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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Syria, Obama and Putin": Is Tom Syrious? Is Obama Putin' His Foot in His Mouth?

"What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?"

- President Obama, September 10, 2013

Well, both Obama and his favorite newspaper, The New York Times, chose to look the other way. The Times at first pretended that there was no concrete proof that Syrian President Assad butchered his own people with sarin gas, while Obama sought to avoid honoring his "red line" involving Assad's use of chemical weapons by passing the buck to Congress (although he was not willing to accede to the will of a majority of both houses of Congress regarding his nuclear deal with Khamenei). Next, Obama agreed to a deal brokered by Putin for the surrender of Assad's chemical weapons stockpiles, but when it turned out that the Syrian dictator had not turned over all his "inventory" and that he was continuing to use chemical weapons against regime opponents, America's president did absolutely nothing.

Thomas Friedman begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Syria, Obama and Putin" by declaring, "Your Honor, I rise again in defense of President Barack Obama’s policy on Syria." Policy? Which policy is that? Impotence?

Friedman goes on to observe:

"Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power. Well, now he’s up a tree. Obama and John Kerry should just leave him up there for a month — him and Assad, fighting ISIS alone — and watch him become public enemy No. 1 in the Sunni Muslim world. 'Yo, Vladimir, how’s that working for you?'

The only way Putin can get down from that tree is with our help in forging a political solution in Syria. And that only happens if the Russians and the Iranians force Assad — after a transition — to step down and leave the country, in return for the opposition agreeing to protect the basic safety and interests of Assad’s Alawite community, and both sides welcoming an international force on the ground to guarantee the deal.

But to get there we need to size our rhetoric with our interests in Syria as well. Our interests right now are to eliminate or contain the two biggest metastasizing threats: ISIS — whose growth can threaten the islands of decency in the region like Lebanon, the Kurds and Jordan — and the tragedy of Syrian refugees, whose numbers are growing so large they are swamping Lebanon and Jordan and, if they continue, could destabilize the European Union, our vital partner in the world."

There are only two big "metastasizing threats" - ISIS and the Syrian refugee tragedy? Horsefeathers! As if Iranian military and financial support to Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis does not constitute a threat, particularly after Russia has now joined forces with Iran, Hezbollah and what remains of Assad's army in Syria. And what will be after Iran receives a cash infusion of some $100 billion from Obama's nuclear deal with Khamenei? The money will be used to create jobs in Tehran, Mashhad and Tabriz and will not be funneled to Iran's terrorist proxies? Yeah, right!

Friedman's conclusion:

"I think Putin’s rash rush into Syria may in the end make him more in need of a deal, or at least a lasting cease-fire, that stops the refugee flows. If we can do that, for now, we will have done a lot."

However, it is no longer a matter of what "we can do." Rather, it has become a matter of what Putin will decide to do. Putin brokered the chemical weapons arrangement, allowing Obama to climb down from his "red line" tree, and the United States must now hope and pray that Vladimir will take it upon himself to broker an end to Syria's civil war? Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey are all watching as Obama continues to abnegate moral responsibility in the Middle East and around the globe.

Meanwhile, according to Debkafile, Russia has "sent an official demarche ordering US planes to quit Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory." I suppose this is all in accordance with the "flexibility" that Obama promised Putin after Obama's reelection.

Indeed, in what kind of world do we live?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tom Hamburger, "How Elizabeth Warren picked a fight with Brookings — and won": No Mention of Brookings, Indyk, Qatar and Hamas

In a Washington Post article entitled "How Elizabeth Warren picked a fight with Brookings — and won," Tom Hamburger writes:

"The hero of the country’s liberal movement launched a surprise attack Tuesday against Washington’s most revered Democratic-leaning think tanks — and drew blood.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, stepping up her crusade against the power of wealthy interests, accused a Brookings Institution scholar of writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons.

Warren’s charge prompted a swift response, with Brookings seeking and receiving the resignation of the economist, Robert Litan, whose report criticized a Warren-backed consumer protection rule targeting the financial services industry."

A pity that Warren was not equally incensed by Qatar's $14.8 million donation to Brookings in 2014, which goes unmentioned by Hamburger. As was reported by The Algemeiner in a September 7, 2014 article entitled "Revealed: Hamas-Backing Qatar, Also Funding Brookings Institute, Home of Former U.S. MidEast Envoy Indyk":

"Questions are emerging over possible conflicts-of-interest after The New York Times highlighted Qatari funding for U.S. think tanks, including the Brookings Institute, employer of former U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, who was directly involved in recent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

'Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world,' according to The Times.

The report comes just weeks after Israel vociferously voiced objection to Qatar’s funding of its major adversary, terror group Hamas."

And as Lee Smith is quoted in an October 2, 2014 Tablet article entitled "Brookings Responds to Tablet Piece on Qatar Funding":

"The fact that Ambassador Indyk’s employer raised $14.8 million from the same Arab regime that funds Hamas, a mortal enemy of the two parties—Israel and the PA—whose negotiations he was to mediate, should have been enough to tell Secretary of State John Kerry that Dr. Indyk would be, at the least, a questionable choice for the job. This judgment might have been further supported by Mr. Indyk’s strange demeanor in casting Israel, both anonymously in news articles and publicly in hotel bars, as solely responsible for the failure of peace talks.

Why Ambassador Indyk veered so widely from the normal practices of statesmanship is unclear. Perhaps he thought his own behavior to be above reproach, even when others might say it violates commonly accepted norms, and creates the appearance of a conflict-of-interest so glaring that it would be legible to a nine-year-old. Or perhaps one of the most influential think tanks taking money from one of the leading state sponsors of terrorism was taken as a sign that the rules of the Washington DC foreign policy influence-peddling game have changed, and become even more gross and venal?"

You will recall that Obama and Kerry sought to impose Qatari and Turkish mediation upon Israel during its conflict with Hamas during the summer of 2014. As reported in a July 30, 2014 Hudson Institute article entitled "John Kerry Has Hamas’ Back: So, Who Has Israel’s?" by Lee Smith:

"'Qatar and Turkey are the biggest supporters of Hamas,' Netanyahu told President Obama, according to an Israeli transcript of a recording of the phone call. (A transcript the White House and prime minister’s office now claim is false.) 'It’s impossible to rely on them to be fair mediators.' To which Obama snidely responded: 'I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is not in the position that it can choose its mediators.' When Netanyahu objected to Obama’s high-school mean-girl treatment—'I protest because Hamas can continue to launch rockets and use tunnels for terror attacks'—the president of the United States simply ignored him: 'The ball’s in Israel’s court, and it must end all its military activities.'"

Personally, I "believe" that the transcript accurately reflected the content of the conversation, although it involved translation back and forth between English and Hebrew.

David Brooks, "The Prison Problem": Breaking Out Is Hard to Do

David Brooks begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Prison Problem," by observing, "Pretty much everybody from Barack Obama to Carly Fiorina seems to agree that far too many Americans are stuck behind bars." Brooks's conclusion:

"But the fundamental situation won’t be altered without a comprehensive surge, unless we flood the zone with economic, familial, psychological and social repair."

Economic repair? Some 46 million Americans are receiving food stamps today, compared with some 17 million in 2000.

Familial repair? Single parent households have more than tripled in the US since 1960.

Psychological and social repair? One in five Americans takes a psychiatric medicine.

By all means, let's "flood the zone," but remember, David, breaking out is hard to do.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Paul Krugman, "The Blackmail Caucus, a.k.a. the Republican Party": "A Terrible, Very Bad, No Good Speaker of the House"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Blackmail Caucus, a.k.a. the Republican Party," Paul Krugman rails against John Boehner, whom he describes as "a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House." Krugman continues:

"For me, Mr. Boehner’s defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009, when a newly inaugurated President Obama was trying to cope with the disastrous recession that began under his predecessor.

There was and is a strong consensus among economists that a temporary period of deficit spending can help mitigate an economic slump.

. . . .

Republicans did manage to put a severe crimp on federal spending, which has grown much more slowly under Mr. Obama than it did under George W. Bush, or for that matter Ronald Reagan. The weakness of spending has, in turn, been a major headwind delaying recovery, probably the single biggest reason it has taken so long to bounce back from the 2007-2009 recession."

A temporary period of deficit spending can help mitigate an economic slump? As reported by The Washington Free Beacon two weeks ago in an article entitled "$2.88 Trillion: Gov’t Collects Record-High Taxes in First 11 Months of FY 2015" by Ali Meyer:

"The federal government collected a record amount of taxes in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2015, exceeding $2.88 trillion in revenue, according to the latest monthly Treasury Department statement. Despite the revenue, which is still a record amount when adjusted for inflation, the federal government ran a deficit of $529 billion."

Yup, the US federal government, despite record high tax collection, is still running a deficit. That's quite an accomplishment.

According to Krugman, who complains that Republicans put a "crimp" in federal spending, "the economy nonetheless did well enough for Mr. Obama to win re-election with a solid majority in 2012." Well, how about judging Obama according to his own standards? On July 3, 2008, Obama stated:

"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."

US national debt has now reached an unsustainable $18.4 trillion, amounting to more than $57,000 for every American man, woman and child, and some $155,000 for every American taxpayer. But who's counting?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Marcia Angell, "Why do drug companies charge so much? Because they can.": Not Exactly

After 32-year-old Martin Shkreli, the chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of Daraprim, used to treat toxoplasmosis and on the market since 1953, from $13.50 to $750 a pill just two months after his company acquired the drug, Hillary Clinton was quick to lambaste the pharma industry for price gouging. On the heels of this controversy, Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School, also accuses the pharma industry of price gouging in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Why do drug companies charge so much? Because they can.":

"Daraprim illustrates the way most drugs are priced: They are invented not by the companies that sell them now but by someone else. Then, like big fish swallowing little fish, larger companies either buy small firms outright or license promising drugs from them.

Very often, the original discovery occurs in a university lab with public funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), then licensed to a start-up company partly owned by the university and then to a large company. There is very little innovation at the big drug firms. Instead, their major creative output is trivial variations of top-selling medications that are already on the market (called 'me-too drugs'), to cash in with treatments just different enough to justify new patents.

. . . .

The public should demand something in return for all that governmental support. Other advanced countries regulate drug prices in one way or another: Some cap profits, some cap the rate of price increases, some have formularies that limit drugs in each class to those that are most cost-effective, and some regulate in more than one way. But they all have some form of regulation, and the result is much lower prices for the same drugs. In the United States, by contrast, Congress has blocked Medicare from negotiating the price of drugs or creating a formulary for patients. It’s time that we, too, move to stop price-gouging by the pharmaceutical industry — even when no one notices."

Well, not exactly . . .

Although Angell claims that the "major creative output" of big drug firms is "me-too-drugs," she fails, for example, to mention the immunotherapy cancer breakthrough being pursued by the industry.

And although Angell would have us believe that "very often" the original discovery occurs in university labs, she also fails to note that university studies in many instances are not reliable.

Even more important, Angell makes no reference to the cost of new drugs or the number of small biotechs that have fallen by the wayside while trying to reach the promised land. As observed in a Forbes article entitled "The Cost Of Creating A New Drug Now $5 Billion, Pushing Big Pharma To Change" by Matthew Herper:

"There’s one factor that, as much as anything else, determines how many medicines are invented, what diseases they treat, and, to an extent, what price patients must pay for them: the cost of inventing and developing a new drug, a cost driven by the uncomfortable fact than 95% of the experimental medicines that are studied in humans fail to be both effective and safe.

A new analysis conducted at Forbes puts grim numbers on these costs. A company hoping to get a single drug to market can expect to have spent $350 million before the medicine is available for sale. In part because so many drugs fail, large pharmaceutical companies that are working on dozens of drug projects at once spend $5 billion per new medicine."

Unfortunately the next generation of life-saving immunotherapies comes with a hefty price, most of which is not being shouldered by the government. Kill this innovation because it is costly? I don't think so . . . all of which has nothing whatsoever to do with young Mr. Shkreli's behavior.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Steven Rattner, "Carly Fiorina Really Was That Bad": Rattner Derides Fiorina?

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Carly Fiorina Really Was That Bad," Steven Rattner writes of Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina:

"HER silver tongue honed by decades in corporate marketing, Carly Fiorina has used two debates, and a steely determination on the campaign trail, to climb near the top of the polls for the Republican nomination.

But Americans should pause on her biggest professional credential for our highest office: a short, disastrous stint atop one of America’s iconic technology companies, Hewlett-Packard.

The clearest measure of her performance — and the report card preferred by Wall Street — is H.P.’s stock price, which dropped by 52 percent during her tenure of almost six years.

Yes, Mrs. Fiorina served during the worst fall in technology shares in history. But she managed to underperform her key competitors; IBM’s shares declined by 27.5 percent and Dell’s fell by 3 percent."

Indeed, as also appears in a Wikipedia article about Fiorina (footnotes deleted, my emphasis in red):

"HP's revenue doubled due to mergers with Compaq and other companies, and the rate of patent filings increased. According to reports, the company underperformed by a number of metrics: there were no gains in HP's net income despite a 70% gain in net income of the S&P 500 over this period; the company's debt rose from US$4.25 billion to US$6.75 billion; and its stock price fell by 50%, exceeding declines in the S&P 500 Information Technology Sector index and the NASDAQ. In contrast, stock prices for IBM and Dell respectively fell 27.5% and 3% during this time."

Okay, Got it! A capricious manipulable stock market, which often is blind to the long-term impact of a corporate executive, is the ultimate arbiter of whether a person is fit to serve in government. Moreover, inasmuch as the shares of IBM and Dell performed better than those of HP within a given period, Fiorina is therefore unqualified for the highest office in the land. I wonder whether Rattner would have been of the opinion that the failure of Harry Truman's Kansas City haberdashery shop should also have disqualified him from becoming president.

Steven Rattner? We are informed at the bottom of his op-ed: "Steven Rattner is a Wall Street executive and contributing opinion writer." That's all? In a February 20, 2013 Columbia Journalism Review article entitled "The New York Times and the rehabilitation of Steven Rattner," Ryan Chittum provides additional background material:

"The New York Times is declaring that disgraced private equity mogul Steven Rattner has gotten his reputation back in the Manhattan lunch circles that matter. This was probably only a matter of time given that it was the Times itself that played a leading role in his rehabilitation.

It’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, naturally, who pronounces the cleansing complete, even wondering aloud if Rattner could be a Treasury secretary someday.

This about a guy who just two years ago paid $16 million to settle SEC and New York lawsuits against him for taking part in a kickback scheme with public officials to get $150 million in pension-fund business. His firm, Quadrangle, coughed up another $12 million and said what Rattner did was 'inappropriate, wrong and unethical.' They might have added 'corrupt.'

Recall that Rattner was Obama’s car czar responsible for bailing out and overseeing GM and Chrysler. Three months into the administration, it emerged that Rattner was under investigation by Andrew Cuomo, then the New York Attorney General, and by the SEC for paying kickbacks to get business from the giant New York pension fund. Rattner originally got immunity in the investigation until Cuomo caught him covering up his own involvement."

Thought you might like to know.

Friday, September 25, 2015

David Brooks, "The American Idea and Today’s G.O.P.": Not As Simple As David Believes

Deriding an "anguished cry" from certain Republicans for a "receding America," David Brooks begins his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The American Idea and Today’s G.O.P." by observing:

"America was settled, founded and built by people who believed they were doing something exceptional. Other nations were defined by their history, but America was defined by its future, by the people who weren’t yet here and by the greatness that hadn’t yet been achieved.

American founders like Alexander Hamilton were aware that once the vast continent was settled the United States would be one of the dominant powers of the globe."

Well, the image of Alexander Hamilton is soon to be removed from America's ten dollar bill, and as was observed by Nick Bryant in a July 10, 2015 BBC article entitled "The decline of US power?":

"George W Bush, a president with a Manichean worldview, was widely seen as over-eager to project America's military might, without adequately considering the long-term consequences.

Barack Obama, who campaigned in 2008 on a platform of extricating America from its unpopular and exhausting wars, has drawn criticism for disengaging too much.

Under both presidents - the first an impulsive unilateralist, the second an instinctive multilateralist content sometimes to lead from behind - America's global standing has been diminished."

America is no longer the superpower it once was? Is this indeed the reason why Bashar al-Assad ignored Obama's so-called "red line" involving the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, and why Obama backed down from his demands, e.g. anytime, anywhere inspections and the dismantlement of all Iranian centrifuges, in order to reach an unsigned nuclear deal with Supreme Leader Khamenei? Could be. You see, when Obama finally leaves office in January 2017, the United States will be in debt to the tune of some $19 trillion, or stated otherwise, effectively bankrupt.

Brooks's op-ed, however, appears to be more concerned with Republican immigration policy than with America's demise as a superpower, and in this regard he writes:

"Today there are some conservative commentators and Republican politicians who talk a lot about American exceptionalism. But when they use the phrase they mean the exact opposite of its original meaning. In fact, they are effectively destroying American exceptionalism.

. . . .

Out of this backward- and inward-looking mentality comes a desire to exclude. Donald Trump talks falsely and harshly about Hispanic immigrants. Ben Carson says he couldn’t advocate putting 'a Muslim in charge of this nation.'"

But what if this so-called "desire to exclude" stems not from a "backward- and inward-looking mentality," but rather from a coldly calculated economic determination that America can no longer afford to open the floodgates of immigration? Should the United States be seeking out scientists and academicians from overseas who can grow the American economy and rescue it from disaster?

Brooks notes that "[i]mmigrant men age 18 to 39 are incarcerated at roughly one-fourth the rate of American men, yet he fails to point out that as reported by the Pew Research Center in an August 30, 2011 article entitled "Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism," eight percent of US Muslims believe that suicide bombing can "often/sometimes" be justified. Imagine: If you randomly place 100 American adult Muslims in a room, only eight of them think that it's "often/sometimes" justified to blow you to bits.

Regrettably with respect to immigration, America is facing a dilemma, and there are no simple answers.

The New York Times and The Washington Post: Lies and Self-Deception

Yesterday, in an editorial entitled "Israel and America After the Iran Deal," The New York Times labeled the supply to Israel of a massive ordnance penetrator capable of destroying Iran's Fordo underground nuclear facility as a "dubious provision," which "would be provocative and dangerous." But whereas the Times would have the United States walk on eggshells to prevent Khamenei and his henchmen from abandoning Obama's unsigned legacy-creating nuclear deal, the newspaper chooses to ignore recent Iranian declarations calling for the destruction of Israel, promising continued material support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their "resistance" to the US and Israel, and announcing that they will not abide by UN restrictions on their ICBM development program.

In this editorial, the Times goes one step further and blames Israel for Middle East instability (my emphasis in red):

"America has a responsibility to help ensure the security of Israel and the gulf allies and to see that Iran adheres to the deal. But this cannot be done if Congress imposes restrictions that cause the agreement to implode or prevent the administration from taking advantage of openings to cooperate with Iran. Congress can be most helpful by creating its own process for rigorously monitoring how the accord is implemented.

The focus on America’s obligations often ignores the responsibility Israel and the gulf states have for regional security. Saudi Arabia shares much blame for the rise of extremist groups, while Israel undermines stability by failing to negotiate peace with the Palestinians."

Israel has failed to negotiate with the Palestinians? Nice try! The Times ignores the fact that it is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in his eleventh year of his four-year term in office, who is interested in maintaining the status quo. Abbas declared to Jackson Diehl in 2009:

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

This statement was made after Abbas refused 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. One year later, after Netanyahu declared a 10-month settlement freeze "to restart peace talks" at the request of Obama, Abbas delayed entering negotiations until the last moment and then walked away from the discussions.

But why should the truth matter to the editorial board of the Times?

Meanwhile, The Washington Post yesterday published an editorial entitled "Jason Rezaian’s case proves Iran still can’t be trusted." WaPo said of the ongoing imprisonment of its reporter in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison:

"WITH THE international community preparing to lift most sanctions on Iran, its president, Hassan Rouhani, no doubt will present his nation as ready to take its rightful, respected place in the world when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Monday. The world, including the Obama administration, should think twice about that. Any nation that holds innocent journalists captive, in violation of its own laws and of international norms, will be regarded with suspicion, and deservedly so."

The WaPo editorial goes on to say:

"Eager to complete an agreement on Iranian nuclear capability and win approval for it in Congress, the administration has been reluctant to say much about Iran’s egregious human rights violations at home or support of terrorism abroad. We favor the nuclear deal, but that can’t be the only element in the U.S.-Iranian relationship."

Excuse me boys and girls, but how can you favor Obama's unsigned nuclear deal with Khamenei if Iran "can't be trusted"?

Just asking . . .

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Republican Attack on Muslims? What About a Democratic Attack on the Truth?

Sorry, but it's once again time to be politically incorrect.

Yesterday, in an editorial entitled "The Republican Attack on Muslims," The New York Times declared:

"The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is drawing criticism over the bigoted comments he has been making recently about Muslims. It is well deserved, and is not a matter of 'P.C. culture,' as Mr. Carson has claimed. Nor does Mr. Carson represent some minor fringe element in the Republican Party.

This latest sordid mess to arise from the G.O.P. nomination contest touches on bedrock American values, constitutional principles and American history. It reflects a pernicious habit among the leaders of the Republican Party to play with fire by pandering to an angry, disaffected and heavily white base by demonizing selected minorities. Muslims are just the current target."

Muslims are just the current target of Republicans? Let's put it to the test. As reported by the Pew Research Center in an August 30, 2011 article entitled "Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism," eight percent of US Muslims believe that suicide bombing can "often/sometimes" be justified. Now that's a relief! If you randomly place 100 American adult Muslims in a room, only eight of them think that it's "often/sometimes" justified to blow you to bits.

But why rely only on Pew? In a June 2015 poll of 600 Muslim-Americans, The Polling Company determined:

  • If shariah conflicts with the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, 33 percent answered that shariah "should be considered supreme."
  • 36 percent declared that Muslims in the US should be free to choose courts or tribunals in the US that apply shariah law, whereas 15 percent opined that Muslims in the US should be subject only to shariah courts.
  • 29 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that "violence against those that insult the prophet Mohammad, the Qur'an, or Islamic faith is sometimes acceptable."
  • 25 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that "Violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad."
  • 19 percent believed that "the use of violence in the United States is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country."
  • Nine percent believed that the beliefs of the Islamic State are "correct and consistent with shariah."
  • Eight percent believed that the beliefs of al-Qaeda are "correct and consistent with shariah."

Having perused these numbers, are you feeling much relieved? Fabulous! So now let's move away from the so-called Republican attack on Muslims, and have a look at Democrats attack on the truth - and I'm not referring to Hillary's burgeoning email scandal or attempts to manipulate intel to support the Obama administration's effort to downplay the danger of the Islamic State. Rather, let's have a look at what Iran has been saying in recent days about the United States and Israel in the wake of Obama's nuclear deal with Khamenei, and what Senate and House Democrats are choosing to ignore.

As translated by MEMRI, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan stated on Lebanon's Mayadeen TV on September 1, 2015 (my emphasis in red):

"Hizbullah does not need us to supply them with rockets and arms. Israel and the US need to know this. Today, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah have the capability of producing their own resources and weapons themselves. Nevertheless, we shall not refrain from supporting them. They received the technology from us and from others, and today they produce them themselves. I officially declare that under no circumstances will we refrain from providing material and moral support to Hizbullah, or to any group of the resistance to the US and Israel. We say this loud and clear. We have declared this officially, and we intend to continue on this path."

In addition, as observed by Yigal Carmon in a September 22, 2015 MEMRI brief entitled "Iran Openly Declares That It Intends To Violate UNSCR 2231 That Endorses The JCPOA":

"In a July 20, 2015 interview on Iranian Channel 2, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiator Abbas Araghchi said that there had been tough bargaining between the Iranian and American delegations over the issue of the arms embargo on Iran and the sanctions related to Iran's missile development project. 'The Americans sought their inclusion in the JCPOA, claiming that otherwise they could not face criticism from Arab countries in the region. When they said that they could not lift the sanctions altogether, we told them explicitly that in that case there is no agreement. We told them that the national security issues are non-negotiable and that we will not accept an agreement which continues the embargo on weapons and the sanctions on missile development. In the end, the Americans said, We will put the issue of the embargo and the missiles in the UN Security Council Resolution separate from the agreement.'"

However, as further observed by Carmon, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, and Araghchi have "emphasized that Iran has no intention of abiding by UNSRC 2231," which incorporates the JCPOA and places restrictions on Iran's missile development.

More? No problem. As reported by Adam Kredo in a Washington Free Beacon article, Ataollah Salehi, commander of Iran’s army, declared on Tuesday:

"Israel only barks, no matter how much weapons are given to [it], we are going to destroy them, we will promise this task will be done."

But heck, why should we believe anything that these Iranian leaders are currently saying? You see, if we believe President Obama, these gentlemen are all going to experience an epiphany and profess pacifism over the coming decade. Moreover, what's more important to Senate and House Democrats, Obama's legacy or the prevention of a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile attack on the US and the survival of Israel, America's only true ally in the Middle East? I suppose we now know the answer.

Monday, September 21, 2015

New York Times Editorial, "Ignoring Sexual Abuse in Afghanistan": What Doesn't Obama Ignore?

In an editorial entitled "Ignoring Sexual Abuse in Afghanistan," The New York Times says of Afghan officers molesting boys on American bases:

"The Pentagon’s indulgent, even complicit, attitude toward pedophiles among the Afghan militias that it funded and trained is indefensible, at odds with American values and with international laws Washington has taken the lead in promoting.

Pervasive sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan. It is especially pronounced among armed commanders who control rural regions and hold sway over the population there. The practice is known as bacha bazi, or boy play; powerful Afghan men often surround themselves with young teenagers as a mark of social status.

By instructing American soldiers and Marines not to interfere, even if the incidents occurred on American bases, the Pentagon has chosen — reprehensibly — to sacrifice vulnerable children in order to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militias it needs to fight the Taliban."

But how is this latest Obama administration scandal different from -

  • Efforts by the Obama administration to ignore atrocities perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad in Syria (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, March 27, 2011: "There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.").
  • Efforts by the Obama administration to ignore the resurgence of al-Qaeda (President Obama, January 7, 2014: "I think the analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.)
  • Efforts to manipulate intel to support the Obama administration's effort to downplay the danger of the Islamic State.
  • Efforts by the Obama administration to ignore human rights abuses in Iran so as to facilitate the signing (actually, the non-signing) of Obama's legacy-creating nuclear deal with Khamenei.


New York Times Editorial, "Mr. Putin’s Mixed Messages on Syria ": Obama Is Not Equally Culpable?

In a risible editorial entitled "Mr. Putin’s Mixed Messages on Syria," The New York Times blames Vladimir Putin for the disastrous civil war in Syria. The Times would have us know:

"No one should be fooled about Russia’s culpability in Syria’s agony. Mr. Putin could have helped prevent the fighting that has killed more than 250,000 Syrians and displaced millions more, had he worked with other major powers in 2011 to keep Mr. Assad from waging war on his people following peaceful antigovernment protests. The brutality of Mr. Assad, a member of a Shiite sect, against the majority Sunni population has enabled the Islamic State, made up of Sunnis, to take control of large parts of Syria. Mr. Assad would probably be gone without the weapons, aid and other assistance from Russia and Iran."

Fascinating. And Obama, of course, has no culpability. But consider how -

The whole world is watching the follies of a naïve American president, who was instrumental in creating the Middle East power vacuum that gave rise to the Islamic State. A pity that Obama has yet to realize that impotence is not a basis for implementing foreign policy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shmuel Rosner, "Israel Needs New Friends": Actually, Israel Needs a New American President

Have you taken the time to read "Ally," the recently published book by Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to the United States? Although not on a par with Oren's masterful "Six Days of War," Oren effectively describes in "Ally" the systematic efforts of the Obama administration since 2009 to create public crises between Israel and America. Oren writes in the last chapter of "Ally" of the need to "repair" the US-Israeli alliance:

"The world, meanwhile, watches us. Friends and adversaries alike - the French and the Iranians, the Japanese and the jihadists - all look at the alliance as a litmus of America's willingness to stand up for its fellow democracy and even to stand up for itself. The alliance is vital not only for its two partners, but also for the security of all nations.

Which is why, after a half decade of tensions, we must begin the process of repair. The greatest single quality in a leader, I have long observed is clearsightedness. The greatest single quality in a leader, I have long observed is clearsightedness. The foreign relations field is dense with fog, and the ability to see through it is essential. American and Israeli leaders must discern their confluent interests and work to restore them. They must restore those three 'no's' - no surprises, no daylight, no public altercations - in their relations. They must revisit the meaning of ally."

All true, but the US-Israeli alliance cannot be restored until Obama leaves the White House. Nothing is more instructive concerning Obama's view of long-term alliances with Western friends than his removal of the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. Regarding Obama's view of America's alliance with Israel, one need only recall how - just one year ago - Obama attempted to impose hostile Qatari and Turkish mediation upon Israel while Hamas was firing thousands of missiles at Israel, and also cut off military supplies in the middle of this conflict in order to bend Israel to his will. You see, great man that he thinks he is, Obama is intent upon creating a new world order, although he now bears personal responsibility for the deaths of more than 200,000 people in Syria and the cataclysmic rise of the Islamic State.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "Israel Needs New Friends," Shmuel Rosner observes the tensions caused to the US-Israeli relationship by Obama's nuclear deal with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei and concludes:

"For the foreseeable future, the United States will likely remain Israel’s main ally. But it must not be Israel’s only ally.

It can no longer be the 'no-plan-B' type of ally or a 'no daylight' ally. The Obama administration now believes that the United States has certain critical interests, and Mr. Netanyahu’s government believes that Israel has certain critical interests — and they are not the same. As a result, the policies of the two countries are no longer compatible on several key issues. For Israel, finding a way to supplement its ties with Washington is therefore not a luxury; it’s an urgent necessity."

But to whom might Israel turn? Rosner alternatively suggests India, China, Saudi Arabia and Europe. But whereas India is hungry for Israeli military goods, China has heavily invested in Israeli hi-tech companies, and Saudi Arabia is an implacable enemy of Iran, these countries do not share the cultural affinity that Israel has with America. Moreover, these countries are not committed to Israel's existence at a time when Iran is moving troops into Syria and continuing to threaten Israel with annihilation.

Europe? No way. An economically moribund Europe is awash with anti-Semitism, owing in part to mass immigration from the Muslim Middle East. This, in turn, has led to inexorable changes in its demographics and foreign relations.

Israel has no "alternative" other than the US, and notwithstanding Obama's efforts to rend this union asunder, it is and will be, for the foreseeable future, a marriage for the most part made in heaven.

Yes, I know, prior to the advent of the Obama administration, there were spats between the United States and Israel, as recounted in Yehuda Avner's marvelous book "The Prime Ministers." However, prior presidents did not, as a matter of policy, seek to publicize these differences, as has been done by the Obama administration.

Bottom line: In another year and four months, the United States will have a new president, and whoever she/he may be, Republican or Democrat, the relationship between America and Israel will begin to heal.

In the meantime, however, how much more damage can Obama do to America's relationship with Israel? Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Washington Post Editorial, "More waffling on Syria": Obama's Greatest Failure?

In an editorial entitled "More waffling on Syria," The Washington Post tells us of "the failure of the United States to back up its objectives with consequential action" in Syria. WaPo writes:

"At the root of what surely will be seen as the greatest failure of his presidency is Mr. Obama’s refusal to commit to a coherent plan for ending President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous assault on his own people. . . . Had Mr. Obama accepted the recommendation of his national security team in 2012 to arm and train Syrian opposition forces, or the many proposals to create safe zones where civilians could be protected from the regime’s barbaric barrel bomb attacks, much of the subsequent carnage, not to mention the flood of refugees now pouring into Europe, could have been prevented."

Syria will be seen as the greatest failure of Obama's presidency? In fact, I think WaPo's editorial board is being unduly optimistic. Wait and see what happens when Iran abandons the nuclear deal brokered by Obama and makes a mad dash its first atomic bomb.

And then there's also that "small" matter involving US federal government debt, which will reach some $19 trillion by the time Obama leaves office. Yes, Obama bankrupted the United States, but no one is willing to admit that the emperor has no clothes.

The kind folks at The Washington Post haven't seen anything yet.

Michael Gordon, "U.S. Begins Military Talks With Russia on Syria": Obama Fulfills His Promise to Putin

In a lead New York Times news article entitled "U.S. Begins Military Talks With Russia on Syria," Michael R. Gordon reports on US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's discussion on Friday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. This chat was undertaken pursuant to Obama’s orders, after Russia sent marines, an artillery unit, 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missiles, BTR-82 troop carriers, Hip troop-transport helicopters, MI-28 MIL assault helicopters, heavy T-90 tanks and Su-27 fighter aircraft to protect the regime of mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, which was on the verge of collapse. Gordon writes:

"The diplomatic initiative amounted to a pivot for the Obama administration, which just two weeks ago delivered a stern warning to the Kremlin that its military buildup in Syria risked an escalation of the civil war there or even an inadvertent confrontation with the United States. Last week, President Obama condemned Russia’s move as a 'strategy that’s doomed to failure.'

. . . .

'The whole region is watching this,' said James F. Jeffrey, a former American ambassador in Iraq and Turkey. 'Russia is trying to change the security dynamic in the Middle East and demonstrating that it supports its allies to the hilt. The White House is sitting there and worrying about de-conflicting airplanes when we should be upping our efforts against Assad.'

But after failing to impede the buildup by convincing nations to close their airspace to Russian transport planes — Bulgaria banned the flights but Iraq did not — the White House is trying to make the best out of a situation it feels it is powerless to prevent."

The US is powerless to prevent this Russian military buildup in Syria? Or is this all in keeping with Obama's March 2012 open mike promise to Putin, delivered via then Russian President Medvedev:

Obama: "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility."

Medvedev: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir."

"The whole region is watching this"? In fact, the whole world is watching the follies of a naïve American president, who has yet to realize that impotence is not a basis for implementing foreign policy.

Friday, September 18, 2015

David Brooks, "The Marco Rubio-Carly Fiorina Option": Or a Leap of Faith Off a Cliff With Donald

Yes, the Republicans could win in 2016, if they don't shoot themselves in the foot.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Marco Rubio-Carly Fiorina Option," David Brooks writes:

"[The Republican] party will veer on a course midway between outsider and establishment. It will probably end up with some hybrid candidate — sharp of tongue, gifted in self-expression and yet still anchored in the world of reality.

That’s where Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio come in. So far, Fiorina has looked like the most impressive candidate. She has a genius for creating signature moments. ('If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Mrs. Clinton’s.') But her spotty record at Hewlett-Packard probably means she can’t start at the top of the ticket.

Rubio is young and thus uncorrupted, and he is a genius at relating policy depth in a way that is personal. He has clarity of mind and can sum up a complex subject — Russia, the Middle East — in a way that is comprehensible but not oversimplified."

Rubio and Fiorina? A Hispanic and a woman, young, forthright, intelligent, and accomplished speakers? Yes, notwithstanding the ersatz refrigerator controversy floated by The Washington Post and the risible attempt by the Times to focus attention on the Rubio family's parking tickets, they would probably win against Hillary, Joe or Bernie, but it remains to be seen whether the Republicans are determined to take a leap of faith - off a cliff - with Donald.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

David Ignatius, "How the Iran deal became the most strategic success of Obama’s presidency": WaPo Will Not Correct

Concerning my request that The Washington Post correct David Ignatius's opinion piece entitled "How the Iran deal became the most strategic success of Obama’s presidency," I received the following gracious response from WaPo op-ed editor Michael Larabee:

Hi, Jeffrey, thank you for your note. I’ve connected with David Ignatius on this, and I don’t believe a correction is warranted here. On the Israeli national security establishment, he bases his conclusion on having been a close observer of the process and press coverage of it from the beginning, not just on Tharoor’s article. If you want to argue that’s he’s mistaken, that could be fodder for a good letter, but it’s not a correction.

On Netanyahu, in the full paragraph you flag, he writes that the PM is an outlier in the world, not just in Israel, which seems like fair comment to me.

My reply to Mike:

I am still a reserve officer in the Israeli army, and I know more than a "bit" about the views of the Israeli "national security establishment," particularly at a time when Iran and Russia are sending troops into Syria (something Mr. Ignatius remarkably failed to mention in his opinion piece). Mr. Ignatius cited the Tharoor article, which had to be corrected. If he is indeed a "close observer of the process," I would be pleased if he could provide me with the names of some current senior officers (army, Shin Bet or Mossad) who see the deal as "preferable to any realistic alternative."

The Israeli prime minister is an outlier in the world, which includes North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia, Turkmenistan, in addition to the various European countries which have been busy sending trade delegations to Iran over the past few months?

Do you remember Mr. Ignatius's claim that we had heard the last of "Death to America!" coming out of Iran? His contentions today are equally risible.

Remarkable . . .

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

David Ignatius, "How the Iran deal became the most strategic success of Obama’s presidency": David, Are You Willing to Debate Dershowitz?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "How the Iran deal became the most strategic success of Obama’s presidency," David Ignatius would have us know that Obama's nuclear deal with Iran is a "strategic success," despite the fact that it flies in the face of a majority of American voters and significant majorities in both houses of Congress. It is also amazing that Ignatius's op-ed makes no mention of the continuing incarceration of WaPo reporter Jason Rezaian in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

In response to Ignatius's opinion piece, I have written the following letter to Mike Larabee, op-ed editor at WaPo:

Dear Mike,

In his Washington Post opinion piece entitled "How the Iran deal became the most strategic success of Obama’s presidency," David Ignatius writes:

"But Obama’s bet is endorsed by many leading strategists in the United States and abroad. Even in Israel, there’s grudging support from a growing share of the national-security establishment, who see the deal as preferable to any realistic alternative. The outliers are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S Republican leadership, who reject an agreement most nations endorse."

To support his claim that there is "grudging support from a growing share of the Israeli national security establishment," Mr. Ignatius cites a July 22, 2015 article entitled "How an Iran deal can be good for Israel, according to some Israelis who know what they’re talking about" by Ishaan Tharoor.

First, this article, which is almost two months old, refers to "some Israelis," and not a "growing share" of Israel's "national security establishment." In fact, the article makes reference to only three persons from Israel's "national security establishment," all retired from the said establishment, who favor the deal:

• Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet," who is 70 years old and retired from the Shin Bet 15 years ago.
• Efraim Halevy, former chief of the Mossad, who is 80 years old and left the Mossad 13 years ago.
• Meir Dagan, former chief of the Mossad, who is 70 years old and left the Mossad in 2011.

The article also makes reference to "Amos Yadlin, a retired air force general and former head of Israeli military intelligence," however, as noted at the bottom of Tharoor's article:

"Clarification: The headline on earlier versions of this post – “How the Iran deal is good for Israel, according to Israelis who know what they’re talking about” – did not reflect the nuance of some of the positions of Israeli officials cited. The headline has been changed to reflect this. Additionally, the post was updated soon after publishing to include language noting that Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, is 'not a fan of the deal,' but that he has 'called for Israeli calm and cooperation with Washington.'"

In short, the article cited by Mr. Ignatius does not support his contention that there is "grudging support from a growing share of the Israeli national security establishment."
Moreover, regarding Mr. Ignatius's claim that Netanyahu is an "outlier," Mr. Ignatius fails to mention polls showing that Israelis are strongly opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran, and that even the Israeli opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, strongly opposes the deal. As observed in an August 12 article entitled "Polls Show Israelis Strongly Oppose Iran Nuclear Deal - A look at several Israeli public opinion polls shows a broad consensus against the deal that seems to transcend conventional political divides," published by the left-of-center Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

"Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog is not happy with the Iran nuclear deal signed last month – to put it mildly. And he’s not the only high-profile Israeli from the center-left – among them some prominent peace activists, writers and commentators – to voice dissent, or at least skepticism."

In short, I believe that Mr. Ignatius's opinion piece is in need of immediate correction.

By the way, Alan Dershowitz, who twice voted for President Obama, is adamantly opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran. (Is Mr. Dershowitz also an "outlier"?) Perhaps Mr. Ignatius would care to debate Mr. Dershowitz on the deal's merits?


Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

David Brooks, "The Biden Formation Story": Honesty Matters

Despite what David Brooks wrote of Biden in August ("He’s a wonderful man and a great public servant, but he should not run for president this year, for the sake of his long-term reputation"), he now thinks Joe should toss his hat into the ring. In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Biden Formation Story," Brooks declares:

"Candidates like John F. Kennedy and John McCain were formed by war. Candidates like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were formed by their rise from broken homes and their dedication to lift others and heal divisions. Without a clear formation story, a candidate is just a hodgepodge of positions and logos.

Democrats this year are looking for a formation story that proves commitment. This is a party that is moving boldly leftward. Its voters want to know their candidate has the inner drive to push through structural changes, not just half measures."

Brooks argues that in his recent interview on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," Biden provided a "formation story" based upon the loss of family members. Brooks goes on to say:

"Out of that loss comes a great empathy, a connection to those who are suffering in this economy and this world. Out of that loss comes a hypercharged sense of mission. Out of that loss comes a liberation from the fear of failure that dogs most politicians, and causes them to dodge, prevaricate and spin."

Heck, I don't know much about "formation stories," but I would like to believe that I have learned a few things about honesty over the course of my time on this planet. Biden projects honesty and openness that go sorely lacking in Hillary.

As I stated earlier this month, go for it, Joe. The stars are properly aligned, and although there can be no promises, stranger things have happened.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Michael Gerson, "Iran thumbs its nose at the United States": Obama Thumbs His Nose at the American Electorate

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Iran thumbs its nose at the United States," Michael Gerson notes:

"Since the Iran nuclear deal was announced in mid-July, the world has been treated to an unusual historic spectacle. As President Obama was busy twisting congressional arms to prevent repudiation of the agreement, the Iranian regime has been systematically humiliating him.

. . . .

Iran can do whatever it damn well pleases because it knows the Americans are too invested in the deal to blow it up. This may fit Obama’s conception of the United States as a tired nation, overcommitted in the Middle East. But in the process, he is making strategic concessions to Iran and Russia that future presidents may find impossible to accept and difficult to retract."

However, if Iran is thumbing its nose at the United States, Obama is thumbing his nose at the American electorate, which strongly opposes his nuclear agreement with Iran and overwhelmingly believes that it will not be honored by Iran.

Even more ridiculous, Obama is attempting to claim "the strong support of lawmakers and citizens alike" for this deal, an assertion which on Monday earned him three Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler's WaPo "Fact Checker" column.

The strong support of lawmakers? As observed by William Kristol in a Weekly Standard article entitled "The Supporting Actors," Michigan Senator Gary Peters, who supported Obama's deal, had the following to say about the agreement:

"This deal allows Iran, under the same leadership that refers to the United States as the Great Satan and calls for the destruction of Israel, to enrich uranium on its own soil. This core concession is in many ways a stark departure from our country’s past nonproliferation policies, and it concerns me that this agreement could set a dangerous precedent. .  .  . How can the United States say with moral authority that this deal is acceptable for Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, intent on regional hegemony, but deny it to others? .  .  . I am concerned that other nations will view this agreement with Iran as a change in U.S. policy and new precedent that may lead to increased global proliferation of nuclear enrichment and the potential for other nuclear threshold states to emerge."

And as further observed by Kristol, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who also supported Obama's deal, went on record as saying:

"With this deal, we are legitimizing a vast and expanding nuclear program in Iran. We are in effect rewarding years of their deception, deceit, and wanton disregard for international law by allowing them to potentially have a domestic nuclear enrichment program at levels beyond what is necessary for a peaceful civil nuclear program. .  .  . Finally, this deal includes the termination of the United Nations embargo on Iran’s conventional arms and ballistic missile technology after five and eight years, respectively. Even with increased vigilance by the United States and our allies, this will bolster Iran’s conventional weapons threats in the region."

Query: Has the president become delusional, or is he determined to spin the facts until his last day in office?

Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal "Victory": Flouting the American Electorate

As reported yesterday by CNN in an article entitled "Poll: Americans skeptical Iran will stick to nuclear deal" by Jennifer Agiesta:

"A new CNN/ORC poll finds 59% disapprove of the way Obama is handling the U.S. relationship with Iran, and about half would have preferred Congress reject the deal. Few believe Iran will abide by its terms, and a growing number consider the country a serious threat to the U.S.

Most Americans think Iran will ultimately violate the terms of the agreement, with 37% calling that extremely likely and 23% saying very likely. Just 10% think it's not at all likely that Iran would break the agreement. Republicans (83% likely) and independents (58% likely) are more apt to believe Iran would violate the agreement than are Democrats (44% likely).
. . . .
Perceptions of threats from North Korea, Russia and Iran have all grown since April, but the biggest increase lies with Iran.
Nearly half (49%) now say they consider Iran a 'very serious' threat to the United States, up 10 points since April. [According to this poll, another 33% consider Iran a 'moderately serious threat.'] That shift came across party lines with double-digit increases in the percentage viewing Iran as a very serious threat among both Democrats (up 14 points to 43%) and Republicans (up 15 points to 68%)."

On Thursday, Senate Democrats filibustered a vote on Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.

Flouting the beliefs of a majority of Americans amounts to a foreign policy "victory"? Obama and his henchmen clearly regards voters, who twice elected him president, as bovine fools.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Maureen Dowd, "The Google Art Heist": Artsy Fartsy

Oh dear, the demise of culture as we once knew it.

On Friday, David Brooks, writing from St. Petersburg, decried the "withering" of Russian counterculture. In response, I observed that The New York Times had come under fire for creating an infographic listing Democrats opposed to Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and indicating the estimated percentage of Jews among their constituents. I asked if there would be even a single Times columnist brave enough to address this outrage, which suggests that Democratic opposition to the nuclear deal stems from Jewish influence over government and not from ethical considerations.

Apparently, Maureen Dowd will also not be opining upon this topic.

Today, writing from Paris in her latest Times op-ed entitled "The Google Art Heist," Dowd is preoccupied with the decline of the arts:

"[W]hen I heard that, building on its plan to digitize all books, Google had opened a Cultural Institute in Paris to digitally replicate and curate all art and culture on earth, I wanted to check it out. Europe is, after all, hostile territory for the Alphabet, with its highest court upholding an individual’s right to be forgotten and lawsuits looming over the tech giant’s suffocating business practices.

Despite the cheeky sign on the door of the grand building on Rue de Londres — 'I’m feeling lucky' — I wasn’t the only one with mal de mer."

The digitalization of all books? The replication of all art? Sorry, Maureen, but I would be more concerned about the worrisome resurrection, back in New York, of an ugly phenomenon which made its home in Berlin in the not so distant past.

New York Times Editorial, "Russia’s Risky Military Moves in Syria": Putin Should Follow the "Constructive Way"?

In an editorial entitled "Russia’s Risky Military Moves in Syria," The New York Times takes the position (my emphasis in red):

"Russia is obviously concerned about the fate of Mr. Assad and his regime, which is struggling to sustain an army after four years of war and is suffering such serious battlefield defeats that the state may not survive. The relationship with Syria dates to Soviet times and is one of Russia’s last levers of influence in the Middle East. Russia operates a small naval base at Tartus on the Mediterranean and is keen to preserve it.

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, may also be using the buildup to strengthen Russia’s hand in any political outcome in Syria and to constrain America’s military options there. The constructive way to have an impact is for Mr. Putin to drop his opposition to Washington’s and its allies’ insistence that Mr. Assad be replaced as part of a negotiated political settlement that includes a transition to a new government."

Having witnessed Putin's invasion of the Ukraine, we all know that by calling upon this former KGB officer to heed the "constructive way," he will now withdraw his troops in Jableh and Latakia on Syria's Mediterranean coast and, together with President Obama, pursue a peaceful resolution of the conflict that has taken more than 250,000 lives and displaced over 10 million people.

What are they Putin' in the water cooler at the Times?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ruth Marcus, "Can we finally delete Clinton’s e-mail issue?": Say It Isn't So

Say it isn't so,
Everyone is saying
You don't love me,
Say it isn't so.

Everywhere I go,
Everyone I know,

Whispers that you're growing tired of me,
Say it isn't so.

- Irving Berlin, "Say It Isn't So," 1932

Ruth Marcus informs us in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Can we finally delete Clinton’s e-mail issue?" that it is time to put Hillary's email kerfuffle behind us. Marcus writes:

"I am not intimating that the e-mail issue doesn’t matter. It does, not only on its own terms but also because of what it suggests about Clinton’s instincts for secrecy and defensiveness and her seeming inability to learn from past mistakes. For six months, this has been like watching a political car crash in slow motion. Clinton and her team are guilty of political malpractice and chronic tone-deafness.

And yet, some perspective is called for here. We have been consumed, since March, by an episode that demonstrates bad judgment, not corruption or immorality, much less criminality."

"Bad judgment"? Yes, I guess that's what you call it when a Secretary of State uses a "homebrew" server that was most likely hacked by America's enemies.

No "criminality"? Why should it matter to Ruth that all of the contents of the server - at least those emails which are recoverable after Hillary wiped the server clean - have yet to be examined. The FBI investigation? Everyone knows that the FBI routinely investigates noncriminal matters . . . yeah, right.

But let's just follow Ruth's advice, call it "tone deafness," and say it isn't so. With Biden reluctant to enter the fray, there's just no Democratic alternative.

Russia and Iran Send Troops to Syria: Putin and Khamenei Call Obama's Bluff

On August 5, 2015, Obama declared in a speech at American University in support of his nuclear deal with Iran (my emphasis in red):

"But if we are serious about confronting Iran's destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal. Instead, we need to check the behavior that we are concerned about directly, by helping our allies in the region strengthen their own capabilities to counter . . . a ballistic missile, by improving the interdiction of weapons' shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah, by training our allies' special forces so they can more effectively respond to situations like Yemen."

Well, as now being reported today by Reuters in an article entitled "Russia to U.S.: talk to us on Syria or risk 'unintended incidents'" by Christian Lowe and Julia Edwards :

"In recent days, U.S. officials have described what they say is a buildup of Russian equipment and manpower.

In the latest reports, two Western officials and a Russian source told Reuters Moscow is sending advanced SA-22 anti-aircraft missiles Syria. The system would be operated by Russian troops, rather than Syrians, the Western officials said.

Lebanese sources have told Reuters that at least some Russian troops are now engaged in combat operations in support of Assad's forces. Moscow has declined to comment on those reports."

And as also reported by DEBKAfile today in an article entitled "First Iranian marines land in Syria, link up with newly-arrived Russian troops":

"Iran this week sent its first ground troops to Syria, around 1,000 marines and elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). They moved straight into Ghorin, a small military air facility just south of the port town of Latakia, and hooked up with the just-landed Russian marines at Jablah."

In fact, Putin and Khamenei are calling Obama's bluff, and the first invertebrate ever to occupy the Oval Office has no intention to "interdict" any military aid being sent to Assad, Hezbollah, the Houthis or anyone else. "Counter a ballistic missile" against Israel? In fact, Iranian troops are now on Israel's northeastern border, and the threat to Israel is now much worse than long-range missiles fired from within Iran.

America is in full retreat, and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan are watching in horror.

David Brooks, "The Russia I Miss": Then They Came for the Jews

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller

Yesterday, we learned that Amazon was selling "Blood Splattered Flag of Israel" cell phones cases, umbrellas, doormats, shower curtains, pillows cases, mouse pads and more; however, after an enormous outcry, the merchandise was removed from Amazon's website.

In addition, The New York Times came under fire yesterday for creating an infographic listing Democrats opposed to Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, and indicating the estimated percentage of Jews among their constituents. I am waiting to see if there is even a single Times columnist brave enough to address this outrage, which suggests that Democratic opposition to the nuclear deal stems from Jewish influence over government and not from ethical considerations.

Meanwhile, David Brooks has other things on his mind. Writing from St. Petersburg, Brooks, a Jew, concludes his latest Times op-ed entitled "The Russia I Miss" by observing:

"There’s something sad about the souvenir stands in St. Petersburg. They’re selling mementos of things Russians are sort of embarrassed by — old Soviet Army hats, Stalinist tchotchkes and coffee mugs with Putin bare-chested and looking ridiculous. Of the top 100 universities in the world, not a single one is Russian, which is sort of astonishing for a country so famously intellectual.

This absence leaves a mark. There used to be many countercultures to the dominant culture of achievement and capitalism and prudent bourgeois manners. Some were bohemian, or religious or martial. But one by one those countercultures are withering, and it is harder for people to see their situations from different and grander vantage points. Russia offered one such counterculture, a different scale of values, but now it, too, is mainly in the past."

Serfdom, the Russian famine of 1921 which killed six million people, the Soviet famine of 1932–33 which killed another 6-8 million people, the gulags, the oppression of Jewry? Sorry, David, but as much as I admire Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I do not fondly reminisce about past Russian counterculture.

Enjoy your stay in St. Petersburg, David. It is indeed a beautiful city. However, don't you think that the infographic of the Times deserves a few lines from you?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Khamenei: America Will Be Reduced to Rubble Within 25 Years

As reported by Iran's Choskhor News Agency, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatolah Khamenei stated today that America will be reduced to rubble within 25 years. Khamenei's declaration followed his earlier pronouncement that "God willing, there will be nothing as Zionist regime by next 25 years."

Did Khamenei actually say this about the "Great Satan"? No (at least not to any media outlet). But what would be the response of Democratic senators and representatives if he had made such a declaration? Would they continue to approve of Obama's nuclear deal with Iran? Would they explain to their constituents that Khamenei's threat was pure rhetoric intended for his hardline supporters? In fact, they wouldn't dare.

Yet, notwithstanding Khamenei's prediction of Israel's demise within 25 years, Democrats remain apathetic. After all, Israel is half a world away, and who cares if a steadfast ally is being threatened by the removal of nuclear restrictions upon Iran over the course of the coming years? It's more important to flesh out the president's legacy.

Go figure . . .

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Walls, Borders, a Dome and Refugees": Saying No to Syrian Refugees

Did you happen to see the results of the September 8 Pew Research Center poll in the US regarding the Iran nuclear deal?:

"As Congress prepares to vote on the Iran nuclear agreement, public support for the deal has declined. Currently, just 21% approve of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached between the United States, Iran and other nations. Nearly half (49%) disapprove of the agreement, while three-in-ten (30%) offer no opinion."

Yes, I would call that overwhelming disapproval, but why should Democrats in Congress abide by the will of the American people? Obama knows better.

Meanwhile, the chaos in Syria is giving rise to a horrific refugee situation (four million Syrians have fled the country and another six million are internally displaced out of a total population of some 23 million). But why should that weigh on American consciences? After all, the US has granted asylum to some 1,500 refugees, and as observed by Thomas Friedman in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Walls, Borders, a Dome and Refugees":

"Your heart aches for the Syrian refugees flocking to Europe. And Germany’s generosity in absorbing so many is amazing. We have a special obligation to Libyan and Iraqi refugees. But, with so many countries melting down, just absorbing more and more refugees is not sustainable."

Got it: The US has no "special obligation" to Syrian refugees, and therefore they need not be allowed into the country. What a relief! But wait a moment! As observed by Fred Hiatt in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s Syria achievement":

"This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.

. . . .

When he announced in August 2011 that 'the time has come for President Assad to step aside,' critics worried the words might prove empty — but few imagined the extent of the catastrophe: not just the savagery of chemical weapons and 'barrel bombs,' but also the Islamic State’s recruitment of thousands of foreign fighters, its spread from Libya to Afghanistan, the danger to the U.S. homeland that has alarmed U.S. intelligence officials, the refugees destabilizing Europe. "

Hiatt, however, does not address the reason for Obama's empty words, which were explicitly explained by Michael Gerson in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The horrific results of Obama’s failure in Syria":

"For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a 'pantomime of outrage.' Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action.

. . . .

What explains Obama’s high tolerance for humiliation and mass atrocities in Syria? The Syrian regime is Iran’s proxy, propped up by billions of dollars each year. And Obama wanted nothing to interfere with the prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran. He was, as Hof has said, 'reluctant to offend the Iranians at this critical juncture.' So the effective concession of Syria as an Iranian zone of influence is just one more cost of the president’s legacy nuclear agreement."

Similarly, Lee Smith wrote yesterday in a Weekly Standard opinion piece entitled "Obama Avoided Syria Action to Help Iran Negotiations":

"Obama decided to steer clear of the Syrian conflict not just to avoid doing anything, but just as importantly, to avoid damaging Iranian interests in Syria. As Obama wrote Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, 'the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.' Obama didn’t do anything to bring down Assad because he was afraid it might anger the Syrian president’s patrons in Iran, and getting a nuclear deal with Iran was Obama’s foreign policy priority.

There is plenty that Obama might have done to support Syrian rebels— an opposition he derided as 'former doctors, farmers, pharmacists'—without ever risking putting American forces on the ground in Syria. By 2013, all his national security cabinet officials—Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Thomas Donilon, et al.—argued for supporting Syrian rebel units.

Obama however kept his eyes on the prize: the Iran deal. Same when it came to enforcing the red line he drew against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. No one in their right mind believes that firing missiles on Assad regime facilities was likely to compel the White House to land forces in Syria. Obama’s concern rather was that if the United States signaled that it was no longer protecting Assad it might turn the balance of power against the Syrian regime. But that of course would anger the Iranians, and all Obama wanted was an accommodation with the regime—and now he has one in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action."

Obama bears no responsibility for the Syrian refugee tragedy? The US only has a special obligation to Libyan and Iraqi refugees? Sorry, Tom, but I don't buy it.