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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Obama’s Foreign Policy Book": "Don't Do Stupid @#$%"

Now visiting the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya in Iraq, Thomas Friedman begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Obama’s Foreign Policy Book" ( by revealing Obama's top secret formulation of his foreign policy doctrine:

"When President Obama sits down to write his foreign policy memoir he may be tempted to use as his book title the four words he reportedly uses privately to summarize the Obama doctrine: 'Don’t Do Stupid Stuff' (with 'stuff' sometimes defined more spicily)."

Ah yes, "don't do stupid shit," like escalating the ground war in Afghanistan. Of course, Obama apologist Friedman doesn't mention this Obama initiative, beyond noting that "we already spent $2 trillion on such projects in Iraq and Afghanistan with little to show for it."

Turning his superior intellect to the civil war in Syria, Friedman next notes:

"I never believed that with just a few more arms early on the Syrian 'democrats' would have toppled President Bashar al-Assad and all would have been fine. The Shiite/Alawites in Syria were never leaving quietly, and Iran, Russia and Hezbollah would have made sure of it."

On the other hand, if the US and its allies had imposed a no-fly zone over Syria, might Bashar al-Assad have been prevented from perpetrating genocidal attacks against Syria's civilian population? Needless to say, no reference by Friedman to civilian dead resulting from the conflict (some 54,000 including 9,000 children) or the nine million refugees.

Friedman concludes by providing his own unique solution to this quandary:

"But when I ask Kurds what to do, the answer I get is that arming decent Syrians, as Obama has vowed to do more of, might help bring Assad to the table, but 'there is no conventional military solution' — neither Shiites nor Sunnis will decisively beat the other, remarked a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, Barham Salih. 'But walking away is not possible anymore.' Syria is spinning off too much instability now.

The only solution, they say, is for the U.S. and Russia (how likely is that!) to broker a power-sharing deal in Syria between Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and their proxies. Repeat after me: There is no military solution to Syria — and Iran and Russia have to be part of any diplomatic one. Those are the kind of unpleasant, unromantic, totally long-shot foreign policy choices the real world throws up these days. A little humility, please."

Ah yes, now that Syria is reneging on the agreement brokered by Putin for the destruction of its chemical warfare arsenal (see:, the US should again turn to Putin - particularly after his shenanigans in the Ukraine - for a solution.

Also empower Iran's maniacal Supreme Leader Khamenei? As reported by The Daily Caller (, Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei declared earlier this week in response to a question by an Iranian member of parliament:

"Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist. … This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought. … This requires a difficult and lengthy struggle and need for great strides."

You might be interested to know that yet another Iranian dissident, Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani, is being executed this morning for the crime of "enmity against God" (see:

However, according to Tom, there is no choice other than to reach an understanding with these charming folk. Kind of reminds me Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini signing off on the Munich Agreement in 1938.

Don't do stupid shit? Yeah, right.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

David Brooks, "The Autocracy Challenge": A Pointless Speech at West Point

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Autocracy Challenge" (, David Brooks examines Obama's West Point speech. Regarding how the US should respond to chaos instigated by "thuggish radioactive autocracies," Brooks begins by complimenting the Obama administration:

"President Obama laid out his approach in a speech at West Point this week. He argued persuasively that the U.S. will have to do a lot more to mobilize democracies to take effective collective action against autocratic aggression. Moreover, his administration does champion democracy. On the same day Obama spoke, his ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, gave a great commencement speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government explaining why democracy promotion has to be at the core of American foreign policy."

The Obama administration champions democracy? Oh really? In his June 2009 speech at Cairo University (, Obama declared:

"So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other."

And indeed, Obama remained silent after Egyptian General Sisi staged a coup d'état in July 2013 and threw the democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, into prison.

Samantha Power gave a great commencement speech at Harvard concerning the promotion of democracy? Marvelous. But isn't this the same Samantha Power who wrote a book entitled "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," yet, as America's Ambassador to the United Nations, said nothing about Obama's insistence upon remaining on the sidelines as Bashar al-Assad butchered Syria's civilian population?

Brooks's conclusion:

"For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. had a two-level foreign policy. On top, American diplomats built multilateral coalitions to extend democracy. But at the bottom level, American presidents understood their responsibility as the world’s enforcer, occasionally operating according to the logic of menace and force.

If President Obama departs from that tradition and takes away that bottom level — for fear of overreach, or in a quest for normalcy, or out of an excessive belief in the limits of his own power — then he will undermine the top level that he admires. The autocrats will drag the world into an ungodly mess."

Ah yes, "menace and force," such as when Obama promised to extend "flexibility" during his second term in office to Vladimir Putin. Sorry, but Obama, who has always believed in his persuasive powers over such "misunderstood" autocrats, is incapable of acting in this manner. Moreover, the autocrats have come to understand what little lies behind Obama's "red lines."

In an editorial entitled "President Obama Misses a Chance on Foreign Affairs" (, The New York Times was remarkably critical of Obama's West Point speech:

"President Obama and his aides heralded his commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday as a big moment, when he would lay out his foreign policy vision for the remainder of his term and refute his critics. The address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left.

. . . .

[H]e provided little new insight into how he plans to lead in the next two years, and many still doubt that he fully appreciates the leverage the United States has even in a changing world. Falling back on hackneyed phrases like America is the 'indispensable nation' told us little."

The Times editorial concluded by observing "what matters ultimately is [Obama's] record in the next two and a half years." This is precisely what worries me. Without foreign policy achievements and desperate for a legacy, Obama might well seek to reach almost any agreement purportedly limiting the development of nuclear weapons by Iran. However, as reported by The Daily Caller (, Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei declared earlier this week in response to a question by an Iranian member of parliament:

"Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist. … This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought. … This requires a difficult and lengthy struggle and need for great strides."

How much more damage Obama can do to America's standing and deterrent power throughout the world during what remains of his time in office? When even Jimmy Carter is now saying of Obama that "He’s done the best he could under the circumstances" (, we know we're in trouble.

Michelle Obama, "The Campaign for Junk Food": How About Prying the Kids Away From Their Computers?

Back more than 50 years ago, I remember how my mother added brewer's yeast to our orange juice and wheat germ to our oatmeal every morning. I liked the wheat germ; however, the orange juice with this additive was, well, viscous and repugnant. Vitamin pills? Of course.

Later in the day, I would watch with envy when other children produced Twinkies and Devil Dogs from their lunch bags. My midday meal? Usually organic peanut butter on whole wheat bread with no jelly, of course.

In the afternoon, there were the healthy ersatz candy bars, substituting carob for chocolate. They looked okay, and it was fun to remove them from their wrappers, but the taste was little better than noxious.

In the evening, there could be no dessert with sugar. We were allowed "sweets" only once a week.

Did I grow up fat? No way. On the other hand, remarkably, or perhaps not so remarkably, my classmates - who ate Twinkies and Devil Dogs - were also not overweight. You see, we were too busy riding bicycles without head protection.

In deference to my mother, I should observe that I did have fewer cavities than other children. My mother? Sadly, she died of lymphoma at the age of 67.

In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Campaign for Junk Food" (, Michelle Obama begins:

"WHEN we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy.

To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.

Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children."

My goodness, it almost sounds like Michelle is bringing about heaven on earth!

Her conclusion:

"The bottom line is very simple: As parents, we always put our children’s interests first. We wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying about their well-being and their futures. And when we make decisions about our kids’ health, we rely on doctors and experts who can give us accurate information based on sound science. Our leaders in Washington should do the same."

Those darned Republicans who control the House and might soon become a majority in the Senate! Quick, they need to be stopped! Children's lives are at stake! The latest "bogus" VA scandal be damned!

Don't get me wrong. At age 60, I try to maintain a modest level of fitness, although I am currently suffering from a pulled hamstring after running after Arnold, our 150-pound Anatolian shepherd.

And although I look longingly at bottles of marshmallow fluff when visiting the grocery store, there is no way in hell that I could ever bring myself to buy this shit spread. Instead, my wife prepares for me organic "raw food" shakes. Yummy . . .

Food supplements? As noted in a prior blog entry (, I must admit that I take a few.

But has clean, healthy living made me happier on balance? I don't know the answer.

Reduce childhood obesity? I have a different answer: Pry the kids away from their computers and see what happens.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Putin Blinked": What the @#$% Is "Obamaism"?

Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs genius that he believes himself to be, has just coined a new term: "Obamaism."

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Putin Blinked" (, Friedman writes:

"The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price.

In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the 'other fellow' — Putin — 'just blinked.'"

Putin "blinked"? The problem is that Obama, who promised Putin "flexibility" during his second term in the White House, never showed up for the fight. Moreover, irrespective of Russian claims ( and those of former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton ( that Obama's sanctions against Russia were "meaningless," the fact of the matter is that Russia has annexed Crimea.

But more to the point, what is the meaning of Friedman's "Obamaism"?

Perhaps some insight into the underlying import of this new word is to be found in a New York Times editorial entitled "Trapped in Afghanistan" (, which today concludes:

"Mr. Obama has dragged out the biggest part of the withdrawal from Afghanistan for two years and now wants to leave more troops there until the end of 2016. His promise to end the war, made years ago, won’t be honored until he’s practically out of office."

Or stated more succinctly, Obama lied concerning his promise to end America's senseless ground war in Afghanistan, which America's president escalated in his first term in office. Of course, everyone remembers how Obama acceded to a military "surge" in that country while concurrently providing the Taliban with a timetable for the removal of US troops.

Obama lied? Why should that come as a surprise coming from a president who declared that if you like your health care plan and your doctor, you can keep them?

But I stray. "Obamaism"? What is it? Quite honestly, if it's something other than "leading from behind" coupled with bowing to the Japanese emperor and Saudi king, i.e. "showing his behind," and shaking hands with tin-pot tyrants, I don't have a clue.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Frank Bruni, "Diet Lures and Diet Lies": Green Coffee Beans Anyone?

A couple of years ago, did you see the Dr. Oz Show (see: and then run off to buy green coffee bean extract pills? I did (fortunately you can't see me blushing from embarrassment over the Internet).

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Diet Lures and Diet Lies" (, Frank Bruni, the rising star of the New York Times's blindered and self-absorbed op-ed page, writes:

"'In terms of diet, the general laws of thermodynamics hold,' Rudolph Leibel, an obesity expert at the Columbia University Medical Center, told me. 'The issue of — ‘If I eat a diet of all watermelons as opposed to a diet of hamburgers with the same number of calories, will I be able to lose more weight on the watermelons?’ — that’s a specious argument. We’re dealing with chemistry and physics, not imagination.'"

. . . .

Cue Oz. A distinguished cardiothoracic surgeon, he has traded time in the hospital for time on TV, where he revisits no topic more incessantly than (supposedly) ingenious ways to slim down. With a shameless vocabulary of 'magic,' 'miracle' and 'revolutionary,' he has showcased or outright validated HCG hormone shots, green coffee bean supplements, raspberry ketone supplements and more. He told viewers: 'I’m going to show you how you can get fat to eat itself right out of your body.'

The sum of these exhortations 'just violates science,' said Leibel. 'It’d be like if we went to NASA and they were using astrological charts to try to figure out how to get a rocket to Europa. It’s at that level.'"

Bruni's conclusion:

"[D]ecades of trendy diets have confirmed one and only one magic bullet: a mix of restrained eating and regular exercise."

But is there really no hope? What about an Atkin's low-carb diet? As observed by U.S News & World Report (

"It is still unclear, regardless of claims made for low-carb diets, whether the main reason for weight loss is carb restriction specifically or simply cutting calories. A study published in 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after two years, participants assigned either to a 35 percent or a 65 percent carb diet lost about the same amount of weight—6 to 7½ pounds on average. In 2003, researchers who analyzed about 100 low-carb studies concluded in the Journal of the American Medical Association that weight loss on those diets was associated mostly with cutting calories and not with cutting carbs."

The sad bottom line for me: Notwithstanding the joint pain and loss of flexibility that comes with aging, there can be no avoiding weights and aerobic exercise, unless I am stressed-out, whereupon the extra pounds disappear overnight.

No benefits to food supplements whatsoever? "I wouldn't go that far," he (meaning myself) said, staring hopefully up at a shelf over my desktop, where there are bottles of CO Q-10, melatonin, vitamin D, tumeric and green tea extract lined up in less than neat rows.

Will I live to 100? Not a chance. Please spare me the pain.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Europe’s Secret Success": Je Ne Comprend Pas

How's your memory?

Do you remember how Paul Krugman declared in a 2012 New York Times op-ed entitled "Europe’s Great Illusion" (

"It comes as something of a shock, even for those of us who have been following the story all along, to realize that more than two years have passed since European leaders committed themselves to their current economic strategy — a strategy based on the notion that fiscal austerity and 'internal devaluation' (basically, wage cuts) would solve the problems of debtor nations. In all that time the strategy has produced no success stories."

Or perhaps you remember how Krugman declared in another 2012 New York Times op-ed entitled "Europe’s Economic Suicide" (

"Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs, and the results are exactly what students of history told you would happen: such programs push depressed economies even deeper into depression. And because investors look at the state of a nation’s economy when assessing its ability to repay debt, austerity programs haven’t even worked as a way to reduce borrowing costs.

. . . .

Rather than admit that they’ve been wrong, European leaders seem determined to drive their economy — and their society — off a cliff. And the whole world will pay the price."

And only one month ago, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Sweden Turns Japanese" (, Krugman wrote:

"Three years ago Sweden was widely regarded as a role model in how to deal with a global crisis. The nation’s exports were hit hard by slumping world trade but snapped back; its well-regulated banks rode out the financial storm; its strong social insurance programs supported consumer demand; and unlike much of Europe, it still had its own currency, giving it much-needed flexibility. By mid-2010 output was surging, and unemployment was falling fast. Sweden, declared The Washington Post, was 'the rock star of the recovery.'

Then the sadomonetarists moved in.

The story so far: In 2010 Sweden’s economy was doing much better than those of most other advanced countries. But unemployment was still high, and inflation was low. Nonetheless, the Riksbank — Sweden’s equivalent of the Federal Reserve — decided to start raising interest rates.

. . . .

Sure enough, Swedish unemployment stopped falling soon after the rate hikes began. Deflation took a little longer, but it eventually arrived. The rock star of the recovery has turned itself into Japan."

Well today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Europe’s Secret Success" (, Krugman would have us know:

"Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism — the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative. And according to this ideology, Europe — with its high taxes and generous welfare states — does everything wrong. So Europe’s economic system must be collapsing, and a lot of reporting simply states the postulated collapse as a fact.

. . . .

The truth is that European-style welfare states have proved more resilient, more successful at job creation, than is allowed for in America’s prevailing economic philosophy."

Has fiscal austerity truly produced no success stories? Or is it possible that in some instances there is a place for austerity?

Excuse me, Paul, if I'm a little confused.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Memorial Day 2050": Give Tom a Medal?

Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while serving their country in the military. For some, this holiday is sacred. For others, it's just another extended holiday weekend.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Memorial Day 2050" (, Thomas Friedman concludes:

"What containment was for our parents’ generation — their strategy to fight for freedom against the biggest threat of their day — resiliency will be for our generation against the multiple threats of our day: climate change, petro-dictatorship and destruction of our environment and biodiversity. Let’s act so the next generation will want to honor us with a Memorial Day, the way we honor the sacrifice of previous generations."

"[T]he way we honor the sacrifice of previous generations"? Seemingly unbeknownst to Tom, US soldiers are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan, owing to the fact that Obama decided to escalate America's senseless ground involvement in that country.

But more to the point, does Tom really think he deserves a medal for flying around the globe and polluting the environment, all for the sake of his hackneyed stories?

Memorial Day should continue to honor America's fallen heroes, even, let's hope, in 2050.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gail Collins, "It’s No Picnic in the Senate": How About Some "Green Eggs and Ham"?

Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.
I would not eat them here or there.
I would not eat them anywhere.
I would not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

- From "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss

I suppose it should come as no surprise that yesterday David Brooks didn't mention "Green Eggs and Ham" among his "Really Good Books" (see:

Also no mention of "Green Eggs and Ham" in Gail Collins's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "It’s No Picnic in the Senate" (, which she begins by observing:

"Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Time for summer fun! So let’s discuss Congressional gridlock."

What does "Green Eggs and Ham" have to do with the Memorial Day Weekend and Congressional gridlock? Probably nothing. However, if you are seeking to avoid reference to any and all scandals involving the Obama administration, that's a whole different story. More to the point, if you were to ask Gail about such scandals, you might be told:

Not at the VA.
Not at the NSA.
Not at the IRS.
Benghazi? Don't obsess.
I do not see a scandal here or there.
I do not see a scandal anywhere.
I do not see black marks or stains.
So let's also not discuss the Ukraine.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

David Brooks, "Really Good Books, Part I": What About the VA Scandal?

Are you looking for a good book? If you are at all like me, you are constantly seeking a brief respite from the horrors of reality. However, I don't read the columns of political pundits during times of scandal in order to learn about their most beloved novels and works of non-fiction.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Really Good Books, Part I" (, David Brooks offers us a list of some his favorite books. Brooks begins by declaring:

"People are always asking me what my favorite books are. I’ve held off listing them because it seems self-indulgent. But, with summer almost here, I thought I might spend a couple columns recommending eight books that have been pivotal in my life."

Okay, David, I agree that C.S. Lewis and George Orwell are masters of the English language. and I know that Oprah also has her book club. However, there's this VA scandal that has polluted the air over Washington, and I thought that you, or one of the other columnists at the Times, might want to say a word or two.

True, a recent Times editorial entitled "Troubles With Veterans’ Health Care" ( declared:

"President Obama expressed outrage on Wednesday at recent charges of wrongdoing in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system. He also dispatched his deputy chief of staff to Phoenix to assess explosive allegations that government workers falsified data to hide long wait times for veterans needing to see doctors.

But expressing outrage is hardly enough for a president who, as a candidate in 2008, criticized the agency and vowed to improve care and address backlogs. It is past time for a more visible personal commitment to right these wrongs as well as strong White House support for legislation that would make it possible for top agency officials to fire those responsible for wrongdoing.

The allegations that veterans’ hospitals around the country manipulated data or created secret waiting lists to hide long delays are disgraceful. Those concerns initially focused on veterans’ medical facilities in Phoenix, but now involve 26 facilities in several states, including Colorado, Texas and Wyoming."

But is enough to observe that Obama purportedly expressed "outrage"? This is no "bogus" scandal, but instead of much needed commentary from Brooks, we get a book list.

Thanks, David, but I can somehow manage without your list.

Dana Milbank, "Obama is President Passive over the Veterans Affairs scandal": Obama Is "President Passive" . . . Period

"All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'"

- Howard Beale, "Network" (1976)

Are you "mad as hell"? Well, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough says President Obama is "madder than hell," but he sure as hell doesn't appear that way. Actually, it seems that the lives of veterans don't have value for the Obama administration.

Just another "political football" or "bogus" scandal? I don't think so.

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama is President Passive over the Veterans Affairs scandal" (, Dana Milbank observes:

"Over the weekend, the president’s chief of staff assured the public that Obama was 'madder than hell' about what happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but in person Obama didn’t seem very angry. Like VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Obama wasn’t entirely convinced something bad had happened.

'If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable,' he said. 'If there is misconduct, it will be punished.'

. . . .

But there are no 'ifs' about it: Numerous inquiries and leaked memos over several years point to “gaming strategies” employed at VA facilities to make wait times for medical appointments seem shorter — and these clearly aren’t limited to those reported in Phoenix; Albuquerque; Fort Collins, Colo.; and elsewhere. Lawmakers in both parties have spoken of a systemic problem at the agency, and the American Legion, citing 'poor oversight,' has called for Shinseki’s resignation — the first time it has made such a gesture in more than 70 years."

Wow, Milbank is finally waking up to the fact that Obama is a crafty orator, but an incompetent administrator?

Why does he think that the president should behave differently with respect to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki than with former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius?

But more to the point, has the American people finally woken up to the fact that the emperor has no clothes?

Maybe, just maybe, we will find out in November.

Monday, May 19, 2014

David Brooks, "The Big Debate": Democracy's Demise

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Big Debate" (, David Brooks begins by observing that "democratic governments have decayed across the globe." Observing their stagnation, dysfunction, remoteness and lack of productivity, Brooks writes:

"At the national level, American politics has become neurotically democratic. Politicians are campaigning all the time and can scarcely think beyond the news cycle. Legislators are terrified of offending this or that industry lobby, activist group or donor faction. Unrepresentative groups have disproportionate power in primary elections.

The quickest way around all this is to use elite Simpson-Bowles-type commissions to push populist reforms.

The process of change would be unapologetically elitist. Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms — on immigration, entitlement reform, a social mobility agenda, etc. — and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through."

Brooks fails to observe that would-be reformer Barack Obama refused to back Simpson-Bowles (see:

Also, Brooks fails to observe that America has degenerated into a form of oligarchy in which a majority of the members of Congress are millionaires (see:, and where voters are facing the unseemly choice of having to choose between the Clinton and Bush dynasties in 2016.

In a Times op-ed entitled "Hillary’s Obstacle Course" (, Frank Bruni writes today of Hillary:

"She’s considered inevitable in part because she’s political royalty, awash in money and celebrity endorsements, but is royalty what an economically frustrated, embittered electorate wants?"

Indeed, democracy has devolved into something grotesque in America and has lost touch with commoners. How best to orchestrate a revival? Sorry, but money and vested interests stand in the way.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Springtime for Bankers": Fairy Tale Economics

And all this while you thought that Paul Krugman was a Keynesian economist? You were mistaken!

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Springtime for Bankers" (, Krugman concludes:

"In the end, the story of economic policy since 2008 has been that of a remarkable double standard. Bad loans always involve mistakes on both sides — if borrowers were irresponsible, so were the people who lent them money. But when crisis came, bankers were held harmless for their errors while families paid full price.

And refusing to help families in debt, it turns out, wasn’t just unfair; it was bad economics. Wall Street is back, but America isn’t, and the double standard is the main reason."

Or something akin to Peter and the Big Bad Wolf.

But were bankers, i.e. financial institutions, really held harmless? Perhaps Paul would care to explain what happened to the likes of Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and Merrill Lynch. Or maybe Paul should explain why Citigroup shares are now selling for a tiny fraction of their 2007 prices.

Don't get me wrong: What happened in 2008 was all about greed gone wild and the absence of regulation. I remember well how the big banks were busy hawking newfangled real estate derivative packages (indeed akin to the Wicked Witch's poison apple) to their feeble-minded colleagues.

More to the point, what about today? Has greed disappeared from the landscape? Not a chance! Today we have high frequency trading, which is effectively placing a tax on anyone wishing to invest in shares. And there was the cancellation of the Uptick Rule, which enables hedge funds to manipulate share prices in any direction they please.

"Wall Street is back"? Heck no! Under the very nose of Krugman's beloved Obama administration, high frequency trading is sucking the life blood from the economy, but once again, when the parasite ultimately kills the host, the parasite is also destined to die.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Condi’s Lesson": Two Strains of Rice

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Condi’s Lesson" (, Maureen Dowd notes that Condoleezza Rice has decided not to speak at the Rutgers commencement this year as a consequence of student protests. Making reference to Rice's involvement in the George W. Bush administration's disastrous Second Gulf War, Dowd concludes:

"We’ll never know if she could have stopped W. from ruining his presidency and destroying so many lives when there was no national security stake.

We only know that when you sell your soul, it’s not like a pawnshop. Condi thought she could reclaim it after she was secretary of state and bring W. back to the light of diplomacy and common sense. But, as Russell Baker once noted, she was trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, spinning her wheels in the second term trying to undo the disasters of the first.

What a wonderful lesson she could have taught those graduates about the perils of succeeding at any cost, about how moral shortcuts never lead to the right place."

"The perils of succeeding at any cost"? Well, Dowd could also have said several words about Samantha Power, author of "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," who currently serves as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, but who has refrained from criticism of American inaction involving genocide in Syria.

And then there is also Susan Rice, who took to the airwaves in order to hawk Obama's false narrative concerning the attack on the Benghazi consulate, i.e. it was all the fault of the Internet video.

Moral shortcuts never lead to the right place? Never say never. Susan Rice was subsequently promoted by Obama to United States National Security Advisor.

Hillary Clinton? Was there ever a soul to sell, or just vacuous self-interest homing in on the White House? Damn Bill's libido, full speed ahead!

Where does any of it lead? I don't know. Meanwhile, however, we are forced to live within our own skins, or, with regard to many aspiring political types, within their own scales.

Thomas Friedman, "The Square People, Part 2": The Idiot Columnist, Part 2

You don't have half a clue about what is happening in the Ukraine? Not to worry: Thomas Friedman, who also doesn't have half a clue, is happy to explain it to you.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Square People, Part 2" (, Friedman is again telling us about his "Square People," i.e. "all those newly connected and aspiring middle classes who have gathered in the squares from Cairo to Kiev, Istanbul to Tehran, and Tunis to Moscow to demand a greater voice in their future and better governance." Specifically regarding the Ukraine, Friedman writes:

"Putin was minding his own corrupt business, living in a two-party relationship with his neighbor Ukraine, which was being led by the even more corrupt, pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. Suddenly, spontaneously from below, an emergent, connected, aspiring middle class of Ukrainians — fed up both with regime corruption and how far they’d fallen behind their neighbors in the European Union — demanded that Yanukovych forge closer cooperation and trade ties with the European Union. They also demanded something now common to every square: the right to be treated as 'citizens' with rights and responsibilities, not as the playthings of oligarchs or outside powers."

Yup, it's that simple. Or is it?

As noted in a Washington Post article entitled "Russia supporters in eastern Ukraine pose challenges to pro-Western government" ( by Anthony Faiola:

"KHARKIV, Ukraine — Not far from this city in eastern Ukraine, Russian tanks are conducting border maneuvers. Yet for the pro-Moscow activists who gather around the statue of Vladimir Lenin in the city’s main square, that is still not close enough.

Such sentiments pose a serious challenge to Ukraine’s new pro-Western government. The pro-Moscow forces in the industrialized east are staging increasingly violent ­clashes with those loyal to the Ukrainian government — leading Russia on Friday to threaten more starkly than ever that it reserves the right to 'protect' ethnic Russians.

'We are hoping that the Russians will come and protect us, just like they did in Crimea,' said Victoria, a 29-year-old ethnic Russian in this heavily Russian-speaking city, where she and other Kremlin supporters insist that they have become the victims of a harassment campaign."

You see, seemingly unbeknownst to Friedman, there's this thing called "nationalism" that still comes into play and involves, inter alia, language. Speaking in very general terms (no pun intended), Russian is spoken in eastern Ukraine, while Ukrainian is spoken in western Ukraine, and although the two languages are similar, they are not the same (see: And yes, differences in language can cause friction.

Friedman's conclusion:

"I’m encouraged by the many government-monitoring civil society groups that have emerged in Ukraine to make sure that the will of its Square People will not be stolen. Whether Ukraine’s Square People can also develop the inclusive politics — to respect the views of the more pro-Russia population in the East — remains to be seen."

Can Ukraine’s Square People "develop the inclusive politics — to respect the views of the more pro-Russia population in the East"? Nice to know that Friedman acknowledges the existence of pro-Russian Ukrainians, who do not qualify as "Square People."

I pray that President Obama is not reading or influenced by any of Friedman's rubbish.

Gail Collins, "Friends of Hillary": A Loving Woman at Our Center?

"A family can develop only with a loving woman as its center."

- Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Hillary? Love? Calculating blind ambition and greed? Maybe. Love? Never.

Flash quiz: Name one accomplishment of Hillary as FLOTUS, senator or secretary of state. I can't think of one. Okay, she remained together with Bill even after her husband "autographed" Monica's dress, but perhaps someone would care to enlighten me as to when Hillary and Bill last shared a bed together.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Friends of Hillary" (, Gail Collins concludes with respect to Hillary:

"It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to belong to everybody in such an intimate way. There’s no one else in the same situation. Barack Obama is universally known, but these days, if you have a conversation at the dinner table about him, the real topic is going to be something like health care or the unemployment rate. We’re so aware of his enormous responsibilities, we’ve sort of lost interest in Obama as a person. He may try to be diverting with the odd comment about sports or his dog, but, really, it doesn’t work.

This is why Hillary Clinton is going to run for the White House. She wants to be president so people will stop talking about her."

Hillary "wants to be president so people will stop talking about her"? Yeah, right.

Those who read this blog know that I believe that Barack Obama has proven a disastrous president. As America's debt nears $18 trillion, we have yet to see the full cost of the Affordable Care Act. Overseas, no matter on which continent, Obama's foreign policy has been marked by failure.

On the other hand, Obama was guided by principles. You might not believe in universal health care; however, Obama honestly believed that this was in America's best interests.

And in retrospect, Obama's outreach program to the world's tin-pot dictators might seen insane, yet Obama thought that his smiling, warm, touchy-feely style of diplomacy could bring these bastards around.

Hillary, on the other hand? What does she stand for anything other than herself? She's positively frightening. Which is why she could prove - if the Republicans are unable to field a digestible candidate - a far more effective president than Obama.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

David Ignatius, "Why the Mideast peace process is in tatters": A Flagrant Falsehood

How low can David Ignatius go?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Why the Mideast peace process is in tatters" (, Ignatius declares (my emphasis in red):

"The issue of Israeli settlements humiliated the Palestinian negotiators and poisoned the talks, according to statements by U.S. negotiators. When Israel announced 700 new settlements in early April, before the April 29 deadline for the talks, 'Poof, that was sort of the moment,' Kerry told a Senate panel. Warned Indyk at a gathering of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 'Rampant settlement activity — especially in the midst of negotiations — doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations; it can undermine Israel’s Jewish future.'"

Israel "announced 700 new settlements in early April"? Oh really? As the basis for his contention, Ignatius links to a Haaretz article entitled "While Kerry tries to clinch deal, Israel issues 700 tenders beyond Green Line" ( by Nir Hasson and Barak Ravid, which informs us (my emphasis in red):

"The Israel Lands Authority published a tender for 708 residential units in Gilo on Tuesday, just hours after reports that a deal with the U.S. on a settlement freeze for spy Jonathan Pollard's release was close to being sealed."

Yes, there is an enormous difference between "settlements" and "residential units," i.e. apartments.

Moreover, as observed by The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), (

"The 708 housing units in question are all located in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, and Palestinians do not claim Gilo should be part of their future state. Although the Jerusalem neighborhood is located over the Green Line, in previous rounds of negotiations, such as in Camp David, and again in the 2008 Olmert talks, it was never under consideration to transfer Gilo to the Palestinian Authority."

As to the Kerry/Indyk contention, parroted by Ignatius, that "Israeli settlements humiliated the Palestinian negotiators and poisoned the talks," Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot observed by in a recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Israel gets no credit from Obama for a year of moderate settlement construction" (

"Israel built 2,534 housing units last year in the West Bank. Of these, about a quarter (694) were in two major blocs near Jerusalem, Giv’at Ze’ev and Betar Illit, and 537 were in two other major blocs, Modiin Illit and Ma’ale Adumim, also near Jerusalem. These four, which will remain part of Israel, account for half of last year’s construction. They are not isolated outposts but instead are towns with populations in the tens of thousands, near the Green Line, as the 1949 armistice line and 1967 border are known.

The critical figure to monitor is the number of Israeli houses built outside such blocs in areas intended for the future state of Palestine. What the CBS data tell us on that question is that only 908 units were built last year in Israeli townships of 10,000 residents or fewer. And most of those units were built in settlement towns that are part of the major blocs. Units built in areas that would become part of Palestine number in the hundreds — and likely in the low hundreds. Given that about 90,000 Israelis live in the West Bank outside the blocs, that is approximately the rate of natural growth. So much for [President Obama's] claim of 'aggressive construction.'"

Will Ignatius issue any sort of retraction? Let's wait and see.

[Yes, WaPo issued a correction: "An earlier version of this column incorrectly reported that Israel announced 700 new settlements in April. Israel announced 700 new settlement apartments last month. The following version has been updated."]

David Brooks, "Stairway to Wisdom": So Enlighten Us About Jill Abramson's Dismissal

"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge."

- Bertrand Russell

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Stairway to Wisdom" (, David Brooks seeks to explain the nature of knowledge. Using as an example teen pregnancy and informing us that "[o]ur master-teacher here is Augustine," Brooks concludes:

"There is a tendency now, especially for those of us in the more affluent classes, to want to use education to make life more predictable, to seek control as the essential good, to emphasize data that masks the remorseless unpredictability of individual lives. But people engaged in direct contact with problems like teenage pregnancy are cured of those linear illusions. Those of us who work with data and for newspapers probably should be continually reminding ourselves to bow down before the knowledge of participation, to defer to the highest form of understanding, which is held by those who walk alongside others every day, who know the first names, who know the smells and fears."


And given that Brooks almost certainly has "walked beside" Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the Times, Jill Abramson, its former executive editor, and Dean Baquet, its new executive editor, and surely knows all three by their first names, perhaps he would care to inform us about the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Abramson. Maybe he would care to describe the "smells and fears" surrounding this occurrence.

Was Abramson dismissed because she demanded to receive the same compensation package received by her predecessor, Bill Keller (see:

Or, should we simply ignore Abramson's dismissal and pursue other, more abstract knowledge, less close to home, for its own sake?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gail Collins, "My State’s Prettier Than Yours": What About Jill Abramson's Back?

Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia
Lydia, the queen of tattoo
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo
Beside it the Wreck of the Hesperus, too
And proudly above waves the red, white and blue
You can learn a lot from Lydia

- From "Lydia, The Tattooed Lady," sung by Groucho Marx in "At the Circus" (1939)

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "My State’s Prettier Than Yours" (, Gail Collins begins:

"Our topic for today is state tourism slogans. Perhaps that’s not what you had in mind. Perhaps you are from North Dakota ('Legendary') or North Carolina ('Beauty Amplified') and are already so self-satisfied you see no reason to worry about the subject at all."

Forgive me for being blunt, but who gives a rat's ass?

You feel the need to be cute, Gail? How about poking a little fun at the dismissal of Jill (the Tatooed Lady) Abramson as executive editor of The Times? Or is your own financially challenged newspaper off limits?

Will Abramson now seek to remove "the 'T' from the paper's logo tattooed on her back" (

Oh, the suspense!

You will recall that Abramson is "famous" for having told us, "In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion" ( Unfortunately for Jill, she has now been tossed out of her alternative Garden of Eden. A bitter bite of apple to swallow, eh?

Not to worry, Jill! I've got your back!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "The Square People, Part 1": The Idiot Columnist, Part 1

Doesn't anyone at The New York Times have the nerve to tell Tom Friedman that he is embarrassing himself?

Writing from Hanoi, Friedman begins his latest Times op-ed "The Square People, Part 1" ( by arrogantly declaring:

"I think I’ll plan to go from Kiev to Hanoi more often. It’s only when you go to two seemingly disconnected places that you see the big trends, and one of the big ones I’ve noticed is the emergence of 'The Square People.'"

Make more trips from Kiev to Hanoi in order to discern the "big trends"? Go for it Tom, even if you don't speak Ukrainian or Vietnamese.

Friedman goes on to explain:

"To be sure, The Square People represent a diverse politics, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and ultranationalists in Kiev. But the dominant trend running through them all is this: 'We now have the tools to see how everyone is living, including opportunities abroad and corrupt leaders at home, and we will not tolerate indefinitely living in a context where we can’t realize our full potential. And also we now have the tools to collaborate to do something about it.'"

Interesting. But do you remember back in 2011 how Friedman was singing paeans to the Arab Spring from Tahrir Square in Cairo? Well, maybe Friedman would do well to return to Egypt in order to let us know how things turned out, i.e. how the Egyptian military is now firmly in control.

But more to the point, are smartphones empowering Egyptian women? I don't think so. More than 10 million Egyptian women are illiterate. More than 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone genital mutilation.

Friedman's sanguine conclusion:

"I gave a talk on globalization at the National University in Hanoi. Afterward I chatted with a young woman, Anh Nguyen, 19, a student who had asked several good questions. Her conversation was peppered with Square talk: 'I feel empowered. ... I think Vietnam can change. ... Please tell the world about the big embezzlement case [at a state-owned shipping company] that was uncovered here. Before people would have been silent, but the verdict came out and they sentenced the [bosses] to death. ... It really surprised people. ... Now not every big boss is protected by the government. ... We get many different sources of information from the world. It opens eyes.' She has a much greater chance to achieve her potential than her parents, she added, 'but not as much as I want.'

Move over Davos Man, the Square People are coming."

Ah yes, owing to the Square People, ship company bosses were sentenced to death for fraud. Sentenced to death? Isn't that a little harsh? Apparently not in Friedman's Utopian world.

Maureen Dowd, "The Speaker’s Sand Trap": Making Dog Poop on the Roof Seem Funny

Do you recall Gail Collins's lame running joke concerning Seamus's attack of diarrhea atop Romney's station wagon? Well, if you thought that was hilarious, you're sure to love Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Speaker’s Sand Trap" (, which is filled with golf jokes relating to the Republican Speaker of the House. Dowd's conclusion:

"Boehner putts and misses his 20-footer for par.

'Did you notice that broke way too much to the right?' he sighs. 'That’s our problem.'"


Of more interest for me, however, is Dowd's reference to "to the kooks on Benghazi." I was once a registered Democrat, I am pro-choice, I support gay marriage, I opposed the Second Gulf War and American ground involvement in Afghanistan, but my horror at how an ambassador and three other Americans were left to die without even so much as a flyover brands me as a kook.

Midway through her opinion piece, Dowd would have Boehner's voice drop "into a confidential growl" as he tees off:

"'Well, he’s gonna be black and blue after we grill him and his team on what he was really doing in the White House that night during the attacks on the compound.

'If he was watching SportsCenter instead of sitting in the Command Center, that’s not gonna look good. If he was buttering up Bibi to help him with the Jewish vote, that’s not gonna look good. If he was catching some zzz’s during Benghazzzi, that’s bad. Of course, he already seems asleep at the switch most of the time.'"

Sorry, Maureen, but I wouldn't mind knowing what Obama and Hillary were doing while those Americans were being butchered in Benghazi. Maybe it's a habit acquired after many years in the military, but I don't believe in leaving others to die without assistance or hope over the course (no pun intended) of eight hours.

Fars News Agency, "Speaker: Iran to Stand Firm in Upcoming Talks with World Powers": Aware of Obama's Weak Hand, Khamenei Raises the Ante

Following Obama's failed Far East visit, which did not bring about a trade agreement with Japan, and Kerry's disastrous attempt to negotiate peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, Tehran knows that Obama is desperate to sign an agreement - any agreement - limiting Iran's nuclear weapons development program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. As such, Iran is now busy raising the ante, and further evidence of this nascent belligerence was to be found in the remarks of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani yesterday. As reported by the Fars News Agency (, Larijani indicated that Tehran might thumb its nose at the P5+1 in forthcoming talks :

"'As the sagacious leader of the revolution emphasized yesterday, self-belief and reliance on domestic knowledge and capabilities underlies successfulness of the country's move in future, an important instance of which is seen in the nuclear science,' Larijani said, addressing the lawmakers in an open session of the parliament in Tehran on Monday.

'This very explicitly means that protection of the peaceful nuclear technology of Iran will be the (only) acceptable framework in future talks,' he added.

'The quantity of this technology is no issue for bargaining, and when it comes to the quality, production of weapons is the redline according to the leader's Fatwa, and nothing else,' he stressed.

'The foreign minister and the negotiating team are entitled to continue the negotiations just within this framework and only on the nuclear issue, and nothing more, and the western powers should know that if some overlooking was shown in the preliminary talks, no such a thing would happen in the final negotiations,' he added.

His remarks came after Ayatollah Khamenei stressed on Sunday that the western states' demand for restricting Iran's missile capability is foolish."

Will a "deal" be signed? Absolutely, no matter what the terms. You see, Obama has too much ego riding on this.

And once again, peace in our time . . .

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jimmy Carter, "United Palestinian government may provide new opportunities for peace": Another Anti-Israel Harangue

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "United Palestinian government may provide new opportunities for peace" (, Jimmy Carter would have us believe that reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis) and rejects in absolute terms a negotiated peace solution with Israel, "may provide an opportunity for a new round of peace talks, permitting Israel finally to live in peace with its neighbors." Yeah, right.

Bur before arriving at this conclusion, Carter is swift to blame Israel for the failure of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which were sponsored by John Kerry. Carter writes:

"With the suspension of U.S.-sponsored peace talks on April 29, dangerous unilateral steps are likely to continue. During the previous nine months of negotiation, 14,000 new Israeli settlement units were approved, more than 3,000 Palestinians were arrested and 50 were killed, provoking troubling examples of Palestinian retaliation, including the deaths of three Israelis."

Re new Israeli settlements, Carter makes certain not to examine the facts. As observed by in a recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Israel gets no credit from Obama for a year of moderate settlement construction" by Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot (

"Israel built 2,534 housing units last year in the West Bank. Of these, about a quarter (694) were in two major blocs near Jerusalem, Giv’at Ze’ev and Betar Illit, and 537 were in two other major blocs, Modiin Illit and Ma’ale Adumim, also near Jerusalem. These four, which will remain part of Israel, account for half of last year’s construction. They are not isolated outposts but instead are towns with populations in the tens of thousands, near the Green Line, as the 1949 armistice line and 1967 border are known.

The critical figure to monitor is the number of Israeli houses built outside such blocs in areas intended for the future state of Palestine. What the CBS data tell us on that question is that only 908 units were built last year in Israeli townships of 10,000 residents or fewer. And most of those units were built in settlement towns that are part of the major blocs. Units built in areas that would become part of Palestine number in the hundreds — and likely in the low hundreds. Given that about 90,000 Israelis live in the West Bank outside the blocs, that is approximately the rate of natural growth. So much for [President Obama's] claim of 'aggressive construction.'"

With regard to the arrest of Palestinians, are we to ignore ongoing Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians? Carter doesn't bother to mention that more than 100 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israeli towns and cities from Hamas-controlled Gaza since the beginning of 2014.

Moreover, additional examples of Palestinian terrorism directed against Israeli civilians are not lacking. For example, there was the December 22, 2013 bus bombing in Bat Yam, Israel, in which disaster was averted when an alert passenger noticed a suspicious unattended bag. In January, Israel arrested four Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives responsible for the bombing, including a Palestinian Authority police officer.

Fifty Palestinians have been killed during the past nine months? Carter's "unbiased" source for this information is Secretary General of the National Palestinian Initiative, Mustafa Al-Barghouti, who declared that "approximately" 50 Palestinians had been killed ( Regrettably, Carter and Barghouti fail to inform us whether this number includes terrorists killed while firing rockets or terrorists who died in "work place accidents" while preparing bombs.

But why should we be surprised by any of this, given Carter's hatred of Israel? As noted by The Elder of Zion (

"In February, 1982, Syria's president Hafez al-Assad murdered between 30-40,000 people in the city of Hama.

A year later, in March 1983, Jimmy Carter referred to the mass murderer as 'a close personal friend' who he has a 'special relationship' with. He expressed the hope that if Assad would come to the negotiating table, he could be on the same side as the Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians, and Americans in pressuring - Israel."

Hafez al-Assad was of course the father of Syria's current leader, mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, responsible for the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Why does WaPo still provide Carter with a platform to vent his thinly disguised anti-Semitism? God only knows.

David Brooks, "The Problem With Confidence": Try Leading a Nation Without It

"To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence."

- Mark Twain

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Problem With Confidence" (, David Brooks concludes:

"[I]f you start thinking about your self-confidence, you will just be inventing a self-referential story. It’s probably easier to go through life focusing on what specifically needs doing, rooted in a set of external obligations and criteria and thus quieting the self."

Ah yes, look outward, not inward, and see how far it takes you. It might make you a venerable Buddhist monk, but you probably won't lead a nation, an army or even a small corporate department projecting irresolution.

But what happens when your self-confidence is punctured?

Suppose you tell a country that Putin and Khamenei are not as bad as others think. Suppose you build a foreign policy around the assumption that the world's despots are just misunderstood, and with a deep bow, an affectionate embrace and a toothy grin, these bad boys can all be turned around.

What happens when six years later, you're proven wrong, and the world around you descends into chaos?

I suppose it's the time to declare, "That's some good sushi right there," particularly after failing to secure a trade agreement with a longstanding ally.

After all, unless the sun doesn't rise tomorrow, you can go to bed confident in the knowledge that you will be paid some $20 million upfront to write your memoirs and can spend the rest of your life traipsing the lecture circuit for a cool half million dollars a pop, when you are not too busy roaming the links.

You've been proven an empty suit? Who cares? The joke is on them.

Even funnier, an empty pantsuit is waiting in the wings.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "More Chopsticks, Please": At Least Borat Spoke English

Surely you recall Sacha Baron Cohen's 2006 comedy "Borat," in which Borat Sagdiyev, a fictitious Kazakh journalist, traveled around the US at the behest of the Kazakh Ministry of Information in order to create a documentary film of his experiences. At least Borat spoke English.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "More Chopsticks, Please" (, Thomas Friedman tells us how his newspaper sent him to Kiev and Hanoi over the past couple of weeks in order to recount his experiences. Does Friedman speak fluent Ukrainian and/or Vietnamese? Probably not. And this could well have contributed to Tom's hilarious observation:

"And in my jet-lagged torpor, all I’ve been trying to do is make sure I don’t order Chicken Kiev in Hanoi and Chicken Spring Rolls in Kiev."


Observing that the Ukraine is being bullied by Russia and that Vietnam is being bullied by China, Friedman concludes:

"We’re not going to go to war on either front. And Russia and China also have claims and interests that bear consideration. But if we are to persuade Moscow and Beijing to resolve these border disputes peacefully, not unilaterally, we’ll clearly need a few more chopsticks in our bundle. Which is why America’s ability to build coalitions is as vital today as the exercise of its own power."

America's ability to build coalitions is vital today? Well, good luck to the Obama administration in forging a coalition to oppose Russia, after America's president alienated both Poland and the Czech Republic by scrapping plans for a missile defense system in both these countries. Instead, Obama promised "flexibility" to Putin.

And good luck to the Obama administration in forging a coalition to oppose China, after America's president refused to take sides in the dispute between China and Japan involving sovereignty over the the Senkaku Islands.

Needless to say, Friedman fails to mention that China is the largest single holder of American debt and is owed some $1.3 trillion by the US government.

But never mind this sobering truth. Just keep bundling those chopsticks.


Yup, almost as funny as the greenhouse gas emissions spewed by the airplanes carrying Friedman around the globe, all in order to allow Tom to spew these gaseous rollicking opinion pieces.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Now That’s Rich": Hedge Funds Do Not "Speculate"

You will recall that in a prior blog entry entitled "David Brooks, "The Moral Power of Curiosity": Can You Beat High-Frequency Traders?" ( I wrote:

"High-frequency trading? A friend recently related the following story to me:

"I had placed an order to buy shares of XXXX, and my order had been the bid for quite some time. I suddenly decided that the market was going lower and that I could buy the shares at a better price. Using my laptop, I attempted to cancel my bid, but within a second my bid was hit, and I had bought the shares."

Coincidence? No. Before the cancellation of my friend's order could be effected, this information had been routed to high-frequency traders, and they had sold him the shares. Or stated otherwise, their computers had been 'informed' that his cancellation was electronically en route, and they beat his cancellation by a nanosecond. Corrupt? Absolutely.

. . . .

The game is indeed rigged, and, with the cancellation of the Uptick Rule (see:, small investors are being milked every day by large financial institutions.

Can you still beat the system? I think so. But only with a strong heart, a long-term outlook and sufficient examination of a corporation's innovation, management and value proposition."

Or stated otherwise, before your stock exchange instructions are executed, the big boys' algorithms are going to decide whether or not it is to their advantage to allow those instructions to be effected.

You want to buy or sell shares? You might have to pay a little more - something akin to a tax - in order to prevent the hedge funds from acting a nanosecond ahead of you.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Now That’s Rich" (, Paul Krugman writes (my emphasis in red):

"Conservatives want you to believe that the big rewards in modern America go to innovators and entrepreneurs, people who build businesses and push technology forward. But that’s not what those hedge fund managers do for a living; they’re in the business of financial speculation."

Liberals versus conservatives? Angels versus devils? Spare me.

On the other hand, I do believe that high-frequency trading is milking small investors and that there is nothing "speculative" about it. High-frequency trading is guaranteed to make billions of dollars at the expense of small investors.

And what is the Obama administration doing about it? Nothing.

Gail Collins, "It’s the Viral Season": Erectile Dysfunction Anyone?

What's on Gail Collins's mind? Obamacare? Global warming? The Ukraine? Benghazi? Monica Lewinski? Guess again!

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "It’s the Viral Season" (, Gail Collins pokes fun at distasteful videos made by Republican congressional candidates. Gail highlights videos making reference to erectile dysfunction, sheep slaughtering and pig castration.

These videos are almost as compelling as Collins's serial references in 2012 to Seamus, who suffered from diarrhea atop Mitt Romney's Chevrolet Caprice station wagon in 1983. Yes, I know, it was a "running joke."

As concluded by Collins in today's op-ed:


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ruth Marcus, "Monica Lewinsky does Hillary Clinton a big favor": Benghazi Recedes From the Spotlight?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Monica Lewinsky does Hillary Clinton a big favor" (, Ruth Marcus writes:

"Monica Lewinsky may not have intended it this way, but she just did Hillary Clinton a big favor.

. . . .

Hillary Clinton, humiliated in her own way, emerged seemingly stronger. Her marriage endured; she became senator and secretary of state. Having put cracks in the glass ceiling, she is poised to break it, should she choose, in 2016."

Perhaps Ruth would care to enlighten us as to how Hillary's marriage has "endured." Is the marriage "real," or is it a marriage of convenience serving the blind narcissistic ambition of both Hillary and Bill?

If Monica has done Hillary a favor, maybe it is because the Benghazi debacle has faded from the spotlight even for one day.

Note Maureen Dowd's op-ed on the same topic:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Burning the Beret": First Bury the Blue Dress

Guess I got what I deserve
Kept you waiting there, too long my love
All that time, without a word
Didn't know you'd think, that I'd forget, or I'd regret

The special love I have for you
My baby blue

- "Baby Blue," Badfinger

After a long absence, Monica Lewinsky of presidentially "autographed" blue dress fame is back in the headlines with an article in Vanity Fair. Who gives a rat's ass, other than . . . Maureen Dowd and Hillary ("What difference, at this point, does it make?") Clinton.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Burning the Beret" (, Dowd tells us:

"But she must feel that her reticence over the last 10 years of 'self-searching and therapy' has led the public to hunger for her thoughts on the eve of Hillary’s book rollout in June and at a moment when President Obama is struggling to pull focus back from the Clintons, whose past and future are more dominant than Obama’s present. Monica is in danger of exploiting her own exploitation as she dishes about a couple whose erotic lives are of waning interest to the country."

Monica's reticence "has led the public to hunger for her thoughts on the eve of Hillary’s book rollout"? Well, you wasted an op-ed on the topic, Maureen.

Hillary and Bill's "erotic lives are of waning interest to the country"? Not so fast, Mo. Even I am curious to know how many decades ago Hillary and Bill last bedded down together.

But more to the point, with over two and a half years of a lame duck (paralytic?) Obama presidency in the offing, this is what American politics is all about?

Even worse, Hillary might not have a single accomplishment to her name in all her many years as First Lady, senator and secretary of the state, but Democrats are already falling over themselves to endorse her unannounced candidacy.

Worse still, there is not a credible Republican alternative in sight.

I suppose that you truly do get what you deserve.

Note Ruth Marcus's opinion piece on the same topic:

Thomas Friedman, "Go Big, Get Crazy": If Pigs Had Wings

Obama's foreign policy is beyond broken. It is irreparable, and even Obama's foreign policy cheerleader at The Washington Post, David Ignatius, has woken up to the meltdown.

In a WaPo opinion piece entitled "Obama tends to create his own foreign policy headaches" (, Ignatius finally acknowledges:

"Under Obama, the United States has suffered some real reputational damage. I say that as someone who sympathizes with many of Obama’s foreign policy goals. This damage, unfortunately, has largely been self-inflicted by an administration that focuses too much on short-term messaging. At key turning points — in Egypt and Libya during the Arab Spring, in Syria, in Ukraine and, yes, in Benghazi — the administration was driven by messaging priorities rather than sound, interests-based policy."

Or stated otherwise, Obama's foreign policy has been all about imagery with no accompanying substance. As every tin-pot dictator in the world has come to know, Obama talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk.

Meanwhile, however, over at The New York Times, Thomas Friedman continues to proffer windy advice to a president who is standing at the side of the road without gas or any sense of direction. In his latest Times op-ed entitled "Go Big, Get Crazy" (, Tom Terrific concludes:

"Putin may think he’s Superman, but, the fact is, America, Europe and the Ukrainian reformers collectively have the ability to generate the Kryptonite that would render him powerless: European unity, Ukrainian government legitimacy and U.S. energy. Those are the things of which he is most afraid. What they all have in common, though, is that they’re hard, entail serious choices and will require extraordinary leadership to achieve. So watch all these fronts. I can assure you that Putin is [sic]."

Superman? Kryptonite? Regrettably, this truly is comic book material.

"European unity"? Of the kind demonstrated by the EU in the face of Assad's use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians? More than 140,000 Syrians are dead and some 9 million Syrians have abandoned their homes (Syria has a total population of 22 million), but Europe couldn't give a damn. On the other hand, if Israel announces the construction of a dozen new apartment buildings in East Jerusalem, watch Europeans go wild.

Ukrainian government legitimacy"? Corruption is interwoven into the fabric of that nation's governance. As reported by the Kyiv Post (

"In its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index released today, Transparancy International slammed Ukraine, calling the country the most corrupt nation in Europe and the fifth most corrupt in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Ukraine tied for 144th place in the ranking with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Iran, Nigeria, and Papua New Guinea. That ranking placed it ahead of several Central Asian post-Soviet states, including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan."

Which leaves us with Friedman's call for a revolution in US energy policy, including a revenue-neutral carbon tax. But with the Democrats facing the worst midterm election results in 20 years (see:, don't be expecting any new legislative initiatives from the Obama administration.

Take Friedman's advice and "watch all these fronts"? My advice to Tom, "If pigs had wings, they would fly."

Monday, May 5, 2014

David Brooks, "The Streamlined Life": Love in the Time of Chimera II

"Your face and body can now be fixed, of course. But it's very different out there now. Your finances won't last long. Your panel of observers are waiting for you to choose."

- Ventura, "Vanilla Sky," 2001

Questions: Are you able to talk with your children? More to the point, are they interested in talking with you? Do your children know or even care which books you are reading? Do they know what exactly it is that you do? Have they ever asked about your suffering?

In his prior New York Times op-ed entitled "Love Story" (, David Brooks concluded:

"I’m old enough to remember when many people committed themselves to this sort of life and dreamed of this sort of communion — the whole Great Books/Big Ideas thing. I am not sure how many people believe in or aspire to this sort of a life today. I’m not sure how many schools prepare students for this kind of love."

"[H]ow many schools prepare students for this kind of love"? Today, in a Times op-ed entitled "The Streamlined Life" (, David Brooks answers his own question. Telling us of the results of U.C.L.A. surveys of student values over past decades, Brooks writes:

"In 1985, 64 percent of students said they ranked in the top 10 percent or at least above average in terms of mental health. But today, students admit to being much more emotionally vulnerable. They also declare low levels of spiritual self-confidence.

. . . .

The surveys still reveal generations driven by curiosity, a desire to have a good family, a good community and good values. But people clearly feel besieged. There is the perception that life is harder. Certainly their parents think it is harder. The result is that you get a group hardened for battle, more focused on the hard utilitarian things and less focused on spiritual or philosophic things; feeling emotionally vulnerable, but also filled with résumé assertiveness. The inner world wanes; professional intensity waxes."

It would seem that today's students can no longer afford the "Great Books/Big Ideas thing." Facing the higher cost of college, they are too consumed by anxiety and economic survival to give much of a damn about "this kind of love."

And yet, as observed by Brooks, today's students do not lack in self-esteem:

"They rate themselves much more highly than past generations on leadership skills, writing abilities, social self-confidence and so on."

Welcome to our brave new narcissistic world.

And so, given the chance and the choice, would you care to jump back into life or remain forever in suspended animation? Your panel of observers from Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon and the National Security Agency are waiting for you to choose.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Inventing a Failure": Lies, Damned Lies?

Has Obamacare turned the corner? You might not be able to keep your doctor, you might not be able to keep your health care plan, and it might cost you more, but Paul Krugman thinks so.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Inventing a Failure" (, Krugman writes:

"Mainstream politicians didn’t always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and — in this case — bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America’s future.

. . . .

The really big policy news of 2014, at least so far, is the spectacular recovery of the Affordable Care Act from its stumbling start, thanks to an extraordinary late surge that took enrollment beyond early projections. The age mix of enrollees has improved; insurance companies are broadly satisfied with the risk pool. Multiple independent surveys confirm that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has already declined substantially, and there’s every reason to believe that over the next two years the act will meet its overall goals, except in states that refuse to expand Medicaid.

. . . .

So Republicans are spreading disinformation about health reform because it works, and because they can — there is no sign that they pay any political price when their accusations are proved false."

"Mainstream politicians didn’t always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies"? Peculiar. The Obama administration's attempt to blame the attack on the Benghazi consulate on an Internet video amounted to just this sort of mendaciousness, but I am wandering off target. Is Obamacare the success that Krugman makes it out to be? Are Republicans hoodwinking the electorate?

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The White House’s Obamacare victory lap looking more like a false start" (, Aaron Blake observes (my emphasis in red):

"As we have noted, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows approval of the law and of Obama's implementation of it have dropped after a momentary boost. Americans disapprove of the law overall 48-44 and disapprove of Obama's implementation 57-37.

What's perhaps more telling is that, despite the rare good news of the past few weeks, their perceptions of the law remain basically as-is -- that is, pretty dim. To wit:
•Americans say 50-41 that the implementation of the law has been worse than they expected rather than better.
•They say 44-24 that the health-care system is getting worse rather than getting better as a result of Obamacare.
•They say 29-14 that the quality of care is getting worse rather than better.
•They say 47-8 that their health-care costs are increasing due to the law rather than decreasing.
•They say 58-11 that the overall cost of health care in the United States is increasing rather than decreasing. "

These negative perceptions of Obamacare are all the result of Republican lies? I don't think so, unless Krugman would have us believe that Americans, who elected Obama twice to be their president, are all dunderheads, even when it involves their wallets and purses.

Is the Affordable Care Act affordable? Obviously many Americans don't think so.

What will be the ultimate effect of the Affordable Care Act on America's national debt? Or stated otherwise, is the Affordable Care Act affordable to the nation as a whole? The jury is still out - particularly given a second delay by the Obama administration of the employer mandate in February - but the prognosis is not sanguine, notwithstanding slightly lower deficit estimates (see: