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Monday, June 30, 2014

John Kerry, "Iranian nuclear deal still is possible, but time is running out": Preparing for Failure

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Iranian nuclear deal still is possible, but time is running out" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/iranian-nuclear-deal-still-is-possible-but-time-is-running-out/2014/06/30/8510fbe2-0091-11e4-8fd0-3a663dfa68ac_story.html?hpid=z3), John Kerry tells us that Tehran must now choose whether to accept restrictions on its nuclear weapons development program by the July 20 deadline imposed by the P5+1 framework agreement. Kerry writes:

"We have, over the past several months, proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is limited to peaceful purposes. In return, Iran would be granted phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions.

What will Iran choose? Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet. We do know that substantial gaps still exist between what Iran’s negotiators say they are willing to do and what they must do to achieve a comprehensive agreement. We also know that their public optimism about the potential outcome of these negotiations has not been matched, to date, by the positions they have articulated behind closed doors.

These gaps aren’t caused by excessive demands on our part."

Query: Why did Kerry make use of the Washington Post to air his concerns? Is it because Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei is a fervent reader of The Washington Post? I don't think so.

With ISIS forces running amok in Iraq and threatening his western border, and with 30 million Kurds residing in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey contemplating the establishment of an independent state, Khamenei doesn't give much of a damn what Kerry has to say in WaPo.

Kerry tells us that if Iran is not willing to accept the conditions of the P5+1, "international sanctions will tighten and Iran’s isolation will deepen." However, Khamenei must be wondering whether the easing of international sanctions pursuant to the P5+1 framework agreement didn't let the genie out of the bottle.

So if the Kerry opinion piece is not intended for the consumption of Khamenei and friends, to whom is it addressed? A domestic audience? Might Kerry already be attempting to soften the blow of yet another Obama administration foreign policy failure?

Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "Arsonists and Firefighters": Tom Spews More Rubbish

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Arsonists and Firefighters" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-who-is-setting-the-sectarian-fires-in-the-middle-east.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), subtitled "Who Is Setting the Sectarian Fires in the Middle East?," Thomas Friedman divides the Middle East into "arsonists" and "firefighters," i.e. "bad guys" and "good guys." Among his "bad guys" are Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad and Israeli cabinet ministers Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel. Specifically with regard to Uri Ariel, Friedman writes:

"Ariel deliberately announced plans to build 700 new housing units for Jews in Arab East Jerusalem — timed to torpedo Secretary of State John Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy. And they did."

Some 700 new homes in Gilo caused the collapse of Kerry's folly? Oh really? As Jonathan Tobin wrote in a Commentary opinion piece entitled "Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame" (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/04/08/why-did-kerry-lie-about-israeli-blame-peace-process-palestinians/):

"Kerry knows very well that the negotiations were doomed once the Palestinians refused to sign on to the framework for future talks he suggested even though it centered them on the 1967 lines that they demand as the basis for borders. Why? Because Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas wouldn’t say the two little words —'Jewish state'—that would make it clear he intended to end the conflict. Since the talks began last year after Abbas insisted on the release of terrorist murderers in order to get them back to the table, the Palestinians haven’t budged an inch on a single issue.

Thus, to blame the collapse on the decision to build apartments in Gilo—a 40-year-old Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem that would not change hands even in the event a peace treaty were ever signed and where Israel has never promised to stop building—is, to put it mildly, a mendacious effort to shift blame away from the side that seized the first pretext to flee talks onto the one that has made concessions in order to get the Palestinians to sit at the table."

Among Friedman's "firefighters" is Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Zarif is a "good guy"? In an editorial entitled "Meaningful Progress With Iran" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/opinion/sunday/meaningful-progress-with-iran.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0), The New York Times concluded:

"For all this positive momentum, which includes a reciprocal easing of some Western sanctions, many of Iran’s policies remain indefensible, such as the detention of political prisoners, support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and support for Hezbollah. Mr. Zarif failed to address those issues in an article he wrote on Iranian foreign policy in Foreign Affairs magazine. But he firmly committed Iran to 'prudent moderation' and to fostering peace and security. A durable nuclear agreement is an important first step in fulfilling that promise."

Ah yes, "prudent moderation" from Iran, a country that hangs homosexuals, stones to death women accused of adultery, executes poets, and commits atrocities against Baha'is, Kurds, Christians and Sunni Muslims. Apart from failing to distance himself from Bashar al-Assad, has Zarif ever denounced these other abominations?

And then there was Zarif's declaration that pursuant to the six-month nuclear framework deal with the P5+1, Iran "did not agree to dismantle anything" (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/22/politics/iran-us-nuclear/).

In short, would-be Middle-East expert Friedman is again wearing his ignorance on his sleeve.

Friday, June 27, 2014

David Brooks, "The Spiritual Recession": What About the IRS Scandal?

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

- Abraham Lincoln


In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Spiritual Recession" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/opinion/david-brooks-is-america-losing-faith-in-universal-democracy.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), subtitled "Is America Losing Faith in Universal Democracy?," David Brooks describes the decline of democracy in the US:

"But now the nation is tired, distrustful, divided and withdrawing. Democratic vistas give way to laissez-faire fatalism: History has no shape. The dream of universal democracy seems naïve. National interest matters most."

Brooks's conclusion:

"The democratic gospel was both lofty and realistic. It had a high historic mission, but it was based on the idea that biblical morality is necessary precisely because people are selfish and shortsighted, capitalism is necessary because economies are too complicated to understand and plan; democracy is necessary because concentrated power is always dangerous, no matter how seductive it seems in the short term.

Sure there have been setbacks. But if America isn’t a champion of universal democracy, what is the country for? A great inheritance is being squandered; a 200-year-old language is being left by the side of the road."

No mention by Brooks of the IRS scandal or the fact that "[m]ore than three-quarters of voters -- 76 percent -- think the emails missing from the account of Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official at the center of the scandal over targeting of conservative groups, were deliberately destroyed" (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/24/fox-news-poll-voters-think-irs-emails-were-deliberately-destroyed/).

Bottom line: It is difficult to "champion" universal democracy at a time when the American electorate believes that one of its most feared government agencies is being used to crush persons opposing administration policies.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nicholas Kristof, "Obama’s Weakness, or Ours?": Jackass

The IRS scandal? Shhh! As we all know by now, you're not supposed to write about it in The New York Times, and Nicholas Kristof is toeing the line. Ignoring the IRS scandal in his latest Times op-ed entitled "Obama’s Weakness, or Ours?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/opinion/nicholas-kristof-obamas-weakness-or-ours.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), he instead directs our attention to Obama's foreign policy and would have us know that the 58 percent of Americans who disapprove of the way Obama is handling foreign policy (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/world/middleeast/sharp-rise-in-disapproval-of-obamas-handling-of-foreign-policy-poll-finds.html?_r=0) are fools.

Regarding the prisoner exchange for Bergdahl, Kristof writes:

"But the five Taliban prisoners have probably aged out of field combat, and, if they return to Afghanistan after their year in Qatar, they would likely have trouble finding American targets because, by then, the United States will no longer be engaged in combat."

If you "age out of field combat," you no longer pose a security threat as a behind-the-lines commander? In the age of global jihad, these released terrorists can only engage in terrorist activities within the borders of Afghanistan? Kristof is indeed a jackass. Needless to say, Kristof doesn't mention how Susan Rice, the president's National Security Advisor, shamefully went on television to inform the nation that Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction" and that he was "an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield."

Regarding Russia, Kristof would have us know:

"Russian aggression in Ukraine was infuriating, but it’s petty Washington politics to see it as emanating from Obama weakness.

. . . .

Be wary, but let’s hope the Bear is backing down."

Of course, Kristof doesn't refer to Obama's open microphone request that Medvedev convey to Putin his promise of "flexibility" during his second term. Why should Putin "back down"? He was promised flexibility.

Concerning the chaos in Iraq, Kristof explains:

"The debacle in Iraq is a political and humanitarian catastrophe, but it’s a little rich for neocons to blame Obama after they created the mess in the first place."

Well, I opposed the Second Gulf War, but there can be no avoiding the conclusion that the emergence of ISIS (alternatively ISIL) resulted from Obama's failure to support more moderate elements fighting against Bashar al-Assad. It's worth noting that Kristof himself wrote a Times op-ed entitled "Obama AWOL in Syria" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/opinion/kristof-obama-awol-in-syria.html), in which he asked Obama to become more proactive with respect to the rebellion in Syria. Syria? Kristof tells us today:

"Yes, Obama has made his share of mistakes, especially in Syria, where he doesn’t seem to have much of a policy at all. Partly balancing that, he helped to defuse the Syrian chemical weapons threat."

Obama defused the Syrian chemical weapons threat? Oh really? Earlier this week, in an editorial entitled "Obama’s wrongheaded reluctance to help the moderate opposition in Syria" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-wrongheaded-reluctance-to-help-the-moderate-opposition-in-syria/2014/06/22/efb0ff0e-f977-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html?hpid=z4), The Washington Post acknowledged that Obama's agreement with Assad, sponsored by Putin, for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal is not being honored:

"We welcomed the agreement that the United States and Russia reached last year to compel Syria to rid itself of chemical weapons after a horrific attack that killed more than 1,400 people in August. The plan was ambitious: It called for complete, verified liquidation of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks and production facilities no later than June 30. And the effort to move these hazardous weapons out of Syria has come a long way; an estimated 92 percent of them have been taken out.

But after the initial progress, Assad’s regime has turned truculent and unresponsive. Robert Mikulak, the U.S. representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), last week declared that Syria has missed 'a parade of timelines.' He pointed out that Syria’s production facilities were supposed to be destroyed by March, but destruction hasn’t started. None of the remaining 8 percent has moved toward the port of Latakia. Questions remain about Syria’s declaration of its stockpiles."

You see, Nicholas, Americans are not as stupid as you make them out to be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "ISIS and SISI": GOD Spelled Backwards Is DOG

The IRS scandal? Shhh! You're not supposed to mention it in The New York Times. Scandals involving the Obama administration disappear into the back pages of the decrepit Gray Lady, if they are allowed to be published at all.

On the other hand, you might want to note that SCANDAL spelled backwards is . . . LADNACS. LADNACS? LADNACS, of course, does not make sense, but then, neither does Thomas Friedman's latest Times op-ed entitled "ISIS and SISI" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/opinion/thomas-friedman-isis-and-sisi.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), in which this would-be Middle East expert explains how the Arabs can escape the tyranny of ISIS (also known as ISIL) in Iraq and of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt. Friedman concludes his erudite opinion piece by observing:

"We tend to make every story about us. But this is not all about us. To be sure, we’ve done plenty of ignorant things in Iraq and Egypt. But we also helped open their doors to a different future, which their leaders have slammed shut for now. Going forward, where we see people truly committed to pluralism, we should help support them. And where we see islands of decency threatened, we should help protect them. But this is primarily about them, about their need to learn to live together without an iron fist from the top, and it will happen only when and if they want it to happen."

"It will happen only when and if they want it to happen"? Or something akin to Dorothy just having to click the heels of her ruby slipper three times. Or Ray Kinsella building a baseball field in his cornfield, knowing that if you build it, they will come.

Or, if you wish it long enough and hard enough, it will happen. You know, the profound philosophy underlying that 2006 self-help masterpiece entitled "The Secret."

However, there is a fly in Friedman's ointment. More than 10 million Egyptian women are illiterate. More than 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone genital mutilation. And this is not because of Sisi. This is because more than 80 million Jew-hating Egyptians do this to themselves.

Unless Egyptians choose to free their women from tyranny, this country is headed for the dustbin of history.

Iraq? An incohesive entity whose borders resulted from the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France. Sykes-Picot was intended to carve up the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, but failed to take into account centuries-long enmity between Shiites and Sunnis. Iraq today? Pure pandemonium, and there is no chance of this chaos abating until Shiites and Sunnis learn to live together, which is not in the cards anytime soon.

But never mind: Listen to Friedman! After all, Obama read Friedman, and look where it took his foreign policy . . .

Is the IRS Scandal Worse Than Watergate?

Is the IRS scandal worse than Watergate? Of course, the question presupposes that there is indeed a scandal, and as Obama's new press secretary, Josh Earnest, informed us on Friday:

"The fact of the matter is after 13 months of multiple congressional investigations, including 14 congressional hearings, 30 interviews with I.R.S. employees, 50 written congressional requests and, as I mentioned, 750,000 pages of documents, there is zero evidence to support Republican claims."

"Zero evidence to support Republican claims"? Oh really? As observed by Michael Gerson today in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "An arrogant and lawless IRS" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-gerson-an-arrogant-and-lawless-irs/2014/06/23/8d6802d8-fb03-11e3-8176-f2c941cf35f1_story.html?hpid=z2):

"After President Obama blamed 'two Dilberts in Cincinnati,' an inspector general’s report found that high-level IRS officials in Washington were involved in directing additional scrutiny toward tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. [Lois] Lerner admitted as much, before taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before the House oversight committee."

Or in a nutshell, when a high ranking IRS official takes the Fifth before the House, only a raving partisan, intent upon obfuscation of the facts, would claim that there was no misconduct. How to respond to this misconduct? Gerson calls for the appointment of a special counsel:

"Because evidence of political influence is both plausible and circumstantial, a special counsel is needed to sort out the truth.

Why does this matter deserve heightened scrutiny from the rest of us? Because crimes against democracy are particularly insidious. Representative government involves a type of trade. As citizens, we cede power to public officials for important purposes that require centralized power: defending the country, imposing order, collecting taxes to promote the common good. In exchange, we expect public institutions to be evenhanded and disinterested. When the stewards of power — biased judges or corrupt policemen or politically motivated IRS officials — act unfairly, it undermines trust in the whole system."

A special counsel? In May 1973, Nixon's attorney general, Elliot Richardson, appointed Archibald Cox to the position of special counsel to investigate Watergate. Is the IRS scandal sufficiently momentous to demand the same treatment? Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal writes in an opinion piece entitled "The High Price of Obama Fatigue" (http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-high-price-of-obama-fatigue-1403139022):

"The IRS tea-party audit story isn't Watergate; it's worse than Watergate.

The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable."

However, the IRS scandal goes far beyond the "mere" targeting of average Americans. As Warren L. Dean Jr. states in a Washington Times opinion piece entitled "A scandal worse than Watergate" (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/7/a-scandal-worse-than-watergate/):

"[T]he Watergate burglars were not government employees. No government agency was implicated in the initial break-in. This time around, the misconduct is taking place in what may be the most powerful — and feared — government agency in the country. To ordinary Americans, it looks like the IRS spent taxpayer money to conduct a potentially criminal enterprise directed at the Americans who pay their salary. It was not only wrong, it was a betrayal of the public's trust in government. At this stage, the IRS scandal is far more serious than the initial Watergate break-in."

I agree with Mr. Dean that the IRS scandal is potentially far more heinous than Watergate. Moreover, there can be no avoiding the comparison between the missing minutes from the Watergate tapes and the alleged crash of Lois Lerner's hard drive, preventing access to her emails (the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, testified on Friday that the IRS destroyed Lerner's hard drive in 2011), but will Obama appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS scandal and put the matter to rest? Not a chance. In January 2009, Obama promised:

"Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

Transparency in the Obama administration? Obama himself must rely on newspaper reports to learn of wrongdoing involving his presidency, and it remains to be seen what will remain of American government credibility at home and overseas by the time he finishes his second term.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Washington Post, "Obama’s wrongheaded reluctance to help the moderate opposition in Syria": Care to Change Your Story, Mr. President?

Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard: Oh. Wow. Gee Whiz. Looky here. You know we're always fascinated when we find leg irons with no legs in them. Who held the keys sir?

Old Guard: Me.

Marshal Samuel Gerard: Where those keys at?

Old Guard: I don't know.

Poole: Care to revise your statement, sir?

Old Guard: What?

Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard: Do you want to change you bullshit story, sir?


-The Fugitive (1993)


In an editorial entitled "Obama’s wrongheaded reluctance to help the moderate opposition in Syria" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-wrongheaded-reluctance-to-help-the-moderate-opposition-in-syria/2014/06/22/efb0ff0e-f977-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html?hpid=z4), The Washington Post acknowledges that Obama's agreement with Assad, sponsored by Putin, for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal is not being honored:

"We welcomed the agreement that the United States and Russia reached last year to compel Syria to rid itself of chemical weapons after a horrific attack that killed more than 1,400 people in August. The plan was ambitious: It called for complete, verified liquidation of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks and production facilities no later than June 30. And the effort to move these hazardous weapons out of Syria has come a long way; an estimated 92 percent of them have been taken out.

But after the initial progress, Assad’s regime has turned truculent and unresponsive. Robert Mikulak, the U.S. representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), last week declared that Syria has missed 'a parade of timelines.' He pointed out that Syria’s production facilities were supposed to be destroyed by March, but destruction hasn’t started. None of the remaining 8 percent has moved toward the port of Latakia. Questions remain about Syria’s declaration of its stockpiles."

Now consider what President Obama had to say about this agreement during his State of the Union address in January:

"American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear."

Do you want to change your bullshit story, Mr. President?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

As Anti-Semitism Runs Wild in France, the US Presbyterian Church to Divest From Companies Doing Business in the West Bank

In a Tablet article earlier this month entitled "Jewish Teen Wearing Yarmulke Tasered in Paris" (http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/175622/jewish-teen-wearing-yarmulke-tasered-in-paris) by Stephanie Butnick, we were told of a wave of anti-Semitism sweeping France. After describing a Taser attack on a Jewish teenager in Paris, the article listed other recent anti-Semitic outrages:

"• In May, a Jewish woman with a baby was attacked at a Paris bus station by a man who shouted 'Dirty Jewess' at her.

• In March, a Jewish teacher leaving a kosher restaurant in Paris had his nose broken by a group of assailants who also drew a swastika on his chest.

• One week earlier in March, an Israeli man was attacked with a stun gun outside a Paris synagogue.

• A week before that in March, a 28-year-old Jewish man was beaten on the Paris metro to chants of 'Jew, we are going to lay into you, you have no country.'

In January, anti-government demonstrators shouted 'Jew, France is Not Yours' as they marched through the streets of Paris."

Yesterday, a Washington Post article entitled "A ‘new anti-Semitism’ rising in France" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-new-anti-semitism-rising-in-france/2014/06/19/1da8ae34-1a71-4f50-893a-9842af51e3ce_story.html?hpid=z1) by Anthony Faiola, described the popularity of the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who makes light of the Holocaust and created an inverted Nazi salute (the "quenelle") which has taken hold throughout Europe. The article continues:

"In Western Europe, no nation has seen the climate for Jews deteriorate more than France.

. . . .

This month, authorities arrested Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national, and charged him with the May killings of four people inside a Jewish museum in Brussels. The attack was the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in Western Europe since a gunman killed seven people, including three children at a Jewish day school, in Toulouse in 2012. Nemmouche allegedly launched his attack after a tour of duty with rebels in Syria, prompting fears of additional violence to come as more of the hundreds of French nationals fighting there make their way home.

In a country that is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, the first three months of the year saw reported acts of anti-Semitic violence in France skyrocket to 140 incidents, a 40 percent increase from the same period last year.

. . . .

A recent global survey by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League suggested that France now has the highest percentage in Western Europe — 37 percent — of people openly harboring anti-Semitic views. That compares with 8 percent in Britain, 20 percent in Italy and 27 percent in Germany."

It should come as no surprise that 75 percent of French Jews are considering emigration (see: http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Poll-Three-out-of-four-French-Jews-mull-leaving-France-352779)

Worrisome? Absolutely, but it obviously doesn't trouble America's Presbyterian Church, which voted on Friday to divest from three US companies, Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard, which, according to the Presbyterian Church, profit from the sale of equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory. As reported in a Times of Israel article entitled "Presbyterian Church votes in favor of divestment" (http://www.timesofisrael.com/presbyterian-church-votes-in-favor-of-divesting-from-israel/) by Rebecca Shimoni Stoil:

"[Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism] referenced the Church’s sponsorship and dissemination of 'Zionism Unsettled,' a booklet condemned by a number of Jewish groups and complimented by former Klansman David Duke for its use of the term 'Jewish supremacism' to describe Zionist thought."

Remarkable how the Presbyterian Church should be so preoccupied with the West Bank at a time when more than 100,000 civilians have been murdered and millions more have been forced to flee their homes in neighboring Syria.

A ballooning number of "honor killings" perpetrated against women in Gaza and the West Bank (see: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/03/upsurge-palestinian-honour-killings-gaza-201432372831899701.html)? The Presbyterian Church doesn't give a damn.

The murder and persecution of gays in Gaza and the West Bank (see: http://www.timesofisrael.com/gay-palestinian-to-hcj-boot-me-and-theyll-kill-me/)? Again, of no concern to the Presbyterian Church.

Even more remarkable, the Presbyterian Church apparently does not care about intimidation and harassment of Christians in Gaza and the West Bank (see: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2838/palestinians-christians and http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/26/us-palestinians-christians-conversion-idUSBRE86P0J420120726 and http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/gaza-christians-safety.html#).

After all, hatred of the Jews must always come first.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

David Brooks, "In the Land of Mass Graves": Can 300 Americans Make a Difference in Iraq?

In 480 BC, King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fought a valiant rear-guard action against the Persian army of Xerxes at Thermopylae. The Spartans fought valiantly and held off the Persians over the course of three days of battle, but ultimately all of the vastly outnumbered Greeks were overwhelmed. Obama is now sending 300 American troops into Iraq to fight a belated rear-guard action (to save Obama's ass from charges of cowardice and inaction), following the evacuation of American forces at the end of 2011. Will these 300 Americans be able to protect themselves or undertake any meaningful activity to slow the forces of ISIS?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "In the Land of Mass Graves" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/david-brooks-are-there-lessons-for-iraq-in-rwanda.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), David Brooks suggests that with regard to the "murderous sectarian violence" currently sweeping across Iraq, there are lessons to be learned from Rwanda, which is now showing signs of economic growth and intertribal tolerance. Brooks writes:

"Well, one possible lesson from Rwanda is that sectarian bloodletting is not a mass hysteria. It’s not an organic mania that sweeps over society like a plague. Instead, murderous sectarian violence is a top-down phenomenon produced within a specific political context.

People don’t usually go off decapitating each other or committing mass murder just because they hate people in another group. These things happen because soul-dead political leaders are in a struggle for power and use ethnic violence as a tool in that struggle.

If you can sideline those leaders or get the politics functioning, you can reduce the violence dramatically. These situations are gruesome, but they are not hopeless."

Murderous sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq is "a top-down phenomenon produced within a specific political context"? Rubbish. As explained by Dr. Mordechai Kedar in a compelling op-ed entitled "The Most Deadly Middle East Conflict is Shia vs.Sunni" (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/14132#.U6OcG5uKDcs), the Shiite-Sunni struggle began in the year 632, when Mohammed died without naming a successor. Dr. Kedar observes:

"The murder of Hussein [grandson of Mohammad and leader of the Shiite sect] occurred in Southern Iraq, near the city of Karbala. He was murdered together with several dozens of his friends and family members, with only one baby surviving to continue the dynasty. The murder, which occurred in 680 - remains the defining event for 'Shi'at Ali', the 'sect of Ali', which is the source of the name 'Shia' or Shi'ite, the name of the stream of Islam that supports the leadership of Ali's descendants.

This family conflict has been ongoing for almost 1400 years. Until the year 1258, with the fall of Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid dynasty, all of the caliphs of Islam for over six hundred years were from Muhammad's tribe, the tribe of Quraysh, but they were never the descendants of Ali. This situation placed Shi'a in continual opposition to the ruling regime and they became a harshly persecuted group throughout the history of Islam."

In short, the fighting in Iraq represents the latest manifestation of a war of succession that has been waged for many centuries, and it is not a recent "top-down phenomenon."

Brooks's conclusion:

"The Iraqi state is much weaker than the Rwandan one, but, even so, this quick survey underlines the wisdom of the approach the Obama administration is gesturing toward in Iraq: Use limited military force to weaken those who are trying to bring in violence from outside; focus most on the political; round up a regional coalition that will pressure Iraqi elites in this post-election moment to form an inclusive new government.

Iraq is looking into an abyss, but the good news is that if you get the political elites behaving decently, you can avoid the worst. Grimly, there’s cause for hope."

Nonsense! Can 300 Americans make a difference? No, and I desperately pray that none of them will be captured.

Get the political elites in Iraq to behave "decently"? Brooks is ignoring  almost 1,400 years of savagery between Shiites and Sunnis.

"[T]here's cause for hope"? Not a chance, although we could ultimately witness the emergence of an independent Kurdistan.

Bottom line: Brooks is plainly better off speculating about the "structures of growth" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/06/david-brooks-structures-of-growth-why.html) than writing twaddle about the Middle East.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gail Collins, "Mitt! Again! What?": Seamus Is Back!

Holy cow! Gail Collins, who is the founder of the Bonbon School of Journalism, best practiced from a cushy Manhattan sofa while simultaneously playing Candy Crush, again has something about which she can write. In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Mitt! Again! What?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/opinion/gail-collins-romney-and-the-2016-contenders-huddle.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0), Collins is titilated by the possibility that Mitt might run against Hillary in 2016. Collins begins:

"Mitt Romney is back.

Don’t leap to any conclusions. After all, there are a lot of different ways to be back. You can be back as in 'back running for president.' Or just back as in 'back in the public eye.' Or back driving to Canada with a dog strapped to the car roof."

Ah yes, Collins's running joke about Seamus, Romney's Irish Setter. The joke was lame in 2012, but never mind: Collins is taking it out of mothballs, and just ignore the "unpleasant smell."

After asking if Republican moderates might "be desperate enough to want to bring back Mitt," Collins concludes:

"Mitt Romney is never going to run as a man of the people. You will remember how well that worked the last time around. Instead, he’s talking foreign policy. It’s the topic of the moment. And unlike, say, Chris Christie, Romney has the aura of a serious guy. Unlike, say, Jeb Bush, he is not related to anybody who invaded Iraq.

. . . .

We will try to move past the deep, deep, deep irony of Republicans trying to score political points on Iraq. Really try. It’s just Mitt Romney. And he’s not even running for anything."

Excuse me, just Iraq? What about China, Russia, the Ukraine, Crimea, Benghazi, Iran, Syria, Egypt and the alienation by Obama of many of America's traditional allies? Try getting up off your couch, Gail. There's an entire world out there that has been left in chaos by Obama's neo-isolationist policies and his toadying to the world's despots.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "What to Do With the Twins?": Begin by Ignoring Friedman

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "What to Do With the Twins?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/opinion/thomas-friedman-the-conundrum-of-a-unified-iraq-and-a-unified-syria.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman compares the chaos in Iraq with the pandemonium in Syria. Friedman's conclusion:

"Pluralism came to Europe only after many centuries of one side or another in religious wars thinking it could have it all, and after much ethnic cleansing created more homogeneous nations. Europe also went through the Enlightenment and the Reformation. Arab Muslims need to go on the same journey. It will happen when they want to or when they have exhausted all other options. Meanwhile, let’s strengthen the islands of decency — Tunisia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Kurdistan — and strengthen our own democracy to insulate ourselves as best we can."

Arab Muslims need to go on the same journey as Europe? Fascinating. During the Thirty Years' War, the populations of the various German states, Bohemia, Italy and the Low Countries were decimated by massacres, famine and disease. It has been estimated that the population of the German states was reduced by up to 40 percent. And then there was also the "small matter" of witch hunts during the same period. Arab Muslims must experience this same tragedy?

Friedman's islands of decency? No mention by Tom that some 70 percent of Jordan's population consists of Palestinians (Jordan comprises 78 percent of the original Palestine Mandate), who continue to suffer discrimination and hardship at the hands of their Hashemite rulers.

Lebanon? No mention by Tom of the on persistent fighting between Sunnis and Shiites in this country or the presence of Hezbollah, whose military wing, which is infinitely stronger than the Lebanese army and which takes marching orders from Iran, is now deployed in Syria. As reported in March by Lebanon's Daily Star (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Mar-23/251086-29-killed-so-far-in-n-lebanon-fighting.ashx#ixzz34xQpOkgl):

"Intermittent sniper fire and fierce overnight clashes between rival neighborhoods in the troubled northern city of Tripoli dashed hopes Sunday for an end to the fighting that has claimed 29 lives so far.

Two people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed and one person was wounded late Saturday, reportedly when a personal dispute escalated into armed clashes in Bab al-Tabbaneh.

. . . .

The incident raised the death toll from 10 days of fighting to 29, the highest number of casualties from a single round of fighting since the uprising in Syrian began in 2011, eventually spilling over into Tripoli where supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad now regularly engage in gunbattles."

Tunisia? As reported by Tunisialive (http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/06/11/man-burns-daughter-to-death-in-suspected-honor-killing/) earlier this week:

"A Tunisian man is accused of burning his 13-year-old daughter to death for walking home from school with a male classmate May 28 in Ibn Khaldoun, a suburb of Tunis. Aya, a middle school student, died on June 7 from fourth-degree burns, Kapitalis and other local news sources reported."

Obama reads and is influenced by Friedman's tripe? Lord help us!

Monday, June 16, 2014

David Brooks, "The Structures of Growth": Why Kids Prefer Soccer Over Baseball

Following a thought provoking op-ed concerning the destruction of Iraq by ISIL (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/06/david-brooks-big-burn-kurdish-state-on.html), David Brooks is back with a mind numbing opinion piece concerning the nature of learning. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Structures of Growth" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/opinion/david-brooks-learning-is-no-easy-task.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0), Brooks would differentiate between "logarithmic" learning ("You make a lot of progress when you first begin the activity, but, as you get better, it gets harder and harder to improve") and "exponential" learning ("after you have put in your 10,000 hours of effort, suddenly you develop a natural ease and your progress multiplies quickly"). He then explains why children increasingly prefer soccer (football outside of the US) over baseball:

"It does seem clear that our society celebrates fast-payoff instrumental activities, like sports and rock stardom, while undervaluing exponential activities, like being a statesman or craftsman. Kids increasingly flock to logarithmic sports, like soccer, over exponential sports, like baseball."

Oddly, it doesn't occur to Brooks that this preference might stem from the fact that over the course of a baseball game, most players - other than the pitcher and the catcher - do absolutely nothing, whereas in soccer, players are in perpetual motion.

And then there is Brooks's strange remark concerning politicians:

"If you go into politics, you have to make the transition from campaigning, which is an instantly gratifying activity, to governing, which is an exponential activity, requiring experience, patience and hard-earned wisdom."

No mention by Brooks of Obama, who proved himself a natural orator with the help of a teleprompter, but never picked up any management or leadership skills.

Brooks's more peculiar conclusion:

"Finally, this focus on growth structures takes your eyes off yourself. The crucial thing is not what traits you intrinsically possess. The crucial questions are: What is the structure of your domain? Where are you now on the progress curve? How are you interacting with the structures of the field?

The crucial answers to those questions are not found in the mirror. They are found by seeing yourself from a distance as part of a landscape. That’s a more pleasing and healthier perspective in any case."

Well, depending upon my mood later today, I might (no meetings with clients today) consider looking into a mirror and shaving, but consider myself "as part of a landscape"? Sorry, but my work in the garden later today, planting tomatoes and peppers, as I angrily mull the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas, wouldn't make for much of a Constable, Gainsborough or Turner.

Jerusalem Post, "Jerusalem miffed at EU silence over kidnapping": Time for Israel to Declare Catherine Ashton Persona Non Grata

As reported by The Jerusalem Post in an article entitled "Jerusalem miffed at EU silence over kidnapping " (http://www.jpost.com/Pillar-of-Defense/Jerusalem-miffed-at-EU-silence-over-kidnapping-359503) by Herb Keinon, the Israeli government is furious with Her Hideousness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union, for failing to promptly condemn the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas. The article states:

"EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s failure to quickly condemn the kidnappings of Naphtali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach has 'not gone unnoticed,' diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said on Monday.

The officials said that while the US, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Committee of the Red Cross all condemned the kidnappings by Sunday, as of Monday afternoon there was no statement from Ashton or her office."

You will recall that earlier this year, Ashton marked Holocaust Remembrance Day without a mention of the Jews (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/01/her-hideousness-catherine-ashton-marks.html).

It is high time for Israel to declare Ashton persona non grata.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Paul Krugman, "Yes He Could": In Which Alternate Universe Is Krugman Living?

My jaw dropped last week when I heard Hillary declare that her Russian "reset" had been a "brilliant stroke" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/06/maureen-dowd-when-will-hillary-let-it.html). Well, if you thought Hillary's audacity pushed the edge of the envelope, she has now been outdone by Paul Krugman, who, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Yes He Could" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/16/opinion/paul-krugman-health-care-and-climate-president-obamas-big-deals.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), would have us believe that Obama has emerged as a stellar president. Krugman begins:

"Several times in recent weeks I’ve found myself in conversations with liberals who shake their heads sadly and express their disappointment with President Obama. Why? I suspect that they’re being influenced, often without realizing it, by the prevailing media narrative."

Obama's friends in the mainstream media, particularly those at The New York Times, are responsible for the declining popularity of the president? Yeah, right.

But more to the point, how does Krugman go about proving that "Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year"? Simple: Obamacare. Krugman would have us know that first-year enrollments are above projections, and people are paying their premiums. What happened to, "If you like your health care plan and your doctor, you can keep them"? Krugman obviously doesn't give a damn.

However, as an economist, Krugman should care about cost, and you will recall that in December 2009 Obama declared, "I made clear from day one that I would not sign a health insurance reform bill if it raised the deficit by one dime." However, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is no longer projecting that Obamacare will cut the budget deficit (see: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/06/12/obamacare_and_the_cbo_--_no_longer_giddy_122956.html) at a time when US national debt in now in excess of $17.5 trillion and climbing.

Regarding financial reform under Obama, Krugman writes, "although it’s much weaker than it should have been, is real — just ask all those Wall Street types who, enraged by the new limits on their wheeling and dealing, have turned their backs on the Democrats." In a word: Poppycock! Under the very nose of Krugman's beloved Obama administration, high frequency trading is sucking the life blood from the economy, and meanwhile Obama's failure to reinstate the Uptick Rule provides hedge funds with the ability to manipulate share prices in any direction (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/maureen-dowd-summers-of-our-discontent.html).

Foreign policy? Where do I even begin? Iraq? Syria? Libya? The Ukraine? Crimea? China? The world has come to know that Obama's "red lines" are drawn with washable Crayons.

And that's not all. The scandal involving the targeting of conservative organizations by the IRS has resurfaced owing to a purported "computer crash," causing the IRS to "lose" the emails of Lois Lerner, former Director of Tax Exempt Organizations. However, as noted by John Steele Gordon at Commentary (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/06/15/are-lois-lerners-emails-really-lost/):

"The reason it may is because there are very good reasons to doubt the idea that these emails are irretrievably lost due to a simple crash of a personal computer’s hard drive. For one thing, downloading an email from an email server does not cause the email to be deleted from the server itself. And a lawyer in the Department of Justice, who understandably wishes to be anonymous, reports that government email servers are automatically backed up every night. So both Lerner’s computer and the email server would have had to crash for these emails to have been lost. That would be some coincidence."

Needless to say, The New York Times is doing its best to ignore this story.

Benghazi? This "bogus" scandal is very much alive after Ben Rhodes's email, suppressed by Obama and friends, came to light and revealed the administration's "goal":

"To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy."

Yes, he could? In fact, it couldn't get much worse, and we are left to wonder in which alternate universe is Krugman living.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "5 Principles for Iraq": Kurdistan Is Not a Nation, But It Should Be!

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "5 Principles for Iraq" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/thomas-friedman-5-principles-for-iraq.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman tells us that the US doesn't have a dog in the fight in Iraq and should avoid intervention without justification. En route to reaching this conclusion, Friedman asks:

"Why is it that the two states doing the best are those that America has had the least to do with: Tunisia and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq?"

Well, first it should be noted that the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, which Friedman recently visited, is not a state, although it certainly should be. There are some 30 million Kurds, who have been relentlessly persecuted and oppressed by Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey for the past century. Moreover, the Kurds have long been friendly to American interests in the region, and an independent Kurdistan, countering Sunni and Shiite militancy, should be embraced by the United States, notwithstanding opposition from Turkey. Indeed, the time has come to redraw the artificial borders imposed upon the Middle East by France and Britain following the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire at the conclusion of World War I.

Friedman continues:

"We still want to forge a nuclear deal that prevents Iran from developing a bomb, so we have to be careful about how much we aid Iran’s Sunni foes."

Hold on, did I hear Tom correctly? We need to restrain ISIL in order to reach a deal to prevent Iran from building its first atomic bomb? Just this past Friday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi warned, "Iran will resume enriching uranium to the 20-percent purity level, if the country’s nuclear talks with the world powers come to an end without an agreement" (http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13930323000745). At a time when Iran is threatening to pursue its march toward nuclear weapons, the US needs to toss the mullahs a bone?

Quite the contrary: The US needs to maintain constant pressure on Tehran, which is yet another reason to support a fully independent Kurdistan, holding Iran's maniacal mullahs at bay.

Maureen Dowd, "When Will Hillary Let It Go?": Again the Claws Come Out!

Remember how Maureen Dowd did all in her power during the 2008 Democratic primaries to promote her beloved Barry, while never missing an opportunity to take a swipe at Hillary? Well, although Obama will no longer need her help in 2016, Dowd is still at Hillary's throat.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "When Will Hillary Let It Go?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-when-will-hillary-let-it-go.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Maureen Dowd compares Hillary Clinton with Elsa from Disney's "Frozen" (no, I did not see it - you would have to pay me to see it). Dowd writes:

"Like Arendelle, America is frozen: The war still rages in Iraq, the Clintons still dominate the political scene and Hillary still obsesses about money, a narrative thread that has existed since she was thwarted in her desire to build a pool at the governor’s mansion in poor Arkansas and left the White House with a doggie bag full of sofas, rugs, lamps, TVs and china, some of which the Clintons later had to pay for or return. Even Chelsea was cashing in, getting a ridiculous, $600,000-a-year scion salary from NBC, far greater than that of many of the network’s correspondents."

Ouch! Could it be that Chelsea is also making more than Maureen?

But wait, there's more: Dowd tells us how Hillary recently informed Diane Sawyer that she now intends to "say what I know, what I believe, and let the chips fall." To which Maureen responds, "it’s not believable that Hillary Rodham Clinton will suddenly throw caution and calculation to the wind."

I would go a step further than Dowd and take the position that "it's not believable that Hillary Rodham Clinton will suddenly throw caution and calculation to the wind" and tell the truth. Remarkably, Hillary recently characterized her Russian "reset" as a "brilliant stroke" during an "interregnum" when Medvedev was still Russia's president (see: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hillary-russian-reset-brilliant-stroke_794974.html). Who cares if Putin subsequently annexed Crimea? Who cares if Russia enabled mass murderer Bashar al-Assad to retain hold of Syria? Hillary certainly doesn't care - she wants to be president, even if it means twisting the facts like a pretzel.

Is it possible that Hillary truly regards the "reset" as a success (akin to coming under fire in Bosnia)? Now you're beginning to frighten me. Maybe she really did fall on her head.

But wait, Maureen is still not done! Regarding Hillary's new book, "Hard Choices" (no, I did not read it - you would have to pay me to read it), Dowd informs us:

"There isn’t one surprising or scintillating or provocative word in the whole book. 'Hard Choices' is inert, a big yawn."

That should help keep it on the Times best seller list.

Dowd's parting blow:

"What Elsa discovers at the end of 'Frozen' is that her powers can actually be used for good, once her heart is filled with love. She escapes from her prison, leaves behind the negative things that held her back, and leads her kingdom to a happy and prosperous future.

Can Hillary?"

In fact, Hillary's heart is indeed filled with a peculiar kind of love, but it's only for one person, and it's not for Bill.

Nicholas Kristof, "Obama, McCain and Maliki": Obama to Blame for the Crisis in Iraq?

Surely you remember how Obama once declared that the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians was a "red line" for him. And when that "red line" was crossed by Bashar al-Assad, Obama entered into an agreement, brokered by Putin, for the destruction of Assad's entire stock of chemical weapons. Needless to say, when Assad subsequently used chlorine gas against Syrian civilians, Obama did nothing. Moreover, today, some eight percent of Assad's declared chemical weapons stockpiles remain to be turned over for destruction; however, almost no one now believes that Assad will abide by the June 30 deadline.

This past Thursday, with ISIL (alternative acronym: ISIS) terrorists running rampant over Iraq, Obama issued yet another warning:

"It's fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options."

"All options are on the table"? Obama used that same line in March 2013 when discussing Iran's nuclear weapons development program, but do you think the mullahs paid him any heed? Not a chance. A neo-isolationist Obama long ago lost any vestige of credibility in the Middle East and across the globe.

And by Friday, Obama had already rendered Thursday's warning nugatory with his avowal:

"The US is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together."

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Obama, McCain and Maliki" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-the-blame-for-iraq-is-shared.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Nicholas Kristof reluctantly blames Obama in small part for the crisis in Iraq:

"Where Obama does bear some responsibility is in Syria, the staging area for the current mayhem in Iraq. In retrospect, Obama erred when he vetoed the proposal by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus to arm moderates in Syria.

No one can know if that would have succeeded. But it is clear that Obama’s policy, to the extent there was one, failed. Activists say that 160,000 have died in Syria, and President Bashar al-Assad has recovered momentum. In the absence of foreign support, some frustrated Syrian rebels quit units led by moderate commanders and joined the extremists, simply because then they would be better paid and better armed.

The upshot was that extremist forces, particularly ISIS, for the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria, gained strength and established safe havens in northern Syria. ISIS used these bases to assault northern Iraq in the last few days."

Kristof's solution for this mess:

"The crucial step, and the one we should apply diplomatic pressure to try to achieve, is for [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki to step back and share power with Sunnis while accepting decentralization of government.

If Maliki does all that, it may still be possible to save Iraq. Without that, airstrikes would be a further waste in a land in which we’ve already squandered far, far too much."

Ah yes, Obama's condition that Iraqis first provide "some assurance that they're prepared to work together." Sorry, Nicholas, but as is well known to the first invertebrate ever to occupy the Oval Office, this isn't going to happen.

On the other hand, we can be certain that Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei will provide assistance to his Shiite brothers in Iraq should ISIL march on Baghdad. Indeed, as reported by The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/articles/iran-deploys-forces-to-fight-al-qaeda-inspired-militants-in-iraq-iranian-security-sources-1402592470), this is already happening.

The real problem is that Obama has yet to learn that the vacuums he creates around the world are filled by the likes of ISIL, Iran, Russia and China, and ultimately there will be a price to pay when radical Islamic terror again comes knocking on America's door.

Friday, June 13, 2014

David Brooks, "The Big Burn": A Kurdish State on the Rise

Remarkably, it has taken almost a century to redraw the artificial borders imposed upon the Middle East by France and Britain following the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire at the conclusion of World War I . Moreover, from the looks of it, some 30 million Kurds, who have suffered endlessly at the hands of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, might finally be on their way to long-deserved statehood.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Big Burn" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/opinion/david-brooks-the-sunni-shiite-conflict-explodes-in-iraq.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), David Brooks at long last comes down to earth and writes in real terms concerning the destruction of Iraq by ISIS. Chastising Obama for his overly cautious foreign policy and warning of a massive Sunni-Shiite conflict that could engulf the Muslim world, Brooks declares:

"President Obama adopted a cautious posture, arguing that the biggest harm to the nation comes when the U.S. overreaches. American power retrenched. The American people, on both left and right, decided they could hide from the world.

And now the fears of one really big war seem to be coming true. The ISIS serves as a de facto government in growing areas of Syria and Iraq. Extremist armies are routing the official Iraqi Army, even though they are outmanned by as many as 15 to 1. Iraq is in danger of becoming a non-nation."

In fact, Iraq has long been a non-nation, held together by band aids. With the departure of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds in the north of Iraq established a semi-autonomous zone, largely independent of the central government.

Hinting at Kurdish regional self-government in Iraq, Brooks concludes:

"It is not too late to help Syrian moderates. In Iraq, the answer is not to send troops back in. It is to provide Maliki help in exchange for concrete measures to reduce sectarian tensions. The Iraqi government could empower regional governments, acknowledging the nation’s diversity. Maliki could re-professionalize the Army. The Constitution could impose term limits on prime ministers.

But these provisions would require a more forward-leaning American posture around the world, an awareness that sometimes a U.S.-created vacuum can be ruinous. The president says his doctrine is don’t do stupid stuff. Sometimes withdrawal is the stupidest thing of all."

I am not calling for boots on the ground; however, I agree with Brooks that Obama's complacency and neo-isolationist policies have created a vacuum which Russia, China and Iran are exploring.

With regard to the pandemonium in Iraq, opportunities also are presenting themselves. The Kurds have long been friendly to American interests in the region, and more important, they deserve their own state. An independent Kurdistan, countering Sunni and Shiite militancy, should be embraced by the United States, notwithstanding opposition from Turkey.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Washington Post Editorial, "The Middle East’s mounting danger": Pax Obama or Pox Obama?

"I can't answer a question, that you can't give me the question to."

- Chuck Hagel, House Hearing, Bergdahl release, June 11, 2014


You don't believe Hagel said this? Listen for yourself (see: http://freebeacon.com/national-security/chuck-hagel-doesnt-know/):



Okay, so what if Obama appointed Chuck Hagel, most kindly characterized as a cretin, as secretary of defense? And so what if Obama appointed John Kerry, who once labeled Bashar al-Assad his "dear friend" and whose attempts to resculpt the Middle East and his craggy face have met with derision and failure, as secretary of state? Why should the US require leadership in such posts when pax Obama has changed the future direction of America and mankind?

The answer is to be found in the latest fly in the president's Coke-and-a-smile foreign policy ointment: the collapse of Iraq, which is a direct consequence of Obama's almost total abrogation of responsibility involving a genocidal civil war in Syria.

As observed today in a scalding Washington Post editorial entitled "The Middle East’s mounting danger" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-middle-easts-mounting-danger/2014/06/11/bda10008-f180-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html?hpid=z4):

"FOR YEARS, President Obama has been claiming credit for 'ending wars,' when, in fact, he was pulling the United States out of wars that were far from over. Now the pretense is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

On Monday, a loathsome offshoot of al-Qaeda, the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, captured Mosul, one of Iraq’s most important cities, seizing large caches of modern weaponry and sending half a million civilians fleeing in terror. ISIS, which can make the original al-Qaeda look moderate, controls large swaths of territory stretching from northern Syria into Iraq. On Tuesday, militants advanced toward Baghdad, capturing Tikrit and other cities.

If Iraq joins Syria in full-fledged civil war, the danger to U.S. allies in Israel, Turkey, Jordan and the Kurdish region of Iraq is immense. These terrorist safe havens also pose a direct threat to the United States, according to U.S. officials."

Should America indeed be worried? As reported in a New York Times article entitled "Sunni Fighters Gain as They Battle 2 Governments, and Other Rebels" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/world/middleeast/the-militants-moving-in-on-syria-and-iraq.html?hp&_r=0) by Thanassis Cambanis:

"Having seized vast areas of Iraqi territory and several large and strategic cities, including the country’s second-biggest, Mosul, [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] controls territory greater than many countries and now rivals, and perhaps overshadows, Al Qaeda as the world’s most powerful and active jihadist group.

. . . .

In areas that fall under their control, the jihadists work carefully to entrench their rule. They have attracted the most attention with their draconian enforcement of a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic Shariah law, including the execution of Christians and Muslims deemed kufar, or infidels."

In short, ISIL has gone unchecked, and yes, there would appear to be dire consequences on the horizon  resulting from Obama's "leadership from behind."

But not to worry: Chuck Hagel and John Kerry have it all under control for the president . . . not.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dana Milbank, "Obama is a prisoner of groupthink": Or a Prisoner of His Own Inflated Ego?

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama is a prisoner of groupthink" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-obama-is-a-prisoner-of-groupthink/2014/06/10/e9baad48-f0e4-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html?hpid=z3), Dana Milbank tell us he is disturbed that Obama's cabinet "all came to the same conclusion" regarding the Bergdahl prisoner exchange. Milbank writes:

"In the Bergdahl case, the problem wasn’t the exchange itself. There are compelling moral and historical justifications for swapping prisoners at the end of a war, and the Republican efforts to turn the negotiations with the Taliban into another 'scandal' are far-fetched. As The Post’s David Fahrenthold and Jaime Fuller have documented, many of Obama’s critics have opportunistically switched positions on Bergdahl.

The real damage was self-inflicted: choosing to highlight the exchange with a Rose Garden ceremony featuring Bergdahl’s eccentric father, and then allowing Rice, the national security adviser, to go on television and say Bergdahl served with 'honor and distinction' even though administration officials had to know this was in dispute."

Milbank's conclusion:

"Now, as Obama finally withdraws the last troops from Afghanistan, he’ll be a more effective president if he can also remove himself from the groupthink produced by his adoring acolytes."

"Obama will be a more effective president if . . ."? Oh really? How does he part company with Chuck Hagel, who, like the Straw Man in "The Wizard of Oz," is hopelessly in search of a brain? Or Kerry, who failed to bring about Middle East peace, but has succeeded in altering the contours of his 70-year-old face? Or hatchet woman Susan Rice, whose credibility is far beyond repair?

Or stated otherwise, the next two and a half years will be much akin to an errant rocket, whose trajectory can no longer be altered.

Obama is a prisoner of "groupthink"? Rubbish. Obama is a narcissist whose ego must be stroked and who cannot accept that his worldview was warped from the day he entered the Oval Office.

Monday, June 9, 2014

David Brooks, "The New Right": In Fact, There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

"There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight"


The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again"


In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The New Right" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/10/opinion/brooks-the-new-right.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), David Brooks pays homage to Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin before informing us:

"The nanny state may have drained civil society, but simply removing the nanny state will not restore it. There have to be programs that encourage local paternalism: early education programs with wraparound services to reinforce parenting skills, social entrepreneurship funds to reweave community, paternalistic welfare rules to encourage work."

Yup, we need early education programs such as Head Start, even if they don't work (see: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2081778,00.html), and we need to force meals on children that go uneaten (see: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/oct/2/michelle-obamas-school-lunch-program-leaves-childr/).

More to the point, we need to encourage "paternalism" at a time when "[f]ifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father" (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america/?page=all)? Sounds more like we need to encourage "maternalism."

Or is it all simply spinning out of control and destined for the garbage pail, akin to a Michelle Obama school lunch?

Don't get me wrong: I enjoy reading Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin, yet I have no faith in the likes of Rand Paul and Rick Perry.

The new right? The new left? How about the new nothing? As far as I'm concerned, Ecclesiastes 1:9 has had it right for considerably more than two thousand years: "That which hath been is that which shall be, and that which hath been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun."

David Ignatius, "In ‘Hard Choices,’ Hillary Clinton is seen as hesitant to take big risks": Kissing the Considerable Ass of America's Next President?

How much more credibility can David Ignatius lose? In a previous Washington Post opinion piece, Ignatius claimed that Israel would be building 700 new settlements, when in fact 700 new housing units had been approved in a long existing offshoot of Jerusalem (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/05/david-ignatius-why-mideast-peace.html). Today in a WaPo opinion piece entitled "In ‘Hard Choices,’ Hillary Clinton is seen as hesitant to take big risks" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-hard-choices-hillary-clinton-opens-up-about-world-leaders-and-what-she-got-right/2014/06/09/b4ecc0d2-efeb-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html?hpid=z3), Ignatius by and large gushes over Hillary Clinton's new autobiography. Ignatius begins:

"'Hard Choices' begins and ends in the empty voice of a campaign speech. But in between, it contains a clear and at times riveting account of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s four years as secretary of state.

This is a careful book, written tactically to burnish friendships and avoid making enemies. Perhaps that’s inevitable for an autobiographer who is considering running for president, but there are times when the reader feels he is being 'spun' rather than enlightened."

Hmm, why would Hillary possibly want to "spin" us?

Ignatius concludes that "the book should reinforce the case of those who believe Clinton is well prepared to be president."

A simple query for Ignatius? Does he truly believe that this "autobiography" was written by Hillary? If so, he's more of a naif than I ever imagined.

More to the point, where in the book do we learn of Hillary's crowning achievement - or any achievement for that matter - as secretary of state?

Although I read Madeleine Albright's "Madam Secretary" and "Memo to the President Elect," I don't have time for Hillary's self-serving campaign narrative.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Obama Desperately Seeks to Revive Abortive Negotiations With Iran

As reported by The New York Times in an article entitled "With Nuclear Talks Sputtering, U.S. and Iran Plan Meeting" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/world/middleeast/with-nuclear-talks-sputtering-us-and-iran-plan-meeting.html) by Michael R. Gordon, the Obama administration is seeking to revive stalled negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program:

"Senior American officials plan to meet in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday with an Iranian delegation in an attempt to advance the stalled nuclear talks, the State Department announced on Saturday.

. . . .

There are mounting signs that diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program is running into trouble. The point of the interim accord negotiated last year, one of the Obama administration’s most important diplomatic achievements during its second term, was to buy time so that a more comprehensive agreement to rein in Iran’s nuclear program might be reached.

But the recent round of formal negotiations between six world powers and Iran in Vienna, aimed at producing a comprehensive agreement, made scant progress. Each side accused the other of being intransigent."

Iran and the P5+1 have reached an impasse in attempts to achieve a long-term agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear weapons development program by July 20. Outstanding issues include International Atomic Energy Agency access to the Parchin military complex, Iranian enrichment capacity and ongoing development by Iran of ballistic missiles.

After the Bowe Bergdahl release blew up in his face, Obama has become increasingly desperate for a foreign policy success. Unfortunately, Iran is aware of this pressure on America's president. Additionally, Iran also knows that the P5+1 coalition is in tatters following Putin's adventure in the Ukraine and resultant tensions with the US.

In addition, Khamenei has watched Obama do absolutely nothing following delay of implementation of the deal for the destruction of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons arsenal, and in the aftermath of Assad's use of chlorine gas against rebel-occupied territory in Syria (see: http://www.timesofisrael.com/assad-hiding-chemical-arms-in-remote-mountainside-activist-charges/).

How much is Obama willing to concede to Khamenei in order to sign any agreement, or at least a 6-month extension, before July 20, thereby avoiding confrontation with Iran? Stay tuned. It's not going to be pretty.

New York Times Editorial, "Israeli-Palestinian Collision Course": No Mention of Jordan's Palestinian Majority

In an editorial entitled "Israeli-Palestinian Collision Course" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/opinion/israeli-palestinian-collision-course.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), The New York Times concludes:

"Many experts say that if there is ever to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, admittedly a distant dream at this point, the Palestinians must be united. But the United States has to be careful to somehow distinguish between its support for the new government and an endorsement of Hamas and its violent, hateful behavior. To have some hope of doing that, the United States and Europe must continue to insist that Mr. Abbas stick to his promises and not allow Hamas to get the upper hand."

First, it should be acknowledged that given past enmity of the Times toward Israel in keeping with Obama administration foreign policy, this editorial shows signs of balance. Wisdom? That would be asking too much.

The ironclad guiding principles of Palestinian Authority President Abbas are to be found in a declaration he made to Jackson 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 the tenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority.

Or stated otherwise, I would not read too much into Fatah's latest collaboration agreement with Hamas. Moreover, Abbas has witnessed the violence and chaos stemming from the "Arab Spring," and has no intention of allowing the West Bank to descend into mayhem.

"Many experts say that if there is ever to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, . . . the Palestinians must be united"? Needless to say, the Times editorial fails to observe that Britain gave 77 percent of the Palestinian Mandate to Abdullah in 1922, thus creating the state of Jordan. Palestinians, who comprise some 70 percent of Jordan's total population of some 6.3 million people, suffer severe discrimination in a country where they comprise the overwhelming majority of the populace (see: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3249/anti-palestinian-discrimination-jordan).

It is remarkable how discrimination against the Palestinian population of Jordan continues to be ignored by the mainstream media, which prefers to focus upon the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis. But why should we be surprised? Some 30 million Kurds living in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, are stateless, yet the media - only in the market for alleged Israeli transgressions - could not care less.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

David Brooks, "President Obama Was Right": . . . and Wrong!

Having recently explained why children are able to focus more effectively than adults (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/06/david-brooks-art-of-focus-hocus-pocus.html) and after providing us with the names of "really good" books (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/05/david-brooks-really-good-books-part-i.html), David Brooks has returned to the land of the living in order to explain why Obama did the right thing by swapping five terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "President Obama Was Right" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/06/opinion/brooks-president-obama-was-right.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), Brooks sanctimoniously declares:

"Soldiers in combat not only protect their buddies, they show amazing devotion to anyone in the uniform, without asking about state or ethnicity. This is the cohesion that makes armies effective.

These commitments, so crucial, are based on deep fraternal sentiments that have to be nurtured with action. They are based on the notion that we are members of one national community. We will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind. Even if it is just a lifeless body that we are retrieving, it is important to repatriate all Americans."

"We will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind"? Yeah, right. Just examine the concerned behavior of America's Commander-in-Chief when the compound in Benghazi came under attack.

Brooks continues:

"President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Of course, he had to do all he could do to not forsake an American citizen.

It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share."

Okay, let's suppose that it is the president's duty to bring deserters home from captivity. On the other hand, it is certainly not the president's duty to pose with the parents of such deserters at the White House, and indeed, Brooks acknowledges as much:

"So President Obama made the right call. If he is to be faulted, it would be first for turning the release into an Oprah-esque photo-op, a political stunt filled with inaccurate rhetoric and unworthy grandstanding. It would next be for his administration’s astonishing tone-deafness about how this swap would be received."

"Inaccurate rhetoric"? How about outright lies? Susan Rice, the president's National Security Advisor, shamefully went on television to inform the nation that Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction" and that he was "an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield."

Or stated otherwise: If Obama had quietly sought the release of Bergdahl without the attendant hoopla and without having asked Rice to lie once again on his behalf, Obama's actions would probably have been well received. Instead, Bergdahl's release was turned into a media circus by a narcissistic president, struggling with disastrous foreign affairs approval ratings (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/06/03/obama-made-his-foreign-policy-name-ending-the-wars-in-the-mideast-thats-no-longer-enough/).

You see, the swap had nothing to do with Bergdahl. It was all about Obama.

New York Times Editorial, "The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl ": Politicized Claptrap From the Unofficial Mouthpiece of the Obama Administration

In an editorial entitled "The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/06/opinion/demonizing-sergeant-bergdahl.html?ref=opinion), The New York Times declares:

"Thousands of soldiers desert during every war, including 50,000 American soldiers during World War II. As many as 4,000 a year were absent without leave for extended periods during the Iraq War. They leave for a variety of reasons, including psychological trauma, but whatever their mental state, it is the military’s duty to get them back if they are taken prisoner. That’s what the Obama administration did in this case, and there was a particular sense of urgency because a video showed that Sergeant Bergdahl’s life might be in danger."

Okay, let's suppose that it is "the military’s duty" to return deserters from captivity. On the other hand, it is certainly not the president's duty to pose with the parents of such deserters at the White House.

Moreover, it is certainly not the duty of Susan Rice, the president's National Security Advisor, to inform the nation that Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction" and that he was "an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield."

Susan Rice? Needless to say, no mention of her whatsoever in the Times editorial.

Bottom line: The Times has hit the bottom of the barrel.

Bowe Bergdahl: Compare Susan Rice With Afghan District Intelligence Chief

Susan Rice on Bowe Bergdahl (see: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/susan-rice-bergdahl-served-honor-and-distinction_794066.html):

"He served the United States with honor and distinction."

. . . .

"Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield."

Afghan district intelligence chief on Bergdahl, as reported by The Washington Post in an article entitled "Exclusive: Afghan villagers recall when Bergdahl stumbled into their midst" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/04/exclusive-afghan-villagers-recall-when-bergdahl-stumbled-into-their-midst/?tid=pm_world_pop) by Kevin Sieff:

"'They tried to tell him not to go there, that it is dangerous. But he kept going over the mountain. The villagers tried to give him water and bread, but he didn’t take it,' said Ibrahim Manikhel, the district’s intelligence chief.

'We think he probably was high after smoking hashish,' Manikhel said. 'Why would an American want to find the Taliban?'"

Or stated otherwise, if anything remained of Rice's credibility after Benghazi, it has now been reduced to zero - not exactly what is required from Obama's National Security Advisor.

As further reported by The Washington Post in an article entitled "A ‘decompression’ process for Bowe Bergdahl before he heads home" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-decompression-process-for-bowe-bergdahl-before-he-heads-home/2014/06/04/427627ec-ec2f-11e3-93d2-edd4be1f5d9e_story.html?hpid=z1) by Anne Gearan:

"Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the longest-serving­ American prisoner of war since Vietnam, is undergoing a staged 'decompression' and reintroduction to the outside world that is akin to the slow ascent of a deep-sea diver, according to U.S. officials.

. . . .

Bergdahl began the long process of reintegration — it could take weeks or months — immediately after he was handed over to U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan on Saturday."

"Staged" decompression? My guess is that his reintegration will take many months - until at least after the midterm elections in the US - in order to avoid further embarrassment to the Obama administration.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bergdahl and Increased Aid to Pakistan: Another Obama Foreign Affairs Embarrassment

In a Washington Post article entitled "Inside the Obama administration’s debate over freeing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-the-obama-administrations-debate-over-freeing-sgt-bowe-bergdahl/2014/06/03/470a0f8e-eb4f-11e3-93d2-edd4be1f5d9e_story.html?hpid=z1), Adam Goldman and Scott Wilson write:

"[Army Sgt. Bowe] Bergdahl slipped away from his post in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in June 2009 and fell into Taliban hands. He was then moved across the border into the tribal areas of Pakistan, where he was held by the Haqqani network, a ­U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization with connections to Pakistan’s intelligence service.

. . . .

'There were negotiating paths we could have explored other than the Taliban in Doha,' said David Sedney, who until last year served as the Pentagon’s top official overseeing policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 'Specifically, putting more pressure on the Pakistanis to get him or get us more intelligence. I am not aware of them actually helping us, despite repeated requests.'"

Yes, Bergdahl was being held in Pakistan (Osama bin Laden, of course, also holed up in Pakistan), and the Obama administration was unable to prevail upon Islamabad to assist in achieving his release.

Meanwhile, as reported by The Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-hikes-Pakistan-aid-by-40-in-2014-budget/articleshow/19486952.cms) in April 2013:

"US President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a 40% increase in American aid to Pakistan, amounting to $1.4 billion, as part of his $3.77 trillion budget that focusses on job creation and economic growth.

Obama among other things proposed to increase the US aid to Pakistan under overseas contingency operations to $1.4 billion for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2013, an increase of 40% than the $1 billion that he had proposed in the last year's budget for the fiscal 2013."

Perhaps one of my readers would care to ask Jen Psaki to explain away this wholly undeserved largesse.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude": Dowd Rehashes Buckley's Extraterritorial Marijuana Cruise

“The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense - the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy.”

― William F. Buckley Jr.


"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

- Dorothy, "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)


Perhaps you recall how conservative author and commentator William F. Buckley once sailed his yacht outside US territorial waters in order to smoke . . . gasp . . . marijuana. Well, today, several decades after Buckey shocked the nation with his daring escapade, Maureen Dowd tells us in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/04/opinion/dowd-dont-harsh-our-mellow-dude.html?ref=opinion&_r=0) how she travelled to the wilds of Colorado to sample . . . gasp . . . edible marijuana. Dowd writes of her experience:

"But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me."

Dowd goes on to describe a report of increasing numbers of adults and children hospitalized in Colorado after gulping down marijuana-laced goodies.

No, I am not about to travel to Colorado anytime soon to partake in the "fun." You see, I am a chocolate purist: I like my chocolate without peanut butter, without rum, and certainly without pot. More to the point, I can't afford eight hours in the Merry Land of Oz.

But once again, I stray from the substance at hand.

A friend suffering from three herniated discs recently visited a world renowned orthopedic surgeon in search of pain relief. My friend had tried epidural spinal injections of steroids, which wore off all too quickly, and he had also taken Lyrica, which had caused him hallucinations. The orthopedic surgeon's recommendation: medical marijuana.

You see, seemingly unbeknownst to Dowd, there are 483 known chemical components of the plant, and THC is just one of them. Various strains of the plant have different levels of THC and other chemicals, e.g. CBD, which has been linked to pain relief.

Fortunately, I do not suffer from pain requiring anything beyond an occasional aspirin or naproxen, but if I were required to make the choice between Lyrica and medical marijuana with higher levels of CBD and diminshed levels of THC, I would opt for the latter.

Perhaps you remember Vioxx, a pain killer manufactured by Merck, which was pulled from the market after it was determined that it posed "substantial heart risk" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/business/merck-agrees-to-pay-950-million-in-vioxx-case.html). Yes, faced with a pain treatment dilemma, I would first want to determine if CBD offered relief.

Dowd? We've never met, but I recommend that she remain faithful to her chardonnay east of the Hudson.