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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

David Brooks, "The Next Culture War": Why Should Only Heterosexuals Be Forced to Suffer?

First, allow me to go on record as stating that I support gay and lesbian marriage. Why should only heterosexuals be forced to suffer? However, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Next Culture War," David Brooks addresses the issue of gay and lesbian marriage from a different angle. Brooks writes:

"Most Christian commentary has opted for another strategy: fight on. Several contributors to a symposium in the journal First Things about the court’s Obergefell decision last week called the ruling the Roe v. Wade of marriage. It must be resisted and resisted again. Robert P. George, probably the most brilliant social conservative theorist in the country, argued that just as Lincoln persistently rejected the Dred Scott decision, so 'we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation.'

These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.

. . . .

I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace."

Sorry, David, but I'm not big on proselytizing. Send a horde of social conservatives to Baltimore "to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace"? Why do I think this is not going to work? Instead, I think social conservatives should enjoy their love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace within their own homes and communities. If it works for them in these unsettling times, I am confident their values and lifestyles will be discovered and emulated by those outside their communities.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Washington Post, "Israel intercepts Gaza-bound aid ship in Mediterranean": An Aid-Ship Carrying No Aid?

Currently on the Washington Post homepage under "More Headlines," there is a link "Israel intercepts Gaza-bound aid ship" which takes you to the article "Israel intercepts Gaza-bound aid ship in Mediterranean" by William Booth. Booth states in his article:

"The Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg was attempting to enter Israeli-controlled waters in the Mediterranean Sea and deliver aid packages to Gaza."

Israeli Defense Minister Ya'alon, however, has declared there was no aid aboard the said ship.

In today's brave new world, are there "aid-ships" carrying no aid?

I asked WaPo to correct (I copied Martin Baron on the email), and let's see if they are willing to address this egregious blunder.

Obama Surrenders to Khamenei: What Happened to "No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal"?

Yesterday, we learned that Prime Minister Netanyahu had stated to an Israeli cabinet meeting:

"We see before our very eyes that the world powers are retreating from the red lines they set for themselves recently and publicly. There is no reason to rush to sign this bad deal, which becomes worse every day. It’s not too late to go back and make demands that will really prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and will prevent it from receiving funds that will sponsor its aggression, its expansion, and the terror attacks that it carries out all over the world."

What was the reason for Netanyahu's concern? It wasn't clear. Today, however, we know the answer. DEBKAfile now informs us of three horrifying concessions made by Obama to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei:

"1. After barring International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of suspect sites for years, Tehran will now be allowed to submit a paper with answers to queries about its past clandestine activities at those military sites, such as suspected tests of nuclear bomb detonators and explosives.

. . . .

2. Obama and Kerry have withdrawn the 'any time, anywhere' stipulation for snap inspections of suspect nuclear facilities, as mandated by the Additional Protocol signed by Iran. They now agree that international monitors must first submit a request to an 'Iranian Committee' (not even a joint US-Iranian committee) for advance permission to inspect nuclear facilities.

. . . .

3. Washington has backed down on its insistence on predicating sanctions relief on Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the final accord. After Tehran countered with a demand for the sanctions to be lifted immediately upon the signing of the accord, the Obama administration agreed to remove them in three stages:

a) Straight after the deal is signed.

b) After ratification of the accord by the US Congress and Iranian Majlis. This process is expected to take place by the end of 2015, and so Iran will win two multibillion windfalls this year without being required to meet any obligations beyond its signature. Obama counts on the support of 34 US senators. In any case, Congress is not empowered to reject or delay the deal.

c) All remaining sanctions will be lifted when implementation of the accord begins."

This amounts to little less than abject surrender on the part of Obama. Is there anyone willing to oppose America's president? Could it be that Obama is continuing to seek revenge against Netanyahu? You will recall how Obama and Kerry sought to impose Turkish and Qatari mediation upon Netanyahu during Israel's war with Hamas last summer. With a year and a half remaining of his presidency, Obama is revealing his true colors.

Paul Krugman, "Greece Over the Brink": Is America Next?

"The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents - #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back -- $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic."

- Barack Obama, July 3, 2008

Well, US national debt has now reached an unsustainable $18.3 trillion, amounting to $57,000 for every American man, woman and child. Care to comment, Mr. President? And although today's headlines are all about the economic woes of Greece and Puerto Rico, the United States of America is not far behind, although no one dares say anything. You will recall the frightened silence of those observing the the emperor's parade in "The Emperor's New Clothes" . . .

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Greece Over the Brink," Paul Krugman declares that "the creation of the euro was a terrible mistake," which trapped Greece in an "economic straitjacket." Observing that "[c]ases of successful austerity, in which countries rein in deficits without bringing on a depression, typically involve large currency devaluations that make their exports more competitive" (something Greece cannot do to the euro), Krugman urges Greek voters to reject demands from creditors for harsher austerity:

"This isn’t about analysis, it’s about power — the power of the creditors to pull the plug on the Greek economy, which persists as long as euro exit is considered unthinkable.

So it’s time to put an end to this unthinkability. Otherwise Greece will face endless austerity, and a depression with no hint of an end."

Regrettably, Krugman does not bother mentioning Puerto Rico in his op-ed. As reported by Michael Fletcher in a Washington Post article entitled "Puerto Rico says it cannot pay its debt, setting off potential crisis in the U.S.":

"The governor of Puerto Rico has decided that the island cannot pay back more than $70 billion in debt, setting up an unprecedented financial crisis that could rock the municipal bond market and lead to higher borrowing costs for governments across the United States.

Puerto Rico’s move could roil financial markets already dealing with the turmoil of the renewed debt crisis in Greece. It also raises questions about the once-staid municipal bond market, which states and cities count on to pay upfront costs for public improvements such as roads, parks and hospitals.

For many years, those bonds were considered safe investments — but those assumptions have been shifting in recent years as a small but steady string of U.S. municipalities, including Detroit, as well as Stockton and Vallejo in California, have tumbled into bankruptcy."

Puerto Rico cannot file for bankruptcy, and no one, least of all Krugman, knows if this crisis, involving both Greece and Puerto Rico, could snowball. Pretty it won't be.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ray Takeyh, "The payoff for Iran": Yes, There Will Be a Deal Paving the Way to Iranian Regional Hegemony

No need to hold your breath. Although the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran will extend beyond the June 30 deadline, a deal will be reached several days thereafter. You see, Iran needs the $50 billion signing bonus to fund its international terror network, but it will first squeeze everything it can from a naive, indulgent Obama administration.

I can also promise that Iran will breach the agreement several days thereafter, paving the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal years before the expiration of the 10-year sunset clause, although it may take the US months to catch on. And if Obama is still president, he will do nothing about it.

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, concludes regarding the soon-to-be-finalized deal with Iran in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The payoff for Iran":

"The much-discussed terms of the impending agreement with Iran thus offer the theocracy all that it wants. The accord would concede a vast enrichment capacity, as well as accepting both a heavy water plant and a well-fortified underground enrichment facility that the United States once vowed to shutter. It would permit an elaborate research and development program and would likely rely on an inspection regime that falls short of indispensable 'anytime, anywhere' access. In the meantime, the sanctions architecture will be diminished, and the notion of ever 'snapping back' sanctions into place once they are lifted is delusional. And because the agreement itself would be term-limited, there would be no practical limits on Iran’s nuclear ambitions upon its expiration.

However, as disturbing as all this may be, the most important legacy of the prospective agreement many not even lie in the nuclear realm. The massive financial gains from the deal would enable the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge while allowing a repressive regime that was on the brink of collapse in 2009 to consolidate power. This would be no small achievement for Iran’s emboldened rulers."

No "anytime, anywhere" access, and no snapbacks of sanctions"? Indeed, "no small achievement for Iran’s emboldened rulers," and part and parcel of Obama's devastating legacy to boot.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Philip Gordon, "Bibi’s man in D.C., still spinning for the boss": A Hatchet Job of a Book Review

On Friday night, the White House was awash with the colors of the rainbow to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision that marriage equality is a constitutional right. The light show came at a time when the Obama administration was seeking to finalize a nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which hangs homosexuals. Of course, Obama has always voiced his opposition to the murder of gay men by Iran . . . or has he? As observed by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, who serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University, in a Front Page Magazine article entitled "An Execution Wave Against LGBT Iranians":

"President Barack Obama has long depicted himself as a defender of women’s and LGBT rights not only in the United States but across the world as well. Yet, where is his voice when it comes to the growing number of executions and the persecution of the gay and lesbian community as well as the repression of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran? In addition, why has the LGBT movement not criticized the Obama administration or made a movement over these injustices, egregious actions, and human rights violations committed in the Islamic Republic against the gays and lesbians?

As the Obama administration continues to communicate and diplomatically negotiate with Iranian officials in Vienna, New York, and elsewhere, President Obama has not even slightly expressed his concern about the unfair actions, executions, discriminations and prosecutions of LGBT individuals, as well as the increasing repressions of women under the Rouhani administration."

Also in the news on Friday, we learned that a Geocartography Institute poll has determined that a whopping 48.5 percent of Jewish Israeli respondents said that Obama's proposed nuclear deal with Iran was a threat to Israel’s existence. Moreover, 44.5 percent of the respondents said they did not trust Obama to maintain Israel’s security. But what could Israelis possibly know about their own survival?

Against the backdrop of the foregoing, today The Washington Post has published an opinion piece/book review entitled "Bibi’s man in D.C., still spinning for the boss" by Philip Gordon of Michael Oren's "Ally." As noted by the opinion piece/book review, Philip Gordon "is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations" and "[f]rom 2013 until this spring he was the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf region." Michael Oren was the Israeli ambassador to the US from 2009 to 2013 and is now a member of the Israeli parliament, although he does not belong to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud Party.

Acknowledging that Obama's desire to reach a nuclear deal with Iran is "a signature foreign policy initiative of the U.S. president," Gordon writes of Oren's book, whose release was timed around the June 30 deadline for an agreement between the P5+1 and Iran:

"The value of the book is that it reflects a view genuinely held by many Israelis: that the Obama administration, naively seeking to repair U.S. ties to the Muslim world and failing to appreciate Israel’s value to the United States, broke with decades of U.S. policy toward the region by systematically siding with the Palestinians and seeking a reconciliation with Iran. The problem with the book is that Oren’s main argument is a caricature, bolstered by exaggerations and distortions that will probably contribute to the deterioration of the very relationship the author purports to cherish.

Take, for example, Oren’s contention that by publicly airing differences with Israel, Obama broke with a long-standing principle that there should never be 'daylight' in the relationship. Really? To take just a few examples, Dwight Eisenhower slammed Israel for the 1956 Suez operation and forced it into a humiliating retreat; Gerald Ford froze arms deliveries and announced a reassessment of the relationship as a way of pressing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai; Jimmy Carter clashed repeatedly with Prime Minister Menachem Begin before, during and after the 1978 Camp David summit. Ronald Reagan denounced Israel’s strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq and enraged Jerusalem by selling surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia; George H.W. Bush blocked loan guarantees to Israel over settlements; Bill Clinton clashed publicly with Israel over the size of proposed West Bank withdrawals; George W. Bush called for a settlement freeze in the 2002 road map for peace and afterward repeatedly criticized Israel for construction in the West Bank. In other words, Oren has a point — except in the case of virtually every Republican and Democratic U.S. administration since Israel’s founding."

Or stated otherwise, Gordon would have us know that Obama's difficulties with Israel are no different from those of other US presidents (Jonathan Broder makes a similar argument in Newsweek) . . . or are they? You see, Obama declared in a December 2014 NPR interview:

"So, when I came into office, the world was divided and Iran was in the driver's seat. Now the world's united because of the actions we've taken, and Iran's the one that's isolated.

They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it. Because if they do, there's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of — inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody. That would be good for the United States, that would be good for the region, and most of all, it would be good for the Iranian people."

Excuse me, Phil, but which other US president ever envisioned Iran as "a very successful regional power"? Iran is a country that hangs gays, stones to death women accused of adultery, brutally persecutes Baha'is, Christians, Kurds and Sunnis, executes poets for "waging war on God," supports the murderous Assad regime in Syria, exports terror via Hezbollah, and routinely threatens Israel with annihilation. Obama is apparently convinced that he can export "Change" to a savage Iranian theocracy, and is therefore willing to sign a deal whose sunset clause will allow the mullahs to build nuclear weapons within 10 years (if they don't cheat before that time - which they will). Who is being naive?

Gordon accuses Oren of "leveling the outlandish charge that Obama made 'deliberate mistakes' to damage U.S.-Israeli relations — a notion not just oxymoronic but inconsistent with the story and analysis in the book." Gordon, however, makes no reference to recent calls for "Death to America" from Iran's parliament (when people threaten to kill me, I believe them) or Iranian efforts to build ICBMs, which will bring the Iranian nuclear threat to American shores. Of course, all this and more (e.g., Iran's support of the Houthi insurgency in Yemen) should be ignored in order to realize Obama's "signature foreign policy initiative." Who is being moronic (as opposed to "oxymoronic")?

Gordon concludes his opinion piece/book review by accusing Oren of "peddl[ing] a false narrative of American abandonment of Israel." Sorry, Phil, but no one is talking about "American abandonment of Israel." Rather, we are talking about Obama's abandonment of Israel, and yes, I agree with Mike.

Judging from the panicky response of Obama's inner circle, Oren obviously touched a raw nerve.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Richard Kemp, "The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous": Exposing the Bias of Mary McGowan Davis and the Times Editorial Board

In a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous," Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, exposes the United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s conflict in Gaza for what it is: tendentious trash commissioned to vilify Israel. Colonel Kemp writes (my emphasis in blue):

"The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge [Mary McGowan] Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.

The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. [Israel Defense Forces] had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: 'None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.'

The report acknowledges that Israel took steps to warn of imminent attacks but suggests more should have been done to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it offers no opinion about what additional measures Israel could have taken. It even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices — the 'knock on the roof' — as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.

Judge Davis suggests that the I.D.F.’s use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime and recommends further international legal restrictions on their use. Yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies."

Now compare Colonel Kemp's conclusions with those of The New York Times in a June 23 editorial entitled "War Crimes and the Gaza War" (my emphasis in red):

"The report is expected to serve as the basis for a fuller investigation into possible war crimes by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It is unrealistic to expect Hamas, which the United States and other countries consider a terrorist group, to comply with international law or police itself. But Israel has a duty, and should have the desire, to adjust its military policies to avoid civilian casualties and hold those who failed to do so accountable."

Yes, the New York Times is every bit as biased and ignorant as the panel responsible for preparing the United Nations Gaza report. Needless to say, the Times failed to mention how the UNHRC, ever since it came into being, has consistently singled out Israel for censure. As observed by UN Watch:

"In the nine years of its existence, the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more times than the rest of the world combined, revealed UN Watch today, ahead of a new report to be released by the Geneva-based NGO that documents endemic selectivity and politicization at the world body.

The outcome resolution for the latest Gaza report, to be introduced at the UNHRC this week by the Palestinians together with the Arab and Islamic states, will condemn Israel exclusively, and will mark the 62nd resolution targeting Israel since the new and improved Council was created in 2006 -- while the total of all other UNHRC condemnatory resolutions for the rest of the world amounts to 55, with most of the worst violators given a free pass, if not a seat on the council itself."

One can only wonder why the Times allowed Colonel Kemp to rebut its vacuous editorial.

David Brooks, "The Robert E. Lee Problem": What About Modern-Day Slavery in India, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Robert E. Lee Problem," David Brooks tackles the recent debate in the US concerning "the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the Confederacy." Brooks writes:

"Lowering the Confederate flag from public properties is thus an easy call. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Southern heritage and Southern life without choosing one so enmeshed in the fight to preserve slavery."

Specifically regarding Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Brooks concludes:

"My own view is that we should preserve most Confederate memorials out of respect for the common soldiers. We should keep Lee’s name on institutions that reflect postwar service, like Washington and Lee University, where he was president. But we should remove Lee’s name from most schools, roads and other institutions, where the name could be seen as acceptance of what he did and stood for during the war.

This is not about rewriting history. It’s about shaping the culture going forward."

Okay, I agree with David concerning symbols of the Confederacy and Lee, but indeed, what "about shaping the culture going forward"? You see, slavery still exists today.

There are 14 million adults and children who live today in slavery in India, and more than 2 million Pakistanis who are enslaved. There are also 2.9 million people living in slavery in China.

There are also thousands of forced laborers in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the list continues.

Yes, the Confederate battle flag should not be flown on South Carolina's Capitol grounds, but what about the 30 million people who still live in bondage, manufacturing our clothes, sporting goods and electronic equipment? Don't they also deserve our attention?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New York Times Editorial, "Ayatollah Khamenei’s Fateful Choice": Obama's Chickens Come Home to Roost

Do you remember how the White House and the State Department used to tell us regarding a nuclear arrangement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, "No deal is better than a bad deal" and "All options are on the table"? Well, we don't hear that anymore. Instead, in the face of Supreme Leader Khamenei's intransigence and given Obama's desperate need for a presidential legacy, the operative language guiding Wendy Sherman, a social worker turned nuclear negotiator who was responsible in large part for the disastrous nuclear arrangement with North Korea, has become, "Any deal is better than no deal, because, quite frankly, all options are off the table."

Well, given Obama's endless string of concessions at the P5+1 talks with Tehran in Geneva, optimism concerning the finalization of a deal with Iran around the June 30 deadline had been rampant. At least, until the Iranian parliament placed additional demands upon the country's negotiators to the accompaniment of cries of "Death to America" on Sunday, and until Khamenei also placed Iranian military sites off limits to inspections on Tuesday, i.e. you can conduct your searches where we are not developing an atomic bomb, but you can't look where we are undertaking such activity.

The New York Times, also known as the unofficial mouthpiece of the Obama administration, has reacted with alarm to Khamenei's latest set of demands. In an editorial entitled "Ayatollah Khamenei’s Fateful Choice," the Times declares:

"As the negotiations approach the deadline, some in the United States are also intensifying their criticism against the deal. One goal of the agreement is to ensure that the time it will take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb is increased from three months now to at least 12 months. Some critics argue the deal does not do that, in part because Iran will retain a small enrichment program and thousands of centrifuges, though many leading technical experts say it does."

Here, the Times is responding to Professor Alan J. Kuperman's guest op-ed entitled "The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw," which stated that the agreement being negotiated by Sherman and friends would only lengthen Iran's breakout time from "a little under two months" to three months. 

The Times editorial continues:

"Other critics accuse the Obama administration of dropping a demand that Iran disclose full details of its past efforts to pursue a nuclear weapon. But the April framework specifies that Iran address those concerns, and Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on June 16 that Iran would have to answer outstanding questions about the weapons program before receiving significant sanctions relief under any deal.

Compromises are part of any negotiation. Any agreement can really be judged only when the text is signed and details are made public. The April framework accord was a solid basis on which to build a credible final deal. Ayatollah Khamenei must decide whether he and his government can live with the economic and political consequences if he sabotages this deal."

Apparently, the Times got wind of the fact that Obama's non-negotiable "demand that Iran disclose full details of its past efforts to pursue a nuclear weapon" has been dropped by Sherman in order to reach a compromise. More to the point, social worker Sherman is learning that the April framework accord was not a solid basis on which to build a credible final deal. Rather, it was an agreement to agree, which even Obama, who once studied contract law, can tell you is not binding.

And now, much to the chagrin of the West Wing, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has thrown a new monkey wrench into efforts to sign off on a deal with Iran. As stated by David Sanger in a New York Times article entitled "Ex-Advisers Warn Obama That Iran Nuclear Deal ‘May Fall Short’ of Standards," the June 24 "Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Endorsed by a Bipartisan Group of American Diplomats, Legislators, Policymakers, and Experts" calls into question the underlying substance of Obama's would-be agreement with the mullahs. Sanger writes:

"Five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal.

Several of the senior officials said the letter was prompted by concern that Mr. Obama’s negotiators were headed toward concessions that would weaken international inspection of Iran’s facilities, back away from forcing Tehran to reveal its suspected past work on weapons, and allow Iranian research and development that would put it on a course to resuming intensive production of nuclear fuel as soon as the accord expires.

The public nature of the announcement by some of Mr. Obama’s best-known former advisers, all of whom had central roles in the diplomatic, intelligence and military efforts to counter Iran’s program, adds to the challenge facing Secretary of State John Kerry as the negotiations head toward a deadline of next Tuesday."

Not a "good" agreement? In fact, that depends upon whether some narcissist's legacy is more important than a future nuclear holocaust, which could reach American shores, owing to a deal which also does not seek to prevent Iran from developing ICBMs.

Thomas Friedman, "Cold War Without the Fun": The World Stands in Awe of America's Big Wallet?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Cold War Without the Fun," Thomas Friedman concludes:

"In short, the attraction of the U.S. economy and the bite of U.S. sanctions are more vital than ever in managing the post-post-Cold War game of nations, including bringing Iran to nuclear talks. We may be back to traditional geopolitics, but it’s in a much more interdependent world, where our economic clout is still a source of restraint on Moscow and Beijing. Putin doesn’t disguise his military involvement in Ukraine for nothing; he’s afraid of more U.S. banking sanctions. China doesn’t circumscribe its behavior in the South China Sea for nothing; it can’t grow without exporting to America. It’s not just our guns; it’s our butter. It’s why we should be expanding U.S.-shaped free-trade deals with Asia and Europe, and it’s why the most important source of stability in the world today is the health of the U.S. economy. We can walk softly only as long as we carry a big stick — and a big wallet."

Yes, Supreme Leader Khamenei is frightened to death of America's "big wallet," as evidenced by his demands for further concessions from Obama, even as the nuclear deal being contemplated by the US and its P5+1 partners only extends Iran's atomic bomb breakout time from two months to three months.

And as regards that "big wallet," US national debt now stands at an unsustainable $18.3 trillion. My guess is that China, which holds about eight percent of US national debt, is growing more worried about an ultimate default by the American government and less worried about the sale of goods manufactured by slave labor to American consumers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Khamenei Demands Further Concessions From Obama

As the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 nears, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei declared on Tuesday from Tehran:

"Termination of the sanctions should depend on the fulfillment of Iran's undertakings; they should avoid saying that we should do our undertakings and then the Agency (IAEA) needs to verify them before the sanctions are removed, (because) we absolutely do not accept such a thing.

. . . .

We oppose the condition that fulfillment of the opposite side's undertakings depend on the IAEA (verification) report because the Agency has proved time and again that it is not independent and fair; hence we have a pessimistic view about it."

Khamenei also repeated his opposition to "unconventional inspections, interrogation of Iranian figures and inspection of military centers."

Will Khamenei's last-minute demands wring further concessions from the first invertebrate ever to inhabit the Oval Office? As matters stand now, the proposed agreement will, as explained by Professor Alan J. Kuperman in a New York Times guest op-ed entitled "The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw," only lengthen Iran's breakout time from "a little under two months" to three months. However, Obama is desperate, and "No deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer being trumpeted from the White House or the State Department.

Stay tuned . . .

[A comment published in response to Prof. Kuperman's op-ed by the "moderators" of The New York Times:

"'Showering Iran with rewards for making illusory concessions poses grave risks.'

Only to a Zionist is eliminating illegal, petty, vindictive, (Zionist-dictated) sanctions 'showering Iran with rewards.'

More than their racism, it is the mendacity of the Zionists that is so so appalling."

As stated by Dr. Martin Luthor King: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."

Yup, anti-Semitism continues to raise its ugly head at The New York Times.]

Has Obama Unconditionally Surrendered to Khamenei?

As reported yesterday in a DEBKAfile article entitled "US rebuffs Israel’s last-ditch bid for nuclear constraints in Iran accord":

"Israel’s National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen was invited to join two top US officials for dinner in Washington on June 15 to try and make Israel’s case for amending the disastrous nuclear accord taking shape in Vienna between the six world powers and Iran, before it was too late. This meeting is reported here by DEBKAfile for the first time. It was hosted by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice and senior US nuclear negotiator Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.

. . . .

This briefing was greeted in Jerusalem with shock and alarm. Very few of the conditions for a deal stipulated by the US upon embarking on the negotiations had survived: Iran would continue to enrich uranium, be allowed to bar international inspections of military facilities suspected of hosting nuclear research activity (where were Obama's 'intrusive inspections'?) and - Israeli officials heard this for the first time - the Iranian UCF facility at Isfahan would be expanded. This plant is engaged in the conversion of 'yellow cake' to enriched nuclear material.
They also discovered that President Obama, who had originally promised the deal would provide for 'snapping sanctions back' in the event of violations, had assured Tehran that once sanctions were lifted, they would not be re-imposed."

Or stated otherwise, desperate to reach a deal by the June 30 deadline, Obama has unconditionally surrendered to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Like it or not, Israel is alone and will ultimately need to take matters into its own hands.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Iran's Parliament Chants "Death to America" on Sunday: Do You Remember What David Ignatius Wrote?

Almost three months ago, David Ignatius wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Deal or no deal, the Iran talks have borne fruit" that Obama's failed negotiations with Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei in Lausanne have reaped measureless bounty. Ignatius declared:

"Whatever the endgame produces, it’s useful to focus on the process of negotiation itself, which is nearly as important as whether there’s a sustainable deal.

First, there is the fact of U.S.-Iranian engagement. For more than 18 months, Iran has been in direct talks with a power it once demonized as the 'Great Satan.' Iranian hard-liners certainly remain, but the nation that chanted in unison 'Death to America' is probably gone forever."

"[T]he nation that chanted in unison “Death to America” is probably gone forever"? I subsequently had the following email exchange with Ignatius, beginning on April 1:

Dear David,

You write in your most recent opinion piece, "Deal or no deal, the Iran talks have borne fruit":

"Whatever the endgame produces, it’s useful to focus on the process of negotiation itself, which is nearly as important as whether there’s a sustainable deal.

First, there is the fact of U.S.-Iranian engagement. For more than 18 months, Iran has been in direct talks with a power it once demonized as the 'Great Satan.' Iranian hard-liners certainly remain, but the nation that chanted in unison 'Death to America' is probably gone forever."

In fact, as recently as
10 days ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei responded to chants of "Death to America" by declaring "Of course yes, death to America."

Best regards,

. . . .

Ignatius's reply:

My point wasn't whether he would chant it but whether Iranians would chant "in unison" behind him. Answer: probably not.
. . . .

Dear David,

Sorry, but you're wrong. You did not go to the
link. In fact, this is exactly what happened a mere ten days ago: Iranians were chanting death to America as Khamenei spoke.


. . . .

Another example of hundreds of thousands of Iranians chanting "Death to America" a month and a half ago.

. . . .

Dear David,

FYI, "Death to America" was again being chanted throughout Iran today [April 3] during prayer services.


. . . .

Ignatius's reply:

You miss my point entirely. What I said was that the NATION will never again chant it in UNISON. There will still be fanatical hardliners but they are beginning to be outliers.
. . . .

I didn't miss your point. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians (including women – not hardliners) in Tehran responded to Rouhani's speech celebrating the 1979 revolution by chanting in unison "Death to America" a month and a half ago. Two weeks ago, tens of thousands of Iranians chanted in unison "Death to America" while Khamenei spoke. Today, "Death to America" was chanted in unison in mosques throughout Iran (as reported in Farsi: [this web page was subsequently removed by Iran]). Are we to understand that all those attending mosques are "hardliners"?

This entire notion of "fanatical hardliners" versus "moderates," e.g., Rouhani, is a myth. As you no doubt are aware, executions in Iran have surged since Rouhani became president.

As you are also no doubt aware, Rouhani bragged during the 2013 presidential election how he had lulled the West into complacency while radically expanding Iran's nuclear weapons development program (see: [access to this video has now been restricted]).

There are those who are hoping that Khamenei will die from prostate cancer and be replaced by a "moderate." But these people fail to take into account the control wielded by the Revolutionary Guard upon Iran's economy. They are not going to roll over and die.


I didn't hear back from Ignatius.

Well, in case you missed it, yesterday, as reported by The Times of Israel, Iran's parliament chanted "Death to America" after 199 of the 213 lawmakers voted "to ban access to military sites, documents and scientists as part of a future deal with world powers over its contested nuclear program."

Yup, in another week Obama is seeking to close a deal whose sunset clause will provide Iran with the right to a nuclear arsenal in 10 years (if Iran doesn't cheat before that time - which it will), notwithstanding ongoing calls for "Death to America" from Iran's parliament.

When someone declares their intent to kill me, I take them at their word. Obama, on the other hand, consumed with his golf game, in hot pursuit of a legacy and blaming others for failing to achieve "change" ("I didn’t say, ‘Yes, I can’; I said — what? . . . ‘Yes, we can’"), simply doesn't care.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Maureen Dowd, "Trade Winds Blow Ill for Hillary": How Hillary Turned the US Into a Banana Republic

There was a time in my professional life when I spent much time in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where money could buy anything and the rule of law was non-existent. I always thought that these countries were some 50 or so years behind the United States in their evolution as constitutional democracies. Hillary, however, has proven me wrong. Even in America today, money and power can apparently insulate you from scrutiny.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Trade Winds Blow Ill for Hillary," Maureen Dowd notes Hillary's flip-flops on the issue of Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership. Observing that "we have to play this silly game with her, as she dances and ducks, undermining President Obama by siding with Nancy Pelosi after Pelosi filleted the trade deal on the House floor," Dowd caustically writes:

"CNN reported that Hillary had enthusiastically promoted the trade pact 45 times as secretary of state."

Declaring that "the greater danger for [Hillary] is in looking disingenuous," Dowd concludes:

"Surprisingly, I received a fund-raising letter recently. Hillary Rodham Clinton was in large letters on the upper lefthand side of the envelope and above my address was the typed message: 'Maureen, this is our moment . . . are you with me?'

Not at the moment."

"Not at the moment"? How about never? The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the least of it. Should American voters simply ignore Uranium One and the suggestions of influence peddling that this embarrassment raised?

Should Americans forget how the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a country which whips and imprisons women who have been gang-raped, and from banks convicted of conspiring to rig currency valuations?

And what about her use of a personal server while secretary of state and her subsequent erasure of 30,000 emails?

When do Americans wake up and just say no? Or will $2.5 billion in campaign funds prevent this from ever happening?

Nawaf Obaid, "Actually, Saudi Arabia could get a nuclear weapon": The Middle East Nuclear Arms Race Begins

Do you recall Fareed Zakaria's ludicrous contention earlier this month that Saudi Arabia is too backward to build an atomic bomb? Well, Zakaria, who was trying to explain why Obama's forthcoming nuclear deal won't set off a Middle East nuclear arms race, now has his answer. In a CNN article entitled "Actually, Saudi Arabia could get a nuclear weapon," Nawaf Obaid, "a visiting fellow and associate instructor at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs," writes:

"Now that the Obama administration has largely given up its resistance to Iran's development of some kind of nuclear program, the Middle East is poised to see a change in the balance of power. As the Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom recently stated, should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon, 'all options' could be on the table when it comes to the Saudi response. That could include an indigenous nuclear program. And although some commentators remain skeptical about the Kingdom's ability to produce nuclear weapons, I would argue that it actually has the will and the ability to do so.

. . . .

The thinking in Washington seems to be that Saudi Arabia should remain a passive player in the Middle East, with even President Obama suggesting the Kingdom should not develop a nuclear program. Instead, there is talk of a 'nuclear umbrella' that would supposedly safeguard Gulf states including Saudi Arabia against a nuclear Iran. But this is completely unacceptable to the Saudi leadership. As with any important nation with global responsibilities, it is a matter of vital national security that the Kingdom be able to defend itself and its allies from hostile outside forces. A nuclear Iran is one such force. With the U.S. continuing to move in the direction of allowing such a development, the Kingdom can only look to itself to protect its people, even if this means implementing a nuclear program. And make no mistake, it has the scientists to develop the technology, finances, and national will to do so."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on Thursday to build up to 16 nuclear reactors with Russian assistance for "peaceful" purposes.

Thank you, Obama, for making the world so much safer.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Middle East Nuclear Arms Race Begins

As reported by The Times of Israel in an article entitled "Saudis said set to build 16 nuclear reactors with Russian help":

"Saudi Arabia and Russia reached an agreement on Friday under which Riyadh is reportedly to build up to 16 nuclear reactors under Moscow’s supervision, further bolstering ties between the two countries days ahead of the deadline for nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers.

According to Saudi owned al-Arabiaya TV, the agreement, which provides for the 'peaceful use of nuclear technology,' was signed at a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at an economic forum in St. Petersburg. The Saudi report, which cited unnamed sources, was not immediately confirmed."

The "peaceful use of nuclear technology" in the hands of a kingdom which decapitates persons convicted of witchcraft and whips and imprisons women who have been gang-raped? Yeah, right.

Thank you, Obama, for bringing this plague upon the world as a byproduct of your search for a legacy-building nuclear detente with a maniacal Iran, which hangs homosexuals and stones to death women accused of adultery.

It just can't get any worse.

Syria's Druze Are In Danger

Some basic facts concerning Syria:
  • Population of some 23 million.
  • More than 3 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
  • Some 6.5 million persons are internally displaced in Syria as a result of the fighting.
Some basic facts concerning the Druze:
  • The Druze religion is an 11th Century offshoot of Shia Islam.
  • Some 700,000 Druze live mostly in the mountainous southwest section (the "Jebel al-Druze") of what used to be Syria.
  • 220,000 Druze live in Lebanon.
  • 140,000 Druze live in Israel, where they serve in the Israeli armed forces and where members of this sect have been elected to the Israeli parliament from various political parties.
Until recently, some 90 percent of the Druze living in the Golan Heights, taken from Syria by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, have continued to profess loyalty to the Assad regime, given their expectation that the Golan Heights would ultimately be returned to Syria. In addition, Assad is an Alawite, and the Alawis, comprising some 12 percent of Syria's population, are also an offshoot of Shi'ism. Or stated otherwise, both the Druze and the Alawites are considered heretics by some Muslims.

Recently, 20 Druze were shot to death by the Sunni al-Nusra front in Syria's Idlib province at a time when Assad's forces are forcing young Druze men to join them at gunpoint. As reported in a BBC article entitled "Syria's Druze under threat as conflict spreads" by Faisal Irshaid:

"For a long time, the majority of Syrian Druze remained loyal to President Bashar al-Assad - a member of the heterodox Shia Alawite sect - fearing that if he was overthrown, minorities would be targeted and communities destroyed by extremists among the country's Sunni majority.

. . . .

But with government forces suffering a string of defeats since December, signs of dissent have become more visible among Druze.

. . . .

The chief of staff of the Israeli military - in which hundreds of Druze serve, many of them in high-ranking positions - said it would act if needed to prevent a massacre in the Syrian Golan Heights. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had 'given instructions to do what is necessary', without elaborating.

In Lebanon, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt strongly condemned the shooting, but insisted it was an isolated incident.

Mr Jumblatt, a staunch opponent of President Assad, called on Syrian Druze to support the rebellion in their country, arguing that the real threat to them came from a government that killed dozens of people every day."

The pot continues to boil . . .

[For the latest concerning Syria's Druze, have a look at an article published today by DEBKAfile, "Syrian Druze gain non-belligerence commitment from rebels under joint US-Jordanian guarantee."]

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Owen West, "Why Obama’s Plan to Send Advisers to Iraq Will Fail": Actually, Obama Is More Interested in Neutralizing Israel

In a must-read New York Times guest op-ed entitled "Why Obama’s Plan to Send Advisers to Iraq Will Fail," Owen West, who "served two tours in Iraq with the Marines," explains why Obama's "lily-pad" strategy to prop up Iraq is destined for failure. West writes:

"LAST week President Obama approved an additional 450 troops to join the roughly 3,000 already in Iraq. Living inside secure bases nicknamed 'lily pads,' they will train Iraqi soldiers for a few weeks via lecture and drill instruction. The graduates will then be sent outside the wire to fight the Islamic State.

This strategy is no more resolute than a lily pad, and our generals know it. It is tokenism that reflects confusion at the top, and it will fail.

Mr. Obama has declared that advisers are not combat troops. But in fact, to influence battlefield performance, the adviser’s first job is to set the example in combat. The goal is to instill in the local force a sense of professional aggression — of seizing the offense — that must be demonstrated firsthand.

Put simply, if the president wants to destroy the Islamic State, he will eventually renege on his ephemeral pledge not to engage in ground combat."

I agree with Mr. West that Obama's "lily-pad" strategy will fail; however, the opinion piece does not consider the possibility that Obama and friends don't care if it fails. The "lily-pad" strategy is not designed to succeed. Rather, it is window dressing intended to allow the president to finish his second term of office without making waves and leave the problem to his successor.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that the US return to Iraq with ground forces to confront the Islamic State. Iraq no longer exists as a country, and there can be no motivating Sunni troops in the service of the government to fight the Sunni Islamic State while Iranian-backed Shiite militias are perpetrating atrocities against Sunni villages.

Moreover, it is only a matter of time until one or more US soldiers are captured by the Islamic State, notwithstanding their confinement to "lily-pads." How will Americans react to a video of the beheading of a US soldier available on the Internet? Will Obama again respond by expressing his outrage and then hit the links, as he did in the case of American journalist James Foley?

Does the president want to destroy the Islamic State? I don't know. Meanwhile, he appears more intent upon empowering Iran to neutralize Israel. In this regard, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has just refused US Ambassador Dan Shapiro's request to publicly disassociate himself from former Israeli Ambassador to the US Oren's contention in his new book "Ally" that Obama has abandoned Israel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Michael Oren, "How Obama Abandoned Israel": Does "Abandoned" Include Unconditional Surrender to Iran?

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled "How Obama Abandoned Israel," former Israeli Ambassador to the US (now Member of Knesset) Michael Oren writes:

"From the moment he entered office, Mr. Obama promoted an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran. Such policies would have put him at odds with any Israeli leader. But Mr. Obama posed an even more fundamental challenge by abandoning the two core principles of Israel’s alliance with America.

The first principle was 'no daylight.' . . . [I]mmediately after his first inauguration, Mr. Obama put daylight between Israel and America.

. . . .

The other core principle was 'no surprises.' President Obama discarded it in his first meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, in May 2009, by abruptly demanding a settlement freeze and Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution. The following month the president traveled to the Middle East, pointedly skipping Israel and addressing the Muslim world from Cairo.

. . . .

The abandonment of the 'no daylight' and 'no surprises' principles climaxed over the Iranian nuclear program."

In fact, notwithstanding the disagreement of US Ambassador Dan Shapiro who would have us know that Oren simply wants to sell books, the "abandonment of the 'no daylight' and 'no surprises' principles" has yet to climax. As reported today by DEBKAfile:

"DEBKAfile’ sources reveal that Washington is preparing to give way on the snap inspections mandated by the Additional Protocol, and agree to limit inspections to facilities unilaterally designated 'nuclear' by Tehran and only after two weeks' notice.

But President Obama has made his most substantial concession yet, by accepting Tehran’s demand to divide the final accord into two parts. The first would be made public and the second, carrying the technical protocols, would be confidential. The senior US negotiator Undersecretary Wendy Sherman fought hard to have both parts of the accord released, explaining that the president could not otherwise get it through Congress. But she was overruled.

The US president has employed the same stratagem on the issue of sanctions. While declaring that they will not be lifted until Iran complies with its commitments, he has allowed American companies to enter into business negotiations with Iranian firms."

Or stated otherwise, if DEBKAfiles's sources are correct, a vindictive Obama, anxious to get even with Bibi, has unconditionally surrendered to Iran. Do you remember how Obama and friends repeatedly pledged, "No deal is better than a bad deal"? Bullshit!

Ernesto Londoño, "Israel’s Ludicrous Spoof of Western Journalists": Londoño's Ludicrous Opinion Piece

The New York Times's war against Israel continues.

In a "Taking Note" blog item entitled "Israel’s Ludicrous Spoof of Western Journalists," Ernesto Londoño, who left The Washington Post in 2014 to join the Times editorial board, today takes his best shot at Israel. Regrettably, poor Ernesto is pitifully far off the mark. Ernesto writes:

"The [Israeli Foreign Ministry] released an animated video depicting a clueless, blonde, American-accented television journalist reporting idiotically from the Gaza Strip as Hamas militants lurked in the background. The spoof echoes a longstanding claim by the Israeli government: that Western journalists reporting from Gaza are often biased against Israel and refrain from criticizing Hamas, the militant group that runs the occupied territory.

The majority of international journalists who report out of Gaza deliver nuanced, measured and indispensable coverage. They often do so at great personal risk. Covering asymmetrical conflicts as deadly as Israel’s campaigns against militants in Gaza, an occupied territory, is among the toughest work journalists do.

Juxtaposing the cartoon against the dispatches of Sherine Tadros, the stellar Sky News Middle East correspondent, or Quentin Sommerville of the B.B.C. makes Israel’s attempt at humor hard to swallow. Remembering the colleagues who have died reporting from Gaza makes it intolerable.

Israeli officials have a long history of unfairly maligning certain Western journalists. But recently, the government has become more aggressive as part of an effort to mend its reputation abroad."

However, as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab whose knowledge of Gaza and the West Bank dwarfs that of Ernesto, in a Gatestone Institute article entitled "Turning a Blind Eye to Hamas Atrocities":

"The problem is that foreign journalists who manage to cross into the Gaza Strip face many restrictions imposed by the Hamas government. Local facilitators hired by foreign journalists are also under scrutiny by the Hamas government. That is why they are careful not to bring the dirty laundry out by telling the foreign media about things that could reflect negatively on Hamas.

Many of the reports about what is happening in the Gaza Strip are written by journalists who sit in offices in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Their reports are almost always based in what they are told by their local stringers and facilitators. Besides being exposed to intimidation, a large number of these locals are actually affiliated with Hamas and serve as the movement’s unofficial spokesmen.

Some foreign journalists justify their behavior by arguing that they are too scared to report anything that might anger Hamas. They express fear that they would not be able to return to the Gaza Strip if they published such stories."

More to the point, as reported in a July 2014 Algemeiner article entitled "Media Watchdog Asks Why WSJ Reporters Deleted Twitter Photos Implicating Hamas in War Crimes":

"Two reporters in Gaza for The Wall Street Journal have deleted photographs that implicate Hamas in war crimes, namely using the Al Shifa hospital as a military headquarters, and media watchdog CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, on Tuesday asked them why the posts were removed? So far, CAMERA has received no answers from the reporters or from their editors, but the group said the deleted posts might be further evidence of Hamas intimidating journalists."

And in another July 2014 Algemeiner article entitled "Italian Journalist Defies Hamas: ‘Out of Gaza Far From Hamas Retaliation: Misfired Rocket Killed Children in Shati’," we learn:

"Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati said he was able to speak freely about witnessing a Hamas misfire that killed nine children at the Shati camp, confirming the Israel Defense Forces version of events, but only after leaving Gaza, “far from Hamas retaliation.”

On Twitter, Barbati, Jerusalem Correspondent for Radio Popolare Milano, and a former reporter for Sky Italia, in Beijing, said, “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday [yesterday] in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.”

He said, '@IDFSpokesperson said truth in communique released yesterday about Shati camp massacre. It was not #Israel behind it.'"

What about Ernesto's claim, "Remembering the colleagues who have died reporting from Gaza makes it intolerable"? If you follow Ernesto's link, we learn that his "colleagues" were "an Italian videographer and a local Palestinian helping him with arrangements and translation, [who] were killed along with four members of Gaza’s unexploded-ordnance squad as they attempted to defuse what officials described as an Israeli bomb." Why was I expecting a much longer list of persons who died under different circumstances, i.e. during the actual fighting in the summer of 2014?

Concerning false reporting with respect to Israel by The Washington Post, where Ernesto previously worked, and The New York Times, where he is currently employed, Ernesto might want to have a gander at the following:

And we haven't even touched upon the subject of anti-Semitism at The New York Times. If you have the time, Ernesto, you might want to begin by reading "Nicholas Kristof Retweets "OBAMA Told the 2 Most Pig Like Lobbies, AIPAC & NRA, to Drop Dead in Same Month": Is Kristof an Anti-Semite?" and "Thomas Friedman, "Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir": Israel Doesn't Need Your Love."

Western reporting with regard to Israel has been far worse than "ludicrous," but thanks for your two cents, Ernesto.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

David Brooks, "The Democratic Tea Party": Brooks Writes-Off US Manufacturing

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Democratic Tea Party," David Brooks comes out in favor of Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership. Brooks writes:

"There’s an argument over what trade agreements do to workers in the nation’s rich countries, but there is no question they have a positive impact on people in the poorer ones.

. . . .

Democrats point out that some workers have been hurt by trade deals. And that’s true. Most manufacturing job losses have been caused by technological improvements.

But those manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. The best way forward is to increase the number of high-quality jobs in the service sector. The Pacific trade deal would help."

Hey, David, don't you think that before Congress approves the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the effect on American workers should be known? True, economics is not an exact science, but if the Trans-Pacific Partnership has the potential to harm American workers, shouldn't that damage be carefully delineated?

And what's this nonsense about writing off American manufacturing and manufacturing jobs? American (and Israeli) hi-tech should be allowed to revive American manufacturing with attendant growth in employment.

This time, House Democrats (and Hillary - it hurts me to say it) got it right.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New York Times Editorial, "South Africa’s Disgraceful Help for President Bashir of Sudan": While South Africa and the Times Bash Israel

In an editorial entitled "South Africa’s Disgraceful Help for President Bashir of Sudan," The New York Times writes:

"On Monday, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan fled arrest in South Africa and is now safely back in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. His escape is another blow to the International Criminal Court, which has been struggling to bring him to trial for six years on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.

This could not have happened without the complicity of the South African government, which deserves international condemnation. The biggest losers are the innocent victims of Mr. Bashir’s cruel policies in Darfur who are still being denied justice

Members of the international court like South Africa are supposed to respect its warrants. The charges against Mr. Bashir include murder, acts of extermination and rape among other abuses in Darfur, where 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since 2003."

Interesting. South Africa has assisted a person guilty of genocide to escape justice, yet South Africa boisterously decries the purported existence of apartheid in Israel at every opportunity.

But why should South Africa be any different from The New York Times, which also bashes Israel on its op-ed page on a regular and systematic basis?

Paul Krugman, "Democrats Being Democrats": Where Were the African-Americans at Roosevelt Island?

Informing us that "centrist" voters "don't exist" and that "Democrats are adopting ideas that work and rejecting ideas that don’t, whereas Republicans are doing the opposite," Paul Krugman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Democrats Being Democrats," would have us know that Democrats no longer seem afraid "to endorse clearly progressive positions." Krugman's explanation for this phenomenon:

"Part of the answer is that Democrats, despite defeats in midterm elections, believe — rightly or wrongly — that the political wind is at their backs. Growing ethnic diversity is producing what should be a more favorable electorate; growing tolerance is turning social issues, once a source of Republican strength, into a Democratic advantage instead."

"Growing ethnic diversity"? Interesting.

Krugman's conclusion:

"Of course, changes in ideology matter only to the extent that they can influence policy. And while the electoral odds probably favor Mrs. Clinton, and Democrats could retake the Senate, they have very little chance of retaking the House. So changes in the Democratic Party may take a while to change America as a whole. But something important is happening, and in the long run it will matter a great deal."

My response to Paul: Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

As was observed on MSNBC's Weekends with Alex Witt on Saturday:

ALEX SEITZ-WALD: It was a pretty enthusiastic crowd. There was, however, an overflow area behind the stage that didn't really get filled. Campaign officials say that was just a precautionary measure in case they needed more room. You know, I'd say a largely enthusiastic crowd, but they were not overwhelmed.

RICHARD LIU: And she was saying how she was going after the everyday American. But those who were maybe watching the background and who was there in the crowd, they didn't seem to reflect necessarily the everyday American per se, in terms of looking at diversity and those who were there, but, of course, that's just what we saw on the camera. What did you see there on the ground?

JOY REID: Yes, it was a predominantly white crowd. . . . I guess if you look at the Democratic Party as a whole, was this crowd as diverse as the party? No, it was not. . . . I would say on the diversity side, they were on the low end here.

Not enough African-Americans? Indeed. Moreover, without the African-American vote, Hillary is in trouble.

Can Obama help in this regard? Possibly. On the other hand, why should he, given Hillary's recently announced opposition to Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership, and if there is anyone who is unwilling to forget a grudge, it is the president. Just ask Bibi . . .

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Maureen Dowd, "Flickering Greatness": The Price of Narcissism

"Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is winding down. Al Qaeda has been decimated. Osama bin Laden is dead."

- President Obama, Campaign Event, Green Bay, Wisconsin, November 1, 2012

Well, at least bin Laden is dead.

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Flickering Greatness," Maureen Dowd observes that Obama's "future reputation is mortgaged to past neglect." Noting the disdainful response of House Democrats to Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership, Dowd writes:

"The Democrats — even most of the Congressional Black Caucus, which Obama courted agressively [sic] and which has been protective of him — showed their allegience [sic] to themselves, their principles and their labor allies, and not to their aloof president."

Dowd proceeds to explain Obama's disaster in Iraq (yes, I know - this particular debacle did not originate with Obama):

"So Obama failed to keep his foot on the throat of our Shiite puppets, who balked at leaving an American troop presence there, with immunity, and who treated the Sunnis badly to punish them for the decades when Saddam treated the Shiites badly.

Many Sunnis, including Saddam’s former fighters put out of work by the American viceroy Paul Bremer, felt exposed and unprotected and joined up with Al Qaeda and ISIS."

And regarding the president's decision to send 450 more trainers to what is left of this country, Dowd concludes:

"It appears to be a sad, symbolic move by a country and president fed up with endless war and at wit’s end about how to combat the most murderous terrorists on the face of the earth. If we drowned in quicksand going full-bore for a dozen years beside Iraqi soldiers who did not want to fight, what good will 450 more American trainers do?

A lame duck sending sitting ducks to lily pads is not a pretty sight."

Lily pads? As long as those lily pads are not overrun by an ISIS onslaught on Baghdad, placing American soldiers in captivity. You will recall that when Obama ran off to the links after decrying the beheading of James Foley, it didn't add to his luster.

But what Maureen seems to forget is that it's not just Iraq that has unwound while the first invertebrate to occupy the Oval Office dithered. Libya, Yemen and Syria are now also home to some of the world's most notorious terrorist organization, and Lebanon hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, Obama appears determined to provide Iran with a nuclear arsenal, no matter what concessions need be made.

My goodness, the price that America has been forced to pay by a young narcissist consumed by his own wit.

New York Times Editorial, "Accounting for the Benefits of Mideast Peace": A Delightful Flight of Fancy

Don't get me wrong: I favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the potential benefits of such a solution are numerous. Nothing would please me more than a prosperous democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. On the other hand, I have no illusions regarding the likelihood of Fatah or Hamas accepting Israel's right to exist, which must be a fundamental condition of any such peace, because otherwise, Israel, which is the size of New Jersey, will be facing continuous rocket attacks throughout its length and breadth. Moreover, my support for a two-state solution is not predicated upon any anticipated benefit involving trade with Israel's other neighbors.

In an editorial entitled "Accounting for the Benefits of Mideast Peace," The New York Times extols the virtues of a two state solution and points to a Rand Corporation report that details the benefits of a two-state solution to both sides of the conflict. The Times says of the report's conclusions:

"Among the assumptions underlying these conclusions are the return of 100,000 settlers from the West Bank to Israel, with relocation costs paid by the international community, and a tripling of Israeli trade with Arab countries in the Middle East."

"A tripling of trade with Arab countries in the Middle East?" Yeah, right. Trade with Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya? These countries no longer exist, and Lebanon is hanging in the balance. Trade with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia? Although Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and Saudi Arabia fears Iran far more than Israel, the level of anti-Semitism found in these and other Arab countries would stand in the way of meaningful trade.

All of Israel's Arab neighbors are in desperate need of Israeli desalination technology, but my guess is that any trade agreement involving the transfer of such know-how is not going to happen in my lifetime.

A two-state solution is a worthy goal, yet, as evidenced by the negative Palestinian response to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's 2008 peace offer, providing the Palestinians with an independent state along the 1967 lines together with agreed upon land swaps and Palestinian control of east Jerusalem, Palestinians are still not prepared to accept Israel.

In short, a two-state solution and trade with Israel's Arab neighbors? Don't hold your breath.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fox News, "Ami Horowitz exposes anti-Israeli companies in Ireland": Exposing the Immorality of the BDS Movement

Have a look at the video "Ami Horowitz exposes anti-Israeli companies in Ireland," which exposes the BDS movement for what it is. This will leave you aghast.

David Brooks, "How Adulthood Happens": Or Does It Ever Really Happen?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How Adulthood Happens," David Brooks informs us that for young adults in college, "[s]ocial life comes first," and afterwards, between "ages of 22 and 30," they must endure a "major rite of passage." Brooks writes:

"As emerging adults move from job to job, relationship to relationship and city to city, they have to figure out which of their meanderings are productive exploration and which parts are just wastes of time. This question is very confusing from the inside, and it is certainly confusing for their parents.

Yet here is the good news. By age 30, the vast majority are through it. The sheer hardness of the 'Odyssey Years' teaches people to hustle. The trials and errors of the decade carve contours onto their hearts, so they learn what they love and what they don’t. They develop their own internal criteria to make their own decisions. They fear what other people think less because they learn that other people are not thinking about them; they are busy thinking about themselves.

Finally, they learn to say no. After a youth dazzled by possibilities and the fear of missing out, they discover that committing to the few things you love is a sort of liberation. They piece together their mosaic."

Yes, it's an elegant theory, but at least in my case, it didn't work out that way. After the age of 30, I continued to move from job to job, and learned the hard way that when you say no to a large organization, you must either buckle or abandon ship.

Liberation? Long after the age of 30, I spent many years teetering on the financial edge. And if liberation ever did come, it came in my late 50's, primarily as a consequence of happenstance, when personality, education, experience, acceptance of risk and entrepreneurship meshed with emerging hi-tech opportunities. It was a narrow window of opportunity, and I don't know how long it will last.

And even if there are those who find "liberation" at the age of 30, it has become a savage economic world, providing very little in the way of job security. In addition, the next financial crisis is certainly in the making, as US national debt approaches $19 trillion. It will not be easy for anyone at any age to weather this impending storm, as financial institutions again fail, and the underpinnings of social security and health care are rocked.

Today, sorry to say, I don't envy the prospects of 30-year-olds, whose Odyssey has just begun.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fareed Zakaria, "Why Saudi Arabia can’t get a nuclear weapon": Saudi Arabia Is Too Stupid to Build a Bomb

As the June 30 deadline for a "final" (as in final solution) nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran fast approaches, Saudi Arabia is warning that if Iran is allowed to maintain its nuclear infrastructure, it too will pursue a nuclear weapons development program. In response to this threat, Fareed Zakaria writes in his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Why Saudi Arabia can’t get a nuclear weapon":

"Oh, please! Saudi Arabia isn’t going to build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia can’t build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia hasn’t even built a car. (By 2017, after much effort, the country is expected to manufacture its first automobile.)

. . . .

Where would Saudi Arabia train the scientists to work on its secret program? The country’s education system is backward and dysfunctional, having been largely handed over to its puritanical and reactionary religious establishment. The country ranks 73rd in the quality of its math and science education, according to the World Economic Forum — abysmally low for a rich country. Iran, despite 36 years of sanctions and a much lower per capita GDP, fares far better at 44."

Ah yes, the entirety of Saudi Arabia's population is too stupid and lazy to build a bomb. Yeah, right.

Zakaria goes on to say that the Saudis also will not be able to buy a bomb:

"But couldn’t Saudi Arabia simply buy a nuclear bomb? That’s highly unlikely. Any such effort would have to take place secretly, under the threat of sanctions, Western retaliation and interception. Saudi Arabia depends heavily on foreigners and their firms to help with its energy industry, build its infrastructure, buy its oil and sell it goods and services. Were it isolated like Iran or North Korea, its economic system would collapse.

It is often claimed that Pakistan would sell nukes to the Saudis. And it’s true that the Saudis have bailed out Pakistan many times. But the government in Islamabad is well aware that such a deal could make it a pariah and result in sanctions. It is unlikely to risk that, even to please its sugar daddy in Riyadh."

The Saudis could not create their own secret nuclear development program, as did Iran, and bamboozle Obama over the remainder of his second term? The Saudis could not lure experienced Pakistani scientists into the country with lucrative compensation packages? The Saudis could not purchase components of the bomb from North Korea, as did Iran? And the Saudis could not convince China, Russia and much of Europe to turn a blind eye to such a program, as did Iran?

And what if Turkey and Egypt also decide to build their own nuclear weapons arsenal? Are their populations also too stupid? I don't think so.

Zakaria is obviously attempting to boost the Obama administration's lobbying effort in favor of its impending nuclear deal with Iran, which faces a June 30 deadline and Congressional review. Nice try, Fareed.

The Washington Post, "As an Iran deal nears, the lobbying, pro and con, intensifies": A Glaring Omission

In a lead Washington Post article entitled "As an Iran deal nears, the lobbying, pro and con, intensifies," Karen DeYoung writes:

"Many believe the deadline will not be met. 'My own view is that it’s highly unlikely,' said Thomas R. Pickering, a former top U.S. diplomat who has met with numerous members of Congress to build support for the agreement."

Regrettably, Ms. DeYoung does not mention that Pickering is listed as a member of the Advisory Board of the National Iranian American Council.

This information should have been included in DeYoung's article. Pickering is anything but a disinterested party.

I have written to Martin Baron, WaPo's editor. Let's see what he has to say.

[Mr. Baron responded, "if you've read what that organization is, I have no idea why you'd think his comment on whether a deadline might be met requires mention of his participation on its advisory board."

My response to Mr. Baron:

"Although you might disagree with the conservative politics of American Thinker, you might still want to have a look at a March 5, 2014 article entitled "The Ayatollah's Lobby on K Street?" [by Jordan Schachtel]:

"Has the National Iranian American Council and its founder, Trita Parsi, inserted itself into the debate over Iran sanctions under false pretenses? Has the left been duped and psychologically disarmed by Parsi and the folks at NIAC, who have seemingly tried to appeal to the left's dove-like idealistic sentiments? Substantial evidence points to the conclusion that NIAC’s agenda, far removed from the actual interests of the Iranian-American community at large, displays almost zero daylight between itself and the docket of the “supreme leader’s” theocratic regime.

Trita Parsi and the staff at NIAC have penned articles in several left-wing mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times and The Huffington Post, among many others. Parsi recently lectured at CIA headquarters and has personally met and lobbied former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Parsi, along with the staff at his disposal, claim to be "the voice" of the one million Iranian Americans in the United States, with the stated mission of “advancing the interests of the Iranian American community."

If NIAC’s mission is truly to serve the best interests of the Iranian-American community, it has epically failed to meet that objective. When polled, 99% of Iranian Americans who support a pro-democracy trajectory for Iran expressed that NIAC did not in any way represent their interests. Furthermore, a staggering 99% of respondents also believed that NIAC are simply a lobby for the Ayatollah’s Islamic Republic.

Mohsen Makhmalbalf, an established leader in Iran’s Green Movement, said of Parsi, “I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic republic.” When reached for comment, Amir Fakhravar, an Iranian jailed dissident and recipient of the Annie Taylor Journalism Award, said of NIAC, “You cannot find any difference between their statements and the Iranian regime’s statements. Either officially or unofficially, they are following the path of the regime.”

NIAC came to fruition in 1999, when Trita Parsi was at a conference in Cyprus being held under the auspices of the Iranian regime. During the conference, Parsi laid out his plan to introduce a pro-regime lobbying group to counteract the sentiments and influence allegedly purported by America’s pro-Israel and anti-regime advocacy groups.
Internal documents, unveiled as a result of the National Iranian American Council’s failed defamation lawsuit against an investigative journalist, reveal that Parsi had been maintaining a close relationship with Iranian defense Minister Javad Zarif for several years."

Also consider the following from a Haaretz (left-wing Israeli) article entitled "Nuclear deal divides Iranian community in America" [by Dan Shadur]:

"Parsi has been following the nuclear deal negotiations closely and clocked many hours talking with U.S. and Iranian negotiators. He supports the deal unreservedly. He believes the deal being cobbled together is the only way to peacefully prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that it creates a framework for a U.S.-Iranian dialogue, something he views as a positive development."

In short, NIAC has a dog in this fight, and Pickering, who is listed first among its advisory board members, is not a mere "former top U.S. diplomat."

Query: If a former US diplomat was now a leading advisor to AIPAC and lobbying against a deal with Iran, wouldn't her/his association with AIPAC be relevant and deserve mention?"

I subsequently sent an additional email to Mr. Baron:

"And from Commentary, Is NIAC the Iran Lobby?' by Michael Rubin:

'There has been a lot of controversy back-and-forth about whether the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) lobbies for the Islamic Republic of Iran. After an Iranian-American journalist referred to NIAC as a lobby group, NIAC sued him for defamation but ended up losing its case. While at the Washington Times, Eli Lake used documents revealed during that lawsuit’s discovery phase to suggest that NIAC was, indeed, illegally lobbying. Lake’s story apparently forced NIAC to amend its tax returns.

Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s policy director, now appears to push aside any pretense that NIAC is something other than Iran’s lobby. Speaking at the forthcoming “Expose AIPAC” conference, Abdi is featured on the “Training: Constituent Lobbying for Iran” panel. Oops.

Then again, in his university days, NIAC founder Trita Parsi made no secret of his goals.'

Again, if a former US diplomat was now a leading advisor to AIPAC and lobbying against a deal with Iran, wouldn't her/his association with AIPAC be relevant and deserve mention?"

Let's see if WaPo will now be willing to correct the omission . . .]