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Monday, March 31, 2014

David Brooks, "The Employer’s Creed": Looking for Trouble? Consider My Résumé!

Are you seeking employees? David Brooks has some advice for you.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Employer’s Creed" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/brooks-the-employers-creed.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Brooks offers a list of suggestions, which "may correct some of the perversities at the upper reaches of our meritocracy." Brooks suggests:


  • "Bias hiring decisions against perfectionists."
  • "Bias hiring decisions toward dualists."
  • "Bias toward truth-tellers."
  • "Don’t mindlessly favor people with high G.P.A.s."
  • "Reward the ripening virtues, not the blooming virtues."
  • "Reward those who have come by way of sorrow."
  • "Reward cover letter rebels."

Brooks's conclusion:

"You could argue that you don’t actually want rich, full personalities for your company. You just want achievement drones who can perform specific tasks. I doubt that’s in your company’s long-term interests. Plus, think of the effect you’re having on the moral ecology, the kind of souls you are rewarding and thus fashioning, the legacy you will leave behind."

Heck, if you had followed David's advice, you might even have ended up hiring me, but it probably would have been against your best interests and have proven a big mistake.

Perfectionist? Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in my GPA and searched for quiet niches in the basement of my law school library where I could get some undisturbed sleep.

Dualist? I left my job at a Wall Street law firm in order to volunteer for the army.

Truth teller? For a certain government job, I needed to undergo polygraph exams and afterwards didn't hesitate to investigate what, for many in that institution, was a sacred cow, i.e. potentially their next place of employment.

My G.P.A.? Something like an airplane in a tailspin. Back then, I had come to the conclusion that if you can't practice, you teach, and in some instances, I had grown openly contemptuous.

Reward the ripening virtues? Sure, I have an excellent "sense for how events will flow," but do you really want to know?

Come the way of sorrow? Care to learn about my PTSD? I don't think so.

Reward cover letter rebels? Today, I can't even bother to try to sell myself.

Trust me, you should not have hired me.

True, a certain financial institution suddenly woke up to the fact, after I quit, that I had saved them millions of dollars in annual costs. However, they had also come to believe that I had blown the whistle on certain of their dubious activities and had come to realize that I was not a "fit" for the highest positions in management.

As I near self-imposed retirement from the world of business, I can honestly tell you that employees who have "followed the cookie-cutter formula for what it means to be successful" also have their advantages. Such people are predictable, and from the standpoint of most employers, there is much to be said for that.

"The Last Resort" by Richard Grossman

I know that most readers of this blog come here for commentary concerning foreign affairs and economics, but perhaps you also have time to read a 10-minute play. Have you ever read or seen a 10-minute play? Humor me, and have a look at Richard Grossman's work (of course, no familial relation between the two of us). I won't spoil the ending, but the message is relevant to all of us. Enjoy!


THE LAST RESORT

by Richard Grossman
___________________________

A Ten Minute Play in One Act


Cast of Characters


Robert: a man in his 30’s and “Host” of The Last Resort

Marla: Middle aged wife of Ken dressed in tropical vacation clothes

Ken: Middle aged husband of Marla dressed in tropical vacation clothes

Dr. Zeus (Felix Krakelbanger): 65-year-old founder of The Last Resort dressed in ancient Greek garb with a plastic sword attached to his belt

Resort Staffer: Man in his 20’s in ancient Greek garb

“Policeman”: Man in his 30’s in a crude police uniform

SETTING: Outdoors in a tropical patio garden

AT RISE: Robert stands in the patio garden, and Marla and Ken enter


ROBERT
Welcome to the Last Resort! As you know, this is the vacation destination for people who have tried every way possible to have a satisfying, loving relationship and failed. I presume the two of you fit that description.

KEN
(grumbling)
Of course we do. Why the hell else would we have agreed to fly for 17 hours to the middle of nowhere.

MARLA
Please stop being so negative.

KEN
Why is that negative? I’m just telling the truth. Weren’t we on 3 planes for 17 hours?

MARLA
You see, this is what I’ve had to put up with for 22 years. I look around…we’re on the southern tip of Greece, one of the most beautiful places on earth. And we’re here because we’re going to save our marriage. What could possibly be better!

KEN
You really believe that? That this place is going to save our marriage? The problem is you believe everything you hear: this will help, this will help, that will help…and guess what: nothing helps. It’s all been a load of bull.

MARLA
It’s not bull. It’s just that…what did the shaman say at the last place we went? You just won’t let any of it in.

KEN
I don’t let it in because it’s all bull!
(to Robert)
You see, I’m like a bloodhound. I’m an expert at sniffing out the truth. And once I’m on the trail…but still, being the good husband that I am, I go, I try.
(to Marla)
And I’ll give this “healing vacation” a chance too if Mr. Host—Mr. Guide—or whatever he calls himself stops with the Madison Avenue sales pitch and gets on with it. The Last Resort! You’re right. It will be our last resort because this place is so expensive it’s sucked away every last bit of our savings. And what the hell is “a healing vacation” anyway?

ROBERT
(holds up hands)
Don’t worry. Everything will be explained in good time. But please, first I have just a few questions. Now I assume you’ve tried every other treatment method available: couples counseling, individual therapy, tapping, connecting with the dead
(points up and down)
rebirthing, re-discovering past lives?

MARLA
All of them.

ROBERT
How about Sky Falls?

MARLA
That’s when you jump together from a plane holding hands, right?

ROBERT
Yes. That’s it.

KEN
And you don’t let go of your spouse’s hand and pull the rip cords until the last possible moment? What a bunch of bull. After the third jump, the instructor was lucky I pulled my ripcord at all!

MARLA
Actually, they told you the reason it didn’t work was because each time, you let go of my hand too soon.

KEN
And you believed that. If only I held onto your hand longer, everything would have been wonderful! You see, more bull!

ROBERT
Have you tried finger wiggling?

MARLA
(excited)
Finger wiggling? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it. Is there a web site I can go to?

KEN
Oh please, Mr. Host! Don’t get her started on more crap. I’ve wiggled a finger plenty of times in my life.
(Ken holds middle finger up and waves it around)

ROBERT
No, not like that. Like this.
(Robert holds hands out in front of him and wiggles his fingers)

KEN
(sarcastically)
And that helps.

ROBERT
When you do it with your partner, the energy goes back and forth and you feel connected in a new way. Let’s all try it!
(all three hold their hands out in front of them and wiggle their fingers towards each other)

MARLA
(excited)
Woo!

ROBERT
See!

KEN
(moves his hands so they are facing each other and flutters his fingers)

Wooooo!
(sarcastically)
It feels even better this way. Who needs a partner?

ROBERT
(puts hands down)
It probably wouldn’t work with the two of you anyway.

MARLA
Why not?

ROBERT
The two of you make for a difficult case.

KEN
OK, then why don’t the two of us just hop on a plane and fly the 17 hours home and call it a day. You’ll send us a refund, right?

ROBERT
Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound discouraging! Actually, you’re in exactly the right place. We’re not called The Last Resort for nothing. In fact, this is probably the only place in the world that can help you.
(reaches for walkie-talkie and speaks into it)
We have another tough one.
(listens)
OK.
(to Marla and Ken)
I’ve been asked to inform you that you’re going to receive our elite treatment. It’s the treatment reserved for our toughest cases. In fact we call it the “last resort of The Last Resort.” And the only person qualified to do this treatment is the founder of The Last Resort himself.

MARLA
(excitedly) Dr. Krakelbanger? You mean we’re actually going to meet Dr. Felix Krakelbanger?!!!

ROBERT
Exactly, but I strongly suggest you call him Dr. Zeus.

(Dr. Zeus enters, dressed like Greek god with sword in sheath at his side. Robert bows and motions to couple to bow. Marla bows, Ken does nothing)

KEN
(laughs loudly)
Oh, for Christ’s sake!
(to Marla)
Why didn’t you tell me we were going to a costume party?

DR. ZEUS
Silence!
(Pulls out sword and holds it in a threatening position)

KEN
(rolls eyes)
Yes, but weren’t you the one who wrote One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat?

DR. ZEUS
(Puts sword up to him)
Not Dr. Seuss! Dr. Zeus!
KEN
Whatever.
(Ken wiggles fingers towards Dr. Zeus. Dr. Zeus holds up sword as if he’s going to cut Ken’s fingers off)

DR. ZEUS
You think I’m a fool, don’t you—that I don’t know what I’m doing. But the fact is I know exactly how to treat people like you.

KEN
Really?

DR. ZEUS
The world has two kinds of people. There are people who, in order to survive the hardships of life, comfort themselves with fantasy and dreams. And there are people who can only see what’s real and quickly become bored and miserable. It is clear that you are one of the latter.

KEN
(pointing to Dr. Zeus’s garb)
And it’s clear that you are one of the former. So, “the last resort of The Last Resort” amounts to an epic battle between fantasy and reality.

DR. ZEUS
Exactly! Tie him up!

(Staffer rushes on stage and with Robert’s help tie Ken up)

KEN
Wait a second, these are real ropes!

(DR. ZEUS)
(to the Staffers)
Of course they are! Put him in the rowboat by himself. He gets the full treatment.

KEN
What? What rowboat? I thought this was supposed to be some kind of fantasy game.

DR. ZEUS
Hardly! The only cure for someone stuck in reality is more reality—infinitely more reality, so much reality that the only thing left for the mind to cling to is fantasy and dreams. This is what Odysseus discovered on his long voyage home to Penelope.

RESORT STAFFER
How far should we tow him out before we cut the line?

DR. ZEUS
(authoritatively)
300 miles.

KEN
(in disbelief)
300 miles?

RESORT STAFFER
We’ve never taken anyone that far before.

DR. ZEUS
Make sure he has enough provisions in the rowboat. And throw in a sextant, a map with instructions, and the usual copy of The Odyssey.

(The staffer and Robert start dragging Ken offstage)

KEN
Wait a second. You’re not playing fair! That’s real water out there, and I don’t know how to swim…
(staffer and Robert drag Ken offstage)

MARLA
(concerned)
But what will happen to him? He’s not going to die out there, is he?

DR. ZEUS
He’ll find his way back. They always do. And I promise, he’ll be a changed man. He will be faced with so much reality and suffering, he will finally accept dreams and fantasy. And the two of you will be able to live happily in the same world.


(everyone onstage freezes. Staffer walks across stage with a sign saying “One Month Later”)

(Robert comes on stage and announces:)

ROBERT
He’s back!

(Ken comes crawling on stage wearing shredded clothing, clutching The Odyssey. Marla rushes over)

MARLA
Are you OK?!!!

KEN
OK? I’m better than OK! Oh my God! What a tale I have to tell!
(climbs to his feet and motions audience to sit. All sit except for Dr. Zeus. Ken begins to orate grandly)
At first, the same every day. The sea, the sky, the swell, the clouds. Every day, pulling with my oars for hours and hours. And then…

DR. ZEUS
(equally grandly interrupts)
and then dreams and fantasy began to emerge. Because when reality is so stark, dreams and fantasies are essential. Their presence allows us to live!

KEN
Exactly, Dr. Seuss!

DR. ZEUS
Dr. Zeus!

KEN
(ignores correction)
Yes, dreams and fantasy became real! In fact, after a week I was certain I was Odysseus himself!

DR. ZEUS
(solemnly)
It happens every time.

KEN
(still grandly)
I rowed the boat between Scylla, the 6-headed Golden Retriever and Charybdis, the colossal whirlpool bath. Then I tied myself to the boat and listened to the Sirens sing.
You’ll never guess what they sang: Mahler! They didn’t lure me at all. I hate Mahler.
And what did I see just before arriving back? The Cyclops! That vicious one-eyed giant! But I wasn’t scared, not after what I learned at The Last Resort! I wiggled my fingers at him—and you know what? He wiggled his fingers right back! We both felt mahvelous!

MARLA
(excitedly, to Dr. Zeus)
Oh, my God! He’s a changed man!

DR. ZEUS
(grumpily)
I’m not sure.

KEN
And the best thing: I couldn’t wait to get back to you, dear!
(whispers to Marla)
I’m so horney, honey, I want to have sex with you 3 times a day!
(wiggles fingers toward Marla. Marla holds her hands to her face in dismay)
And you know what I think, Dr. Seuss?

DR. ZEUS
Dr. …
(gives up in disgust)

KEN
You’re going to win the Nobel Prize for literature!

DR. ZEUS
(angrily)
Medicine!

MARLA
(whispers to Dr. Zeus)
Dr. Zeus, is it possible you over-prescribed?

KEN
(to Marla)
Over prescribed? No!!! You said this place would work…I didn’t believe you. But you were right, dear! Do you hear me? “You were right, dear.” How many times have I ever said that? Consider me cured!

DR. ZEUS
Cured? You’re not cured! You continue to belittle dreams and fantasy!
(holds sword up to Ken)
Tie him up and send him out again! He needs another dose of mega-reality!

(Staffer and Robert move towards Ken)

KEN
Stop!
(to policeman offstage)
Arrest that man!
(“policeman” rushes onstage and handcuffs Dr. Zeus)

DR. ZEUS
For what?

KEN

Blatant misuse of fantasy.

DR. ZEUS
Blatant misuse of fantasy? There’s no such crime!

KEN
Yes there is. I imagined it in the rowboat.
(takes Dr. Zeus’s sword and snaps it in half over knee)

DR. ZEUS
And this is no law officer!

KEN
OK, maybe not. A longshoreman I promised a hundred bucks to? Who cares! Take him away!
(“policeman” pulls Dr. Zeus offstage. Ken addresses Marla)
Darling, thank you so much for suggesting The Last Resort! You were right: There’s no place like it on earth!
(gives Marla a hug and kiss)
I can’t tell you how much better I feel!

MARLA
But what’s going to happen to Dr. Zeus?

KEN
He’s going to be towed out to the ocean in the same rowboat with a copy of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. By the time he gets back, I bet he’ll see reality in a whole different light.

THE END

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Jobs and Skills and Zombies": Kill This Zombie?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Jobs and Skills and Zombies" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/opinion/krugman-jobs-and-skills-and-zombies.html?_r=0), Paul Krugman engages in a full frontal assault against those who link unemployment with insufficient labor skills. Krugman informs us that "multiple careful studies have found no support for claims that inadequate worker skills explain high unemployment." He goes on to say:

"The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.

. . . .

The point is that influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story — or, better yet, writing about skill gaps in media outlets like Politico — is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity. And the zombie shambles on.

Unfortunately, the skills myth — like the myth of a looming debt crisis — is having dire effects on real-world policy. Instead of focusing on the way disastrously wrongheaded fiscal policy and inadequate action by the Federal Reserve have crippled the economy and demanding action, important people piously wring their hands about the failings of American workers.

Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much."

Or stated more simply, the economy sucks, the Federal Reserve has pursued pigheaded fiscal policy, and mean-spirited corporate ogres are cashing in on this old wives' tale.

Well, I agree with Krugman that a "skills gap" is not responsible for American unemployment. I know too many middle-aged computer wizards who lost their jobs and couldn't get back on their feet.

But blame it on the Fed? Might it be possible that we have entered an era where computerized automation and efficiency are permanently reducing the need for laborers? Is this the beginning of a Brave New World in which the very talented few can do the jobs of the middling and mediocre masses?

Blame Politico for the skills myth? Peculiar how Krugman doesn't also point an accusing finger at fellow New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (see, for example, "If You’ve Got the Skills, She’s Got the Job" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/opinion/sunday/Friedman-You-Got-the-Skills.html)).

"[W]orkers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007"? Hey, Paul, that pretty much corresponds with the years of the Obama presidency, but of course, we also can't point an accusing finger at the first invertebrate to occupy the Oval Office. You see, Bush is still to blame.

Krugman's conclusion:

"So we need to kill this zombie, if we can, and stop making excuses for an economy that punishes workers."

Kill the zombie? Sorry, but I prefer not to use the word "kill," which has a habit of spawning violence. Reinstate the Uptick Rule and Glass-Steagall? Yes. Repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is proving anything but affordable? Yes. Resort to talk about killing? No.

Jackson Diehl, "John Kerry’s departure from reality": The Blind Leading the Blind or a Narcissist Leading the Narcissist-in-Chief?

Hear me now oh thou bleak and unbearable world
Thou art base and debauched as can be
And a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled
Now hurls down his gauntlet to thee!

I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha
Destroyer of Evil am I,
I will march to the sound of the trumpets of glory
Forever to conquer or die


- "Man Of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)"


Earlier this month, The Washington Post published an editorial entitled "President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-obamas-foreign-policy-is-based-on-fantasy/2014/03/02/c7854436-a238-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html). Today, Jackson Diehl, WaPo's Deputy Editorial Page Editor, has written an opinion piece entitled "John Kerry’s departure from reality" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-john-kerrys-departure-from-reality/2014/03/30/63bc85a8-b5c6-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html?hpid=z3). Diehl bluntly informs us:

"During a tour of the Middle East in November, Secretary of State John F. Kerry portrayed the region as on its way to a stunning series of breakthroughs, thanks to U.S. diplomacy. In Egypt, he said, 'the roadmap' to democracy 'is being carried out, to the best of our perception.' In Syria, a peace conference would soon replace the Assad regime with a transitional government, because 'the Russians and the Iranians . . . will make certain that the Syrian regime will live up to its obligation.'

Last but hardly least, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was on its way to a final settlement — by April. 'This is not mission impossible,' insisted the secretary of state. 'This can happen.'

. . . .

Four months have passed, and, sadly for Kerry and U.S. interests, the verdict is in: delusional. Egypt is under the thumb of an authoritarian general. The Syrian peace talks imploded soon after they began. Kerry is now frantically trying to prevent the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which are hanging by a thread — and all sides agree there will be no deal in April."

"Delusional"? I would argue "egotistical." Kerry was going to show us all how it's all done, but the world refused to mold itself to his narcissism. Remind you of someone?

And so, we have the blind leading the blind, or perhaps a narcissist leading the Narcissist-in-Chief.

Now we need only wait for Obama's "negotiations" with Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei to unravel.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle": Who Paid for Friedman's Joy Ride?

Thomas Friedman, who one month ago informed us that the Cold War is over and that the United States won (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/opinion/friedman-dont-just-do-something-sit-there.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), now tells us in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/opinion/sunday/friedman-parallel-parking-in-the-arctic-circle.html?_r=0) about his one night joy ride aboard the U.S.S. New Mexico beneath the Arctic Circle. Friedman writes:

"I had spent the night on the sub as part of a group accompanying Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, who was observing the Navy’s submarine arctic warfare exercise.

We had flown into the Arctic by small plane and landed on a snow airstrip at the Navy’s ice research station Nautilus, 150 miles north of the North Slope of Alaska. When we got there, the New Mexico, which had been patrolling the waters below, had already found an opening of thin ice and slushy water. The sub used its conning tower, or sail, to smash through to the surface, then 'parallel park,' as one officer put it, between two floating islands of thick ice, and pick us up."

At a time when the Obama administration is reducing the US army to pre-World War II size, how in blazes is Friedman being taken on a submarine tour? How much did this cost? Who paid his bill?

Friedman continues:

"Russia has already made extensive claims to the Arctic, based on the reach of its continental shelf, beyond the usual 12 miles from its coastline; these are in dispute. To prepare for whatever unfolds here, though, the U.S. Navy keeps honing its Arctic submarine skills, including, on our trip, test-firing a virtual torpedo at a virtual enemy sub, studying how differences in water temperatures and the mix of freshwater from melted ice and saltwater affect undersea weapons and the sounds a sub makes (vital for knowing how to hide), as well as mapping the Arctic’s seabed topography.

. . . .

'We can hear shrimp crackling 200 feet under water,' explained Lt. Cmdr. Craig Litty. They can also hear someone drop a wrench in the engine room of a Russian sub several miles away."

Russian claims to the Arctic? Russian subs? Didn't Obama also claim that the Cold War was over, while offering "flexibility" in his second term to Putin?  More recently, didn't Obama tell the entire world that Russia is a mere "regional power"?

Could this op-ed have anything to do with Obama's recent humiliation by Putin, resulting from Russia's annexation of Crimea? Is Friedman's op-ed intended to convince New York Times readers that Obama is not a cream puff?

More to the point, how do I sign up for a one night joy ride aboard the U.S.S. New Mexico, in order to listen to the shrimp crackling?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fareed Zakaria, "Obama’s 21st-century power politics": A Feckless Defense of Obama's Fatuous Foreign Policy

Plagiarist (see: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/08/fareed-zakaria-plagiarism-time-new-yorker.html), liar (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/04/fred-hiatt-editorial-page-editor-of.html) and Obama cheerleader Fareed Zakaria is back with a new Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s 21st-century power politics" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-obama-pursues-the-right-response-to-russias-19th-century-behavior/2014/03/27/a7b8dc2a-b5df-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html?hpid=z2), which seeks to counter stinging criticism of the president's foreign policy published by the Wall Street Journal (Obama believes in "a fantasy world of international rules") and the editorial board of his own newspaper (Obama misunderstands "the nature of the century we’re living in"). Zakaria concludes:

"The Bush administration largely pressured [Iran] bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule, it. Yes, some places stand in opposition to this trend — North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they are charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world."

Whoa! In fact, the Obama administration has diligently opposed efforts by Congress to enhance sanctions against Iran (see: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/12/01/menendez-iran-sanctions-obama-opposition/) and more recently dismantled much of the sanctions regimen in exchange for a "framework agreement" providing for idle chatter involving Iran's nuclear weapons development program.

The leaders of North Korea, Syria and Russia are the ones living in a "fantasy world"? In keeping with Zakaria's rationale, I suppose Hitler also lived in a fantasy world; however, that did not make him any less dangerous. Can you imagine the consequences if, following Hitler's invasion of Poland, the allies had simply dismissed his conquest as the product of irrational antiquated thinking?

Zakaria declares that "Putin’s behavior, in fact, does belong to the 19th century," as propounded by John Kerry, but regardless of the century to which it "belongs," does this mean that aggression no longer needs to be countered?

I can only hope that Obama is appreciative of this mindless effort to massage his ego.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gail Collins, "The Season of the Twitch": Remembering the Murder of Theo van Gogh

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 End," The Doors, 1966


Depressed? Me? No way!

America's midterm elections this year will fall very near the 10-year anniversary of the death of the Dutch film producer, columnist, author and actor Theo van Gogh, who was murdered while riding his bicycle to work in Amsterdam on November 2, 2004. At the time, The Guardian's Andrew Anthony provided a harrowing account of the homicide in an article entitled "Amsterdamned" (http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2004/dec/05/features.magazine77):

"At around 8.45am, van Gogh rode by and was knocked from his saddle by a volley of shots fired from a 9mm handgun. He struggled to the other side of the road, where he collapsed in front of a shop selling washing machines. Terrified onlookers ducked behind cars or fled down side streets as the young man crossed the thoroughfare to where van Gogh lay, and opened fire again. Eight bullets were later found in his body.

Bleeding heavily, the 47-year-old father of a 14-year-old boy had pleaded with the gunman: 'Don't do it! Don't do it! Mercy! Mercy!' A woman with a young child also screamed out to the assailant, begging him to stop. He listened to neither appeal, but instead produced a long sharpened knife and proceeded to slit van Gogh's throat so deeply that his head was almost severed. One witness described the young man as behaving with the methodical detachment of 'a butcher'. His final act was to affix a five-page letter to the corpse by plunging another knife into van Gogh's chest. It was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch MP from Somalia who had collaborated with van Gogh on Submission, a film that suggested that the Koran sanctioned domestic violence."

Following van Gogh's death, a liberal Amsterdam was never quite the same.

Today, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Season of the Twitch" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/opinion/collins-the-season-of-the-twitch.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Gail Collins glibly informs her readership:

"Some of you appear to be very, very worried about which party is going to win control of the Senate in November. Really, you should stop for a while. Take a break. No fretting about undecided voters until there’s at least a minimal chance that the undecided voters know who’s running.

Right now, we’re in the season where center stage goes to whoever screws up the most. Relax and enjoy."

By now, you're probably asking what the murder of Theo van Gogh has to do with America's midterm elections. Well, five years into his presidency, Obama watches as an unforgiving world refuses to adapt itself to his rosy misguided expectations of the way it should be. The Affordable Care Act is a bust, the economy is a shambles, the reset of America's relationship with Russia is a sham, and Obama's pursuit of a dialogue with Khamenei's barbaric regime in Iran has led nowhere.

The dream has evolved into a nightmare, and it doesn't matter which party has control of the Senate. Obama will finish his presidency leaving the United States divided and paralyzed.

Sure, Obama's intentions were good, but Washington will never quite be the same.

"Relax and enjoy"? Were it only possible . . .


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Putin and the Laws of Gravity": Or, Russia is a Regional Power Acting Out of Weakness II

Yesterday, at a summit on nuclear security in the Hague, Obama declared, in response to a question by ABC's Jonathan Karl, that Russia is a "regional power" acting "out of weakness" (see: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/03/obama-says-russia-is-regional-power-not-americas-top-geopolitical-foe/). Asked by Karl if he has changed his mind and now agrees with Romney’s contention that Russia is America’s top geopolitical foe, Obama replied:

"Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan."

Query: Just who in the world is capable of destroying Manhattan with a nuclear weapon? Somehow, Obama saw fit to ignore the recent assertion of a Russian news commentator that "Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash" (see: http://news.yahoo.com/state-tv-says-russia-could-turn-us-radioactive-212003397.html).

Well, if it gives Obama any comfort, Russia might soon not be the only entity capable of hitting Manhattan with a nuclear weapon. Given Obama's dependence upon Putin's wavering support of purported negotiations to dismantle Khamenei's nuclear weapons development problem, Iran could also soon possess the capability to hit Times Square with an atomic bomb delivered by a ballistic missile.

Yes, I know: Iran is also just a "regional power."

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Putin and the Laws of Gravity" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/opinion/friedman-putin-and-the-laws-of-gravity.html?_r=0), Obama apologist Thomas Friedman, whose neck is succumbing to the laws of gravity, parrots the president and would also have us believe that Russia is acting out of weakness. Friedman writes:

"The morning after a big event is when fools rush in and declare that someone’s victory or defeat in a single battle has 'changed everything forever.' The morning after the morning after, the laws of gravity start to apply themselves; things often don’t look as good or as bad as you thought. And that brings me to Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

The morning after, he was the hero of Russia. Some moronic commentators here even expressed the wish that we had such a 'decisive' leader. Well, let’s see what Putin looks like the morning after the morning after, say, in six months. I make no predictions, but I will point out this. Putin is challenging three of the most powerful forces on the planet all at once: human nature, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law. Good luck with that."

In a nutshell, Friedman explains that "70 percent of Russia’s exports are oil and gas" and that the world's energy requirements will soon be met by solar and wind power. How reassuring . . . not. As acknowledged earlier this month by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/10/poland-germany-ukraine-idUSL6N0M71JA20140310):

"We will not be able to efficiently fend off potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future, if so many European countries are dependent on Russian gas deliveries or wade into such dependence."

Or stated otherwise, Europe will remain dependent upon Russian gas for many years to come.

And meanwhile, the first invertebrate to occupy the Oval Office must continue to contend with a rambunctious "regional power" whose state television anchors do not hesitate to threaten the United States with annihilation.

Indeed, Mitt Romney had it right during the October 2012 presidential debate.


Monday, March 24, 2014

David Brooks, "The Republic of Fear": Or Is Cruelty Endemic to Our Species?


David Brooks begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Republic of Fear" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/opinion/brooks-the-republic-of-fear.html?ref=opinion&_r=0) by observing:

"If you’re reading this, you are probably not buffeted by daily waves of physical terror."

Well, as one who has spent "sufficient" time in economic and military war zones, in Chicago, Moscow, Beirut and Tel Aviv, perhaps I am an exception. True, the physical terror came and went, but when it came, it lasted and left its mark. Chicago? I'm talking about the South Side more than 40 years ago. Moscow? I brought it on myself when I agreed to investigate an oligarch. Beirut? The First Lebanon War and its aftermath remain fresh in my mind. Tel Aviv? I will never forget the sirens warning of incoming Scud missiles during the First Gulf War.

Perhaps the foregoing does not amount to the "daily waves of physical terror" to which Brooks refers - I could have taken myself out of some of these situtations - but it has all left its mark.

Brooks would have us believe that much of this terror is confined to "the developing world." Brooks, however, is wrong, and should spend a few weeks in the slums of Detroit or Baltimore in order to rectify his privileged misconception.

Brooks concludes:

"[I]n every society, order has to be wrung out of exploitation. Unless cruelty is tamed, poverty will persist."

I wish I could agree.

As I near my 60th birthday, I have no expectations that human brutishness will ever be tamed, and no matter what your station in life, you are being exploited, with or without knowledge of the travesties to which you are being subjected. Obviously, if your economic situation is good, you are apt not to give a damn.

Tame cruelty and poverty will subside? My belief is that Brooks has it wrong: Only by taming poverty can cruelty be mitigated, but not by much.

Regrettably, I have come to the belief that cruelty is endemic to our species.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Wealth Over Work": How Much Are Bill and Hillary Worth?

Politics is a rich person's game, and there can be no gainsaying the link between extreme wealth and political prominence throughout American history. As reported in a USA Today article entitled "Report: The 10 richest U.S. presidents" (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/02/15/10-richest-presidents/5514567/) by Ashley C. Allen, America's wealthiest presidents have included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson (before he sank into debt), Andrew Jackson, James Madison, LBJ, FDR, JFK and . . . Bill Clinton. Of course, Bill and Hillary Clinton could be headed back to the White House in 2017. What is the combined worth of these two "lovebirds"? According to Allen:

"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential ticket, according to most political pundits. The presidential hopeful's husband, former President Bill Clinton, has made millions on lucrative book deals and more than $100 million on the speaking circuit. Secretary Clinton has recently begun to earn that kind of money as well.

Secretary Clinton received an estimated $14 million advance on her new book last year, and she has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for each speaking engagement, figures that rival her husband's. In all, the couple's net worth is estimated by 24/7 Wall St. to be $55 million, making it one of the wealthiest presidential estates in history."

No the Clintons are not suffering financially.

But more to the point, there are more Democrats than Republicans on Allen's list.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Wealth Over Work" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/opinion/krugman-wealth-over-work.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Paul Krugman blames a "nascent oligarchy" in the US on the Republican Party. Krugman writes:

"America’s nascent oligarchy may not yet be fully formed — but one of our two main political parties already seems committed to defending the oligarchy’s interests.

Despite the frantic efforts of some Republicans to pretend otherwise, most people realize that today’s G.O.P. favors the interests of the rich over those of ordinary families. I suspect, however, that fewer people realize the extent to which the party favors returns on wealth over wages and salaries. And the dominance of income from capital, which can be inherited, over wages — the dominance of wealth over work — is what patrimonial capitalism is all about."

But is it only the Republicans who favor the rich over ordinary families? As was reported by The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390444752504578024661927487192), "no major U.S. corporation did more to finance [Obama's] campaign than Goldman Sachs Group Inc." Obama certainly had no aversion to accepting this money from wealthy investment bankers, whose contributions, of course, were not intended to curry favor with the Democratic presidential candidate and influence future policy determinations.

Krugman's conclusion:

"Why is this happening? Well, bear in mind that both Koch brothers are numbered among the 10 wealthiest Americans, and so are four Walmart heirs. Great wealth buys great political influence — and not just through campaign contributions. Many conservatives live inside an intellectual bubble of think tanks and captive media that is ultimately financed by a handful of megadonors. Not surprisingly, those inside the bubble tend to assume, instinctively, that what is good for oligarchs is good for America.

As I’ve already suggested, the results can sometimes seem comical. The important point to remember, however, is that the people inside the bubble have a lot of power, which they wield on behalf of their patrons. And the drift toward oligarchy continues."

Needless to say, no mention by Krugman of George Soros, "The Man Who Broke the Bank of England," who, with a net worth $23 billion (http://www.forbes.com/profile/george-soros/), has made massive contributions to "progressive-liberal" political causes. In fact, Soros once declared that removing President George W. Bush from office was the "central focus of my life" and "a matter of life and death" (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/nov/12/uselections2004.usa).

In a nutshell, Krugman, who once wrote "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," has again discarded objectivity in yet another effort to further his radical objectives. What a surprise . . .

Me, a Republican booster? No way. I was once a registered Democrat; however, today, clinging to the tenets of equality, I am equally contemptuous of both parties.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Palmy Days for Jerry": Longing for Things Past

“The Greek word for 'return' is nostos. Algos means 'suffering.' So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”

― Milan Kundera, Ignorance


Yes, I'm suffering these days watching America crash and burn. The national debt is in excess of $17.5 trillion, Obamacare is a bust, and Putin has reignited the Cold War with no one in the Oval Office to call his bluff.

Occasionally, I still glance at John McCain's profile and wonder whether a man who turns 80 in 2016 is too old to be president.

Hillary? Other than the fact that she is a woman, where are the accomplishments?

Which brings us to Maureen Dowd's New York Times op-ed entitled "Palmy Days for Jerry" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/opinion/sunday/dowd-palmy-days-for-jerry.html?ref=maureendowd&_r=0), in which she asks a "mellow" Jerry Brown "how he would feel about a Hillary coronation." Dowd informs us of Brown's answer:

"'The polls say that she’s in an extremely strong position,' he says. 'So prominent in her husband’s administration, then a senator, then secretary of state. Those are powerful milestones. I don’t see anyone challenging her at this point.'

So how does he reconcile what he said in 1992 and now? Have the Clintons changed, or has Brown changed?

He crosses his arms and gives me a flinty look, finally observing: 'In retrospect, after we see all the other presidents that came afterwards, certainly, Clinton handled his job with a level of skill that hasn’t been met since.'

Take that, President Obama."

Bill handled his job skillfully in the past? What does this have anything to do with Hillary's capabilities, unless Bill will again be managing the executive branch of government from a semi-detached White House bachelor suite?

"Take that, President Obama"? Is "that" intended to soothe my suffering and my longing for the past? Brown, now 75, doesn't so much as hint at mounting opposition to Hillary's nomination.

It's over. It's done. Maybe it was never any better, but it surely can't get any worse.

[The Ukraine is still in chaos after Putin's annexation of Crimea, Turkey is being ripped asunder by a corruption scandal swirling around Obama's friend Erdogan, and Syrian madman Bashar al-Assad, encouraged by Russian contempt for Obama, is making headway in his bloody civil war with insurgents. Meanwhile, New York Times foreign affairs "expert" Thomas L. Friedman, who is read by Obama, "is off today." ]

You will recall that Friedman would have us believe that Putin's invasion of Crimea was a "blessing in disguise" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/thomas-friedman-from-putin-blessing-in.html). As much as I miss you, Tom Terrific, take your time returning. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and maybe I can even grow nostalgic.]

New York Times Editorial, "Turkey’s Move to Silence Twitter": The Silence of Obama's Lambs

"Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day."


- "Home on the Range"


In an editorial entitled "Turkey’s Move to Silence Twitter" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/opinion/turkeys-move-to-silence-twitter.html?_r=0), Obama's little helpers at The New York Times declare:

"Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s feverish crackdown on news reports of corruption within his government and family previously led to the bullying and jailing of dozens of journalists. And now he’s aiming to 'eradicate Twitter,' as he put it, for allegedly violating citizens’ privacy, a pretext for snuffing out further disclosures and criticism of his regime as national elections approach. 'Everyone will see how powerful the state of the Republic of Turkey is,” he thundered on Thursday, before the government crackdown began.'

. . . .

Mr. Erdogan’s brutal move was patently directed at stopping the continuing reports of bid-rigging, money laundering and payoffs to government officials’ families. He angrily insisted in December that one leaked recording — purporting to be his warning to his son to get rid of large sums of cash in advance of a police raid — was fabricated."

So what isn't the Times telling us? Obama previously told the world that Erdogan is one of his best overseas friends (see: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/obama-names-turkish-pmerdogan-among-trusted-friends.aspx?pageID=238&nid=11897).

Is Obama now walking back the compliment to this Turkish despot? No way! Not at a time when he is trying to forget another catastrophic foreign affairs faux pas: his promise of "flexibility" to Putin during his second term.

You see, Obama, a narcissist, still thinks that he knows more about international relations than anyone else.

Criticism of Obama on the pages of The New York Times? Dream on!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Obama Ignores Palestinian Authority Threats of Genocide Against Israel

On Monday, March 17, during a "working lunch" at the White House (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/obama-sucks-up-to-abbas-no-state-for.html), President Obama said of Palestinian Authority President Abbas, currently in his tenth year of a four-year term of office:

"I have to commend President Abbas. He has been somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side in peace and security — a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people and a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors."

Abbas has "consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side in peace and security"? Oh really?

On March 12, 2014, i.e. one week before Abbas's lunch with Obama, Fatah Central Committee Member Abbas Zaki appeared on Palestinian Authority television and declared: "Allah will gather the Israelis so we can kill them." This is not violent? How could such a genocidal declaration appear on Palestinian Authority television? Where was the denunciation of Palestinian Authority President Abbas?

Obama is a naif or a liar . . . or both.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Paul Krugman, "The Timidity Trap": I Dare You. I Double Dare You.

Surely you remember how, back in the beginning of 2013, Paul Krugman declared, in response to a "notion" advanced by a Guardian columnist, that he was not interested in becoming Obama's Treasury Secretary, because he had more influence writing op-eds for The New York Times (see: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/the-outside-man/). We are now left to wonder whether Krugman might have been considered for the job, had it not been for his audacious decision to decline the position before it was ever offered. We'll never know.

In any event, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Timidity Trap" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/opinion/krugman-the-timidity-trap.html?_r=0), Krugman derides Obama, one of the "good guys" who "never seem willing to go all-in on their beliefs," for his half-hearted economic policy. Krugman writes:

"The classic example is the Obama stimulus, which was obviously underpowered given the economy’s dire straits. That’s not 20/20 hindsight. Some of us warned right from the beginning that the plan would be inadequate — and that because it was being oversold, the persistence of high unemployment would end up discrediting the whole idea of stimulus in the public mind. And so it proved."

Gee, what a pity that Krugman was not made Treasury Secretary. He could have doubled down on Obama's stimulus, providing us with more Solyndras, while taking America's debt, now at an unsustainable $17.5 trillion, to the stratosphere.

Go ahead, Paul. Tell Obama, whose second term is a bust, that you've changed your mind, and if he's willing, you're willing - to replace Jack Lew and to take spending to a new level in order to revive an economy that is treading water.

I dare you. I double dare you.

David Brooks, "Going Home Again": People Are Like Onions II

"Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers."

- Shrek, "Shrek" (2001)

Exactly one week ago, as Putin massed troops along Russia's border with the Ukraine and Obama met this challenge with flaccid paralysis (see Charles Krauthammer's "Obama’s pathetic response to Putin’s invasion of Crimea" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-obamas-pathetic-response-to-putin/2014/03/20/6ef35b9c-b065-11e3-95e8-39bef8e9a48b_story.html?hpid=z2)), David Brooks provided us with reassurance concerning the substance of human nature in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Deepest Self" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/opinion/brooks-the-deepest-self.html?ref=opinion&_r=0) . Brooks wrote:

"In fact, while we are animals, we have much higher opportunities. While we start with and are influenced by evolutionary forces, people also have the chance to make themselves deep in a way not explicable in strictly evolutionary terms.

So much of what we call depth is built through freely chosen suffering. People make commitments — to a nation, faith, calling or loved ones — and endure the sacrifices those commitments demand. Often this depth is built by fighting against natural evolutionary predispositions."

My interpretation at the time of the Brooks opinion piece (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/david-brooks-deepest-self-people-are.html):

"People - even people like Putin - are like onions. They have layers built through suffering around or even against their natural cores."

Well today, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Going Home Again" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/opinion/brooks-going-home-again.html?ref=opinion), after observing how Sting returned to his childhood past in the north of England to regain his musical creativity, Brooks concludes (my emphasis in red):

"Sting’s talk [at this year’s TED conference] was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past."

You see, I was right one week ago. People are like onions. They have layers. But must we always return to the past to reclaim creativity? Maybe.

Consider what might have happened differently if Obama had only looked to the past before undertaking, together with Hillary, the "historic" reset of relations with Russia and promising "flexibility" in his second term to that ogre Putin, who also has layers . . .

Obama to Dance on "The Ellen Show" While America Burns?

As I stated in prior blog entries (for example: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/thomas-friedman-from-putin-blessing-in.html), Obama is caught in Putin's pincers, given Obama's dependence upon Russian goodwill involving the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and Iran's nuclear weapons development program. Well, blatant evidence of Obama's self-imposed dilemma surfaced yesterday when, according to an AP article entitled "Russia warns West it may change its stance on Iran" (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/russia-warns-west-it-may-change-its-stance-iran), Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov declared according to the Interfax news agency:

"Russia didn't want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to 'raise the stakes,' but may have to do so in response to the actions by the United States and the European Union."

Or stated more succinctly, Putin has Obama by the short and curlies.

Of course, the Ukraine is not Obama's only problem. The number of Affordable Care Act enrollments is far short of Obama administration March 31 goals, and the absence of enthusiasm of healthy young people for this program could blow it all asunder.

And so, the Obama administration is in damage control mode, attempting to inflate enrollment figures by ignoring persons who have signed up but not paid their premiums. As reported by Kyle Cheney in a Politico article entitled "So how many have paid ACA premiums?" (http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/obamacare-affordable-care-act-health-insurance-premiums-104602.html):

"The latest administration figures show that 4.2 million people have selected health plans in the new insurance markets. Insurance industry officials at four of the big national health plans tell POLITICO that about 15 to 20 percent people who have signed up have not yet paid their first monthly premium — the final step to get coverage.

And they’ve told the White House the same, insurance industry officials say."

Note the consistent refusal of Kathleen Sebelius and Jay Carney to address the number of persons not paying their premiums. Transparency? Even the Washington Post's Erik Wemple is today acknowledging the problem in an opinion piece entitled "HHS, playing selective with Obamacare enrollment numbers" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/03/19/hhs-playing-selective-with-obamacare-enrollment-numbers/?hpid=z3).

So what does Obama do as the flames swirl around him? Simple. As reported in a Huffington Post piece by Paige Lavender entitled "Obama To Appear On The Ellen Show To Talk Obamacare, Maybe Dance" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/19/obama-ellen_n_4993819.html?utm_hp_ref=politics), he has booked another date on Ellen DeGeneres's show, where he is sure to be lobbed softball questions while promoting Obamacare.

Can it possibly get any worse?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "From Putin, a Blessing in Disguise": Was Hitler's Annexation of the Sudetenland Also a Godsend?

Does Putin's annexation of Crimea have a silver lining? Thomas Friedman seems to think this is the case.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "From Putin, a Blessing in Disguise" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/opinion/friedman-from-putin-a-blessing-in-disguise.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Friedman says that if there is to be "a new cold war," he wants to see an "earth race," as opposed to a "space race," which will bring about a new American energy policy. Tom Terrific writes:

"I want America to lead in developing an energy policy that will weaken the oil-and-gas-autocracy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and, as a byproduct, produce the technologies that will mitigate climate change, make America a global technology and moral leader and ensure that the next generation can thrive here on Earth."

His conclusion:

"I would hate to see Obama spend the next two and half years just counting healthcare.gov sign-ups. He needs to recognize that Putin’s Crimea adventure has created the opportunity for a legacy project of moving America into a clean energy future — a move that would make us stronger, Putin weaker and the world safer."

Whoa! Less than a month ago, Friedman told us that the Cold War was forever over (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/opinion/friedman-dont-just-do-something-sit-there.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0):

"The Cold War was a unique event that pitted two global ideologies, two global superpowers, each with globe-spanning nuclear arsenals and broad alliances behind them. Indeed, the world was divided into a chessboard of red and black, and who controlled each square mattered to each side’s sense of security, well-being and power. It was also a zero-sum game, in which every gain for the Soviet Union and its allies was a loss for the West and NATO, and vice versa.

That game is over. We won."

Well, even Tom now seems to recognize that the "game" is not over, and in fact Putin has Obama caught in a devastating pincer movement, given Obama's dependence upon Russian goodwill involving the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and Iran's nuclear weapons development program.

Regarding Friedman's call for "an energy policy that will weaken the oil-and-gas-autocracy of Russian President Vladimir Putin," there is of course no mention by Tom of Solyndra or the US national debt, which Obama has taken to an unsustainable $17.5 trillion.

All of which is not to say that Obama cannot pressure Putin. As I observed in a previous blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/thomas-friedman-three-faces-of.html), freeing Europe from dependency upon Russian gas need not take much time at all. If Friedman were to spend a few minutes reading a Commentary article entitled "Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower?" (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/will-israel-be-the-next-energy-superpower/) by Arthur Herman, he would quickly realize that salvation is to be found in Israel's enormous gas discoveries off its Mediterranean coast.

However, channeling Israeli gas to Europe might also demand that Obama put an end to his ideological war with Netanyahu, and this might be too much to demand of a president who has made the weakening of America's alliance with Israel a keystone of his foreign policy. Note Obama's luncheon with Palestinian Authority President Abbas, during which Obama called for "a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people," but refused to acknowledge the necessity of a neighboring nation which safeguards the existence of the Jewish people (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/obama-sucks-up-to-abbas-no-state-for.html).

Interestingly enough, even Friedman in this op-ed seems to understand that the Affordable Care Act is headed for disaster and will not provide Obama with the legacy that he is so desperately seeking.

But I digress from the thesis of Tom's opinion piece, i.e. Putin's annexation of Crimea is "a blessing in disguise." I can only wonder, if we were back in 1938, whether Friedman would also regard Hitler's annexation of the Sudetenland as a godsend . . .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Obama Sucks Up to Abbas: No State for the Jewish People

Yesterday, during a "working lunch" at the White House, President Obama said of Palestinian Authority President Abbas, currently in his tenth year of a four-year term of office:

"I have to commend President Abbas. He has been somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side in peace and security — a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people and a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors."

First, note that Obama was pleased to dine with Abbas. In contrast, Obama in the past made a point of refusing to eat with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a White House visit (see: http://nypost.com/2010/03/26/obama-dumped-netanyahu-for-private-dinner/).

More to the point, note that Obama referred to "a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people," while at the same time referring to "a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors." Obama purposefully decided not to refer to a state for the "Jewish people," all in accordance with the sensitivities of Abbas, who is unwilling to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/jackson-diehl-obamas-middle-east.html).

Also, regarding Obama's claim that Abbas is someone "who has consistently renounced violence," observe what Adam Kredo has to say on the matter (http://freebeacon.com/obama-abbas-has-consistently-renounced-violence/):

"Obama also did not touch on Abbas’s ongoing support for Palestinian terrorists who were released from Israeli jails last year in good faith as a precursor to the talks.

Abbas awarded in July the 'highest order of the Star of Honor' to Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has killed Israeli schoolchildren and others.

In October of last year, Abbas welcomed back home a group of 26 released Palestinian terrorists as 'our heroic brothers,' according to the media monitoring site Palestinian Media Watch.

'We welcome our heroic brothers who come from behind bars to the world of freedom. We congratulate ourselves and we congratulate all of you in this great celebration that unifies and returns our sons to us,' Abbas was quoted as saying of the terrorists.

He made similar remarks in December."

Does the storm have a silver lining? Absolutely. At least Obama did not bow to Abbas . . .

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jackson Diehl, "Obama’s Middle East fallacy": Should Netanyahu Demand Palestinian Acceptance of a Jewish State?

Although I am not a "follower" (see below) of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe it is imperative that any lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians require that the Palestinians accept Israel as a "Jewish state." Why? Simple. UN Resolution 181, adopted in November 1947, was the basis for the division of British Mandatory Palestine into two states, one for the "Arabs" and one for the "Jews." The Jews living in Mandatory Palestine accepted the resolution, whereas the Arab states surrounding Mandatory Palestine rejected the resolution and attacked the fledgling state of Israel upon its creation.

Can Palestinians accept the premise of a Jewish state in the heart of a Muslim Middle East? The answer coming from Palestinian Authority Abbas is "no," yet such acceptance is rudimentary for an enduring peace. The alternative is for Abbas and other Muslim leaders to say that they can accept an Israel, but not what Israel actually is, i.e. a homeland for the Jewish people. Without such acceptance, there is no real peace.

Kerry originally agreed to this demand from Netanyahu for acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, but recently performed an embarrassing about-face. As reported by The Jerusalem Post last week (http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Officials-slam-Kerry-for-saying-PM-wrong-to-insist-Palestinians-declare-Israel-Jewish-state-345479):

"On Thursday, Kerry told members of Congress that international law already defined Israel as a Jewish state, and called Netanyahu’s continued call for a public declaration of Israel’s Jewish character from the Palestinians 'a mistake.'"

What accounts for Kerry's change of heart? Answer: Imminent failure.

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s Middle East fallacy" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-obamas-middle-east-fallacy/2014/03/16/c72b273e-aad1-11e3-98f6-8e3c562f9996_story.html?hpid=z3), Jackson Diehl acknowledges that Obama sought to strong-arm Netanyahu prior to his arrival in Washington two weeks ago by warning of dire consequences if Netanyahu did not agree to a US-drafted "framework agreement" for peace. Diehl observes that Abbas, in the past, refused to act on all US peace initiatives:

"The Palestinian president — who was elected to a four-year term in 2005 and has remained in office for five years after its expiration — turned down President George W. Bush’s request that he sign on to a similar framework in 2008. In 2010, after Obama strong-armed Netanyahu into declaring a moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, Abbas refused to negotiate for nine of the designated 10 months, then broke off the talks after two meetings.

Abbas agreed to Kerry’s proposal for another nine-month negotiating window last year in exchange for Israel’s release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted of murdering civilians. Abbas hailed them as heroes. Then he embarked on a public campaign to deep-six the two principal provisions Israel has sought in the U.S. framework, both of which have had Washington’s support. One would allow Israeli soldiers to remain along the Palestinian-Jordanian border during an extended transition period; the other would involve Palestinian recognition that Israel is a Jewish state."

Diehl, however, does not explain Abbas's past unwillingness to enter into a binding peace agreement, whose rationale is to be found in remarks made by the Palestinian Authority president to none other than Diehl in 2009 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/28/AR2009052803614.html):

"'I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,' he said. 'Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.'"

In fact, nothing has changed for Abbas over the past five years, and this logic, premised upon survival, still guides Abbas, who is in his tenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority.

Diehl's current opinion piece continues (my italics):

"The 'Jewish state' question is hard for many non-Israelis to understand: Who cares what Arabs call Israel, so long as they accept it? But for Netanyahu and his followers, the question is essential. Arab leaders have never conceded that a non-Arab state can hold a permanent place in the Middle East, they say. Until they do so, there will be no real peace, because Palestinians will keep pressing to weaken and eventually eliminate Israel’s Jewish majority.

Obama and Kerry have endorsed the Jewish-state principle; their hope was to use it to leverage Netanyahu’s acceptance of framework language stipulating that the territory of a Palestinian state would be equal to, if not exactly the same as, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some in the Israeli media are betting that Netanyahu most likely would accept that outcome — albeit with many reservations — even at the risk of losing his right-wing governing coalition. After all, the price of saying no, repeatedly underlined by Kerry and Obama, is daunting: more boycotts, more anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations, perhaps even another violent Palestinian uprising."

Well, as observed above, I do not count myself among Netanyahu's "followers," yet I do perceive the importance of requiring Abbas to accept Israel for what it is - a Jewish state. After all, what is the value of Abbas accepting Israel for what it is not, which in fact does not amount to any kind of acceptance at all?

Moreover, Diehl is mistaken: As noted above, Obama and Kerry no longer endorse the "Jewish-state principle."

But more to the point, why does Obama feel the need to ambush and strong-arm allies, while bending over backwards to accommodate American foes, e.g. promise "flexibility" to Putin in his second term?

Although both Obama and Kerry are desperate for "legacies," their peace initiative involving Israel and the Palestinians, which ignores Gaza and Hamas, was dead in the water at its outset.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Dems in Distress": More Important, Does Obama Look "Very Sharp in Jeans"?

Does President Obama look "very sharp in jeans," as he recently protested to Ryan Seacrest? With Putin annexing the Crimea as Obama played two rounds of golf at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo (so much for all that talk about inequality), and with Obamacare nowhere near its March 31 enrollment goals and in serious danger of foundering, does anyone - other than Obama - give a damn?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Dems in Distress" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/dowd-dems-in-distress.html), Maureen Dowd observes that Democrats are in a state of panic as the 2014 midterm elections draw near. Dowd's conclusion:

"The closest the president came to getting a leg up on mounting a defense was on Friday when he told Ryan Seacrest in a radio interview that he had been unfairly maligned for his mom jeans: 'Generally, I look very sharp in jeans.'

Due to the inability of the president and congressional Democrats to move their agenda through Congress, the president is having to govern through executive order and revising federal regulations.

Republicans have latched on to this to make the case around the country that Obama is a dictator and an imperial president. But governing through executive order isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness.

And it’s that weakness that has Democrats scared to death."

Obama a 98-pound weakling? No way! Dowd need only read Thomas Friedman's New York Times op-ed of today's date (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/thomas-friedman-three-faces-of.html) to understand that the first invertebrate ever to occupy the Oval Office in fact has everyone - even Putin - fooled: He's tougher than anyone imagined.

Yeah, right.

Thomas Friedman, "The Three Faces of President Obama": Or Is Obama Merely Two-Faced?

Obama apologist Thomas Friedman is back with us today to explain away his beloved president's procrastination and cowardice. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Three Faces of President Obama" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-three-faces-of-president-obama.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Friedman tells us that Obama is simultaneously facing accusations of being a "Pollyanna, John Wayne and Henry Kissinger all at once," and would thus have us believe that if such is the case, none of these accusations could possibly hold water.

Or is it possible that all three characterizations are correct?

A Pollyanna? How about a mere simpleton? One need only recollect Obama's open microphone request that Medvedev convey to Putin his promise of "flexibility" during his second term.

John Wayne? Friedman directs us to Obama's targeted killing of terrorists by means of drones. But Friedman fails to mention the president's approval of the "surge" in Afghanistan, which needlessly prolonged American ground involvement in that war at a horrifying cost of lives and capital.

Henry ("Let them bleed a little") Kissinger? Do you recall Obama's March 2011 declaration:

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

Well, Obama subsequently proved himself every bit as cynical as Kissinger, watching from the sidelines as Syrian madman Bashar al-Assad unleashed countless horrors against a captive civilian population.

Friedman's solution for reining in Putin?:

"The way the United States and European Union help, which will take time, is by forging new energy policies that will diminish Europe’s dependency on Russian gas — the mother’s milk of Putinism."

Unbeknownst to Tom Terrific, freeing Europe from dependency upon Russian gas need not take much time at all. If Friedman were to take a few minutes to read a Commentary article entitled "Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower?" (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/will-israel-be-the-next-energy-superpower/) by Arthur Herman, he would quickly realize that salvation is to be found in Israel's enormous gas discoveries off its Mediterranean coast.

But heck, channeling Israeli gas to Europe might also demand that Obama put an end to his petty ideological war with Netanyahu, and this might be too much to demand of a president who has made the weakening of America's alliance with Israel a keystone of his foreign policy.

"The three faces of President Obama"? I think it is known to all that the man who once promised, "If you like your plan, you can keep it," is merely two-faced.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Obama, Mom Jeans and Narcissism Gone Wild

"I told folks I'm just supposed to be eye candy here for you guys."

- President Obama, "The View," September 2012


Of course, everyone remembers Obama's 2012 appearance on the American talk show "The View," during which he described himself to his female hosts as "eye candy."

Well, this narcissistic remark seemed to have been forgotten until Friday, when the president phoned in to "On Air with Ryan Seacrest" and declared in response to Sarah Palin's taunt that he wears "mom jeans":

"I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans. The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans."

Obama was serious.

At a time when tensions are flaring in the Ukraine and Obamacare is unraveling, this is what preoccupies the president?

Perhaps he should have spent a few more days (months?) at the golf course of the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/fareed-zakaria-why-this-time-obama-must.html) and allowed Biden to run the show in his absence.

Fareed Zakaria, "Why (this time) Obama must lead": Do Something! Anything!

Plagiarizer, liar and Obama cheerleader (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/04/fred-hiatt-editorial-page-editor-of.html) Fareed Zakaria has finally gotten around to acknowledging that "leading from behind" just doesn't cut it in the 21st Century.

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Why (this time) Obama must lead" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-on-ukraine-obama-must-lead-from-the-front/2014/03/13/10b9359a-aaea-11e3-af5f-4c56b834c4bf_story.html?hpid=z3), Zakaria concludes:

"I have generally been wary of the calls for U.S. intervention in any and every conflict around the world. But this is different. The crisis in Ukraine is the most significant geopolitical problem since the Cold War. Unlike many of the tragic ethnic and civil wars that have bubbled up over the past three decades, this one involves a great global power, Russia, and thus can and will have far-reaching consequences. And it involves a great global principle: whether national boundaries can be changed by brute force. If it becomes acceptable to do so, what will happen in Asia, where there are dozens of contested boundaries — and several great powers that want to remake them?

Obama must rally the world, push the Europeans and negotiate with the Russians. In this crisis, the United States truly is the indispensable nation."

Meanwhile, where was Obama last weekend while Putin was busy occupying the Crimea? As reported by Dave Boyer in a March 9 Washington Times article entitled "As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands" (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/9/republicans-take-shots-as-obama-vacations-again/?page=all):

"While Russia beefed up its forces in Ukraine and the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up slightly, President Obama was criticized for spending the weekend on vacation with his family at an ultra-exclusive private community in the Florida Keys.

Mr. Obama played two rounds of golf and luxuriated at the posh Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, a solidly Republican enclave where members must have a minimum net worth of $35 million to join. The president, first lady Michelle Obama and their entourage traveled to and from the island in a squadron of five government helicopters, reportedly requiring a contingent of more than 50 Secret Service agents, before returning to Washington late Sunday."

One can only wonder what Obama has planned for this weekend. Perhaps after his relaxing stay at the Ocean Reef Club, he might want to consider a new speech on inequality . . .

Thursday, March 13, 2014

David Brooks, "The Deepest Self": People Are Like Onions

"Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers."

- Shrek, "Shrek" (2001)

As Putin masses troops along Russia's border with the Ukraine, David Brooks is here to reassure us concerning the substance of human nature in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Deepest Self" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/opinion/brooks-the-deepest-self.html?ref=opinion&_r=0) . Brooks writes:

"In fact, while we are animals, we have much higher opportunities. While we start with and are influenced by evolutionary forces, people also have the chance to make themselves deep in a way not explicable in strictly evolutionary terms.

So much of what we call depth is built through freely chosen suffering. People make commitments — to a nation, faith, calling or loved ones — and endure the sacrifices those commitments demand. Often this depth is built by fighting against natural evolutionary predispositions."

Got it: People - even people like Putin - are like onions. They have layers built through suffering around or even against their natural cores.

Thanks, David. This is just what I needed to know.

[Re President Obama's Ocean Reef Club golf vacation, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/fareed-zakaria-why-this-time-obama-must.html]

David Ignatius, "For Putin, a possible Pyrrhic victory": Providing "Euphemism" With New Meaning

David Ignatius, a longstanding member of the Obama cheerleader squad, is back today with a new Washington Post opinion piece entitled "For Putin, a possible Pyrrhic victory" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-for-putin-a-possible-pyrrhic-victory/2014/03/12/109c6130-aa23-11e3-9e82-8064fcd31b5b_story.html?hpid=z2), which seeks to explain away the president's procrastination regarding Putin's invasion of Crimea. Ignatius concludes:

"The Ukraine showdown, in a sense, has been a confrontation, as Kerry argues, between a 19th-century worldview and a 21st-century approach. Putin’s moves on the ground have been decisive, with immediate impact. The U.S.-led response has been collective, deliberative and slower to emerge."

Obama's response to Putin's invasion of Crimea has been "slower to emerge"? How about, "yet to emerge"?

Remind me to cite Ignatius when I compile a list of 2014's finest foreign affairs euphemisms.

Jen Psaki Decries Islamic Jihad Rocket Attack Against Israel: No Mention of Iran

Yesterday, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Islamic Jihad launched from Gaza a barrage of more than 60 rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel. In response, US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki declared:

"The United States condemns in the strongest terms today's rocket attacks into Israel by terrorists from the Gaza Strip. It is reprehensible that dozens of rockets have been fired today alone. There is no justification for such attacks. We call for these terrorist attacks to cease immediately. Israel, like any nation, has a right to defend itself."

Psaki failed to mention that the barrage follows the recent interception by the Israeli navy of a ship off Port Sudan containing a large number of long-range missiles (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/long-range-iranian-rockets-seized-en.html), which were being sent by Iran to Islamic Jihad for use against Israel.

For that matter, Psaki fails to mention any connection whatsoever between Iran and Islamic Jihad.

Heck, Psaki wouldn't possibly want to say anything that might interfere with Obama's "historic" negotiations with Supreme Leader Khamenei concerning Iran's nuclear weapons development program.

In that regard, she also wouldn't want to explore the "possibility" that Iran, and not Libya, was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing (see: http://www.timesofisrael.com/lockerbie-the-case-against-iran/).

After all, if Obama does not succeed in making peace with the mullahs, what will he have to show in the way of a foreign policy legacy, or any legacy whatsoever for that matter?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "The Spies Who Didn’t Love Her": Obama's Worst Tuesday

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”


― Dr. Seuss, "The Cat in the Hat"

It was quite the Tuesday for the beleaguered Obama administration.

Obama and friends were forced to acknowledge that Obamacare February sign-up numbers were far below those needed to attain the administration's target of 6 million enrolled people by the end of March. As reported by Sandhya Somashekhar and Amy Goldstein in a Washington Post article entitled "Pace of health exchange enrollment slows in February, figures show" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/pace-of-health-exchange-enrollment-slows-in-february-figures-show/2014/03/11/6eb32e16-a93d-11e3-8d62-419db477a0e6_story.html?hpid=z3):

"The Obama administration said 943,000 Americans selected health plans, compared to 1.2 million in January. Overall, enrollment stood at 4.2 million as of the end of last month.

Contrary to the Obama administration’s expectations, fewer people chose health plans last month than in either January or December. And the proportion of young adults — a critical demographic if the marketplaces are to function well — did not increase compared with January."

But wait, there's more. As acknowledged by Maureen Dowd in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Spies Who Didn’t Love Her" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/opinion/dowd-the-spies-who-didnt-love-her.html?smid=tw-NYTimesDowd&seid=auto&_r=0), there is a new scandal engulfing the Obama administration, which involves alleged CIA hacking of Senate computers and removal of documents. Dowd writes:

"In June, [CIA Director John] Brennan had issued a 122-page classified rebuttal to the still-classified $40 million, 6,300-page Senate report. But [Dianne] Feinstein said on the floor that she found the C.I.A. riposte 'puzzling,' given that the Panetta internal review admitted to what the C.I.A.’s rebuttal objected to. Given the C.I.A.’s 2005 destruction of videotapes showing the torture of two Al Qaeda operatives, Feinstein said she has now locked up in the committee vault in the Hart Office Building the parts of the Panetta review that her staff had printed out before it disappeared. She has also requested in writing that Brennan turn over a complete version of the review to the committee.

She said she has received no answers from Brennan, who is no fan of Congress or the media, to her formal questions about the agency’s actions and no response to her request for an apology."

Yup, this time it's 80-year-old Democratic Senator Feinstein making the accusations and demanding an apology, and it's going to be a bit harder for Barack and friends to assert that partisan politics are the basis for the brouhaha.

Brennan? Nominated by Obama to succeed David Petraeus as director of the CIA, he was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in March 2013. Brennan and the CIA report to the Director of National Intelligence, who reports to the president.

Obama's excuse this time? Did he also read about it in the newspapers like the rest of us? Will he refuse to fire Brennan, in much the same way that he has failed to lay a finger on Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius?

It's all out of control.

A silver lining to the story? Always! Obama's inept response to Putin's invasion of Crimea is now fast fading into the past . . .

Monday, March 10, 2014

David Brooks, "The Leaderless Doctrine": The Death of Hope and Change?

"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."

- King James Bible, Revelation 6:8

Do I believe in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? No, but I suppose you could say that with Her Hideousness Catherine Ashton busy chatting up Rouhani and his monster friends in Tehran (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/her-hideousness-catherine-ashton-plays.html), my outlook is something less than sanguine.

Kudos to David Brooks on his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Leaderless Doctrine" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/11/opinion/brooks-the-leaderless-doctrine.html?_r=0). Pointing to Pew Research Center data indicating that "[f]or the first time in half a century, a majority of Americans say that the U.S. should be less engaged in world affairs" and that "[f]or the first time in recorded history, a majority of Americans believe that their country has a declining influence on what’s happening around the globe," Brooks declares:

"Americans have lost faith in the high politics of global affairs. They have lost faith in the idea that American political and military institutions can do much to shape the world. American opinion is marked by an amazing sense of limitation — that there are severe restrictions on what political and military efforts can do."

Brooks's conclusion:

"We live in a country in which many people act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting."

Is Brooks correct?

Empowered with real-time knowledge by the Internet, are we able to reach more objective, better informed determinations than our leadership? Does this omniscience spawn helplessness, despondency, disaffection and a sense of abandonment? Do we turn inwards to avoid being overwhelmed by the meanness and rapacity of all that surrounds us?

If the US can only be governed by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, how is such a person to arise from a system that demands moral compromise? Maybe there is no room for ethics in politics.

Obama promised hope and change, but even young voters, who brought him into the Oval Office and kept him there, have lost faith in a president who "found out on the news like the rest of us," i.e. failed to lead. Remarkably, Harvard University's Institute of Politics recently determined that 52 percent of America's youngest millennials, ages 18 to 24, now favor throwing Obama out of office (see: http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/millennials-abandon-obama-and-obamacare-20131204). The bloom is off the rose; however, there is nothing better waiting in the wings.

But more to the point, can Americans afford to retreat inwards? Will Americans arise from their solipsistic slumber only after an Iranian ICBM, currently under development  (see: http://freebeacon.com/iran-north-korea-secretly-developing-new-long-range-rocket-booster-for-icbms/), falls in their laps?

Well on its way, this rude awakening will most likely arrive with a bang, sure to interrupt our favorite music, messaging and Facebook postings.