave new world comes with a price.

On the other hand, Obama has also persisted in perpetuating the policies of his predecessors, which have destroyed the infrastructure necessary for future growth. Consider the effects of the cancellation of the Uptick Rule (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-summers-of-our-discontent.html) and the demise of antitrust law (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/paul-krugman-barons-of-broadband-when.html).

Place all our faith in Paul Krugman, and even now, go ahead with further massive stimulus? I don't think so. You see, Nobelist Krugman is far from infallible. Consider his past support for 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."

Can you only imagine if "intellectuals and politicians" had indeed acted on Krugman's advice "to fill in the details"? I shudder at the consequences.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gail Collins, "The Least We Can Do": No Mention of Genocide in Syria

Yes, the Oval Office is now inhabited for the first time by an invertebrate, but is there anyone from the op-ed staff of the president's favorite newspaper with the spine to tell the president that his Syria policy is a catastrophe?

I looked at the title of Gail Collins's latest New York Times op-ed, "The Least We Can Do" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/opinion/collins-the-least-we-can-do.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=opinion&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Opinion&action=click&region=FixedRight&pgtype=article), and asked myself, is it remotely possible that Collins, of all people, has the guts to tell Obama that his handling of the Syrian fighting marks a new nadir in American foreign policy? Answer: No. In her opinion piece, Collins would instead have us focus on Senate ratification of the UN treaty on the rights of people with disabilities. Collins concludes:

"We will now pause for a sigh. Then we will acknowledge that our choice is to give up on the U.N. or try to make it stronger. Since our recent history is crammed with disasters caused by going it alone on the international stage, that brings us down to only one good option.

We need an effective international organization that supports the rights of the world’s most vulnerable people. Ratifying that disability treaty would be one small yet useful step in that direction.

It’s such a shame we’re not willing to be part of the solution."

"We will now pause for a sigh"? "We need an effective international organization that supports the rights of the world’s most vulnerable people"? "It’s such a shame we’re not willing to be part of the solution"? Well, I may not know who "we" are, but I certainly know who "they" are. "They" are the majority of nations of the UN, consisting of monstrous tyrannical regimes which have done absolutely nothing as Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad has sought to gas, bomb and starve his civilian population, i.e. currently "the world’s most vulnerable people," into submission. Does it matter to the UN? No. What "they" worry?

Yesterday, in an editorial entitled "What Next for Syria?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/opinion/what-next-for-syria.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), The New York Times asked "what can the world do about a civil war that has killed an estimated 136,000 people, produced nine million refugees, displaced 4.25 million civilians internally and now threatens to destabilize several other countries in the region?" The conclusion of the Times:

"Mr. Obama has resisted being pushed into a war by critics who seem to believe that force is the ultimate sign of leadership. Leadership sometimes means not going to war. It also means, in this case, persisting in the frustrating search for a peaceful solution and, short of that, some means of lessening the misery of the Syrian people."

"Leadership sometimes means not going to war"? A pity Obama didn't think of that before escalating American involvement in Afghanistan.

But more to the point, sometimes there is a middle ground between war and watching from the sidelines as 136,000 people die. A no-fly zone to prevent Assad from dropping barrel bombs on civilians and to enable the airlift of food to starving civilians? The Times editorial never mentioned this possibility, because it would force Obama to actually do something to save human lives and avert human misery.

This would be "the least we can do."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Breakfast Before the MOOC": Will Tom Ever Wake Up?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Breakfast Before the MOOC" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/opinion/friedman-breakfast-before-the-mooc.html?ref=opinion), Thomas Friedman describes the "first ever massive open online course, or MOOC, on nanotechnology in Arabic" to be taught by Technion Prof. Hossam Haick, an Israeli Arab from Nazareth. Friedman concludes:

"For me, though, Haick’s MOOC is also a reminder of what an utter waste of money and human talent has been the Arab-Israeli conflict. Look how eager all these young Arabs and Persians are for the tools and resources to realize their full potential, wherever they can find that learning. Arab dictators so underestimated their people for so long. That’s what fueled the Arab awakening. It makes you weep for the wasted generations and pray this will be the last of them."

So Friedman is again fantasizing about the "Arab awakening." Needless to say, no mention by would-be Middle East expert Friedman of the unspeakable carnage in Syria that has cost the lives of more than 140,000 people and displaced more than six million civilians, although there is, of course, reference to "Israel’s ugly West Bank occupation."

My suggestion to Tom Terrific: Consider also "how eager all these young Arabs and Persians are" to flood into Syria and commit atrocities against a terrified civilian population (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/david-brooks-prodigal-sons-prodigious.html).

Meanwhile, there are reports out of Syria of a girl being stoned to death for opening a Facebook account (see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2562051/Girl-stoned-death-Syrian-fundamentalists-having-FACEBOOK-account.html).

Arab awakening? When will Tom wake up?


Maureen Dowd, "History: Get Me Rewrite!": Dowd Rewrites a Hoary Op-Ed

In a recent New York Observer article entitled "The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page" (http://observer.com/2014/02/the-tyranny-and-lethargy-of-the-times-editorial-page/#axzz2su9y1r4t), Ken Kurson caused something of a sensation by highlighting the dichotomy between the excellent newsroom reporting of the Times versus the irrelevance, stupidity and lack of originality of its editorial page. Kurson wrote (my emphasis in red):

"Another former Times writer, someone who has gone on to great success elsewhere, expressed similar contempt (and even used the word 'embarrass') and says it’s longstanding.

'I think the editorials are viewed by most reporters as largely irrelevant, and there’s not a lot of respect for the editorial page. The editorials are dull, and that’s a cardinal sin. They aren’t getting any less dull. As for the columnists, Friedman is the worst. He hasn’t had an original thought in 20 years; he’s an embarrassment. He’s perceived as an idiot who has been wrong about every major issue for 20 years, from favoring the invasion of Iraq to the notion that green energy is the most important topic in the world even as the financial markets were imploding. Then there’s Maureen Dowd, who has been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president.'"

Well today, Dowd does everything humanly possible to prove that Kurson was correct, rewriting her stock-in-trade opinion pieces critical of George W. Bush. In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "History: Get Me Rewrite!" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/opinion/dowd-history-get-me-rewrite.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Dowd sets the stage by lambasting Lyndon Johnson:

"Maybe ratcheting up the [Vietnam] war with more than 500,000 troops and sending so many young Americans to their deaths halfway around the world based on chest-thumping advice and a naïve theory of democratic dominoes was a deterrent to getting out."

Maureen then blasts Bush:

"Asked by a reporter about Iraq recently, W.’s eyes flashed and he replied, 'I am not happy.'

He shouldn’t be. Afghanistan, which he abandoned to pursue a phony 'retaliatory' war in Iraq, is crumbling despite all the money, muscle and blood we have poured into it, with our runaway fruitcake puppet Hamid Karzai fiddling while the Taliban burns, vowing to run America out just as they did the Russians and waging vicious attacks on women.

In corrupt and violent Iraq, women are getting detained illegally and tortured. The country is awash in a blood-dimmed tide, with nearly 9,000 killed last year and almost 1,000 killed last month, as Al Qaeda and another jihadist group fight for supremacy. In Falluja, the city where nearly 100 American soldiers died in the fiercest fighting of the war, the black insurgent flag now flies over buildings."

Noting that Bush is now busy painting animal skulls, Dowd concludes her opinion piece by observing:

"W. should know: Some landscapes cannot be painted over."

Needless to say, this rewrite of a hoary op-ed, does not begin to consider the landscape currently being painted by the first invertebrate ever to occupy the Oval Office.

But first the ground rules: I vehemently denounced the Vietnam War and voted for George McGovern in 1972. I also deplored the Second Gulf War, given that I was convinced that eliminating Saddam Hussein would destroy the Iraq-Iran equilibrium and bring chaos to the Middle East. More recently, as readers of this blog know, I have consistently opposed American boots on the ground in the quagmire of Afghanistan.

On the other hand, as a child who participated in a sufficient number of playground scuffles, I have also come to believe that if bullies don't believe you are able to stand up for yourself, you are inviting future misery.

Regarding Dowd's op-ed, how can she possibly write about Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War without observing Obama's inane escalation of American involvement in Afghanistan?

And although I would reject any introduction of American ground forces into Syria, I do believe in the enforcement of a no-fly zone to prevent genocide in that country.

As Richard Cohen wrote yesterday in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s failure to act on Syria" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-obamas-failure-to-act-on-syria/2014/02/17/badddd00-981b-11e3-8461-8a24c7bf0653_story.html?hpid=z3):

"Six million people have been displaced. Three million have fled to neighboring countries. Polio has broken out in refugee camps (see a recent account in the New York Review of Books). The world does little to stop the fighting. The United States does next to nothing. Children die for lack of food or medicine. There is more than enough shame here to go around.

. . . .

Washington’s dawdling has become the hallmark of Obama’s foreign policy. He can make all the speeches he wants, but his confusion and indecision is what other leaders notice and what history will remember. Now, so very late, he has asked for options. Here’s one: Do something!"

And as Michael Gerson concluded in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Syria’s refugees despair while the world is indifferent" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-gerson-the-despair-of-syrias-refugees/2014/02/17/43294b50-97fd-11e3-afce-3e7c922ef31e_story.html?hpid=z3), describing the plight of Syrian civilians caught in the middle of the savage civil war:

"These developments should mean something to Mr. Obama, the author of an executive directive (Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities ) declaring the prevention of mass atrocities a 'core national security interest and a core moral responsibility.' At the moment, he stands judged by his own standard."

Obama should be "judged by his own standard"? Which standard is that? Hypocrisy? Cowardice? Procrastination?

More to the point, why doesn't Dowd write about Obama's moral turpitude? Answer: Why should she? It's so much easier reliving the Bush era and rewriting that same censorious op-ed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

David Brooks, "The Prodigal Sons": The Prodigious Sins of The New York Times

A New York Observer article entitled "The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page" (http://observer.com/2014/02/the-tyranny-and-lethargy-of-the-times-editorial-page/#axzz2su9y1r4t) by Ken Kurson, recently caused something of a sensation by highlighting the dichotomy between the excellent newsroom reporting of the Times versus the irrelevance, stupidity and lack of originality of its editorial page. Well, Kurson was right. Compare today's New York Times op-eds with The Washington Post's opinion pieces.

In his latest Times op-ed entitled "The Prodigal Sons" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/opinion/brooks-the-prodigal-sons.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks smugly begins by telling us, "We take as our text today the parable of the prodigal sons." Brooks's conclusion:

"The father’s lesson for us is that if you live in a society that is coming apart on class lines, the best remedies are oblique. They are projects that bring the elder and younger brothers together for some third goal: national service projects, infrastructure-building, strengthening a company or a congregation."

So is Brooks right, left or center, or, as I suggested in an earlier blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/david-brooks-refiners-fire-case-in.html), an alien from the Planet Balderdash who weaseled his way onto the op-ed staff of the Times?

And then we have Frank Bruni, in a Times op-ed entitled "Hillary’s Secrets" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/opinion/bruni-hillarys-secrets.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), bewailing the unmasking of Hillary's narcissism and her Lady MacBeth-like ambition in a Washington Free Beacon article entitled "The Hillary Papers" (http://freebeacon.com/the-hillary-papers/) by Alana Goodman. Bruni writes:

"Blair’s journals are the kind of material from which biographies and histories have long been woven. But it doesn’t always surface so soon, and it is now augmented by the eavesdropping and tattling of cabinet secretaries (see “Duty,” by Robert Gates) and political allies and handlers eager to make themselves look better, even at a benefactor’s expense (see “Game Change” and the robust genre to which it belongs).

Frenzied media feed on this, to a degree that arguably goes beyond our obligation to keep politicians honest, and it’s troubling in two regards. How many decent, gifted people who contemplate public office look at what someone like Hillary endures and step away? And the people who aren’t scared off: How cold and hard are they, or how cold and hard do they become?"

Oh, poor, poor Hillary, who will always be remembered for her declaration regarding the reasons for the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi, "What difference at this point does it make?" We should also never forget Hillary's infamous embrace of Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad on "Face the Nation" in March 2011:

"There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer."

Syria and Assad? Oh, that's right: There is a savage civil war there, in which the Assad regime is attempting to starve its opponents into submission. As we are told today by Michael Gerson, writing from Al Hadalat, Jordan, in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Syria’s refugees despair while the world is indifferent" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-gerson-the-despair-of-syrias-refugees/2014/02/17/43294b50-97fd-11e3-afce-3e7c922ef31e_story.html?hpid=z3):

"President Obama has described this as 'someone else’s civil war' and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dismissed the conflict as 'baddies vs. baddies.' Such characterizations are simply inaccurate. The killing of civilians in Syria is not the unfortunate byproduct of a civil war; it is a main objective of one side in that civil war. Some 40 districts , including about a quarter of a million people, are currently under siege by Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The goal is to surround these targets, lay them waste, kill everyone who poses a possible threat and prevent the return of suspect civilians. Both sides in the conflict commit atrocities. One side commits them on a massive scale as a matter of strategy.

This is what brought me to Jordan on a trip hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has, as part of its mission, the goal of calling attention to modern atrocities and crimes against humanity. Syria has joined an infamous historical list including Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda. And the course of the Syrian conflict is currently demonstrating the utility of mass atrocities and the relative indifference of the rest of the world.

. . . .

These developments should mean something to Mr. Obama, the author of an executive directive (Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities ) declaring the prevention of mass atrocities a 'core national security interest and a core moral responsibility.' At the moment, he stands judged by his own standard."

We also have Richard Cohen, in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s failure to act on Syria" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-obamas-failure-to-act-on-syria/2014/02/17/badddd00-981b-11e3-8461-8a24c7bf0653_story.html?hpid=z3), writing:

"Six million people have been displaced. Three million have fled to neighboring countries. Polio has broken out in refugee camps (see a recent account in the New York Review of Books). The world does little to stop the fighting. The United States does next to nothing. Children die for lack of food or medicine. There is more than enough shame here to go around.

. . . .

Washington’s dawdling has become the hallmark of Obama’s foreign policy. He can make all the speeches he wants, but his confusion and indecision is what other leaders notice and what history will remember. Now, so very late, he has asked for options. Here’s one: Do something!"

So, do you prefer moralizing over the parable of the prodigal sons and Hillary's need for privacy, or, are you willing to be reminded of the moral failings of Obama, Hillary and Kerry (Assad is "my dear friend"), who have refused to combat genocide in Syria?

An inconsequential matter of individual taste? I don't want to think so.

NBC News, "Iran's Ayatollah: Nuclear Talks 'Will Lead Nowhere'": Rouhani, the Executioner of Poets, Is a Moderate?

Okay, it's all over the news that Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei believes that the negotiations between the Islamic Republic and six world powers "will lead nowhere." Yup, after learning that Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad has no intention of turning over his arsenal of chemical weapons for destruction pursuant to the agreement brokered by Putin, Obama is now learning that his deal with Khamenei - which is being hidden from the American public - is not worth the paper on which it is written.

But also shocking is how a naive American press is depicting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a "moderate" or "relative moderate," while informing us of this latest Obama administration debacle. From NBC News (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/irans-ayatollah-nuclear-talks-will-lead-nowhere-n32056) (my emphasis in red):

"The election of moderate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran and his September phone call with President Obama during the United Nations General Assembly buoyed hopes of a new chapter opening between Iran and the West."

Similarly, we are being informed by Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo.com/iran-39-khamenei-says-nuclear-talks-39-lead-093913804.html) (my emphasis in red):

"Rouhani, a relative moderate elected last year on vows to engage the West, revived the nuclear negotiations after years of stalemate under his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and thus far enjoys the support of Khamenei."

Rouhani is a "moderate"? A "relative moderate"? This maniac, with whom Obama held a "historic" conversation in September, just ordered the execution of a poet and a human rights activist for "enmity against God" after they were first subjected to torture (see: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Rouhani-orders-executions-of-Iranian-Arab-poet-rights-activist-340173).

I read this trash from NBC News and Yahoo! News and grow nauseous.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Barons of Broadband": When Will the Federal Trade Commission Emerge From Suspended Animation?

Can you remember the last time Paul Krugman and I agreed about anything? Well, it has finally happened. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Barons of Broadband" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/opinion/krugman-barons-of-broadband.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Krugman complains about the deal by which Comcast will acquire Time Warner. Krugman writes:

"So let me ask two questions about the proposed deal. First, why would we even think about letting it go through? Second, when and why did we stop worrying about monopoly power?

. . . .

In fact, a number of experts — like Susan Crawford of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, whose recent book 'Captive Audience' bears directly on this case — have argued that the power of giant telecommunication companies has stifled innovation, putting the United States increasingly behind other advanced countries.

And there are good reasons to believe that this isn’t a story about just telecommunications, that monopoly power has become a significant drag on the U.S. economy as a whole."

Yes, the absence of competition means that there is no reason to innovate in order to maintain or improve market share. Needless to say, the absence of competition also means that corporations need not trim prices in order to continue selling their product.

But perhaps most important, particularly today, an absence of competition deriving from consolidation means fewer jobs. Inevitably following a merger, there is an attempt to eliminate redundant positions, which often extends beyond administrative work to basic research and development. Back in 2009, I wrote regarding the pharma industry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/search/label/antitrust):

"Does antitrust law still exist? If so, does the U.S. Federal Trade Commission do anything whatsoever to enforce it?

In recent months we have seen a wave of giant mergers and acquisitions in the pharma industry: Pfizer merged with Wyeth, Merck merged with Schering-Plough, Roche merged with Genentech.

Although these mega-mergers might have been wonderful for the financial industry, did they benefit consumers? Will they be conducive to competition, which will result in new lifesaving drugs and diagnostics?

Or, were these mergers corporate palliatives intended to remedy many failed years of R&D by combining dwindling pipelines and cutting costs, without remedying failed R&D?

You know the answers to all of these questions, and let me predict that in a few short years, several once great pharma companies will devolve into little more than pill marketers."

I wish I had been wrong. Prior to Pfizer's merger with Wyeth, in a Time article entitled "Pfizer and Wyeth: A Merger as a Way to Fire People" (http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1873565,00.html), Douglas A. McIntyre correctly observed:

"Pfizer and Wyeth already have development teams working on drugs which may not even be tested for two or three years. Putting the two corporations together is not likely to make the combined operation grow faster. It is not like putting two search engine companies together because having more market share allows the new firm to raise prices as it delivers more customers than any of its competition.

M&A has become a tool for fighting the recession. Putting Fiat with Chrysler together is an excuse for letting tens of thousand of people go. The same would be true with a Pfizer deal to pick up Wyeth.These mergers do more to destroy the overall economy than they do to create new products and services which might help restart demand from customers and haul the economy out of its hole."

In the three years following its merger with Wyeth, Pfizer fired some 26,000 employees (see: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/pfizer-to-cut-benefits-for-fired-workers-as-company-trims-costs.html).

More recently, this past October, Merck, the second largest US drug manufacturer by sales following its 2009 merger with Schering-Plough, announced that it would "fire 8,500 workers and revamp its research and development after seeing new medicines delayed by U.S. regulators" (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-01/merck-top-scientist-plans-major-changes-for-drug-research.html).

Indeed, it is time for the Federal Trade Commission to emerge from suspended animation.

Seth Siegel, "Israeli Water, Mideast Peace?": Is Blood Thicker Than Water?

Israel is experiencing one its driest winters on record. As reported by The Times of Israel (http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-sees-driest-january-on-record/):

"Israel experienced its driest January since records have been kept, with Jerusalem seeing almost no rainfall at all for the entire month.

According to the Israeli Hydrological Service’s Amir Givati, such a parched January is beyond living memory."

This drought would indeed be a disaster for Israel were it not for the massive desalination facilities built in recent years on the shores of the Mediterranean, which will ultimately provide up to 80 percent of Israel's potable water (see: http://www.jta.org/2013/05/28/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/water-surplus-in-israel-with-desalination-once-unthinkable-is-possible).

Syria, however, was not so lucky. Many believe that its current catastrophic civil war was sparked by a prolonged drought that wrecked havoc with its agriculture. As reported by U.S News & World Report in an article entitled "How Climate Change Sparked the Crisis in Syria" (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2013/09/13/syrias-crisis-was-sparked-by-global-warming-and-drought) by Michael Shank and Emily Wirzba:

"What few people in Washington are talking about when it comes to the Syria crisis is the connection to climate change. While it may seem remote and implausible to Washington realists, the connection is clear. What is most disconcerting, however – vis-à-vis Damascus – is that America could have helped prevent Syria's violent revolution from escalating if we, alongside the international community, had done a better job helping out with one simple, but increasingly unattainable, resource: water.

Here's what happened: Prior to Syria's civil war, the country experienced a devastating drought impacting more than 1.3 million people, killing up to 85 percent of livestock in some regions and forcing 160 villages to be abandoned due to crop failures. Estimates that Syria's water scarcity problem would cause major social and economic instability, furthermore, emerged very early, just as President Barack Obama was taking office."

Readers of this blog know that I have long believed that Israeli desalination technologies could hold the key to Middle East peace. Back in 2011, I wrote (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2011/06/thomas-friedman-earth-is-full-tom-is.html):

"Indeed, Yemen could run out of potable water within a decade unless it purchases several Israeli desalination plants, which will prevent this from happening. Yes, I know -- Yemen will have a problem buying anything from Israel, but at least in my view, Middle East cooperation in managing water resources might hold the key to peace between Arabs and Israelis."

Again, in 2012, I wrote (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/04/thomas-friedman-other-arab-spring.html):

"Well, unbeknownst to [Thomas] Friedman, Israel, which borders Syria, has also been experiencing a multi-year drought, but has been building massive desalination plants in order to compensate for the shortfall in rain. It doesn't take much insight regarding what needs to be done by Syria and other Arab states, but are they capable of swallowing their pride and buying this technology from Israel?"

Well, today, in a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "Israeli Water, Mideast Peace?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/opinion/israeli-water-mideast-peace.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Seth Siegel, "a founder of Beanstalk, a brand-licensing agency, and of Sixpoint Partners, an investment bank," tells us:

"Israel’s self-sufficiency in water goes beyond irrigation, drilling, desalination and reclaimed water. It is also dependent on a sophisticated legal and regulatory structure, market mechanisms, robust public education, an obsession with fixing leaks and efforts to catch rainwater and reduce evaporation, among many other tools. Natural plant-breeding methods have raised crop yields with salty, high-mineral brackish water of the kind found, but mostly thought of as worthless, all over the Middle East. Israel has transformed water from a struggle with nature to an economic input: You can get all you want if you plan and pay for it.

No one should wish for a water crisis anywhere. But as water problems grow, one hopes that ideology will give way to pragmatism and may open a door to an Arab and Islamic outreach to Israel. A partnership that starts with engineers and extends to farmers could contribute to deal making, even reconciliation, among leaders. Rather than seeing Israel as a problem, Israel’s antagonists would be wise to see it as a solution."

Obviously, Mr. Siegel and I share the same view. However, as I noted in my 2011 and 2012 blogs, the purchase of Israeli desalination plants by Arab countries could be difficult for them to swallow. Consider how, following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, after Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria, most African countries broke diplomatic ties with Israel, notwithstanding many years of agricultural assistance received from Israel under the auspices of Golda Meir (see: http://www.jpost.com/Features/A-jilted-love-affair-in-Africa).

Indeed, hatred of Jews and Israel runs deep throughout the world. Swallow their pride and buy a desalination plant from Israel, or, allow their citizens to die of thirst? Many countries in the Muslim Middle East would choose the latter.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Start-Up America: Our Best Hope": Yes, Friedman Is a Joke

Obama reads Thomas Friedman? God bless the president! He has more patience for Friedman's buffoonery than I will ever muster.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Start-Up America: Our Best Hope" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/friedman-start-up-america-our-best-hope.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), the mustachioed boy wonder begins:

"THE most striking thing about visiting Silicon Valley these days is how many creative ideas you can hear in just 48 hours.

Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn, explains how his company aims to build an economic graph that will link together the whole global work force with every job being offered in the world, full-time and temporary, for-profit and volunteer, the skills needed for each job, and a presence for every higher education institution everywhere offering a way to acquire those skills."

This is particularly enthralling news for those of you interested in relocating to Timor-Leste. (Now you know why you can't find me on LinkedIn.)

Friedman's conclusion (I admit it - I couldn't bring myself to read the middle):

"We cannot and should not abolish politics, but sometimes we can’t afford politics as usual. And this time, with rising inequality, is one of them."

Ah yes, "rising inequality." We definitely need to put an end to that! And what better way to put an end to this pestilence than by allowing me, together with Arnold, my 160-pound Anatolian shepherd (sorry, much akin to "Walter," he suffers from flatulence), to move into Tom's Maryland mansion.

As you might well imagine, Arnold can't wait to make use of the pool.


Maureen Dowd, "Marry First, Then Cheat": Pardon My French

Morticia Frump Addams: Voilá! I have it.
Gomez Addams: Tish, that's French.
Morticia Frump Addams: Darling, please, let me tell you my idea.
Gomez Addams: [leering] Let me tell ya mine.


- "The Addams Family" (TV series), 1964-1966

Unlike Gomez Addams, I am not titillated by spoken French. Nor could I give a damn about French Prime Minister Hollande's escapades involving Valérie Trierweiler and Julie Gayet.

Maureen Dowd, on the other hand, could not possibly pass on this comédie larmoyante. In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Marry First, Then Cheat" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/dowd-marry-first-then-cheat.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Dowd observes how, to the chagrin of many observers of protocol in France, "Stephen Colbert, who had filleted Hollande’s shenanigans on his show, was seated to the right of Michelle Obama at the state dinner, in the magic circle with the president where Trierweiler would have been." Une telle tragédie!

Well, I'm hoping that this will not cause the same ill will occasioned by Obama's return of a bust of Churchill to the British embassy.

Dowd's conclusion:

"The French have spent centuries making fun of us for our puritanism, and now they feel the unbearable sting of our mockery, as our press and comedians chortle at a mediocre pol caught up in a melodrama with all the erotic charge of week-old Camembert. (Maybe that’s why the French got so swept up in the ridiculous but glamorous rumor about Obama and Beyoncé.)

All those French expressions we siphon because English isn’t nuanced enough — finesse, etiquette, savoir-faire, rendezvous, je ne sais quoi, comme il faut — Hollande flouted.

In the minds of many here, the French president is a loser because he’s so unrefined he might as well be American."

Hollande is unrefined? I'm shocked. But as long as we're on the topic of Hollande's White House fête (from Old French "feste"), perhaps you might be interested in learning of the menu, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal (http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/02/11/white-house-state-dinner-the-menu/):

First course

American Osetra caviar
Fingerling potato velouté, quail eggs, crisped chive potatoes


Second course

“The Winter Garden Salad”
Petite mixed radish, baby carrots, merlot lettuce
Red wine vinaigrette


Main course

Dry-aged rib eye beef
Jasper Hill Farm blue cheese, charred shallots, oyster
Mushrooms, braised chard


Dessert

Hawaiian chocolate-malted ganache
Vanilla ice cream and tangerines


Wines

Morlet “La Proportion Doree” 2011 Napa Valley, California
Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2009 Columbia Valley, Washington
Thibaut-Janisson “Blanc de Chardonnay” Monticello, Virginia

You might want to compare this cuisine, particularly the Hawaiian ganache, with the grass, roots and leaves currently being eaten in Homs by starving civilians caught in the middle of the Syrian civil war. But don't let it weigh on your conscience: After many years of procrastination, President Obama has finally gotten around to asking "aides to develop new policy options to deal with the deteriorating situation in Syria" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/world/middleeast/kerry-says-obama-wants-new-options-for-syria-strife.html?hp&_r=1).


Friday, February 14, 2014

Obamacare: Eugene Robinson ("The GOP’s Health Crisis") Vs. Kathleen Parker ("The Poetry of Bad News Around Obamacare")

Are you looking for an example of egregious liberal wishful thinking at The Washington Post? You need go no further than Eugene Washington's latest WaPo opinion piece entitled "The GOP’s health crisis" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-the-gops-health-crisis/2014/02/13/09c6a2c4-94f9-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html), where we are told that a WaPo news report entitled "Health insurance enrollment on target in January" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/health-insurance-enrollment-on-target-in-january/2014/02/12/8162eb3e-9400-11e3-b46a-5a3d0d2130da_story.html) by Amy Goldstein supports the premise:

"The Republican Party’s worst nightmare is coming true. Obamacare is working."

Hold your horses, Eugene! Did you actually take the time to read Ms. Goldstein's article, which informs us:

"In issuing the latest report, the government’s top health official and several aides said they did not yet have data to answer two critical questions: Of the people who have signed up, how many have paid their first premium so that they actually have coverage? And how many of them previously lacked insurance, as opposed to having simply switched insurance plans?

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the numbers 'very, very encouraging news,' and she said, 'We are seeing a healthy growth in enrollment.'

Sebelius and the report focused attention on a slight increase in the proportion of young adults signing up for coverage — a part of the population whose participation is widely considered essential to keeping the marketplaces working well, because they tend to be healthy and, thus, inexpensive to insure.

Of the people who selected a health plan last month, 27 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34 — the group considered young adults — compared with 24 percent for the previous three months combined. Both figures are substantially less than 40 percent, the level that research has suggested is desirable to help health plans sold through the exchanges keep their prices stable.

Although January was the first month that enrollment exceeded federal predictions, the number of people who signed up was lower than in December."

Goldstein's article is the basis for Robinson's cheer? Surely, he must have been thinking of some other article.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Parker is also weighing in on Obamacare this weekend. In a WaPo opinion piece entitled "The poetry of bad news around Obamacare" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-the-poetry-of-bad-news-around-obamacare/2014/02/14/15aa9b3c-95c5-11e3-8461-8a24c7bf0653_story.html?hpid=z4), Parker cogently concludes:

"In the meantime, what the economy needs least is a federal program that prompts lower- and middle-class workers to drop out of the workforce. This is in addition to the many who are losing their jobs involuntarily or having their hours cut by their employers who want to avoid the mandate to buy insurance or the fine for failing to do so.

Again, this is a simple matter of incentives and survival, which President Obama seems to have recognized in postponing the mandate for midsize businesses until 2016. Or perhaps he is trying to head off another health-care controversy before the midterm elections? Shucks, do you suppose?

Add to the above the CBO’s report in May that 31 million people will not have health insurance in 2023.

Any one of these things would be bad news. Combined, they boggle the well-ordered mind. If I may invoke our Fairy Godmother again, Pelosi was the most honest of all when she warned us that 'We have to pass the bill [Obamacare] so that you can find out what is in it.'

Today, knowing what we know, we are left with what we used to call a million-dollar question, though it is much more expensive now: How does one defend spending $1.2  trillion for a health-care overhaul that disincentivizes people to work and that leaves us with 31 million uninsured?

One writes poetry."

So, do you believe Robinson or Parker? I know on whom I'm placing my bet.