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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jay Solomon, "White House Delays Imposing New Sanctions on Iran for Missile Program ": Profiles in Cowardice

Yesterday I wrote:

"There is no way that Tehran will placidly accept new American sanctions stemming from Iran's recent ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions."

Well, in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "White House Delays Imposing New Sanctions on Iran for Missile Program," Jay Solomon also informed us yesterday:

"The White House has delayed its plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, according to U.S. officials, amid growing tensions with Iran over the nuclear deal struck earlier this year.

. . . .

Republican leaders on Thursday accused the Obama administration of losing its will to challenge Iran after Tehran countered on Thursday that it would accelerate the development of its arsenal.

'If the president’s announced sanctions ultimately aren’t executed, it would demonstrate a level of fecklessness that even the president hasn’t shown before,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a leading critic of the nuclear deal, in an interview.'

. . . .

The State Department offered no explanation for the delay."

Acceleration of Iran's ballistic missile programs? Indeed, as reported by Iran's Fars News Agency yesterday:

"Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday ordered Defense Minister General Hossein Dehqan to enhance and accelerate development of the country's missile capability in response to the United States' new sanctions against Tehran's defense program.

President Rouhani noted the United States' "hostile policies and illegal and illegitimate meddling against Iran's right to develop its defensive power", and ordered the defense minister to accelerate production of various types of missiles needed by the Iranian Armed Forces more powerfully.

'As the United States seems to plan to include the names of new individuals and firms in its previous list of cruel sanctions in line with its hostile policies and illegitimate and illegal meddling in the Islamic Republic of Iran's right to reinvigorate its defense power, the program for the production of the Armed Forces' needed missiles is required to continue more speedily and seriously,' President Rouhani's written order to the Defense Minister read.

President Rouhani's decree came in reaction to the US Treasury Department's announcement that it is preparing sanctions on two Iran-linked networks helping develop the missile program.

The presidential decree also required the defense ministry to think of new missile production programs at a much wider scale in case Washington continues its sanctions policy against Iran's defense industries."

Ah yes, Rouhani the "moderate" . . .

However, Obama is not taking this talk of White House "fecklessness" lying down. As reported today in a lead Washington Post article entitled "Obama thinks his Syria strategy is right — and folks just don’t get it" by Karen DeYoung:

"As President Obama flew home from Asia aboard Air Force One in late November, he scolded his aides about how poorly the administration was communicating the U.S.-led strategy against the Islamic State.

. . . .

Aides agreed that the message they had heard on the road was 'jarring,' said a senior administration official who was on the flight.

But while many outside the administration found the strategy itself lacking, Obama felt what they really needed was to do a better job of explaining it. He ordered what the official called an 'uptick in our communications tempo.'"

Got it: The first invertebrate to occupy the Oval Office seeks to counter talk of presidential cowardice, bungling of American foreign policy in the Middle East, and failure to prevent terror attacks within the US with a new communications campaign. Why am I not surprised?

January 20, 2017 cannot come soon enough.

Obama's Foreign Policy Leaves the Middle East in Shambles: The End of Kumbaya Diplomacy

Perhaps you recall how The Washington Post's David Ignatius declared on March 31, 2015 that "the nation that chanted in unison 'Death to America' is probably gone forever." Well today, in a must-read New York Times article entitled "Iran’s Missile Tests Remind the U.S. That Hostilities Have Not Ended," Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger inform us:

"[T]he past few days have been full of sobering reminders that the grander objective of [the nuclear accord with Iran] — some gradual steps toward an era of wary cooperation, or at least a cessation of hostilities between Washington and Tehran — remains a long way away.

Just last week, the Republican-led Congress inserted new rules into the budget signed by Mr. Obama that were clearly intended to discourage foreigners from doing business with Tehran. Then on Saturday, the Iranian Navy harassed an American aircraft carrier and a French frigate in the Strait of Hormuz, launching rockets that passed within 1,500 yards of the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman. It seemed an act somewhere between recklessness and outright aggression.

So much for détente."

Or more to the point, so much for Obama's unsigned "legacy-creating" nuclear deal with Khamenei. There is no way that Tehran will placidly accept new American sanctions stemming from Iran's recent ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, over at The Washington Post, Liz Sly has written an equally important article entitled "On the front lines of the war against the Islamic State, a tangled web," which observes:

"[T]he Islamic State is but one of a multitude of groups competing for territory and dominance over the collapsed nation states of Iraq and Syria — a symptom as much as a cause of the scramble for power unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 2011 revolt in Syria.

The Islamic State may or may not be vanquished soon — and a string of defeats inflicted in recent months in northeastern Syria, northern Iraq and most recently Ramadi have raised hopes that its demise may be closer than had been thought.

But already it is becoming clear that victory over the militants won’t end the bloodshed in the region, said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

'There is little thought being given to the morning after, and the morning after is going to be as bloody, as chaotic and as destabilizing as the situation we are seeing now,' he said. 'The heart of the Middle East has changed. The fragile state system is no longer there.'"

Indeed, Syria and Iraq were never nation-states, but rather entities randomly carved out of the Ottoman Empire by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France.

Moreover, it is time for the US to prepare Ankara for an independent Kurdistan, notwithstanding the deep-seated enmity of Erdogan and friends to Turkey's Kurdish minority. The Middle East's 30 million Kurds, long friendly to America, deserve their freedom.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Frank Bruni, "The Juicy Subplots of 2016": Has Hillary Been Faithful to Bill?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Juicy Subplots of 2016," Frank Bruni informs us that the identity of America's next president "eclipses" all other political questions. In that regard, Bruni writes of expectations that Bill Clinton will soon begin to campaign for Hillary:

"All of that was a fresh reminder that his proper role in, and impact on, his wife’s candidacy is unsettled and unclear. He remains both wildly charismatic and maddeningly undisciplined. He connotes both prosperous times and cynical scheming.

There’s no legitimate worry that his presence might eclipse and diminish hers, but the two of them together root her candidacy as much in the past as in the future. So how to deploy and integrate him? Is it controllable?"

How to "deploy and integrate" Bill? Indeed.

Forgive me for repeating myself, but yesterday I agreed with The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus that Hillary is trying to have it both ways when she allows her husband, who abused women yet otherwise is perceived as a successful American president, to campaign on her behalf. This is not far afield from claiming that women's rights are at the center of her agenda, after having accepted millions of dollars of donations to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia, which by any standard oppresses women.

However, I did not agree with Marcus that "What happens inside a marriage is the couple’s business, and no one else’s, even when both halves crave the presidency." If Hillary were to be elected in November 2016, would Bill accompany her to the White House, even if the couple is no longer intimate? And if Bill is or has recently been involved with other women, does this not possess the potential for future security problems involving, for example, blackmail? Could it not otherwise detrimentally affect Hillary's future ability to function as president?

Similarly, if Hillary is having, or has had in recent years, an intimate relationship with someone other than Bill, and this is not revealed prior to the election, could this also pose future security problems for the United States? Shouldn't the public know whether or not she is having or has had any such relationship?

No one is forcing Hillary to run for the highest office in the land, but if she wants the job, she had best be ready to accept a higher level of scrutiny of her personal life, notwithstanding efforts by America's media to avoid asking about her marriage.

Unless, of course, this should also be treated as a matter of "Don't ask, don't tell."

David Ignatius, "Despite the nuclear deal, Iran continues its economic sabotage": Slowly Coming to Terms With the Truth

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Despite the nuclear deal, Iran continues its economic sabotage," David Ignatius acknowledges that notwithstanding Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Khamenei, there has yet to be meaningful improvement in American/Iranian relations. Ignatius, who declared on March 31, 2015 that "the nation that chanted in unison 'Death to America' is probably gone forever," now appears to be slowly backtracking from his fatuous contention. Referring to the arrest by Iran of Iranian American businessman Siamak Namazi, who was jailed two and a half months ago but not charged with wrongdoing, Ignatius would have us know:

"The Namazi incident is a reality check for those who hoped that the nuclear agreement would be the prelude to a broader opening. Since the agreement was reached in July, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has repeatedly said that Iran won’t allow economic 'infiltration' by a United States he described last month as a 'deceitful, crafty, skillful, fraudulent and devilish enemy.'"

Remarkably, Ignatius fails to mention the Iranian ballistic missile test in October, which, even according to the Obama administration, violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Ignatius makes no mention of the recent Wall Street Journal revelation that Iran hacked into the control system of a New York dam.

And Ignatius does not discuss Khamenei's October 2015 directive "blockading" the import of American goods into Iran.

Yup, you had to be pretty darned stupid or enamored of Obama not to see it all coming.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Washington Post Editorial, "Recapture of Ramadi is a significant victory against the Islamic State": Incorrect

In an editorial entitled "Recapture of Ramadi is a significant victory against the Islamic State," The Washington Post begins (my emphasis in red):

"THE RAISING of the Iraqi government’s flag in the center of Ramadi on Monday marked an encouraging advance in the war against the Islamic State — and not just in the territorial sense. The recapture of the Sunni city seven months after it was overrun by jihadists . . ."

This is incorrect. Iraqi Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi stated yesterday:

"We can't say that Ramadi is fully liberated. There are still neighborhoods under their control and there are still pockets of resistance."

Even The New York Times acknowledges in an editorial mistakenly headlined "The Importance of Retaking Ramadi" that "There is still resistance in 20 to 25 percent of the Ramadi area, and efforts to fully secure it are expected to take more time, Iraqi and American officials said." In this regard, I would observe that Gen. al-Mahlawi believes that 30 percent of Ramadi remains under the control of ISIS. Moreover, anyone familiar with the urban conflict in Syria knows that fighting in Ramadi can drag on for months or years.

It would be amiss not to mention the inane opening of the aforesaid New York Times editorial:

"Iraqis were celebrating on Monday and understandably so. After days of heavy fighting, their security troops, backed by American airstrikes, reportedly recaptured central Ramadi, a provincial capital 60 miles from Baghdad that was overrun by the Islamic State seven months ago."

Iraqis were celebrating? To which Iraqis is this editorial referring? Its Shiite majority? Probably. Kurds living in their autonomous region, who have not been involved in the battle? They are more interested in preserving their independence. Iraq's Sunnis? Many support the Islamic State.

You see, Iraq no longer exists as a country. Or stated otherwise, still more drivel from the Times.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ruth Marcus, "Trump is right: Bill Clinton’s sordid sexual history is fair game": And Is Hillary's Sexual History, or Lack Thereof, Also Fair Game?

In a Washington Post op-ed entitled "Trump is right: Bill Clinton’s sordid sexual history is fair game," uber-liberal Ruth Marcus remarkably observes that "Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said." Marcus concludes:

"What is the relevance of Bill Clinton’s conduct for Hillary Clinton’s campaign? Ordinarily, I would argue that the sins of the husband should not be visited on the wife. What Bill Clinton did counts against him, not her, and I would include in that her decision to stick with him. What happens inside a marriage is the couple’s business, and no one else’s, even when both halves crave the presidency.

But Hillary Clinton has made two moves that lead me, gulp, to agree with Trump on the 'fair game' front. She is (smartly) using her husband as a campaign surrogate, and simultaneously (correctly) calling Trump sexist.

These moves open a dangerous door. It should surprise no one that Trump has barged right through it."

I agree with Marcus that Hillary is trying to have it both ways when she allows her husband, who abused women yet otherwise is perceived as a successful American president, to campaign on her behalf. This is not far afield from claiming that women's rights are at the center of her agenda, after having accepted millions of dollars of donations to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia, which by any standard oppresses women.

However, I do not agree with Marcus that "What happens inside a marriage is the couple’s business, and no one else’s, even when both halves crave the presidency." If Hillary were to be elected in November 2016, would Bill accompany her to the White House, even if the couple is no longer intimate? And if Bill is or has recently been involved with other women, does this not possess the potential for future security problems involving, for example, blackmail? Could it not otherwise detrimentally affect Hillary's future ability to function as president?

Similarly, if Hillary is having, or has had in recent years, an intimate relationship with someone other than Bill, and this is not revealed prior to the election, could this also pose future security problems for the United States? Shouldn't the public know whether or not she is having or has had any such relationship?

Sorry, Ruth, but no one is forcing Hillary to run for the highest office in the land, and if she wants the job, she had best be ready to accept a higher level of scrutiny of her personal life.

Pamela Constable, "Beheading of third-grade girl ‘was just the spark’ for Afghan minority group": Islam Is a Religion of Peace and Tolerance?

Will the horrors ever cease?

Pamela Constable writes in a Washington Post article entitled "Beheading of third-grade girl ‘was just the spark’ for Afghan minority group":

"The last time Ramzan Ali Tabason saw his 9-year-old daughter alive was the day he put her in a van, along with her aunt and five other people from their Afghan village. They were headed for the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the little girl, Shukria, was going to spend time with her ailing grandmother.

The next time Ali saw his daughter, in mid-November, she was lying in a coffin with her severed head stitched jaggedly back onto her neck. She and the other passengers, all ethnic Hazaras from Ghazni province, had been abducted on the highway by Taliban insurgents, held captive for 27 days and then beheaded."

Constable's article follows on the heels of Alissa J. Rubin's lead New York Times article entitled "Flawed Justice After a Mob Killed an Afghan Woman," describing the horrific murder of a woman falsely accused of burning a Quran.

But not to worry! Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, particularly toward women . . . or is it?

New York Times, "New Tensions Over the Iran Nuclear Deal": Another Obscene Editorial From the Times

In an editorial entitled "New Tensions Over the Iran Nuclear Deal," The New York Times worries that Obama's nuclear deal with Iran is unravelling, as a consequence of restrictions on the entry into the US of persons who visited Iran in the last five years. Failing to mention that the "deal" was never signed, the Times would have us know:

"Restricting visas for people who travel to Iraq and Syria makes sense, given that both are home turf for the Islamic State, and Sudan has been a transit point for extremists heading to Syria and Iraq. It is hard not to view Iran’s inclusion as another attempt by Congress to sabotage the nuclear deal, which most lawmakers opposed.

While Shiite-led Iran is on the terrorism list because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, it is fighting the Islamic State, a Sunni group, in Iraq."

The editorial board of the Times would do well to read a March 28, 2015 Foreign Policy article entitled "The U.S. Is Providing Air Cover for Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq," subtitled "Iran’s Shiite militias aren’t a whole lot better than the Islamic State," by Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent, which informs us:

"Sunni villages in Amerli and Suleiman Bek, in the Salah ad-Din province, have been looted or destroyed by militiamen operating on the specious assumption that all inhabitants once ruled by IS must be IS sympathizers or collaborators. Human Rights Watch has also lately discovered that the 'liberation' of Amerli last October — another PMU/Iranian-led endeavor, only this one abetted by U.S. airstrikes in the early stages — was characterized by wide-scale abuses including the looting and burning of homes and business of Sunni residents of villages surrounding Amerli. The apparent aim was ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch concluded, from witness accounts, that “building destruction in at least 47 predominantly Sunni villages was methodical and driven by revenge and intended to alter the demographic composition of Iraq’s traditionally diverse provinces of Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.'

. . . .

The Obama administration’s counterterrorism-driven policy for the Middle East, and a quietly pursued diplomatic reconciliation with Iran, has resulted in America’s diminishment of grave war crimes committed by Iran’s clients and proxies, and the problem is hardly just confined to Iraq. In Syria, for instance, the National Defense Force, a conglomerate of militias trained and equipped by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC) — a U.S.-designated terrorist entity — has been accused by the Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, of '[burning] at least 81 people to death, including 46 civilians; 18 children, 7 women, and 35 of the armed opposition fighters,' along with other pro-Assad forces. The State Department has offered condolences to Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani on the death of his mother; to date, it has not said a word about the immolation of these Syrians at the hands of a Quds Force-built guerrilla army."

Shame on the Times!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hillary Berates Obama for America's Staggering National Debt

Speaking last week in Keota, Iowa, Hillary declared:

"When you - When you - Something is not broke, don’t break it. Right?

And this school district and these schools throughout Iowa are doing a better-than-average job. Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better-than-average job."

Of course, everyone seized upon the fact that Hillary was calling for the closure of half of Iowa's schools, but what about, "Something is not broke, don’t break it"? I can only understand this to mean that Hillary was berating President Obama for allowing America's debt to rise to an unsustainable $18.8 trillion, or more than $157,000 per taxpayer.

A bit like Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes." When does the world wake up to the fact that America is indeed broke and requires "fixing"? And this begins with Obamacare. As the Chicago Tribune observed on Christmas:

"[T]he next president and Congress have no choice but to fix Obamacare, a law now known for rocketing premiums, narrowing networks of coverage, flummoxed consumers and insolvent insurers."

Good luck!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Alissa J. Rubin, "Flawed Justice After a Mob Killed an Afghan Woman": Care to Comment, Hillary?

In an important lead New York Times article entitled "Flawed Justice After a Mob Killed an Afghan Woman" (avoid watching the video at the top of the article unless you have a cast-iron stomach), Alissa J. Rubin writes of the horrific murder of Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old woman falsely accused of burning a Quran, and of the lenient legal proceedings against the men who were responsible for her death. Rubin writes:

"Farkhunda’s death and the legal system’s response call into question more than a decade of Western efforts in Afghanistan to instill a rule of law and improve the status of women. The United States alone has spent more than $1 billion to train lawyers and judges and to improve legal protections for women; European countries have provided tens of millions more.

But like so many other Western attempts to remake Afghanistan, the efforts have foundered, according to Afghan and Western lawyers and officials. Afghan society has resisted more than 150 years of such endeavors by outsiders, from the British to the Russians to the Americans. This remains a country where ties of kinship and clan trump justice, and where the money brought by the West has made corruption into a way of life. The rule-of-law programs were often designed in ignorance of Afghan legal norms, international and Afghan lawyers say. And Western efforts to lift women’s legal status provoked fierce resentment from powerful religious figures and many ordinary Afghans.

Yet Afghan women most need the legal system to defend them: They are largely powerless without the support of male family members, and it is usually family members who abuse them."

However, Afghanistan is not the only country where women are subjected to such horrors which go virtually unpunished by the legal system. Although never captured on video and never disseminated on the Internet, as was the slaying of Farkhunda, "Honor killings" are endemic throughout the Muslim Middle East.

Let's also not forget that stoning to death for alleged adultery, a punishment usually reserved for Muslim women, is legal in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Yemen.

And then there's also that "minor matter" involving the lashing and imprisonment of Saudi women who have been gang-raped.

Saudi Arabia? Yes, that's the country that has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation. (Qatar has given the Clinton Foundation somewhere between $1 million and $5 million in the past, and Kuwait and the UAE have also made hefty contributions.) But let's just ignore all that cash. After all, Hillary has placed women's rights at the center of her agenda, and we all know that she never lies.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Washington Post Editorial, "For Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, a bond of power-hungriness, vulgarity and cynicism": When East Meets West

Yesterday, in a Times of Israel article entitled "Did Hitler really only have one ball?," we were informed:

"Prof Peter Fleischmann, of Erlangen-Nuremberg University, said he had studied medical records of an examination the Nazi leader underwent in November 1923, when he was jailed at Landsberg Prison following the failure of his Munich Beer Hall Putsch.

The records, thought to have been lost, surfaced at an auction five years ago, were confiscated by the Bavarian government, and have only now been studied properly. According to Fleischmann, they show Hitler to have suffered from 'right-side cryptorchidism' — an undescended testicle. 'The testicle was probably stunted,' Prof Fleischman said, according to Bild Friday.

. . . .

A Soviet autopsy, released in 1970, bizarrely asserted that 'the left testicle could not be found.'"

So which was it, left or right? Without the answer, will any of us sleep tonight?

Meanwhile, a new Washington Post editorial entitled "For Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, a bond of power-hungriness, vulgarity and cynicism" does not tackle the issue of Hitler's "cryptorchidism." Rather, it ponders the exchange of amenities between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The editorial hypothesizes:

"What the two men share, and recognize in each other, goes beyond strong polling numbers, an affinity for incendiary language and a contempt for those (with President Obama leading the list) they regard as weak. What really attracts them is a common worldview in which money talks and democratic norms are for suckers."

Hey, boys and girls, even you called into issue Obama's cojones in Thursday's editorial entitled "On regime change in Syria, the White House capitulates to Russia." Today, who isn't troubled by an American president who has trashed the country's credibility and deterrent power? Even former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is now saying that when Obama ordered him to stand down after Assad's chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians in Damascus, "it hurt the credibility of the president’s word when this occurred."

And money also seems to talk for Hillary and the Clinton Foundation.

WaPo's editorial board misses the obvious: Trump and Putin are narcissists gone wild, probably fascinated by their mirror images a half world away. All that is lacking now is for Donald to explain to Vladimir his spectacular comb-over technique.

Sean Sullivan and David A. Fahrenthold, "Marco Rubio wants to unite later by staying vague now": WaPo's War Against Rubio

In 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy declared:

"But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."

Or stated otherwise, there exist situations where the judicial branch of government's construal of the Constitution or legislation necessarily must be respected by American politicians and trump (no pun intended) their personal views, e.g., on abortion. Yet, in a lead Washington Post article entitled "Marco Rubio wants to unite later by staying vague now" by Sean Sullivan and David A. Fahrenthold, we are told:

"It is a habit with Rubio, a candidate aiming at moderate and conservative voters who often seems to advocate two positions at once. He tells voters that he has a personal view on the subject — whether abortion, immigration, Syrian refugees or gay marriage. But he also has a view of what is politically possible. Which, usually, is not what he personally wants.

That tactic allows Rubio to offer two right answers to the same question, and lets him carve out wiggle room on topics where none seemed possible."

"Wiggle room" or respect for the American system of government and the views of other citizens? Moreover, as president, might a former senator need to adapt her/his stands owing to her/his service elsewhere in government? Consider how Hillary Clinton, once a pro-Israel senator from New York, served as President Obama's "designated yeller" at Netanyahu.

Sullivan and Fahrenthold's article follows on the heels of WaPo's December 12, 2015 lead article "The drug-smuggling case that brought anguish to Marco Rubio’s family." Yup, a brother-in-law was arrested when Rubio was 16 years old. Fascinating.

And then there was WaPo's December 3, 2015 article entitled "Before Senate win, Rubio turned political ‘juice’ into personal profits," in which Rosalind Helderman examined Rubio's income during the two-year interval between stepping down as Florida House speaker in 2008 and becoming a US Senator in 2010. Helderman wrote:

"Even before he left office in late 2008, his longtime aide sent a letter on behalf of a new private consulting group Rubio was launching, seeking business from a potentially major client: Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami’s busy public medical center.

That was an initial step in what became a profitable two-year stretch for Rubio between his time as a state legislator and his 2010 election to the U.S. Senate. Although he spent much of his time on the campaign trail, Rubio built a consulting and legal practice that made more than half a million dollars."

Helderman acknowledged that following "a complaint filed by a political critic who, among other things, alleged that the former speaker had scored clients as remuneration for his legislative support," Florida ethics officials who investigated the matter "found no evidence to support the allegation."

This smacks of scandal? Is The Washington Post remotely aware of how many former members of Congress go on to highly lucrative careers at law firms or lobbying organizations, built upon their knowledge of the ins and outs of politics and the legislative arena?

Any mention of Hillary Clinton in Helderman's article? Not one. Apparently, it doesn't matter that Hillary and Bill Clinton earned in excess of $25 million for 104 speeches since early 2014 and that Hillary charged $300,000 to speak at public universities.

How do you begin to compare income of $500,000 over the course of two years with $300,000 for a one-hour speech? Answer: You don't.

Bottom line: Rubio would wipe the floor with Hillary (famous for her flip-flops) in November 2016. Any chance that this is influencing WaPo's choice of lead articles?

I'll let you form your own opinion.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Charles Krauthammer, "Legacy or bust": Narcissism Gone Wild

Charles Krauthammer begins his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Legacy or bust" by observing:

"Last Saturday, Barack Obama gained the second jewel in his foreign policy triple crown: the Paris climate accord. It follows his Iran nuclear deal and awaits but the closing of Guantanamo to complete his glittering legacy."

Krauthammer goes on to note:

"Yet the climate deal brought back from Paris by Secretary of State John Kerry turns out to be no deal at all. It is, instead, a series of carbon-reducing promises made individually and unilaterally by the world’s nations.

No enforcement, no sanctions, nothing legally binding. No matter, explained Kerry on “Fox News Sunday”: “This mandatory reporting requirement . . . is a serious form of enforcement, if you will, of compliance, but there is no penalty for it, obviously.”

If you think that’s gibberish, you’re not alone. Retired NASA scientist James Hansen, America’s leading carbon abolitionist, indelicately called the whole deal “bulls---.”"

Further observing that Obama's nuclear deal with Iran is unsigned and pointing his finger at two Iranian ballistic missile launches which contravene the would-be agreement, Krauthammer concludes, "Obama will ignore, downplay and explain away any violation, lest it jeopardize his transformative foreign policy legacy." It should be pointed out in this regard that Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said on Wednesday, "Since day one of the endorsement of the JCPOA, our different tests have not [been] postponed even for a single day, hour or moment; rather we have not even felt any doubt about declaring them." Deghan also stated, "We will purchase weapons from wherever we deem necessary and we are not waiting for anyone's permission; if we deem necessary we will sell our weapons and we will do this without paying attention to any resolution."

Sickening? You bet, but that's not all . . .

In an editorial entitled "On regime change in Syria, the White House capitulates to Russia," The Washington Post caustically declares:

"For four years, President Obama demanded the departure of Mr. Assad, who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people with chemical weapons, 'barrel bombs,' torture and other hideous acts. Yet in its zeal to come to terms with Mr. Putin, the Obama administration has been slowly retreating from that position. On Tuesday in Moscow, Mr. Kerry took another big step backward: 'The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,' he said. He added that a demand by a broad opposition front that Mr. Assad step down immediately was a 'non-starting position' — because the United States already agreed that Mr. Assad could stay at least for the first few months of a 'transition process.'"

Obama, however, is not only capitulating to Russia. He is also capitulating to Iran, which has sent fighters from Hezbollah, its Lebanese surrogate, and its own Quds Force into Syria to fight the rebels. Consider the message that this is sending to America's allies in the Middle East: American overseas credibility and deterrent power have effectively been eviscerated.

January 20, 2017 cannot come too soon.

Gail Collins, "Fear, Loathing and Republican Debaters": Ignore FBI Director Comey's Warning

Following Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Gail Collins, in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Fear, Loathing and Republican Debaters," would have us know that terrorism should not be feared in the US, because the chances of it affecting any given individual are low:

"The lesson from Los Angeles would seem to be that the country needs to find a way to operate in a calm and rational manner, aware of the possibility of disaster but cleareyed about the fact that the odds against a terrorist attack at any particular place or time are astronomical. We are most definitely not in need of politicians trying to scare the pants off the voting public."

However, as reported in a September 11, 2015 U.S. News & World Report article entitled "Former CIA and DIA Operatives Warn of Another 9/11 Attack" by Sara A. Carter:

"The United States could be facing another 9/11 attack as factions grow deeper among the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, especially with the recently confirmed death of the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker, federal law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The tensions between Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the Taliban is as dangerous a national security threat to the United States as it was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said Brian Fairchild, who spent two decades with the CIA and has testified before Congress on terrorism."

More recently, as reported by CNN in a December 9, 2015 article entitled "FBI director: U.S. facing greatest threat from terrorist groups since 9/11" by Eugene Scott:

"FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the U.S. is at its greatest threat level from terrorist groups since 9/11.

Comey shared the information at a Senate FBI oversight hearing after Sen. Lindsey Graham questioned him on his agency's knowledge of terrorism.

'Do you agree with the following statement: There are more terrorist organizations with men, equipment and safe havens, along with desire to attack the American homeland, anytime since 9/11?' the South Carolina Republican asked.

'I agree,' Comey said.

Comey said budget cuts imposed by Congress in recent years have reduced the FBI's ability to protect America from terrorism."

But no need to worry. According to Times Terrorism expert Gail Collins, any attack will most likely kill someone else.

Thanks, Gail, for your kind reassurance.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Paris Climate Accord Is a Big, Big Deal": A Nonbinding Agreement

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Paris Climate Accord Is a Big, Big Deal," Thomas Friedman would have us know:

"Any global conference that includes so many countries can’t be expected to agree on much more than the lowest common denominator. But the fact that the lowest common denominator is now so high — a willingness by 188 countries to offer plans to steadily and verifiably reduce their carbon emissions — means we still have a chance to meet what scientists say is our key challenge: to avoid the worst impacts of global warming that we cannot possibly manage and to manage those impacts that we can no longer avoid. That is a big, big deal.

Many leaders had a hand in it, but it would not have happened without the diplomacy of President Obama and John Kerry."

Friedman fails to observe that as reported by John Cassidy in a New Yorker article entitled "A Skeptical Note on the Paris Climate Deal," the accord is not binding, countries can establish their own carbon emissions targets, and developing countries expect voluntary contributions of at least $100 billion per year from the West to achieve their goals.

A big, big deal? Good luck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Avi Issacharoff, "A third of Hezbollah’s fighters said killed or injured in Syria": A Ray of Sunshine

Avi Issacharoff is reporting in a Times of Israel article entitled "A third of Hezbollah’s fighters said killed or injured in Syria" that Hezbollah is suffering massive losses in its battles with ISIS and Syrian rebel groups:

"The Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has seen between 1,300 and 1,500 of its fighters killed in battles in the Syrian civil war, which means that together with the wounded it has lost as much as a third of its fighting force, according to Israeli estimates.

Some 5,000 of the organization’s members have been injured in fighting alongside regime troops against rebel groups, including the Islamic State.

. . . .

In July, Israel Radio reported that Hezbollah had arrested 175 of its own fighters after they refused to take part in battles in the Syrian city of Zabadani, close to the border with Lebanon."

Bottom line: At this rate, Hezbollah will not be capable of engaging the IDF for years to come.

David Brooks, "The Year of Unearthed Memories": PTSD for Dummies

My guess is that David Brooks never served in the military and certainly not in a combat unit. I would also observe that for some of us, trauma, e.g., seeing the face of a friend burned beyond recognition and bodies laid out in neat rows, extends beyond the theoretical.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Year of Unearthed Memories," Brooks begins:

"Childhood fears and adult traumas are stored differently in the brain than happy memories. They are buried like porous capsules deep in the primitive regions, below awareness and beyond easy reach of conscious thinking and talking. They are buried so deep that they are separated from the normal flow of life, and so time cannot work its natural healing powers."

Adult traumas are "beyond easy reach of conscious thinking and talking"? Not for me. Mine - in the plural - have a nasty habit of welling up when I am not happily distracted by work and family, and time has not worked its "natural healing powers."

Brooks concludes:

"Even after a tough year, we are born into a story that has a happy ending. Wrongs can be recognized, memories unearthed, old hurts recognized and put into context. What’s the point of doing this unless you’re fueled by hope and comforted by grace?"

"Fueled by hope"? In my case, yes. "Comforted by grace"? Grace? Does anyone have her cell number? I would be delighted to meet her.

New York Times Editorial, "Saudi Arabia’s Execution Spree": What About Iran?

In an editorial entitled "Saudi Arabia’s Execution Spree," The New York Times lambastes "Saudi Arabia’s justice system":

"Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to beheading and crucifixion for participating in a protest at age 17. Raif Badawi was to receive a thousand lashes — a punishment sure to kill — for his blog posts. A Sri Lankan maid, whose name has not been released, was sentenced, on scant evidence, to death by stoning for adultery. These are just some of the people awaiting horrific punishment in Saudi Arabia for things most of the world would not consider serious crimes, or crimes at all. It would be an outrage if their sentences were carried out.

Saudi Arabia’s justice system has gone into murderous overdrive. More than 150 people have been executed this year, the most since 1995. More than 50 people are reported to be scheduled for imminent execution on terrorist charges, though some are citizens whose only crime was protesting against the government. This wave of killing has prompted some to compare Saudi Arabia to the Islamic State: both follow Shariah law.

. . . .

That Saudi Arabia serves on the United Nations Human Rights Council makes this year’s execution spree all the more egregious. It is shameful that the United States and other democracies that consider Saudi Arabia a valuable ally are so often silent in the face of such gruesome excesses."

All true and horrific, but where is there any mention of what happens in Iran, with whose diplomats a jolly John Kerry posed after signing off on an unsigned nuclear deal? Iran hangs homosexuals, stones to death women accused of adultery, and executes poets for "moharabeh," i.e. enmity to God. As reported by Al Jazeera America in an October 27, 2015 article entitled "UN: Executions in Iran could top 1,000 in 2015":

"A U.N. investigator says executions in Iran have been rising at "an exponential rate" since 2005 and could top 1,000 this year as the country cracks down on drug offenders.

Ahmed Shaheed said in a report to the General Assembly circulated Tuesday that Iran executes more individuals per capita than any other country in the world.

He said the majority of executions violate international laws that ban the use of capital punishment for non-violent offenses and for juveniles and he urged Iran to impose a moratorium on the death penalty for all but the "most serious crimes.".

Shaheed, the special investigator on the human rights situation in Iran, said 69 percent of executions during the first six months of 2015 were reportedly for drug-related offenses, reflecting the rising drug influx in the country.

In July, Amnesty International reported a 'surge' in executions in 2015."

A surge in executions in 2015? And all this while, we have been told by the Times that Iranian President Rouhani is a "moderate."

Shame on Obama, Kerry, The New York Times and all of the columnists of the Times who traipse off to Saudi Arabia and Iran and turn a blind eye to human rights outrages.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Paul Krugman, "Hope From Paris": Hope or Hypocrisy?

Paul Krugman begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hope From Paris" by observing:

"Did the Paris climate accord save civilization? Maybe. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but it’s actually the best climate news we’ve had in a very long time. This agreement could still follow the path of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which seemed like a big deal but ended up being completely ineffectual. But there have been important changes in the world since then, which may finally have created the preconditions for action on global warming before it’s too late."

A pity that all the presidents, prime ministers, kings and potentates did not arrive in Paris via commercial jets. What a powerful statement concerning global warming and pollution this would have made.

But more to the point, Krugman seems to hint at the fact that it is not a matter of what the nations of the world agree. He is correct. Ultimately, most nations will act in their own selfish interest.

Fortunately, technological advances are indeed bringing clean energy prices steadily down. But beyond a decline in the costs of solar and wind power, lightbulbs today last longer and use less electricity. Automobiles are more fuel efficient, and there is a revolution afoot regarding the way in which people work: Today, many employees are able to work several days each week from their homes, thereby also reducing carbon emissions involving transportation to and from their jobs.

Near the end of his op-ed, Krugman warns:

"President Cruz or President Rubio might scuttle the whole deal, and by the time we get another chance to do something about climate it could be too late."

Sorry, Paul, but saving the climate has nothing to do with Democrats versus Republicans. Rather, it has everything to do with cost efficiency and basic market forces.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Nicholas Kristof, "How Well Do You Know Religion?": The Bible vs. the Quran

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How Well Do You Know Religion?," Nicholas Kristof declares, "There’s a widespread perception in America that Islam is rooted in misogyny and violence." He then quizzes us in order to demonstrate that the passages of the Old and New Testaments are just as violent as those of the Quran. Acknowledging that he cherry-picked the texts forming the basis of his quiz (no mention of the Islamic hadith, "Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees, but the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him") Kristof goes on to say:

"It’s true that terrorism in the 21st century is disproportionately rooted in the Islamic world. And it’s legitimate to criticize the violence, mistreatment of women or oppression of religious minorities that some Muslims justify by citing passages in the Quran. But let’s not stereotype 1.6 billion Muslims because of their faith. What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts.

. . . .

In international relations, extremists on one side empower extremists on the other side. ISIS empowers Trump, who inadvertently empowers ISIS. He’s not confronting a national security threat; he’s creating one.

. . . .

Yes, the Islamic world today has a strain of dangerous intolerance. And for all of America’s strengths as a society, as Donald Trump shows, so does America."

A "strain" of dangerous intolerance? Kristof is straining our credulity. As much as I am appalled by Trump and his antics, he does not call for the hanging of homosexuals or the stoning to death of women for alleged adultery, as occurs in Iran. Perhaps you recall Kristof's op-ed "In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun," in which he describes a 1,700-mile, magical mystery tour across Iran in June 2012, accompanied by his son and daughter. In a journey akin to Borat's excursion across the US, he relayed profound anecdotes from his chance meetings with ordinary Iranians. Discussions with members of Iran's persecuted Baha'i minority? Kristof doesn't mention any. Exchanges of views with Iran's oppressed Kurds? Again, no such thing. Dialogue with Iranian homosexuals? No way. A visit to Evin Prison to check the well-being of political dissidents languishing in its dungeons? Sorry, not on this road trip. Better still, an off-the-beaten-track side trip to witness a stoning? No, he wouldn't want his children to witness such a spectacle.

Fun, fun, fun . . .

Also, there is no mention by Kristof of "honor killings" of women throughout the Muslim Middle East. Although I am disgusted by his assignment of numbers to the appearance of women, e.g., Heidi Klum, Trump's indiscretions cannot be compared with Islam's treatment of women. Consider the genital mutilation of more than 90 percent of married women in Egypt. Consider also the lashing and imprisonment of Saudi women who have been gang raped.

I agree with Kristof that "What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts." A pity that Kristof, during his tour of Iran, did not examine the hearts of Khamenei and his henchmen.

It will be interesting to see if Trump sues both Kristof and the Times.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Paul Krugman, "Empowering the Ugliness": The Constipation of a Liberal

Paul Krugman begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Empowering the Ugliness" by observing:

"We live in an era of political news that is, all too often, shocking but not surprising. The rise of Donald Trump definitely falls into that category. And so does the electoral earthquake that struck France in Sunday’s regional elections, with the right-wing National Front winning more votes than either of the major mainstream parties.

What do these events have in common? Both involved political figures tapping into the resentments of a bloc of xenophobic and/or racist voters who have been there all along. The good news is that such voters are a minority; the bad news is that it’s a pretty big minority, on both sides of the Atlantic. If you are wondering where the support for Mr. Trump or Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front, is coming from, you just haven’t been paying attention.

But why are these voters making themselves heard so loudly now?"

"What do these events have in common?" "[W]hy are these voters making themselves heard so loudly now?" Surely you're not serious, Paul! Come on, Krugman, out with it!

Nowhere in Krugman's opinion piece are the words "terror" or "terrorism." Nowhere in Krugman's opinion piece is there mention of the Paris or San Bernardino attacks. Nowhere can you find the word "fear." And certainly there is no reference to "radical Islam."

Truly the constipation of a liberal.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hillary Clinton on Benghazi: The Fog of War or the Murk of Mendacity?

In a Washington Free Beacon article entitled "Clinton Says She Never Lied About Benghazi, Cites ‘Fog of War’ Instead During Interview," Aaron Kliegman writes about Hillary Clinton's interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." Kliegman writes:

"Host Stephanopoulos ... played two clips, each showing a parent of one of the victims saying that Clinton lied directly to them about the cause of the attack, including Charles Woods, father of retired Navy Seal Tyrone Woods, before asking, 'Did you tell them it was about a film? And what’s your response?'

Clinton responded that she has already answered all of these questions and 'can’t help it that people think there has to be something else there,' referring to Republicans who have been investigating the Benghazi attack.

She continued, 'I said very clearly, there had been a terrorist group, uh, that had taken responsibility on Facebook, um, between the time that, uh, I – you know, when I talked to my daughter, that was the latest information; we were, uh, giving it credibility. And then we learned the next day it wasn’t true. In fact, they retracted it. This was a fast-moving series of events in the fog of war and I think most Americans understand that.'

Stephanopoulos did not ask a follow-up question before moving the interview to Clinton’s unfavorable poll numbers amongst voters regarding her trustworthiness."

Indeed, there was no follow-up question from Stephanopoulos, who should have asked if Clinton was again in contact with the parents of the victims to inform them that the "film" had nothing to do with the attack.

It is no wonder that American voters believe by a nearly two-to-one margin that Clinton is lying about Benghazi.

George Will, "The Frank Sinatra we remember": When I Was Seventeen, It Was a Very Good Year

It's been a sad week for me with the passing of two of my personal heroes: US Medal of Honor winner Tibor Rubin (the biography of Rubin, "Single-Handed" by Daniel M. Cohen, sits on a shelf opposite me as I type this blog entry) and columnist, Member of Knesset and former Israeli Education Minister Yossi Sarid. I never had the honor of meeting Rubin, whose life serves as an exemplar of courage. On the other hand, I knew Sarid, a model of integrity, who was there to help when I engaged in a one-man war against a corrupt government bureaucracy.

I also never knew Frank Sinatra, and although I grew up in the Sixties and immersed myself in the music of The Doors, The Byrds and The Who, whose music I still play at full volume while driving to business meetings, I also came to admire the songs of Frank Sinatra, which have equally become a part of my inner self.

In a splendid Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The Frank Sinatra we remember," George Will writes today:

"In today’s culture of hyperbole, born of desperate attempts to be noticed amid the Niagara of Internet and other outpourings, the label 'genius' is affixed promiscuously to evanescent popular entertainers, fungible corporate chief executives and other perishable phenomena. But it almost fits the saloon singer — his preferred description of himself — who was born 100 years ago, on Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J."

. . . .

In spite of the spectacular vulgarity of Sinatra’s choices of friends and fun, he bequeathed to postwar America a sense of style, even male elegance. His Las Vegas cavorting with 'The Rat Pack' (Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford) was an embarrassing manifestation of 1950s arrested-development masculinity — adolescence forever. But never mind his toupees and elevator shoes, his loutish flunkies and violent bodyguards, his many awful movies and public brawls, his pimping for Camelot.

His "pimping" for Camelot? Yes, he introduced women to John Kennedy, who complained to British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, "If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get a terrible headache." Revolting? Yes. However, Kennedy was also a president capable of facing down Russian aggression - unlike the invertebrate currently occupying the Oval Office, who has destroyed American overseas credibility and deterrent power over the course of his seven years in office.

Goodness, how I've grown old! I don't know if "I've done it my way," and I have no longings to return to de Blasio's New York, but somewhere deep inside, I think I can still remember how, "When I was seventeen, it was a very good year . . ."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The New York Times, "Americans Attracted to ISIS Find an ‘Echo Chamber’ on Social Media": Little in Common?

In a lead New York Times article entitled "Americans Attracted to ISIS Find an ‘Echo Chamber’ on Social Media" by Scott Shane, Matt Apuzzo and Eric Schmitt, we are told of an "online community of [Islamic State] sympathizers in the United States" (my emphasis in red):

"As the Obama administration takes on the multidimensional challenge posed by the Islamic State after the killings in San Bernardino, Calif., the online community of sympathizers in the United States is a critical focus. They number in the hundreds, experts say, and fit no single profile. Among those whose flirtations took a serious turn and led to criminal charges are a trio of teenage siblings from Chicago, a former Air Force mechanic in his late 40s from New Jersey, and a mother of two from Philadelphia.

In fact, they have little in common except one thing: the weeks or months spent marinating in the rhetoric and symbolism of the Islamic State, courtesy of Twitter and other Internet platforms."

"Little in common"? They're not mostly Muslims (I recommend going to the link if you want a laugh)?

Thomas Friedman, "#You Ain’t No American, Bro": You Can't Always Get What You Want ... or Even Need

I agree with Thomas Friedman in his latest New York Times op-ed, "#You Ain’t No American, Bro," that "Trump, by alienating the Muslim world with his call for a ban on Muslims entering America, is acting as the Islamic State’s secret agent." But from there, Friedman's opinion piece is all downhill.

Friedman proceeds to inform us:

"We need moderate Sunni Muslim forces to go house to house against ISIS in Iraq. We need Sunni spiritual leaders to go heart to heart and delegitimize the ISIS message everywhere. And we need Iran to make clear it supports an equitable power-sharing agreement in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, so moderate Sunni Arabs will fight ISIS rather than seeing it as their shield against Iran."

"Moderate" Sunni Muslim forces? Apart from the Kurds, tell me where to find them.

"We need Sunni spiritual leaders to go heart to heart and delegitimize the ISIS message everywhere"? I suggest Friedman take a tour of Saudi mosques on any given Friday. This is an instance where you can't always get what you want ... or even "need" for that matter.

"[W]e need Iran to make clear it supports an equitable power-sharing agreement in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites"? Heck, Tom, Iranian meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain and Gaza is all about a play for Shiite hegemony throughout the Middle East following Saddam Hussein's disappearance from the scene. There is simply no way in hell that Iran is going to support an equitable power-sharing agreement in Iraq.

A solution to the quandary posed by ISIS? Needless to say, Tom Terrific has the answer:

"Apply more pressure on our Sunni allies to join the anti-ISIS fight with troops on the ground; call on the Saudis and other Sunnis to loudly delegitimize ISIS; deploy more U.S. and NATO Special Forces; make clear to Iran that we might have to put the nuclear deal on hold if Iran is not a more constructive partner in Iraq and Syria."

Pressure America's Sunni allies? Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey are busy playing both sides of the fence.

"[M]ake clear to Iran that we might have to put the nuclear deal on hold if Iran is not a more constructive partner in Iraq and Syria"? Hey, Tom, Iran doesn't care. Three weeks ago, Iran test-launched its Ghadr-110 medium range ballistic missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead, in violation of Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Supreme Leader Khamenei. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council still can't decide how to respond to a prior Iranian ballistic missile test in October.

Heaven help us if Trump wins the Republican nomination. And if Obama heeds Friedman, we're also in deep sh*t.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

David Brooks, "How ISIS Makes Radicals": The Rise of ISIS Coincides With the Decline of Progressivism

About a year ago, I wrote and sought to market an action screenplay, "The Hannibal Protocol," set in Lebanon and Syria, which examined the motivation of ISIS volunteers. Although the screenplay received good feedback from "The Black List" (I have no Hollywood connections), Hollywood would have none of it, believing, as did President Obama, that ISIS had been "contained."

Today, in an interesting New York Times op-ed entitled "How ISIS Makes Radicals," David Brooks examines the motivation of ISIS terrorists and asks how "the Islamic State is able to radicalize a couple living in Redlands, Calif." After presenting us with the tenets of "The True Believer," a 1951 book written by Eric Hoffer, Brooks offers advice as how best to respond to the threat from ISIS:

"The big thing that has changed in the past 60 odd years is that you don’t actually have to join a mass movement any more. You can follow it online and participate remotely.

The correct response is still the same, however. First, try to heal the social disintegration that is the seedbed of these movements. Second, offer positive inspiring causes to replace the suicidal ones. Third, mass movements are conquered when their charisma is destroyed, when they are defeated militarily and humiliated. Then they can no longer offer hope, inspiration or a plausible way out for the disaffected."

Heal the social disintegration among the tens of millions of alienated and impoverished Muslims in the Middle East, Europe, and now, in increasing numbers, the US, too? Good luck.

Offer Muslims a positive inspiring cause, i.e. pry them away from radical Islam? Sorry, but I don't think global warming will do the trick.

Defeat and humiliate ISIS? Obama had the chance; however, as so aptly stated by Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, America's president is a "total pussy." And as further observed by Stacey Dash, the president doesn't "give a shit" about terrorism. (Both Peters and Dash were suspended by Fox News for two weeks for their colorful assessments.)

Brooks fails to observe that the rise of ISIS coincides with the decline of Obama's mass movement for "Change." Regrettably, having sold his followers on the proposition that al-Qaeda and ISIS were on the run, the president finds himself incapable of rallying his troops to defeat "radical Islam," a threat that this false messiah claimed did not exist and still refuses to acknowledge.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters Calls Obama a "Total Pussy": Give That Man a Full Bird

Yesterday, Retired US Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters stated on "Varney & Co." in response to Obama's Oval Office address on ISIS and the San Bernardino shootings (my emphasis in red):

"Well, first of all, he keeps speaking about 'we can't give into our fears.' You know, 'don't be afraid.' Look, Mr. President, we're not afraid. We're angry. We're pissed off. We're furious. We want to see you react. We want you to do something. You're afraid. I mean, this guy is such a total pussy, it's stunning. We the people, the American people, who he does not know in any intimate sort of manner. We want action. We want action against Islamic State and then when the president is telling us he is going to destroy ISIS. This is a president who has done more harm to American police departments than he has done to Islamic State. This is a president who restrains our military. He uses it not to defeat ISIS, but for political purposes for political cover. This is a president who doesn't want to hurt our enemies, this is a president who cares more about thugs in Guantanamo or thugs in Ferguson, Missouri, than he does about law-abiding American citizens and their right to live in safety and peace."

A stunning "total pussy"? Well, I would probably have said it differently. Instead I would have observed that Obama is a narcissist, who has surrounded himself with a coterie of bootlicking sycophants. Detached from reality and wedded to the insane notion that the world's most ghoulish tyrants are angels deep down inside, the president has irreparably damaged American credibility and deterrent power.

Although Peters deserves a full bird for his honesty, he was suspended by Fox News for two weeks. Mark my words, Lt. Colonel Peters: You will reemerge later this month with star power.

I would only observe in passing that Lt. Colonel Peters's "pussy" remark was quite tame compared with the outburst of Ahmed Moussa on Egyptian Sada El-Balad TV. As reported today by The Times of Israel in an article entitled "Egyptian TV presenter: ‘Impale’ Obama" by Lee Gancman:

"Obama, according to Moussa, 'numbs the security agencies, the military, and the intelligence agencies.' Obama is a liar, he charged, because 'all the allies of terrorism are liars.'

. . . .

Moussa said that he 'would like Congress to send Obama to the guillotine,' and later advocated for Americans to place the president on an impalement rod, because 'this what they would do in a respectful country.'"

Be labelled a pussy or be placed on an impalement rod? A hard decision, but I personally would prefer the former.

David Ignatius, "The big hole in Obama’s Islamic State strategy": Muddle

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The big hole in Obama’s Islamic State strategy," David Ignatius writes:

"The Sunni no-show problem illustrates a deeper trauma. Across the Middle East, Sunnis are experiencing a kind of vertigo. The Sunni powerhouses — Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya — are in ruins. The people feel dispossessed and disillusioned, disgusted with the autocrats who ruled them before and the religious fanatics who want to rule them today."

Ignatius, however, is comparing apples and oranges . . . and bananas and peaches.

Libya is indeed in shambles, and its population of less than seven million is some 97 percent Sunni. In the past, Qaddafi certainly made enough noise, but a Sunni "powerhouse"?

Egypt, with a population totaling some 84 million persons of whom some 90 percent are Sunni, is still a Sunni "powerhouse," notwithstanding the chaos in the Sinai peninsula. The current regime of General Sisi, who ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi in 2013, effectively amounts to a military junta, and concern exists regarding future financial support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman, but Standard & Poor’s "outlook on Egypt’s credit rating" is rated as "stable."

Chaos prevails in Iraq, which is only some 34 percent Sunni. A Sunni "powerhouse"? Perhaps when Saddam Hussein ruled the country, but today Shiites hold sway over the government of what is left of the country, i.e. not occupied by the Islamic State and not including the Kurdish autonomous region.

Syria, which is indeed in ruins, is some 74 percent Sunni. The current civil war amounts to a rebellion of the Sunni majority against the Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Ignatius concludes:

"When we think about the future of Iraq and Syria, we should have in mind vibrant Sunni provinces that, like Kurdistan, are part of a loose federal state. In building a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, creating this 'Sunnistan' will be the long pole in the tent."

But there is already a monstrous "Sunnistan" in Iraq and Syria: It's called the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

"Vibrant Sunni provinces" in Syria forming part of a loose federation? I don't think so. Not including the Al-Hasakah Governorate in which Kurds, albeit Sunnis, are the majority, Sunnis comprise the majority of the population in 10 of Syria's 14 governorates, and going ahead, they cannot be expected to live in harmony with their former Alawite masters.

Bottom line: The artificiality of the boundaries fixed in 1916 by France and Britain pursuant to the Sykes-Picot Agreement is blatantly apparent. Syria and Iraq are finished as viable national units. Moreover, the time has come to allow the Middle East's 30 million long-oppressed Kurds, residing in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, to declare their independence.

New York Times Editorial, "President Obama’s Tough, Calming Talk on Terrorism": Tough as the Pillsbury Doughboy

In yet another delusional editorial entitled "President Obama’s Tough, Calming Talk on Terrorism," The New York Times begins:

"During his Oval Office address on Sunday night, President Obama sought to reassure Americans that his administration’s expanding campaign against the Islamic State will succeed in reducing threats of terrorism, and he warned against the wholesale vilification of Muslims."

An "expanding campaign"? Fifty special ops soldiers can make a difference on the ground in Syria? I don't think so. (Don't get me wrong: I oppose US boots on the ground in Syria, and I believe NATO was wise to decide against sending its forces to fight ISIS there.)

In addition, as reported by Jacqueline Klimas in a Sunday, May 31, 2015 Washington Times article entitled "U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout":

"Nearly 75 percent of U.S. bombing runs targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria returned to base without firing any weapons in the first four months of 2015, holding their fire mainly because of a lack of ground intelligence and raising questions about President Obama’s key tactic in pushing back an enemy that continues to expand its territory in the war zone."

This information must have those bastards from ISIS shaking in their pants!

And if that's not enough, President Obama declared in his Oval Office speech vis-à-vis America's "strategy" to destroy the Islamic State:

"It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition."

Included in Obama's 65-nation coalition against the Islamic State are such big guns as Albania, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Nigeria, Panama, Singapore, Slovenia, Somalia, and Tunisia. The coalition also includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, whose wealthy citizens have been busy funding ISIS.

Yup, Obama's speech was tough and calming, and we can all sleep well at night knowing that the president, when he is not preoccupied on the golf course, is committed to the security of the free world.

Hillary Clinton, "Hillary Clinton: How I’d Rein In Wall Street": Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?

If Hillary Clinton is elected president, do you believe she is going to get tough with the world's financial institutions? As was reported in a July 30, 2015 Wall Street Journal article entitled "UBS Deal Shows Clinton’s Complicated Ties" by James V. Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus:

"A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts.

If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice: Violate Swiss secrecy laws by handing over the names, or refuse and face criminal charges in U.S. federal court.

Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS, an outcome that drew criticism from some lawmakers who wanted a more extensive crackdown.

From that point on, UBS’s engagement with the Clinton family’s charitable organization increased. Total donations by UBS to the Clinton Foundation grew from less than $60,000 through 2008 to a cumulative total of about $600,000 by the end of 2014, according to the foundation and the bank."

More about Hillary's relationship with some of the world's largest banks? In a May 22, 2015 editorial entitled "Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite," The New York Times informed us:

"As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.

. . . .

In all, the banks will pay fines totaling about $9 billion, assessed by the Justice Department as well as state, federal and foreign regulators. That seems like a sweet deal for a scam that lasted for at least five years, from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2013, during which the banks’ revenue from foreign exchange was some $85 billion."

Or stated otherwise, these banks paid fines of $9 billion on foreign exchange revenue of $85 billion. Sweet!

However, the Times didn't tell us about the connection of some of these banks (not Royal Bank of Scotland) to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative ("CGI"). The Clinton Foundation lists Barclays Capital and the Citi Foundation as donors in the $1,000,001 to $5,000,000 range. It also lists JPMorgan Chase as a donor in the $100,001 to $250,000 range.

In addition, with regard to Barclays, a March 3, 2015 CNN article entitled "Base wary of Clinton Foundation's ties to troubled banks" by Alexandra Jaffe stated:

"British banking giant Barclays emerged as a 'strategic partner' with CGI for its 2010 annual meeting, and gave the same level of support every year after that.

. . . .

In August of 2010, the Justice Department announced Barclays would pay nearly $300 million in fines for breaking sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan and others.

. . . .

According to a Justice Department statement issued in June 2012, Barclays 'admitted and accepted responsibility for its misconduct' at the center of a scheme to manipulate global interest rates, which in turn affected prices for consumer lending.

The bank agreed to pay $450 million in total to the Justice Department, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the UK's Financial Services Authority to resolve the violations.

. . . .

In July 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused both Barclays and Deutsche Bank of helping hedge funds avoid paying more than $6 billion in taxes."

But never mind any of the above. Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Hillary Clinton: How I’d Rein In Wall Street," Hillary Clinton tells us of her plans to reform the financial industry:

"My plan proposes legislation that would impose a new risk fee on dozens of the biggest banks — those with more than $50 billion in assets — and other systemically important financial institutions to discourage the kind of hazardous behavior that could induce another crisis. I would also ensure that the federal government has — and is prepared to use — the authority and tools necessary to reorganize, downsize and ultimately break up any financial institution that is too large and risky to be managed effectively. No bank or financial firm should be too big to manage.

My plan would strengthen the Volcker Rule by closing the loopholes that still allow banks to make speculative gambles with taxpayer-backed deposits. And I would fight to reinstate the rules governing risky credit swaps and derivatives at taxpayer-backed banks, which were repealed during last year’s budget negotiations after a determined lobbying campaign by the banks.

My plan also goes beyond the biggest banks to include the whole financial sector."

In addition, Hillary says that she "would appoint tough, independent regulators and ensure that both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are independently funded," and would also hold financial industry executives "more accountable." Do you believe her?

What is missing from Hillary's op-ed is any mention of the repeal of the Uptick Rule in July 2007, which enabled hedge funds to freely manipulate American stock markets to their advantage. An illustration of the consequences of its repeal:

Micro-cap company "X" has designed and patented a revolutionary widget. Recently, the achievements of "X" have made their way into the news, and its shares have risen. Farmer Joe, who attends night school and reads the financial news, decides to buy 1,000 shares of "X". However, Farmer Joe is unaware that Slick Eddy at Hedge Fund "Z", who couldn't care less about the merits of company "X"'s widgets, has also noticed the rise in the share price of "X". With almost unlimited resources behind him, Eddy borrows "X" shares from various financial institutions and begins to sell vast quantities into the market, causing a precipitous decline in the market price of "X". Eddy then blocks any rally in the share price by activating a computerized program to immediately sell 100 shares at the bid after any purchase. Worried by the huge downswing in the price of "X," and also concerned that at the end of each trading day "X" always goes down (Eddy often sells into the market during the last seconds of trading), Farmer Joe dumps his shares at an enormous loss ("Someone must know that something is wrong at 'X'"). Having succeeded in panicking Farmer Joe and other small investors in "X", Eddy buys back the shares at a significantly lower average price than that at which he sold them, resulting in enormous profits for Hedge Fund "Z". Eddy's bosses note his "fine" work and reward him with bonuses as the shares of "X" tumble.

Of course, there are those who will say that ultimately the stock market is "efficient", and the price of "X" will recover to an appropriate level. However, in the process we have witnessed the flow of wealth from Farmer Joe and other small investors to Hedge Fund "Z" and Slick Eddy.

Also, consider the damage to company "X", which, owing to doubt raised by the run on its shares, is suddenly unable to raise additional funds to finance expanded production of a new line of widgets, declares bankruptcy and fires its staff.

Sure, there are instances when the scientific and/or commercial progress of a company shorted by Hedge Fund "Z" is so great that Hedge Fund "Z" must buy back the shares at a higher price, but these losses are more than covered by its programmed downward manipulation of the shares of many other companies

In her op-ed, Hillary declares, "we need to reform stock market rules to ensure equal access to information, increase transparency and minimize conflicts of interest." How about also doing something to make US stock markets a place where small investors are not habitually - pardon my French - screwed?